Frozen Winter Forest Cake – my traditional Christmas Chocolate Truffle Cake

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This Christmas I made once again my traditional Christmas cake, which is a chocolate truffle heaven! We just loved this one so much after I made it for the first time few years ago, that I kept on with it every Christmas ever since. The only difference I make is the decoration and presentation each year.

 

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Ingredients:

1 cup water
5 Tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)
2,5 cup all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 little natural yogurt (without any flavour)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
200 gr butter (unsalted)
1 tsp almond extract (this time I actually put 2 tsp and I loved the more intense almond taste)
juice squeezed from 1/4 orange
100 gr good quality dark chocolate roughly chopped
salt
Ganache cream:
600 ml double cream
150 g white chocolate +150 g to decorate the cake
You need to prepare the cream on the previous day of baking. In order to do this you need to pour the double cream into a pan, put it on the stove. Chop 150 g white  chocolate in small pieces and stir in the cream until its melted. Make sure it’s not boiling, it only needs to get warm enough until the chocolate melts in. When it’s done, put it aside to cool completely, then put it in the fridge for the night or at least 6 hours.
Method:
Preheat your oven. Put the water, cocoa powder and butter in a pan and stirring it, bring it to boil on the stove, then put it aside to cool down.
Mix the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and sugar in a bowl. Stir in the water with the butter and chocolate, add the eggs, vanilla extract, almond extract, orange juice, yogurt, and finally the chopped chocolate. Stir everything just only until all is combined.
Grease and line (the bottoms only) the tins with baking paper. Lately I like to use 4-5 large, disposable paper baking cases, because this way I can bake each layer separately, and there is no need to cut before filling. I love it! My cases are roughly 6-7″  diameter at the base, I divided the batter into 5 layers, so my cake ended up nice and tall, just how I like it.
Pour the batter evenly into the cake tins and bake for about 30 minutes. Take it out from the oven then leave to cool in the tins completely before filling your cake.
With an electric mixer beat the white chocolate cream and fill the cake. I put generous amount of cream on each layer, and I covered the cake with the remaining filling, just enough to keep the white chocolate pieces stacked to the sides.
Melt 150 g white chocolate, then spread it thinly and evenly on kitchen foil. Put it in the freezer on a flat surface for 10-15 minutes until completely hardens back again. Take it out from the freezer and brake the chocolate in strips. It doesn’t have to be even, because this way will look more like sharp ice which is the whole idea behind it, kind of a frozen winter forest…
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Baumkuchen -German Tree Cake

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Hi, and Happy New Year to all of YOU! I am starting this year with a German cake, which I came across few weeks ago. Although this is a cake usually made around Christmas, I left the baking to the new year, simply because we had enough to eat sweet and salty as well, and thought it would be a nice start to 2018. I loved making this! It needs a special equipment, which only professional bakeries have, but I found an adapted version to make it at home. I need to say up front that I have never tasted this cake before, or seen it either, so eating it I couldn’t decide whether it was how it’s supposed to be, but it was good nonetheless. And the bonus is that my kids liked it too, even though this recipe calls for Rum. But it also calls for marzipan, cinnamon, chocolate…..so, what’s there NOT to like, right?

 

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Funny thing that when I first saw this recipe, I didn’t pay too much attention to it, then I clicked away and forgot the name of it. Except for the German part. So, when weeks later I decided I want to make it, I had some trouble finding it again. I searched Google for “Buchen Kuchen”, which was completely wrong, but after some time and deeper digging I finally got the name right and found the lost recipe again. Of course it wasn’t Buchen Kuchen, but Baumkuchen, or German Tree Cake instead.

 

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Ingredients:
-200 g butter, room temperature
-150 g caster sugar
-150 g golden marzipan, cut into small pieces
-8 eggs, separated
-250 ml double cream
-60 ml dark Rum
-1+ half tsp ground cinnamon
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-140 g self raising flour
-100 g cornflour
-salt
Glaze:
-100 g dark chocolate
-150 ml double cream
-2 Tbsp dark Rum
-15 g butter
-sprinkle candies to decorate
Method:
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the marzipan and whisk into the butter mixture. Add the egg yolks and whisk in. Add the double cream, dark Rum, ground cinnamon, vanilla and a pinch of salt and whisk to make a smooth batter.
Sift in the flour and cornflour until everything incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks then fold into the batter by first taking a large spoonful of egg white and beating it in, to loosen, then folding in the rest gently, a spoonful at a time, trying not to knock out all the air.
Butter the base and central spindle of a 25cm round, flat-bottomed ring pan. Put two large spoonfuls of batter into the pan and spread out with a silicon pastry brush, or a spatula, into a very thin layer. You shouldn’t be able to see the base of the pan through the batter.
Bake under a hot grill for about 3-5 minutes until the top of the batter turns golden-brown. The cooking time will depend on many factors, such as how hot the grill is and how far the pan is from the grill, so watch carefully. Once the first layer is done you’ll have a good idea on timings for the rest. When the top is golden brown, carefully remove from the grill and put another two spoonfuls of batter on top. Spread them out in the same way, making sure that all the cake below is covered but keep the layers thin. Bake again, in the same way, and continue until all the batter is used. I got 13 layers this way, although this depends on the size of the pan and thickness of the batter. As the number of layers increases, the top of the cake will get nearer the grill and will cook faster, so watch very carefully towards the end.
Once finished, slide a knife round the edge of the pan to prevent sticking, and leave the cake in the pan to cool.
Remove the cooled cake from the pan and invert onto a cooling rack, putting foil or baking parchment underneath to catch drips later. I have seen several versions of decoration for this cake, mostly with only chocolate, I decided to make it colorful with the sprinkles.
Heat the chocolate, syrup, cream, Rum and butter in a saucepan until melted together into a smooth, glossy sauce. Pour the glaze over the top and sides of the cooled cake and leave to set. Drizzle with the sprinkles to decorate and leave to set.
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Warning: Cake Ahead! -I caught a flying Witch on my cake today…

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Despite the warning signs, this careless flying Witch smashed into my carrot cake….Bang! Kids loved it 🙂
I saw a similar cake on Pinterest and that gave me the idea. It is more fun than spooky, which I liked.
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I baked a four layer carrot cake with lots of hearty spices and roasted pecan nuts, and filled with simple white chocolate ganache. I like different variation of creams with my carrot cake, this time I just made the kids favourite, the white chocolate.  The recipe for the carrot cake you can find here, and the recipe for the white chocolate ganache is here  Easter Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting and the recipe for the white chocolate ganache is here White Chocolate Birthday Cake
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At the background of the cake I framed a photo of the kids taken a couple of weeks ago to celebrate this season. They had no make-up on, I played with an editing software to make it fit for Halloween.

Fairy House Cake

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I mentioned in my previous post that we had a Fairy and Elves party at the preschool end of May, but haven’t had the chance to share my Fairy Log Cake on the blog earlier. You know, with the house moving, and all the refurbishing and decorating work going on ever since….it’s taking longer than anticipated unfortunately, but we’re getting there slowly but surely.

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This is a 6 layer chocolate ganche cake covered on the sides with chocolate flakes. I did order chocolate flavour fondant originally, but eventually changed my mind and used the flakes and I’m so pleased I did!
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The rest of the decoration I made from fondant, like fairy door, mushrooms, stones in front of the door, the flowers on the top of the log.
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The children loved it, it fitted perfectly at the Fairies and Elves party, as well as the giant paper flowers, which were also made by me.
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Girly Dinosaur 4th Birthday Party

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Dinosaur party for my little girl? Hell, yeah!

Kind of a last minute idea, kind of easy, and a lot of fun! Didn’t need much preparation, which was essential this time, since we just bought our new house (literally got the keys 2 days prior the party), and we are in the middle of moving.

 

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Before my daughter’s birthday, I organized another event at her preschool. We made a Fairies and Elves party as a fundraising event, that needed much more prep work, but then it was a party to host a larger number of kids. With so much going on lately, I haven’t really baked anything for us, hence the lack of posts. And another reason for not baking is that my husband is gluten intolerant, and we just found out several weeks ago, so ever since then I haven’t really baked anything. I definitely need to try out gluten free baking soon, but first things first, we are moving! Yaaaay!

 

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So,  as I said, we just got the keys of our house on Friday, and we hold ourselves back for another week or so before we get all of our stuff over to the new house, which luckily is only two streets away from the old house. In the meantime we have had one more last birthday party in the old house, and once everyone went home, I grabbed the fist cardboard box and started packing 🙂
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I am so glad we went for the dinosaur theme! Nothing was decided for quite a long time, because my daughter kept changing her mind like five times a day! Kid you not! Even regarding to have a party or not to have a party. She was messing with me, I’m telling you that 🙂 Mum, I dont’ want a party! … Yes, I want a party! … Mum, I don’t want any of my friends to come here! … Ok, I want only two of my friends, and plus her, plus him, and this and that to come….but actually I won’t have a party at all! ….She was very picky about who to invite, or who not to invite, and eventually we settled with 9 of her friends to make a round 10 with her included. In the end there were a lot more children, because some of them came accompanied with older siblings instead of parents, and my older kids were there too, and also my older daughter’s friend spent the day with us spontaneously.
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I must say I am not a fan of large parties. My kind of birthday parties are 6-8-10 children top, including the birthday girl or boy, and I already call this a big party. This is how I like it,  small, private, to know everybody by name, to interact with everyone, to be able to offer a cup of coffee or tea, and chat with our guests etc. I like to make a birthday party special and memorable, something different, and for me a smaller group of kids and parents are more manageable opposed to a classroom size crowd where is physically impossible to talk to everyone and to be a good host and be present everywhere. And my kids like it this way, too.

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When we first talked about her having a birthday party, she was still doing ballet, so I started planning a ballet party, but one day she decided she won’t go to ballet classes anymore, which also meant ballet party was off the list.
However….did you notice that some of the dinosaurs are wearing tutu skirts? 🙂 This is how I combined a bit of ballet into the roaring Jurassic world! Perfect fit I’d say, isn’t it?
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To make the food labels I used the Picasa software.
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I made different coloured tutu skirts for a few dinosaurs (which we borrowed from our preschool, as we only have 6-7 dinosaurs at home) and I used some other little Barbie accessories to dress them up, like sunglasses, headset, guitar, little photo camera, etc.
For the desert table I carved a watermelon to look like a dinosaur head. Never done this before so I am pleased with the result, looked good on the table.
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I made simple vanilla cupcakes with raspberry cream frosting and decorated them with dinosaur cupcake toppers bought online.
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Recently I discovered these savoury crisps, which we served as Unicorn horns at my older daughter’s Unicorn Party few weeks ago, and now they did the job brilliantly as dinosaur teeth.
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We also served little dinosaur shaped ham&cheese sandwiches. I love this cutter, as very little bread and filling is wasted. You can cut two dinosaurs with one cut, and the two of them uses up almost all of a large sandwich, so no waste there.
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These are dark chocolate pudding with two layers of brownies in between. I had the little plastic cups left from store bought deserts. I put some hard sugar candy stones on top, which my son thought were real stones.
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I also bought Kinder Surprise eggs, unwrapped them, but shortly after putting them on the table they started to melt, so I quickly shoved them in the fridge before the party guests arrived.
Do you think I forgot about them and never gave any to the children? Make your guess……Right! 🙂
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I wrapped and labeled chocolate eggs as dinosaur eggs. Good thing that they’re not selling these only for Easter 🙂
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My favourite from the table were the sugar cookies, which we made together with my little daughter few days prior to the party. We used one of the big dinosaurs to imprint his footsteps into the cookie dough. We had fun doing them and the cookies were delicious.
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The cake was very simple, White Chocolate Cream cake. This is our “to go” cake for the kids birthdays lately, they love it and ask for it again, and again, and again!
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We served green Kubu (pears, kiwi and banana drink), although they were not too keen on drinking it 🙂
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For the party bags I ordered plain white paper bags online, then decorated them with cute little dinosaurs which I found and printed myself, and cushioned the bags with  rainbow colored tissue paper.
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We set up a dinosaur dig area for them to search for fossils. I bought a set of 12 little dinosaur skeletons and hid them in the sand pit. They had to dig them up and clean them with brushes. They loved this!

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The older girls applied dinosaur tattoos on the little ones.

 

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Another fun activity was to eat little donuts off a string without touching them with hands.

 

 

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We also had frozen dinosaur eggs which I made by inserting little dinosaurs in water balloons, filled with water, then put them in the freezer. We then poured warm water over the eggs to discover the dinosaurs when the ice was gradually melting off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After everyone went home late afternoon, my little 4 year old (who’s birthday was actually on the day of her party) stayed out and played on her own at the sand pit for a good 20-30 minutes. After all the excitement she needed some time alone to cool off, process everything and take it all in….Happy Birthday my sweet Darling!

 

 

 

 

Magical Unicorn Party

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10 years old!

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I feel like I need an intro here, like I need to explain the whole Unicorn Party thing for my 10 year old daughter. I feel this because last year she had a “Taylor Swift” Birthday Party , which sounds more grown up, and it looks like we have had a step back this year. Looking back to the last year, I see lot of growing up in every aspect of life. She is definitely not a little girl anymore, and the fact that she is so tall, doesn’t help either 🙂 But, I wanted for her to have one more, (probably the last) childish birthday party, with all that comes with it. Oh, and she wanted the same thing, too!

 

 

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You would think they are too old for stuff like this. Like Unicorns and magic, and all the glitter and shine, but the truth is they’re not. Really NOT! Let me tell you, that these 10 year old girls LOVED all the glitter and shine and Unicorns and magic 🙂 They loved their little soft unicorns they got to build themselves and named, because, in case you didn’t know everybody has a Unicorn name, even you, my friend 🙂 They named their little Unicorns as follows: Sassy Happy-Feet, Happy Floating-Bubbles, Dashing Sugar-Socks, Sassy Tickled-Pink and Sunshine Happy-Feet.
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They started with watching an old movie called Legend, which features a couple of “real” Unicorns and Tom Cruise is the main star  (hello! I said Tom Cruise!!), but eventually they got bored with it, which I don’t blame them for, because the film was not the typical Hollywood Best of…(although it may have been back in 1985, I wouldn’t know…), and Tom Cruise was just a kid basically. Anyway, let’s just say that the movie was not the hit of the party, but the Unicorns looked real and beautiful, nonetheless.
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The girls sat down afterwards and stuffed their own Unicorns and chose their names and their Unicorn Magic Powder. They loved this and they had lots of fun doing it.
They applied jeans tattoos on their denim shorts, back and front pockets, they loved these, too. Well, of course, they were Unicorn tattoos in rainbow colors after all, what’s not to like there, right?
I spray painted white plastic unicorns in gold and glued them on jar lids, then filled the jars with candy. The mini bottles are made of glass, we put the labels on and filled with glitter, ehm…I mean Unicorn Magic, of course.
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They had a little fun outside running and jumping with the gold and pink confetti balloons before they got back to the dessert table for cake. During the whole party, they also got a laptop near them and they played their favourite music on You Tube, so there was some dancing, too.
We served rainbow pizza, Unicorn horn pastry filled with vegetable salad, sandwiches, Unicorn chocolate bark, white chocolate cake, donuts coated in chocolate melts and sprinkles, sugar cookies in shape of unicorns and magic wands (ah, those skinny unicorn legs were a pain to make…), cupcakes, etc…
The wooden sign which I placed outside to greet the party guests I made myself few weeks ago. I found this treasure lying in a ditch not far from the house about a year ago, and now I had the chance to do a makeover. I painted in rainbow colors and wrote the message ” Dance with Fairies, Ride a Unicorn, Swim with Mermaids, Chase Rainbows”.
Also, I bought the brown paper mache Unicorn head from Hobby Craft weeks ago, and I worked on it in secret, while my daughter was at school and hid it in the loft until her birthday.
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White Chocolate Birthday Cake

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This was a white chocolate cake that I made for my daughter’s friend, Susie. She turned 10 and asked for a white chocolate cake. As it’s one of my favourite cakes, I was happy to do it, in fact I will make a white chocolate cake for my daughter’s birthday later this month, too.
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Ingredients
4 large eggs, separated
4 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt
For the filling
600 ml double cream
200 g white chocolate (I used Lindt white chocolate from Lindor -the best!)
Method
You need to prepare the filling cream one day ahead, but at least 6-8 hour before assembling the cake.
Warm the double cream in a pan and stir in the white chocolate until fully melted. Set aside to cool, then place it in the fridge for overnight.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt, then add the sugar and beat until you get a firm, shiny consistency. Add the vanilla and yolks one by one, beating a little after each addition. Now put down the mixer, and using a large plastic or wooden spoon, fold in the flour, but gently until it’s all combined.
Pour the batter in the baking pan. I used four disposable, paper baking cases, and divided the batter evenly. This way I got four even cake sheets and I didn’t need to cut afterward.
When the cake has cooled, I beat the white chocolate cream and filled the cake.
To decorate this cake, I made a little bunting from paper flowers and fabric.
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Ombre Violet Cake with Wild Blueberry Buttercream for Mothers Day

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Violet or purple? Purple or violet???  I had to look up to see the difference in definition, but couldn’t say that I know better. I think the colour of my cake is violet though, as seems that purple is more red-ish, so I go for violet, but correct me if I’m wrong.

 

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I made this tiny cake using violet food colour. I baked the three layers separately, and tinted the batter in different proportions to get the ombre effect. First, I thought that the darker shade would be too dark, it looked more black at some point, and only when I cut into it I started to relax seeing the nice, deep violet colour, and it was not black.

 

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The cake is not a sponge cake, is my yummy vanilla cake recipe with French butter and vanilla extract, only this time I used white sugar instead of brown, because I wanted to have a light coloured batter which can be tinted to the desired colour.

 

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I made buttercream this time, which is also not my usual cake filling, but I wanted different. I mixed Wild Blueberry jam in my buttercream to add flavour, but I applied a layer of jam on top of each cake layer, too -which, Hello! -it really isn’t my style of making cake, but as I said, I wanted different 🙂

 

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Persian Love Cake for Valentine’s Day

 

 

I have been looking for inspiration for something special for Valentine’s day, although this particular day doesn’t mean too much for us. It is a custom which we were not familiar with where we grew up, and only appeared later in our life, therefor there is nothing too special about it for us. But! It is a very good opportunity for baking something a little more special, more glamorous. I have been searching for something new, something different, and came across several time with the Persian Love Cake, but the more cakes, the more varieties on the same subject, and different interpretations each time. Which one to chose, which one is the authentic recipe, I’ll never know. I chose to follow (more or less…) a recipe from Twigg Studios blog, and the looks (the layout of the cake and decoration idea) from The Hungry Australian, and that’s how my version of the Persian Love Cake came to life.
Apparently, there is also a love story behind this cake, although searching a bit deeper I found out, that none of it is true, and that Persian people don’t know anything about it.
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Ingredients:
250 ml plain yogurt
1 tsp baking powder
6 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
2 and 1/4 cup ground almond
6 cardamom pods
2 Tbsp rose water
6 Tbsp chopped pistachios
pinch of saffron strands
100 ml almond milk
zest from 1 lemon
Icing:
150 ml double cream
50 g white chocolate
Syrup:
zest and juice of one lemon
100 g caster sugar
2 cardamom pods
1/2 cup water
Decoration:
food grade dry rosebuds
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Method:
Preheat the oven.
Peel the cardamon pods open and remove the seeds, crush with a pestle and mortar. Add the saffron strands to the milk and warm in the microwave. In another bowl beat the eggs and sugar until thick and creamy, then stir in the yogurt. Add the ground almonds and baking powder, then add the ground cardamom, lemon zest and chopped pistachios. Add the rosewater to the milk and saffron mixture and stir into the cake batter.
I didn’t have rose water at home, so I put a few dry rosebuds in a cup and poured half cup of boiling hot water on them and left covered for about 10 minutes. It smelled wonderful, but with a much lighter rose taste, which I personally prefer better than the strong rose water.
Pour the cake mixture in the previously greased bundt cake form. Bake for about 40-45 minutes.
While still in the oven, make the syrup.Put the lemon juice,the zest, sugar, water and cardamom pods in a pan and simmer until thickens a little.
When your cake is baked, make holes all over and pour the syrup on to the warm cake spoon by spoon.
Warm the double cream in a pan and melt in the chocolate. Let it cool for several hours in the fridge before you beat up lightly, so the consistency is still flowing but thick. If you want, you can leave the ganache out completely, or you can make butter cream instead if you prefer.
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