Tuesday, November 29, 2011

With Tea and Coffee You Need Cake

One of my favorite things I've done in London is go to the Southbank Food Festivals at the Southbank Center. They've had a wine and cheese festival, a tea and coffee festival, and in December there is a chocolate festival. Can you guess which one I'm excited about the most?

Yet due to the amount of stalls and all the exiting things in London, I wasn't able to go to any of the classes and demonstrations before the Tea and Coffee festival. And I love classes and watching people cook, it's part of the reason why I'm obsessed with the Food Network.

So when the Tea and Coffee festival proved to be smaller and more calm on a Sunday, I was easily drawn to the white demonstration tent. It helped draw me in that she was letting people taste the dough she was mixing. I found out through her talking, mixing, and attempting not to freeze in the drop of temperature that she was Caroline Hope and she does very intimate, detailed, 3-hour student classes. This demonstration was based off her "Victoria Sponge Cake" cooking class. Although not the full class or hands-on, she explained a lot about sponge cake and baking in general - things that any aspiring foodie would love to be in on.
Specifically, she talked a lot about mixing. Mixing is something I probably take for granted due to the various hand mixers and stand mixers I've been given and allowed to use. You just let it go and when it's mixed you're ready. It's simple, right? Nope. Especially not when it comes to Caroline Hope.

If mixing by hand, she emphasized the importance of a wooden spoon. There's also the discussion about mixing in the same direction the whole time to really get the air in there for a lighter cake, although neither her nor I really believe that's completely necessary. She wasn't as big of a fan of electric mixers, though her exhaustion seemed to beg for one. Although it takes a lot of time, she said the science of using a wooden spoon and really giving it time and the air it needed would create a lighter, moist sponge cake. Perhaps my lack of experience in the art of the sponge is what never made me think of it, but yes, those are all the things you want in a sponge cake.

The weather also has a huge impact. She was having a hard time mixing due to it being so cold and her cooking in an open-air tent. The bowl was ice cold and it took a lot longer for everything to really come together. She emphasized the need to bake in a slightly above typical room temperature kitchen.

It also comes down to the temperature of your oven. She said a lot about the allowance the companies have in exact temperature and why ovens vary so much - so really get to know your oven. I know that the ones in our University halls are extremely difficult to work with and has made me appreciate my mom's oven time and time again.

What was really fun about this demonstration though was that she made 4 small cakes and frosted two, larger, pre-made cakes with coffee frosting. Ah! So that's how it fits into the coffee festival. She also emphasized how much you can do with a sponge cake recipe, adding flavors to the cake or the frosting to make it perfect for any occasion. Lemon, Orange, Coffee, Chocolate, whatever you want. I completely agreed on her coffee frosting tip though: to beat it by hand. Frosting just usually comes out better that way and then you don't have to worry about it getting too liquidy and falling right off your cake.

The cake she made was a success, I'd say. I got to try a small slice of the sponge with coffee frosting and it was beautiful. I'm hoping I can find her go-to sponge cake recipe so I can try out different flavors. I wish I could take one of her classes while I was here in London, but the combination of lack of money and lack of time has taken over. Perhaps I'll just spend all day at the chocolate festival watching demonstrations to give my foodie brain a boost.

- Mollie

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