Jaffa cakes!

So, this isn’t a recipe. This is my ‘bored at work and having an idea that might be interesting and then actually following through on it’ experiment. I generally don’t get beyond the ‘have an idea’ stage, so yay me. Progress!

That idea was basically: ‘I bet I could make Jaffa Cakes’. All it is is sponge base, orange jelly, and chocolate. How hard can it be?

I gave it a try. I made a sponge cake mix, but rather than baking it in cake tins, I smoothed it onto a cookie sheet, kind of like you would a Swiss roll. (Although this would never have worked as a Swiss roll; way too stiff.) Once it was cooked, which was barely any time at all, I cut out a bunch of cookie cutter circles – I guess 1.5 inch. That obviously left me with a whole load of non-circle cake mix, but that’s hardly the end of the world. ‘Oh no, I have to eat cake!’

Then I needed to make the jelly. So I got some orange juice (with bits, in case that matters), and some agar flakes. I was undecided between gelatine and agar, but vegetarian friends demanded agar, I guess in the misguided belief they’d get to eat some, which: lol no. I think agar is better, really, because I get a bit grossed out about ground-up bones if I think about gelatine too much. Also, it’s not like you an easily get hold of free-range gelatine, and I get weird visions about industrial farmed animals and all that stuff, because my brain likes to take unpleasant ideas and run with them. So agar it was, but that stuff is expensive. £5, compared with about 70p for the same amount of gelatine. Oh well, it just means I’ll have to make lots of jelly, and I’ve already got ideas for that (green tea, maybe Pimm’s in the summer, ooh, maybe coconut milk).

I’d literally never made a jelly other than from blocks before, and I’d certainly never used agar. But I just had to boil up the orange juice with the agar flakes (1 tablespoon per cup/240 ml, fact fans) and then let it set. I used the cookie sheet again, because I needed it to be flat and thin. It worked better than I had hoped. It didn’t want to cool down at first, but I lost patience and shoved it in the fridge, and then it set within like ten minutes.

I took the cookie cutter one size down and cut out circles of jelly. It took a little while to work out how best to remove them, but in the end I worked out a method: slide the jelly circle onto a pallete knife, place the sponge circle on top of that, and then flip them over. A couple were a bit misshapen, but it was pretty successful.

Again, there was a lot of non-circle leftovers, and I confess that in this instance I just threw it away. Bad Joel. Wasteful.

Then I just melted down some pain chocolate in a bain marie. Well, I say bain marie. A cereal bowl over a pan of water, obviously. I didn’t want to try dipping two-part biscuits into hot chocolate, because they’d probably slide apart or melt or otherwise collapse, so I just painted it on with a pastry brush. They didn’t look the most delicate or anything, but it did work. They looked like this:

Kind of clumsy, but lookit! There’s a layer of orange jelly and everything! They tasted pretty good. The fresh orange worked against the richness of the chocolate to keep them from being too rich, and the sponge was light. Cooking it in the tray made it a bit crisper, which worked well; I was a bit worried they’d be too soft and collapse, but they didn’t.

I definitely need to work on my Presentation Skills, as India Fisher would undoubtedly say on Masterchef, but as a complete wild idea experiment, they were really successful. I know that I can cook from recipes, but it’s reassuring to know that I can try stuff from my own brain and it can work. It makes me think I can go further with baking, which is kind of cool.

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