Vanilla Table . . . Two Tone Chocolate Malt Cake

Wednesday 25 March 2015

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I was recently sent the most exquisite cookery book for review.  Entitled Vanilla Table, and written by Natasha MacAller, it is a culinary celebration of all things vanilla.  Containing 100 recipes it boasts contributions from some of the elite of International Award Winning Chefs . . .  including the UK's Yotam Ottolenghi, Peter Gordon, William Curley and Galton Blackiston!

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You would think that a book based solely on vanilla flavours would be somewhat limiting, but with a forward written by Peter Gordon, Natasha MacAller and her friends have  proved that Vanilla is indeed a very versatile ingredient in no less than 9 different chapters covering everything from soup to nuts.

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Vanilla is an essential ingredient in my kitchen.   I have beans, paste and extract which I use on a regular basis for my baking and desserts.  I find it is very easy to use, it gives everything a lift and my cakes always taste and smell delicious.    I have also used it in savory dishes . . .  my Pot Roasted Chicken with Raspberry Cider is just one example of how I have done this, but it has been really nice to see just how far you really can go with it via the wide variety of recipes contained in this book.

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The photography, by Manja Wachsmuth is just beautiful, and you will find that most of the recipes are accompanied with a very tempting photograph.  I love cookery books with photos.  It's nice to be able to envision what the finished dish should look like.

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I was particularly intrigued with the Vanilla Pantry Chapter which shows you how to make your own Vanilla Sugars, Salts, Extracts, Syrups, Oils, etc.  I will be making more than a few of these for sure.

Another bonus is that all of the recipes are presented in North American, Metric and Avoirdupois measures, which means that this book can be used with ease just about anywhere in the world.   This is a real bonus.  There is also a really good source list at the back of the book.

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I would stress however that this is not a book which a beginning cook would be able to use with ease.  Many of the recipes are what I would consider of a quality restaurant calibre . . .  ie. "Cheffy Recipes," but . . . on the plus side,  each recipe is well laid out with a paragraph about the story behind the recipe, a table showing the ingredients as well as clear and concise instructions. The photography truly is  outstanding and quite helpful in creating an understanding of  how the dish should look as well as tempting your taste buds.

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NATASHA MACALLER is known worldwide as the “Dancing Chef”. A former professional ballerina, after thirty years of performing with companies such as New York’s Joffrey Ballet, the Boston Ballet and on the stages of Broadway, she decided to move on to what she considered another performing art: cookery. She used her seasonal layoffs from ballet to become a professional cook and eventually set up her own catering business, Dancing Chef Catering, which served TV, theatre, film and food industry folks. In 1996, after graduating number one in her class from The Colorado Culinary Institute, Natasha went from strength to strength, and she now holds her own culinary classes and has become an international chef consultant.

I normally like to share a recipe from the book I am reviewing with my readers and the one I have chosen to share with you from this book is a delicious cake.  Two Tone Chocolate Malt Cake.  I chose this one because it is a recipe I think most of you could make.  The buttercream is a tad bit fiddly, but quite do-able and the cake itself is very straightforward.   It's also quite beautiful.

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*Two-Tone Chocolate Malt Cake*
Makes one double layer cake

A delicious double layer chocolate cake flavoured with malt powder and sporting a delicious white chocolate buttercream icing. 

For the cake:
400g of plain flour (3 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
225g of white sugar (1 1/4 cups)
475ml filtered water (2 cups)
60g unsweetened cocoa powder (2/3 cup)
70g chocolate malt powder (eg Ovaltine, Milo or Horlicks, 1/2 cup)
150ml vegetable oil (1/2 cup plus 2 TBS)
1 TBS pure vanilla extract
2 TBS white balsamic vinear or strained lemon juice 

For the Buttercream:
170g white chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled (1 1/3 cup)
(Use a good quality white chocolate that's not overly sweet such as Lindt, El Rey, E. Guittard or Valhrona)
225g of white suar (1 1/4 cup)
4 egg whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
225g of unsalted butter, softened and cut into small cubes (1 cup) 

To assemble:
150g of chocolate covered malt balls (1 1/2 cups) 

Preheat the oven to 160*C/325*F/gas mark 3.   Butter two 9 inch cake tins.  Press 2 circles of baking paper inside each pan, then turn over so that the buttered side of paper is up.   Dust lightly with cocoa powder.  Set aside. 

Sift together the flour, soda, salt and sugar.  In a small saucepan, heat the water to a simmer.  Whisk in the cocoa powder and chocolate malt powder until smooth.   Set aside to cool.   

Whisk together the oil, vanilla and vinegar in a bowl.   Whisk the cocoa mixture into this until smooth.   Add to the dry imxture, stirring until smooth.  Divide evenly into cake tins.  Tap sides of pans against the edge of the counter, or drop from waist height onto a towel covered counter to pop air bubbles.  Swirl a skewer through the batter to pop any remaining bubbles.  Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Tip out onto a wire rack to cool completely before proceeding. 

To make the buttercream, place the sugar in a clean, heavy bottomed saucepan.  Add just enough water to create a "wet sand" consistency.  Bring to a simmer and simultaneously begin whipping the egg whites in a stand mixer with the whip attachment or with a hand held mixer on low speed.  When whites froth, sprinkle in cream of tartar and whip to just soft peaks.  Continue cooking the sugar until it reaches the soft ball stage. (118*-120*C/235*-240*F.) 

Slowly stream sugar syrup into whites, pouring down inside of the bowl, to avoid beaters, while whipping on low speed.  Turn to high and whip until white and glossy, and the outside of the bowl when touched is lukewarm, not hot.   When it is, turn to low and add cubes of butter a little bit at a time, alternating with the melted white chocolate.  When butter and chocolate are in, turn the speed back to high.   It may look like it is separating, but keep whipping and it will come back. 

Place one cooled cake layer in the centre of a cake plate.  Spread a layer of buttercream on top all the way to edges.  Place the second cake layer on top, then frost top and sides with the remaining buttercream.  Cut malt balls into random shapes.  Just before slicing, take one handful of malt balls at a time and press into the sides of the cake until completely covered.  Cut into wedges to serve.

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 A sampling of some of the recipes in the book which caught my eye and that I want to try:

Starters: Shaved Fennel and KeriKeri Orange Salad, Caramelised Orange Salad, Pate au Poulet with Tipsy Cherries and Heirloom Tomato Bisque.

Main Plates: Slow Roasted Oxtail Pot Pies, Vanilla Lacquer Duck Leg, Seared Scallops with Vanilla Parsnip Puree, Chicken Stroganoff with Chanterelles and Vanilla.

Blue Plates and Brunch Plates: Coronation Chicken on Squashy Poppyseed Buns, Crunchy Cornflake Fried Chicken and Apricot, Almond and Vanilla Clafoutis.

Sharing Plates:  Island Crab cakes with vanilla-grapefruit remoulade,  The Tonga Trifle, Devilish Eggs with vanilla candied bacon and Saturn Peach, Onion and Blue Cheese Pie.

Dessert Plates: Vanilla Spiced Pineapple Roast, Quince Tarte Tatin, Raspberry Meringue Martinis, Creamy Butterscotch Pudding with Tash's English Toffee and The Anna Pavlova.

Cake Plates: Pure Vanilla Layer Cake, Caramelised Pineapple Carrot Cake, Two-Tone Chocolate Malt Cake and Bittersweet Chocolate Torte.

The Cookie Plate: Chocolate Sticky Bits, Espresso Brownie Bites, Gold Ingots, Cranberry Tweed Cardigans and Black Pepper Chai Truffles.

Bevvies and Bar Snacks: Toasty Coconut Chips and Nuts, Vanilla Passion Martini, Pink Ginger Zinger, Carrot Vanilla Gougeres.

Vanilla Pantry: Vanilla Sugar, Vanilla Salt Flakes, Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Aioli, Raspberry Vanilla Vinegar and Scooter Pastry Cases/Pie Shells.

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Personally I think it is a beautiful book.   Well written and laid out.  Beautiful photos.   Well written recipes.  Easy to follow for the confident cook.

Vanilla Table, the essence of exquisite cooking from the world's best chefs
by Nasasha MacAller
Photography by  Manja Wachsmuth
Published by Jacqui Small LLP
ISBN 978-1-909342-86-6
£25.00 UK/ $40.00 US/ $43.99 CAN

*Special Reader offer 
To order Vanilla Table at the discounted price of £20 including p&p* (RRP: £25), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG301.
*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.
Vanilla Table officially releases on 19th March

Many thanks to Jacqui Small for sending me a complimentary copy for review.  Any and all opinions are my own.


  1. It truly is Monique. I could see you really getting your teeth stuck into this one! xx

  2. Wow, looks like such a beautiful book, I can't wait to try the two tone chocolate malt cake x


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