Tag Archives: Cake

When Nature can’t help itself

15 Mar

No discussion, the beginning of this week was slightly stressful. I spent most of Monday in various NHS waiting rooms (the GP’s surgery, the eye clinic’s outpatient’s in the old hospital, the emergency dept in the new hospital, the CT scan ‘preparation’ area in the new hospital and then finally Sub Wait G1 in the new hospital). But to cut to the chase, everyone is fine, and my Mum’s assertion that “I’m good at falling” remains true.

It may have been stressful, and frustrating and mostly boring (waiting, waiting, forever waiting) but our NHS is remarkable. I hope it can cope with the oncoming onslaught of Covid-19; I fear it has not been well funded for far too many years and the staff are already over-worked and under-resourced. And the staff we met were all kind, caring and competent (apart from one, who was brusque.. but she was efficient and gave us what seemed to be useful information, so I’m not complaining).

The chorus of birdsong was almost deafening the following morning as I walked across to Mum’s house, under low grey clouds, with a slight smirr of rain in the air. Two male blackbirds were singing competitively from the rowan tree. I guess it’s that time of year. Spring is springing, despite the wettest February in memory. Everything still looked grey, or that end-of-winter depressing brown. But if you looked close, there were the tiniest splashes of colour everywhere.

And then that afternoon our pond seemed to be boiling, the water bubbling up as the frogs got on with their Springtime froggie thing. And of course we now have great globules of frog spawn which will mostly end up as additional protein for the hens I guess.

Our Springtime frog spawn

So, there’s Nature doing its thing, and as sure as night follows day, here am I doing mine, back in the kitchen making treats to cheer our days. And what is more cheering than a wee slice of the most lemoniest of lemony cakes? I adore that zing of sharpness from lemons, and the soft moistness of this sponge complements it perfectly. I guess it would probably keep well, in an airtight tin, but how will I ever know? It’s lovely with a cup of tea or strong espresso, but would work equally well with a scoop of vanilla or dark chocolate icecream, or a big spoonful of creme fraiche on the side for an easy dessert.

The recipe is from my favourite of favourite cookbooks, Darina Allen’s The Forgotten Skills of Cooking.

Lemon polenta cake (gluten free)

  • 225g / 8oz butter, softened
  • 225g / 8oz caster sugar
  • 225g / 8oz ground almonds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • grated zest of 2 lemons
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 110g / 4oz polenta
  • 1 tsp baking powder (make sure it’s gluten free if you want your cake to be GF)
  • a pinch of salt

Grease a 23cm / 9″ spring form tin, and line it with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 160C / 325F / GM3.

  1. Cream the butter till pale and soft, using electric beaters.
  2. Add the caster sugar and beat again until light and creamy.
  3. Stir in the ground almonds and vanilla extract.
  4. Add the eggs, one by one, beating thoroughly after each egg.
  5. Fold in the remaining ingredients: lemon zest and juice, polenta, baking powder and salt.
  6. Transfer the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 50 minutes (but check after 45 to see if it’s ready).
  7. It’s ready when it’s a deep golden colour on top and your skewer comes out clean as a whistle.
  8. Cool on a wire rack
  9. When cool, dredge with sifted icing sugar, to cover any slightly well-fired bits.

I’d show you a picture of this delight, but it was all eaten before I remembered to take a pic. There’ll be another on another day, so if you come back you’ll see what it looks like. Or just make your own, and then taste how good it looks.

My other Spring makes include Wild Garlic Pesto (obviously) and I’m really in the mood for making some chicken liver pate, so I’m delighted that Past-Shewolffe has provided me with a recipe. Or go browse here and see if anything takes your fancy.

Do let me know if there’s anything you want me to make. I’m thinking I might share a few recipes using some of the stockpile in your store cupboard.

Boozy mini cakes for BozzyFest

10 May

We get the Sunday Times every weekend. And occasionally the Times on a Saturday too. Last weekend the Times promoted that it had recipes for Bank Holiday baking. So, of course, I didn’t see much of the rest of the paper (apart from the utterly ace column by Caitlin Moran).

The artisanal approach, smooshing gin and white choc icing on top mini pear cakes

The artisanal approach, smooshing gin and white choc icing on top of mini pear cakes

I was kinda sniffy about the Bank Holiday Baking initially. I mean, it’s just the very beginning of May and the first thing I’m being encouraged to bake is Blackberry and Crumble Cake. Now, I’m sure the Blackberry and Crumble Cake is lovely, but brambles are seasonal fruit, and this really  is NOT their season. Get real cookery writers! And please stop encouraging supermarkets to stock fruit and veg that is out of season – it is more expensive to produce and ship and probably doesn’t taste as good.

There, rant over.

Then I moved on and spied Pear Cakes with White Chocolate, and Lemon Curd. I had literally just made some lemon curd (in a bid to do something else with our glut of eggs – my girls laid seven in one day earlier this week). And I’d just bought some pears. Yup, I know, pears aren’t in season either. But there they were on the shelf at the farmshop, and they looked delicious. And they store better than brambles, so perhaps it’s not quite so mad to buy them out of season?

Anyway, given that I clearly don’t have a leg to stand on in the ‘seasonal rant stakes’ I’ll move on. The recipes are all from Andrew Dargue of Vanilla Black. I’d never heard of Vanilla Black before, but now I’ve looked at the website, they are ‘Michelin-recommended’ and they have a book coming out this week. So that’ll be why I’ve seen his recipes in various places.

I made the Mini Pear Cakes, complete with white chocolate frosting, but something made me add a slug or two of gin to the frosting. And it was ace.

Mini gin infused pear and white chocolate cakes ak the Boozy Bozzy Fest Cakes

Mini gin infused pear and white chocolate cakes aka the Boozy Bozzy Fest Cakes

This weekend I made the cakes again, adding some gin to the cake batter too, and took them along for the volunteers at the wonderful Boswell Book Festival.  It wasn’t an entirely selfless act, supporting both the literary and volunteering community, for I wanted to see Capt Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown give a talk. He’s the most remarkable man – he has flown more different types of aircraft than any other person, living or dead. And it is unlikely (allegedly) that his record of 487 aircraft will ever be beaten. He also interrogated a number of Hitler’s henchman, including Goering, Messerschmitt and Himmler, and the Commandant of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. His description of what he witnessed at the camp, in its last few days was incredibly moving – after almost exactly 70 years to the day he still can’t stop smelling the stench of the dying and near dying in that awful place.

But anyway, I digress.  These cakes were just going to be called Mini Pear Cakes with Gin and White Chocolate Frosting. yes GIN! But they clearly need to be called the Boozy BozzyFest Cakes instead. They are utterly delish. I’ve adapted the original recipe, but only slightly, so thank you The Times and thank you Andrew Dargue. These rock.

And so long as you use GF baking powder, these are gluten free badboys.

Boozy BozzyFest Mini Cakes

Preheat the oven to 155C / GM3. Grease a large muffin tin – this quantity works well for 12 proper-sized mini cakes. Don’t bother with muffin or cake cases, you don’t need them if you prepare the tin well, with lots of butter to prevent the cakes from sticking.

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 125ml sunflower oil
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • 100g buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 small very ripe pears, cut in half and cored
  • 1 TBsp gin
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence (or vanilla, depending on what mood you are in

For the boozy icing

  •  100g white chocolate
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 50g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 TBsp gin
  1. Whisk the eggs, sugar and oil in a large bowl
  2. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix well together
  3. Add the gin and essence
  4. Using a large grater, grate the pears into the mixture. This should be possible if you hold onto the skin side, and just grate the flesh – you should be left holding the skin, with all the flesh grated into the cake batter
  5. Mix again, but only lightly to combine everything
  6. The batter is pretty runny, but don’t worry – it’ll work out. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tin, filling each hole about two thirds of the way to the top.
  7. Bake for around 20-25 minutes, or until firm to the touch.
  8. Leave to cool for 10 minutes or so in the tin, then use a knife to run around the rim of each cake to loose them from the tin, and turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
  9. For the icing: melt the chocolate in a microwave on the lowest power setting, or in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
  10. Beat the butter and icing sugar together. Add the gin.
  11. Fold in the melted chocolate until well combined
  12. Smoosh the icing on to each cake or if you want to be a bit posher, pipe it on (it’ll look smart but not too twee if you use a plain round piping nozzle).

Want other recipe ideas? Take a look at my index of recipes. It’s got everything from croutons (I kid you not!) and boiling an egg (twice) to spicy turmeric chicken, which I’m going to eat tonight. Oh, and more recipes for brownies than is strictly necessary.

 

Aside

Another chocolatey cakey thingie

6 Oct

Inspiration comes from many places.

Today it came from a special offer at my local supermarket: they were selling off nearly out-of-date buttermilk so I popped a carton into my trolley. I’d thought they would become scones, or perhaps muffins.

And several years ago that is probably exactly what would have happened. But thanks to the fabulous eatyourbooks website I can type in an ingredient and find all the recipes in all my cookbooks which use that ingredient. Yes, isn’t that amazing? Isn’t technology just genius.

So then it became a toss-up between Chocolate Spice Gingerbread, from Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipes Unwrapped or Sticky Chocolate Loaf from Ottolenghi. In the end the Chocolate Spice Gingerbread won, if only because I found that cookbook first. That gingerbread is ridiculously easy to make, and there was enough buttermilk left over to make Darina Allan’s White Soda Scones too. Now, how easy are they? Just flour, salt, bicarb of soda and some buttermilk all mixed lightly together and then cut out into scone shapes. They puff up beautifully, but have more of a bready texture than a light scone texture, which is fine once you know that’s what to expect.

The chocolate gingerbread led me to another recipe which had to be tried: Lemon Drizzle Choc Chunk Cake, combining the sharpness of the lemon with the depth of bitter dark chocolate. Possibly a bit like those Thorntons lemon chocolates which I absolutely love.  I think it’ll work. We’ll find out in about an hour.

And, having bought a couple of punnets of damsons again yesterday I’d intended to make Damson Cheese. And then came across Sweet Pickled Damsons. I love the combination of sweet and sharp, so the pickling vinegar has been spiced and is now cooling down; the damsons have been picked over to make sure all the goopy ones are discarded and we’ll finish them off and pop them in jars later.

Would it be rude not to give you the chocolate spiced gingerbread recipe? I think so. It smells divine, and I suspect will keep well, if given the chance, which seems unlikely.

Chocolate Spiced Gingerbread

Adapted from Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipes Unwrapped, which was a Christmas gift from my brother and his family Christmas 2006 (according to the inscription inside, I don’t have that good a memory!).

Grease and line a deep 7″ square cake tin. Or a round one. I used a bigger round one, so ended up with a shallower cake shaped gingerbread. Just as tasty though.

Preheat your oven to 160C / 325F / GM3.

  • 125g / 4oz unsalted butter
  • 100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces (feel free to use a chilli chocolate, or Maya Gold with orange – I just used plain)
  • 75g / 3oz dark muscovado sugar
  • 4 TBsp treacle
  • 150ml / 1/4 pint buttermilk
  • 125g / 4oz ready-to-eat prunes
  • 175g / 6oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  1. Cut the butter into chunks and pop it into a heavy based pan.
  2. Add the chocolate, sugar, treacle and buttermilk
  3. Heat gently until the ingredients have melted and then set aside to cool slightly
  4. Snip the prunes into small pieces – scissors are the easiest way to do this
  5. Sift the flour, bicarb of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl (this is the bowl you will use to make the batter, so make sure it’s big enough to take all the ingredients)
  6. Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl and beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon
  7. Add the beaten egg, and beat again
  8. Fold in the prunes
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface of the mixture
  10. Bake for around 50 minutes
  11. Remove from the oven and leave to cook in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely
  12. Wrap in greaseproof paper and keep in an airtight tin.

It’ll be even better tomorrow. Or even the next day, and unlike many cakes will keep for a week if you haven’t eaten it all.

This would be perfect for a bonfire party. Or with hot chocolate in front of the fire after a vigorous, rigorous walk, kicking Autumn leaves.

I suspect it can take some messing about with the flavours too – perhaps add a wee hint of ground cloves, or star anise or cardamom? And why not some nuggets of crystallised ginger for a wee extra kick? If you were being fancy you could probably cut it into wee bite-sized pieces and drizzle lemon icing on them for sweet canapes or as part of an afternoon tea.

Talking of drizzling lemon, I’m off to make that lemon drizzle cake with chocolate chunks in it now.

Spiced cake (with added parsnips!)

5 Jan

I got it into my head that I wanted to make a parsnip cake.

I could blame that cute James on the Great British Bake Off which is re-running daytimes this week, and I might just have caught some of it yesterday. And the day before.

Or I could blame the Captain for declaring it his favourite vegetable.

But actually, when I’m making something as tasty as a spicy parsnip cake, why am I looking to blame anyone at all? The combination of warming winter spices with the sweet moistness of the parsnip is an absolute winner. Or it would be if I hadn’t thrown in too many parsnips in a moment of madness, ensuring that the resulting cake would be on the heavy side, instead of light and moist. Ah well, I’ll know for next time. And I’ve done it, so you don’t have to.

Tea-time!

Tea-time!

Spiced parsnip cake

Preheat oven to 180C /350F / GM4

Grease and line 2 sandwich cake tins

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 cup muscovado sugar
  • 1 TBsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 balls of ginger from a jar of stem ginger in syrup – chopped up small
  • 2 cups grated parsnips (about 2 large)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 2 TBsp butter, softened
  • 2 TBsp syrup from jar of stem ginger in syrup
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  1. Mix together flour, sugar, spices, baking powder and salt in a large bowl – I use a whisk to combine them all instead of bothering to sift them in.  However – this means you may end up with pockets of sugariness in the finished cake, as it’s tricky to break down all the muscovado if you don’t sift it. And this bowl is going to have EVERYTHING in it soon, so make sure it’s big enough
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, milk and vanilla extract
  3. Pour the eggy mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined
  4. Add the stem ginger, parsnips and chopped walnuts and mix together
  5. Transfer to cake tins
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean – but watch, it might be quicker in your oven
  7. Cook cakes on a wire rack
  8. For the icing, beat together the cheese and butter, with the syrup, till smooth. Add the grated ginger and the icing sugar  (you should sift the icing sugar on this occasion, or you’ll get lumpy icing, which is a beast to make smooth). Beat till smooth.
  9. Sandwich the cakes together and spread the goopy icing all over the top too

Cooling the cakes on a wire rack

Cooling the cakes on a wire rack

This cake is utterly perfect with a cup of Earl Grey tea. It also makes a pretty marvellous pudding, especially if you’ve had something quite light like soup for your main course. Because of the rich icing, it needs no ice cream or anything with it, but if it were made as a single large cake (perhaps in a loaf tin?) with no icing, it would be lovely with a vanilla ice cream, or a scoop of creme fraiche for pudding.

Autumn baking

3 Oct

So, it’s October. I’m not entirely sure where September went, but it seems to have been and gone and now we are truly in the grip of Autumn. So, apart from all that lovely Autumnal weather (which is just an excuse to knit and wear a bright scarf) and Autumnal colours (yup, when you have a wood at the bottom of your garden you hardly need television this time of year) there is all that lovely Autumnal cooking and baking.

And this weekend I suggest you make your Christmas cake. Yes, really. Just do it. The smell in the kitchen is awesome, and the baking is relatively simple (although you will need several large bowls). And come Christmas you’ll be so glad you baked it early.

I’ve made this cake for the last few years – last year I made it in late November, but for various reasons it wasn’t eaten till June. It had been wrapped in cling film, then silver foil and just left under the stairs for months. And oh my it was sensational. So, bake now; eat later. You’ll thank me.

I added 1/4 again to this recipe as my tin was 23cm. When I say I added 1/4 again I mean approximately 1/4 again. Some people say that baking is an exact science and for some recipes it absolutely is, but this cake is forgiving. And so long as the totals of nuts vs dried fruit is about right it’ll be ok. I hope.

Here we go. Light Christmas Cake. Make it now. And again next month for a wee late January treat.

Apricot upside down cake

23 Jul

When life gives you apricots, you should just eat them. But when you still have more apricots than you know what to do with a week later, and they are in danger of going off, you should make cake with them.

A soft, caramelly number would be perfect. Perhaps with some ground almonds to give a hint of marzipan and add extra moistness.

And if it was served with vanilla ice cream it would be just about perfect.

So, that’s what I intended to do yesterday, with some urgency once I discovered that the Captain’s daughter was coming over for lunch with her 2 year old daughter too. But we had no butter. So the Captain was instructed to get a pack of butter when he picked up the papers. And it had to be real butter, not some spread masquerading as butter.

He returned with a plastic tub, which did not bode well. But he proclaimed that it was Lurpak, so it had to be ok. It was Lurpak Spreadable, in my mind not quite the same as butter. And when I looked at the ingredient list, it was clear it wasn’t actually butter – it is only 69% butter, with 25% vegetable oil. That’s what makes it spreadable, adding a product which is liquid at room temperature.

However, on closer inspection it said that it could be used in baking, so I gave it (and the Captain) the benefit of the doubt.

Upside down apricots in a cake

For the upside downy bit:

  • Some apricots – at least 6, preferably about a dozen, Or of course you could substitute all manner of other fruit – pineapple, peach, apples, cherries would all be nice
  • About 2oz Lurpak spreadable, or softened butter
  • About 2oz soft light brown sugar

For the cake mix:

  • 6oz Lurpak spreadable (or use softened butter)
  • 6oz soft light brown sugar
  • 3 medium free range eggs
  • 5oz SR flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2oz ground almonds
  • A splosh of almond extract (optional)

Butter the sides of an 8” square cake tin. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5.

  1. Beat together the 2oz sugar and ‘butter’ until nice and soft and spreadable
  2. Spread this mixture on the base of the cake tin, in an even layer
  3. Cut the apricots in half and place them cut side down on top of the sugar-butter mixture
  4. Beat together the remaining butter and sugar
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then beat in the almond extract
  6. Mix the flour, baking powder and ground almonds in a bowl and then add to the buttery mixture, and beat all together
  7. Dollop the cake mixture into the tin, on top of the apricots, and spread it into the corners. Ideally, create a small well in the middle, which will keep the cake from rising too much in the middle.
  8. Place the cake tin on a baking sheet, in case some of the caramel overflows. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until the centre of the cake feels firm, and no longer wobbly. You may need to cover the cake with a tin foil hat for the last 10 minutes or so, if it looks like it is getting too brown (burnt).
  9. Leave to cool for 10 minutes or so in the tin. To turn the cake out slide a palette knife around the edge of the tin, to loosen the cake from the sides, then place a plate on top of the tin and carefully, but swiftly, turn it over so the tin is now on top of the plate. If you’ve buttered the tin properly it will glide out. If not, you’ll be having jigsaw cake with the bits all vaguely squidged back together. It’ll still taste nice though.

If you’ve managed to plan your day well, then this will be delicious served warm with some thick greek yoghurt, or crème fraiche. Or the aforementioned vanilla icecream.

And who knew? Substituting butter for Lurpak spreadable works perfectly well – this cake was more moist and much lighter than I expected (perhaps also due to the addition of baking powder). The flavour of butter and caramel was strong enough to come through the dominant almond-ness, but as a fan of marzipan that really worked for me. And the apricots? Well, they looked great, and the sliver of soft fruit melted in the mouth and eased my conscience, contributing towards my five a day.

All in all, a success.

Shiny cake

24 Jun

Bear with me here.

This cake isn’t especially shiny, but it is possibly the most delicious cake I’ve ever made. It also can pretend to be healthier than some cakes, as it is chock full of pineapple and banana. So, I think that means I can call it shiny cake if that is what I want to call it, or just because an old girlfriend could never remember that its real name was Cookie Shine Cake, and it was always referred to as the Shiny Cake.

A cookie shine is what Scots used to call a tea party. I’m a Scot and don’t recall ever hearing of a cookie shine, but Sue Lawrence tells me it is so, so it must be true. She does mention that it was mostly used in the 19th century and that it is now pretty much obsolete, so perhaps I’m forgiven for never having used it; I’m not THAT old.

The cake is moist and sweet, like a luxurious, tropical carrot cake, covered in luscious creamy cream cheese icing. Go on, it’s simple to make, uses up that desiccated coconut and the tin of smushed pineapple you have in the cupboard. Oh? Is it only me who has a random tin of crushed pineapple in the back of the cupboard?

This recipe comes from Sue Lawrence’s Scottish Kitchen. She’s a great cookery writer providing foolproof baking recipes for all manner of classic scottish homebaked goods, such as shortbread, bannocks and scotch pancakes. But there is so much more to her books than classic scottish high tea fare – not only does she provide a bit of social history around her recipes, and her travels around Scotland, but she also has great go-to recipes for almost every occasion, from quick weekday suppers to outdoor eating (yes, in Scotland!) and smart dinners. Go on, buy one of her books and see what I mean.

Anyway, here we go:

Shiny Cake

  • 250g / 9oz SR flour
  • 275g / 9.5oz light muscovado sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 225ml / 8 fl oz sunflower or rapeseed oil
  • 1 432g can of crushed pineapple, in natural juice, drained
  • 2 small ripe bananas, peeled and squished
  • 50g / 1.75oz desiccated coconut
  • 75g / 2.75oz chopped roasted hazelnuts
 Icing
  • 100g / 3.75oz butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g / 7oz cream cheese (full or low fat, you decide)
  • 300g / 10.5oz golden icing sugar
  • 1 TBsp chopped roasted hazelnuts

Prepare two 8″ cake tins (or one deep loose-bottomed tin) and preheat the oven to 280C / 350F / GM4

  1. Mix flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt together in a big bowl
  2. Add the eggs and the oil
  3. Add the pineapple, bananas, coconut and hazelnuts and mix well together
  4. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin/s and bake for 35 – 40 minutes. You’ll need slightly longer if you are using one cake tin, so do check it’s ready by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean, it’s ready. If not, give it another few minutes and test again.But remember if you are opening and shutting the oven door on your cake, do it gently – you don’t want to blast in any cold air into the oven, or the cake will flop.
  5. Leave to rest in the tin for about 30minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  6. While it’s cooling you can get on with the icing.
  7. Cream together the butter, vanilla extract and cream cheese, using an electric beater, till smooth.
  8. Start adding the icing sugar a little at a time and keep beating till all the icing sugar is added and the icing is smooth and luscious.
  9. If you had one cake, split it in two. Sandwich the two halves together with icing and then cover the top with icing too. Sprinkle toasted hazelnuts round the outside edge of the top, or all over. Or not at all.

Now, get yourself a nice cake plate and serve your cake, preferably with a pot of Earl Grey tea and proper porcelain tea cups.

I have to say that Sue Lawrence is very particular about her half ounce measurements – I am not. I still prefer to cook in ounces and pounds. I know what 4oz of butter looks and feels like; I can measure out an ounce of flour just using spoons and hardly need to use the weighing scales. This recipe, I’m pleased to report, seems to be fairly forgiving – so if you want to round up or down with your ounces please do so. But don’t blame me (or Sue Lawrence!) if it doesn’t quite work.

Springtime apple cake

5 May

Yes, I know apples aren’t a very springtime fruit, but I don’t seem to have anything local and seasonal in the fruit department yet. No rhubarb, no Scottish berries, not even a British apple to be had in my local supermarket today. Yes, I know, I should have shopped at the farmers’ market – but I needed to do one of those monster shops, with all sorts of store cupboard and cleaning staples, so the supermarket got my custom today.

It’s a glorious sunny day today here in the Clyde valley. Glorious and sunny in that peculiarly Scottish way of also being what you might call ‘a bit fresh’. I call it chilly. So I pootled about for a few minutes in the garden, just to check that everything was doing as it should, then watered everything in the deliciously warm greenhouse, and then decided it was time to bake a cake.

I’d thought of a hazelnut sort of a cake, but had no hazelnuts in the cupboard so that wasn’t going to happen. Then I’d thought of something with some lemon for springtime zestiness, some ground almonds for moistness, and perhaps an apple or two just for fun.

So, here we have it Springtime Apple Cake

Preheat your oven to 160C / Gas 4

Grease a 23cm deep cake tin

  • 3 apples – I used braeburns, and it will need something with a bit of crunch to it, and a slight sharpness. Cooking apples would be fine too
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 225g softened butter
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 200g SR flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  1. Peel and dice the apples, into wee chunks, about 1cm max. Drop them in a bowl with the lemon juice and stir them up a wee bit to coat them all in juice – this will stop them going brown while you do the rest of the cake making. It’ll give a nice zesty flavour too
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest together till you get a good light fluff of a mixture
  3. Add the eggs one at a time. Add a wee bit of flour after each egg if the mixture is showing signs of splitting
  4. Fold in the sifted dry ingredients
  5. Stir in the apple chunks
  6. Dollop the mixture into the cake tin, and level the mixture.
  7. Cook for about an hour. If it smells too burny burny, then put it onto a lower shelf, or cover it with greaseproof paper to stop the top burning.
  8. To test if it’s ready, insert a skewer into the middle of the cake and pull it out again. If it’s covered in soft cake batter it’s not ready, if it’s clean it’s ready. Yay!
  9. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
  10. Dredge with caster sugar, and serve warm with creme fraiche. Or on its own.

You may be interested to know that if you are counting weightwatcher points (as I am currently) then if you slice this cake into 10 pieces (which I think is easily do-able) each slice has 9 points. That’s without your dollop of creme fraiche. An apple with no cake wrapped round it would be 0 points. But where would the fun be in that?

Enjoy!

Orange almond and chocolate cake

12 Mar

Baking for colleagues is incredibly rewarding. Baking for colleagues and asking them to make a donation to charity is even more rewarding. And when the charity is the organisation we all work for, it feels like some kind of virtuous (although slightly insane) circle.

I wanted to make a chocolatey almondy cake… and when I came across a chocolatey, orangey almondy cake recipe I knew it was The One.  I’d never tried a recipe where you boil the orange in water for half an hour and then smoosh it up in a food processor (or liquidiser in my case) and add the whole thing to the cake mixture. But I have now!  And so can you, it makes for a deliciously moist and tasty cake.

The other brilliant thing about this recipe is that it is ridiculously simple – it doesn’t need any elbow grease, beating butter and sugar till fluffy. In fact it is like a carrot cake recipe in that it uses oil instead of butter. Try it and see – but make sure you have lots of friends who want to eat it, it’s a big beast of a cake!

Chocolate truffle icing on the orange almond chocolate cake

Orange almond and chocolate cake

Pre-heat oven to 180C / GM4

Prepare a 24cm deep (or springform) tin

  • 2 oranges
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 5 eggs
  • 400g vanilla caster sugar
  • 350g sunflower oil
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 375g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  •  3-4 TBsp grand marnier or cointreau

for the icing

  • 350g dark chocolate
  • 225ml double cream
  1. Put the whole oranges in a pan and cover with water. Bring tot he boil and simmer for about 30 mins.
  2. Whizz them to a pulp in a food processor or a liquidiser (if you go down the liquidiser route you may have to cut them up into chunks before you put them in the goblet)
  3. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
  4. In a very large bowl (this is the bowl the cake batter will all end up in) beat together the eggs, sugar and the oil (I used a balloon whisk)
  5. Gradually beat in the orange puree, then the melted chocolate
  6. Sift the dry ingredients together (or whisk together with another balloon whisk) and then mix into the egg mixture
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes (a skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean)
  8. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool, and spoon over the orange liqueur to soak in while it is cooling
The icing
  1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
  2. Remove from the heat and allow to cool briefly
  3. Stir in the cream and keep stirring till smooth and glossy
  4. Set aside to cool and firm up slightly then spread over the cake with a palette knife

Serve with creme fraiche if you have any, if not, just eat it. In small slices, with a fork. It’s a VERY rich cake. But deliciously tasty – and usually I don’t approve of orange and chocolate together but this is my exception to that rule.

Nom nom nom – really moist chocolate cake

Chocolate morsels of love

20 Feb

Chocolate cakes of love

Over a year ago I bought a silicone pan to make wee heart-shaped cakes, intending to make wee treats of love for Valentines Day.

But I left the cake pan in Edinburgh, while I was enjoying Valentines in the country. So that didn’t work.

This year I remembered to bring the cake pan to the country, but had over-indulged so much already over the weekend that there was no way I was going to make any chocolate cakes, however cute and heart shaped they might be.

But this weekend was different.

I had a whole list of things to achieve: long walk with the dogs; drink with his kids in Glasgow; a couple of sewing projects to finish; soup to make; a curry to make (and eat); a greenhouse to clean and set up for the spring seed-sowing; laundry to wash and hang out; candle lit baths to loll about in. And I intended to do some veg bed digging too, but that didn’t get done. All the other things did get completed though (ish). And while I was on a roll, achieving so much, I ended up achieving more too – I made the cutest heart shaped gingery dark chocolate cakes. And it so happens they are perfect with fresh pears, not even poached, just chopped up and put in a bowl with all their juicy loveliness, accompanied by a sweet wee chocolate heart of cakey wonderfulness.

So, this is what I did:

Wee ginger chocolate hearts (or morsels of love)

Pre-heat oven to GM 5 or 6, if you don’t have a silicone cake pan, prepare either a 23cm sandwich tin, or a loaf tin, or put a load of paper cupcake cases in a muffin tin. 

  • 4oz soft butter (at room temperature if you have a warm room, otherwise pop it in the microwave at a low power setting in 20second bursts till it’s squishy soft)
  • 4oz light muscovado sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 TBsp syrup from a jar of stem ginger
  • 3oz SR flour
  • 1oz cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 balls of ginger from a jar of stem ginger, chopped fine
  1. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  2. Add the eggs and ginger syrup and beat again. It’ll probably curdle, but don’t worry too much about it
  3. Sift in the flour, cocoa and BP and beat again
  4. Now fold in the ginger bits
  5. Spoon the batter into the cake moulds (or sandwich tin or paper cases, or whatever you are using)
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes are firm to touch

Delicious warm (heat up for 30s in the microwave) with that blackcurrant icecream I first made a few months ago. Or as I said, just with fresh pears. Or on their own, just as a wee treat with a cup of coffee.

Wee chocolate heart cakes

I suspect that they would be mighty scrumptious with a cream cheese icing too.

Or replace the ginger nibs with some frozen raspberries, scrunched, or chopped up, and serve with a raspberry coulis.

Go on, experiment.

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