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Preview: The Caked Crusader

The Caked Crusader

Updated: 2018-03-06T22:05:27.050+00:00


Goodbye…for now definitely, possibly forever (ooh, that came out more dramatic than intended!)


I thought I should post to say goodbye to you all.  I haven’t posted anything now since June and suppose I’ve just fallen out of love with blogging.  The coming weekend would be my blog’s 9th birthday and it’s made me realise that I’ve been doing this for so long now that it’s started to feel like another job. 

I still love baking, and still bake most weekends, but it feels liberating not to have to scrabble around each week and find something different to bake, write it up, take photos, post it online etc.  It was starting to take up a big chunk of my limited free time, which is fine when you enjoy it, but not so much when you don’t.  And sometimes I just want to make the same cake three weekends in a row without worrying about not having anything to post!

It’s been a blast and I’ve loved all your comments and emails – thank you to everyone who’s stopped by whether leaving a comment or not.  The blog will stay up and available (I use it as my personal recipe book and would be lost without it!), and I’ll do my best to continue responding to any questions left in the comments section.

I don’t want to say that I’ll never be back – in a few months’ time I might desperately miss the blogosphere and return to it, but it doesn’t feel likely at the moment.

To paraphrase Douglas Adams’s dolphins when they leave Earth: so long, and thanks for all the cake!

Coconut brownies


I had virtually no time to bake this weekend but, nonetheless, wanted some home baking.  This is the perfect recipe to have up your sleeve – the work of minutes to get in the oven, very few ingredients, and utterly delicious.  If I had to pick my favourite things to pair with chocolate coconut would be right at the top of the list, perhaps having to slug it out with pear for who actually had the top spot.  There is just something about coconut that brings out the best in chocolate and vice versa.  I love the damp grainy texture of baked desiccated coconut and that you can find bits of it in your teeth for a while after eating – it’s the ingredient that keeps on giving!One thing I think it’s important to point out – this recipe didn’t behave like a normal brownie recipe; usually, when you’ve done the melting of the chocolate and butter you end up with quite a liquid mixture right until you add the flour, and even then it’s a runny mix.  This was thicker and only started to loosen when I added the eggs – here’s what it looked like after the initial melting stage (just so you don’t panic that it’s gone wrong if yours looks similar!):Possibly the only difficult thing about baking brownies is judging when to remove them from the oven.  I work on the assumption that things firm up/set/dry out a little on cooling so try and take them out before they look ‘done’.  This goes against my prudent nature and I feel a bit of a risk-taking daredevil in removing something from the oven before it looks ready, but I force myself, and the momentary stress is worth it!  In my opinion a brownie is better a little underdone, than a little over.Ingredients100g cocoa powder250g unsalted butter500g golden caster sugar4 eggs100g self raising flour100g desiccated coconut, plus 2 tablespoons extra to sprinkle on topMethodPreheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper or non stick foil.Place the cocoa powder, butter and sugar into a large pan (large enough to accommodate all the additional ingredients) and melt over a gentle heat, stirring all the time so nothing catches on the bottom of the pan.When everything has combined remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.Beat in the eggs, one at a time.Fold in the flour and coconut.Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle the extra coconut over the top.Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the brownie is set but not firm.  Best to start checking after about 30 minutes as ovens vary.  If the top is getting too dark and crusty, cover loosely with foil and continue to bake.Leave to cool in the tin and, when cool, cut into chunky sized squares.Serve with a cup of tea, or warm and serve with ice cream for dessert.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Ginger and rum cake


I think I must be a contrarian baker.  Now that summer actually seems to have arrived, I know I should be thinking about strawberries, cream and other such light frippery….but what I really wanted this week was ginger cake.  And rum.  And dates.  And all things that make you think of colder weather (not that I even like colder weather).  As I said – contrarian.This cake is always better the day after baking, and the day after that; it’s always the way with sticky spicy cakes – they need time to mellow and let their flavours mature.  I do have a penchant for rum and have a selection at home that would rival most cocktail bars; for this cake I chose a spiced rum as I thought the extra punch of flavour would work well.  Spiced rum always seems to have a vanilla note to it too and I never miss the opportunity to get a bit of vanilla into something.You can taste each of the main flavours in the cake: ginger, dates and rum.  Putting the rum in the icing gives a raw hit – if you like your booze softer, and more baked, consider putting more in the cake and leaving it out of the icing. Without checking through almost nine years of blogging, I don’t remember putting dates into a ginger cake before.  It was a good move – it turned a standard ginger cake into something more akin to a sticky toffee pudding.  You could leave the icing off this cake and serve it warm, as dessert, with custard or ice cream.  Personally, I am always partial to a white icing and a bit of the itchy teeth feel it can sometimes create.  Many older people I know have lost their taste for overly sweet things…I do sometimes wonder if it will ever happen to me.  I just can’t imagine being that person who winces when they eat something and say, ‘ooh, that’s a bit sweet for me’.  Does. Not.  Compute.Ingredients75g unsalted butter100g dark muscovado sugar125g black treacle125g golden syrup2 eggs3 tablespoons rum – I used spiced rum225g self raising flour2 teaspoons ground ginger50g stem ginger, finely chopped75g medjool dates – pitted and finely choppedFor the icing:100g icing sugar1-2 tablespoons spiced rum1 tablespoon stem ginger syrup (from the jar of stem ginger)MethodPreheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/350F/gas mark 4.Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper.Place the butter, sugar, treacle and golden syrup into a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat.Leave to cool for at least 5 minutes before beating in the eggs and rum – if the mix is too hot the eggs will scramble and leave lumps in the cake.  Not nice.Stir in the flour and ground ginger.Stir in the chopped ginger and dates.Pour into the prepared baking tin.Bake for 50 minutes – 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes in the tin, before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.Now make the icing: mix the icing sugar with 1 tablepsoon each of rum and ginger syrup – add the extra spoonful of rum only if needed.  You’re aiming for a thick, glossy icing that has movement to it but isn’t so loose it will just run off the cake.Spoon the icing over the cake and leave to set.This cake gets better with age – it becomes stickier and more flavoursome.Serve in generous slices with a cup of tea.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Bakewell thumbprint biscuits


If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been blogging it’s that good recipes can turn up anywhere; a particularly good source being supermarket free magazines.  This one is from the Co-Op’s magazine and combines two of my favourite things – biscuits and bakewells.  Sadly, I no longer live near a Co-Op but my mother in law does, and diligently picks up the new magazine for me whenever it’s available – thanks Dot!We all probably made thumbprint biscuits as children; they must be up there with fairy cakes and rock buns as the ideal ‘starter’ bake for children.  But what I liked about this recipe was that it reinvented the familiar biscuit and introduced almonds and white icing to create a bakewell hybrid.  It really is a winning combination.The recipe makes a lot of biscuits.  A lot.  The recipe said it would make 40, and I got 26 (this isn’t bad for me – normally when a recipe says 40 I get about 12!). This is very handy as it is a strong individual who will stop at one!The lemon zest in the biscuit and the lemon juice in the white icing is quite strong; if you want the almond and jam to be more dominant I would recommend maybe using the zest in the biscuit and making the icing up with water.IngredientsFor the biscuits:175g unsalted butter, at room temperature175g caster sugar1 lemon’s zest1 teaspoon vanilla extract1 egg150g ground almonds150g self raising flourapprox ½ a jar of raspberry jamFor the icing:80g icing sugar1 lemon’s juiceHandful of toasted flaked almondsMethodPreheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/Gas mark 4.Line two (or four if you have them, otherwise you can just rotate the baking trays and use them twice) baking sheets with baking paper or non stick foil.Beat together the butter, sugar, zest and vanilla until light and whippy; you will notice the mix turning pale.Add the egg and beat well.Add the ground almonds and self raising flour and stir until just mixed.Take a heaped teaspoon of the mix and roll into a ball.Place on the baking sheet.Repeat until the tray is full – they do spread while baking so aim for a maximum of 8 per baking sheet (depending on the size of your sheet.)Push your thumb into each ball to form a well.Spoon ½ teaspoon of jam into each well.Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes until golden and nicely spread. I found mine needed longer – about 16-18 minutes, but it’s good to check after 10 minutes if only to rotate the trays for an even bake.Repeat the process until all your biscuit dough is used up.Leave to cool.Now make the icing: mix together the icing sugar with just enough lemon juice (you won’t need it all) until you have a thick but runny icing.Drizzle across the top of the cooled biscuits.Scatter over the flaked almonds.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

White chocolate cheesecake


There is something about a bank holiday weekend that just makes you feel like you have more time for everything, including baking.  I wanted to bake something that was rich and indulgent, and would also be a fancy treat across the whole three days.  I don’t usually make baked cheesecakes but the minute I laid eyes on this one, on the BBC Good Food website, I knew it had to be!Just reading the ingredients list indicated that this was going to be rich, rich, rich!  I tried to balance it by serving with fresh raspberries. Any acidic fruit would work well such as rhubarb or citrus.The texture of this cheesecake is beautiful – I often find that baked cheesecakes can be a bit dense and heavy, resulting in that squeaky tooth feeling.  This one is light and almost mousse-like, but unmistakably a cheesecake.  Surprisingly, it isn’t too sweet either.It’s possibly the first time I’ve made a baked cheesecake where I avoided a split on the top as it cooled.  I think I’ve had this in the past because I’ve overbaked it and not trusted that it would firm up enough during cooling; this time I made a conscious effort to turn the oven off after an hour even though the cheesecake looked barely set.This makes a big cheesecake but don’t worry if you don’t want it all at once.  Cut it into slices and freeze for future treats! Or eat it all up in a couple of days – I won’t judge you.IngredientsFor the base:200g digestive biscuits, or Hobnobs85g unsalted butterFor the topping:400g white chocolate300ml double cream400g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia4 eggs1 teaspoon vanilla extractTo serve: raspberriesMethodPreheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/350F/gas mark 4.Blitz the biscuits in a food processor and then add the butter (no need to melt if you’re using a food processor) and blitz again until combined.Press into the base of a 23cm round springform tin.Bake for 10 minutes, then leave to cool.Reduce the oven to 140C/fan 120C/280F/gas mark 1.Wrap the outside of the cake tin tightly in 2-3 layers of foil – this is to make it waterproof for its water bath later!Now make the topping: Place the chocolate and the cream into a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat.Leave to cool for 5 minutes.Beat together the cream cheese, eggs and vanilla.Add the cooled chocolate cream mix and beat until smooth.Place the tin (wrapped in foil) in a deep roasting tin and pour the filling into it.Pour boiling water, from the kettle, into the roasting tin so that it comes about halfway up the side of the cake tin.Bake for 1 hour, then turn the oven off.Leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour with the door closed, then for about another hour with the door slightly ajar.  Remove the tin from the water bath and remove the foil.Cover the top with clingfilm and refrigerate until about 10 minutes before you wish to serve it.Serve either on its own, or with some fruit for a fancy dessert.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Cider cake


For Mr CC’s birthday we took a luxury train trip right the way across the country to Somerset; the carriages were all authentic Pullman carriages from the Art Deco era (the sort of train someone usually gets murdered on in an Agatha Christie tale…luckily our trip was less eventful!) – ours had been used by the Queen for a trip so we felt pretty pampered:I think I mentioned a week or two back that, wherever we visit, I try to buy a fridge magnet and honey.  Honey didn’t seem right for Somerset so I flexed the rule to mean ‘local food produce’ and came back with a rather lovely little jug of cider.  If I’m being entirely honest it was the jug that swayed me more than the cider.The cider is somewhere between the extremely fizzy ciders you find in supermarkets and the more traditional flat cider.  ‘Flat’ always sounds an unappealing description; it has a critical edge to it, but all I mean is it’s not fizzy.  While I’m always partial to a bit of fizz I must confess to rather liking the less carbonated varieties as I seem to taste the apple more somehow.  I also thought it would be nice for baking with, hence this week’s choice of cake.The addition of the cinnamon is lovely because it emphasises the apple element and conjures up the flavours you expect from an apple pie.  The sponge is a light texture and makes the cake very eatable (I know – all cakes fall into this category, but there is just something about a soft, crumbly sponge!).  I added a sprinkling of sugar on the top for a bit of crunch.Ingredients150g unsalted butter, at room temperature150g light muscovado sugar, plus 2 tablespoons extra for the topping3 eggs340g plain flour1 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon225ml ciderMethodPreheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.Beat together the butter and sugar until light and pale – it won’t go truly whippy, as it would with caster sugar, as the muscovado is grainier.Beat in the eggs, one at a time.Weigh out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon and mix together.Fold in a third of the flour mix, followed by a third of the cider.Repeat until all the ingredients are incorporated.Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.Sprinkle the additional sugar over the top.Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.Leave to cool in the tin for approximately 20 minutes, until you can safely handle to de-tin.  Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.The cake will keep for several days in an airtight tin.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Date, honey and walnut cake


Whenever we go on a trip out there are usually two purchases I make: a fridge magnet, and a jar of local honey.  My latest honey acquisition came after a visit to an Essex Wildlife Trust centre at the wonderfully named FingringhoeWick.  It doesn’t sound like it should be a real place!I’ve spent a lot of time recently sorting through my cookbook collection; it had got out of hand and so disorganised following our house move (over 18 months ago now – eek! No excuse anymore!) that I couldn’t find anything.  Now it’s all nicely arranged by type, so I had no trouble locating an old cookbook I have dedicated entirely to honey.This simple cake stood out as the one to make; I’ve boosted the quantities a bit but the ratios remain the same.  With the weather predicted to be warm, I didn’t want anything too fiddly or involving buttercreams – and this cake couldn’t be easier or quicker to make.Don’t be fooled by this cake’s plain Jane looks; it packs a glorious punch with comforting flavours and a soft texture punctuated by walnuts and chewy dates.  It’s a more old fashioned sort of crumbly sponge and the walnuts stop it getting too sweet, which you might think it would be given the inclusion of sugar, honey and dates. It really is worth making.  Keeps well too…which might not be an issue!Ingredients185g unsalted butter, at room temperature115g castor sugar75g runny honey3 eggs115g dates, chopped115g walnuts, chopped300g self raising flourMethodPreheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.Beat together the butter, sugar and honey until light, soft and whippy.Beat in the eggs one at a time.Mix in the dates, walnuts and flour and ensure everything is well combined.Spoon into the prepared tin, level the surface and bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Start checking it after 40 minutes, as ovens vary.Leave to cool in the tin until you can safely handle; de-tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat[...]

Chocolate pecan tart


I suspect this may be the same as a Mississippi mud pie but haven’t called it that in case, like key lime pie, there’s a specific ingredient/aspect that defines it and I’m not aware of it!  These things can be a minefield so I thought I’d avoid causing any offence – in all honesty it was the inclusion of pecan nuts that made me just think, ‘hmm, best not go there!’It’s a bank holiday weekend so that means the glorious euphoria that only an extra day off work can bring!  I wanted to make something that would last all weekend and provide dessert.  This met the brief and was also a tart that I knew we wouldn’t get bored of – seriously, how you could you ever tire of chocolate tart?The tart souffled up whilst cooking and sank when cooling.  Don’t panic when this happens; although my outer ring of pecan nuts stood up like sentries and meant the edge couldn’t sink back down giving an ‘interesting’ final look!  Here it is souffled….….and sunken:I do admire the design of pecan nuts – they look like shrivelled brains.  Walnuts and pecans have it sewn up regarding ‘interesting looking nuts’.  Most nuts are a bit dull looking – smooth and pale, but these two have raised the bar and always make me pause to look whenever I bake with them.  The complexity in shape that nature can produce is fascinating.  I’ve re-read what I’ve just written and concede that some people may find it weird.  I can assure you that it’s when I say I’ve started talking to the nuts that you should worry (or when I claim that they answer back!)IngredientsFor the tart base:225g biscuits – I used hobnobs, but digestives or ginger biscuits would also work100g unsalted butter, at room temperatureFor the filling:170g plain chocolate170g unsalted butter4 eggs170g dark muscovado sugar150ml whipping cream100g pecan nutsTo serve: whipped creamMethodStart by making the base: blitz the biscuits to crumbs in a food processor, then add the butter and blitz again until you have clumpy wet sand.  NB. If you use the food processor there is no need to melt the butter, unlike it you use the old ‘bash the biscuits with a rolling pin’ method!Press the crumbs into a 20cm loose bottomed flan tin taking care to come right up the sides.Place in the refrigerator while you make the filling.Preheat the oven to 190C/fan oven 170C/375F/gas mark 5.Melt the chocolate and butter together over a gentle heat.Leave to cool for about 10 minutes – if the mix is too hot the eggs will scramble when you add them causing a lumpy final texture.Whisk in the eggs and sugar until smooth and well combined.Whisk in the cream.Pour into the chilled biscuit base and place the pecan nuts on top, arranged however you wish.Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chocolate filling looks set.Leave to cool before de-tinning.  Don’t worry that your tart will settle as it cools – this is normal.Serve in generous slices with cream.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat[...]

Fruit tea loaf


This recipe came into being because I made a whim purchase.  Whilst visiting a Greek Cypriot supermarket on the quest for baklava (as instructed by Mr CC; if only all quests in life were this tasty!), I spotted a pouch of dried red and white mulberries.  I was starting from a position of ignorance: I didn’t know anyone other than silk worms ate mulberries, but, seeing as I didn’t see any silk worms doing their shopping I deduced that they must also be human food.What caught my attention was their beautiful knobbly appearance.  I want to describe them as looking like a raisin that had suffered a severe allergic reaction to something but this wouldn’t convey how cute they are.  Texturally, they are similar to a dried fig i.e. they have a bit of grittiness about them.  They are also very dry, which was why I decided to use them in a tea loaf, where they’d have the opportunity to plump and rehydrate.Having read up about mulberries they seem to be considered a superfood.  I always struggle with this term as – to me – most food is pretty darned super, but it is because they’re high in protein, iron and vitamins blah blah science etc.  They taste nice too – which is the most important thing; imagine a less sweet sultana.Thickly buttered fruit loaf is one of life’s great joys.  I always say that you can toast the loaf and then butter it, but I never have any left to get to do that!Ingredients340g dried fruit – I used dried mulberries and sultanas60g glace cherries – chopped110g dark brown soft sugar200ml cold tea – I used 2 teabags to boost the flavour225g self raising flour1 eggMethodThe night before you wish to bake the cake: place the fruit, cherries and sugar in a bowl and mix with the tea.  Cover the bowl and leave - ideally overnight but longer won't hurt.Day of baking: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan oven 170C/375F/gas mark 5.Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper.Mix the flour and egg into the pre-soaked fruit mix – ensure it is well combined and no pockets of dry flour or egg remain.Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  If the cake is browning too quickly, don’t be afraid to cover it loosely with foil.Leave to cool on a wire rack. Serve in slices with butter thick enough to leave teeth marks when you bite into it!Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Pecan cupcakes with cream cheese frosting


I haven’t yet baked a single cupcake during 2016 so thought it was about time I rectified this most heinous situation.  The pecan sponge is an adaptation of a recipe where it was intended as a 20cm cake served as dessert with toffee sauce.  Most sponges can be converted into cupcakes pretty simply by a reduction in baking time.The original recipe used maple syrup instead of the golden syrup I used; I made this switch because Mr CC actively dislikes the smoky flavour of maple syrup.  He’s not known for being picky about food, there are probably less than a handful of no-go ingredients for him, so it would seem rude not to accommodate him.  I prefer golden syrup too!Take time to blitz the pecans to a fine crumb but, at the same time, don’t blitz them for too long so they start to release their oils.  Once you hit the look of ground almonds, stop!  I kept mine perhaps a bit coarser than ground almonds:Pecans have a robust flavour so I chose a cream cheese frosting as I thought it would hold its own against the nuts.  The tang of the cream cheese works well and I kept it simple with a dash of vanilla. There are three distinct flavours to these cupcakes – cream cheese, syrup and pecans.  They all hit together but the pecan is the one you’re left with at the end.  They are sweet – as you’d expect with sugar, syrup and pecans (which I always think of as a sweet nut) - but it’s a flavoursome sweet rather than a sugary sweet; you aren’t left with itchy teeth!IngredientsFor the sponge:200g unsalted butter, at room temperature150g muscovado sugar350g pecans – blitzed to fine crumbs in a food processor3 eggs100g golden syrup150g self raising flourFor the frosting:200g unsalted butter, at room temperature300g icing sugar180g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia1 teaspoon vanilla extractTo decorate: pecan halvesMethodPreheat the oven to 170C/ fan 150C/340F/gas mark 3 ½. Line two cupcake pans with paper cases – I got 20 generous sized sponges.Beat together the butter and sugar until light and well combined – it will never go quite as fluffy with brown sugar as it would with caster.Beat in the ground pecans.Beat in the eggs, one at a time.Beat in the golden syrup.Fold in the flour.Spoon into the paper cases and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean.  Mine took 20 minutes.De-tin and leave to cool on a wire rack lined with either kitchen or baking paper – the reason for this is that the nuts release oils during cooking and by standing it on something absorbent you will end up with nice dry paper cases by the time they’ve cooled.  (NB. Removing them from the tin ASAP stops them continuing to cook when out of the oven -this is what can cause the paper cases to gap and look ugly).Now make the frosting: beat together the butter and icing sugar until well combined and smooth.Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla.If the frosting is very soft don’t be afraid to refrigerate it for 30 mins or so before using.Pipe over the cupcakes, or spread with a knife if you prefer.Decorate with pecan halves.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Lemon cream pie


Sometimes, I can be sceptical about recipes if they look too simple.  This was such a recipe and gosh was I wrong!  Firstly, it’s no bake so is super quick to make; secondly, it has few ingredients and thirdly, it requires no skill or techniques whatsoever.  Win-win-win!The texture of this is amazing – it is the softest, lightest, smoothest texture I can recall.  Imagine a whipped mousse crossed with a cloud and you’d be getting there!  The lightness of texture offsets the richness so it’s actually deceptive; I could quite easily have been on my second slice before I realised how creamy it was!The basic method could be adapted to any citrus fruit – it’s the acid from the fruit you need to set the cream.  It worked very well with lemon because the fresh zing balanced the richness of the cream.  The gingernut base gives an extra flavour too.Just about the perfect dessert for a lazy holiday weekend.  It keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge so you can just cut slices as they’re required (makes a refreshing change from all the chocolate!).  I know that I will also adapt this recipe to build it in a glass too – the creamy filling was light enough to work with that style presentation.Ingredients225g gingernut biscuits115ml unsalted butter, at room temperature300ml double cream265g condensed milkJuice of 2 lemonszest of 1 lemonMethodBlitz the gingernuts in a food processor.Add the butter (no need to melt it if you’re using a processor) and blitz again until you have the texture of clumpy damp sand.Press into the bottom of a 20cm loose bottomed flan dish and press a little up the sides too.Refrigerate while you make the filling.Whip the cream until it reaches the soft peaks stage.Fold in the condensed milk, lemon juice and zest.Spoon into the biscuit base and spread out.Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat. [...]

Cherry, fudge oat traybake


Cherry, fudge oat traybake aka ‘help – my planned cake/blog post has turned out dismally and is now sitting in the compostables bin where even the foxes will snub it’.  Yes, this cake is the phoenix rising out of the ashes of a doomed ancestor.  I had planned on a peanut butter based cake but something was amiss and it came out both Frisbee-like and savoury, neither of which were ideal outcomes.  This recipe is my own invention and it developed along the way.  The cherry and fudge components came from being fed up with seeing the ingredients on my baking shelf, and the oats then got involved because I love oats and thought the cake might benefit from some texture.I mused whether to make it as a 20cm round cake – and it would’ve worked – but I decided on a traybake as that would give shallower slices and stop the oats becoming claggy.  I have mixed advice: wait until it gets completely cool before cutting as it’s very soft and tears otherwise…..on the other hand; if you eat it warm, before the fudge has set, you get divine little sticky pockets of fudgy goo that make a raggedy slice worth it!As is often the way, things made on the fly are usually the tastiest!  This is no exception – the flavours and textures work so well together and it’s a perfect tasty accompaniment to a cup of tea.  Which I definitely needed after my earlier frustrations…I take it very personally when a recipe fails…i.e. rude words are spoken.Ingredients225g unsalted butter, at room temperature225g light brown soft sugar3 eggs225g self raising flour100g rolled oats150g fudge chunks260g tin of black cherries, chopped into pieces – this was the drained weight, the tin was 425g)3 tablespoons milkMethodPreheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.Grease a 20cm x 30cm traybake tin.Beat together the butter and sugar until well combined – it won’t go light and whippy.Beat in the eggs, one at a time.Fold in the flour and oats.Fold in the fudge and cherries.Stir in the milk.Spoon into the traybake tin and level the surface.Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into squares.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Banana and ginger cake


I had four bananas, slowly turning black on the kitchen counter, giving me that judgemental look as if to say, ‘yes, you manage to eat all the biscuits well before they go off, but look at us – unwanted and unloved’ and realised it was time to find a good banana cake recipe.This cake is adapted from a Dan Lepard recipe and caught my attention because I have never seen banana and ginger combined and they are two of my favourite flavours.  I only made one minor tweak – changing his glace ginger for stem.The flavour of this cake is rich and indulgent and gets better with age – the dark sugar seems to get stickier and more treacly.  It works well as a companion to a mug of tea, but is also great warm with custard for dessert.  The smell of it baking drove me half insane – sugar and spice; if there are happier kitchen smells I can’t think what they are!The sponge is soft and lighter than you might expect.  The ginger is subtle and doesn’t overpower the banana.  Personally, being a ginger fiend, next time I make this cake I would up the ginger – probably with a teaspoon or two of ground ginger. Don’t let the plain looks fool you; this is actually a glossy beauty and has become my go-to banana cake recipe.IngredientsFor the cake:200g dark muscovado sugar300g ripe bananas – this is approx. 2 large bananas125ml flavourless oil suitable for baking – I used light olive oil4 eggs75g stem ginger – finely chopped200g wholemeal flour3 tsp baking powderMethodPreheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper. Put the sugar and bananas in a bowl and mash until almost smooth – as long as there are no big lumps it will be fine.Beat in the oil and eggs.Stir in the ginger. Add the flour and baking powder, stir well, then pour into the tin. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes or so before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.Serve in generous slices.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Pineapple and coconut sponge


It has felt so cold this week that I have been reminiscing about when I used to have to travel for work and got to dodge some of Winter’s bleakness with trips to glorious places such as the Bahamas and Cayman Islands.  I don’t miss the travel at all – in fact I love getting to sleep in my own bed every night – but a bit of sunshine wouldn’t go amiss. I had ice on the inside of my car windscreen this week – the inside!!!My choice of bake was to capture the feeling of more tropical climates – for me, this is always pineapple and coconut; two flavours I adore.  The addition of sour cream to the sponge created a soft crumb texture.  This is a dangerous cake in that you could happily work your way through several slices in one sitting…..hypothetically, of course…..this didn’t actually happen….oh no….never…not my style….I decided to make this all about the sponge so didn’t bother with any icing or buttercream, opting for a light dusting of icing sugar – we call this ‘Fannying it’.  Fanny Cradock fans out there will understand what I mean by this; whenever she made anything and it didn’t look too pretty or seemed burned, she would always bury it under about 3 inches of icing sugar to hide the defects (usually claiming it was what they did in Paris!) – her lovely mincemeat omelette is a good example.  There was nothing to hide with this bake, but I ‘fannyed it’ anyway!Ingredients165g unsalted butter, at room temperature165g caster sugar3 eggs375ml sour cream300g self raising flour1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda225g desiccated coconut300g pineapple, crushed or in chunks – I used tinned, and drained the crushed pineapple in a sieve to stop it being too wetTo decorate: 2 tablespoons icing sugarMethodPreheat oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/Gas mark 4.Line a 23cm springform round tin with baking paper – don’t be tempted to gamble and use a 20cm tin; it’s a big cake.Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.Beat in the eggs, one at a time.Fold in the sour cream.Fold in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.Stir in the coconut and pineapple.Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.Bake for approximately 45 minutes -1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Mine took an hour.Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.Just before serving, dust the top of the cake with icing sugar.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Famous faces' favourite fancies – Gin and lemon drizzle cake


I was sad to read about the recent death of Sir Terry Wogan as he was one of those national treasure celebrities who was just part of your life without you ever realising it.  From loving his hilarious, disrespectful commentary of the Eurovision Song Contest (being allowed to stay up late for this was a treat in itself) to watching his face fall when Kenny Everett broke his funny stick microphone in Blankety Blank, if you were a child of the 70s and 80s he was part of the scenery.His early evening chat show in the 80s and early 90s was one of the few shows to see bands perform their new singles and who can forget that incredible David Icke interview ?(shockingly this was 1991 - 25 years ago!!!! I've never felt so old!)  His charm, wit and refusal to take himself seriously was totally endearing and why people loved him; it takes a lot of talent to make everything seem so effortless.Sadly, I didn’t make his request during his life time but felt it right to make it in tribute to him, and all the entertainment he provided us with. I can’t make his actual request – Lady Wogan’s lemon drizzle cake – but I decided to make something a little out of the ordinary and added a measure of gin to the lemon drizzle mix.  Sort of my way of toasting the inimitable Sir Terry!The addition of the gin added a lovely extra element to the cake – it gave an almost sherbet-like zing to the drizzle.  I never used to like gin but have found that I now rather like the less perfumed versions, and Tanqueray is my favourite.  If you’re looking for a new way to enjoy a gin and lemon, this might just be it!IngredientsFor the cake:175g unsalted butter, at room temperature175g golden caster sugar2 eggs175g self raising flour1 lemon, zest and juiceFor the drizzle:50g golden caster sugar1 lemon, zest and juice25ml gin – I used Tanqueray MethodPreheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.Line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with baking paper.Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and whippy.Beat in the eggs one at a time.Fold in the flour.Fold in the lemon zest and juice.Spoon into the loaf tin and level the surface.Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.While the cake is baking, stir together the sugar, zest, lemon juice and gin to make the drizzle.As soon as the cake is baked – and while it is still in the tin – pierce the sponge with a skewer before brushing the drizzle mixture over the top of the cake.Leave to cool.  I leave it in the tin so the drizzle has to be absorbed and can’t ooze out anywhere.Serve in generous slices.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Mint chocolate biscuits


Long-time readers of my site will remember the anti-mint sentiments included in my TenCommandments.  My feelings to mint can be summed up quite simply – I hate it with a passion, particularly when a sprig finds its way onto my dessert plate for no good reason.  NB.  There is never a good reason.  There are two exceptions I will happily cite: mint sweets, and mint with chocolate.  It has NO place in anything else – particularly savoury foods.  Bleugh….lamb and mint - whoever thought that was a good idea?  Mad people and mint farmers, that’s who.Mint tea???  No!  I have tried it on various occasions and never got past two sips before wishing I just had some normal PG Tips in my cup.  The word ‘tea’ brings so much excitement into my life but there’s always such sadness and disappointment when it’s paired with ‘mint’.This recipe appealed to me because I have a fondness for Matchmakers.  Often minty chocolate features in Christmas recipes and I liked that this is very much an all year round bake.  I also liked that the recipe doesn’t use up the whole box of Matchmakers….so the cook gets some perks!These biscuits are crisp, thin and buttery; they hold their shape well during baking giving them a smart, uniform appearance.  They are lovely on their own, but would also be nice served with ice cream for dessert.IngredientsFor the biscuits:225g unsalted butter, at room temperature140g caster sugar1 egg yolk2 teaspoons vanilla extract280g plain flour100g mint chocolate sticks, finely chopped – I used MatchmakersMethodBeat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla.Stir in the flour and chopped matchmakers and bring together to form a dough.Cut the dough in half, flatten each into a fat disc and wrap in clingfilm.Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.Preheat the oven to 190C/fan oven 170C/375F/gas mark 5.Line two large baking sheets with baking paper or non stick foil – you may have to use the trays twice i.e. bake in batches.Take the first disc of dough and roll out between two sheets of clingfilm – aim for about the thickness of a £1 coin (3mm approx).Using a cutter no bigger than 6cm, cut out the dough.  You need to get 15 biscuits from each half of dough.Place onto the prepared sheets leaving space around as they will spread when baking.Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes until golden.Leave to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.Repeat the process with the second half of the dough.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Yorkshire curd tart


Whenever Mr CC and I are in York there are two things I have to eat:  Firstly, a Fat Rascal from Bettys, and secondly, a Yorkshire Curd tart from Bennett’s – a lovely little café right next to York Minster.  Admittedly, the curd tart has a slight lemon tang but I’m warming towards lemon – I’m not saying we’re ever going to best friends but the animosity and hurt is over.I’ve long wanted to make a curd tart but it’s nigh on impossible to find curd cheese unless you are blessed with a great deli, a fancy supermarket or farm shop.  Some recipes say you can substitute ricotta but – whisper it for fear of causing offence – I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like ricotta.  Neither the texture nor the blandness do anything for me in baked goods (it’s ok in savoury recipes).This recipe, adapted from the BBC GoodFood website, starts with instructions how to make curd cheese and it’s a lot simpler than you might think.  Start with a very high fat, rich milk:The formation of the curds in the milk is like witchcraft; I felt like I was at a cauldron making magic happen:The most fascinating thing is that the curds suck the fat out of the milk so, as they form, the remaining liquid turns more and more watery.  Really one of the most oddly enjoyable things I’ve done for a long time!  I had no use for the whey, but apparently you can keep it and use it wherever you would use buttermilk….thinking about it, it probably is buttermilk?The only real thing to be aware of is that you need to start it the day before to allow draining time.  A lot of draining time….I started it off in a tea towel lined colander sitting in the sink….… and then, after several hours, stood the colander (still tea towel lined) in a bowl….….before refrigerating it overnight.  The next morning I had this:This tart is perfect for anyone who doesn’t like overly sweet bakes; it has a sharp zing to it from a combination of the lemon and curd cheese.  One slice will not be enough!IngredientsFor the curds:1.8 litres full fat Jersey milk – this has 5g fat per 100ml (compared to semi skimmed which has 1.8g per 100ml)Juice of 1 ½ lemons(NB. This made 445g curd cheese – so if you have curd cheese to hand and don’t want to make it, use this weight)For the pastry:210g plain flour130g unsalted butter – cold2 teaspoons caster sugar1-2 tablespoons cold water For the filling:75g unsalted butter – at room temperature75g caster sugar2 eggs100g currantsGrated nutmeg – allspice is more traditional, if you preferMethodStart making the curds the day before you want to serve the tart: place the milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.Add the lemon juice and turn the heat to low.Gently stir while the curds form; if you are too firm you will break the curds.  The curds form very quickly – mine were smaller than I expected (but I had nothing to compare it to, so that probably doesn’t mean much).Once the mixture looks watery with creamy lumps remove from the heat and leave to cool.Drain the curds overnight in the fridge.  I lined a colander with a clean tea towel and suspended this across a bowl. I started the draining process in the sink because there was a lot of liquid and I didn’t need it for anything.On the day of making the tart start with the pastry: place the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor and blitz until you have breadcrumb sized pieces.Add the water gradually and only what is needed to form a dough.Tip the dough out onto a sheet of clingfilm and handle just enough to bring together.Flatten into a disc and wrap in cl[...]

Sultana sandwich cake


I wasn’t actually planning on baking this weekend – the old baking mojo is waning a bit of late – but then I really really wanted some cake and I discovered that greed is just about the only thing that can overpower my laziness!This cake plays around with a classic Victoria sponge recipe; I added sultanas (love them!) and also decided to try out the little pot of custard extract I bought from Lakeland a while back but have never used.  My thinking was to try and create a dessert, like a spotted dick and custard, but in cake form.I made a very light buttercream and used the custard extract in that too.  It achieved the aim of a pudding in cake form and was the perfect comforting cake to have with a cup of tea on a grey Sunday afternoon.The custard extract was different to plain vanilla extract but wasn’t quite as powerful as I’d have liked.  I used it according to the instructions on the bottle – next time I might bam it up a notch.IngredientsFor the sponge:265g unsalted butter, at room temperature265g golden caster sugar4 eggs12 drops custard extract – or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract if you prefer265g self raising flour150g sultanasDash of milk, if requiredFor the buttercream:100g unsalted butter, at room temperature200g icing sugar6 drops custard extract – or a dash of vanilla extract2 tablespoons milkMethodPreheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.Line two 20cm round loose bottomed sandwich tins with baking paper.Start by making the sponge: beat together the butter and sugar until light and well combined – it won’t turn pale and whippy because of the ratios.Beat in the eggs, one at a time.Beat in the custard extract.Fold in the flour and sultanas.Add a little milk if the sponge is too stiff - you want a consistency that will drop from the spoon with only a little encouragement.Spoon into the prepared tins and level the surface.Bake for approximately 45 minutes (but start checking after 30 minutes) or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.Leave to cook in the tins for 15 minutes, before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely.Now make the buttercream: beat the butter on its own until it is light and whippy.Beat in the icing sugar and custard extract until you have a light, non-gritty buttercream.Place one of the sponges on the serving plate.Spread the buttercream over the top.Place the other sponge on top and gently press down to ‘fix’ the cake.Serve in generous slices with a mug of tea.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Fruit yoghurt sponge


Sorry I’ve been absent for a while – it was a triple whammy of New Year low, new job and new home computer.  It’s a fairly regular pattern I think: after all the richness of Christmas excesses my palate always starts craving something simple and wholesome around this time of year.  And what could be better than a simple sponge cake?This cake is enriched by using yoghurt; I’ve experimented by using a flavoured yoghurt and matching it with some fresh fruit.  I went for blueberry because that was all my local supermarket had other than strawberry, and I am not made about strawberries baked into things.I was hoping for the cake to take on the purple tinge of the yoghurt but, as you can plainly see, it didn’t.  What I didn’t expect – and what turns out to be the true joy of this cake – is that the sponge tastes of blueberry….…let me clarify: the sponge itself tastes of blueberry.  Normally in such a cake, the sponge tastes of sponge and you get the burst of blueberry in your mouth when you bite into a blueberry.  However, with this cake, the flavoured yoghurt has infused the sponge resulting in the most wonderfully fruity tasting cake.  I loved it. Ingredients 175g unsalted butter, at room temperature275g caster sugar1 teaspoon vanilla extract3 eggs175g Greek style yoghurt – I used blueberry flavour275g self raising flour1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda130g fresh blueberries2 tablespoons light brown sugar to sprinkle on top of the cakeMethodPreheat oven to 180C/ fan oven 160C/ 350F/ gas mark 4.Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.Beat together the butter and sugar until light and whippy.  Don’t skimp on this stage.Beat in the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time.Stir in half of the yoghurt, followed by half of the flour.Take a spoonful of the remaining flour and toss the blueberries in it to stop them sticking or sinking in the batter.Stir in the second half of the yoghurt, the flour and all of the bicarbonate of soda.Fold in the blueberries.Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.Sprinkle the light brown sugar over the top of the cake.Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the sponge comes out cleanly.   Don’t panic if your cake takes longer – mine took about 1 hour 15 minutes.Leave to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.Eat.[...]

Gingerbread houses


It isn’t Christmas without gingerbread and, much as I always love classic gingerbread men...... I wanted to make something different to anything I’d made before.  I found this shop on Etsy selling cutters to make the cutest little gingerbread houses and I fell in love!  (Etsy is an incredible site; I know it gets some stick for some of the weird stuff you can find on it but I challenge anyone to spend 20 minutes or so browsing the site without finding something they want!) The houses are a bit of work but can be made in stages, as gingerbread keeps very well for days and days in an airtight tin.  I always prefer piping on a flat surface so decorate all the panels and let the icing set, before assembling the houses.  As these are small they don’t require much icing to hold them together.To provide a bit of scale, here’s a house next to my favourite mug (I dread to think how many cups of tea this cup has held!):I’m not much of a decorator and – weak and pathetic as it sounds – get hand cramps if I do too much piping, so my houses are minimalist, but, if you’re better at that sort of thing you could really go to town.The gingerbread was lovely – it was somewhere between ginger biscuit and the softer, more cakey, gingerbread.  It puffed up while cooking giving a nice smooth finish and the taste had just enough fire to it.  I don’t think it’s been a very exciting year for cookery books but this recipe came from one book that did capture my interest – Gingerbread Wonderland by Mima Sinclair.This is likely to be my last post before Christmas so I shall sign off hoping that you all have a lovely day – doing whatever it is you have chosen to do! Happy Christmas everyone!Ingredients140g golden syrup200g soft light brown sugar200g unsalted butter4 teaspoons ground ginger2 teaspoon ground cinnamon1 teaspoon ground nutmeg1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda500g plain flour1 teaspoon salt1 eggTo decorate: tubes of icing, and anything else you wish!MethodPlace the golden syrup, sugar, butter and spices in a saucepan larger than you need and melt together over a gentle heat stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved – you can tell when this has happened by looking at the back of your spoon: if you can still see tiny grains it needs a bit longer.Increase the heat and bring to the boil (don’t stir during this process).Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the bicarbonate of soda – it will froth up, hence using a larger saucepan.Stir only until the bicarbonate of soda is incorporated and put to one side to cool – about 15 minutes should be enough.Fold the flour and salt into the cooled mixture.Beat in the egg – take care not to overbeat the mixture; as soon as the egg is incorporated stop mixing.Tip the dough out onto a work surface or – and this is my preference – a sheet of non stick foil.Knead until it is smooth.  Initially the dough will be very sticky and it will be tempting to add flour but DON’T!  This will make the biscuit tough.Cut the dough in half and shape into fat discs before wrapping separately in clingfilm and refrigerating for 1 hour.Preheat the oven to 160C/fan oven 140C/325F/gas mark 3.Roll the chilled dough out between two sheets of clingfilm and use the cutters of your choice.Place on a baking sheet lined with either baking paper or non stick foil.Bake for about 6-7 minutes, if making a small biscuit, or until just starting to feel firm to the touch.  It will puff up during cooking and if it feels almost marshmallow so[...]

Chocolate Christmas pudding cupcakes


As much as I love daydreaming about having a Nigella-style existence where I can spend days in my perfect kitchen crafting masterpieces the reality is that, if you work full time, and factor in all the other stuff you have to do,  time is short – particularly at Christmas.  I am planning on some projects for Christmas that will be more involved but, for now, I wanted something cute and quick.I have always loved the look of a traditional Christmas pudding but hate the taste.  Therefore, the concept of these little puds was to achieve the look I covet but made from chocolate chip cupcakes, with the inclusion of almond to ensure that they will keep well for a few days for entertaining over the festive period.  I decorated them with sugar holly leaves but you can let your imagination run wild.In all honesty, they don’t look like puddings.  There, I’ve said it.  The design in my head didn’t quite manifest itself in the finished item.  Mostly because I went overboard with the ganache – I put on an amount that created the pudding effect, but then had lots left so was faced with the dilemma of not using it all, or adding too much to the cakes.  As Thom Yorke (never) sang: gluttony always wins.The ganache firmed up a lot quicker than I expected – often ganache can be runny and you have to refrigerate it, but not this one.  It is extremely rich and sweet…but it’s also Christmas so do not feel any guilt!  I read an article stating that the average person consumes an additional 30,000 calories over the Christmas period.  I’m not sure whether I was meant to take that as a target to aim towards, like the 10,000 steps a day goal, but……IngredientsFor the sponge:175g unsalted butter, melted and left to cool 150g natural yoghurt3 eggs1 teaspoon vanilla extract175g golden caster sugar140g self raising flour35g cocoa powder100g ground almonds100g chocolate chipsFor the ganache:300g white chocolate120ml double creamTo decorate: sugar holly leavesMethodPreheat the oven to 190C/ fan oven 170C/ 375F/ gas mark 5.Grease 1 cupcake trays i.e. 12 holes.  You don’t want paper cases as this will stop the cupcakes having a smooth pudding like finish.Melt the butter for the sponges and put to one side to cool.In a jug whisk together the yoghurt, eggs and vanilla.Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl i.e. the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, ground almonds and chocolate chips.Pour the yoghurt mix and the melted cooled butter into the dry ingredients and fold together just enough to combine.Spoon into the greased cupcake pans and bake for 15-18 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the sponges comes out clean.Turn the cakes (inverted – so that the domed top is now the bottom) out onto a wire rack straightaway – I find this helps flatten the domed top as the sponges cool.Leave to cool completely.Now make the ganache: melt the cream and chocolate together.  There are various ways you can do this – short bursts in the microwave and stirring between each one; melting in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water; or my preferred method: in a saucepan using a gas diffuser ring.Leave the ganache to cool and set a little.  It might require refrigeration (mine didn’t) to set up enough to spoon over the cakes but don’t forget about it as you want it to stay a bit runny.Spoon over the top of each cake and let run down the side.Decorate as required.Bask in the glory of the w[...]

Ginger and parsnip cake


  If I were to say to Mr CC I was making a carrot cake his response would be favourable.  However, when I made courgette cakes he prejudged them negatively even though he ended up eating them and liking them.  The Brussel sprout cakewas admittedly ‘interesting’ (interesting in this context = bleughhhhhh! Don’t say I didn’t warn you!) but I made that before I met him so, other than hearing scare stories from survivors, he escaped it unscathed.   Parsnips are basically carrots that have used higher SPF sunscreen (this view might not stand up to biological scrutiny) so I was torn whether to ‘fess up to their inclusion in this cake prior to serving it.  I decided not to and instead turned it into a game of ‘this cake has an unusual ingredient – can you guess what it is?’  He didn’t. Parsnips, like carrots, have a natural sweetness but, unlike carrots, have an earthiness that added to the depth of flavour in the cake.  I’m not sure my palate would’ve detected that it wasn’t carrot but, once you know, the taste is subtly different.  The sponge was light and soft with tiny flecks of creamy coloured parsnip visible.  It was a lovely combination with the ginger.   I attended the BBC Good Food show at the NEC last week and bought a bottle of ginger juice.  I used some in the buttercream; ending up with 2 tablespoons of ginger juice and 2 of syrup from the jar of stem ginger.  It added an extra bit of zing and heat – I do like my ginger to leave a lasting impression on my tongue! I have never said, thought and written the word ‘parsnip’ as much as I have whilst baking this cake.  When you think about it, it’s a pretty odd word...and gets sillier the more you say it.  Parsnip.  Paaaaarsniiiipppp.  It’s a funny word – and I like it! Ingredients For the sponges:250g self raising flour1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda1 teaspoon baking powder½ teaspoon salt2 teaspoons ground ginger250g golden caster sugar3 balls of stem ginger, very finely chopped3 eggs200g grated parsnip – this equates to two average sized parsnips1 teaspoon vanilla extract125g unsalted butter – melted but not hot (leave to cool for about 5-10 minutes)Splash of milk, if needed For the icing:400g icing sugar200g unsalted butter, at room temperature4 tablespoons stem ginger syrup from the jar Method Pat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.Line two 20cm loose bottomed sandwich tins with baking paper.Place the flour, bicarb, baking powder, salt, ground ginger and sugar in a bowl and stir together.Add the stem ginger and stir so that it is coated with dry ingredients and not clumping together.In a separate bowl – a large jug is easier if you have one - beat together the eggs, grated parsnip, vanilla and melted butter.Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mix and fold together, taking care not to over mix.If the mixture is not firm, and doesn’t drop from the spoon easily, add a splash of milk.Spoon into the prepared tins and level the surface.Bake for approximate 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean.  Mine took a bit longer – nearer 40 minutes, but it’s worth checking after 25 minutes as ovens vary.Leave to cool in the tins for at least 20 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.Now make the buttercream: Beat together all the ingredients until smooth and [...]

Jam steamed sponge pudding


Today is my birthday but, as I’ve been really busy the last few days (lunches, cocktails, even the opera daaaaaaahling), I find myself in the position of having precisely zero birthday cakes. I know!!! I will rectify this shameful situation when I have time (an interesting ginger concoction has caught my eye) but for now all I really fancied was a steamed sponge pudding.Whenever I post a steamed sponge I get requests for a step by step in pictures.  My method is considered old fashioned now, in that I place a steamer above a pan of simmering water; the modern method seems to be to place an upturned bowl or saucer in the bottom of the pan containing the water to elevate the pudding.  This is not the way I do it but, if you’re interested, the BBC Goodfood website has two tutorials:How to steam a puddingHow to wrap and tie a puddingI have metal pudding bowls with clip on lids.  I bought them from Amazon almost 10 years ago and find them so much less faff than glass pyrex dishes where you have to make a pleated lid out of baking paper and foil, and then tie it up with string making a handle at the same time.  I have never been dextrous with knots.  The second tutorial link above covers the paper and string method. (NB.  Amazon don’t seem to stock them anymore but they do have a different range of lidded pudding basins if you search the site)Compared to making a sponge mix, spooning it into a cake tin and baking in the oven for 30 minutes or so steaming could look like a lot of time and effort but please, please, please give it a try.  Firstly, it’s no more time to prep the pudding for steaming than it is a cake for the oven, and while the cooking time is a lot longer you don’t really need to do anything during that time.  Nothing that comes out of the oven will ever match a steamed sponge in terms of lightness.  It’s like eating spongey air.I grease my pudding bowl and place the jam in the bottom:Spoon in the batter:Clip on the lid.  Place in the steamer, over a pan of simmering water:Leave for 1.5 – 2 hours.  It’s not precise like a baking time and the pudding won’t suffer for being left to steam longer than actually needed to cook it so don’t feel pressured by the cooking time or guess when it’s ready.  I always give it two hours.Turn out and enjoy!NB. Do not adjust your monitor – I did serve rather large portions.  In my defence it was my birthday and freezing cold; I feel either of these facts alone would excuse me but - together - form a rock solid argument.  A pudding this size will serve 6 people easily....just because I cut it into quarters doesn’t mean you have to!Ingredients4 tablespoons jam – whichever flavour you prefer115g unsalted butter, at room temperature115g caster sugar2 eggs115g self raising flour1-2 tablespoons milkTo serve: custardMethodPlace a large saucepan on the hob and fill 3/4s with water – test that the steamer basket will not touch the water.  Bring the water to a gentle simmer while you are making the pudding.Grease, with butter, an 850ml pudding bowl (either metal, ceramic or heatproof glass).  If it has a lid, grease that too.Spoon the jam into the bottom of the pudding bowl.Now make the sponge: beat together the butter and sugar until light and whippy.Beat in the eggs one at a time.Stir in the flour.Beat in enough milk to ensure a light dropping consistency.Spoon into the pudding bowl and level[...]

Florentine biscuit bars


 This recipe is adapted from the one in the BBC Good Food 25th birthday edition.  As soon as I saw the combination of florentines and shortbread I was sold!  I always associate florentines with Christmas as that’s the only time of year we ever used to have them; I don’t know whether they have any particular association with Christmas but, growing up, I remember they always used to form part of M&S’s confection/biscuit range.  M&S used to make a mixed box i.e. milk, dark and white chocolate.  Tactically I would always eat the milk first as I was the only one in my family to like white chocolate so I didn’t have to rush with those!This is a good recipe to use up all the odds and ends of nuts a baker always seems to have in their cupboard; I buy a bag of nuts for a particular recipe and then don’t use them all.  I seem to have endless bags with about 20-30g of nuts left in them – this is where they get to step into the spotlight!The cherries and pistachios look so pretty in amongst the nuts and chocolate.  You could make it look extremely festive by using red and green cherries…although I try not to think too hard about what they do to turn those poor cherries such a vivid green.  Some questions are best left unanswered.IngredientsFor the base:200g unsalted butter, at room temperature100g golden caster sugar200g plain flour100g ground rice flourFor the topping:25g unsalted butter75g golden caster sugar1 tablespoon plain flour75ml double cream50g flaked almonds25g whole blanched almonds75g chopped nuts of your choice – I used a mix of pistachios and chopped hazelnuts75g glace cherries, halved100g chocolate chipsMethodLine a 20cm square tin with baking papermaking sure the paper comes up high enough that you can use it to lift the finished bake up out of the tin.Use a food processor to blitz together the butter and sugar.Add the flour and rice flour and pulse until it starts to come together – don’t overwork it or your biscuit will be tough rather than crumbly.Press into the base of the tin taking care to distribute the mix evenly.Prick all over with a fork, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to 2 days).Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.Bake the biscuit base for 25 minutes.While the base is cooking start work on the topping: place the butter, sugar and flour in a pan large enough to take all the other topping ingredients and gently melt together stirring all the time.When all the sugar crystals have dissolved add the cream and stir until smooth.Stir in all the nuts and cherries.Stir in the chocolate chips.   If you prefer, you can omit the chocolate chips and instead melt the chocolate and drizzle over the baked bars.Spoon the hot nut mixture over the just-baked base and ensure it is well spread out.  Be gentle – a spatula or the back of a spoon works well.Return to the oven and bake until the top is firm but retains a little squidge; this will take anywhere between 10-20 minutes but it can catch quickly so check every 5 minutes.Leave to cool, in the tin, on a wire rack.Cut into fingers.If you didn’t add chocolate chips, decorate by melting 100g chocolate by your preferred method i.e. microwave or hob, and drizzle over the cold bake. (I like to do this after I’ve cut the fingers as then the chocolate isn’t disturbed with cutting)Bask in the glory of the wonderf[...]

Oat and pear traybake with pecan crumble topping


  I’m such a cliché but the first whiff of winter and I’m cracking open the spice jars like nobody’s business!  I found the recipe for the oat sponge and crumble topping on a recipe sharing website and decided that it needed an extra element.  Oats, spice and pecans led me to the very easy decision to add some pear to the mix.  Pear is one of my absolute favourite fruits to bake with.The pear is fruity and juicy and stops the sponge being too dry or heavy.  The nutty crumble topping adds texture and richness; the dark sugar seeps into the cak almost like a sauce.  I served the cake at room temperature with a cup of tea but it would work so well warm with ice cream or custard.  You could even bake it in individual pudding moulds for a fancy dessert (but reduce the cooking time accordingly).Adding fruit to a batter always increases the wetness during baking so it’s worth draining the tinned fruit and patting it dry with kitchen paper.  I think that without the addition of the fruit the sponge may have been a bit dry; the juice was absorbed by the oats making an almost fragrant sponge – imagine an oaty bread pudding and you’re pretty close.  Have I mentioned how much I love baking with pears?I suspect it won’t be an issue, but the cake keeps really well for several days.  The pear keeps the cake soft, and the nuts in the crumble topping improve with age (unlike the baker!).I took a photo of a slice and went for my obligatory ‘fork shot’.  Then I went for another...and another....and it ended up like this:NB.  The crumbs were left on the plate for artistic purposes and were polished off the moment I put the camera down!  Waste not, want not etc.......IngredientsFor the cake:100g porridge oats330ml boiling water115g unsalted butter, at room temperature220g dark brown soft sugar2 eggs2 teaspoons vanilla extract1 teaspoon cinnamon1 teaspoon baking powder½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda215g plain flour1 tin diced pears – the tin was 410g with a drained weight of 225gFor the crumble:100g dark brown soft sugar10g plain flour½ teaspoon cinnamon½ teaspoon grated nutmeg40g unsalted butter – cold100g pecan nuts – roughly choppedMethodPreheat the oven to 190C/ fan oven 170C/ 375F/ gas mark 5.Grease a 30cm x 20cm traybake tin.Cover the oats with the boiling water and put to one side.Now make the crumble topping: Mix together the sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg.Rub in the butter until you have lumpy crumbs.Stir in the chopped pecans.Place in the fridge until needed; a cold crumble is always easier to scatter over the top as your hands won’t melt the butter as much.Now return to making the cake: Beat the butter and sugar until soft and well combined – it will never go fluffy and whippy when you’re using dark sugar.Beat in the eggs, vanilla and cinnamon.Fold in the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and plain flower.If there is any, drain any unabsorbed liquid away from the oats and fold them into the mix.Spoon the batter into the prepared tin.  Drain the pears and pat them dry with some kitchen paper.Scatter the diced pears over the batter and gently press down into the batter.Sprinkle the chilled crumble over the top of the batter.Bake for approximately 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.Leave to cool in the tin before de-tinning and storing in an airt[...]