Monthly Archives: April 2009

Chocolate Beetroot cake

On Friday I made the recipe from BBC Good Food for blitz and bake chocolate and beetroot cake was really interesting in the way the ingredients were put together and resulted in a lovely purple tinged chocolate cake. Perhaps my oven is hotter as I think the 1 hour cooking time was too long.

Still it was a good cake, sticky and moist with a slight earthy flavour mingled in with the cocoa and chocolate nibs. The following day it was even more moist and Phil and the kids had some on Sunday warmed up slightly with ice cream. It became more of a chocolate brownie cake by the end of the weekend.
Thank you to friends and family for sending other beetroot recipes. The Channel Four eat yourself thin recipe was popular and I might try it next time.
Also this weekend I had a lovely time buying some goodies for my cup cake course in two weeks. I found a non stick rolling pin, bigger icing nozzles, icing smoother and side scraper and gel icing colours from Lakeland. I’m going to have to practise this weekend with piping again and coloured icing.
On a different cooking note, I’ve got into chinese/thai style soups recently and have making this incredibly simple, fresh tasting yummy soups for mid week meals. The naughty bit is the won ton or dim sum dumplings which I can’t resist but with a basis of miso soup they’re really healthy. For once, when Hannah came over to stay on Friday, we ditched the usual take away and had the home made soup. Delicious.
And on a non-food note, I made this card for Phil’s neice inspired by photomontage/collage work of artists as varied as Richard Hamilton, Claudine Hellmuth and of course the children’s favourite, Lauren Child. I also think there’s a bit of Henri Rousseau in there too.

Ultra simple cup cake recipe

The wonderful lady at Fair Cakes shared her perfect cup cake and buttercream icing recipes on her facebook and websites so I thought I would add this to my webpages as well as it truly is the easiest and most reliable recipe I’ve ever tried.
Note of caution, if you double up, don’t double up the baking powder or you get that slightly soapy flavour.

Simple vanilla cupcakes
100g unsalted very soft butter
110g caster sugar
120g self raising flour
2tbsp cornflour
1tsp baking powder
3 small eggs or 2 large eggs
1 tsp good quality vanilla extract

Preheat over to fan 150C or 300F gas mark 2.
Ensure that the butter is very soft and just put all the ingredients in a mixer and mix for a minute or so, not too much. The consitency should be like heavy custard and should plop from the spoon. Fill cases to half way or three quarters full and use a muffin tin to keep the shape of the cup cakes.
Bake for 15 minutes and check that a cocktail stick or skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes then turn out on wire rack.

Perfect butter icing
250g or 1 block of very soft unsalted butter
500g of icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Put the butter in the mixer first and beat for 2 minutes until pale. Then add the sifted icing sugar in three stages, mixing between each addition. Add the vanilla extract. If you need to loosen the buttercream any further add a tablespoon of milk. Colour with gel or paste colours for perfection.

Next: Beetroot and chocolate cake

This weekend I am setting myself the task of another fruit tealoaf – this time with a different flavoured tea and also a beetroot and chocolate cake. I use the BBC Good Food website a lot as they have some great recipes and do a ‘cake of the week’ special. I’ve been meaning to try out the ‘blitz and bake beetroot and chocolate cake’ for a while now so will do that this weekend.

This is the picture on the BBC website.

Fruit tealoaf recipe

Here’s the recipe I tried out for my fruit tealoaf

9oz mixed fruit – I used 3oz each of sultanas, raisins and apricots
8fl oz rooibos tea
5oz butter
6oz sugar
7oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
zest and juice of half lemon
2 eggs, beaten

Leave the fruit to soak in the tea overnight (minimum 4 hours) in a saucepan.
Grease, line and regrease a 1lb loaf tin. Melt the butter and sugar in with the fruit over a low heat, stirring gently. Remove from heat and add all the dry ingredients, sifted. Mix and add the lemon. Finally add the beaten eggs. Pour mix into loaf tin and cook for 1 hour – 1 1/4 hours at 170C 325F Gas 3. Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes then remove and cool on a wire rack. Alternatively, eat straight away! If possible save some for the next day when it will be less crumbly and have with butter, jam and a nice mug of tea.

Tealoaf….gap in the market?

I’ve been musing over the last day or two about teabreads. I had a daydream about a teabread I used to make with my mum which came from the Stork Cookbook (!?!) and had fruit soaked in hot tea and then butter and sugar added over a moderate heat before adding flour and eggs when cooled. Baked as a loaf it was delicious with butter spread over it or just sliced, warm with a cup of tea. I began to think what these teabread style cakes would be like with alternative teas so have set myself a mission for this weekend…I’m making a Rooibos teabread. I’ve soaked sultanas, raisins and apricots in a strong Rooibos tea and am leaving this overnight for maximum taste. I found a recipe which I’m sort of adapting and will post pictures tomorrow when it’s finished!

If successful I hope to try out camomile and vanilla teabread and something like nettle and lemon. Mint might be interesting.
Here’s my Rooibos tealoaf which was really moist, crumbly and didn’t really taste very much of rooibos tea. Next time I think I’ll leave out the lemon as it overpowered the tea. However it was yummy and didn’t really last long enough to have the next day with butter and jam! I think Phil had the last piece the day after it was made with butter and he said it had firmed up a bit more. He also suggests adding malt but then I think this takes it into a new phase of malt loaves so I’ll stick to tea for now.

Cup cakes – practise makes perfect

I’ve always wanted to learn how to ice cakes properly, from the plain but perfectly finished hard icings to faultless buttercream swirls. I’ve been following a few websites from cup cake experts, in particular Fair Cakes through facebook run by Shikhita who just makes the buttercream swirls look so amazingly easy but aren’t!

I haven’t worked out how to make these perfect swirls yet but I’m going on a course run by Shikhita in May to learn more about baking the perfect cup cake and making buttercream and fondant decorations. I can’t wait!

Suffolk and Norfolk

In the first week of March my sister and I went to Suffolk and Norfolk. We went on a bit of a gastronomic/church/walking/wildlife spotting/shopping three days. Although I technically didn’t bake anything for three days, we did eat some of the nicest food I’ve had in a while. We started off in Dedham on the Essex/Suffolk border and walked across to Flatford Mill to see the place where Constable painted The Hay Wain. And apart from the large class of privately educated school boys sat right in our view, it looked very much the same.

After the 30 minute walk back we were starving and had our lunch in a lovely 500 year old Essex Rose Tea House (after stopping off at Dedham art and craft centre) for a sandwich, soup and baked potato. We passed on the pudding here, although purchased some lovely Tiptree jams of Mulberry (the most expensive jam you can buy) and something else which I can’t remember now but is a bit like quince. We also went into the local church, St Mary’s, where I noted on a tomb stone that a lady was taken in her prime due to swallowing a needle. We continued our trip which took us to Snape Maltings for a nice cup of tea, a slice of cake and caramel slice which was very good indeed. Staying in Aldeburgh over night we ate at Regatta where I had some delicious smoked prawns and a good bowl of mussles. Sarah had oysters…and then a yummy fish pie. It’s awful to say but I can’t remember if we had pudding. Perhaps we shared the cheese plate? Anyway the following day we set off for Norfolk (stopping off at a local Suffolk brewery to buy some real ale) and went via Southwold which was picture perfect. We spent rather too long in the Serena Hall Gallery before finally stopping off for a cup of tea and a scone in a rather expensive kitchen shop. The scones were warmed before bringing to our table and came with plenty of jam and clotted cream. Lovely.

We continued into Norfolk and stayed in Cromer which is a bit less picturesque than some of the North Nofolk coast but it was a nice place to be on a windy, cold March evening. We managed to find the best restaurant in Cromer and practically had the place to ourselves. The Herb Garden is well worth a visit not just for the fantastic service and welcome we got but also the beautiful food. Sarah had local mackerel escabeche a kind of pickled fish ( a bit like a delicate soused herring) and I had scallops with chorizo. We followed this with rack of lamb and the slow roast apple stuffed pork belly which were both so amazing we ate half each and then swapped plates. For pudding I had the dark chocolate souffle and cherry coulis and Sarah had the cheese. The dark chocolate souffle was perfect, soft and light, goey in the middle and not at all sickly. Anyway, it’s really worth a visit.
On the way back home the following day we stopped off at Byfords in Holt which had been recommended to us. Next time I am definitely staying at Byfords for the poshest B&B I’ve ever seen. Not hungry enough for anything substantial we shared a lovely ham sandwich between us and a pot of tea. We bought some things in the shop to take home for the kids and Phil though – some amazing pasties, breads and cakes. I very much hope to be going back to Byfords very soon!

The whole point of our trip to Nofolk was to go to St Jude’s gallery to see some of the amazing prints by Angie Lewin, Mark Herald, Eric Ravillious and others. Unfortunately even though we made it to Itteringham (not an easy place to find for sat nav) the gallery was closed. Typical! We came back with so many Ravillious, Edward Bawden and Orlando the Marmalade Cat cards and postcards though it’s probably fortuitous that the gallery was closed.

March 2009

March was a good month for baking cakes. I made this fresh cream and raspberry swill roll for lunch at a friend’s house in Shenfield which was nicely lemony and light. I still haven’t quite got the knack of rolling them up so they have more than one ‘turn’ in the middle. Perhaps I’m over filling?
As you can see, Phil is practising his cookery photography and getting some really good results. I guess for him this combines so many passions – photography, puddings, eating….

I also made a pineapple upside down cake for a family lunch with fresh pineapple. The tin had a good coating of sugar and butter which melted and caramalised on the pineapple and was lovely and sticky. The sponge was just a victoria sponge recipe with some of the pineapple juice squeezed into it.

And as it was nearly Easter, we took along an Easter nest cake to a friend’s for lunch at the end of March. This was a normal chocolate sponge sandwiched with buttercream and also some on top to hold in place the shredded wheat mixed with plain chocolate and golden syrup. Rather a crowded nest I think. Perhaps next time I’ll do individual ones. Still the recipients of the cake were very happy and asked for two cakes next time, one for public eating and one for private sampling behind closed bedroom doors…

February 2009

Phil had a birthday cake from me this year and also a birthday weekend at The Pudding Club which is at the Three Ways House Hotel in the beautiful Cotswolds. Here’s a great montage Phil made of our weekend.
His choice of birthday cake was a combination of fruit and chocolate so I opted for a pear and chocolate cake – which is also rather marvellously gluten/wheat free and has come in handy for those with intollerances that we know. The recipe for this came from BBC Good Food online and is made with hazelnuts instead of flour. You also have to get your pears right, too hard and they can be too crunchy against the moist chocolate cake.
Speaking of people with intollerances, our friend Wendy is one such person. So she got a chocolate and raspberry roulade for her birthday which is entirely wheat free. Again another recipe slightly adapted from James Martin’s recipe on UKTVFood which has a delicious chocolate and cream mousse in the middle. This mousse is currently giving me problems. The first time I made it it came out perfectly, ever since though the chocolate has split which is annoying. I’ll have to get someone to work out the science for me so Ican get it right each time!

January 2009

As part of ‘Bampa’s 60th birthday celebrations we went out for a meal in a local restaurant. We decided to make a bit of a fuss for this family meal and turned up with balloons to make him smile.
I made a coffee and walnut sponge which was really nice, very light and crumbly. Here’s a picture of three of his grandchildren helping him blow out the candles.
In addition to cakes I’ve also made quite a few pavlovas in the last year or two. They’re a brilliant invention and deserve a posting of their own really. Unfortunately I’ve only got one photo to show here but I’m sure there will be lots more to come.
Pavlovas are indeed named after Anna Pavlova the russian ballet dancer in 1926. For this pavlova opposite I used a smaller circle or oval to have enough left over for a lid. I’ve also doubled up the mixture to make a really big pavlova with a big lid for family parties.

Here’s my recipe for perfect, gooey pavlova:
Serves 8
3 egg whites
190g 61/2 oz caster sugar
1 level tsp cornflour
1 tsp raspberry vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
Large tub of whipped/double cream
Any fruit you like I normally use a berry mix including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries but whatever is in season. Equally an exotic fruit pavlova is lovely with pineapple, passion and kiwi fruits.
Draw a 23 cm (9inch) oval on a piece of baking parchment and place on a baking sheet.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff then gradually add the sugar, 2oz at a time whisking after each addition until the whites are stiff again. Then fold in the cornflour and vinegar.
Pipe, or dollop the meringue into the oval marked on the baking sheet making a dip in the middle to hold the filling. Bake in the oven at 180C 350F mark 4 for 5 minutes then lower to 130C 250F mark 1/2 for a further 45-50 minutes until set but soft in the middle.
Leave to cool slightly then carefully peel off the paper. When completely cold, add the whipped cream and remaining 1/2 oz of sugar (if you want to) with the fruit and pile on top!
You could also make a coulis from some of the fruit to drizzle over.