April 17, 2018

BLUEBERRY AND COCONUT CAKE and is cake really sexy?

blueberry and coconut cake

I made this cake ages ago, nearly two years ago in fact, and then the book I got the recipe from went missing.  When I was in France I thought it must be in the UK and vice versa.  I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere on the worldwide web so I was feeling miffed that I had made a really nice cake but had no idea how!  When I eventually found the book languishing under a pile of other stuff waiting for filing, sorting, chucking or saving, I was very pleased.  It was a good cake and I wanted to have the recipe so I could make it again if I ever wanted to.  The book is called “What’s for dinner?” by the actress Fay Ripley.

blueberry and coconut cake2

The cake didn’t look much when it came out of the oven, which made me chuckle because in the book she describes it as “comforting and sexy at the same time”.

Well, I don’t know what you think about the idea of cake being sexy, but this one did not look too enticing!  More twinset and pearls than slinky undies but if that’s what wrinkles your prune…….

Anyway, enough of that!   One of the reasons that I write this blog is that I find it handy to have a record of the recipes I used and what they turned out like.  Now that I have this one posted I can always find it regardless of which side of the channel I happen to be!  It was a lovely cake made for a CCC event although it looked a lot better after I had tarted it up with some drizzly icing and a sprinkling of coconut and blueberries.  It was moist and fresh tasting with the fruitiness of the blueberries, and the coconut added that unique texture that you only get from……coconut.  Which is not everyone’s favourite in a cake but it is one of mine.

blueberry and coconut cake3

There were some stunning cakes on the table at that meeting  and I would like to think that mine looked as tempting as any of them.  Not that the events are competitive of course – far from it – but even so, one does like one’s cake to look more bee’s knees than dog’s dinner!

Ingredients

180g softened butter (I used Flora Buttery)

180g caster sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g ground almonds

150g self raising flour

60g desiccated coconut

300g fresh blueberries

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Butter a 23cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.

Using an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Whisk in the eggs, vanilla and almonds.  Fold in the flour and coconut then, very gently, the blueberries.

Transfer to the tin and level the top.  Bake for 50 minutes until done. 

Serve warm as a dessert dusted with a little icing sugar.  Or allow to cool in the tin before turning out and decorate with a little lemon water icing drizzled over, some shredded coconut and blueberries arranged on top.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

April 9, 2018

SUNDAY SCHOOL CAKE

sunday school cake2

Much water has gone under the bridge and many a cake has been baked since I last posted.

The water is because the winter that has just passed must be the wettest that I remember.  There may have been even wetter ones before but I don’t remember those, only this one which has, frankly, been miserable.  My winterus horribilis (no idea if my Latin is correct, which is probably isn’t because I just made it up.)

I shall remember this winter for the muck, mud, mess and litter.  The muck comes from the renovation of our 1960’s UK bungalow, any building work seemingly impossible to achieve unless there is a ton of muck produced every single day.  The mud comes from the back garden where our new puppy Hugo churned it up and brought loads of it into the house.  The mess is the mess in the house as we moved furniture and boxes of our belongings from one room to another, upstairs and downstairs and back again (it’s a dormer bungalow) to make way for some building project or other with a deadline to meet.  The litter is everywhere in the UK as far as I can see.  And in fact as far as everyone can see.  It’s awful.

In fact the filthy state of the roads, pavements and grass verges in the UK depresses me enormously.  Who are these people who think it’s perfectly acceptable to chuck stuff onto the streets and roads?  Do they think someone else is going to pick it up or do they simply not care how awful it looks?  The situation is in such sharp contrast to how it is in our part of rural France where I am happy to say there is virtually no litter at all.  In fact if you see any litter it’s remarkable for its presence, hands are waved in horror in an ooh-la-la kind of way.  I know that there are fewer people in rural France and fewer fast food outlets, but people do eat and do buy packaged stuff.  They simply dispose of their rubbish properly, like we all should in the UK but don’t.

Anyway, rant over and back to the cake!

sunday school cake

This was Nick’s cake for a recent meeting of Loire Valley Clandestine Cake Club, which I have the honour and privilege to organise.  The theme was “inspired baking”, hoping to find out what or who inspires the members to bake what they bake.  In Nick’s case the inspiration came from his mum who got him and his three sisters to take turns to bake either a cake or pudding for afters every Sunday.  With Nick’s dad being a vicar, lunch or tea was timed around the Sunday morning church service and afternoon Sunday school, hence the name for the cake. 

sunday school cake3

Being a boy, he was somewhat mischievous in his baking, usually creating something out of the ordinary, and his pink cakes became famous for their – pinkness.  For the meeting he baked a cake with a nod to the old mischief and produced a three layer cake flavoured with chocolate, rose and almond.  He used the all-in-one sponge recipe in my ancient (early 1970’s) Homepride Flourgraders Recipe Book (price 13/6d including postage) and added flavouring and colouring accordingly.

It was a lovely cake, one of those that almost disappeared completely at the meeting and I had to snaffle the last slice to take home so that I could taste it myself.  Which really was a tribute to the recipe, having stood the test of time and never failed.  It is written in ounces as that’s how things were weighed in the 70’s.  Because he used French flour, which doesn’t seem to produce as good a rise as our Homepride flour, Nick added a little (French) baking powder which wasn’t in the original recipe.

He sandwiched the cake layers with some Bon Maman three fruit jam and some double cream.  French cream is notoriously difficult to whisk thickly enough to do anything with it so he used some “double cream substitute”, a boxed long life product that I buy in Tesco and bring to France with me.  Shamelessly bad ex-pat behaviour I know, but a person can only take so many whipped cream disasters before all the hair is torn out and before resorting to alternative solutions.

You can read all about the meeting here.

sunday school cake4

Ingredients

8 oz self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

4 eggs

8 oz whipped fat/margarine

8 oz caster sugar

½ tblsp cocoa powder

½ tblsp warm water

½ tsp rose water

a few drops pink or red food colouring

½ tsp almond essence

200ml double cream, whipped for spreading

4 tblsp red jam

chocolate mini eggs or other decorations (optional)

Method

Grease and line the bottom of three 7” (18cm) sandwich tins.  Preheat the oven to 160° C / 140° fan / gas mk 3.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the eggs, margarine and sugar and whisk with an electric whisk until well blended and creamy. 

Divide the mixture into three equal parts in three bowls – as a rough guide there should be about 10 oz in each bowl. 

Mix the cocoa powder to a smooth paste with the warm water and add to one of the bowls.  Add the rose water to a second along with enough colouring to produce a nice pink colour.  Add the almond essence to the third.

Whisk the contents of each bowl until the flavourings are well blended and transfer to the tins.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until done.  Cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Shortly before you are ready to serve, spread some jam on top of the chocolate sponge followed by some whipped cream.  Put the pink sponge on top and repeat the filling.  Add the almond sponge and decorate the top with some piped cream – and a few mini eggs or other decorations if you like.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

February 3, 2018

NECTARINE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

nectarine upside down cake3

This is another cake made by Nick for a CCC meeting last year.  For a man who claims not to be a fan of cake, he’s a pretty good baker.  He follows the recipe to the letter – although equally is not averse to adding his own twist, which usually works out fine.

He used this recipe on the Good Food website, a recipe I have used before and adapted to make my pear and ginger and blackberry and chocolate upside down cakes.  For all these cakes the principal change on the recipe is to add a layer of jam between the sponge layers to enhance the fruit flavour of the topping.  In this case Nick used some apricot jam.

nectarine upside down cake2

This is a great little recipe, easy to make and successful every time.  I love recipes that are so adaptable and reliable, that you can trust not to let you down.

nectarine upside down cake3

Summer9g

There were some truly magnificent cakes at the CCC meeting that day.  The theme was “the taste of summer” and the sun obliged and came out to play, giving us a beautiful blue sky and little fluffy clouds all day.  Nick’s cake looked very much the part on the table with all the other cakes.

Ingredients

For the cake

200g softened butter, or spreadable butter

200g self raising flour

1tsp baking powder

200g golden caster sugar

4 eggs

2tblsp milk

For the topping

3 ripe nectarines

75g light soft brown sugar

For the filling

2tblsp apricot jam

125ml double cream

1tblsp icing sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease two 20cm sandwich tins, line the bases with baking paper and grease again.

Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Add all the other cake ingredients and whisk with an electric hand whisk (or use a food mixer) until fully combined and smooth.

Sprinkle the soft brown sugar evenly over the bottom of one of the tins.

Cut the nectarines into half and remove the stone then cut each half into four thick slices  Arrange the slices roughly as in the picture, on top of the brown sugar.

Divide the cake mixture evenly between the two tins, being careful not to disturb the slices of fruit and remembering that the tin with the fruit on the bottom will inevitably look fuller.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are done.  The one with the nectarines on the bottom will take about five minutes longer than the other.

Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out carefully onto a wire rack, remembering to flip the fruited cake so that the fruit is on the top!

Whisk the double cream with the icing sugar until spreadable.  When the cakes are cold, spread the apricot jam on the bare cake half.  (Warm it slightly in a small pan if necessary to make it runny enough to spread.)

Spread a thick layer of whipped cream on top, remembering to let the jam cool completely first.  Put the fruited cake on top of that.

Cuts into at least 8 slices.

January 26, 2018

LIME, ROSE AND PISTACHIO CAKE

pistachio rose and lime cake

Nick made this cake for a CCC event last year.  It’s a Rachel Allen recipe from her book of a few years ago called “Bake”.  Looking at the front page of the book I see that it has £2.49 written in pencil, which means that it was one of my charity shop purchases, although I don’t remember which one or when I bought it, but it’s in brand new condition.  A bargain.

This was one of those moist, almost gooey cakes with an indulgent texture due to the addition of ground almonds and the good soaking with the syrup which contains lime juice and rosewater.  I am nervous of rosewater and 1-2 tablespoons sounds like a lot so I urged Nick to try just the one and it seemed to me to be just right.

pistachio rose and lime cake2

Unfortunately I forgot to take a good picture of the cake, especially after it was cut, which is a shame because the texture was lovely and it kept well.  I liked it a lot and thought it tasted rather “exotic” due to the rosewater and the pistachios.  It didn’t look very glamorous, rather plain in fact, especially alongside some of the rather elaborately iced cakes on the table at the CCC meeting, but its unpretentious appearance hid sophisticated flavours.  Definitely one to surprise and impress.

The recipe appears in several places on the internet if you want to see it, one of which is here.  The other book I have where it makes an appearance is “World’s Best Cakes” by Roger Pizey.

Ingredients

225g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

75g ground almonds

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

50g (1 tblsp) runny honey

250ml natural yoghurt

150ml sunflower oil

finely grated zest of 1 lime

For the topping

150ml water

100g caster sugar

juice of 1 lime

1-2 tblsp rosewater (we used just one and it seemed to be enough)

50g pistachios, roughly chopped

rose petals (optional)

Method

Line the base and sides of a 22cm springform tin with baking paper.  Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a large bowl, add the almonds and sugar and mix together.

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, honey, yoghurt, oil and lime zest.  Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, add the egg mixture and whisk together until combined.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for about 50 minutes until done.  Cool in the tin for 20 minutes.

While the cake is cooling make the syrup by boiling the water and sugar in a small pan for about 5 minutes until it is reduced by half.  Add the lime juice, remove from the heat to cool and then add the rosewater to taste.

Make fine holes in the top of the still warm cake and spoon the syrup over.  Scatter with the chopped pistachios and add a few rose petals for decoration just before serving if you like.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

January 23, 2018

HUMMINGBIRD CAKE


I have made a hummingbird cake many times for our Children in Need cake stall at work and they always sold well.  The recipe I used was in one of those Australian Woman’s Weekly books but this time I was in France and the book in the UK so I hunted around for another recipe and found one by Mary Berry that I liked the look of.



The cake is of Southern US origin and contains bananas, pineapple, nuts and spices, producing a very moist cake with a slightly open crumb, almost muffin like in texture.



However, it keeps much better than a batch of muffins!  Mine was filled and iced with the traditional cream cheese icing but I also spread the bottom cake with a good layer of pineapple jam before adding the cream cheese and sandwiching the two layers together – just for extra pineapple flavour and sweetness - and it worked very well.  I decorated mine with sugar flowers, dried banana slices and some Galaxy chocolate gold coloured mini eggs.  
The recipe comes from the book Mary Berry Everyday and you can see it here.

(This post was published using Blogger, which I gave up on years ago in favour of Windows Live Writer, then Open Live Writer which now also seems to be misbehaving.
I don't like using Blogger as it often plays up but for now it will have to do.)

Ingredients
250g self raising flour
250g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g chopped walnuts
2 large ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 432g tin pineapple chunks, drained and finely chopped
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
175 ml sunflower oil

For the icing
100g softened butter
175g full fat cream cheese
300g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3-4 tblsp pineapple jam (optional)
Sugar flowers, dried banana slices and chocolate eggs to decorate.

Method
Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk6.  Butter and line the base of two 20cm sandwich tins.
Sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a large bowl.  Add the sugar and chopped nuts and mix together.
In another bowl, mix together the bananas, pineapple, eggs, oil and vanilla.  Add this to the flour mixture and stir to combine, avoiding over mixing as with muffins.
Divide the mixture between the two tins, level the top and bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and golden.  Cool in the tins.
To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the remaining ingredients (except for the jam if using) and beat with an electric whisk until smooth.  Put in the fridge to chill until the cakes are cool.
Put one cake upside down on a cake stand or plate, spread with jam if using and spread about half of the icing on top.  Add the other cake, the right way up and spread the second half of the icing over the top.
Decorate with your chosen decorations.
Cuts into 10-12 slices.

January 7, 2018

BANANA AND CARDAMOM CAKE and my new kitchen.

banana and cardamom cake2
My weight loss diet, a rotten cold/flu over Christmas and our new kitchen nightmare notwithstanding, I was desperate to bake a cake in my new oven, in my new kitchen and could resist no longer.
banana and cardamom cake
I had spotted a recipe in my latest addition to my bookshelf “The Christmas Chronicles” by Nigel Slater, which was my Christmas present.
For the last two Christmases we have been operating a “Secret Santa” method of giving presents and I have to say that it has been a great success.  There are really only five of us on my side of the family that exchange gifts, and by setting a fairly low limit and just giving one thing secretly, we all get something we want and nobody ends up spending loads of money they can’t afford on stuff that nobody needs.  I wished for this book and so it appeared on Christmas Day, from Santa.  I genuinely have no idea which one of my family bought it for me!
I like Nigel Slater.  There is something about him that I find extremely endearing yet ever so slightly odd, but I love his more recent TV programmes.  I love the way he seems to cook ad lib according to what he has in the fridge or garden and it all looks delicious.  It’s an effortless style of cooking that I wish I could emulate, although I dare say that much of it is more carefully planned than it looks, but even so, it comes across as sophisticatedly rustic in a relaxed kind of way.  I also rather like his kitchen.
new kitchennew kitchen2
Speaking of which, I now have my new kitchen.  Getting it done turned out to be a nightmare but we ended up with the kitchen we wanted so that’s all that matters I suppose.
new kitchen3new kitchen4
It isn’t finished.  There is still some painting to do and a new floor to put down.  A lot of the tiling will have to be redone as it’s absolutely terrible – I could have made a better job of it myself - and the tap dribbles, apparently because that design of tap dribbles – sometimes.  Which is very odd because we have the exactly same style of tap in our French kitchen and it dribbleth not!  (Another battle to fight.)
new kitchen5
new kitchen7
But we love the kitchen warts and all and it will be finished before too long.  We didn’t go for fancy gadgets and gizmos, just good quality appliances and lots of cabinets to store all our stuff in such a way as we don’t have to fight to get things out of the cupboards.  The colour is described as grey but in fact it’s a very pale and subtle sage green.
new kitchen6
We have put our most noisy appliances, the washing machine and tumble drier, in the back porch, converting it into a utility room – or “futility room” as I read recently, which amused me no end and I shall refer to it as the FR from now on!  The long awaited dishwasher is one of the built in appliances in the kitchen and it is amazingly quiet – how things have improved since we last bought one – I have to really listen hard to decide if I actually switched it on.
Anyway, I was desperate to make a cake in my brand new AEG oven and could wait no longer!
Nigel Slater’s recipes can be a bit wordy and not always easy to follow but I followed it to the letter and the cake was a great success.  I have rewritten the recipe according to what I used and the way I went about it.
banana and cardamom cake3banana and cardamom cake4
It had an excellent texture and flavour – except that I’m not entirely convinced about the cardamom.  I’m tempted to think that it would have been even better with a more traditional addition of say ginger or cinnamon.  The cardamom made it florally fragrant which I’m not sure is my cup of Earl Grey, but because it is otherwise so good I will definitely make it again.  The crunchy topping was lovely but I might replace the cardamom with some cinnamon in the batter next time.
(Maybe I was put off by the fact that I can’t get past the thought that the little seeds inside a cardamom pod look alarmingly like mouse droppings!)
You can see the original recipe here.
banana and cardamom cake5
Ingredients
3 medium bananas (about 375g when peeled)
1 tblsp lemon juice
200g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
90g golden caster sugar
90g light muscovado sugar
2 eggs
4 tblsp groundnut oil
For the topping
10 cardamom pods
2 tblsp golden caster sugar
Method
Break open the cardamom pods and crush the seeds to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle.  Add the 2 tblsp caster sugar and mix together, set aside.
Break the bananas into chunks into a bowl and mash them with a fork, leaving them fairly lumpy rather than turning them into mush.  Stir in the lemon juice and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 170°C / 150° fan / gas mk 3-4.  Butter and line the base of a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.*
Put the two sugars into a large bowl with the eggs and beat with an electric whisk for 3-4 minutes until light and creamy.  Add half the oil and whisk again, repeat with the other half.
Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in.  Add the mashed bananas and fold in.
Pour into the tin and sprinkle the cardamom mixture on top.  Bake for 35-45 minutes until done.  Cool in the tin before turning out.
*The original recipe states a 20cm square tin and bake for 35 minutes, but I wanted a round cake.
Cuts into 10-12 slices.

January 6, 2018

MARMALADE YOGHURT CAKE

marmalade yoghurt cake

My brother made this cake for a CCC event when he was staying with us on holiday in France last year.  I can’t quite remember why he chose this particular recipe, but we were all pleased that he did.  It was easy to make, turned out exactly like the picture on the website and tasted delicious.

marmalade yoghurt cake2

I thought that now would be a good time to post about it, this being the marmalade making season (although I have never made any myself) and many people being ready to bake something a bit less rich and less Christmassy .  You can see the original here.

Ingredients

125g full fat Greek yoghurt

50ml vegetable oil

zest of 1 lemon

zest of 1 orange

3 eggs

125g caster sugar

200g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

75g marmalade

1 tbsp orange juice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk4.  Butter and line a 1lb loaf tin or use a paper liner.

Beat together the yoghurt, oil zests and eggs in a large bowl until light and frothy.  Sift in the flour and baking powder, add the sugar and mix until just combined.

Spoon into the tin and bake for about 45 minutes until done.  Remove from the oven.

Whilst the cake is cooling slightly, warm the marmalade and orange juice in a small pan until the marmalade melts.  Pour over the still warm cake and leave to cool completely in the tin.

Remove when cold and cut in thick slices.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.