Category Archives: Cake

Five great things from May

Depressing news, depressing weather, depressing social media and (for me) depressing face.  I woke up earlier this week to find my face covered in one of the worst outbreaks of dermatitis that I’ve had in a while which I suspect has been brought on due to changing brands of cleanser. (Damn you expensive cleanser that happens to the best one I’ve ever used. Damn you and your lies.) So, as a means of cheering myself up (and in lieu of the fact that I don’t have an exciting recipe to share with all of you 50-or-so readers yet) I thought I’d write a long list of things I’ve been greatly enjoying recently. Some of this involves food, some of this just involves things that indirectly involve food. But hey, it’s my blog and I’ll freestyle if I want to.

  • BROAD CITY

I was introduced to Broad City by my excellent friend Bethany, and it’s rapidly become one of my favourite TV shows. While on paper, the concept reads as one which has been done to death (the adventures of two 20-something women in New York who spend their time navigating bad jobs, shit sex and awful flatmates), the difference here is that the two main protagonists are funny, realistic and genuinely like each other.  There’s lots of support, no self loathing and – while they can occasionally come across as being awkward and self obsessed – they’re nowhere near as obnoxious, selfish and grandiose as the characters in similar ‘female focused’ sitcoms. I want to hang out and get wasted with Ilana and Abbi, even if the evening would end up with me smooshing cake in my face or accidentally breaking into the wrong flat. Bonus points also go to Ilana’s super-cute boyfriend Lincoln (shown above) who steals every scene he’s in – a point which was proven when I was watching it on the train to work the other day, and the guy watching it over my shoulder chuckled loudly every time he was on screen. Lincoln, be my boo.

  • BACON AND EGG RAMEN FROM FOOD 52

Bacon and Egg Ramen

OK, so you can never go wrong with a meal which utilises noodles, crispy bacon and soft poached eggs, but this recipe for Bacon and Egg Ramen from Food 52 is so perfect that it hurts. It requires minimal effort to make, uses ingredients that you probably have lying around your kitchen already and makes a glorious Spring lunch.

  • FELICITY CLOAKE’S ‘PERFECT’ COFFEE AND WALNUT CAKE

Coffee and Walnut Cake

 

It was World Baking Day last Sunday (I know, I didn’t know it was a thing until this year either. The things you learn when you work for a baking brand!) so I decided to pull out the big guns and make Felicity Cloake’s ‘perfect’ Coffee and Walnut cake. While you can never go wrong with a concoction which involves two layers, a vast amount of buttercream and a truly unholy amount of sugar, not all Coffee and Walnut cake recipes are created equal. Thankfully, I can attest to this one being a humdinger – beautifully moist, deliciously decadent and with just enough coffee to put a bit of pep in your step. Mr. McMc took this into his office last week where it was devoured by his colleagues. And when mine looked at the pictures of it I put on Instagram, I was told off for not making another one to bring into work. It’s that good. (It also makes an excellent breakfast if – like me – you’re fond of eating dessert first thing in the morning.)

  • DOUGHNUT NECKLACE FROM BLACK HEART CREATIVES

Doughnut necklace from Black Heart Creatives

My (incredibly talented) friend Charlotte runs an online jewellery retailer called Black Heart Creatives, and was kind enough to make me this Doughnut Necklace to accompany my Hamburger Queen outfit. Not only does it look good enough to eat, it’s rapidly become my favourite item of jewellery to wear too. (Hey, what fat girl doesn’t love the idea of wearing a massive doughnut around her neck?) Every time I wear it, I get dozens of compliments and a woman even stopped me on the way to the bus stop the other day to comment on how much she loved it.  If you fancy one yourself, I highly recommend checking out the Live Fast Die Yum collection. Honourable mention should also go to their recently launched Palm Bling range too, mostly because I want EVERYTHING IN IT.

  • LITTLE GEORGIA, ISLINGTON

I’ve spent most of the past week holed up in (arguably) London’s tiniest flat in Angel. While navigating tiny beds and even tinier showers isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, the fact that it was situated next to some seriously excellent pubs and restaurants more than made up for it. The highlight of my eating expeditions was undoubtedly Little Georgiaa Georgian themed eatery which featured gigantic glasses of deliciously dry red wine, wonderfully friendly waitresses who sneakily topped up my glass for free when no one was looking, and a gloriously crispy skinned poussin smothered in a messy, buttery walnut sauce just made for licking off your fingers. I would have taken pictures, but to be honest, I was too busy gulping down large slices of Khachapuri (aka ‘the world’s best stuffed crust pizza’) – a beautifully soft floury bread which was stuffed with three types of melted cheese. It’s the kind of food a girl has dirty dreams about. I can’t wait for my next visit.

Pop culture, food and gigantic jewellery – that’s what’s been rocking my world this month. How about you? (And if anyone knows a great facial cleanser for the eczema riddled, send it my way would you?)

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Cornershop Chocolate Honeycomb Cake

Chocolate Honeycomb Cake (2)

You’d think that with nearly five years of living in Bootle under my belt, I’d have learnt by now. But every Easter it’s the same. The urge to bake something sweet will usually strike me somewhere between my first bacon sandwich and the 3.00pm football kick off, and I’ll realise with a sinking feeling that I’ve not got nearly enough ingredients in my cupboards and all the local supermarkets are closed. Praise be then to the heathen cornershop at the end of my road. OK, so the women behind the counter usually scowl at me for slouching in there in my leggings with unwashed hair, and the produce there verges somewhere between ‘ropey’ and ‘inedible,’ but they’re usually stocked with butter, milk and bread, and you can buy two gigantic bars of Dairy Milk for a quid.

Hence this ‘Cornershop Chocolate Honeycomb Cake,’ a total bastardisation of Nigella Lawson’s classic Honey Chocolate Cake. Made out of various odds and ends, and a jar of delicious citrus infused honey that I managed to sneak home from Florida in my suitcase (Take that Richard Dawkins!) this is a seriously impressive little number. In the wrong hands, the combination of chocolate and honey could be decidedly sticky, but here, the combination of ingredients is perfectly balanced. I also loved the unique chocolate honey ganache which threatens to overwhelm the cake with sticky goop, but hardens into a gloriously shiny glaze.  The original version calls for you to make tiny bees out of marzipan, but I seriously lack both the patience and sugarwork skills to pull that kind of decoration trickery off. Instead,  I just bashed a Crunchie bar to bits with a rolling pin and sprinkled it over the top.

The end result is tasty, tangy and decidedly moreish – you need a lot of willpower to stop at just one slice.  It’s a testament to how good Nigella’s original recipe is that I made this with crappy chocolate and it still managed to be one of the best cakes I’ve baked in a very long time. With good quality ingredients, it’s sure to be sensational.

CHOCOLATE HONEY CAKE (Makes roughly 9 – 10 pieces)

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

You will need

For the cake:

  • 100 g chopped milk chocolate (My preferred brand is Green & Blacks)
  • 275 g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 225 g soft butter
  • 125 ml runny honey
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 200 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder (again, I prefer to use Green & Blacks, but any good quality cocoa will work well here)
  • 250 ml boiling water

For the icing:

  • 60 ml water
  • 125 ml runny honey
  • 175 g milk chocolate
  • 75 g icing sugar
  • 1 Crunchie bar

Make It!

  1. Take whatever you need out of the fridge so that all the ingredients can come to room temperature. While that’s happening, melt the chocolate from the cake part of the ingredients list in a good-sized bowl. You can either do this by zapping it in the microwave for a minute,  or by suspending the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/350ºF, and butter and line a 23cm / 9 inch springform cake tin. (Alternatively, I used a silicon baking tray I got from my local ASDA, and the cake turned out perfectly.)
  3. Beat together the sugar and soft butter until airy and creamy, and then add the honey. Add one of the eggs, beating it in with a tablespoon of the flour, and then the other egg with another tablespoon of flour. Fold in the melted chocolate, and then the rest of the flour and the bicarbonate of soda. Add the cocoa and last of all, beat in the boiling water. Mix everything well to make a smooth batter and pour into the prepared tin. Cook for up to an hour and a half, though check the cake after 45 minutes and if it is catching cover the top lightly with foil and check every 15 minutes. (As a guide, mine was ready after an hour.)
  4. Let the cake cool completely for 45 minutes – 1 hour. While it’s chilling on the side, bash your Crunchie bar into small pieces. I find it’s quite cathartic to wrap it in a tea towel and beat the living daylights out of it with a rolling pin/EMPTY wine bottle.
  5. To make the glaze, bring the water and the rest of the honey to a boil in a small saucepan, then turn off the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate, swirling it around to melt in the hot liquid. Leave it for a few minutes then whisk together. Sieve in the icing sugar (don’t skip this step, otherwise your icing will be horribly lumpy) and whisk again until smooth.
  6. Pour the icing over the chocolate cake and smooth it down the sides with a palette knife. Sprinkle the bits of crunchie bar over the top and leave to set for an hour – 2 hours prior to serving. This cake should last for seven days in an airtight container, but you’ll be lucky if it lasts for five minutes.
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The winner is…. (and a recipe for Lemon Curd & Ginger Loaf Cake)

Random org winner

So remember last week where I decided to hold my FIRST EVER BLOG GIVEAWAY to win a fantastic pancake hamper from Abra-ca-Debora? Well, via the application of rigorous internet science* (*entering a load of numbers into random.org), I’m pleased to say that the winner is….Victoria!

Winner's comment
So, massive congratulations to Victoria! I’ll be sending you an email today to get all your details so that a hamper wings its way out to you ASAP.

Outside of competitions and pancakes, it’s been a week frayed at the edges with minor annoyances. For example, did you know that if you experience a moment of madness while running a competition on your blog where you decide to change its WordPress URL, it can – and will – screw everything up? Well, neither did I before last week! You would have thought that – as someone who has a job where she works with the internet all day – I would know this. But no. Cue lots of swearing, and more than one trip to the fridge to bury my face in the jar of lemon curd I had in there.

Lemon curd

I love lemon curd. In fact I can’t really control myself around it. I love how it tastes like a burst of spring sunshine bursting inside your mouth, and how the really good stuff has the texture of velvet. On more than one occasion I have been found hunkering next to the light of an open fridge door, spooning great tablespoons of the stuff into my mouth in lieu of dinner.  But with a two week holiday on the horizon, and the knowledge that I really needed to use up a load of perishable ingredients before I left, I decided to do the honorable thing and stick the leftover half a jar of it that I had into a loaf cake. 

Lemon Curd & Ginger Loaf Cake

 

Lemon Curd & Ginger Cake with Jam

This was my breakfast this morning

This isn’t the prettiest cake in the world (my notoriously temperamental oven decided to do a number on it and cook the outside to an alarmingly dark shade of brown), and when I pulled it out of the oven, I was slightly alarmed that it looked more like a well fired brick than a delicious tea time treat. However,  when I cut into it, I discovered a sponge which is as pale and bright as a Spring morning. The yoghurt keeps it tender and moist, and the ginger glaze adds an extra shot of zing. While it may not be gracing the pages of any twee food websites any time soon, it is the perfect cake for the season – a little scraggy, not as pretty as it could be, but with lots of beauty right underneath the surface.

LEMON CURD & GINGER LOAF CAKE 

Adapted from BBC Good Food

You will need:

  • 175g softened butter or baking margarine
  • 150ml natural yogurt
  • 3 (large) tbsp lemon curd
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 tbsp ginger cordial
  • zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 175g golden caster sugar

For the glaze

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp ginger cordial

Make It!

  1. Heat oven to 160C/gas 3. Grease a medium sized loaf tin and line with baking paper.
  2. Cream the softened butter and caster sugar together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
  3. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a wooden spoon before adding yogurt, lemon curd, eggs, lemon zest and 1tbsp flour. Mix until combined. Then, gently fold in the rest of the flour and mix until the batter just comes together. Bake for 55 minutes – 1 hour until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  4. Cool in the tin, before making the glaze. Combine the ginger cordial with the icing sugar (and some of the lemon zest if you have any left over), and mix together until a thin glaze is formed.  Brush over the top of the cake with a pastry brush, ensuring that you get the glaze into every tiny crevice.  Serve in slices with extra lemon curd (or strawberry jam if you’ve eaten all the leftover lemon curd while waiting for your cake to bake), leftover yogurt and a nice cup of tea.
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Chocolate Brown-Butter Muffnuts

Chocolate brown butter muffnut

One of the things I like best about my new working-from-home regime is the fact that I can act on my impulses. If I want soda bread for breakfast, I can just walk into the kitchen and make soda bread for breakfast. If I fancy a curry for lunch, all I need to do is avoid being knocked out by the jar of Madras paste when I attempt to dislodge it from the top of my (overstuffed) cupboard and whip one up during The World at One. So, when I was gripped an overwhelming urge for donuts on Monday afternoon (brought on by the sight of a Dunkin Donuts box in an episode of Orange is the New Black) I knew what I needed to do.

I am too much of a wuss to deal with bubbling pans of boiling oil on a weekday afternoon, so I turned to a baked doughnut recipe from Joy the Baker to cure my cravings. While some may see baked doughnuts as being a bit of a cop-out – particularly as they lack that delicious artery-clogging hit of hot fat and white sugar you get from the fried versions – they’re great for people like me who like to kid themselves that they are a ‘healthy option’. The only snag in my glorious plan was that Joy’s original recipe calls for a ‘doughnut pan’. I do not own a doughnut pan. I do not know anyone who owns a doughnut pan. In fact, prior to reading that recipe, I wasn’t even aware that doughnut pans existed. And I certainly wasn’t going to schlep all the way to Lakeland for a very specific item of bakeware. It was time to put my thinking cap on.

Muffnuts

So, I used what few lateral thinking skills I have retained from my time in the Girl’s Brigade, and decided to improvise. If you’ve been keeping abreast of the food media over the past week or so, you’ll have seen a lot of press about the ‘duffin,’ a doughnut-muffin hybrid which was created by Bea’s of Bloomsbury and has (rather naughtily) been trademarked by Starbucks.  I’m not going to say that this donut-muffin mishmash is my version of a ‘duffin’ as a) I don’t want to be sued by Starbucks and b) I much prefer the portmeanteau of ‘muffnut’ (plus, ‘muffnut’ just sounds dirtier.) What I will say is that these muffnuts are the perfect vehicle for a chocolate glaze and a shedload of sprinkles, and make a perfect 3pm high-tea treat. Oh, and if you have an incredibly childish sense of humour like me, they provide you with ample opportunity to make loads of jokes about your ‘muff’. Sorry Mum.

Topped Muffnuts

CHOCOLATE BROWN-BUTTER MUFFNUTS (Makes six ‘muffnuts’)

Adapted from Joy the Baker

You will need

For the Muffnuts:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 75g white sugar
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 100ml buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

For the Chocolate Glaze:

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder (I used Green & Blacks)
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Make It!

  1. Heat your oven to 200 degrees c/gas mark 5. Lightly grease a muffin tray, and set to one side.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and sugar.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter. The butter will begin to crackle and pop as it melts. Once the water has evaporated, the butter will begin to brown quickly and smell nutty. Make sure that you keep an eye on it, as it can easily burn at this stage. Once it’s turned a rich brown colour, remove from the heat and immediately transfer (brown bits and all) to a small bowl.
  4. In a small bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, brown butter and vanilla essence.
  5. Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir together until no flour bits remain and all of the ingredients are well combined. Try not to overmix the batter, as that will lead to rubbery muffnuts (and no, that’s not a euphemism.)
  6. Portion out the batter into each section of the muffin tray until they are all evenly filled. This batter should give you six large ‘muffnuts’.
  7. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until they have turned a rich golden colour.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan before gently (!) removing them and placing them onto a wire rack. (If you don’t have rack, a large plate will be fine.)
  8. While the doughnuts cool, make the glaze.
  9. To make the glaze, sift your icing sugar into a medium sized bowl to remove any lumps. Then, whisk it together with the cocoa powder, and salt.
  10. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and vanilla essence, and whisk to combine. If it looks too thick, add a touch more milk. You want the glaze to have a relatively thick consistency.
  11. Once the muffnuts are completely cool, dip top-side-down into the chocolate glaze. Return to the wire rack/plate. If you’re artistically minded, this is the time to cover them in sprinkles. Allow to set for about 30 minutes before stacking or serving. The muffnuts should last for 2 days, but quite frankly, you’ll be lucky if they last two hours.
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Butterscotch Cake

A slice of Butterscotch cake

There’s been a serious lack of cake around here recently. Although, if I’m being perfectly honest, there’s been a serious lack of anything around here recently. Despite a New Year’s Resolution I made to myself to post here once a week, I’ve been suffering a serious bout of ‘cooking block’ recently (it’s a bit like writer’s block, only with more washing up at the end of it.) While I’ve attempted to alleviate this by baking cake-after-cake-after-cake, none of them have been right. A Blood Orange and Lemon cake which involved simmering the fruits whole before blending them into a pulp resulted in a concoction which was lip puckeringly bitter. (It ended up being dumped in the bin while myself and Mr. McMc attempted to whistle the last post.) A Red Wine and Chocolate cake was OK, but slightly too chalky and dry to share with the class, while the hastily snapped pictures I took of it made it look like a gigantic disintegrating doorstop covered in splooge.

Finally, in a last ditch attempt to create something anything which was vaguely dessert-based for Easter dinner, I hit upon the idea of a Butterscotch Cake comprising of an ethereally light vanilla sponge coated in a layer of thick butterscotch.  It was simple, it was delicious and it didn’t require me to grate, boil or pulp anything that could fly out of my mixer and hit me right between the eyes (you may laugh at this, but – real talk – the other day an uncrushed lump of muscovado sugar flew out of the bowl of my KitchenAid and whacked me right in the forehead. I would have found it hilarious if I hadn’t been so shocked.) It was perfect – an addictive slice of buttery, caramelised sweetness which might just be one of the best things to ever come out of my kitchen.

I’d suggest serving it for afternoon tea accompanied by genteel finger sandwiches and tea served out of china cups, but I found that it was best eaten messily with my fingers while watching episode after episode of Community in my pyjamas. And while I’m not entirely sure my blogging mojo has fully returned, it was certainly nice to welcome its brief return with a saucepan full of butterscotch.

Butterscotch Cake (Slices)

BUTTERSCOTCH CAKE (Makes 8 generous slices and 16 slim ones)

For the sponge, I used a mixture of demerara and golden caster sugar which added a nice caramel note. If you don’t have any demerara sugar, just use 150g golden caster sugar. The butterscotch recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen (have you bought her recipe book yet? You really should you know.)

You will need:

For the cake

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the butterscotch sauce

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 109g muscovado sugar
  • 1118ml double cream
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract, plus more to taste

Make It!

  1. Bake your cake: Heat your oven to Gas Mark 4/150°c. Grease a medium sized springform cake tin and line it with baking paper.
  2. Beat the softened butter and sugars together until they look light and fluffy. (You can do this with a wooden spoon if you have super-strong arms, but you might prefer to use an electric mixer for this bit.) Add the eggs, milk and vanilla essence and whisk again. The mixture should be thick enough to drip off a spoon and leave a trail in the bowl.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients together. (I always use a trick I learned from Delia for this which involves holding the sieve at chest height to ensure that the flour gets a good airing as it falls down into the bowl.) Add the flours to the wet ingredients and gently fold the mixture together until everything is just combined. You don’t want to do this too roughly as then the sponge will lose some of its light airiness.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and smooth out with a spatula. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the side while you get on with the important business of making the butterscotch sauce.
  5. Make the butterscotch sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a gentle heat. Add the sugar, double cream and salt and whisk together until well blended. Bring to a very gentle boil and cook for about five minutes, whisking occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat and add one teaspoon of the vanilla extract, stirring to combine. Dip a spoon in the sauce and carefully taste the sauce to see if you want to add additional pinches or salt or splashes of vanilla. Tweak it to your taste, whisking well after each addition.  Leave the sauce to cool for a minute until it has thickened slightly.
  7. Remove the cake from the tin and place on a (large) plate. Pour the butterscotch sauce generously over the cake until it is fully covered. If you have any sauce left over, I highly suggest eating it straight from the pan with a large spoon until you feel a bit sick.
  8. Once the cake is cool and the butterscotch sauce has hardened, slice the cake and serve with coffee. Leftovers can be kept in an airtight tin for up to five days (but trust me, it probably won’t last that long.)
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Toffee Apple Cake

No one likes it when people moan about how busy they are (because hey, isn’t everyone incredibly busy? It feels like half of the people I know are currently ill from stress induced lurgy) but – real talk – life feels ever so slightly chaotic at the moment. I feel as though I live in a world of deadlines, stress and poor sleep patterns occasionally disrupted by the occasional visit to the pub. I’ve found myself desperately inhaling gigantic portions of spinach in an attempt to keep my iron levels up so I don’t fall asleep underneath my desk. It’s come to the point where I’m actually looking forward to my eight hour flight to New York (#humblebrag) next Tuesday as it will be eight hours where I can read, watch crap TV and drink cheap wine without worrying that I should be somewhere doing something.

I’ve mentioned before that when life gets too much for me to handle, I head to my kitchen to indulge in a bit of displacement-therapy baking. Baking-hell-hath-no-fury like a woman who’s on a deadline and is procrastinating by making a gigantic cake. This was the case in my kitchen last Saturday where I was putting real life at bay by closing the door and attempting to cook with every perishable ingredient I could find. The nice people at Fruitdrop, an office fruit delivery service, had recently sent me a box stuffed full of apples, plums, oranges and bananas. After eating a fair amount of the fruit (and forcing giant carrier bags full of bananas onto my colleagues), I decided to make a Bonfire night inspired Toffee Apple Cake.

I’ve adapted this recipe from one I saw on the Great British Bake Off. While the cake on there is an exotic creature full of caramel crowns and orange zest, this is a slightly more homely offering. However, looks aren’t everything, and this is full of squidgy toffee flavour (helped in no small part by the demerera sugar used in the sponge), warm, sweet wintry spices and a good whack of booze (I used Courvoisier, but any brandy will do. If you’ve got any Calvados hanging around, I’d suggest throwing that in there.) The proof of any pudding is in the eating, and when I took this cake to a party on Saturday night, it was quite gratifying to see it all gobbled up. If you want to get fancy, you could always smother it in custard, or a butterscotch sauce, but I preferred to just eat chunks of it whole while standing by my stove and basking in the radiance of a bit of much-needed-me-time.

Toffee Apple Cake

TOFFEE APPLE CAKE

Adapted from a recipe originally seen on the Great British Bake Off

You will need:

For the toffee apple topping

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into medium-sized wedges (they should be roughly the thickness of a pound coin)

For the cake

  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g demerera sugar
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 medium free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • 60ml tbsp whole milk
  • 2 shots of brandy (I used Courvoisier)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Make It!

  1. Thoroughly grease a medium sized springform cake tin (I like to spray the tin with spray oil for this – it works a treat.) Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
  2. For the topping, put a small saucepan over a high heat. Add the sugar and three tablespoons of water and cook until it the sugar melts and turns amber – do not stir at any point, although you may want to give it a quick swirl towards the end to ensure that all the sugar is browned. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the toffee into the lined baking tin, taking care to cover the base completely. BE CAREFUL – hot molten sugar can burn you quite badly, and it’s also a bugger to get off surfaces once it’s cooled. Place the apple wedges in three rows on top of the toffee.
  3. For the cake, beat the butter, demerera sugar and soft brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda and add a tablespoon of this to the butter mix along with one egg. Mix until combined and repeat the process until all the flour and eggs have been used. Stir in the milk, brandy, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour into the cake tin and gently smooth with a spatula.
  4. Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Using oven gloves, place a cooling rack over the tin and flip the cake over, making sure that you take care not to burn yourself on any hot caramel that may leak from the tin. Leave to cool for five – ten minutes, then remove from the tin and set aside to cool completely.
  5. Cut yourself a big slice of this bad boy and enjoy.
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Introducing ‘The Flick’ and some Apricot themed recipes

Because arranging a wedding, writing a book and having a pretty intense full time job just isn’t enough for me to be getting on with, I’ve been spending my time recently working with some pretty awesome ladies on a new ‘lady blog’ (urgh, I really really hate that phrase). Allow me to introduce to you The Flick – a lady blog for women who don’t do lady blogs. As well as writing my usual scintillating prose here, I’ll be contributing a number of features there too. My official title is ‘Food and Drink editor,’ but Lord knows I’ll probably go on (at length) about other crap on there too.

We launched on Monday, and since then the response has been amazing. Although quite a bit of that may have been due to this absolutely brilliant video posted by my colleague Vanessa, where she road tests ‘the world’s most powerful sex toy.’ (It looks like a power sander, it plugs into the mains, it vibrates so hard that I could probably whip cake batter with it, and it terrifies cats. What more do you need?) Essentially, The Flick is brilliant, I’m dead proud to be part of the team, and you should all read it. And not just because there’s two (really quite good) recipes from me currently on there either.

The first is for this Apricot Upside-Down Cake, which is absolutely delicious and a doddle to make. Each slice of this is a riot of different flavours – a pale, fluffy vanilla crumb and honey sweetness tempered with spice from the cardamom and bursts of tartness from the apricots. There’s currently half of this left in my fridge, and I keep having to resist the urge to eat it in one full gulp with a flagon of Yorkshire Tea.

Of course, if you decide to make this, and find you have excess cake that you don’t know what to do with, you could always pull out your ice cream maker and throw it into Honey Ice Cream with Apricot Upside-Down Cake pieces. Oh yes. I went there.

I’m not going to pretend that I am the first person ever to have had the thought of whacking a load of cake into a load of frozen custard and reaping the sweet sweet rewards, but I will happily admit that I’m quite proud of this recipe. Apricots and honey are natural bedfellows anyway, so the two complement each other in a frozen dessert like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé in the video to Telephone. I highly recommend making this if, like me, you’re currently living in a climate which is something akin to living inside a lukewarm grey shower cubicle. It won’t bring the sun out, but it may make you feel just that little bit more Summery. If only for five minutes.

Anyway. That’s The Flick. Read us, comment on us, debate with us, and love us. I’m looking forward to seeing you on there.

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Honey Spice Cake

I didn’t get Easter eggs this year. Don’t worry, I wasn’t too miffed about the situation – I’m more a savoury than sweet kind of girl, and Easter eggs just don’t taste the same if they’ve not been shattered by my younger brother headbutting them into little chocolatey shards. Instead, I spent my Easter doing what I do best. Baking. I’d like to think that if Jesus was around nowadays, he’d be less interested in people gorging themselves on chocolate, and more interested in people gnawing on delicious looking cakes and gigantic legs of lamb. Then again, if Jesus was around now, I’m sure he’d be a massive hit at cocktail parties with that whole ‘turning water into wine’ trick of his.

And so, on Sunday, I rolled my sleeves up and pootled off to ASDA on my bike for baking supplies. I originally intended for this to be a spiced stout cake, if only to attone for the Humingbird Bakery Chocolate Stout cake which I attempted to make (with a cracking hangover) for Mother’s Day, and which resulted in an overly sweet pile of crumbs which was only held together by a heart-attack-inducing amount of cream cheese. But alas, it wasn’t to be. Mainly because ASDA was closed, so I had to turn to the heathen cornershops of Bootle for salvation.

When life gives you a major supermarket-unfriendly-bank holiday that you’ve forgotten about because you have your head in the clouds, you have to improvise. So, I decided to replace the stout with some Hobgoblin ale, the black treacle with some honey, and glazed the bugger with a combination of icing sugar, and my old friend Mr. Ginger Cordial. What resulted was a beautiful, golden coloured cake, full of toffee flavours and a good whack of warming, zingy spice – like a giant toffee mince pie. It’s also wonderfully moist, a huge squidgey slice of comfort.

OK, so it may not have been particularly seasonal, but (if my poor recollection of my R.E. lessons from school serves me well), Jesus was more likely to relax with a delicious snack of honey when he wasn’t hanging out with his disciples than he was a giant chocolate egg…

HONEY SPICE CAKE (Makes one medium sized cake, containing 10-12 slices)

You will need:

  • 360g self raising flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 pods cardamom – seeds ground in a pestle and mortar
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 200g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 150g firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 350ml ruby ale (I used Hobgoblin)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten lightly

For the glaze

  • 3 tablespons milk
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons ginger cordial

Make It!

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°c/gas mark 4. and butter a medium sized springform cake tin.
  2. Into a large bowl sift together the self raising flour,  salt,  and the spices.
  3. Combine the ruby ale, butter and honey in a medium sized pan, and heat gently until the butter has melted and is foaming slightly. Take off the heat, add the brown sugar and leave to cool.
  4. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl, and add to the cooled honey-butter-beer mixture. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until a firm, gloppy batter has been formed. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave it to cool completely before turning the cake out onto a cooling rack.
  5. In a small bowl whisk together the icing sugar, milk and ginger cordial. Pour the glaze carefully over the cake, letting it drip down the sides. Brush the glaze over the the surface area with a small pastry brush until the entire cake is covered. Allow to stand for 30 minutes, or until the glaze is set.
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Cardamom-Cinnamon Crumb Loaf

For various reasons (ostensibly because of “book research” but also because of “boredom”, “procrastination techniques” and “hangovers”) I’ve been watching a lot of food programmes recently which have been fronted by women.  These all tend to follow a bit of a pattern – a model-pretty female cook (usually in her mid 20s – early 30s), dressed immaculately in a vintage gown, floats around an urban landscape picking up artisan goodies for a little soirée she is holding for some friends that evening. After a few token shots of her chuckling with a homely shopkeeper and squeezing some ripe fruit with her perfectly manicured fingers, she wafts home to her giant, beautifully attired kitchen where she coos over some cake batter that she’s just whipped up in her hot pink KitchenAid. A few minutes later, and she’s constructed a beautiful multi-layed confection, swathed in picture perfect icing which she will then slice, take a dainty bite of and declare to be “divine!” or “swoonsome!” before she shoves it to one side, lest she be tempted to scoff the whole thing and ruin her perfect figure.

Of course, it’s churlish of me to be annoyed by these kinds of programmes. After all, they’re designed for the sole purpose of escapism – for people like me to lose themselves daydreaming about how they could attain that perfect lifestyle, where the biggest worry a girl can have in a day is whether her local deli is stocking her favourite brand of  icing sugar. “But these women are charming!” people tell me. “They’re sweet as buttons and wouldn’t hurt a fly! How could you possibly take offence to them? What’s so wrong about a beautiful woman making cake?”

Well, as a decidedly unbeautiful woman who is quite fond of making cakes, I think I’d quite like to see a bit more realism in my female-orientated food programming. Perhaps, just for once, I’d like to see a show which involves a  harassed looking woman (preferably with a face like a frying pan, but it’s TV and I know they can be funny about these kinds of things) running around a Sainsbury’s Local after work desperately wondering how the shitting hell she is going to fit in going for a run, making her tea and getting her Google Reader down to zero before she passes out on the sofa whilst watching Seinfeld. I’d like to see a woman show us how to cook a Sunday Lunch for her extended family whilst wrestling  with a force 10 port-acquired hangover and trying not to throw up in the gravy jug. I’d like to see a working woman with kids attempting to figure out how she’s going to cook a decent meal for them on a limited budget after finishing an eight hour shift.

Women aren’t stupid. And whilst there are many of us who enjoy baking, it’s a litle bit patronising to presume that we’ll fall over with joy every time we see a female chef whipping up some “naughty little treats” on TV. So come on production companies, cut us a little slack. Stop treating us like twee little imbeciles. Give us some blood and spice with our sugar.

And on that note, here’s some cake.

CARDAMOM-CINNAMON CRUMB LOAF (Makes one medium sized loaf)

For the loaf cake

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 200ml single cream
For the cardamom-cinnamon crumb
  • 75g butter
  • 75g soft brown sugar
  • 75g plain flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • The seeds from 6 cardamom pods, ground in a pestle and mortar

Make It!

  1. First, grease a medium sized loaf tin well, and heat your oven up to Gas Mark 4/200 degrees c.
  2. Sift your plain flour and baking powder together in a medium sized bowl. Add the brown sugar and combine well with a wooden spoon.
  3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Leave to cool for around five minutes, then add the eggs, vanilla essence and cream.
  4. Combine the wet ingredients with the flour and sugar mixture until a firm, sticky batter has been formed. If you find the batter to be a bit dry, add a touch more cream. Pour the batter into your loaf tin.
  5. Now, make your crumb topping. Place the buter, flour, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom in a bowl and combine well with your fingers until rough sticky ‘crumbs’ have been formed. Layer these on top of the loaf cake batter.
  6. Bake the loaf cake at Gas Mark 4/200 degrees C for around 45 minutes-1 hour. The cake is done when the crumb has become browned and firm, and when a toothpick comes out clear when inserted into the cake.
  7. Serve with coffee and a side order of misanthropy.
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Earl Grey Cake with Lemon Glaze

 “Talk and tea is his speciality,’ said Giles. ‘Come along inside… We’ll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place.”

There may be something quite twee about starting a post with a quote from Wind in the Willows, but I firmly subscribe to the idea that tea and cake does make the world a better place. Saying that, I also believe that having a slice of cake for breakfast, dinner and tea constitutes a balanced diet. It’s a balm for the soul – guaranteed to make even the worst of situations seem that little bit better.

I woke up on Sunday after a riotous few days of eating, drinking and dancing, and realised I hadn’t made a cake in ages. The past few weeks have been ridiculously busy with work, wedding planning and other life admin, and I wanted to calm my mood by losing myself in a frenzy of whisking, bowl licking and icing.  So, I set about rummaging through my cupboards to see what ingredients I could combine to turn into something tasty.

Spring is in the air in Bootle at the moment, and, despite all the diurnal temper tantrums that March inevitably brings, there’s a real feeling of freshness, of the world reawakening after the long dark Winter months. I’d recently seen a recipe for Earl Grey Cake on the lovely baking blog Raspberri Cupcakes, and immediately knew that it was just the thing I was looking for.

The idea of putting bitter tea leaves into a sweet cake may seem like an odd one. But Earl Grey tea actually adds a lovely dimension to baked products, providing them with a lovely pop of citrus and bergamot without being overwhelming. A lemon glaze just gilds the lily slightly, adding a nice bit of zing. The overall effect is comforting and curiously addictive – both myself and Mr. Cay have kept creeping back to the kitchen over the past few days to sneak surreptitious slices. It may not look like much, but this cake might just be one of the best things I’ve baked this year.

EARL GREY CAKE WITH LEMON GLAZE

Earl Grey Cake recipe adapted from Raspberri Cupcakes

You will need:

For the cake

  • 2 Earl Grey tea bags (about 3 tsp leaves)
  • 60ml boiling water
  • 80ml milk
  • 100g butter, at room temperature
  • 2 medium sized eggs
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 190g self-raising flour

For the lemon glaze

  • 3 tbsp icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp milk

Make It!

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a medium sized cake tin. Empty the tea leaves from the tea bags into a cup and add the boiling water. Steep for 3 minutes then add milk to cup.
  2. Place butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Then, add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth. Next gradually add the flour and tea mixture, alternating between wet and dry ingredients. Beat gently until just combined.
  3. Pour mixture into prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. After around five minutes, turn it out onto a wire rack or a large plate.
  4. Whilst the cake is cooling, make the glaze. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice, lemon zest and the milk. Beat until smooth and glossy (feel free to add more icing sugar to the glaze if you feel it looks a bit thin)
  5. Once the cake is sufficiently cool (this should take around twenty minutes or so), pour the glaze over it. I like to take a small pastry brush and brush the glaze over the sides so that it’s almost entirely covered with zesty sugary goodness.
  6. Serve immediately. This cake tastes good when freshly made, and even better when refridgerated overnight.
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