Tag 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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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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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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Gingerbread Cake with a Spicy Orange Glaze

I have become mildly addicted to all things ginger recently. Personally, I blame the changing of the seasons. As soon as the temperature drops, I start seeking the fiery delights of all things ginger – from slugs of ginger wine in my nightly shot of whisky to huge glugs of ginger cordial thrown into a stir fry. And, once December rolls around, I also resume my annual quest for the perfect gingerbread recipe.

When I was a little girl, I was not the biggest fan of gingerbread. Most probably because my overwhelming memory of it is the tooth-chippingly-hard gingerbread people you find being sold in Greggs. But then I discovered the delights of gingerbread cake. And, as regular readers of this blog will already know, if there is one thing I like in this life, then it’s huge slabs of cake.

The road to this particular gingerbread cake recipe is littered with the carcasses of previous attempts. Attempts which have seen me using golden syrup and fresh ginger and too much lemon juice, leading to an end result which managed to be both overly fibrous and tooth-crackingly-sweet. But, during a recent trip to ASDA,  I  finally found the perfect solution to all of my gingery woes. Namely, the discovery of ginger cordial.

Seriously, this stuff is the business. So much so in fact that I’ve managed to go through nearly an entire bottle’s worth in the space of a day. Zingy, with a refreshing citrus punch, it provides just the kick you need to get this gingerbread party started. Whilst it may be gilding the lily somewhat, this (along with ginger jam and a good dollop of black treacle)  is used in both the loaf cake and the glaze, which provides with a real oomph. The end result is a cake which is as dark as a December night, sugary, sticky, dense and ever so moist. Indeed, I would suggest that  it’s the type of cake that you stick in your bag, and merrily munch on as you brave the Christmas shopping crowds. And if you’re wondering whether this really is the ultimate gingerbread cake, then why don’t you make it for yourself and find out?

GINGERBREAD CAKE WITH A SPICY ORANGE GLAZE

For the gingerbread cake

  • 260g plain flour
  • 113g unsalted butter
  • 110g muscovado sugar
  • 3 medium sized eggs
  • 1 1/2 tbsps ginger jam
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves (I mashed mine up in my pestle and mortar)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 120ml black treacle
  • 100ml ginger cordial
  • 150ml semi skimmed milk
  • Zest of an orange

For the spicy orange glaze

  • 150g icing sugar
  • The juice of an orange
  • 1 tbsp ginger cordial

Make It!

  1. Sift  the flour, baking soda, salt and spices together into a medium sized bowl.
  2. Next, beat together the butter and muscovado sugar until they becomes dark and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well with a hand mixer after each addition. Make sure you scrape down the sides with a plastic spatula, so none of the mix escapes, flies off, sticks to a diamond hard sheen on your cupboards and slowly reduces the value of your house. Add the orange zest, black treacle, milk, ginger jam and ginger cordial and beat to combine.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture until it forms a thick, dark gloopy batter. Pour into a loaf tin, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake on 177 degrees c/Gas Mark 4 for 35-45 minutes. The cake is done when you insert a toothpick into it and it comes out clean.
  4. Whilst the cake is cooling, make the glaze. This can be done by sifting the icing sugar together with the orange juice and ginger cordial, and mixing it together until it becomes smooth and glossy. Once the cake is lukewarm to the touch, brush it over the cake with a pastry brush. If your cake has cracked slightly in the oven, the glaze will run into all of the ridges for an extra sugar hit.
  5. Serve with a mug of builders tea, and a dollop of lemon curd.

If you’re looking for another gingerbread recipe – this one for Guinness Pumpkin Gingerbread  from North South Food looks pretty tasty too!

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Apple and Sultana Spice Loaf

I’ve just spent a very pleasant few days at Supersonic Festival in Birmingham, where I listened to a lot of very eclectic, VERY NOISY music (personal highlights being Cloaks, Scorn, Teeth of the Sea, Klaus Kinski (a group of boys who played guitars and screamed at lot whilst jumping off masonry and wearing short-shorts), Zombi, Cut Hands and Silver Apples), drank a lot of booze and ate a lot of cake.

I’m pretty much convinced that as well as putting on some of the most interesting bands of any music festival currently taking place in the U.K, Supersonic also serves up the best cake. Myself, Mr. Cay and a few other miscreants all spent a lovely hour on Sunday afternoon munching on sweet treats and cooing over our friends John and Maria’s adorable baby son. I indulged in a slice of Apple and Sultana Loaf, which was heady with cinnamon, and just the thing to recharge my batteries after two days of having my eardrums beaten to a bloody pulp with ‘power electronics’.

I’ve thought about that cake a lot since returning to Liverpool, so, I decided to head to my kitchen and attempt to recreate it for myself. Whereas the version I ate seemed to only use cinnamon, I decided to make mine slightly punchier (and a bit more Autumnal) by adding allspice, ginger and nutmeg. I also layered the top with some apple slices which were then sprinkled with a bit more cinnamon (you can never have enough cinnamon in my opinion) and some demerara sugar.

The finished product reminded me less of a cake, and more of a tea loaf – the kind of thing which is ideal when toasted and served up with plenty of butter. It was just the thing to munch on last night whilst Mr. Cay and I sat around our house listening to Whitehouse and planning world domination. It also made a pretty decent breakfast this morning too, even if the noisiest thing I was listening to was politicians arguing on Radio Four.

Seasonal, spicy and sumptuous, this Apple and Sultana Spice Loaf is a doddle to make and a dream to eat. Why not bake some tonight? Listening to extreme noise music whilst you’re making it is optional though.

APPLE AND SULTANA SPICE LOAF

You will need:

  • 300g self raising flour
  • 150g muscovado sugar
  • 100g sultanas
  • 270g bramley apple sauce
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 medium sized Granny Smith apple
  • 1 level teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 level teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • Pinch of salt

Make It!

  1. Heat your oven to 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6, and grease up a loaf tin. If you’re lazy, or just have a pound shop conveniently near your office (I LOVE YOU HOME BARGAINS), nab yourself a sillicon loaf dish for some loose change (you can thank me for this later).
  2. Sift the flour into a large bowl, then add the raisins, muscovado sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, dried ginger and salt. Take a wooden spoon and mash the whole lot together until well combined.
  3. Add the apple sauce, eggs and milk to the dry ingredients and stir until a thick gloopy batter has been formed. Spoon the mixture into your loaf tin and level out the surface with a spatula.
  4. Chop your apple into thin slices, and layer these over the top of the batter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and some demerara sugar if you have any handy (if you don’t, ordinary sugar will work just fine).
  5. Bake the loaf in the centre of the oven for around an hour, or until it feels firm to the touch, and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Turn out onto a wire rack, and leave to cool for half an hour.
  6. This loaf is great both on its own, or served toasted and slathered in butter. It also goes very well with a large mug of Earl Grey.
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Malteser Birthday Cake

When I asked Mr. Cay what kind of cake he’d like for his birthday, his answer was simple; “any cake, so long as it’s chocolate.” Which was fine with me until he added the proviso “and it needs to be PROPER chocolate too – not some of that 90% cocoa spiked with sea salt, chillies and lime you’re so fond of.” Ah. That was me told then.

In circumstances such as these, I’m forced to put my thinking cap on and think of all the different types of sweet treats that my other half is so fond of. A few years ago, I made a Konditor-and-Cook inspired Curly Whirly Cake for his birthday – a great monstrosity of a thing laden in sickly-sweet cream cheese icing studded with huge pieces of curlywurly bars. Once it was made; I stood back, admired my handiwork and attempted to pat myself on the back with my palette knife. Then I ate a slice and realised it was a one way ticket to type 2 diabetes. Whilst a birthday cake should always be delicious, it really shouldn’t be deadly – after all, no one wants to fall into a sugar coma on their special day.

For a while, I toyed with the idea of making the world’s largest Tunnock’s Teacake until I realised that I’d never made marshmallow before, and messing with industrial amounts of boiling sugar and liquid glucose in my small kitchen may result in me blowing up both my worktops and myself.  I was about to give up all hope and just stick a few candles into a Victoria sponge when, whilst munching on a bag of Maltesers, it hit me. Malteser Cake. Hallelujah.

I found this recipe for Malteser Cake on the lovely Afeitar’s blog, and may I just say, it’s possibly one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever baked. Mainly because it actually manages to taste like a giant malteser – from the Horlicks infused sponge, to the chocolate buttercream which is encrusted in a large layer of crushed malty goodness. It also looks pretty bloody impressive too – but then again, who can fail to be impressed by a massive sponge cake covered in rich chocolatey icing?

This is the kind of dessert you make on a lazy Sunday afternoon, with warm sunlight streaming through the window and good music on the stereo. Yes, your kitchen will look like someone decided to hold a dirty protest in there afterwards, but it’s well worth it. When I presented the finished article to Mr. Cay, he devoured his slice in record time before happily declaring it to be “the best birthday cake he’d ever had.” Which, I hope, more than made up for the fact that I’d managed to reduce the value of our house by splattering every avaliable surface with cocoa powder.

MALTESER CAKE (Recipe makes 8-10 slices)
Recipe adapted from Afeitar

You will need:

For the cake

  • 150g soft brown sugar (muscavado sugar is best for flavour)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 175ml milk
  • 15g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Horlicks powder (or ovaltine)
  • 175g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa, sieved
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the icing and decoration

  • 250g icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa (I used Green & Blacks)
  • 45g Horlicks
  • 125g soft unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons boiling water
  • 2 x 37g packets Maltesers

Make it

  1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/170C. Butter and line two 20cm loose-bottomed sandwich cake tins with baking parchment.
  2. Whisk together the sugars and eggs until light and frothy. Heat the milk, butter and Horlicks powder in a small saucepan until the butter has melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Beat the milk mixture into the eggs a little at a time. Fold in the dry ingredients thoroughly. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two tins and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, by which time the cakes should have risen and will spring back when pressed gently. Let them cool on a rack for about 5-10 minutes and then turn them out of their tins.
  3. Once the cakes are cold, you can get on with the icing – I used my stick blender for this, but it’s probably easier to use a food processor if you’re lucky enough to own one! Put the icing sugar, cocoa and Horlicks into a large bowl, and blitz to remove all lumps. Add the butter and process again. Stop, scrape all the excess off, and then blitz again, pouring boiling water down the side of the bowl until you have a smooth, glossy buttercream.
  4. Sandwich the cold sponges with half of the buttercream, and then ice the top with what is left, creating a swirly pattern rather than a smooth surface. Stud the outside edge with a ring of crushed Maltesers (I mashed mine up in my trusty pestle and mortar and it was great fun) – these will also help to patch up any holes, lumps or missed patches of icing. Use any leftover maltesers to decorate the top of the cake – I used around one per slice. When you’ve done this, pop the cake in the fridge for an hour or so for the buttercream to set.
  5. Serve in large slices, preferably with a cup of something warm and strong (be that tea, coffee, or even Hot Vimto).
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