Brush of the February Blues – Poppyseed and Vanilla Buttercream Cake

Hello fellow bakers – its been a while!

My radio silence is the result of an attempt in our household for some new year healthy eating, and the impending end to my PhD, which has required all my time and energy. However, last weekend I needed a break, I needed a cake, so I decided to bake!

When I was a kid, we lived in Germany. I think this was probably where my love of baked goods started. The cakes in Germany are to die for – all decadence and richness – and poppyseed cake is a classic. this is an extra decedent version – from the lovely Bake by Rachel Allen – with a more complicated that usual butter icing that is essentially a custard mixed with butter, but its worth the extra effort. This cake goes a long way because the icing is super rich, but the poppyseeds give the cake itself a lovely almost savoury, nutty taste, which works beautifully with the sweet icing. Just make sure you use a fresh pack of poppyseeds as stale ones would really spoil it.

CAKE INGREDIENTS: 150g butter (salted if possible, or add a pinch of salt to the mix), 100g caster sugar, 3 beaten eggs, 100g plain flour, 1tsp baking powder, 75g poppyseeds.

  • Heat the oven to 170 degrees and grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
  • Firstly, you need to make sure your butter is really soft (I give it a very short blast in the microwave), then cream it with the sugar. Keep going until its light and fluffy – it’ll change colour and go really pale.
  • Keep mixing, and gradually add the eggs – do this really slowly and beat between each addition or it will curdle (although this isn’t the end of the world).
  • Sift the flour and baking powder together, add the poppyseeds and chuck the whole lot in with the butter mixture. Then use a spoon to stir gently all together.
  • Spoon into the tin and flatten out, making a dent in the middle so that the cake rises flat, and bake for 25-30 mins. My cake took 26mins but it depends on your oven.
  • Once out of the oven, leave in the tin for 5 minutes to cool and then remove to a cooling rack.

ICING INGREDIENTS: 150ml milk, 100g caster sugar, 2 egg yolks, 175g butter (softened and unsalted), 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

  • Put the milk and sugar in a pan and heat over a medium heat until the sugar is disolved and the milk starts to boil. It should start to thicken a bit and go a bit like syrup. When its reached this stage (5-10 mins) take off the heat and let it cool a bit.
  • In a small bowl whisk the egg yolks and once the milk is cooled a little – so the eggs don’t scramble – pour the milk over the eggs and keep whisking! Return the mixture to the pan and put it on a low heat and keep stirring. Don’t let it boil and keep mixing so it doesn’t stick. Within about 10 minutes you’ll have a thickening custard. Once you’ve reached this stage, pour it into a cold bowl/jug and leave to cool.
  • In a separate bowl beat the butter until smooth and lightened and add in the vanilla. When the custard is at room temperature, add that to the butter and whisk together.

When the cake and icing are cooled, spread the icing all over the cake, including down the sides. By covering the whole cake, you’ll find it keeps quite well and stays moist. You should end up with something that looks like this!

A very rich and creamy icing, for a slightly nutty cake.

A very rich and creamy icing, for a slightly nutty cake.

A slice is nice!

A slice is nice!

Keep the cake in the fridge and it’ll last for about 5 days, although I found it was nice to pop a slice in the microwave for 10 seconds just to warm and soften it up before eating.

Give it a try but remember to check your teeth for poppyseeds before going on any dates!

BB x

Celebrating the Start of Something New: Mini Banoffee Cheesecakes

Happy 2013! It might already be a little late for wishing people a happy new year, but I think its better late than never!

This year will be very exciting for the bandit household – the end of student life, the start of married life and no doubt a whole load of baking adventures in between. However, the next few months are going to be a bit hectic, as I finish my PhD, start work and try and plan our wedding, so there might not be too many posts between now and Easter. To keep you all going, I thought a retrospective post about a little experimental cheesecaking (a new word for a new year) was in order.

Now the first time I made this cake (on New Years Eve) it didn’t work entirely to my liking; the bananas weren’t quite right. So a week later I tried it again, changing up the banana part and making it in cupcake form. This method would easily work in a normal cheesecake shape as well, and I’ve included a photo of version 1 to show you what it would look like. The great thing about the mini versions is that they are easily transportable and far less messy – always a good thing with cake!

This recipe is for 12-14 mini cakes. If you would like to make one large cheesecake (in a deep 20cm round tin) you will need to DOUBLE all the quantities.

INGREDIENTS: 8-10 digestive biscuits (you might find you have leftovers), 30g butter, 1 tbsp golden syrup, 300g cream cheese, 50g caster sugar, 1 tbsp plain flour, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 75ml sour cream, 150g white chocolate, 2 very ripe bananas, can of carnation caramel (or equivalent).

  • Heat the oven to 160 (fan, centigrade) and get a muffin tray ready with paper liner inserts.
  • Put the butter and the golden syrup in a small pan and melt together over a low heat. Meanwhile, either put the biscuits in a freezer bag and beat the living daylights out of them with a rolling pin, or put them in the food processor. If doing the latter, when the butter mixture is melted, add to the food processor and give the whole lot a whizz. Otherwise put it all in a bowl and mix well.
  • Line the base of each muffin case with  some of the biscuit mixture and press down well. You want a reasonable layer in each case, but not too thick, certainly less than a centimetre. Then pop the tray in the oven for ten minutes. After ten minutes, take the tray out and use the back of a teaspoon to flatten the mixture again (while still warm). Leave to cool and turn the oven down to 140.
  • Melt the white chocolate. I do this in 20 second intervals in the microwave but you can use a bowl over a pan of water if you prefer.
  • With a mixer, beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla until as smooth as possible. Add one and a half of the eggs (but keep the other half – and don’t worry about not being too exact), the melted chocolate and sour cream and beat again until really smooth.
  • In the food processor whizz up the two bananas, adding in two tbsp of the cream cheese mixture, and the other half of the egg. It will be sloppy but don’t worry – it all works out great! NB: If you are making this as one large cake, just mash the bananas with the back of a fork until really mushy and mix in the egg – don’t whizz until completely liquid as the cake is too large and it may not set properly. It will still taste exactly the same!
  • Take the cooled biscuit bases, and pour a layer of the banana mixture into the base of each case. Don’t do this until you’re ready to put them in the oven as if you leave it to sit, you’ll have a soggy bottom!
  • On top of the banana mix, put a full tablespoon of the thick cream cheese mixture. You want the case to be about 3/4 full at this stage, so add a bit more or less depending on the size of your spoon. Don’t worry if the banana mixture comes up around the sides, it sorts itself out in the oven. Smooth other the mixture as best you can, but there’s no need to be too neat about it.
  • Next comes the caramel. I find it best to put the caramel into a bowl and heat in the microwave for about 20 seconds, before beating quite hard with a fork. This gets out all the lumps that form when you use it from cold. Put a generous teaspoon of caramel in the middle of each cake.
  • Finally, pop them in the oven for about 25 minutes. You want the tops to be slightly wobbly in the centre (although this can be a bit hard to see through the caramel!), as they finish cooking at they cool, so keep an eye on them and take them out early if they are looking a bit hard. They shouldn’t go golden/brown.
  • If you are making this as one large cake, I recommend baking without the caramel, and covering the cake onces it has cooled. Alternatively, you could swirl the caramel through the cheesecake mixture before baking. When making a large cake, leave in the tin for about 10 minutes to cool slightly before removing to a plate. Don’t leave it to cool completely in the tin, as it will keep on cooking!

The mini cheesecakes can be eaten whenever but if you peel them out of the cases, they look really lovely with the different layers, and would make a great dessert with some ice-cream and hot caramel sauce!

mini banoffee cheesecakes. Absolutely delicious at any time - and totally portable for any place!

mini banoffee cheesecakes. Absolutely delicious at any time – and totally portable for any place!

 

For the full cake version, I didn’t take my own advice, and failed to warm the caramel, which is consequently a little on the lumpy side, but nevertheless delicious!

The full sized version, in all its (slightly lumpy) glory. This version obviously allows you to have a bigger helping...

The full sized version, in all its (slightly lumpy) glory. This version obviously allows you to have a bigger helping…

 

Well my baking friends, back wearing my non-baking, academic ‘hat’ for the foreseeable future.

See you on the other side…..

BB x

It’s Beginning to Taste a lot like Christmas….

Good afternoon folks and welcome to the last post of the year!

This year I’ve tried to be good about Christmas baking. In other words, I’ve tried not to go overboard! As Mr Bandit is working away from home at the moment, its just me and the dog at home, and we don’t need an excess of biscuits! However, I couldn’t go completely without. I love the smells and tastes of Christmas baking. Whilst I like chocolate and caramel as much as the next person, my favourite flavours are those warm, spicey tastes that come with baking at this time of year. I really wanted to try and make pfeffernusse, which have been a firm favourite since I was about 5 (known in my family as knee biscuits – I’ll leave you to work out why!), but I haven’t found a recipe I like enough to share. Instead, I thought I’d offer up two contrasting tastes of winter. The first I don’t find very Christmassy at all, but I’m told they are all the rage across the pond. The second I consider proper Christmas fare, full of spice and all things nice….

 

PECAN TASSIES – A Taste of America

The other day I wanted to make something quick and simple that gave a flavour of the holiday season but without the time and faff that most of my staple Christmas recipes take. These are wonderfully light, sweet and delicious. Don’t have too many though or you’ll feel a bit sick! Also do not fear at the sight of making ‘pastry’ – it isn’t really pastry at all and is very simple. (adapted from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com)

Pastry Ingredients: 50g pecans, 50g soft cheese, 50g soft butter, 50g plain flour and a bit extra for dusting.

Filling Ingredients: 90g pecans, 1 egg yolk, 50g light brown sugar, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp butter (melted).

 

  • For the pastry, put the pecans in the food processor and whizz as small as they’ll go. Then throw in the other ingredients and mix until combined. The ‘pastry’ will be quite sticky and thick – not pastry like at all!
  • Scrape the mixture out onto a work surface (make sure it and your hands are flour dusted) and divide the mix into 12 equal sized balls.
  • Get a fairy cake tin, or another small bun tin. Then drop a ball of pastry into each hole. Use your fingers to push the mix up the sides of the tin to form little bowl shapes. Its easy to manoeuvre but don’t spread it too thin or there will be holes. Mine didn’t come all the way up the sides of the tin and that’s okay.
  • Put this in the fridge while you get the filling ready and preheat the oven to 160 (fan).
  • For the filling, dry fry the pecans on a low heat until they warm and crisp a little. You’ll know they’re done when they start to release some oil and smell good!
  • Pick out 12 good looking pecans, and chop the rest up roughly.
  • combine the chopped pecans and the rest of the ingredients until well mixed.
  • Put the pastry cases in the oven for 5 minutes. When you take them out some might have gone a bit puffy, but just use the back of a spoon to press them down. Don’t use your fingers – these are fragile at this stage and you’ll go through it.
  • Spoon the filling mix evenly between the cases and top each one with a whole pecan and a sprinkling of sea salt (optional).
  • Bake for 15-20 mins.
  • Leave to cool for a few minutes before taking them out the tin but I do recommend you take them out whilst still warm, and leave them to cool completely on a rack. When cold the sugary filling will go hard where it has spilled onto the tray and they will be difficult to extract in one piece.
The finished product. Delicious while still warm as a dessert with some cream. Or anytime you fancy!

The finished product. Delicious while still warm as a dessert with some cream. Or anytime you fancy!

I do like these, and I’ll certainly make them again, but they just aren’t at all festive to me. There’s too much sweet and not enough spice, not enough of the smells of the season. So, my baking needs left unsatisfied, I moved on to a classic….

 

SUGAR AND SPICE GINGER BISCUITS: A taste of Winter

I make these every year. They are so unbelievably simple, can be adapted to your tastes and are the essence of festive cooking. They double up as tree decorations if you fancy (although not in our house as dog + tree biscuits would equal disaster!). Also a brilliant way to pass the time with kids, who will particularly love the decorating part! (adapted from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com)

Ingredients: 140g butter, 100 dark muscovado sugar (although a lighter brown sugar would work), 350g plain flour, 3 tbsp golden syrup (or you can use 2 of golden syrup and one of treacle for some extra punch), 1 tsp of bicarb, 1 ball of stem ginger, 2 tsp of ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp of ground all spice.

  • Heat the oven to 180 (fan) and get two baking trays ready with baking paper on them.
  • Put the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan over a low heat and melt together.
  • In a large bowl sieve the flour, bicarb and spices. The spices quantities are a guide – go with what you like!
  • Stir the chopped stem ginger into the melted mixture, allow it to cool a little and then pour into the bowl of dry ingredients.
  • Mix thoroughly until it forms a stiff dough.

Strangely, the trickiest bit is cutting out the shapes! This dough is fragile at this stage. A top tip is to break off a section of dough and roll it out directly onto the baking tray. Using cutters of your choice, cut out biscuits to any shape you fancy and remove the excess from around them. If you are making smaller shapes this mix can make as many as 40 biscuits. I bake 4 trays worth in total.

  • Bake for 10 minutes. When you remove them from the oven they’ll still be soft, so wait a minute for them to cool and harden before you remove them to a cooling rack.
Decorate them however you fancy!

Decorate them however you fancy!

There’s no need to decorate these – they are lovely as they are! However, I decided to decorate these simply with a little fondant icing. Just follow the packet instructions to get a thick but liquid consistency. Pop it in a pipping bag and away you go! I kept it very simple but you can use different colours, glitter, whatever!

The smell around the house while these are baking is divine, and they just look properly festive. So apologies to our American cousins but these win every time!

I hope everyone has a wonderfully festive time over the next few weeks. Bake and be merry my friends!

 

BB x

The Multi-Tasking Cake: Amaretti and Apricot Cake

Sometimes you want a cake to celebrate a special occasion  and sometimes you need a dessert at the end of a celebratory meal – so why not make something that covers all bases? This Amaretti and Apricot cake fulfilled both tasks at a recent family celebration, and the leftovers made an excellent accompaniment to brunch the following morning!

This cake is moist and sweet, and with the addition of some stewed fruit, maybe some cream or even a dollop of vanilla ice cream, is transformed into something heavenly to end a meal with. It also feeds about ten people, so is perfect for a large gathering. Best of all, it is a really easy cake to make!

This recipe is adapted from http://www.bbcgoodfood.co.uk

INGREDIENTS: 200g butter or Stork (I used the latter as this cake needed to be dairy-free), 200g caster sugar, 200g self raising flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 4 large eggs, 1tsp almond essence, 410g can of apricot halves, 120g amaretti biscuits (for anyone else wanting to make this dairy free, check the ingredients of the amaretti biscuits – some include milk powder but good ones shouldn’t).

All the things you need for this pudding/cake - its quite simple really!

All the things you need for this pudding/cake – its quite simple really!

  • Heat the oven to 160 (fan) and butter and line a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin.
  • Cream the butter and sugar and then mix in the flour and baking powder. It will be quite thick at this stage.
  • Add in the eggs one at a time. I suggest breaking them into a smaller bowl first, just to make sure you don’t get a dud one!
  • Add the almond essence and mix it all quite hard – it should be smooth and creamy and a bit fluffy.
  • Take a quarter of the mixture and set it aside.
  • Drain the apricots and chop them up roughly, then add them to the larger portion of cake batter.
  • Bash the amaretti biscuits into chunky pieces. Add 1/4 of the pieces to the apricot batter.
  • Put the apricot batter into the tin and smooth over. Pop it in the oven for 25 minutes.
The first layer of cake ready for the oven

The first layer of cake ready for the oven

  • While the cake is in the oven, add half of the remaining crushed amaretti biscuits to the remaining portion of batter.
  • When the cake has had 25 minutes in the oven, take it out and quickly spread the remainder of the batter over the top. It is easiest to dollop on blobs of the mixture and then work them together. Do this quickly though so that the cake doesn’t sink.
  • Sprinkle the remaining amaretti crumbs on top of the cake and pop back in the oven for another 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
The finished cake/dessert!

The finished cake/dessert!

Your finished cake should be two-tone, with a lighter crust from the late addition of the second batch of batter. The top layer had an almond-y crunch and the bottom layer is full of moist fruit.

This was such a winner I think it is going to become a dinner party staple!

Some alternative ideas could include:

  • For more of a pudding feel, save half the apricots and pop the whole halves on the top with the second batch of batter so that they form little igloos on the top of the cake.
  • Toast some almonds and sprinkle them over the top
  • Sprinkle the top with a mixture of icing sugar and gold glitter for a real wow-factor effect.

I hope you enjoy this little gem of a recipe!

Its nearly Christmas folks, so I’ll try and get in a recipe for the holiday season before the end of the year – if anyone has any requests let me know!

Bake well my friends,

BB x

Celebration Cake Part Three: The Icing on the Cake!

Phew – the posts are coming thick and fast, but I knew I’d be leaving you all on a cliffhanger if I didn’t blog about the final result!

In the last two posts I talked about making my gran’s 80th birthday cake, and making the passion fruit curd to fill it with. In this post, I’ll show you how to (really easily) make the buttercream icing and put it all together. The only ingredients at this stage are for the icing and decoration, and there are only three of them!

INGREDIENTS: 750g icing sugar, 375g soft unsalted butter, 100g white chocolate. (‘Happy Birthday’ candles are optional)

  • Make sure the butter is soft and use a hand mixer to blend it a bit in a big bowl. You might find it easier to do this icing half at a time, as moving this much butter around is tough on the old arms!
  • Once the softened butter is mushed a bit, add the icing sugar a little at a time, using the beaters to mix it into the butter after each addition. Don’t be tempted to put it all in at once, you’ll create an icing sugar cloud, sneeze a lot and make a very big mess.
  • When all the icing sugar is mixed in, beat until completely smooth and soft.
  • That’s it! You can add a splash of vanilla essence, a hit of lemon zest or anything else that takes your fancy, but this is the basic ratio of butter/sugar for buttercream icing.

ICING THE CAKES:

  • Cut each cake horizontally through the middle (its easiest with a serrated knife) and spread a thick layer of the passion fruit curd over the bottom layer of each cake.
  • Then spread a layer of buttercream over the curd. It doesn’t matter if they mix a little bit, it’s going to be covered.
  • Put the top of the cakes back on their bases.
  • The larger cake will be your bottom layer. Its easier to pop it on your serving plate/stand before you start icing the exterior, so do that now. I also placed the bottom cake upside down, so that I had a very flat surface to place the next cake onto. It doesn’t matter if the base is a little wonky as you can hide that with icing, although it shouldn’t be too bad if you flattened the top as suggested in part one.
  • Buttercream the top of the bigger cake and then place the sandwiched smaller cake on top. Try and get it central.
  • Now buttercream the top of the smaller cake, then go round the sides of both cakes, making sure they are completely covered.
  • TIP: If the butter wasn’t quite soft enough and you’re still finding the buttercream a bit hard (this can make it tricky when doing the sides) add a tiny splash of boiling water and beat into the mixture. That will soften it nicely but will allow it to harden again when it cools.
  • Make sure you fill in any gaps between the two cakes, and any gaps at the bottom. A good idea is to use palette knife once the whole cake is covered. Dip it in hot water and then run it along the sides to create smooth edged and a smooth top.

FINAL DECORATIONS:

  • To finish it off, melt the white chocolate in the microwave, or over a pan of simmering water if you prefer. While this is melting, get a sheet of baking paper, and place on a tray.
  • Once the chocolate is melted, pour into a piping bag with a pinpoint round nozzle – the sort you’d use for writing letters.
  • Decide on a shape and then pipe outlines onto the baking paper, followed by some patterns inside the shape to connect all the edges (for stability). I went for tall triangles and filled the insides with zigzags.
  • Pop the tray into the fridge until the chocolate has set. The pieces will then come away from the paper really easily.
  • How you use them is up to you. I used my tall shapes to stand on the lip between the two cake layers, but they’d also look great forming a sort of teepee on top if you didn’t have candles.

Ta Da! The finished article. Photographed in a slight blur as I had to capture a quick snap before we lit the candles.

So there you have it. Quite simple really, but very effective. Other ideas could include using milk chocolate for the decorations as a contrast, different colours of icing for each layer or even ombre icing if you were feeling really adventurous!

If you are looking to feed a crowd this is a great cake. By the time we served it everyone (40 plus people) had eaten a lot of food, so we cut it into small squares, like you’d get at a wedding. It probably would have fed twice as many people and several people went home with a chunk! This can also be iced the day before, covered in clingfilm and left somewhere cool. So if you have a big party to plan, you can get this done ahead.

 

There will now be a short break for the baking bandit. Quite a lot to do in the next few weeks. But its my dad’s birthday at the end of the month and we’re having another party, so I’m sure there will be another cake.

Most importantly – a good wedding cake? I am just looking for something small and white to cut, and some of our friends will hopefully provide a few extra cakes so that we can feed everyone.

Sweetness and that fuzzy ‘too much sugar on my teeth’ feeling to you all,

BB x

Celebration Cake Part 2: The (Passion Fruit) Filling

Hello all and happy Monday!

Well the party was a great success, the birthday cake applauded and everyone had a wonderful time. I have to pay special homage to my cousin’s wonderful chocolate cheesecake, which was my personal favourite of the dessert table! Now that I’m back home, back to work (boo!) I thought I’d update the blog with two posts to complete this celebration cake bonanza.

Once the cakes from part 1 are ready to go, you need a filling. Now previous posts about the joys of lemon curd hint at my favoured cake filling, but I wanted something that was a little more exotic for a special occasion. Passion fruit always make me think of my grandparents. My granddad is South African, my grandparents lived there for a bit in the 1950s and the flavours of the southern hemisphere were always present in their house – or at least in their fruitbowl! So what better way to fill my grandma’s birthday cake.

Passion fruit curd adds an exotic zing of sweet and sharp and works well with the lemons in the cake and the sweetness of the icing. This recipe is adapted from the ever trusty and reliable bbc goodfood.

INGREDIENTS: 9 ripe passion fruit, 3 large eggs, 140g butter, 200-250g caster sugar, 2 1/2 tablespoons cornflour, a few squirts of lemon juice to taste.

TIP: The passion fruits must be ripe to get the right sweet/sour balance, so you might want to buy them about a week before you plan to use them. The wrinklier the better – a smooth skin is an under-done fruit!

The ingredients (minus a lemon which I added as a later addition!)

  •  Cut the passion fruits in half and scrape all the seeds and pulp into a food processor. Pulse it a few times, which will separate the pulp from the pips. Then pour the mixture through a sieve into a saucepan set over a low heat. Use the back of a spoon to push as much of the pulp through the sieve as possible.
  • PIPS OR NO PIPS? Now, at this point, most recipes I came across suggested reserving a few spoons of pips to put back in at the end. I’m not a fan of this personally, but you can do if you fancy. Pip look nice in a jar of homemade curd given as a present, but they are a tasteless and crunchy annoyance that is most likely going to get stuck in your teeth. As this curd was going into a cake (where you most certainly don’t want a crunch annoyance) I didn’t bother.

Passion fruit: A burst of colour inside and out!

  • Add the butter, cornflour, eggs and sugar to the pan and continue to stir over a low heat until everything is fully dissolved/melted.
  • TIP: The reason I’ve given a range on the quantity of sugar is because it’s all about taste. If your fruits are still a bit too sharp you’ll need more sugar, if they are very sweet, you’ll need less. If you are unsure use about 225g and then use the lemon juice to adjust the taste.
  • When everything is dissolved and you have a smooth mixture you need to keep on mixing. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to get it all thickening quicker. All you will make that way is scrambled egg. Keep mixing, remembering to scrape along the edges of the pan, and after up to 10 minutes (maybe more!) your mixture will thicken nicely.
  • TIP: If you are making this curd to spread on toast, or stir into porridge, you might want a runnier consistency than I needed for filling a cake, so use 1/2 tablespoon less of cornflour.
  • While it is thickening taste it. If you think it’s too sweet, use some lemon juice (a dribble at a time) to balance it out. If it’s too sharp use a little more sugar but make sure it dissolves. Don’t be tempted to squeeze in a whole lemon straight away – it’s a strong flavour which will take away the passion fruit taste.
  • When its a good thick curdy consistency, take it off the heat. Unless you are going to use it immediately, when it has cooled decant into jars (remember to sterilise them!) and it will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.

Top Tip: When you are leaving the curd to cool, place clingfilm over the surface to avoid a ‘skin’ forming.

And there you have it! An exotic but homely passion fruit curd all ready to be spread in a cake, or eat on toast, in yoghurt… the possibilities are endless!

Happy stirring!

BB x

Celebration Cake Part One: The Cake

My lovely old gran (oooh she’d hate that description) is turning 80 this weekend. We’re having a big old shin-dig in her honour, which wouldn’t be a proper party without a whole heap of food. My cousins and I have been tasked with providing dessert, and I’ll be making the birthday cake. This is a bit of an epic cake build (yes, I used the word build) so I’ll be posting it in three parts, all of which are useful separately for different things. This first part is about the actual cake.

After much debate, I decided on a Madeira cake. I wanted something with a spongey texture and a certain lightness, but I also needed something that could be made ahead, and sponge cakes don’t last well. So whilst Madeira cake isn’t quite as light, its ability to last a week or so in the fridge made the decision. Madeira cake is denser than sponge, so it also cuts better, which is especially good when you want a cake to slice into lots of small pieces without crumbling.

I decided to make both cakes needed at the same time, but I don’t recommend this unless you have very strong arms or a stand alone mixer! Its a lot of mix for one bowl.

Thats a lot of eggs! Don’t be alarmed, it makes two big cakes.

20cm Cake Ingredients: 250g butter, 250g caster sugar, 5 eggs, 185g plain flour, 60g self raising flour, 1 tbsp milk, zest of a lemon

23cm Cake Ingredients: 310g butter, 310g caster sugar, 6 eggs, 230g plain flour, 75g self raising flour, 2 tbsp milk, zest of 2 lemons.

Luscious Lemons!

  • Heat the oven to 150 degrees
  • Make sure the butter is a room temperature and beat together with the sugar.
  • Beat the eggs into the mix one at a time. I find it better to break them into a bowl first (as in the picture above) so that you don’t end up putting a bad egg in your mix.
  • Once all the eggs are in, sift in the flour and stir, but don’t beat out all the air that you’ve just put in.
  • Stir in the milk and lemon zest.
  • Prepare the tin: You need to line the sides and the base as its a relatively long bake and you don’t want it to burn or get too dark.
  • When the oven is at the right temperature, pop the bigger one in for 1 hour and 30, and then check but it will probably need about another ten minutes. The smaller cake will take about 10-15 minutes less, but again just keep an eye on them. Make sure they are cooked through, but don’t let them get too dark.
  • Once they are cooked, pop on a cooling rack, but leave in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out.

Ready to come out of the tins.

When the cakes are completely cool, you might need to give them a bit of a haircut. Mine came out having risen rather violently, and if you want to stack them, they will need flat tops.

Don’t worry if it looks a bit dramatic once you’ve trimmed it, because you’ll cover it with icing. If you don’t intend to ice it, there’s no need to chop its head off!

Off with their heads! The cake tops are off, all ready for lemon syrup.

The final stage of cake preparation is to pour a lemon syrup over the cakes. For this, mix lemon juice and sugar to taste (I like it very lemony but some prefer it sweet) and put over a low heat until the sugar is disolved.

Use a skewer and poke holes all over the cakes but don’t do too many or your cake will fall apart! sprinkle the mixture over the cakes but don’t overdo it, as you don’t want to oversaturate the cake. You want to try and do this while the cake is still warm, as the mixture will soak in better.

When the cake has cooled, wrap in cling film and then in foil. The cakes will last about ten days in the fridge.

In the next post, I’ll blog about the passion fruit curd filling…. yummy!

Bake well my friends

BB x

 

 

Sweet and Spice: Ginger Flapjacks with Salted Fudgey Icing

A few weeks ago a friend of mine called me up and asked if I fancied going to the Gallery of Modern Art here in Edinburgh. Now, anyone who knows me knows that this is code for ‘let’s go eat some cake!’. The National Galleries of Scotland do a mean scone, but on this occasion I had a ginger flapjack. It was immense (both in size and taste) and I decided that this was something worth recreating. However, the original was a bit hard, so I was after a slightly less chewy, possibly a bit more nutty, flapjack base, and a topping with a bit more of a kick to combat the sweetness of the golden syrup. Then last week a found a recipe for something that looked vaguely similar, and decided to recreate that amazing gingery-sticky-gooey moment of goodness. This is adapted from a GoodFood recipe.

The flapjack base: all the basic ingredients of a traditional flapjack, including enough butter to block all your arteries.

INGREDIENTS: 350g butter (sadly that is not a typo – quite literally not for the faint hearted), 200g light muscavado sugar, 5tbsp golden syrup, 250g rolled oats (porridge oats are fine), 140g plain flour, 50g pecans chopped into small pieces, 50g desiccated coconut, 1tsp of ground ginger.

  • Turn on the oven, set it to 180 (fan) and grease and line a tin. I used one that is about 25cm squared and the flapjacks are quite deep, so you could easily use a bigger tin and make smaller pieces.
  • The great thing about flapjacks is that they are the baking equivalent of one pot cooking! So start by putting the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan over a gentle heat. Don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to speed the process – you’ll just get a burnt mess.
  • Once the butter is melted give it another minute so that the sugar is totally dissolved, then add in the flour. At this point I make sure hob is on the lowest setting – you want the flour to mix in and cook a bit but you don’t want anything to burn or stick. Give it a couple of really big stirs.
  •  Mix in all the other ingredients. Turn off the heat and stir until everything is really thoroughly combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Its quite runny for a flapjack mix but don’t worry – it’ll all sort itself out!
  • Pop into the oven for 35 mins. It’ll still be really wobbly when you take it out, but as it cools will set hard. Leave it in the tin.

You don’t need to wait for it to cool to ice it, so once you’ve removed the tin from the oven get going on the icing.

Fudgy-gingery-salty icing – yum!

INGREDIENTS FOR ICING: 175g butter (basically two packs of butter for the whole recipe), 200g icing sugar, 4tbsp golden syrup, ginger to taste (I used 4 heaped teaspoons but I like it quite strong), maldon salt flakes and whole pecans to decorate.

  • Put the icing sugar, butter, golden syrup and ginger in a pan and slowly melt over a low heat. If you aren’t sure how gingery you want it to be, put 3tsp of ginger in, stir it through and then taste before deciding whether or not to add more. 4tsp makes for quite a gingery kick.
  • Pour the icing over the flapjack (still in the tin) and let it all cool down together.
  • While it is still warm sprinkle over the salt flakes. Don’t overdo it but you want enough to balance out the sweetness of the icing.
  • Work out how many squares you are able to cut it into, and pop a pecan in the middle of each one. This is really sweet, so I suggest small portions. The pecans look pretty and make it easier to cut as they offer up a guide! I made 16 squares.

All iced and ready to cut into portions. The pecans are a good cutting guide for even sized pieces!

Once you have cut up your portions you can pop them in the fridge to harden up the icing, but make sure you take them out at least 15 mins before you want to eat them so that they aren’t as hard as rocks! You can also keep them in an airtight container out of the fridge and they will last quite happily for about 3-4 days.

All ready for eating! The icing will be thicker on the middle pieces as the centre of the flapjack will sink a bit as it cools. These pretty pieces will look the best presentation wise so its worth putting them at the top of the pile!

In the end, I think these were actually better than the ones in the gallery cafe as they were slightly less chewy and had a better depth of flavour. Anyone else like a bit of spice or salt with their sweet?

Happy baking my fellow bandits,

BB x

That Autumnal Feeling: Pear, Chocolate and Nut Cake

Good evening lovely readers!

Today has made me feel really ready for autumn – a long wet dog walk followed by some steaming tomato soup to warm up! This was followed by an afternoon of clearing out the baking cupboard, which turned up an abundance of nuts that needing using up. So using a recipe from the BBC GoodFood magazine, and adapting it to what was in the kitchen cupboards, here’s a nice seasonal cake that packs a punch of autumn-y flavours.

I have two things to apologise for. Firstly, although this cake is lovely and moist and will keep for a few days because of all the nuts, it does have rather a lot of ingredients though so you will need to be prepared! Secondly, I discovered Instagram this week (behind the times I know!) so the blog is getting even more retro!

Here’s what you need…..

All the things you’ll need for a nice pear cake

INGREDIENTS: 250g melted butter, 250g caster sugar, 100g self raising flour, 50g plain flour, 100g ground almonds, 1tsp baking powder, 2tsp mixed spice, 1tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 200g mixed chop nuts (I used 50g each of walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios all whizzed up in the food processor), 100g chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips, 3 large eggs, 1tsp almond extract, a tin of pears, butterscotch chips (optional).

  • Heat the oven to 160 (fan oven) and butter and line a 23cm loose based cake tin (this is really important because this is a slow bake and will burn at the edges without lining the tin).
  • Mix the sugar, flours, ground almonds, baking powder and spices in a bowl, then add in most of the nuts (leave a few tablespoons aside for topping the cake later) and the chopped chocolate.
  • In another bowl, whisk the eggs, almond extract and melted butter until it thickens and foams.

 

Wet and dry ingredients in two bowls – ready for some mixing!

  • Tip the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together. At this point I got a bit excited about all the things that could go into this cake and threw in a handful of butterscotch chips, but these are an added extra only and not vital.
  • Chop the pears into chunks and fold through the cake mixture. You can use fresh pears if you want, but the ones in the tin are very soft and add a good moist texture to the cake. So if you are going to use fresh pears, make sure they are really ripe.

Ready to bake!

  • Pop the mixture into a tin and bake for 45 minutes. Then cover the tin with tinfoil and bake for another 30 minutes.
  • Take out the oven, leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin and then turn out onto a rack.

It should look golden but not too coloured….

Lovely and golden – cooled and ready for icing!

Once its cooled, you’re ready for icing.

INGREDIENTS: You’ll need 200g chocolate (I used 150g milk and 50g dark), a 300ml pot of sour cream and the leftover nuts.

  • Melt the chocolate slowly – I did it in bursts in the microwave but you can do it in a bowl over a pan of water if you prefer.
  • Mix the sour cream into the chocolate and beat until smooth.
  • Then pop the bowl of icing into the fridge until it thickens up enough to spread without flying everywhere. I was too impatient so my icing was a little runny. You could even leave it in the fridge overnight and spread it the next day.
  • Once iced, just sprinkle with the remaining nuts, et voila!

The finished product! Rich and full of flavour.

As well as being a great teatime treat, this would make a great dessert. In fact, that’s what we had for pudding this evening – still warm with runny icing and a blob of natural yoghurt….

A slice of cake heaven…

So rather than being sad at the passing of summer (did it even make an appearance?!), let us celebrate the start of autumn!

Happy baking my friends,

BB x

Pedal Power!!: Flapjacks on the Move

Good evening my fellow bakers! Autumn has more definitely arrived here in Edinburgh, although we’ve been lucky enough to have some glorious autumn sun the last few days – long may it last! At least autumn heralds the return of comfort food – and baking!

While I’ve pottered about the house the last two days, Mr. Bandit has been pedalling around the north of England. Before he went on his merry way, I made some flapjacks for all the boys taking part, to keep them going as they cycled along. These are utterly delicious sweet treats for any time, but have the added bonus of the slow-release energy of the oats, dried fruit and nuts, and are quite robust – a good thing in a cycling jacket pocket! This recipe has been modified from the BBC Goodfood website:

You will need: 140g unsalted butter, 120g soft brown sugar, 3tbsp of golden syrup (or honey if you prefer), 175g porridge oats, 75g pistachios (shelled and unsalted), 140g dried apricots chopped into little pieces, packet of white chocolate drops (from the baking section of the supermarket – you can use buttons or half a bar of white chocolate if that’s easier).

  • Start by melting the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan. Keep the heat low and make sure that the sugar is totally disolved. Don’t let it start bubbling or you’ll end up with a very sticky pan!
  • While that’s going on, chop up the nuts and mix with all the other ingredients in a heatproof bowl. It looks lovely even like this!

Doesn’t it look healthy and pretty?! This is before all the butter and sugar….

  • Once the mixture in the pan is completely melted, let is cool a little, then pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients. It’ll be very stiff, but make sure it’s all mixed in properly.
  • Then spoon into a lined 20x20cm tin, and flatten with the back of a spoon. Pop in the oven at 140/160 degrees for 35 minutes.
  • When you take it out the oven it will be runny, so don’t try and take it out the tin. Leave it to cool completely, then remove from the tin and cut into pieces. I went for nine good-sized portions.

Make sure its cold before removing from the tin, or you’ll have a very sloppy mess! It hardens quite quickly. Line the tin well so that you’re not scrubbing burnt sugar off your pans – who wants to be doing that?!

These are quite sweet, and would be just as nice without the white chocolate if you prefer something less tooth-decay inducing! If you leave out the chocolate, up the sugar a little bit to 140g.

I also made some bourbon biscuits (so much better than shop bought!) which would be equally good for an energy boosting snack on the move. Don’t they look scrummy?

Chocolate buttercream filled bourbon biscuits. Delicious!

My next baking experiment will be a biggy – its my grandma’s 80th birthday and I’m making the birthday cake! I feel I better do a test run, so I’m going to use it as an excuse to make a scaled-down version of the lemon wedding cake I want to use. Two birds…one stone… you get the idea! So cross your spoons and wish me luck!

BB x

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