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!
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!
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).
- 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.
- 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.
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,
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.
- 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.
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,
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.
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.
- 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.
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!
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
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…..
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.
- 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.
- 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….
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!
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….
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,
The proof of the pudding (or cake) is in the eating. That said, sometimes its good to get the other senses involved. Its been a right old miserable weekend and when its wet and cold, its nice to fill the house with the nice warming smell of baking, followed by the all important eating!
So today I made a ginger cake. I’ve made it before, its an excellent cake, which I previously made without icing. But I also have a recipe for ginger cupcakes with fudge icing so I thought I’d try a bit of a recipe combo and see what happened. The verdict? Well, according to my chief taster (Mr. Bandit) it was ‘mmmmmmmm nomnomnommmmm’. I think that’s a thumbs up. Personally, I think its rather nice without any icing too, and its so moist and sticky that it doesn’t need any icing. But then again, when is icing really a necessity? Either way its very yummy!
The best thing about this cake (other than the taste) is the amazing smell as its cooking; a heady mix of ginger, golden syrup and cinnamon. Eat it still warm and a little squidgy and it’s a delight for the fingers and the taste buds. And before I get all Nigella on you, I’ll pass on the recipe…..
The most critical part of this cake is the tin preparation. The cake is sticky and fragile, so make sure you grease and line the tin (base and sides). I ran out of baking paper and only lined the base so my cake sides didn’t come out as smooth as I would have liked. If you’re icing it, its not such a big deal but if you want to serve it plain, its worth making the effort to keep it looking nice.
- heat the oven to 150c (fan oven). Grease and line your tin/s – I make two 20cm cakes and freeze one but you can make one bigger cake (26cm) and just adjust the cooking time.
- Then melt a 250g block of margarine, 50g of butter and 400g of golden syrup in a pan on a low heat. You don’t want it to cook, just melt all together. TOP TIP: Brush some oil round the bowl and spoon you use for measuring the golden syrup. The syrup will then run off the spoon/out the bowl easily without the mad sticky mess that usually comes with golden syrup. Also, you can make this entirely with margarine, in fact the original recipe I used didn’t include any butter, but I like it. Don’t try and use all butter though, it’ll be far too rich. Don’t worry, the cake doesn’t come out tasting margarine-y.
- Use a food mixer and throw into it/a bowl 130g plain flour, 225g self raising flour, 110g of light brown sugar (caster sugar would work fine and dark muscavado sugar would make it a darker and richer cake) a pinch of salt and a big teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger. Give it all a mix!
- Beat an egg and then throw that into the mix and give it another whizz round in the mixer.
- With the mixer running, poor in the melted marg/butter/syrup mixture and keep whizzing!
- Poor 175ml of warm water over 1 and a half teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda and then poor that into the mixer as well.
- When everything is thoroughly mixed poor it into the tin/tins. Don’t worry about the consistency – its a very runny mix!
While its cooking it looks a bit like an aero as the light mixture cooks in all those lovely air bubbles. This is after about 20 minutes. The smell is amazing.
- If you’re cooking two 20cm cakes cook them at 150c for 50 minutes and then poke them with a skewer. If the skewer comes out clean, they’re done! Otherwise give it another 5-10 minutes and then check again. The very centre of the cake will still look a bit undercooked and will be very springy, but it hardens as it cools. If you’re cooking one big cake, give it an hour and then check. The cake goes a very dark brown and the top will be very sticky.
- When they’re done, leave in the tin/s on a rack for 10 mins. I would suggest that, unless you’re going to freeze the cake, keep it/them on the base of the tin. Its a fragile cake and getting it off the base is tricky. I suggest getting a small upturned bowl on the worktop, place the cake tin on top and then push the sides of the tin down, rather than trying to push the cake up. If you don’t fancy icing the cake, its rather nice still a bit warm, maybe with some ice-cream. Otherwise, leave it to cool ready for icing.
- If you are very greedy (and I am very greedy so I can attest to the fact that there is nothing wrong with that!) then here’s a recipe for a fudge icing. This is very sweet, so I haven’t made too much. The following ingredients are for icing one 20cm cake. Just double it for a bigger cake.
- Melt 25g butter and 50g light brown sugar in a pan. Unlike with the cake, you do want this to boil. When its boiling add 2 generous tablespoons of single cream and turn it down to a simmer. Give it the occasional stir but let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and beat in 100g of sifted icing sugar until smooth.
- Now, the important thing about this icing is speed. As soon as its make you need to get it on the cake. It starts setting the minute it leaves the warm pan. I suggest taking a big spoon and spreading it a dollop at a time round the cake, rather than pouring it all on the cake at once, because you’ll just get an icing mountain in the middle of the cake.
- Before it goes completely hard you can sprinkle on some chopped nuts (I used walnuts – I’m still trying to get shot of my passover stash of nuts) or chopped up stem ginger to cut the sweetness of the icing and add another gingery hit.
This recipe is based on one I found in Good Food magazine, which apparently is a wartime cake – hence the use of margarine rather than butter.
Finally, eat, smell, enjoy.
Happy sunday baking one and all.