Tag Archives: cakes

Cranberry and Orange marscapone sponge cake

Welcome to my Christmas blogging spree. As you’ll have seen from previous posts, I kinda went a little political but I’m back on the food stuff now and frankly, that’s much nicer than being a little bit sad and miserable about the state of the world.

So I had a birthday last month. As you may remember, last year was a big ole birthday, so this year, I decided to keep it low key and went to see a play about the troubles in Sri Lanka at the Arcola. Slight change of pace but lovely fun day. I also indulged in a cronut from the newish Dominique Ansel London. Man, I’m glad that place isn’t too close to home, I could eat one of those every day.

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As part of it not being a big milestone birthday, I didn’t want a normal gift – I’m good at buying myself things and we’ve been complaining for years about how we hate our kitchen/dining room but haven’t been able to afford to do the big works (knocking a wall through). So this year, I told the wino I wanted a nice dining room for my birthday, so we spent a week ripping out cupboards, painting, putting up shelves etc etc. And it’s so very nearly there. I love it very much. But I’ll save that for a future post, when we’ve finished both rooms.

I hosted my inaugural proper Sunday lunch in the dining room last Sunday. We’d had a cheese and wine and drunken dancing party a few weeks before but what happens on a drunken night stays on a drunken night. So I’m just going to talk about the amazing cake I made for the Sunday lunch (in my new fancy cooker).

I love a Victoria sponge but I don’t love double cream that much. Also not a huge fan of butter icing. I may be a little late to the party on this, but I’ve recently discovered the joy of throwing all the icing sugar at a tub of marscapone and adding some orange zest and juice to it and using that as a quick and dirty icing. It’s delicious and simple.

And because it’s Christmas, I’d bought a bag of fresh cranberries and was thinking about making cranberry sauce for gifting (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the kitchen clearout unearthed several hundred glass jars – hence the gifting).

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See? Crazy lady jar collection.

But then I had a brainwave. Why not make a cranberry cake? And then I had a second brainwave – why not make a cranberry jam to use in the aforementioned Victoria Sponge cake? So I did. And paired it with an orange marscapone.

My recipe for a sponge cake is well old fashioned but basically, weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. And a pinch of salt. I’m a creamer (of butter and sugar) and then an adder but do what you feel best. I’ve just never been able to make the all in one method work for me.

The marscapone is done to taste (god, this is a rubbish recipe, huh?!) But basically, a tub of marscapone, the zest and juice of one orange and a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar – to taste. Mix it all up. Job done.

Now, here’s the cranberry jam recipe. I did it in American units, because I couldn’t be bothered to weight out the ingredients. Is that bad? It might be a bit. Oh well.

Cranberry, mint and ginger jam

  • 300g fresh cranberries – washed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated finely
  • One stick cinnamon

Put the water, sugar and mint leaves into a saucepan and bring to the boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to one side for 10 minutes, to let the mint seep in.

Remove the mint leaves and add the cranberries, ginger and cinnamon. Bring back to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring regularly. I’m sure there’s clever things you can do with checking temperatures and things – I didn’t. Cranberries thicken up as they cool so once you’re happy that the majority of the cranberries have popped, give it a quick stir. You want it thick but not jellified. Transfer to a clean bowl and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the marscapone as above, slice your cake in half and once the jam is cold, spread a layer of marscapone, followed by a few dollops of jam. Then repeat on the next layer (if you have two layers) or on the top (if you only have one middle cut.

Put some mint leaves on top if you’re that way inclined. Slice and enjoy.

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You can see a bit of my new dining room in the background. How awesome is that colour? 

 

Spiced Plum Cake

Autumn is without a doubt my favourite season. I love the colours of nature and I love the clothes and the fact that I can buy new boots (check out my Instagram to see my latest purchases if you’re into that sort of thing!) and most of all, I love the fact that it’s actually pleasant to be in the kitchen without worrying that the combined heat of summer + oven + hob is going to make you keel over. And I also love autumn produce – stoned fruits like plums and greengages are perfect at the end of summer, apples are coming in to season, there’s rhubarb a plenty and it’s generally a great time to get creative with baking.

Which brings me perfectly on to today’s recipe – a spiced plum cake. Now when most Brits hear plum cake, we think of some sort of heavy festive dessert but this is not that. I’m talking about a cake with a fresh fruit base. I reckon you could swap out the fruit for anything that’s in season – peaches or apples for example, but don’t think berries would work as the batter is quite wet and the cooking time is relatively long so you may end up with a mushy base and no one wants a mushy base. You’ll see in this that there’s a row of greengages in the middle – I didn’t have quite enough plums to fill the base so added these in, but actually like the colour difference and the additional tartness this added to the overall cake. However, you can just use plums on their own. 


Spiced Plum Cake

For the base:

  • 500g plums, halved and stoned
  • 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  • Butter

For the cake:

  • 175g butter
  • 175g dark muscovado sugar
  • 140g golden syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 7g powdered ginger
  • 5g cinnamon
  • 5 g all spice
  • Pinch of salt

Grease and line a 9″ square baking tin and preheat the oven to 140C or gas mark 4. Spread a good layer of butter onto the greaseproof paper and sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top of that and then place the plums on it so they look nice (this will be the top of your cake). Leave to one side.

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Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a pan and melt together over a low heat, stirring continuously. This should only take a couple of minutes. Leave to cool to one side for about 15 minutes – you don’t want the eggs to cook when they’re added in. In the meantime, weigh out the dry ingredients and beat together the eggs and milk.

Once the butter mix has cooled, pour in the milk and eggs, stirring till it’s all incorporated. Then sift in the flour with the other dry ingredients and fold together till it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter over the plums and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean. Note, the base will be a little caramelly because of the butter and sugar and plums, so don’t worry if the tip of the skewer looks a little bit undercooked – it won’t be.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10-15 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Put something under the wire rack, you may lose a little caramel topping on to your work surface and it’s a bitch to clean off.

We had it with custard (shop bought, sorry) but would be equally lovely with creme fraiche or something else creamy.

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Festive sweet treats round up

As much as I love the festive season, I do sigh with relief come January at the fact that I no longer have to make sure my fridge is stocked with just enough goodies to pull together a last minute treat for random drop ins. And let’s be honest, how often do you have random drop ins over the festive period? Modern life (and middle age) has made us all planners, dates are booked in months in advance and if you’re anything like me, you’ll have planned a menu weeks ahead of “impromptu” visits.

So yeah, it’s just an excuse to buy gigantic tubs of Quality Street or Celebrations. And cheese. A shit load (official collective noun) of cheese.

Last Christmas we hosted mine and the husband’s immediate families at our house. It was brilliant to host them all for the first time in our new home and we properly felt like grown ups. Given our 1970s monstrosity of a kitchen + the utterly awful oven, I decided against a traditional roast and instead went with a Moroccan spiced, slow roast lamb with bejewelled cous cous and a seasonal (read: root) vegetable tagine. And then I did a dessert table of random bits for people to choose from – chocolate brownies, meringues, raspberry coulis, hokey pokey. None of the desserts came out as well as I wanted it to, but looked pretty. Maybe a case of too much showing off?

This year, we decided to allow our families to feed us (generous to a fault, that’s us), which meant that we had three Christmases with my husband’s lot, and Christmas day with my sister.

However, we did entertain a few times over the break (with one meal mostly being a repeat of Christmas 2013) and I did make a lot of desserts to gift and help out the hostesses. Of course, I forgot to take pics, because I’m a fool and I’d eaten so much chocolate by Christmas day that I’m pretty sure my brain was 83% cocoa.

So here are some of my festive sweet treat highlights:

Cranberry spiced bundt cake

This was made in order to use up leftover fresh cranberries and show off a bit with a bundt cake taken to a party. However, I didn’t grease the pan properly so rather than being a ‘wow’ cake, I had to slice up the bit I managed to salvage (that wasn’t stuck in the tin as you can see from the photo below). I’ll do this again before cranberries are taken off shelves and share the recipe, totally worth it and probably easy enough to repeat with whatever fruit you have in the house (in berry form).

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Lemon Meringue Pie.

Liked this so much, I made it twice. In a week. The recipe is Dan Lepard’s from the Guardian and in my opinion, pretty much fool proof. It’s always been one of my favourite puddings and I reckon I’ll make this a few more times before 2015 is out.

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I used the same pie base for a chocolate mousse cake after being inspired by the chocolate tart at Newman Street Tavern. Man, that was amazing. I have no pictures for my version though, but I’d say that the NST chocolate tart is one of the best I’ve ever had. As was the pork crackling. In fact, if you’re in London, it’s a great place for a Sunday lunch.

On new year’s day, wanting to clear some space in my fridge, I made my first ever attempt at a berry clafoutis. Again to use up fruit that was about to go off. Whilst it was delicious hot out of the oven, I think my fruit to batter ratio was off, so a little bit bitterer than I would have liked (I blame the cranberries entirely). Custard sorted that right out though. However, it was even better when sliced and then pan fried in butter and brown sugar for brunch the next day. It’s basically pancakes and fruit, right?

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Finally, an amazing recipe from the lovely Edd Kimber (aka theboywhobakes) for salted caramel truffles that I gifted at a family new year party. So. Good. I’m surprised I managed to make any, the truffle mix is delicious and I definitely didn’t eat 14 spoonfuls out of the bowl before it had cooled. No sir. That’d be totally gluttonous, right?

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Thanks for a lovely time Christmas 2014, see you again next year.