Thursday, 29 March 2012

Ginger Cream Roll

Recipe Number One Hundred & Seventy Seven:  Page 91.

This recipe is within the Spiced Cake section of the Baking Bible. My first thought was that it must be some sort of Swiss roll or roulade. I was surprised to discover that it is in fact a no cook pudding. The recipe didn't sound very exciting as only three ingredients are needed; simply ginger biscuits, cream and brandy. However, Mary promises that it is an easy but impressive dessert. This of course sparked my interest, and I was keen to put her promise to the test – I couldn't wait to see how it would turn out!

We were blessed with another gloriously sunny day. I'm not sure how much longer this unseasonably warm weather will last but I'm certainly enjoying it whilst it's here! As usual, in the morning, I took my little boy to the park. We really are creatures of habit! We had a great time; the only thing missing was an ice cream van. It was so hot that I could have done with an ice lolly! On our way home we stopped off at the shop. As we entered, Isaac decided to belt out Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star at the top of his voice. The shop assistant told him what a lovely voice he had. This set him off on another chorus – he certainly isn't a shy child!

I wasn't surprised to find that the shop does not sell whipping cream. I quickly grabbed the last tub of double cream and hoped it would do. Up the next aisle I quickly located the ginger biscuits. Luckily I didn't need to buy any brandy as I still had half a bottle left over from Christmas. This was proving to be a pretty cheap recipe! What a shame I couldn't resist adding a lot of unnecessary extras to my basket! Finally we paid for the shopping. Isaac said his usual cheery goodbyes and we headed for home.

There was little point in making the ginger cream roll in the afternoon as Mary says it should be assembled the night before. I waited until we had wolfed down our evening meal and then I made a start. First of all I measured out half of the total amount of cream. This recipe isn't for those of us watching our weight! So as not to wake Isaac, I decided to whisk the cream with a balloon whisk. Within about thirty seconds my poor weak arm was burning in agony. Neil took pity on me and took over. He lasted longer than I did, but his face turned a dangerous shade of red! Eventually, between us, we had whipped the double cream into stiff peaks. Next it was time to measure four tablespoons of brandy into a bowl. Wow! The fumes were so strong that they made my eyes sting!

I retrieved a large plate from the cupboard to assemble my ginger roll. I dipped one side of the ginger biscuits into the brandy, spread on a generous helping of double cream and sandwiched with another dipped biscuit. I mistakenly built up the roll as a tower, rather than assembling it 'lying down'. Soon I had a leaning tower of biscuits, so I had to change tactics. The next move was to transfer to a serving plate. I think it might have perhaps been a wiser choice to assemble directly on the serving plate. I had a panic as I couldn't see how I could move the long log of cream and biscuits over to the serving plate. Neil came to my rescue again. Anything to keep me quiet!! Between us we successfully managed to make the transfer, but we both ended up smothered. This turned out to be a happy occurrence as we discovered that brandy and cream combined is seriously delicious!

I would have to wait till morning to finish off my ginger cream roll. I covered the biscuity roll and placed it in the fridge overnight. Apparently the next day all the brandy would have been absorbed into the ginger biscuits.

The following morning I opened the fridge door to collect my biscuity roll. I was immediately hit by a strong waft of brandy. Once I had released the potent odour our kitchen smelled like a distillery! I was feeling light headed before I had even had my breakfast! After taking my alcoholic treat from the fridge I went back to collect the remainder of the double cream. This time I used the electric whisk. It took ages to thicken, almost as long as doing it by hand. Maybe the hot weather didn't help. It wasn't easy to spread the cream neatly all over the top, sides and ends of the roll. Inevitably a lot ended up smeared across the serving plate and also on my hands. I kept back enough of the cream to pipe rosettes along the length of the roll. I felt a little peeved at having to faff about with a piping bag for such a small amount, but I had to admit that it made all the difference. It made the roll look much tidier and gave it a professional finish. The last touch was to sprinkle some finely chopped stem ginger over the top of piped cream.

Neil commented that it looked and sounded like a 1970's dessert. I have to agree that it did seem perhaps a little dated! Mary tells us to slice the coffee roll at a diagonal. I wondered why at first but it shows off the layers of biscuits beautifully, it looked great! Once the all important photo was taken I grabbed a fork and dug in. The first thing I thought was BRANDY!! My goodness it was strong! Brandy and ginger together make a powerful combination; it 'stung' my mouth!!! Thank goodness for the cream as it really helped put out the flames. I am not keen on liqueur chocolates so I wonder if it is just my personal taste that I found it so strong. Neil didn't think the taste of brandy was overwhelming. He really enjoyed it. However, I don't think I'll be giving any to Isaac!
Such an easy dessert

Monday, 26 March 2012

Strawberry Dessert Cake

Recipe Number One Hundred & Seventy Six:  Page 76

I love strawberries and I love cake, so I felt sure that this recipe would be a real winner. We've been lucky with the weather over the last few days. The sun has shone and it's been warm enough for me to abandon my coat! This strawberry dessert cake seemed perfect for a gorgeous spring day.

Before the cake making commenced we enjoyed a lovely walk around the village. It was so nice to see the spring flowers in bloom and to catch a whiff of freshly cut grass. On our way home we popped into the shop to buy some strawberries. I was relieved to see that they had numerous punnets available; unfortunately they weren't of the best quality. Hey ho, beggars can't be choosers! Isaac proudly carried the strawberries all the way home. Of course he couldn't resist giving them a hearty poke!!!

When I came to making the dessert cake several hours later, my first task was to choose either a deep fluted flan tin or a plain round cake tin. After a lot of deliberating I finally settled on the flan tin as I haven't used one for a while. Also, it would make the cake a little more interesting. It took a while to grease each curve of the tin; I very much hoped the cake wouldn't stick!

The method for this recipe was rather different to what I have become accustomed to. First of all I measured flour, baking powder and sugar into a mixing bowl. That isn't anything out of the ordinary. It was the next set of instructions that stopped me in my tracks. I had to beat the eggs and vanilla extract together in a separate bowl and also melt some butter in a saucepan. I'm so used to following Mary's all in one method that I hadn't noticed until the last minute that the butter should be melted. I really needed to stop daydreaming and pay attention!! I poured the whisked eggs and melted butter into the bowl to join the dry ingredients. Next I simply stirred it all together. I have to say it was lovely not to have to dig out my electric whisk! The mixture combined beautifully and in moments it was silky smooth. I thought it resembled choux pastry more than it did a cake mixture. It was very thick and had a buttery sheen.

Half of the cakey paste went into the base of my flan tin. As I arranged all of the sliced strawberries over the top I realised why the mixture was perhaps so thick. It needed to be able to hold the weight of all the strawberries. I spread the rest of the mixture over the top and tried to cover any holes as best I could. I wasn't sure why I was to sprinkle flaked almonds over the top. It gives the misguided illusion that the cake will have an almond flavour! However, I was very pleased with the look of the cake; it did look pretty. I placed the tin in the oven. There it would remain for an hour and a half. After about twenty minutes I took a peek through the oven door and saw that the cake had risen at least an inch above the tin; it looked magnificent! After an hour I noticed that the cake was burning along one side, so I risked opening the door to turn the tin. This must have been a mistake as the cake ended up sinking down and spilling over the sides. It didn't look anywhere near as good as it once had. I felt so disappointed!

After the full hour and a half cooking time I took the deflated cake from the oven and left it to cool for the suggested fifteen minutes. When I came to removing the cake from the tin I very much wished I hadn't used the flan tin as it was a nightmare to extract! Oh well, you live and you learn. In the end my poor cake looked as though it had been dropped on the floor and then stamped on!!!! Perhaps the taste would make up for everything. Alas it did not! I've discovered that I really don't like the texture or taste of cooked strawberries. It just didn't work for me. The surface of the cake had a sugary firm crust while the middle was light and moist. I found the vanilla flavour to be a little overwhelming; maybe I'd mistakenly added too much. Neil thought the cake tasted OK and was happy to eat it. However, he didn't think the flavours really worked. Sadly this is a cake that I can resist and I haven't been back for a second slice. However, if you like cooked strawberries this may well be the cake for you!!!
My wounded cake!
Should of smothered it in custard!


 Recipe Number One Hundred & Seventy Five:  Page 254.

I wanted to bake something with my little boy so I set about searching for something suitable within the pages of my Baking Bible. I quickly came across the recipe for Jumbles in the Baking for Children section. The word jumbles isn't exactly descriptive and doesn't really offer any clues; I for one had never heard of them before! After reading through Mary's introduction it became clear that they were simple lemon flavoured biscuits which are usually shaped into 'S' shapes.

We made a start on the Jumbles in the morning. As I set out the bowl and the required ingredients I wondered if morning was in fact the best time. It is when Isaac is at his most active! I weighed out the ingredients while he admired his wellie boots which were standing by the back door. I required equal quantities of butter and sugar. It appeared to be quite a large amount. However, Mary says the mixture should make 32 jumbles so, as long as I stuck to just one or two, I should be alright! I collected the vanilla extract from the shelf and allowed a few drops to fall from the bottle and into the bowl. I believe a few extra drops may have inadvertently made their way into the bowl. I knew I should have had a cup of tea first to calm my shakes!!! Next I needed to add the zest of a lemon. My poor lemon had seen better days and felt decidedly squidgy. I think it was for the best that I only required the zest.

As I attempted to weigh the plain flour into the mixing bowl I found it increasingly difficult to concentrate; I hoped I'd weighed it correctly. Isaac was chattering nonstop and kindly brought me his wellies to admire before leaving them in the middle of the floor for me to trip over. He then performed several rousing renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!! Finally, he settled in one place long enough for me to show him what I was doing. He took a lively interest as I cracked the egg into the bowl. He always gets excited when he sees the egg drop from the shell! I quickly brought the mixture together with a blunt ended knife and then knelt on the floor with the bowl so that we could work the mixture together with our hands. He took great pleasure in locating lumps of dough, taking them from the bowl and giving them a good squidge. He put most of it back but I did draw the line at the bits that had been on the floor!!!

Now I had to make the dough into the traditional 'S' shape. My little helper started charging about the kitchen at this point, so in stepped my big helper. Neil quite enjoys this sort of thing and he happily twisted the dough into shapes. Together we made Isaac's name in rather lumpy dough. I was glad of the help, as it took a while to work through all the dough. Our little rascal saw his opportunity for mischief and raided a kitchen cupboard; he was soon running around with my loaf tin liners!!!

The three trays of jumbles had to go into the fridge for thirty minutes. This was not the easiest of tasks when you consider we had just had a large amount of food delivered!! I put the oven on to preheat and then went into the garden to enjoy the sunshine. It was so lovely and warm for a March day. I am a chilly mortal so it was a novelty to feel anything other than cold!!

It didn't take long for the thirty minutes to pass and it was time to take the trays from the fridge. I soon realised that only two trays were going to fit into the oven at one time. The cooking process was going to take longer than I had thought! The jumbles went into the oven for about fifteen minutes and then it was time to whip them out and turn up the oven. I speedily brushed them with clear honey then sprinkled over a generous amount of Demerara sugar. Back into the hot oven they went. Mary says to cook for a further two or three minutes until the sugar has caramelised. This never happened to my stubborn sugar. It didn't do anything! The hot biscuits transferred over to the wire rack with ease and there were no breakages – hooray!!

Once the jumbles were cool Neil and I were ready to sample the offerings. These biscuits were so scrummy! They were crisp but just slightly chewy; this might have been because mine were big and fat! The lemon flavour was much in evidence, while the sugary top gave an extra and welcome sweetness. We found ourselves repeatedly visiting the biscuit tin all afternoon. So much for sticking to just one or two! Isaac enjoyed eating one of the letters from his name; it was perfect for his little hands. I'm looking forward to when he is able to help me shape the dough into all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes!
Isaac's yummy biscuits!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Griddle Scones

Recipe Number One Hundred & Seventy Four:  Page 330.

These griddle scones just scraped through into first place on my Tuesday Facebook Poll. At first I had visions of round scones filled with sweet strawberry jam and lashings of clotted cream. My mouth watered at the mere thought! I felt a little disappointed when I read through the recipe. The scones are shaped into wedges and simply served with a hearty spread of butter. I wondered how much the taste and texture would differ from the oven baked scones I so enjoy.

I was very glad to be making such a simple and quick recipe. Since arriving at my parents’ house at the weekend, we'd all succumbed to germs (well apart from super healthy Neil). Now it was my turn to 'enjoy' the cold, boo hoo!! I felt sure that a batch of warm scones would help to make me feel better. I no longer cared if they were round or wedged shaped!

As I entered my parents’ kitchen, I noticed that my dad had just washed up and the work surfaces were sparkling clean. As hard as I tried to keep things tidy, within seconds I had left my mark. When I opened a brand new packet of flour, a powdery cloud erupted from the bag and floated down to settle on the work surfaces – whoops! I weighed the flour into the bowl and then went back to the cupboard to collect the bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar. I measured a level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into the bowl. I very rarely have a use for cream of tartar. It is the sort of ingredient that patiently sits on kitchen shelves for months and months without seeing any action. However, on this occasion I required two whole teaspoonsful, so at least it was worth dusting off the container!

I really was beginning to warm to these griddle scones as the required amount of butter was so small. I decided that they should be classed as a low fat option! It didn't take long to rub the lump of butter into the flour and it soon resembled fine breadcrumbs. Next, I could move onto stirring in the sugar. Again the quantity was tiny. Perhaps I could scoff more than two and not feel guilty! Last of all I measured the milk into a jug then poured it, little by little, into the bowl. Using a blunt ended knife I gave the mixture a thorough mix. Mary mentions that not all the milk may be needed to create a soft but not sticky dough. I found the opposite to be true as I required a touch more to bring everything together.

I was instructed to form the dough into two balls and to knead separately on the worktop. I hardly used more than a fine dusting of flour to stop the dough from sticking - it was so easy to work with. As I didn't have a griddle pan I made do with a large frying pan. I wiped it with a very thin layer of oil before turning on the heat. While things were heating up I reached for my mother's rolling pin. It honestly could double up as a lethal weapon – it looks like something you might keep under your bed to ward off any unwanted night visitors!! I rolled a ball of dough into a small circle and then marked it into six wedges. I had to be careful not to mark the worktop with the blunt knife; I didn't think I would be very popular if I ruined the worktop as well as making the mess!

I easily managed to fit all six wedges in the warm pan. While they sizzled I carried on with my next task and followed the same procedure with the second ball of dough. The uncooked wedges looked very small but, when I checked the ones cooking in the pan, I could see that they had puffed up and were larger in size. I had to be careful when turning the wedges over to cook the other side as any uncooked dough insisted on sticking to the spatula. With a little remodelling you'd never notice!

Once all the wedges were cooked, they could be transferred to a wire rack to cool. Of course I couldn't resist for long and ended up splitting a hot scone in half and smothering it in butter. I watched the butter melt and then took a large bite. I have to admit that my first thought was that they were very plain; I had been expecting perhaps a little more flavour. I have a sweet tooth so I could have done with a touch more sugar. Oh well, a good dollop of jam would soon cure that little problem! The texture was light and fluffy but I could tell that, like any scone, they wouldn't be so tasty the following day. Neil and my parents devoured the plateful within minutes. I hadn't been sure what they would make of them but an empty plate speaks for itself! They certainly found them to be very moreish.

These griddle scones took minutes to prepare and cook; they really were very simple to make. This is a recipe that you could rustle up at a moment’s notice. As they don't contain much fat or sugar, you could eat several without batting an eyelid - well, that is until you smother them in butter of course!
Pass the butter!!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Hazelnut Meringue Cake

Recipe Number One Hundred & Seventy Three:  Page 363.

Since starting this challenge I've developed a real fondness for meringues. I'd never really given them much thought before but they really are easy to make and only a few ingredients are required. What's more, they are delicious! This would be my first meringue cake; the recipe sounded intriguing and the accompanying photograph made my mouth water.

I hadn't seen my mum on Mother's Day for several years, so it was lovely to be able to pay a visit this year. My gift to my mum was to be an afternoon tea and I thought that this hazelnut meringue cake would make for a pretty centrepiece. We all went to church in the morning and each of us received a beautiful posy of daffodils. Isaac talked loudly throughout the service, offering a running commentary of anything that caught his eye! We stopped for lunch before returning home. After a reviving cup of tea I made my way to the kitchen. My parents' kitchen is a completely different layout to what we have at home, so it always takes me a few minutes to acclimatise. As I set myself up to bake I felt as though I was ten years old again. I'll never lose the buzz of baking for my family; don't you ever stop wanting to please your parents?!

After lining my sandwich cake tins and turning on the oven, I moved on to weighing out the hazelnuts. I tipped them into an oven tray and placed them in the hot oven. Mary says to roast for about ten minutes. When the time was up I took the tray from the oven, tipped a few hazelnuts into a clean tea towel and gave them a good rub as suggested. Only a tiny amount of skin came away from the nuts, so they went back into the oven for another few minutes. Eventually the skins did come away but I found it easier to peel them off with my fingers. I quickly learnt it was best to wait for a few minutes before attempting this as I kept burning my poor fingers! I do not own a food processor, nor do my parents, so grinding the nuts caused some problems. First of all I tried a battery operated mini chopper and burnt it out within mere seconds. My mum had the bright idea of finely grating the hazelnuts by hand. We took a bowl and grater each and set to work. We had to laugh at how we were spending Mother's Day, but at least we were together!!! With two of us on the case it didn't take long before the hazelnuts had formed a fine powder. However, we both felt a little sick from the nutty smell; it was quite strong!

With the nut saga complete I could move on to making the actual meringue. This was nice and straightforward. I simply whisked some egg whites until stiff and then beat in a teaspoonful of sugar at a time. It was a fairly boring task but more pleasant than nut grating!! Once the meringue was stiff enough to stand in peaks, I could add in a tiny amount of white wine vinegar and vanilla extract. Last of all I folded in the mountain of grated hazelnuts. This made the meringue a pale shade of caramel brown. I heaped the thick mixture into the two tins, smoothed the tops and placed the tray into the awaiting oven. The meringue only needed to cook for around thirty minutes so this gave me time to get on with other things. I whipped up a batch of Mary's scones and then reluctantly washed up as I had run out of mixing bowls and I still had more cakes on my list to bake!

When I took my meringue cakes from the oven some thirty-five minutes later, I was a bit worried as the tops were a little scorched in places. I decided not to panic as they would soon be covered with cream so wouldn't be visible! I tipped the meringue from the trays and left them to cool. Neil kindly stepped in and helped me out with the double cream. I was using the electric whisk to make buttercream, so he made do with a balloon whisk and a good deal of elbow grease. He obviously doesn't know his own strength, as the cream ended up so thick it was hard to spread! I used two thirds to sandwich the meringues together along with two thirds of the raspberries. The remainder was used to decorate the top. A dusting of icing sugar was the finishing touch.

I was so pleased with the look of my hazelnut meringue cake and it got a few wows from my family. Mary says to leave the meringue to stand for three hours to avoid it splintering when cutting it into portions. We didn't resist it for that long and had no trouble with it. We all agreed that this made for a delicious and decadent dessert. My sister isn't a fan of nuts, so I wasn't sure she would eat it. However, she soon had a clean plate! I absolutely loved the combination of hazelnuts and raspberries; they went beautifully together. The flavour of the roasted hazelnuts was much in evidence, but was in no way overpowering.

The afternoon tea went down very well and, when I saw the big smile on my mum's face, it reminded me how much I really do love baking. Nothing beats making someone else happy and a home made cake always seems to do the trick! 
Mother's Day treat! 

Mother's Day afternoon tea for my wonderful Mum xx

Pound Cake

Recipe Number One Hundred & Seventy Two:  Page 69.

I can't help but feel sorry for this cake. I have included it in numerous Facebook Polls and, without fail, it crosses the finishing line in third place with just one or two votes. Neil had to go to London for a meeting and I asked if he'd like me to make a cake to share with his work colleagues. I thought it a good opportunity to give this recipe a try. When I looked through the list of ingredients I thought it should make for a lovely light fruit cake.

As Neil would be leaving bright and early, I decided to make this cake the night before. Dinner was merrily cooking in the oven, so I thought I could whip up the cake before our meal was ready to dish up. I cleared some space on the untidy worktop and managed to squeeze in a mixing bowl and to prop up my Baking Bible.

As this cake contains cherries I'd already decided it would be delicious; they are one of my most favourite things! I'm used to spending an age chopping and washing mountains of cherries for Mary's fruit cakes, but on this occasion I only required 100g. This meant I managed to work my way through them quickly. While the chopped and washed cherries dried on kitchen towel, I moved on to adding all the remaining ingredients into my mixing bowl. My butter was a little squidgy as I'd had to resort to placing it on top of the oven to soften it. Almost the whole packet was used for this recipe. I tried to tell myself that the dried fruit would counteract out all the butter!! I love using muscovado sugar especially in a fruited cake, so I was delighted to be making use of it. It gives such a delicious rich flavour. Now for the self-raising flour and eggs. I managed to lose a substantial piece of egg shell in the bowl. I am getting better at retrieving bits of shell; I consider it to be a sport! Next it was time to add the dried fruit. I added raisins and sultanas in equal quantities. The last ingredients to be included were a little mixed spice and a splash of brandy. All that was left to do was to beat everything together. I love how most of Mary's recipes require little more than 'chucking' everything into a bowl and then mixing it! I was worried my electric whisk would pulverise the fruit but amazingly it stayed intact. I had trouble with a stubborn lump of butter that I ended up chasing around the bowl. It did not wish to meet its fate! It climbed higher and higher up the side of the bowl until at last I was triumphant! The combined mixture was now ready to go into its awaiting greased and lined tin. I was using an 8 inch tin and I was surprised to find that the mixture didn't seem quite enough; it looked lost in the tin!! I smoothed over the top of the cake and then placed it into the oven. Our dinner may have been a little crispier than I had intended, but it worked out beautifully as my next job was to dish up and tuck into our food!

As instructed, I placed some greaseproof paper over the top of the cake after an hour in order to stop it burning. I left it for another hour and then gave it a prod to see if it was done. I decided to put it back for another fifteen minutes. After the total amount of cooking time, and another hearty poke, I felt that it was ready! I'm not sure if all my poking was perhaps a bit too heavy handed as, whilst cooling in the tin for the suggested half hour, I noticed it had sunk a little in the middle. This saddened me as it had looked so good beforehand. Neil had already gone to bed, so I set about cleaning the kitchen floor to pass the time. Due to a small child, and also a cat, I find myself doing it much more frequently nowadays! Finally I could tip the cake out of the tin and place it on a wire rack to cool. I left it to carry on cooling overnight while I caught up on some much needed beauty sleep.

The following day I quickly cut a slice of cake to make sure it was cooked through. I would have been devastated if Neil's workmates had cut into a undercooked cake! Thankfully it appeared to be baked all the way through. I just had time to have a sneaky taste. It was such a lovely light fruit cake, but the brandy gave it a richer depth of flavour. It is perfect for those who aren't keen on either a dark or light fruit cake. It casts a happy mid point between the two. Neil took half the cake with him to his meeting. Apparently it was a hit and it was all eaten. Neil's parents visited and helped out with the remaining half; they both seemed to enjoy it. It may not sound like an overly exciting cake but it really was a pleasant surprise. I will certainly be making it again.
A lovely fruit cake

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Almond Tuiles

Recipe Number One Hundred & Seventy One:  Page 220.

Had it not of been for the photograph in the Baking Bible, I wouldn't have had a clue what Almond Tuiles should look like! In fact I'd never even heard of them before. Surveying the photograph, I thought them to be very similar in appearance to a brandy snap due to their thin lacy appearance. Several months ago I had been terrified at the prospect of doing brandy snaps; I was a nervous wreck when I came to make them! As it turned out, I really enjoyed the challenge and they were a success! This triumphant memory helped boost my confidence; I was hoping that the almond tuiles would also turn out well.

Before I made a start on the baking, I took my little boy on our morning trip to the park. Despite the chill in the air we spent ages playing on the swings and slides and we had great fun making footprints in the mud. On the way home we popped to the shops to buy some eggs for the almond tuiles and also some bread and soup for lunch. Other items must have leapt from the shelves into my basket as I ended up buying a lot of things that I didn't really need! I pushed Isaac home in his squeaky pushchair and carried the bulging carrier bags on my wrists; my hands were almost blue when we finally reached our front door!

By the time I was ready to make a start on the almond tuiles we'd enjoyed our lunch and Isaac was tucked up in bed. I laid my Baking Bible on the kitchen worktop, turned on the oven and greased two baking trays. I absent-mindedly left the buttered trays on top of the hot oven and, within a minute or two, the butter had melted. I thought it best to wipe them off and start again. This time I left them somewhere a little cooler! I decided my first job would be to chop the blanched almonds. Of course, chopping my way through almost a whole packet of almonds was a fairly boring task; it seemed to take an eternity. Mary says to chop finely. However, mine kept crumbling into a powder. I was worried that I was going to end up with ground almonds! This meant that the nuts ended up a bit chunkier than perhaps they should have been.

The next step was to measure butter and sugar into a bowl in equal quantities. I was to beat them together until light and fluffy. As the quantity was so small, my electric beaters had trouble gathering up enough mixture to be able to give it a good old mix. This was a little frustrating but I eventually had what appeared to be a light and fluffy mixture. The next instruction seemed rather odd to me! Firstly I separated an egg and discarded the yolk. Nothing wrong with that, I hear you say! However, the next part of the instruction was to sift a small amount of plain flour over the egg white and mix together. It was difficult to combine the two ingredients together and, once they had combined, I was left with what I can only describe as bread dough!! Due to the elastic nature of the 'dough', it wasn't easy combining it with the creamed butter and sugar. I very nearly forgot to mix in the chopped blanched almonds. Now that would have been annoying after all the time I had spent slicing them up!

By now the mixture resembled a thick cake mixture. It did not look biscuity at all. Mary says to place four teaspoonfuls of the thick mixture onto a tray at a time. It seemed such a tiny amount but I felt sure it would spread a great deal in the oven, so I restrained myself from adding more. Once the mixture was in the oven I watched the tuiles like a hawk. I didn't leave the oven’s side for all of the six or seven minutes cooking time. The biscuits should brown around the edges but not in the middle .This was certainly true of mine. However, I couldn't help noticing that, in the photograph, they are brown all over!

Once each tray of tuiles came out from the hot oven, I left them to cool a little on the tray but only for a second or two as instructed. I didn't find them easy to remove from the trays. In fact they were a bit of a nightmare. Some shattered instantly, some squidged into a lumpy mass of soft biscuit and most of the others welded to the tray. During this time I think it's fair to say the room turned a deep shade of blue!! A small handful behaved and successfully made the journey across to my awaiting rolling pin. I gingerly moulded them as best I could around the curve of the rolling pin and left them to set. I tried making tuiles of various sizes to see if it helped the situation, but it made little difference. One thing I found helpful was slightly flattening the mixture before it went into the oven. This helped to stop the tuiles from having a fat middle!!

As I worked my way through the many batches of almond tuiles I nibbled on the broken relics to keep my strength up. Despite the difficulty I was having cooking these fragile biscuits; they certainly made up for it in taste. They were so lovely and sweet and, of course, light and crisp. The almond flavour really shone through and also gave an added bit of bite to the biscuits. I thought they were a cross between a brandy snap and a florentine. I must have eaten my way through the equivalent of six almond tuiles in about ten minutes; they are dangerously moreish! Unfortunately I can't say I was particularly happy with the appearance of any of my biscuits, but I had to choose the best for a photo. As instructed, I sprinkled some icing sugar over the biscuits but it didn't help to hide the imperfections!

Mary says almond tuiles are particularly good with fruit salad, ice cream or a light mousse. I intended to save the remaining biscuits for the following day as I liked the idea of the ice cream! Sadly I can't tell you if they really did go well with a large bowl of ice cream (I'm sure they would) as Neil went and ate the lot in one sitting!! Oink Oink!! He absolutely loved them! So, yes, my almond tuiles may not look anywhere near as dainty as in the Baking Bible photograph. However, looks aren't everything! It matters more that they were enjoyed. That makes me happy!!!
Please don't laugh!!!!!!!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Treacle Sponges

Recipe Number One Hundred & Seventy:  Page 346.

I am beginning to wonder if I am the only person who has never made a steamed pudding. It seems that most fellow bakers have already been there, done that, got the T-shirt! It seems to be considered a simple if not easy pudding to make. So why does just the mere thought fill me with terror?! Making the sponges doesn't worry me but the steaming part most certainly does. I've thought about making steamed puddings before. However, as soon as I've read about placing pleated foil over the pudding basin and constructing a makeshift handle out of string, I've turned the page and moved on to another and less faffy recipe! This time, though, I couldn’t turn the page; these treacle sponges had to be made. I would have to learn to embrace the foil and string!

I'd had to buy four pudding basins for this recipe. I could only purchase three ceramic basins in the correct size; the fourth had to be plastic with an accompanying lid. It was going to be interesting to see how they compared. First of all I simply needed to mix a large quantity of golden syrup with a little lemon juice. My first mistake was to spoon the lemony syrup straight into a basin without greasing it first. I soon realised the error of my ways, hurriedly greased the remaining three basins and carried on!

As predicted, the making of the actual sponges was very straightforward. At the end of a day it is just an all in one sponge. I grated the zest from the lemon into a mixing bowl and then measured in the butter and sugar in equal quantities. I cracked in a couple of eggs and lost a substantial amount of shell into the mixture. Code Red!! I think I managed to locate and extract all of the shell but, if not, it was only us going to be eating it!! Lastly I tipped in the flour and baking powder and that was it. Mary says to mix for two minutes or until well blended. Two minutes seems an awfully long time to whisk but, as usual, it really did take that long. I suspect Mary must have someone timing her with a stop watch whilst she tests her recipes! I carefully spooned the smooth mixture on top of the lemony syrup. I watched in horror as the sponge mixture rapidly sank into the gooey syrup! I told myself that this was meant to happen!

Next came the dreaded part of covering the basins. Although it did take a while to place a pleated layer of greaseproof paper AND foil over each basin (apart from the plastic one), it wasn't as fiddly as I had feared. The word string is not mentioned, so I didn't have to worry about that – hooray! Unfortunately, I do not own a steamer or a giant saucepan. I could only comfortably fit one basin in my largest saucepan. I tried not to panic. I ended up using my deep frying pan and a separate saucepan! I boiled as much water as the kettle would hold and then poured it around the basins until it came half way up the sides.

I followed the tip of repeatedly topping up the boiling water, but it wasn't until half way through the cooking time that I realised my error. Mary suggests placing the basins on top of an upturned saucer to keep them off the bottom of the pan. Uh – oh! I suspected that burnt sponges might lie ahead! The cooking time of forty five minutes seemed to last an eternity. I didn't dare leave the room in case of an explosion. There were lots of strange noises and, on one of my regular checks, I noticed a sizeable piece of greaseproof paper had broken free and was performing a merry dance in the bubbling water! One difficulty was knowing if and when the sponges were cooked. It isn't the same as peering through an oven door.

After the suggested cooking time, the pudding in the plastic container was nowhere near cooked. However, the three puddings in the ceramic basins were almost there. Checking on these little sponges proved to be a dangerous business when a drop of boiling water leapt from the pan and viciously scolded my cheek – ouch!

Finally the three puddings in the ceramic basins were thoroughly cooked; I gave up on the plastic container. The sponge in it was still raw after over an hour! I tipped the puddings out onto three plates, one for each of us. Funny how Isaac's turned out to be the biggest! The treacle sponges don't look maddeningly exciting when served up on a plate. They don't show the time that has gone into making them, not to mention the element of fear!

The sponges were light and beautifully moist. Mary suggests serving with more warmed syrup but I preferred mine without. I found the syrup a bit much, but Neil loved it and added even more! Isaac's went down a treat. However, I thought his portion was a bit on the generous side, so he had half and saved the rest for the following day.

Next time I come across a recipe for a steamed pudding I won't be in such a hurry to turn the page. They aren't as scary as I had perceived. However, I think it might be easier to cook it in one big basin. That means only one thing to worry about rather than four!
Isaac did well getting the best one!

Traditional Parkin

Recipe Number One Hundred & Sixty Nine:  Page 81.

I really should have made this Parkin way back in November. I hadn't realised until too late that it's traditionally eaten on Bonfire night. However, I think that Parkin is the sort of cake best enjoyed on a cold winter’s day and we aren't out of winter just yet! It was time for me to get a wriggle on!

I thought it funny that, on the day I chose to make Parkin, the sun was streaming in through the windows. It had also warmed up considerably and I was able to go without my thick winter socks and fluffy slippers! Mary says that Parkin is best eaten a week after making, so I would have to resist temptation and store it away. Although this saddened my greedy nature, it also gave me hope. There was still a chance that I would get to eat Parkin whilst huddled against the radiator!!! British weather is notorious for its changeability. In a week’s time it could well be sub zero temperatures – I don't think I'll be packing away my slippers just yet!

With Isaac in bed for his nap and Neil off on a trip to our local shop, I set about starting the Parkin. After greasing then lining a square tin, I dug out our smallest saucepan. I set the saucepan on the scales and weighed in some dark muscovado sugar. I very rarely use this sugar, so I'd had to buy a packet especially. I was struck not only by its dark colour but also by the strong treacly smell. Treacle happened to be the next ingredient and I needed a lot of it. I opened my brand new shiny tin and attempted to measure it into the saucepan without making a mess. Of course I was unsuccessful. A thick sticky trail made its way down the side of the tin and a considerable amount stuck to my fingers! By the time I'd measured it all out Neil had returned from the shop!! Lastly I placed a good amount of butter into the pan then set it over a low heat. Once the butter and sugar had melted I left it to cool.

Meanwhile I sifted some plain flour and the spices into a large mixing bowl. My goodness this cake was going to be both dark and very spicy! There was ginger, cinnamon AND nutmeg! It was now time for all the porridge oats. As they joined the other ingredients I started to fantasize about flapjacks! It was probably for the best that only a few oats remained. My trousers are definitely getting tighter and flapjacks would not help the matter! In a measuring jug I poured in some milk then beat in an egg. I was to add a teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda and mix together. I half expected the mixture to froth up in some exciting fashion but nothing happened, most disappointing! I tipped the eggy milk into the bowl of dry ingredients and then poured in the by now cooled treacly mixture. It was easy to combine the rich spicy ingredients together. I spooned the dark mixture into the awaiting tin and then placed it into the warm oven. It would only take an hour to cook.

Neil and I took the opportunity to sit back and enjoy our lunch. I tried very hard not to talk about cakes but soon enough the conversation came round to what I'd be baking the following day and how many bakes I had left to make. I'm quite certain I saw Neil's eyes glaze over but he was sure to nod at all the appropriate moments!!

Neil breathed a sigh of relief when I trotted back into the kitchen an hour later. I extracted the Parkin from the oven and was pleased to see that it looked to be perfectly cooked through. It was a deep shade of brown and possessed a rather satisfying cracked surface. I left it to cool in the tin for ten minutes and then turned it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. The frustrating part came when I had to wrap it up in greaseproof paper to store for a week. It didn't seem right not to bake a cake and then immediately dive in! I couldn't resist pinching a bit off one of the corners. It was just as I imagined, dark and rich. The spices gave a kick to the throat as the Parkin slid down! The oats gave a lovely chewy rustic texture. I will be interested to see how the flavours have developed in a week’s time. I'll of course update the blog and let you know!
Ready to be wrapped up for a week!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

French Madeleines

Recipe Number One Hundred & Sixty Eight

I admit to feeling a little anxious when the French Madeleines won the Tuesday Facebook Poll. It meant I couldn't put the recipe off any longer! I've no experience of making French Madeleines but I'd heard on the baking grapevine that they can be quite tricky. A successful result can't always be guaranteed – eeek! As I've never eaten one of these French delights it came as a surprise to find out that they're cakes. I had thought that they were biscuits!!

A special tin is required for these shell shaped cakes. As I didn't have such a tin buried in the depths of my kitchen drawers I had to order one online. I hoped these cakes were nice; otherwise it would be a waste of money!

Due to some torrential rain I wasn't able to take my little boy on our usual trip to the swings. Instead, I read Isaac endless stories, pushed him around in a cardboard box and stacked numerous towers. By the time his nap came around I felt ready to drop! Sadly there was no time to go and lie in a dark room as the Madeleines would not make themselves. More’s the pity!

My weary legs carried me straight to the kitchen. It was so dark and gloomy that I needed to put the light on so that I could see what I was doing! The first task was to prepare the tin. I wiped butter over the shell shapes and then dusted them with a generous amount of flour. Mary says to shake off the excess. I had the bright idea of shaking the tin outside. Forgetting it was a windy day I opened the back door and gave the tray a good shake. Most of the flour flew straight back into my face. I had to laugh!!

Now that the tray had been dealt with it was time to get on with the cake making. I weighed out a good quantity of butter and then set about melting it in a small saucepan. At least this meant I didn't have to worry about softening it. However, it did add to the washing up! While the melted butter cooled I followed the next set of instructions. I cracked a couple of eggs into a bowl and tipped in some sugar. Mary says to whisk together until thick and light in colour. No time estimate is given. If you've read about my Swiss Roll saga you will know the trouble I've had in the past with this method. I never seem to get the mixture thick enough. I turned my whisk on to its highest setting and whisked the mixture to within an inch of its life. There was no let up; I meant business! Even though the mixture appeared suitably thick and pale after a minute, I decided to keep going until the whisk left a trail when lifted from the bowl. I hoped and prayed that I was doing the right thing!!

I measured some self-raising flour and a tiny amount of baking powder into a bowl. I was to sieve half of it on top of the thick moussy mixture. For the lemony flavour I also grated in the zest of a lemon. Using a metal spoon, I gently folded in the flour and lemon zest. The flour, of course, decided to misbehave and hide at the bottom of the bowl. Just when I thought I'd combined it all together I’d find another huge pocket of lumpy flour! By now the butter had cooled a little. Now was the time to pour half of it around the edge of the bowl and, as before, carefully fold it in. I repeated the process with the remaining flour and butter. Finally everything was combined but I was really worried that I may have lost all the air that my electric whisk had worked so hard to put in!

I was told to spoon the thick mixture into the prepared moulds so that it was just level with the top. I worked this out to be about three heaped teaspoons each. It took a ridiculously long time to fill each mould, yawn! Whilst adding the mixture I realised that my brand new tin was wonky; it tipped all over the place. Well that was a fat lot of good! Thankfully it managed to control its fidgets once in the oven! The Madeleines only cooked for eight to ten minutes. I anxiously crouched by the oven with my nose almost pressed to the glass! I was terrified of burning them. There is no picture to accompany the recipe in the Baking Bible, so I'd had a look online to see what I was aiming for. The first thing that struck me from the pictures was how pale French Madeleines are; there wasn't even the slightest hint of brown. After eight minutes my little cakes were ready. Some had caught around the edges, while a few had grown too large and spread from the confines of their moulds – whoops! Thankfully they easily came away from the tray without much persuasion. I wiped out the tin and then re-buttered and floured it. This time I only used two teaspoons of mixture. These Madeleines turned out a little smaller but they browned more than the first batch. Mary says that we should be able to make around 30 Madeleines. Alas, I only managed 23, probably a good thing as she mentions that they are best eaten on the day of making. When taking pictures of the Madeleines, I noticed that there were small holes in most of my little shell cakes. I'm not sure why. I dusted over some icing sugar as that seemed to make the cakes a little prettier and less plain.

I'm so pleased I successfully managed to make French Madeleines. They weren't as bad as I had feared and they tasted so good. I love lemon cakes and these were really light and lemony. After a tiring and long day these were a saving grace! I think I must have eaten about eight during the course of the afternoon and evening. My excuse was that they wouldn't keep until the following day. However, I put the theory to the test and tried one the next day. Although a little chewier they were still quite yummy. I'm thinking the leftovers will go very well with a big bowl of custard!

A bit plain
Icing sugar on top.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Little Gems

Recipe One Hundred & Sixty Seven:  Page 256.

I wanted to make something with my little helper this weekend. As Isaac is only twenty months, his help would be limited. However, he really seems to enjoy watching me make cakes and he certainly loves eating them! When I saw the title of this recipe it put me in mind of the Iced Gem biscuits I used to enjoy as a child. If I was very lucky I would sometimes find a packet tucked into my school lunch box. They were also often found at birthday parties! They were a super sweet crunchy mouthful. Sadly the title of this recipe is a little misleading. I wouldn't be recreating the tiny biscuits from my youth; instead I would be making little cakes with icing and a sweetie on top!

When I woke in the morning it was so dark that I felt tempted to roll over and go back to sleep. I parted the curtains just enough to take a peek outside. Heavy rain was dancing on the road and tapping out a tune on the roofs of the cars. It really did look cold and bleak. I stayed cosy in bed for a few minutes longer, savouring the warmth of the duvet. Finally I poked out one foot and then the other. That was it! I was up; the worst part was over!!

The rain was still thundering down an hour or so later. It really was the perfect weather for baking! I was glad to turn the oven on and create some extra warmth. I retrieved my mixing bowl from a drawer and my electric whisk from the window sill. The butter was sitting on the worktop desperately trying to soften; I didn't think much of its chances! I grabbed the flour and sugar from the messy kitchen shelves and laid everything out next to my bowl and scales. All I needed was my little helper! I went into the living room to collect him. I think Neil was glad that his little helper was required elsewhere. Neil was trying very hard to store away the toys Isaac has by now out grown. As soon as a well chewed toy or a noisy little rattle was placed in the box, Isaac would swiftly pull it out again. Thankfully I knew of the perfect distraction! The word 'cake' grabbed Isaac's attention and he shot off into the kitchen at high speed.

The recipe for these Little Gems is pretty much the same as for fairy cakes; a really simple all in one sponge. All I needed to do was weigh all the ingredients into my mixing bowl. Isaac absolutely loved watching me crack the eggs into the bowl, it caused quite a bit of excitement. By the time all the ingredients were in the bowl Isaac could name each of them! He had a wooden spoon to use to give everything a little stir and then it was time to bring out the big guns and use my electric whisk. The butter was still not soft enough, so it took what seemed like forever for everything to combine. Eventually the mixture was smooth and thick and ready to go into some paper cases.

I laid out around sixty petits fours cases onto two baking trays. It seemed such a vast amount, but I suppose that each cake equals just one small mouthful! With a teaspoon, I put a tiny amount of mixture into each tiny case. This was quite a fiddly job, so not something you could easily do with a toddler! I didn't make as many as Mary suggests as I didn't have enough to go around all the cases. As the cakes were so small I imagined they would only need about ten minutes in the oven. In fact they required the full cooking time of twenty minutes. I felt a little forlorn when I took the trays of cakes from the oven. They had barely bothered to rise; they didn't look much different to when they had gone in! I gingerly plucked the hot cakes from the tray and placed them onto wire racks to cool.

As the cakes wouldn't take long to cool, Isaac and I cracked on with the icing. He appeared bemused by the plume of sugar dust that enveloped the kitchen as I sifted the icing sugar. I, on the other hand, muttered about the mess all over the worktop! A few squeezes of lemon juice and we mixed them together until we had a white glossy paste. Again, the part of spooning the icing onto each individual cake was a fiddly task which required a good deal of hand eye coordination. Isaac enjoyed watching the icing make its way onto each little cake. While he observed, I gave him a plain cake to enjoy. He loved it and it was a great size for little fingers; he could easily manage on his own. He happily helped me press some of the dolly mixture sweets into the icing before it set. One or two might have made their way to our mouths!

The little cakes were not exactly exciting in taste as they were fairly plain. The only problem was that, as they are so small, I found myself shovelling in one after the other – whoops!
Cake AND sweets. What's not to love?!

Dorchester Biscuits

Recipe Number One Hundred & Sixty Six:  Page 203.

I possess a very sweet tooth; in fact I'd go so far as to say that ALL of my teeth are sweet! Over the past year I've eaten my way through a considerable quantity of sugary cakes and desserts. I am getting quite concerned that I will be hit with a huge bill when I next visit the dentist! Due to my sugar overload I felt in the mood for something savoury and preferably cheesy. This recipe certainly seemed to fit the bill.

The morning was a fairly busy one as we reluctantly popped into town for a spot of shopping and we also took Isaac to soft play. Before I'd time to catch my breath it was mid afternoon and I still hadn't made the biscuits! It was time to get a wriggle on. Once Isaac was tucked up for his afternoon nap I trotted into the kitchen to make a start.

Looking through the instructions for these Dorchester Biscuits it didn't look as though much effort was required – yay! First of all I grated the mature cheese into my mixing bowl. 100g doesn't sound very much until you have to grate it. Unfortunately the cheese I was using was very crumbly and chunks insisted on breaking off. Grating little pieces is always a dangerous practice. Surprisingly unscathed, I moved on to adding in some plain flour and a pinch of salt. To give a bit of a kick to these biscuits, I was to add a little cayenne pepper. It seemed such a small amount. However, I know how potent this spice is, so I thought it best to stick to the suggested amount! All that was left was the softened butter. Although my packet of butter had been free from the chilly confines of the fridge for some hours it had stubbornly refused to soften. I followed the instructions and attempted to mix the few ingredients together with a knife. Due to the fairly firm butter my mixture would not combine. I ended up squidging the butter against the side of the bowl with the knife to help guide it towards a softer future!!! This proved successful, so I was soon able to use my hands to work the mixture into a soft ball of dough.

Mary says that around thirty balls can be made from the lump of dough. I thought this to be wishful thinking. I find it so hard to keep to Mary's portions as they are so small. She obviously isn't as greedy as I am!! Amazingly, I did manage to make thirty balls of dough but they really were tiny. Each little ball ended up on a greased baking tray to await further attention. Although the biscuits had been super quick to make, I found the lengthiest part was pressing chopped nuts into the top of each ball of dough. A substantial quantity of nuts lay scattered across the baking trays, but not much stayed on the dough!!

It was time to place the two trays in the warm oven. I didn't have long to wait as they only took just over fifteen minutes to cook. I couldn’t believe how strongly the house smelt of cheese. This time I couldn't blame it on Neil's socks!!!! I didn't think the biscuits looked particularly appealing when I took them from the oven. They were sitting in a pool of bubbling grease! It was easy to remove the little cheesy biscuits from the tray and put them onto the wire rack. As Mary says, they can be eaten warm as well as cold. This was all the encouragement I needed. I dived straight in for a taste. Before I knew it I'd eaten three. Well, they are only small!! They really are ridiculously moreish. They are very, very cheesy with a spicy kick from the cayenne pepper. The texture was as light as air! They seemed to melt on my tongue. Neil absolutely loved them which didn't come as much of a surprise. He likes cheese and he likes spice. However, I wasn't sure what Isaac would make of them. As soon as he had swallowed his first mouthful he asked for more!

These biscuits were so easy to make and tasted absolutely delicious. They've definitely been added to my make again list!
Mmmmm.....cheesy! :-)

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Very Best Chocolate Fudge Cake

Recipe Number One Hundred & Sixty Five:  Page 105.

As I edge ever closer to the end of this challenge, the choice for my weekly Facebook Poll is becoming increasing limited. This week it took me an age to choose three recipes to put up for the Tuesday vote. After finally selecting the three recipes I watched the votes roll in. I should have guessed that anything chocolaty would race to an easy victory. It was a foregone conclusion within minutes; we are obviously a nation of chocoholics!

Almost as soon as I'd rolled out of bed I knew it was going to be one of those days. You know the ones where absolutely nothing goes right. It was a day in which it would have been far safer to have simply stayed in bed and pulled the duvet up over my head!! I just couldn't put a foot right. It didn't help that Isaac was uncharacteristically grumpy first thing in the morning. I hoped our daily trip to the park might help blow away the cobwebs and cheer us both up! It seemed to do the trick; Isaac enjoyed the swings and was soon his usual cheerful self. This in turn lifted my spirits. On the way home we popped into the shop. I was by now feeling so much happier and felt that perhaps the day could be saved. However, things soon took a nose dive! When I placed my shopping basket on the counter, it ever so lightly tapped a large display of Easter eggs. The whole lot cascaded and fell in what appeared to be slow motion. I felt my cheeks glow red as I hurriedly tried to rearrange the display. The cashier didn't utter a single word or even offer a reassuring smile; this made me all the more flustered!

By the time we returned home Isaac was in fine spirits while I couldn't help feeling a little deflated. If I had any sense I would have realised that attempting to bake when not in a happy disposition isn't always the best of ideas. Obviously I do not possess much sense, as I still went into the kitchen to make the cake. My reasoning was that a big slice of chocolate cake might be just the ticket to cheer me up!

The recipe did seem to be very simple and straightforward to follow, thank goodness! First of all I sifted some cocoa powder into a mixing bowl, then poured in a little boiling water and gave it a good mix. It looked and smelt so tempting! I felt like sticking my head straight into the bowl and forgetting all about the cake!!! Of course I controlled my greedy urges and carried on stirring the mixture until it had formed a smooth chocolaty paste. Next, it was time to include the rest of the ingredients. I added several eggs, tipped in some self-raising flour and weighed in the butter. I had expected to use a lot more butter; the amount needed was surprisingly small. Just as I was contemplating how this cake might not be so fattening after all, my eyes caught sight of the quantity of sugar needed. It was nearly three times the amount of butter - eeek!

Once all the ingredients were in the bowl I could set about mixing it all together with my trusty electric whisk. It didn't take too long before the mixture was smooth. As I spooned it into the lined sandwich tins, I couldn't get over how light it appeared to be; it was just like a mousse. The cakes cooked for just under half an hour. By the time I'd taken Isaac up to bed it was time to extract the tins from the oven. I let the cakes cool in their tins for just a few minutes and then tipped them out onto a wire rack to cool completely. They looked very yummy and also very moist. It was torture having to wait to ice them!

Once the cakes were cold I heated a little apricot jam and brushed it over the top of each of them. Next, it was time to move on to the chocolate icing. I was delighted and relieved not to be using icing sugar for this recipe. At least this would make things less messy. I placed the chocolate and double cream into a glass bowl set above a saucepan of simmering water. Any hope that I could eat a slice of this cake without guilt had by now vanished. Double cream AND chocolate do not equal low fat!! I left the artery clogging mixture over the heat for about ten minutes, offering an occasional stir. Once the chocolate had melted I left it to cool until almost set. As I spooned the icing on to both halves of cake I couldn't help noticing that something didn't look quite right. It wasn't until I'd finished that I realised what was wrong. The icing had split, sob! It looked oily and unappetising. I had a little taste; thankfully it tasted fine but I wasn't happy! I scraped off all the ugly icing and decided to try again. This time I tried another method. First I heated the cream, took it off the heat and then added in the chopped chocolate. I felt sure of success! It split AGAIN! I decided it must be the chocolate that was to blame. I'd never used it before and I don't think I shall be buying it again! I've since heard from a very reliable source that, if a chocolate has a high fat content, it can split when heated.

I couldn't help feeling sad as I spread the unattractive icing over the cakes. I'd been so looking forward to trying this recipe and was really annoyed that it wasn't up to scratch! I took a step back to look at my poor battered cake. It certainly hadn't taken kindly to all this poor treatment. Icing had dripped down the sides and bits of sponge had broken off! Hey ho, maybe the taste would make up for the appearance. I cut a generous slice and quickly shoved it on to a plate before taking a quick photo. I was too impatient to look for a fork. Luckily no one was around to witness me messily scoffing the cake!! I was smothered!

Despite the chocolate icing saga this cake turned out to be worth all the stress! It was utterly delicious. Mary promises at the beginning of this recipe that it will become our most favourite chocolate cake. Well, I think I might just have to agree. It is moist, very chocolaty and very light. It almost melted in my mouth. This cake certainly brightened my day. I'm glad I chose to ignore my common sense and make it! However, next time I will have to use a chocolate I know and trust and hope to avoid any more dramas!
A messy but delicious cake!!