Thursday, 28 June 2012

Chocolate, Brandy and Ginger Cheesecake

Recipe Number Two Hundred & Five:  Page 374.

This recipe sounded interesting with such a variety of flavours. The accompanying photograph made my mouth water but I was left distraught when I glanced through the list of ingredients. I wouldn't be able to eat it! There are raw eggs in the recipe so, due to my pregnancy, I would have to stay clear. I just hoped that Neil would like this cheesecake as it was all his!

Usually I bake at lunchtime. However, on this occasion it wouldn't be possible. My 20 week scan was booked for early afternoon. Neil had taken time off work so that we could all go along together. It was wonderful to see our baby for the second time; it looked very comfy curled up in a little ball! We found out that we have another little boy on the way and we're delighted with the news. I love the idea of two little brothers crashing their cars together and playing football in the garden. Lots of fun times lie ahead.

After the scan we took a trip around the supermarket. For some reason, even when I make an attempt to be organised and bring a list, it still takes an eternity to reach the cash till. As we were busy packing the bags, Isaac managed to dig into the trolley and pull out a box of a dozen eggs. By the time we realised what the little monkey was up to, all the eggs were on the floor and of course all had broken. Neil and I apologised profusely to the lady who came to clear up. I felt annoyed when she muttered that eggs shouldn't be given to children to hold. I may look dim but I am not THAT stupid!!

I was determined to make the cheesecake on our return home. After a reviving mug of tea I was ready for action. The biscuit base needed to be made first of all. I retrieved a saucepan from the cupboard and threw in the butter. While it melted I eagerly opened the packet of ginger biscuits. I only required half the packet, so this left plenty for me to nibble on while I worked. I had forgotten how rock hard ginger biscuits are. They were reluctant to turn into crumbs. I visualised the rude woman at the supermarket as I attacked the biscuits with a rolling pin. This helped to keep the momentum going! Once I'd finally reached the crumb stage I could tip them into the melted butter along with a helping of Demerara sugar. After a quick mix it was ready to be pressed into the awaiting cake tin.

While the base set I could get on and make the cheesecake topping. I really enjoyed the first part as it involved chocolate! I broke the chocolate up into small pieces and placed them into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water to melt. There were a few pieces left over. Instead of saving for a later date I scoffed the remainder. I just couldn't ignore its pitiful “eat me” calls! With sugar flowing through my veins, I happily trotted to the cupboard and gathered up the box of gelatine. I just needed to measure a small amount of cold water into a bowl then sprinkle a little powdered gelatine over the surface. Almost immediately it started to 'sponge', but I was instructed to leave it for ten minutes. I felt forced to sit down and eat another biscuit - or perhaps it was two?!

After the gelatine had set it seemed a strange notion then to place it over a pan of simmering water and wait for it to dissolve! Once this had been achieved I left it to cool whilst I moved on to separating the eggs. The yolks went straight into my large mixing bowl while the whites were put to one side to be used later. To the egg yolks I added a modest amount of caster sugar followed by a surprisingly small quantity of cream cheese. As I whisked the three ingredients together I wondered if there would be enough mixture to cover the biscuit base. Things were topped up a little by the addition of the soured cream and melted chocolate. The chocolate made the mixture suddenly very tempting. However, my thoughts soon changed after pouring in the liquid gelatine. Now it wasn't so appealing!

The egg whites were of course not to be forgotten. I was instructed to whisk them until frothy. After folding in the moussey whites it was finally time to add in the last few ingredients. I felt as though I was adding a little bit of this and a little bit of that. There seemed to be a real mixture of ingredients in this recipe! Mary says to use four tablespoonfuls of brandy. This sounded like an awful lot for a relatively small cheesecake and Neil isn't a fan of spirits! When measuring it I was a little more sparing so I suspect I ended up using closer to three tablespoonfuls.

I had anticipated grating my piece of fresh ginger, so I felt a little apprehensive about simply chopping it finely. I had visions of Neil spitting out his cheesecake and gasping for water. I could only hope that I'd managed to chop it finely enough!! Once the brandy and ginger had been folded in I could pour the cheesecake over the biscuit base and cram it into our fit to burst fridge.

For the decoration Mary says to cover the cheesecake with a thin layer of whipped double cream before adding a layer of chocolate caraque. She describes how to make this in the decoration section of the book. I melted a little chocolate and then spread it over a smooth surface. Once set I was to use a sharp knife to cut pretty scrolls of chocolate. This did not work as easily as Mary suggests. In fact it didn't work at all! I ended up with just a few unsightly lumps to which I added some finely grated chocolate. It didn't look as good as Mary's but it would have to do. For the final finishing touch I dotted over some thin slices of stem ginger.

Neil thought HIS cheesecake looked very inviting and he was eager to start his taste testing duties. Two slices were quickly eaten so think I can take this as being a good sign! He said it was rich, chocolatey and the brandy gave it a real kick. The whipped cream was a welcome addition as it helped to calm the strong flavours and made the cheesecake even more rich and creamy.

This recipe did take longer than some of Mary's simpler cheesecakes but it wasn't difficult to make. I really like the idea of combining chocolate and ginger together. The use of brandy is perhaps a little daring. Neil said he would have preferred it without, but if you like brandy you'll no doubt really enjoy this cheesecake. It’s all about personal taste! I felt sad not to be able to enjoy a slice, but I managed to console myself with another biscuit!
Wish I could of tried some!!

Monday, 25 June 2012


Recipe Number Two Hundred & Four:  Page 167

Why, oh why did I leave all the complicated recipes till last? This was the question I repeatedly asked myself when searching the pages of the Baking Bible. The few recipes that remain are, in the most part, time consuming and fiddly, just the sort of thing you wish to avoid when pregnancy hormones course through your veins and you have an aching spine!! Hey ho, I'm on the final push and moaning won't make things any easier!

It was hard to find the impetus to bake after a week off from the challenge. It had been my little boy’s second birthday mid week and we spent a few days with both sets of grandparents at Center Parcs. I think it's safe to say that we all had a wonderful time. Isaac really enjoyed his birthday; he splashed in the lake, played with the sand, and there was even time to head to the swimming pool. It was a very water orientated day! Isaac wolfed down an enormous birthday tea and a pile of cake; he went to bed a very happy boy!

All too soon it was back to reality and we were home with bags to unpack and a pile of washing to attend to. It was hard to get back into baking mode after those relaxing days away. After spending ages looking through the remaining recipes, I finally decided upon these Mokatines. We had all of the ingredients needed, so no dash to the shop would be necessary. I found it hard to ignore my sense of foreboding. I'd made the Chocolatines (an almost identical recipe) some months ago and it had been a very long drawn out and unrewarding process. It was clear that I would need full concentration, so I shut the door between the living room and kitchen. Neil entertained Isaac and I could bake in peace!

First I had to make a Genoese sponge. This was the part I feared the most as my previous effort had tasted eggy and the texture was stodgy. I was worried that the outcome might be even worse as the battery had died in my electric scales and I didn't have a new one to replace it. I'd have to make do with my manual set, which is nowhere near as accurate – deep joy! I weighed the butter, then placed it into a small saucepan to melt gently over a low heat. I left it to cool while I whisked the sugar and egg mixture to within an inch of its life. My hand held electric whisk is cheap as chips, so having it on top speed is always a worry. Sure enough, I was soon enveloped within an aroma of overheated plastic. After several minutes had passed my mixture was suitably thick and mousse like. I'm sure my whisk let out a sigh of relief when I eventually turned it off! I carefully folded in the flour and butter in two stages. This time I had allowed the butter to cool right down before pouring it in. I wondered if it had been too hot on the previous occasion. I tipped the thick mixture into the tin and placed it into the oven. All I could do was hope for the best!

Unfortunately, there was no time to rest as I'd yet to make the Crème au Beurre Moka (coffee butter cream). When making the chocolate variation for the Chocolatines, I overheated the sugar syrup and managed to scramble the egg yolks, so I was keen to avoid a repeat disaster! I heated the sugar and water in a small pan then brought it to a steady boil. Mary says to boil for two to three minutes. While I waited, I managed to locate my sugar thermometer. I remembered that Mary used one for another demanding French butter cream. I found the recipe and noted that the sugar syrup is ready at 107 degrees. I checked my syrup and it was 131 degrees – whoops! I let it cool down to the correct temperature and tried to whisk it into the egg yolk, but of course the damage had already been done. It cooked the awaiting yolk instantly and I was left with a lumpy coagulated mess! I had to clean it all up and start again. This time I used the thermometer from start to finish and it was a complete success! Hallelujah! I dug out yet another mixing bowl from the depths of the cupboard, added the butter and softened it with a wooden spoon. Mary makes a point of mentioning that the butter should be very soft. I think the bingo wing on my right arm has shrunk a little after all that wooden spoon action!!! Now it was time to pour in the sugary egg and mix some more. Now the mixture was finally ready to receive a good helping of coffee essence. This would of course provide a coffee flavour!

By this time the cake was cooked through and I was so pleased to see that it had risen beautifully and was a hundred times better than my previous effort! I left it to cool on a wire rack and moved on to making the soft coffee icing. It was clear that I was still a long way from the finishing line. I glanced at the clock and was horrified to see that an hour and a half had passed since I had started.

As my tired legs shuffled me over to the fridge to collect the milk Isaac spotted me through the door and pressed his little face against the glass for a kiss. That certainly helped to cheer up my weary soul!

I cleaned out the small saucepan for the FOURTH time and tipped in the milk, some butter and coffee granules. Once the butter had melted I could sift in a large quantity of icing sugar. I could have cried as I watched the icing sugar leave a trail of white dust all over the hob, worktop, and of course the floor! I beat the unappealing brown mixture until thick. I was suddenly struck with a strong craving for a cup of coffee, partly due to the tempting smell but mostly to perk up my flagging energy.

Once the cake was cold I could split it in half horizontally then smear with a very thin layer of coffee butter cream before sandwiching it back together. Once I had cut the cake into the required eight slices I felt sad that, after all this effort, I was left with just eight small cakes!

I'd had enough of cleaning pans, so I heated a small quantity of apricot jam in the microwave before painting it over the cakes with a pastry brush. I reached across, picked up the pan of coffee icing and poured it generously over each cake in turn. Most of it slid straight off the sides and onto the baking tray waiting underneath. I spread what I could over the sides but there were a few unattractive gaps. After the icing had set a little, I located a piping bag and small nozzle. There was such a pathetic amount of coffee butter cream left to use that it looked rather silly in the piping bag. As it turned out, I only had enough for three of the cakes, grrr! The heat from my hands melted the last little dollop and it fell from the nozzle, decorating the floor with little drips. I couldn't help but laugh – I was almost delirious by this point!!!!

After all the hard work I hoped to love these little cakes. I was delighted with the sponge; it had turned out really well and was light and fluffy. The butter cream and icing were strongly flavoured with coffee and were rather sickly. Neil said the cake was nice enough in small quantities but he felt an urge to brush his teeth as it was so sweet! Maybe that is why there are only eight?! These are certainly best served in the 'Special Cakes' section of the Baking Bible. They definitely are for special occasions or for people you REALLY love! I was so worn out after my two hour baking session that poor Neil was left with the mountain of washing up. He has certainly earned extra brownie points!
Don't let it's simple looks fool you!!!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Mini Cakes

Recipe Number Two Hundred & Three:  Page 244.

This is the last bake from the 'Baking for Children' section. These mini cakes follow Mary's fabulous all-in-one method. Such a simple recipe is perfect for little children who like to be helpful in the kitchen. The plain sponges are baked in tiny petits fours cases then topped with glacé icing and sweeties. I was amazed to find that I already possessed a small packet of dolly mixture sweets. They would be perfect for the decoration. I can't understand how they escaped my many forages for naughty treats – I must be losing my touch!

It was wonderful to wake to a blue sky and plenty of sunshine. It made such a change to head to the park without the need of coats! Everything started off pleasantly enough; we enjoyed walking through the park, stopping to inspect the daisies every once in awhile. On arrival at the swings it was clear that a bird had eaten something it shouldn't. Both swings were in a foul state! I keep a towel in Isaac's pushchair for such events, so I laid it over the less affected swing. Isaac took great exception to this and turned on the waterworks! This theme continued throughout the rest of our outing. By the time we'd returned home I was feeling rather fraught to say the least! I had planned to make the cakes with Isaac before his afternoon nap but thought better of it! Hopefully he would wake up in a better mood. Oh the joy of toddlers!

A sleep did Isaac the world of good. I was greeted with a big smile when I collected him from his cot. It was as if the drama of the morning had never occurred! I very much hoped that making the little cakes together would end the day on a happy note. Fingers crossed!

I gathered up the Baking Bible and laid it out on the kitchen worktop. I turned on the oven and placed the petits fours cases onto two baking trays. Isaac had been eyeing up the colourful paper cases for weeks. Sensing that there could be trouble ahead, I quickly gave him a case in each colour so that he wouldn't steal them from the tray. This made his day perhaps, even his whole week – simple pleasures!! He observed intently as I weighed each ingredient into the mixing bowl. The butter was the first to go into the bowl. Isaac was desperate to hold the butter, so I put a little onto his fingers. Quick as a flash he was asking me to wipe it off! There was just the one egg to crack into the bowl. This was a great shame as it's Isaac's favourite part. He jumped up and down with excitement shouting “EGG” at the top of his lungs! I asked my little helper where the flour is kept. He went straight to the shelf and tapped his little fingers on the plastic container full of self-raising flour. He is learning fast!

After tipping in the flour I quickly measured in half a teaspoon of baking powder. Caster sugar was the last ingredient to be included. Isaac was keen to help me weigh the sugar and, as a result, quite a bit ended up scattered over the worktop and floor. Apparently this was very funny! Now all the ingredients were in the bowl I set about collecting the electric hand whisk. The mixture required a very brief whisk before it was thoroughly blended and smooth. As the paper cases were so tiny, I thought it best for me to spoon in the mixture. Isaac did help to hold the spoon, though, from time to time. He kept shrieking in excitement “All by myself”; he was very proud of himself! Of course it didn't take long before he started to eat the raw mixture. I think this was the highlight of the baking session.

I placed the filled cases into the oven. As they were so small I'd imagined that they would be cooked within about ten minutes, when in fact it would take between fifteen and twenty minutes. However, the time soon passed for Isaac as he sat on the kitchen floor with his bowl and spoon. He alternated between scraping out the remaining mixture and banging the bowl with the spoon. Apparently this sounded just like church bells! The cakes rose well in the oven and were a lovely golden brown. It was torture waiting for them to cool. Thankfully, due to their petiteness, it didn't take too long and we were soon able to make up the icing.

I sifted the dreaded icing sugar into a small bowl. Isaac was most perplexed by the inevitable dust cloud. I had to laugh when he exclaimed “Messy!” Never was a truer word spoken! To the sifted icing sugar I added a hint of water, just enough to create a spreadable consistency. Again, I held Isaac's hand and we guided the icing over the top of each cake. Before the icing had a chance to set we added the dolly mixture, sampling a few as we went. This was, of course, purely for quality control purposes!!!

We all enjoyed eating these tasty mouthfuls. We made quite a few but they didn't last long. As they are so small it helps to eliminate the guilt!! We had a great deal of fun making them and it certainly provided a happy ending to our day. The cakes were light and sweet; perfect for children's lunch boxes or parties. They are also perfect for harassed mothers!!

Isaac enjoyed licking the spoon. The few without icing are the suspect ones!!
Recipe Variation: Mini Chocolate Cakes

I was really looking forward to making these tiny chocolate cakes. They are only small so surely you can eat as many as you like without feeling guilty?! It would appear that Isaac was as keen to get cracking as I was. The word cake was enough to make him run into the kitchen at top speed!

The variation to this recipe was very simple and straight forward. I just needed to omit a little flour and replace with sifted cocoa powder. Isaac and I sat on the floor and mixed all the ingredients together with a large wooden spoon. It was a bit of a struggle to stop Isaac from diving into the bowl of mixture head first. He was simply dying to have a taste! Once the mixture was safely in the tiny cases the licking of the spoon and bowl could finally commence. Sadly I couldn't join in due to the raw eggs. In a few months I'll be able to elbow Isaac out of the way! With the cakes in the oven we were able to watch them cook through the oven door. Perhaps not the most thrilling past-time but we quite enjoyed watching the little cakes rise up and turn golden brown.

When the cakes were cooked through I took them from the oven and placed onto a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile I made up the messy icing. I followed exactly the same procedure as before. I was surprised and a little miffed not to be using a chocolate icing! This time we added smarties for decoration. A few for the cakes and a handful for me.

I was delighted with these cute little cakes. They were moist, light and delicious. I loved how simple and easy they were to make and Isaac was able to get involved too. Yet another recipe to add to my make again list!

Fun litle cakes - great for parties.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Rich Fruit Cake

Recipe Number Two Hundred & Two:  Page 64.

Despite being halfway through June, the weather has felt decidedly autumnal this past week. A rich fruit cake seemed like the perfect cake to enjoy in such chilly conditions! Judging by the long list of ingredients, this was going to be an expensive cake. I could visualise lugging heavy bags home from the shop. Neil helped me check through the heaving kitchen shelves to see what I already had in stock. I have a habit of buying things without realising that I already have them, getting home only to find them sitting smugly on the shelf, Neil despairs!!! We were pleasantly surprised and amazed when we realised that the only thing missing was a lemon – result! I was pretty much all set to make the fruit cake.

After lunch I took the butter from the fridge to soften. I congratulated myself for thinking ahead! For a change I read through the entire recipe to see what needed to be done. I noted that the dried fruit would have to be soaked in a brandy bath overnight. There was no point in making a start in the early afternoon, so I put the butter back into the chilly confines of the fridge and got on with other things instead. After our meal and usual evening of watching repeats on TV, I went to the kitchen to sort out the dried fruit. I quite liked the idea of breaking up the cake making process. It was nice to think that I wouldn't have as much to do tomorrow!

I weighed the delicious glacé cherries and gobbled a few as I went. I can eat these sticky delights like sweets. No wonder I have more than my share of fillings! After chopping the cherries into quarters, I reluctantly rinsed off the lovely gooey syrup and dried them thoroughly with kitchen towel. It was time to retrieve the jars of currants, raisins and sultanas from the shelf. As much as I love storing them in Kilner jars, I hate opening the lids. The metal clips are rather vicious and often inflict injury! The jars were left almost empty by the time I'd tipped in a generous quantity from all three into the bowl. I wondered if I would have enough room for the dried apricots as my bowl was close to overflowing.

Snipping apricots with scissors is a tedious job but it is quicker than using a knife. I added them bit by bit to the bowl which was sitting on the scales. I managed to calculate that the average dried apricot weighs 7 grams!! The scales must have felt bored too as they gave up and switched off. Luckily I'd kept my beady eye on the weight, so I had a good idea of how much more to add! Last of all, I tipped in the chopped mixed peel. Now it was time to give all this fruit a nice soak in some brandy. A bottle of brandy is very expensive but, when used in baking, it lasts for ages; I've been using this one for over a year and still have half a bottle left. I poured four tablespoonfuls over the fruit. The fumes were so potent that my eyes were burning and my nose tingled! I covered the bowl with a layer of cling film. It felt as though I was tucking the fruit up for the night. This signalled that it was time for me to climb the wooden hill!

The following day it took a long while for me to work up the enthusiasm to finish the cake. I had planned to make it first thing in the morning, but that soon came and went. Whilst Isaac had a lovely long nap, I used the time to sit back and contemplate his upcoming second birthday. He already owns a mountain of toys, so the thought of adding to them was a little disconcerting. However, I have become quite adept at navigating my way through the pile on the floor! My thoughts also turned to THE CAKE. What was I going to do – eeek!! I started to feel the anxiety rise in my chest! Baking always helps to take my mind off any worries, so it seemed a good time to head to the kitchen and complete the fruit cake.

I weighed the flour, spices and a mountain of dark muscovado sugar into my largest mixing bowl. Thankfully my mother-in-law had given me a great big ceramic bowl which she no longer needed. It's the perfect size for heavily fruited cakes or large batches of cake mix. I broke the numerous eggs into the bowl then grated in the zest of a lemon. I was enjoying the fresh zesty scent until the juice sought out an invisible cut on my little finger and attacked. Ouch! Thankfully the orange was better behaved when I shaved off its skin. I only needed a tablespoonful of treacle. It was annoying to get covered in the black sticky substance for such a small quantity! The amount of butter required was quite simply horrifying. I used almost TWO packets. I could only hope that all the fruit would counteract some of the fat!! Next on the agenda were the almonds. It took some time to chop them into rough pieces. I lost a fair amount on the floor as they merrily flicked off the kitchen worktop. After a quick beating with my electric whisk, I was ready to tip in the boozy fruit. I had to use a good deal of elbow grease to work it into the smooth cake mixture. I heaved the heavy mixture into the very well lined tin. It was time to decorate the top of the cake with blanched almonds and glacé cherries. Mary uses this pretty finishing touch for a few of her fruit cakes. It is a simple yet very effective idea. Using what little muscle I have, I transferred the leaden tin into the oven. Surely it weighed more than several house bricks! The cake would need to cook for up to four and a half hours. I called out to Neil in the other room to inform him of the lengthy cooking time. He sounded horrified by my declaration and I couldn't really understand the cause for his alarm. On further discussion it transpired that he'd misheard and thought I'd said four to four and a half DAYS! This had me in fits of giggles for some time!

The cake cooked for just over four hours. It looked a bit burnt, but I reminded myself that this was a rich dark fruit cake. It was a challenge to extract the searing hot cake from the oven. My hands shook as it was so heavy! Rather frustratingly I had to wait for the cake to cool right down before tipping it out and pouring more brandy over the top. Fruit cakes do not cool very quickly. I spent the next forty-five minutes yawning and trying to stay awake. I was the only one up and it was very chilly downstairs. I knew I'd regret this in the morning when Isaac woke up singing at 6.30am! By the time I'd poured the brandy over the cake it was approaching midnight. The cake would have to cool without me, I was going to bed!

By the following morning the cake was obviously stone cold and ready to be wrapped up in a double layer of baking paper and foil. I do not plan letting it mature for long. I am looking forward to seeing my Mum in a week’s time and she loves fruit cake. As soon as we've had a taste, I'll update this post and let you know what it's like!
Apologies for the rubbish photo!

So what did it taste like?

So sorry for late update - I'm so forgetful of late! I took the uncut cake on holiday. I can confirm that it travelled well and arrived at Centre Parc's unscathed! All of the holiday party enjoyed a slice of the cake. The only criticism would be that it seemed a little under done in the middle. This was due to my impatience to get it out of the oven so I could go to bed! Other than that it was a deliciously moist and very fruity cake. I will be making it again as it didn't require as much preparation as other fruited cakes and it still tasted wonderful.
Cut cake!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Old-Fashioned Seed Cake

Recipe Number Two Hundred & One:  Page 57.

To be honest the thought of a seed cake does little to excite me! I'm not the biggest fan of seeds. In my mind they are food for birds! Mary's recipe introduction did little to persuade me. She states that we will either love or loathe seed cake. This reminds me of Marmite's similar bold statement. I happen to be very fond of Marmite, so I hoped that the same would apply to this recipe! It certainly would be a shame to bake a cake only to hate it. Where's the fun in that?!

Before baking could commence, we had a little drama to contend with first thing in the morning. We had a leaking pipe and there was a large wet patch on the ceiling – eeeek! Neil had been ready to leave for work but ended up having to drain all the water from the system so that a builder could fix the pipe. Isaac and I hid upstairs to avoid the chaos! Thankfully, after an hour or so, everything was sorted and Neil could go on to work, while I took Isaac to the park. It was obviously set to be one of those days. As soon as we arrived the heavens opened and we became rather damp. We had to make a speedy exit and head for home. A pregnant lady attempting to run is not a pretty sight!

Back in the warm and dry we cheered ourselves up with jam and crusty bread for lunch. I was particularly excited as I'd made the large batch of strawberry jam the night before. Neither of us could get enough of the stuff; it’s addictive!

After gorging myself silly on bread and jam it was time to start baking. I found it difficult to summon up much enthusiasm, which made me feel a little guilty! At least it was a simple and very straightforward recipe. I weighed equal quantities of butter and sugar into a mixing bowl. I collected the self-raising flour and baking powder from the kitchen shelves and measured them in. I now keep my flours in large plastic containers in the hope that I'll no longer find piles of flour at the bottom of the cupboard. Little fingers like to dig little holes into the bags!! Unsurprisingly I'd completely forgotten to check how many eggs I had. Thank goodness only two were required as that was all I had left – phew! After acknowledging my good fortune, I cracked the eggs into the bowl before taking a trip to the fridge. I pulled out a large bottle of milk. Just two tablespoonfuls were required. As we go through so much we buy six pints at a time. On this occasion the bottle was full and my hand trembled as the milk sloshed onto the spoon!

Mary's next instruction is to beat everything together for about a minute until all is thoroughly blended. It didn't take long at all to combine and I was left with a thick smooth mixture. It looked lovely as it was, and I felt reluctant to add the chopped candied peel and caraway seeds. I've never used caraway seeds, so I turned the container in my hand to look at the description on the back of the label. It didn't sound very appealing. Apparently it has a flavour much like aniseed. My sinuses were cleared as soon as I unscrewed the lid; my goodness it had a very pungent aroma! I was to use two teaspoonfuls in total. From this I reserved a few to sprinkle over the top of the cake. Two teaspoonfuls might not sound like much but caraway seeds are teeny tiny. I carefully folded them into the cake batter along with the chopped peel, and then spooned the mixture into the lined cake tin. It would need to cook in the oven for about an hour, so I took the opportunity to get on with a few little chores. I may have sneaked in another slice of bread and jam – shhhh!!

After half an hour a strong smell emanated from the oven. I had to keep peering through the door to check. Each time I felt convinced I would be greeted by a burnt cake. Thankfully it never turned black. It was, however, a deep shade of brown! I left the suspect cake to cool in the tin for ten minutes and then turned it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Now came the taste test. Normally I dive in without a second thought, but on this occasion I was a little hesitant! Rather gingerly I cut a slice and took a small bite. At first I didn't like it. The aftertaste was quite strong. It really did taste of aniseed! I took another bite and decided it wasn't so bad. I am not normally a lover of candied peel but I was glad of it. It helped to subdue the strong flavour of the caraway seeds. As Mary describes, this cake has a lovely buttery flavour. It is lighter than a Madeira cake but has similarities in both appearance and taste. Sadly I don't think I'll be in any rush to reach for another slice. I wonder if the birds will like it?

I'm off for more jam and bread!!
Seedy cake! ;-)

Monday, 4 June 2012

Swiss Wild Strawberry and Walnut Cake

Recipe Number Two Hundred:  Page 169.

Wow – I have finally reached my 200th recipe! I think it is safe to say that I have made a LOT of cake in the last year and a bit. No wonder my hips have expanded; I'm not sure I can blame the size of my stomach entirely on pregnancy! As I contemplated which recipe I should choose I really did feel a sense of achievement. In a few months my challenge will be complete – I'm so close to the finishing line!

Of course, this weekend we have been celebrating the Queen's diamond jubilee. It is such a momentous occasion. I wanted to choose a recipe which complimented this very special long weekend. I didn't have much choice as there are so few recipes left. However, I finally settled on this strawberry cake. The word Swiss is in the title, but I consider anything which contains strawberries and cream to be quintessentially British! It makes me think of long summer days and watching endless tennis matches on TV. It ticked all the boxes as far as I was concerned!

After cooking and then eating a gigantic roast dinner for lunch we found refuge on the sofa. We just about found the energy to locate the TV remote. With groaning waistbands we watched the Queen's Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames. Despite the driving rain it was still enjoyable to watch. However, I did feel sorry for the choir with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. They sang gallantly, with their sodden hair plastered to their faces and clothes stuck to their skin. Eventually I managed to drag myself away from the nautical spectacle to begin baking.

After greasing and lining my deep round tin, I dug a mixing bowl out from the cupboard. I was about to make a fatless sponge. This would require me to whisk the eggs and sugar together for a very long time. I have learnt through experience that there is little point in attempting such a recipe without the aid of an electric whisk. However, if you are looking for a challenge or have bulging biceps, then you might want to risk the hand whisk!!! Even with the electric version turned to a high speed, it still took about four minutes until the mixture had doubled in volume and developed a thick mousse like consistency. Once this had been achieved I could sift in a small amount of self-raising flour, swiftly followed by the chopped walnuts. I wasn't very impressed with my brand new packet of walnuts – most of them were soft and didn't look very appetising. It took me a while to pick out the best ones! I carefully folded the flour and nuts into the thick mixture. Now it was time to pour the mixture into the awaiting tin, and then place it into the oven where it would stay for just over half an hour. Time to return to the sofa!

I never really expect any fatless sponges I make to rise, so I was surprised as well as relieved when I took the well risen cake from the oven. Unfortunately it was a right pain to extract from the tin, so my relief soon turned to annoyance. After some frantic shaking, the cake finally fell onto the wire rack; thankfully it stayed in one piece. Once it was cold, I gingerly sliced the cake into three layers. I must be getting braver, as normally I would have asked Neil for help! Now it was time for the cream and strawberries. Isaac's little eyes lit up at the mere mention of the word and he felt the need to follow me the fridge. I couldn't resist offering him a few. You'd have thought I'd given him a brand new train set by his reaction – he was ecstatic! I should point out that I was forced to use 'normal' strawberries. We couldn't find any wild ones in the supermarket. I couldn't see that it would make too much difference!

The amount of whipped cream didn't look anywhere near enough both to fill and to cover the cake. I had to spread it thinly between each layer. However I had a lot of strawberries, so I could be more generous with these. As feared, the remaining cream was minimal and by no means enough. It had to be spread over the top and sides of the cake VERY sparingly. Unfortunately the cake could clearly be seen peeping through and the crumbs intermingled in the thin layer of cream. I couldn't help feeling disappointed by the appearance of the cake – I'd had such high hopes! Lastly I dotted some whole strawberries over the surface and, for a finishing touch, I couldn't help adding Isaac's plastic flag for a patriotic flourish!

Interesting use of flag!
As you are already aware, we are a greedy bunch. We managed to find room for a slice of cake each. Our stomachs were still incredibly full but we just couldn't resist! The first thing Neil commented on was the walnuts. He thought they complimented the strawberries brilliantly. Even though there wasn't enough cream for decoration purposes, it was in fact just the right amount; any more and it would no doubt have become sickly and too rich. It was a lovely light cake; the strawberries and cream set it off beautifully. Perfect for the Queen's Jubilee!

The flash didn't like this white cake :-(