home made cakes for special days and elevenses

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Mac Attack #20 - Fruit

I thought it was high time I joined the party over at Mactweets and entered their latest macaron challenge. This month the theme is fruit, in celebration of the rich pickings on offer in this strange month of June. Last week I made my first ever batch of jam and this challenge presented a good opportunity to use it on something other than the kids' toast. The jam is gooseberry and was made using an old Mrs Beeton recipe as dictated over the phone by my mother. It's a little runny, but it tastes good and works well with elderflower buttercream in a pretty green macaron.

I had planned to pick some elderflowers to make this a more pretty picture but yesterday's thunderstorm was not conducive to foraging. More jam to come I think, and probably more macarons to spread it on.

Hop over to Mactweets to see the other fruity offerings.


Saturday, 25 June 2011

A Mad Tea Party

Today we had a tea party, a Mad Hatters Tea Party, with plenty of cake!

We made a Hummingbird cake, some mini cupcakes, cakepops, lemon macarons (with home made lemon curd filling) and some playing card jammie dodgers. A feast of fun!

Alice herself came along to see what was on offer.

Hurrry over to a Fanciful Twist to see other Mad Tea Parties taking place today.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Casting Couch Birthday Cake

I have spent much of the last week working on this 60th birthday cake for a man who works in theatre based training. The brief was to show him in his blue smoking jacket, sitting on a casting couch with a big fat cigar in his hand. I'm not sure how flattering the likeness is but hopefully it fits the bill.

There was tricky construction work invloved in this cake to make sure it didn't all fall apart. Underneath the blue rug is a cakeboard supported by dowel rods, to prevent Derek and his chaise longue from sinking into the cake, not to mention the several hidden cocktail sticks holding everything together.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Lemon and Poppy Seed Loaf

Today was my daughter's summer school fair, and my contribution to the day's festivities was to bake some cakes. I managed to be reasonably organised and do most of this the evening before, but made sure to save a bit for Saturday morning, to guarantee a bit of extra chaos. I baked the requisite cupcakes decorated with sweets (jellybeans in this case), and a lemon and poppy seed loaf for the more mature punters. I had wanted to try out the recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days book, but didn't have the ricotta cheese I needed. Instead I returned to my tried and tested Nigella recipe from Domestic Goddess and added a couple of tablespoons of poppy seeds. This recipe is great and always turns out well, though I would recommend lining the sides of the tin as well as the bottom as the lemon syrup glues the loaf to the tin. This is not what you need when you're running late for a ballet class and need to get out of the door as quickly as possible.

Lemon and Poppy Seed Loaf
adapted from 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' by Nigella Lawson

125g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
zest of 1 lemon
175g self raising flour
pinch of salt
4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons poppy seeds (optional)
4 tablespoons lemon juice
100g icing sugar

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees and line a 450g loaf tin with parchment.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, then the lemon zest, beating well. Fold in the flour and salt, and then the milk and poppy seeds. Bake for approximately 45 minutes.

Heat the lemon juice and icing sugar gently until all the sugar is dissolved.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, puncture all over the top with a cake tester or small skewer. Leaving the cake in the tin slowly pour the lemon syrup over, letting it sink into the holes. Do not remove the cake from the tin until completely cool.

Nigella suggests spiking the syrup with a little limoncello, which sounds like a marvellous idea to me. Must remember to buy some!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Chocolate and Walnut Brownies - Perfect for a Camping Trip to Cornwall

We have spent the last week or so camping at the beautiful South Penquite Farm on Bodmin Moor. Camping is great, especially with a young family, but it takes forever to get ready. There was so much gear in our car there was hardly room for me, and I spent the best part of last Saturday getting it all together. One of the essential pieces of kit was a good cake to munch on whilst wedged in to the car between pillows, sleeping bags and footballs. Thus I took a half hour break from packing to knock up some chocolate and walnut brownies for the trip. These keep for days so I made a double batch to share with the other familes we had persuaded to come camping in the rain.

I have made these hundreds of times before and have always been pleased with the results. They have a lovely dark chocolate flavour but plenty of sugar to give them the classic crisp brownie top and a nice gooey middle. In my haste to get this batch made and get back to the packing I accidentally improved the flavour by adding too much cocoa powder. The recipe below is basically the original (taken from a children's cookery book!), with some extra cocoa powder and Green and Black's 70% dark chocolate instead of child friendly chocolate drops. I have always used either walnuts or pecans but might try some with raspberries next time, just for a change.

Chocolate and Walnut Brownies
adapted from The Usborne Children's Book of Baking,by Fiona Patchett

100g dark chocolate, melted
2 large eggs, beaten
125g butter, softened
275g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
50g self raising flour
25g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
100g walnuts or pecans

Line a 20cm square tin with parchment. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, beating between each addition. Sift both types of flour and the cocoa powder into a bowl. Add the melted chocolate and stir. Add the chopped nuts. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approxinately 35 minutes at 180 degrees.

The brownies went down well when we were trying to keep warm around the camp fire and were perfect for a pit stop on the Camel Trail. There was certainly no shortage of cakes at South Penquite this week. My Mum turned up with a yummy Victoria sandwich and a big box of cupcakes, and the farmer's son had set up business selling his homemade cupcakes to all the happy campers in the games room. All this on top on of pasties, ice cream, cream teas and chips - our diet is less than healthy when we're back in Cornwall. At least the air is clean!