home made cakes for special days and elevenses

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Orange and Polenta Cake - A Random Recipe

Dom at Belleau Kitchen is celebrating his second blog birthday this month, and to commemorate the occasion he has asked us all to bake him something special for his Random Recipes challenge. Dom's announcement post made me realise that I had missed the first anniversary of my very own blog in March and so this cake is to celebrate both birthdays.

I randomly chose my recipe from the baking section of my gorgeous Ottolenghi cookbook. I half expected the book to fall open at the macaron page as I turn to this recipe frequently, but that may not be possible because those particular pages are a little sticky from macarons past. I'm afraid that I am not very good at keeping well loved cookbooks clean.

Instead I was presented with a picture of a beautiful orange and polenta cake, glistening with its marmalade glaze. This was the first time I had baked a polenta cake, and possibly only the second time I had tasted one. The flavours deepened after a couple of days, and though I wasn't entirely sure at first, I have now really grown to love this cake.

So happy birthday to Belleau Kitchen. Sorry you can't taste the cake Dom, but I hope you enjoy looking at it.


Thursday, 19 April 2012

Yummy Scrummy Beetroot Brownies

There is a shop not far from me, in West Ealing, called the Cudi Food Centre. It sells all manner of foodie goods from Asia, the Middle East and Europe and it's where I go if I'm looking for something unusual. They also have a good range of fresh fruit and veg and is a great alternative to the local Sainsbury's. They had an enormous box of fresh beetroot in last week, so I picked up three of those with the intention of making a deliciously healthy feta, orange and beetroot salad that I made once before. However my good intentions went out of the window when I remembered the recipe I had seen for chocolate, hazlenut and beetroot brownies.

The recipe (Forbidden Chocolate Brownies) is from Harry Eastwood's book 'Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache'. This is a beautiful book, with lots of lovely pictures and some very tempting recipes. However I must admit that I find the prose a little irritating at times. There is a rather flowery introduction to each cake in which Harry describes the character of the cake (Victoria Sponge is 'young and shy, with a perfectly ironed apron'), which I'm sure will seem charming to some, but is not my cup of tea.

The unusual thing about this book is that almost every recipe uses some sort of vegetable as one of the main ingredients, including courgettes, aubergines and potatoes. Many of the cakes have a very low fat content, and the majority of them appear to be gluten free. When I baked the brownies I did make some amendments to the recipe so these pictures show my slightly adapted version of it. I swapped about a third of the dark chocolate for milk chocolate (to use up some Easter eggs), and 3 tbsp of the cocoa powder for plain flour, just because 70g seemed rather a lot.

The result was an absolutely delicious batch of brownies. They were a beautiful colour, with just a hint of the beetroot red showing through, very chocolately and extremely moist. I will certainly be making these again, and will be picking out some more recipes to try from this very unusual and lovely book.

I am sending these over to Ros from the More Than Occasional Baker for the monthly Alphabakes challenge that she hosts with Caroline Makes. This month the letter is 'b' and My Blooming Beautiful Beetroot Brownies fit the bill!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sticky Chelsea Buns

So I never did get round to making those hot cross buns. I did have a go at Chelsea buns this weekend though. I used a recipe I found on the Good to Know website. These were absolutely delicious fresh out of the oven, and were still good later that day. They had gone stale by the next morning, but there was only one left by then! The honey glaze on these adds some extra flavour and makes them super sticky too. I also added a bit of cinnamon before scattering the fruit inside.

I don't know if Chelsea buns are ever good the next day, but I will try another recipe too, in the name of research. Not surprisingly, my son wants me to swap the fruit for chocolate and nuts next time. Sounds good to me!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Two First Birthday Cakes

My Easter weekend was mainly spent at my daughter's dance rehearsals, eating chocolate and making first birthday cakes. Oh, and taking my son to watch our football team win an important match (that was the best bit!). Both cakes were fun to make, with lovely themes for a first birthday. One was for a little boy who loves red buses, and the other was to match the party stationery, paper plates etc that the birthday boy's mum had chosen.

Happy birthday Tommy and Taymoor! Hope you both had a fantastic day.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Peanut M&M Cookies with the Kids

After a busy Easter weekend of cake orders I had not managed to make any hot cross buns, despite having saved Dan Lepard's recipe from the Guardian magazine and having had every intention of doing so. I finally saw an opportunity this afternoon when the horrible weather prompted my two children to get their aprons out and ask to do some baking. Unfortunately we were missing a few vital ingredients and settled on peanut M&M cookies instead. I had seen the recipe in a copy of the Australian Woman's Weekly 'Kids Party Food' book that has somehow ended up on my bookshelf. I can't think where it came from, but it's possibly something to do with my mother. Anyway, it came in very handy today and we made some delicious cookies in no time at all.

Both of my children participated fully in the baking, but ony one was prepared to pose for photographs. The other threw down his hat and apron and declared it time for kitchen cricket instead. An accident waiting to happen in my opinion. Watch this space.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

A Mad Hatter's Cake

My daughter was invited to a Mad Hatter's tea party last weekend, and I was asked to do the cake. This is such a lovely theme for a little girls' party, and they all looked fabulous in their costumes. A marquee had been set up in the garden and decorated with pretty bunting. The table was beautifully laid with mismatched cups and saucers and teapots full of sweeties. Another table was set up for teacup painting, which kept the girls entertained for quite some time.

There are so many ways to decorate an Alice in Wonderland themed cake that I had to have a chat with the birthday girl about which was the most important feature. She was certain that there should be a big top hat and maybe a teapot, so that's what I made. The teapot is made from sugarpaste and the hat is cut from a square cake and carved into shape.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Forever Nigella #14 - Springtime

I am delighted to be hosting this month's Forever Nigella for the lovely Sarah of Maison Cupcake. In honour of the glorious weather we have been enjoying in recent weeks the theme this month is Springtime. Time to get your Nigella books out and look for something bright and sunny, or perhaps a dish to celebrate Easter which is almost upon us already.

I had a flick through the Easter section of Feast for my own entry, and was drawn to Nigella's recipe for passionfruit curd. She uses it in place of lemon curd in her delicious lemon meringue cake, for an Easter treat, but also recommends it as a filling for a Victoria sandwich. I decided to make some mini Victoria sandwiches filled with fresh cream and passionfruit curd.

I often make Nigella's lemon curd as a way of using up egg yolks leftover from making macarons, and sometimes fill the macarons with it too. Passionfruit curd is just as delicious and smells gorgeous as well. It reminds me of an Exotic Fruits Solero, which is very apt for this challenge as ice cream sales in our corner shop have rocketed with the recent arrival of spring.

I baked Nigella's Victoria sandwich, and cut out four mini sponges.The scraps didn't go to waste but were cut into small pieces and covered in jam and coconut for my children and their friends to eat at a garden picnic. 

To enter this month's Forever Nigella, prepare and blog one of Nigella's recipes, relevant to the theme of Springtime, then send the link to me. I will post a round up of all the entries on 1st May.

The rules are as follows:

1. Blog your entry by 28th of the month showing:
a) the current Forever Nigella badge
b) a link to this announcement post
c) a link to the Forever Nigella page at Maison Cupcake:
n.b. posts must have been published since the announcement post. Archived posts need to be re-published afresh if you wish to submit.

2. Remember copyright.
You must NOT reproduce Nigella’s recipes verbatim. Tell us which book it is from and/or link to it online. If you’ve adapted the recipe in some way i.e. changed at least two ingredients or amended the method then it’s ok to publish the a recipe in your post but you MUST write directions in your own words.

3. Submit your post
Email me the link to your post (vanillafrostcakes AT gmail DOT com), copying in Sarah (sarah AT maisoncupcake DOT com).

You can also tweet your post quoting #forevernigella. I am on @Vanilla_Frost and will retweet any that I see. You will find Sarah at @MaisonCupcake.

I can't wait to see all your entries!