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christmas cakes 2013

October 21st, 2013 | Comments Off | Posted in general

christmas cakes and chocolate dinosaurs

 

Please excuse the chocolate dinosaur cakes. They were an experiment which clearly needs more work. No wonder the bloody creatures are extinct.

fruit for the Christmas cakesI actually got round to doing my Christmas cakes reasonably early (for me) this year. And inspired by my friend Jane’s most excellent, if sporadic, food blog, I have done them slightly differently. I always use this recipe from Nigel Slater, but I’m really quite cavalier about what dried fruits I bung in – it just depends on what’s in the cupboard.

The recipe calls for 1kg of fruit, so I did a quick inventory; I had a 500g bag of Waitrose luxury dried fruit mix, about  100g of dried cranberries, and a few rather elderly figs. So I wandered over to Aldi to see what they had, and came back with this 300g of dried fruit for £1.69. And it was all cut into little pieces, so I only had to chop the figs. Hurray.

I put all the fruit into a mixing bowl, added about 3 tablespoons of cooking brandy, stirred it around, and left it overnight with a plate over it, issuing dire warnings to Pete not to lift the lid unless he needed his sinuses cleared.

Now, I make a Christmas cake because I feel I should, but we don’t actually like it all that much (I know, I know). And I never ice or marzipan it, because it would just be too sweet for us (which is why the photograph on the recipe is just dusted with icing sugar). And then we have this enormous hunk of cake that we struggle to eat. But Jane’s recipe gave me an idea. I thought I’d make a ring cake in a savarin mould, and some individual ones in my spiffy mini sandwich tin from Lakeland.

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On Sunday morning, I found the fruit looking deliciously plumptious, and the brandy all absorbed, so I dug out the tins ready for greasing before making the recipe. And – how utterly bizarre – I didn’t have a plain savarin ring. Fluted, yes. Plain, no. And I didn’t think fluted was going to work. I phoned Lakeland in Beverley, yes they had one in stock, yes they’d put it aside for me (they really are a great company to deal with). And off we bimbled, taking in an Americano at Café Nero on the way.  And some Cake Release as well, for the bloody dinosaur moulds.

I digress.

Cakes were made – one savarin ring, ten individual ones. They’re now wrapped in foil, awaiting drip feeding with brandy (except the one we ate, because you have to *try* them, don’t you), I’m seriously considering making some candied orange slices to decorate them with – could work, don’t you think?

Note to self: for this mix, at 160 fan, this recipe needed about 45 minutes for the ring, and about 35 for the individuals.

p.s. That’s the first time I’ve actually used that mini sandwich tin, but now I’ve tried it, I can see all sorts of uses for it.

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banana and *chocolate* cakes

September 12th, 2013 | Comments Off | Posted in recipe

Neither Pete nor I are especially fond of bananas in their raw form, but I bought some for the GrandToad’s visit a few days ago. He didn’t really want them either, so there were five bananas going brown in the fruit bowl. Not a problem – banana cake!

I use a basic recipe refined over the years:

200g plain flour
100g baking marg
some brown bananas, peeled (quantity is not that relevant, really 2-3 should do it)
60g sugar – anything will do; caster, granulated, brown
1.5 tsp baking powder
a slosh of vanilla extract
2 eggs

Put the lot in a food processor and blitz. Pour into a 2lb loaf tin, bake at 180C for 40 minutes, then 160C for 30. I always use a parchment loaf liner, as it makes it easier to turn out.

This is a remarkably tolerant recipe, and can take other things. Add some walnuts, or sultanas, or a splash of bourbon whisky if you’re feeding it to grownups. One of the nicest thing to add is chocolate chips – I use Bouchard, which I buy from Amazon. And last night, choc chips were deemed to be what we fancied.

So I got the tub out of the baking cupboard, and tipped some into the food processor. Except some turned out to be almost all of the 50% or so left in the tub, as they had presumably melted together into a large ball during the hot summer. Those that didn’t go into the food processor went on the floor.

I shrieked, and Pete came hurtling downstairs. He swept up the floor, while I rescued as many bits of chocolate as I could from the Magimix bowl, which was quite a few, but not really enough for the batter (which was looking severely over chocolated). Still, what could we do? I baked the cakes (I almost always make two at a time, because they freeze beautifully), and we ate a piece while it was still warm. And it was really rather nice.

And as the oven was on, we had sausages and cauliflower cheese, so as not to waste the heat.

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a chicken pie and a raspberry cake

August 5th, 2013 | Comments Off | Posted in recipe

I’ve written before about everlasting chicken. We don’t throw any of it away, except the bones, and then only when they’ve been boiled up for soup. I sometimes put the last bits of the meat into a pie filling, and bung that in the freezer, and when we had a friend coming for supper the other night, I though a chickie! pie would be nice.

This one turned out to have leeks and mushrooms in it, and a mustardy sauce, and I used up a slab of frozen puff pastry too, so that was a result. There might, possibly, be some room in the freezer soon …

I made a variation on the blackberry cake that I did last week; cut the sugar down, replaced the vanilla with lemon juice, and the milk with plain yogurt (as it needed using up). It came out less light, but actually I think we liked it better. So here it is.

Raspberry cake

1 punnet raspberries

230g caster sugar
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
2 teaspoons lemon juice*
200g marg or butter
about 2 tbsp plain yogurt

Grease and line a 22cm springform pan, put the raspberries in the bottom. Whizz all the other ingredients in a food processor, and pour on top of the fruit. Bake at 180c for 40-45 minutes.

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cranberry and lemon cake

March 4th, 2012 | Comments Off | Posted in recipe

Cranberry Sauce 003

Like most people, I tend to overbuy at Christmas, and that’s even with cutting back a *lot*. We had a couple of punnets of fresh cranberries lurking in the back of the fridge; well, when I say “fresh”, $deity alone know what they do to them to make them keep for over two months, but there they were.

Pete picked through them and we had about 1.5 punnets when done. So, I made lemon and cranberry cakes. This cake recipe is a good basic one, and you can add any dried fruit to it, but fresh is even better – give it a try with blueberries!

This is the recipe for one cake, but I always make two, because it freezes well. And I use the zest and juice of the lemon for two cakes.

160g caster sugar
125g butter or marge
175g self raising flour (or be like me – plain with a teaspoon of baking powder)
2 large eggs
zest of one lemon
a pinch of salt
4 tablespoons of milk

If you like, you can glaze the top with lemon juice and icing sugar mixed together, but that’s too sweet for us.

Cream sugar and butter/marge, add eggs, fold in flour, add lemon bits, berries and milk. If you’re adding fresh berries, I blitz them in the blender for a few seconds to break them up.

I always bake loaf cakes in a parchment liner – much easier. About 40 minutes at 180C should do it. Recommended.

Also, as a hint, chopped fresh cranberries are just lovely added to sausagemeat for home made sausage rolls.

 

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lime, ginger and coconut cake

February 14th, 2011 | 2 Comments | Posted in recipe

limes up close

We went to Staithes (on the North Yorkshire coast) on Saturday, and had a cup of tea and a slice of this delicious cake (or one very like it). It was so delicious that I came home determined to try and make one, and after a bit of googling and adjustment, here’s what I came up with. I actually made two, because it’s hardly worth putting the oven on for just one cake, and have put one in the freezer. It was gorgeous. These ingredients make one.

100g butter or marge
120g caster sugar
2 large eggs
140g desiccated coconut
100g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder (or use self-raising flour, but I never keep it in)
70ml natural yoghurt
1 lime, juice and zest
2 tsp grated ginger

Put everything in a food mixer and combine. Yes, really. That’s it.

I baked mine in a loaf tin lined with a greaseproof liner. The recipe I cannibalised said 45 mins at gas 3, which it had, then it had another 5 mins at gas 4, then another 5 mins at gas 5, so I reckon 40-45 minutes at gas 4 would do it.

Should you be minded, you could make a syrup of, say, 100g caster sugar and the juice of another lime, but I didn’t bother. If you do this, make some holes in the cake while it is warm, and drizzle the syrup over it.

The cafe served it with cream, which worked rather well. I think I might try some grated lemongrass next time, for that authentic Thai taste.

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coconut and banana cake

September 20th, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in general

coconut and banana cakes

We found a kilogram of desiccated coconut in the larder box – no idea why we bought such a huge amount, but it must be used up! There were four small, brown bananas in a box in the fridge  – I read somewhere that they will keep for ages like that, so was experimenting; seems to work!  So I did a bit of  Googling for ideas, and adapted a few recipes, and this is what I did:

4 brown bananas, peeled
2 medium eggs
120g margarine, melted
120g wholemeal flour
75g cane sugar
1.5 tsp. baking powder
125g dessicated coconut

Some dried cranberries as a last minute addition.

(I doubled this lot up to make two cakes. I also added some cream of tartar, but I don’t think it was needed, and it would have benefited from some vanilla extract).

I put the bananas in the food processor and blitzed them up. Then I just bunged in everything else and whizzed that up!

Put the mix in a loaf tin lined with a cake liner (I love these – so easy, no greasing, no sticking!), baked at gas 4 for 1 hour.  They’ve come out lovely – quite a heavy consistency, but none the worse for that. Might try dates in them next time.

And the coconut mountain is very slowly decreasing :)

Edited to add: best estimate of carbs per cake is about 250g, so about 20g per slice. I can live with that on an occasional basis!

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wholemeal banana cake

September 7th, 2010 | Comments Off | Posted in recipe

a brace of banana cakes

I run a community recipe site called Nibblous, and if you Google for banana cake, you’ll find my friend Jaqui’s recipe is the number one hit, which I’m quite pleased about! I’ve long used a similar recipe to that myself for banana cake, but I’ve refined it quite a bit over the years, and I change it around almost every time I make it.

I’m a fairly recentlly diagnosed Type 2 diabetic, and I try to avoid white flour, so I thought I’d have a bash at a wholemeal banana cake.

6oz wholemeal flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
4 ripe bananas – the riper, the better
4oz butter or margarine
4.5oz granulated sugar
a good grate of nutmeg
2 eggs
a generous teaspoon of vanilla essence

Now, I’m lazy – I do this in a food processor. I start with the bananas and whizz them up till they’re all mashed, then I bung in everything else, whizz some more, and it’s done. If you don’t have a food processor, or want to do it the long way round, see Jacqi’s recipe above for mashing and creaming and folding :)

Decant into a well greased 2lb loaf tin (I always cheat and use those pan liners which I get from Lakeland – less trouble) and bake for 40 minutes at gas 4, then 30 minutes at gas 2. Leave to cool in the tin, or if you’ve used a liner, then it comes straight out with no hassle and you can cut a test slice pretty quickly :)

I always double it up and make two cakes, as they freeze remarkably well.

I was really pleased with this wholemeal version – it’s slightly nutty, and the nutmeg was a new addition this evening, and it worked really well.

You can bung anything in this – chocolate pieces, mixed spice, currants, chopped apple, walnuts; it’s a really great basic cake recipe.

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christmas cake

December 12th, 2009 | Comments Off | Posted in recipe

wreathRather belatedly, I made our christmas cake last night; I’d normally have done it in November, but what with the move and all …

I use a variation on a tried and tested Nigel Slater recipe, and here it is:

Prepare a 20cm deep cake pan – grease well, line with a double thickness of greaseproof paper, with the sides lined to above the top by a couple of inches.

Amass 1kg of dried fruit – I used figs, prunes, apricots, dates, raisins and sultanas, as that was what was in the baking box, and cut it into small pieces.  This is tedious, but I didn’t bother so much last year, and it wasn’t as nice.

Cream 250g butter and 250g brown sugar together – I used about half and half dark muscovado and demerara.  Beat until it’s light and fluffy, or as light and fluffy as it can be with muscovado in it ..

Add three eggs one by one – don’t worry, it will curdle, probably.

Add 65g of ground almonds, and 100g of shelled hazelnuts, 3 tablespoons of alcohol (recipe says brandy, but I generally use whiskey, and this year I used good bourbon!), zest and juice of an orange, half a teaspoon of baking powder, and 250g of plain flour.  And the fruit.

My mixer always gives up at this point and I have to fold it all together by hand.

Put it in the tin, cook for one hour at gas mark 3, then 1.5 hours at gas 2 – don’t open the oven to prod it until the end.  Leave to cool in the tin, then wrap tightly in foil, and feed it with more alcohol every few days.

We eat as is, as we don’t much like icing.  Merry Christmas!

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a brace of banana cakes

September 10th, 2008 | Comments Off | Posted in general

a brace of banananananana cakes

Using up: bananas

We had a lot of bananas, so I decided to make some banana cake.  And then I realised we had even more bananas than that, so I thought I’d make two, and freeze one.  Better than letting the bananas go to waste, I thought.

So I duly made two – it really is no more work than making one, except you have to peel more bananas.  And as I took them out of the oven (they smelled heavenly) I thought of my new next door neighbour, who has had about as bad a year as one can have.  So when they’d cooled a little, I wrapped one in a tea towel, and took it round for her and her two boys (she has a baby daughter too, but she might be a bit small for banana cake!)

Recipe (for one cake):

4oz butter or margarine
8oz self raising flour
6oz golden caster sugar, plus a little more if you like
2 eggs
1 generous tsp vanilla extract
2 medium, or 3 small bananas

Peel the bananas, and mash them with a fork.  An old plate is best for this, I find.

Cream butter and sugar together till fluffy, then add the eggs and vanilla extract.  Add the banana gloop and stir in.  Add the flour and stir in.  This is the most ridiculously easy cake recipe I ever saw!

Put into a greased* 2lb loaf tin.  Sprinkle, if you like, with some golden caster sugar, to give a nice glaze.

Bake for 40 minutes at gas 4, then turn the oven down to gas 2 for 30 minutes.

It probably does freeze well, but I can’t say for sure, as I gave away the spare :)

*I always use the precut liners from Lakeland – I’m a lousy baker, so I like every little bit of help going.

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let them eat cake

September 5th, 2008 | Comments Off | Posted in general

cherry cake

Using up: half a lemon, dried cherries

I fancied a cake – both making one, and consuming it.  We don’t have them often, but last night I decided I would.  And it would use up the half a lemon that was in the fridge :)

This is based on a Nigella recipe, and works really well.

Cream 250g marge or butter, then beat in 200g golden caster sugar.  You really do need a food mixer for this – or a very strong arm.

Sift 210g of self raising flour, and 90g of plain (or just use plain with 3tsp baking powder – less faff).

Add three eggs to the butter/sugar mix, one at a time, following each with a tablespoon of flour (does that make sense?).  Then fold in the rest of the flour.  Add 1 tsp of vanilla extract.

The recipe says 4 tablespoons of milk at this stage, but I don’t bother measuring – just pour it in slowly until you get a soft, dropping consistency.  Then I added a handful of dried sour cherries (I bought a big bag full in Costco, and forgot about them), and the juice of the aforementioned half lemon.

Put in a loaf tin, and ust the top with more caster sugar if you like – it gives a nice shiny sugary finish. Bake at gas 3 / 170° for an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Tip: I buy loaf tin liners from Lakeland – I’m not very good at cake, and this means the beasts emerge from the tin with no hassle.  Well worth it, IMV.

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