Starting Sourdough with James Morton

Meeting James Morton - the King of Sourdough

Meeting James Morton – the King of Sourdough

My friend Kate very kindly offered to drive us to Glasgow for James Morton’s ‘Stollen Moment’ show. Armed with James’s new book, a cheese board, a selection of homemade scones, sticky buns and a flask of tea we trotted off merrily to Glasgow to enjoy the show and meet the lovely Great British Bake Off finalist in person.

My new favourite bread book and now it's even signed by James

My new favourite bread book and now it’s even signed by James

What a great show. James patiently answered our questions whilst demystifing the art of bread and sourdough baking and making a lovely sourdough stollen on stage for us to sample. He explained how it’s not really scary and you don’t actually have to knead your bread all that much to get a brilliant loaf! You can prove it in the fridge and save your energy for more important things like eating the bread. Music to my ears. We even got to take away a bit of James’ sourdough starter home with us.

My first attempt at sourdough bread where the lid has stayed intact!

My first attempt at sourdough bread where the lid has stayed intact! Check out that golden crust and even crumb! Success at last!

Mine is merrily bubbling away in it’s jar fed with equal amounts of flour and water with some sultanas thrown in for good measure. (You take them back out again once the starter is bubbling and frothy again. Yet another great tip on reinvigorating a tired sourdough starter from James)

I’ve tried and failed so many times before to make sourdough. I now realise where I’ve been going wrong, I never threw any of it away! I was merely accumulating large quantities of floury water. Resulting in a very weak yet well fed sourdough which produced rubbish flat, doughy bread. My loaves were rather mishapen and usually split along the side so the top normally fell off. Yum. Delicious (!)

Christmas morning breakfast. Sourdough mince pie cinnamon buns. They're rather filling!

Christmas morning breakfast. Sourdough mince pie cinnamon buns. They’re rather filling!

I’m now wise to it. You’ve got to dispose of a third of your starter before you feed it, every time. This gives a much stronger and active sourdough. One that can actually rise bread and give a glorious sour note to the loaf too. I’m simply using a cup measure to throw in a cup of flour (any flour, strong, white, rye, malted, plain, brown etc. will do) and a cup of water. Then I give it a good stir with the handle of a wooden spoon. (My jar is quite tall so the handle works best)

Mincemeat sourdough crown

Mincemeat sourdough crown

I feel a little guilty pouring large amounts of sourdough down the sink, so have started sharing my cast off starter with friends too which they can just feed as normal. Do let me know if you fancy a bit! I can provide sandwich bags and I’m than happy to share the sourdough joy. (But it’s not that difficult to make your own too… have a look below.)

Sourdough Starter bagged up and ready for sharing.

Sourdough Starter bagged up and ready for sharing.

Apologies for my lack of bloggage over the last few weeks. I’ve been very busy, painting decorating and moving house, celebrating our first wedding anniversary (where has the time flown!?) and baking vast quantities of Christmas puddings and sourdough bread in all forms over the holidays. (Think rosemary foccaccia, wholemeal pizzas, buns, loaves and rolls!) The freezer is full of enriched doughs, mincepie rolls and scones. I can’t wait to try out the rest of the recipes. I think we’re going to need more flour!

My Basic Sourdough Starter

It’s still going strong one month on!

  • 1 cup of flour (any flour, strong, white, rye, malted, plain, brown etc. will do)
  • 1 cup of cold water
  1. store in a non air tight container at room temperature (Take the rubber seal out of a kilner jar to avoid nasty sourdough explosions with all the built up gases!)
  2. discard a third of the mix and feed every day if you’re baking regularly
  3. or store your starter in the fridge and feed once a week if your baking less frequently
  4. feed it the day before you want to use it (or when it’s really bubbly)
  5. stir in some sultanas to reinvigorate a tired (flat) starter. (pick them out again if you don’t want sultanas in your bread)
  6. use 200g of sourdough starter in your dough when wanting to make a full sourdough loaf
  7. or add 100g of sourdough to other breads alongside instant yeast to give a subtle sourdough flavour

Basic Sourdough Bread

Since this post I’ve experimented more and created another sourdough recipe ‘Hot Pot Sourdough’ which also works a treat.

  • 500g strong flour (I like to use a combination of whatever I have in the cupboard which is usually strong white flour, rye flour, malthouse brown, and some wholemeal chapatti flour)
  • 10g salt
  • 200g sourdough starter
  • 300g (or ml it’s the same if you’re using a electronic scale) water
  1. Knead the mixture together and allow to prove over night in the fridge. (Yet another life changing tip from James. You don’t have to knead your bread very much if you leave it for a long first prove. Chilling it means the bread proves slowly and allows the bread to develop a more rounded sour flavour!) My fridge is now always filled with a loaf proving, ready for the next day.
  2. Knead the dough to shape it and add some seeds for more texture (I like to use linseed, sunflower and poppy seeds)
  3. Allow it to prove at room temperature for an hour or so, or over night in the fridge
  4. Bake at 220 degrees C for 10 minutes then reduce to 200 degrees and bakes for a further 20- 25 minutes
  5. wrap in a tea towel whilst still hot, to soften the crust and eat with whatever your heart desires! Maybe, hot soup, butter, jam, nutella.

Please note: I’ve taken elements from a couple of my favourite bread recipes here to make something that I know I and my oven can handle. It’s a slightly wet dough which compensates for the drier brown/wholemeal flours but not too liquid  so it can be handled and shaped. I can’t recommend James’ book enough if you haven’t already bought it. I’ve learnt so much from it and I’ve only read the introduction and tried a couple of recipes so far. (And I haven’t been paid to say that!) I’m still yet to master some of the more advanced bread recipes in James’s book but I’m enjoying practising and getting a lot of dough up the walls and in my hair in the process.

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading my blog! I promise there are more international bakes to come as soon as possible once I’ve got the hang of my new oven which unfortunately no longer has the temperatures on the dial! An oven thermometer is winging it’s way to me now as I type.

41. Otto and Fanny’s Fijian Banana Cake

Welcome to Otto and Fanny’s

When choosing which island to visit in Fiji the Yasawas stood out a mile, mainly due to the lure of wonderful food at Otto’ and Fanny’s. We spent an entire week soaking up the scorching Sun, lounging in hammocks,

wandering down idyllic white sandy beaches,

The perfect beach

avoiding falling coconuts, going to bed when the electric was switched off and rising when the drums called us for breakfast. It was absolutely perfect.

Our beautiful straw bure – Home Sweet Home

In our straw bure, despite the cockroaches and millions of mosquitos, who can’t help but be happy when you’re being fed freshly caught fish which is so thick it was difficult to tell if it was fish or meat?

Bula Bula! Welcome to Fanny and Otto’s where the wine is  almost the same price as the water

And when the wine is (almost) cheaper than the water! Frankly I could spend my life sunbathing and eating if only the mosquitos didn’t love me so much…

Afternoon tea at Fanny and Otto’s was infamous with travellers making a special trip just to sample the delights. We ate banana cake and chocolate cake by the boat load with a hot cup of tea made from collected rain water.

What’s not to love?

The cake itself was worth the 5hour boat rude to reach the Yasawas. I haven’t been able to find the exact recipe to recreate the tremendous square slabs of banana cake but I reckon this one is pretty close. I also failed to take a photo of the cake in question! ( This was back in the day before I had a baking blog or the thought had even crossed my mind…)

Fijian Banana Cake

This cake is really quick to make and feeds a lot of people! It’s good by itself and even better with custard!

Step 1: Beat together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy

I use an electric whisk to get the butter really fluffy. Keep whisking until it becomes a lighter colour – then you know it;s full of wonderful air.

2. The one handed egg crack technique – multi tasking to the extreme

Whisk in the eggs one at a time. It’s taken some practice but I’ve mastered the one handed egg cracking technique now. It makes this whisking so much quicker! Don’t worry if it starts to look like it’s curdling, just keep whisking. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of your  bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is incorporated into the batter.

Keep whisking… until it’s really fluffy

Whisk in the flour

Normally I would fold in flour to a fluffy egg batter to preserve the air content and ensure a light and tender sponge, however the recipe didn’t say to do this. I was feeling particularly lazy and the thought of washing another spoon saddened me. So I reckoned I could just keep using the electric whisk. After all when Mary Berry uses self raising flour in sponge cakes she whisks everything using her ‘all in one method’ and it always works!

Add the mushed up bananas

This cake is perfect if you have a few brown bananas that need to be used up. Mash up your tired bananas and add them to the mix. Again I was already using the whisk so I thought let’s carry on regardless. Let’s whisk these bananas up too!

Pour in the coconut milk

Coconut milk is a wonderful addition to this cake. Coconut and banana goes so well together! I added slightly more milk than the recipe asked for as I chose to use wholemeal flour, which is a bit drier than plain flour. It’s also more of a healthy option. I can’t pretend that I chose this purely for health benefits however, as I had a bag of self raising wholemeal flour that needed to be eaten. It worked beautifully!

Whisk everything together into a liquid batter

With the final whisk the liquid banana batter is ready for the oven. Don;t be alarmed by how runny it is! It means the mixture spreads out really well into all the corners of your tin. Producing a really smooth surface, which is pratically unheard of in my cakes.

Pre baking

A mere 40 minutes in the oven and you have a perfect slice of Fiji on your plate. This cake is amazing. It was wonderful straight from the oven but even better the following day all by itself. It developed a sweet gloss on the top after a day of rest in my cake box. It’s a beautifully moist cake and the added texture from the wholemeal flour gave it an extra dimension.

Golden Brown texture like sun

With slivers of banana making an appearance throughout the cake it makes a wonderful breakfast cake (but then again show me a cake not fit for breakfast!), a mid afternoon pick me up or a full on pudding with custard/ice cream. Just take your biggest knife and chop it into rectangular slabs and devour.

Otto and Fanny’s Fijian Banana Cake

It just so happened that I was preparing for another race (post Great North Run!) The Edinburgh Great Run 10k and bananas a my favourite running fuel. This is now my favourite running cake. Delicious and nutritious.

Bananas and custard – so comforting

Things that I used to make Otto and Fanny’s Fijian Banana Cake

Serves more than 20 (small -ish portions)

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 table spoons butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 cups of wholemeal or normal self raising flour (If using plain flour (all purpose), add 5 teaspoons of baking powder)
  • 1 ½ cups of milk or coconut milk (add a bit more – 1 can of coconut milk – if using wholemeal flour)
  • 4 bananas
  • one deep rectangular baking tray (approx 9cms by 25cm)
  • bake for 40-45 minutes at about 170 degrees c

Wish you were here

40. Chinese Rice Cakes – Half way aroundtheworldin80bakes!

Hasn’t time flown? One year in and we’re already half way Around the World in 80 bakes and what better destination to reach than China, one of my most favourite places in the world!

The Great Wall – look how far we walked

China has always been my ultimate must visit country. We visited just before the Beijing Olympics. Travelling around on over night trains from Shanghai to Beijing, climbing the Great Wall (sometimes on my hands and knees  – those steps are steep!) and sampling all of the delights of tasty chicken spine (!) and dried fish skin (yum).

Chinese Street Food – we didn’t eat the seahorses on sticks

Chinese Rice cakes have always intrigued me. I found the recipe in Marguerite Patten’s book and was surprised to discover how little rice flour they actually contain! However they do contain LARD! You may recall my love of lard from previous bakes such as Wiltshire Lardy Cake

 

These are such a quick little cake to bake and the results are impressive. Paul Hollywood would be proud of my equal sized rice cakes and even bake.

Chinese Rice Cakes – Paul Hollywood would be proud, look at the consistent size of the batch!

All you have to do is sift the dry ingredients together; plain, rice and corn flour, with baking powder, salt and sugar.

Ready to rub in the lard and rice flour

Rub the lard into the flour… My least favourite bit as I still shudder at the smell of lard. It’s definitely pungent.

Lardy times

Then bring together the mixture by stirring in a tablespoon of water, almond extract and half an egg. What a peculiarly precise measurement from Marguerite! I struggled to decide what half an egg was, so I cracked an egg into my cupped palm, over a bowl. I chopped the yolk in half with my finger and slid half (ish) of the egg into the mix. Keeping the other half for glazing the cakes later on.

Sticky dough ready for shaping

Once the mixture is quite sticky it’s ready to be divided and rolled into equal sized balls and plopped onto a greased and lined baking sheet. It’s easier to use your hands to roll them into smooth balls.

Lined up and ready for my close up – Chinese Rice Cakes

Once they’re on the sheet and spaced out nicely press a blanched almond into the centre and give them a quick egg wash with the other half of the egg. This means they will flatten a little onto the sheet and the almond will stick to the dough as it bakes. You will also get a wonderful golden crust on your cakes.

Perfectly spaced and oven ready Chinese Rice Cakes

Into the oven for for 15 -20 minutes at 205 degrees celsius and…

Just baked Chinese Rice Cakes

Ni Hao Chinese Rice Cakes ah hoy!

The Final Bake – Chinese Rice Cake

What a tasty little cake! The almond extract really comes though although if I were to make it again I probably would add more almond extract and some ground almonds too for more of an extravagant bake and richer flavour. Marguerite Patten’s recipes tend to be a bit more on the economical side, using minimum amounts of ingredients as she was baking during the war and making do with rations and tight budgets. I often double the quantities to make a larger batch and feed my hungry friends and family. The lard adds the extra moisture needed to give a crumbly yet light texture when baking with gluten free flours such as corn and rice which can be a bit dry side for my liking. They keep for quite a while in an airtight container and freeze really well too. Then easy to defrost as and when needed for a rice cake fix.

All in all a very quick, efficient and consistent bake. I would definitely bake these again and know that I won’t be able to resist experimenting with the ingredients.

Things that I used to make Chinese Rice Cakes

Margeurite Patten’s Recipe

This makes approximately 15 cakes

Preparation time: 10 minutes! (My kind of preparation!)

Cooking time: 15 -20 minutes

  • 4 oz (118g)  plain flour
  • 1 oz (30g) ground rice (rice flour)
  • 1/2 oz (15g) Cornflour
  • 3 oz (88g) sugar
  • 2/3 tsp baking powder
  • 3 oz (88g) lard
  • 1/2 an egg (quite difficult to measure!)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence (I used extract as it’s stronger)
  • pinch of salt
  • blanched almonds to decorate
  • 15-20 minutes at 205 degrees Celsius

39. Bagels Bagels Bagels! Polish Bakery

Bagels! Bagels! Bagels!

Bagels have been on my to bake list FOREVER! Inspired by a recent episode of The Great British Bake Off (new series and I’m guessing everyone else is totally addicted to it like me too?) I uncovered my wonderful (signed) copy of  Thoughtful Bread  ‘Bread Revolution’ for a recipe I could begin late one night. (I’ve even tweeted @thoughtfulbread to let them know I was baking from their book and got some lovely late night baking encouragement.)

We were treated to a short history lesson on bagels by the Great British Bake Off. Although they are more recently considered to be an American bread, they were originally brought from Poland to England and then on to America. They are typically Jewish Food with a wonderfully chewy crust from the poaching of the dough before the bake. (My favourite bit!)

Mixing up all the flour, salt, honey and yeast

A spot of late night preparation was in order to get this dough on the road. I mixed together the flour, dried yeast and a little salt to0. I ran out of strong white flour so made up the difference with brown strong flour, so these bagels were almost healthy too.

Add the water to get a sticky dough and stir!

Then to add the water. I had to add a little more water as I worked with the dough, probably due to the slightly drier brown flour I used.

Ready for some good kneading

When I started kneading the dough I was determined to reach the elusive ‘window pane’ stage where the gluten in the flour has become all stringy and elastic  and stretches out when pulled to create a transparent window when held up to the light in the dough. Alas after the allotted 10 minutes of kneading the rather tough dough by hand I was still windowless. A further 10 minutes of kneading (tracked by my faithful hamburger timer) and I was STILL windowless… I asked Chris to have a go with his brute strength and STILL no window. So I gave up comforted slightly that the dough had been kneaded at least twice as long as it was supposed to be and it did bounce back when prodded with my finger.

Me kneading on tip toes

I think I need lower work surfaces for bread making as I always have to resort to balancing on my tip toes to get the full impact of the kneading…

proving time

I left the ball of dough to prove and double in size over night in a greased bowl covered with greased cling film. Et voila! The next morning I awoke to beautifully risen dough.

Beautifully risen dough

Punching it back I kneaded it thoroughly again (it’s a good job I do yoga press ups!) dividing the dough into 12 (equal-ish) portions I left it to rest for 5 minutes whilst I arranged the next stage. Water bath!

12 chunks of dough

Taking my largest soup pan I filled it about half way with water from the kettle.

Stage 1: The dough sausage

Then to shape the bagels. I tried a few different methods to see which worked best and I think I prefer the traditional method. Roll a long sausage about 20 cms long) of dough and shape it into a circle.

Stage 2: shape into a circle

Fold the loose ends together and squash them together.

Stage 3: Fold the loose ends together

Then put your hand through the ‘hole’ in the centre and roll the join together until the two ends are firmly merged. Then if required roll the rest of the dough ring in the same way to even up the dough and shape it into a bagel.

Stage 4: Squash the loose ends together

The other method is more modern and maybe slightly quicker. Where you shape the dough into a ball, flatten it, poke your thumb through the centre and then whilst holding the dough in your palm squeeze around the dough to widen the hole and shape the dough into a bagel.

I used for each bagel? Poor dough ring on the right is a bit more of a bagel bracelet

Once shaped the bagels need to prove for about 30 minutes under a damp tea towel or greased cling film at which point you can start to warm up the oven and water so it’s simmering nicely.

If you want to add flavouring to your bagels you can add toppings like sesame or poppy seeds after the poaching stage, but if you like your bagels fruity on the inside (like me) then you will have to add your chosen flavour before you shape the bagels. I chose to make half savoury and half sweet.

pre soaked dried fruit, apple, cranberries and raisins

I pre soaked some dried fruit, raisins, apple and cranberries overnight in a little boiling water with a dash of cinnamon. Drained off the excess water and folded in a teaspoon (or 2) of the fruit along with an extra sprinkle of cinnamon into the dough before shaping it.

Step 1: Filling the bagel

It makes the bagel a bit unpredictable with spots of fruit poking out all over the place but I found if I sealed the fruit into the dough and then shaped it, it was a little easier.

Step 2: folding in the edges to make a fruit pouch. Sealing the edges together

Step 3: roll into a dough sausage and follow the stages above to shape the bagel

Then all you have to do is plonk the bagels into your pan of simmering water for 2 minutes (turning them over half way through for an even poach).

Bagels in for a swim

The bagels do expand slightly so don’t over fill your pan, do them in batches so they have room to breathe.

Ever increasing circles

Then out of the pan an into the oven! I used my Nana’s slotted spoon to scoop the bagels out and drain off the water. Then gently pop then onto a lined baking tray (sprinkle on your choice of topping while the bagel is wet) and into the oven they go.

Ready for the oven

This means you can have a continuous run of bagel poaching and baking until all of your bagels are baked. However this meant I was waiting for my breakfast for almost 2 hours. I ended up devouring 2 hot bagels and butter straight from the oven and they did not disappoint! Hot and buttery they were just what I needed.

Fruity Bagels in for a swim

They are definitely easier to split down the middle when they’ve cooled a bit though. The plain bagels were easier to eat and even better toasted too to give an even crisp coating and chewy soft centre. I LOVED this bake. You know you’re making something special when it takes a bit more effort and skill.

Bagels! Hot from the oven

The fruity bagels were a little more moist in the middle, but this is what I had expected. You can’t put fruit into a bagel without adding a bit of moisture.

bagel splitting

Perhaps in the future when I think they’re baked I might also turn them over and return them to the oven for a few more minutes just to ensure the bagels are baked evenly. As I did find that the bagels were quite wet when they went in the oven so they were slightly soggy when they came out of the oven, but a lot of this moisture dried as they cooled (and I guess adds to their chewiness.)

Bagel goodness

I would also add more cinnamon to the bagels as they weren’t quite cinnamony enough for me. All in all a very good bake and I’m adding this to my baking repertoire now!

Bagel sandwiches

Things I used to make this recipe:

Lovingly adapted  from Bread Revolution by the Thoughtful Bread Company

  • 375g strong brown flour
  • 375g strong white flour
  • 3 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp dried yeast
  • 375ml warm water
  • 7 tsp honey
  • additional strong white flour for dusting the board

Fruit filling

  • A bowl full of dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, dried apple)
  • cinnamon

Optional Toppings

  • I used sesame seeds and just sprinkled enough to coat the bagels on each one
  • You could use anything such as poppy seeds, sunflower seeds,

Cath Kidston Flour Sifter – so handy when you’re covered in sticky dough

The Hamburger Timer – so handy for timing all those batches of bagels

38. South Korean Sweet Potato Cake with Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

This recipe was inspired by what I had left in my fridge. One lonely sweet potato. Upon returning from holiday to Amsterdam I needed a quick and exotic bake for my sister’s birthday. I wasn’t entirely sure that everyone would enjoy a South Korean sweet potato cake but hey, this is what you get when your little sister sets up an international baking blog challenge!

This was actually quite quick to make, the most time being spent peeling and dicing the sweet potato so it could be boiled and mashed into a gloriously orange mush.

Mushed Sweet Potato

I love sweet potatoes and have been eating them a LOT in my preparation for the Great North Run which is (gulp!!) next Sunday!! They promise many vitamins (A, C and B6), antioxidants AND they have anti inflammatory properties! Perfect for soothing those aching joints and muscles post running! ..So this cake is (almost) practically healthy!

Creamy butter and sugar

I started by creaming the butter and two types of sugar together with my handheld electric whisk for about 5 minutes until it became lighter and fluffy.

Then add one egg at a time and vanilla and keep on whisking

Then add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time,vanilla and keep on whisking until they’re incorporated completely. It take about 5 minutes to whisk the mixture up until it’s very light and fluffy.

Lots of fluffy eggs, sugar and butter

Then onto the dry stuff. In a separate bowl I mixed together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Dry stuff, flour, baking powder and salt

Then to stir in the milk to the sweet potato along with the syrup (as I don’t keep maple syrup in my cupboard I substituted it for golden syrup :)

IN with the syrup!

Stir it all together until it’s a milky sweet potato soup

Sweet potato soup

Then to gently fold in a third of the flour to the fluffy eggs and butter mixture

Folding in the flour

And then fold in a third of the sweet potato soup

Folding in the sweet potato soup

And alternate folding in a third of the flour and a third of the soup until all the ingredients are incorporated creating an orange flecked liquid batter.

All in!

The original recipe was to make two 9 inch round cakes. But I wanted one big cake and I love my lazy cake pan (PushPan) and use it at every opportunity I get! It really speeds up the process as it’s really non stick and leak proof! AND my favourite bit! No lining required! No wasted paper and effort. Just a quick spritz with cake release et voila! One quick cake! I wish I could afford more of them.

Just baked. Look at that deep brown!

I used one 9 inch tin to cake all of the batter in a 180 degrees C (or 350 degree F)  oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Until it’s baked evenly, with a golden top. This cake shrank back beautifully from the sides of the tin too to tell me it was ready for eating. I made sure it was done by sticking a cocktail stick in it and it came out clean on my check.

I always leave a cake to cool in it’s pan for at least 15 minutes before turning it out to cool fully on the wire rack. I learnt this the hard way as I once took my Christmas cake out of the tin straight away and it fell into 3 massive chunks in my hands. I did shed a tear at this after waiting patiently for it by the oven for 5 hours. They definitely need a bit of cooling to hold their shape! (Luckily I managed to stick my cake back together with jam and a bit of marzipan to cover the cracks and no one knew the difference!)

Tester sweet potato cupcakes

I was worried that this cake might be a bit odd on our English palettes so I made some tester cupcakes alongside my large cake. I needn’t have worried! It was delicious! I has only meant to try the corner of one cupcake and 2 minutes later the whole thing has disappeared into my tummy. It’s quite a sweet and slightly savoury sponge. A bit like carrot cake but without the grated carrot texture. It’s also a lot more moist than carrot cake.

You could stop here as the recipe didn’t give any sort of filing or frosting and the cake is sweet enough to eat as a sponge in it’s own right. HOWEVER if like me you want to take things a step further I found an amazing recipe for Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting, which is very reminiscent of rice pudding with a whole can of evapourated milk but with dessicated coconut instead of rice. Delicious! And what I love even more about this recipe is it takes 15 minutes with no trace of icing sugar to be swept up from every corner of your kitchen afterwards! This is a great alternative to buttercream which my family aren’t a huge fan of.

Throw into a pan egg yolks,  evapourated milk, sugar and vanilla

Choosing my heaviest sauce pan I added the sugar, egg yolks and milk to it along with the vanilla and stirred it all together

Continue to stir over a medium heat for 12 minutes until it thickens

Once it reaches the ‘pudding’ stage (it’s as thick as pudding) take the pan off the heat, throw in the dessicated coconut and Bob’s your uncle you’ve made coconut custard!

Then it needs to be cooled completely before spreading it over your cake.

Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

As Mary Berry ‘s sage advice is to include a little of what’s in your cake on your cake so I lovingly adorned the cake with slices of coconut too.

South Korean Sweet Potato Cake and Coconut Custard Frosting

I was very pleasantly surprised by this cake and the combination of coconut custard. This was my very first ever attempt at making custard too and given the opportunity (and a spoon) I could merrily eat the whole pan of it by itself. That would definitely warm you up on a winter’s night! It was so sweet and comforting. You probably couldn’t eat more than one slice as it is quite a dense cake but I’m always up for a challenge. Now I’m thinking about it again I wish I had another huge chunk to tuck into! I’m happy to report that my sister enjoyed it too!

Sweet Potato Cake and Coconut frosting a sideways glance

Things I used to make South Korean Sweet Potato Cake

  • 1 cup of soft butter
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups milk
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled, cubed, boiled, and mashed
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup (golden syrup)

15 min  Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

Things I used to make Creamy Coconut Custard Frosting

  • 1 (13-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked coconut

36. Wiltshire Lardy Cake – Let Them Eat Lard! – 18th Century Clandestine Cake Club – EAT Festival

Wiltshire Lardy Cake at the Clandestine Cake Club

Lard in a cake? Sounds vile doesn’t it? I’ve always been perplexed by this notion of animal fat in food. Long gone are the days when we made Yorkshire Pudding with blisteringly hot fat and yet we still use butter and such like in all our cakes which I guess is a tad more appealing than pork blubber.

Wiltshire Lardy Cake

I purchased a pack of lard to bake some Chinese cakes but never found the right occasion to bake the Lardy beauties. I was greatly amused in my favourite Chinese Bakery to see little signs in front of some of the buns proclaiming “I contain lard”. Like they were sharing a guilty secret with us. This was another case of serendipity,  me having the perfect random ingredients required to bake something unusual for a very special EAT Festival Clandestine Cake Club.

Clandestine Cake Club – 18th Century Cakes – note the oranges and cauliflour!

The theme was 18th century cakes. (It’s harder than you would think to find a genuine 18th century recipe online.) A bit of research/googling later I realised in the 18th cake was spicy (the spice trade was blooming) and mainly contained readily available ingredients such as Lard and yeast!

I reverted back to good old Marguerite Patten and found Wiltshire Lardy cake. A very traditional English recipe. (I realise I’ve baked A LOT already from England but I promise to be more exotic again soon.)

Marguerite instructed me on making a basic yeast dough. I could tell how authentic (and genuinely old this recipe is as it uses the measurement ‘gill’ I have never heard of this before and it took a bit of deciphering!)

Now attempting to follow a recipe and instructions located in 3 different sections of a book is sure fire way to get me to make mistakes. I did not fail. Was it the late night baking efforts or my recipe coordination skills that are lacking?! Probably a bit of both!

The Food Processor did a wonderful job of distributing the yeast and rubbing the butter into the flour. Saved me a job!

The recipe instructed me to make a yeast paste. I ignored this as I know dried instant yeast doesn’t need to be mixed with liquid first. If I was using fresh yeast (which is a bit more difficult to find these days and more tricky to encourage) I would have followed the recipe to the letter, using blood temperature water and whatnot. With the instant yeast all you need to do is chuck it in with the flour and give it a stir to distribute it throughout. Simple.

Proving Time

After creating the basic yeast dough and leaving it to prove I fully embraced the lard. The technique required is very pastry like and it requires a little planning and preparation.

I set out my;

- glass work surface protector on top of a damp tea towel to hold it in place
– rolling pin
– flour for dusting
– lard
– spices, sugar and dried fruit

Proven Dough

Pastry is not my strong point I’m unashamed to admit. I’ve only tried to make flaky pastry once and I shed a few tears over the sheer effort and complicated origami folding required. It was distinctly lacking in flakes too after all the hard work!!

To start with the dough needs to be knocked back and kneaded gently to distribute the yeast and warmth again. Then on a floured board it needs a good flattening with the rolling pin. Roll it into a rectangle.

Rectangular Rolling and dotting of LARD

Then to dot dollops of lard all over, (but leaving the final third empty)! I was in the throes on smearing the distinctly stinky lard in dots onto my flattened dough and crazily folding it into envelope shapes when Super Hans (the cat) joined me wailing for a bit of lard.

One Fold

Two Folds

Seal the edges with the rolling pin

Roll it out and repeat!

Turn clockwise and roll into rectangle

The animal fat smell most surely lured Super Hans into the kitchen. Is this a good sign?! I guess if it’s good enough for the cat to eat it’s good enough for me. Lard most certainly passes the Super Hans taste test. However a wailing cat is not conducive to pleasant baking experience…

Super Hans the noisy Cat. He enjoys a nice bit of lard.

I merrily proceeded to fold the dough up as required and smeared all the lard into it, then returned to the Lardy Cake recipe to discover I was supposed to have folded the fruit and spices into the dough along with the lard! Damn. Back to the rolling pin and floured board for me to fold in the remaining ingredients. My Lardy dough had a very through folding and rolling! It is a bit more difficult to roll dough when it has dried fruit sandwiched in it, but don’t despair if a few raisins pop through. I think it gives it character.

Folding (again) this time WITH the sugar, fruit and spices!

Folded and ready to be rolled with fruit, sugar and spices

Rolled out and ready to be folded again

Second half of the fruit and sugar and yet more folding!

Another fold (don’t worry the fruit is going to peek out in places!)

This Lardy cake definitely has ‘character!’

I was very lucky that my friends Jill and Jonny brought me back some amazing spices from their Indian Honeymoon including some cinnamon bark, which I whizzed up in my spice mill on my food processor. It smells AMAZING, much fresher then my normal ground cinnamon. I added rather a lot of my Indian spices to the sugar mix.

Hand Shaped chunky lardy cake

Once I had folded everything into the dough, it needed to be shaped and coaxed by hand into a chunky square. I plonked the square dough into a round, greased and floured cake tin. Then to squash the dough into a round, ensuring there are no gaps along the edges or on the base of the dough to avoid any holes in the cake. It needed a bit more time to prove and then into the oven!

Squashed-into-a-cake-tin Lardy Cake

While it was baking away I prepared my glaze to pour over the cake as soon as it came out of the oven.

Just Baked – Wiltshire Lardy Cake

I was very nervous taking this cake along to the Clandestine Cake Club as it wasn’t as pretty as the other 18c cakes, which included a Wedgewood Iced Pepper Cake (beautiful!!), a basket of oranges! (marzipan encased chocolate and ganache cakes! So very realistic!) and I brought along LARD!? I made sure I sampled my cake first in case it was horrid and I needed to remove it from the table. But I was very pleasantly surprised.

Post Glaze – Just Chilling – Wiltshire Lardy Cake

It actually tastes rather nice. It’s a distinctly brown cake. The sugar glaze adds a nice crunchy texture and the lard (dare I say it) gives the cake a slightly savoury feel, a little bit like the Herman the German Cake. I couldn’t see any layers despite all the meticulous folding but perhaps I messed that up with my accidental double folding and rolling. I’m not entirely sure it’s supposed to result in layers either! Marguerite doesn’t really go into that much detail.

A sideways glance of Wiltshire Lardy Cake – No layers in sight but plenty of fruit and spice

But as you may realise by now I am a sucker for a fruit cake and this ticks all my boxes, fruity, spicy, sugary. It’s always the way isn’t it? The things that are the least healthy, taste the best!

A fine selection of 18th Century Cakes

The Clandestine Cake Club was held in the Alderman’s House, which is absolutely beautiful. I’ve walked past so many times and it is only open on special occasions. It was perfect for our 18th century cake feast. As it was part of the EAT Festival we had additional guests to entertain with our cakes. It was a fabulous atmosphere with lots of tea flowing, cake demonstrations and sugar craft too. I’m looking forward to our next meeting in August.

 

Alderman’s House – Clandestine Cake Club

More Clandestine 18th Century Cakes

 

Rose cupcake decorating – look what I learnt!

Wiltshire Lardy Cake

Ingredients

Plain Yeast Dough

  • 12oz Plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1oz margarine
  • 1-2oz sugar
  • 1/2oz fresh yeast or 14grams instant dried yeast
  • Approx 1and ½ ‘gills’ tepid water, milk & water or milk (7.5 imperial fluid ounces or 213ml)

If using fresh yeast…

  1. Cream the (fresh yeast) yeast with a tsp of sugar
  2. Add tepid liquid and a sprinkling of flour
  3. Put into a warm place until sponge ‘breaks’ through

If using dried yeast ignore these 3 steps above and add instant dried yeast directly to the flour at this point

  1. Sieve flour and salt into a warm bowl
  2. Rub in margarine and add sugar
  3. When ready work in the yeast liquid and knead thoroughly
  4. Put into a warm place to prove for about 1 hr until it doubles in size
  5. Knock back and knead again until smooth

 

Lardy Cake

  • 4 oz Lard
  • 4oz Sugar
  • 4oz dried fruit
  • Little spice (mixed spices, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom,)
  1. Roll our the plain yeast dough into an oblong shape
  2. If it’s a bit sticky flour the board well
  3. Divide the lard and sugar into 2 equal portions, cutting the lard into tiny pieces
  4. Dot  half the lard onto the all over the dough and half the sugar and fruit, with a light dusting of spice on to the dough
  5. Fold in the same way as for flaky pastry
  6. Fold the dough over one third at a time, closing it like an envelope.
  7. Seal the edges by pressing it with the rolling pin
  8. ‘Rib’ the dough with the rolling pin. (Press the rolling pin into the dough lengthways to create ridges equally spaced across the dough)
  9. Turn the dough clockwise and roll out flat to a oblong shape
  10. Add flour as required to prevent the dough sticking to the board
  11. Re-roll the dough and repeat with the remaining lard, sugar, fruit and spice
  12. Fold again and roll into a neat square or oblong shape
  13. To fit into a 7 or 9 inch tin
  14. If using a round tin mould the dough with hands to the required space
  15. Put the mixture into a warmed, greased and floured cake tin, making sure it comes no more than two thirds of the way up the tin.
  16. Prove for 20 mins in a warm place
  17. Bake in the centre of a hot oven (425-450F or Gas Mark 6-7) for 15 mins
  18. Lower heat to 375F/Gas Mark 4 for 20-25 mins
  19. Either dust the cake with caster sugar when cold or brush with glaze when hot (1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon water)
  20. Enjoy with a big cup of tea and revel in the lardy glow

31. Mexican Chocolate and Chilli Cake – Hot! Hot! Hot!

Chocolate and Chilli Cake! Glazed and Glorious

Having never been to Mexico before  or eaten chilli and chocolate together, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I am now a chocolate and chilli convert! What a combination! They compliment each other so well, with the gentle heat from the chilli and  the creamy chocolate, this cake is oh so moreish. Originally the Aztecs and Mayans drank a lot of spicy chocolate, on a daily basis, and believed it had wonderful medicinal and magical properties. Therefore this cake must be good for you and eaten in large quantities.

I baked this originally as I had a major cake disaster. I broke my Mary Berry ‘ultimate chocolate cake’ that I was baking for my leaving do at work. (Unfortunately there are no photos available I seem to have had a baking meltdown at this point.) I had baked myself crazy (making macaroons and a chocolate cake in one go) and when I attempted to cut the Mary Berry creation in half to layer it up, it fell apart in my hands. I almost cried. Then I remembered I had bookmarked the chilli and chocolate loaf in the Great British Bake Off Book for a rainy day, and this was most certainly a rainy night.

Grabbing the book from the shelf and rolling up my sleeves I was ready to improvise and muddle my way through with what I had left in my cupboard to create a new chilli and chocolate cake.

I threw the milk in a pan and blasted it on the stove until it was almost boiling and switched on the oven at 180 degrees C/350F/gas4. While it heated I had time to start preparing the rest of the cake.

Whisk the butter and sugar together and then keep whisking and whisking!

I was surprised by the amount of whisking the butter and sugar needed, I had chosen this cake for it’s simplicity and hadn’t anticipated whisking for 5 minutes, but it was totally worth it. I may even start to whisk the butter and sugar for longer in all of my cakes as you can real feel the difference in the texture. It is a really light and moist sponge. I think it might actually be the lightest sponge I’ve ever made.

I feel like chilli tonight, like chilli tonight

When the milk reached scalding point (just before boiling point wait until it starts to steam a bit) I took the pan off the heat and plopped the broken chocolate into the hot milk. After about 5 minutes the chocolate melts into the milk. It needed a good stir to get the chocolate to distribute evenly into the milk.

Chocolate and Chilli Milk – floaty chilli oil

I added all of the wonderful chilliness to the chocolate milk. As you know by now I don’t ever follow a recipe exactly. I can’t resist tampering with it or tweaking it. Therefore I opted for adding chilli oil (extra hot), chilli powder, paprika and ginger to the milk. Just to ensure it had that added oomph! You can tell if you look closely how much chilli I actually added as there are speckles of red floating in the milk :)

Still whisking the butter and brown sugar together, adding one egg at a time and then keep on whisking…

Once you think you’ve whisked the butter and sugar together enough, you still need to whisk it a bit more. Then in goes the treacle. Keep whisking until the treacle is incorporated, until it becomes a smooth sugary paste. The butter, sugar and treacle combination needs whisking for about 5 minutes in total. Then it’s time to whisk in an egg at a time. This creates wonderfully fluffy and creamy pale brown batter.

Sifting the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda together

Now if like me, you’re in a real hurry and enjoy the danger of multi tasking to the extreme you can throw all of the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cocoa powder into the sieve and while you’re still whisking the sugar and eggs with one hand, sift all of the dry ingredients together in a seperate bowl. Lifting the sieve up high to add as much air as possible to the mix. Or if you’re more sensible, chose to do these 2 steps separately.

Folding in the flour

Then all that’s left to do is fold the flour into the sugar batter with a metal spoon, (about a third of the flour mix) then fold in a third of the chocolate chilli milk,  alternating the flour and milk until it’s all incorporated and there are no hidden lumps of flour lurking in the bottom of the bowl. I love my pyrex mixing  bowl for this very reason, it makes it so easy to check to see I’ve finished my folding. It will end up as a glossy batter that can be poured slowly into it’s greased and lined tin.

Tin Time

The recipe calls for a 900g loaf tin. I did originally bake a chocolate and chilli loaf, however I failed to take any photos whatsoever due to my aforementioned baking meltdown, so I used this excuse to bake it again. (Did I tell you how much I love this cake??) This time I opted for my favourite bundt tin and made sure I greased it really well to avoid any sticky disasters.  I reduced the baking time by 5 minutes to take into account  the variation on the tin and it worked brilliantly. It needed 50-55 minutes in the bundt tin or 55- 60 minutes in the loaf tin.  But just to make sure I did the cocktail stick test to make sure it was cooked all the way through.

Chocolate and Chilli Cake – look at those flecks of red chilli

I allowed the cake to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes and then tipped it upside down onto the cooling rack. It slid out effortlessly. No coaxing required!

Pre Glaze

Now I did mention that I had been baking a Mary Berry chocolate cake originally. This cake also had a chocolate glaze. I figured I wouldn’t need all of it after I broke the Mary Berry cake so I poured it all over my chocolate and chilli cake instead. What a triumph! The original recipe calls for a sifting of cocoa powder over the loaf but now it seems that I have added a chocolate ganache glaze instead. I think this glaze helps to balance out the savoury undertones of the chilli (and mellow out the extra hot chilli oil that I added) so if you can be bothered to add an extra step into the recipe I really recommend that you do.

Glorious Glaze

While the cake was cooling I warmed a good tablespoon of butter in a pan and added 100g of icing sugar and 10g of cocoa powder. Once the butter has melted I added 4-5 tablespoons of warm water to the mix, or enough water to create a smooth glossy glaze. When the cake had cooled enough I simply poured it all over and spooned it onto the gaps. The glaze will crisp up slightly once it has cooled.

Dripping Glaze

The cake will cut easily when it’s cooled, if you can wait that long for your first slice! If you can’t, just dig in with a fork, as it’s so tender it will melt in your mouth :) This was a perfect pick me up after my first 10k practice race that I ran at the weekend, in preparation for the Great North Run. I must admit the thought of wedge of restorative Chocolate Chilli Cake did help to keep my feet moving and got me round in 1 hour 1 minute :)

Chocolate and Chilli Cake – The final slice

Finished the Sunderland 10k. Now time for cake…

Mexican Chocolate and Chilli Cake

Things that I used to make Mexican Chocolate and Chilli Cake*

Cake – Milk Base

  • 250ml milk
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • a good splash of chilli oil (1/2 to 1 full  teaspoon depending on how hot you like it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of hot paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dried chilli powder

Cake – Fluffy Base

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 300g brown sugar (demerera or muscovado will do)
  • 1 tablespoon of treacle
  • 3 eggs (I used medium but you could use large

Cake – Dry Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Glorious Glaze**

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of butter/margarine
  • 10g cocoa powder

* Recipe chaotically adapted from The Great British Bake Off  ‘How to Bake’ Book – Chocolate Chilli Cake

** Glaze made up from a Mary Berry recipe (Ultimate Chocolate Cake) and a Marguerite Patten recipe (Water Icing with chocolate)

30. Beautiful Bara Brith! Welsh Tea Loaf

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Bara Brith!

My friend Dicky who I met on Twitter asked me if I was planning any Welsh bakes recently. I’ve been thinking about baking Welsh cakes for a little while and asked Dicky for his favourite Welsh baking recipes. He very kindly shared with me his Bara Brith recipe. This is a wonderful fruity tea loaf that’s feels so healthy I don’t feel any guilt in eating a slice or three… I absolutely loved this bake!

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find self-raising wholemeal flour as I’ve never noticed it before in the local shops, but lo and behold I found it in the first place I looked. The stars had most definitely aligned to help me create this Welsh classic.

Tea soaked fruit

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I soaked my fruit in hot strong black tea overnight. I must admit I had to improvise with the dried fruit that I had in the cupboard. I used a combination of sultanas and dried pear. (And threw in a little extra for luck!)

Unfortunately my measuring jug doesn’t have a vast amount of detail on it so I also guessed a little as to how much 2 thirds of a pint of tea is. I did add a little more freshly brewed tea to the final loaf mix later on as the fruit absorbed most of it to get it to the right ‘dropping consistency’.

For an added oomph I splashed in a little lemon juice to the tea and fruit also. I was worried that I might forget to buy a lemon to add it’s zest to the batter. (However I did remember and think the lemon zest really helps to lift the flavour of the loaf.)

The remaining tea

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After soaking the fruit in tea I strained the fruit and kept the remaining tea for future use.

Mixing in all the flour, spices, sugar and zest

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I added the flour, spices, sugar, and egg to the fruit and mixed it all up along with the zest of one lemon.

The perfect dropping consistency

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Then I gradually added the tea to the mix until it became a smooth and shiny fruit studded paste that drops slowly, but surely from the bowl when poured into the tin. Also known as the right dropping consistency.

I had prepared a loaf tin by thoroughly greasing and lining it with greaseproof paper.

Pre oven Bara Brith

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Then all it required was some 45-55 minutes in the oven at 170 degrees C. When it is risen nicely and has turned a lovely golden brown colour, it will be firm to the touch. Then ta da! A perfect Bara Brith is born!!

Fresh from the oven Bara Brith

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Dicky recommended eating it, once it has cooled, with lashings of butter and it is wonderful with a proper cup of tea. It’s a gently spicy sponge with plump and juicy tea soaked fruit. The wholemeal flour gives it a great texture too. What more could you need!

Bara Brith dressed in butter

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I enjoyed it for breakfast but it would be wonderful at any time of day. I must confess we also ate it with custard and bananas for pudding one night too. :) Delicious!!!

Naked Bara Brith

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Thank you so much for sharing your recipe Dicky. This will definitely be one of my staple home bakes in the future. I think I might even bake some and freeze them for future use! Also if you would like to follow Dicky on twitter I recommend that you do, he’s a lovely guy, training to be a chef and always baking something amazing. You can find his profile here.

If you have an international recipe that you would like to suggest or send my way, please let me know. You can leave me a comment below if you like. Thanks you so much for reading and all your comments are gratefully received.

Naughty Bara Brith dressed in custard and bananas

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Things that I used

One 2lb loaf tin

Preheated oven at 170 degrees C,  350F or Mark 4

  • 10 oz (or 285g)  mixed dried fruit (I added a bit more than this for luck probably around 12oz/300g)
  • 2/3 pint hot tea (no milk)
  • 3 oz (or 85g) soft brown sugar
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 12 oz (or 340g) self raising wholemeal flour
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice ( I am always rather on the generous side with spices so used 1tsp ginger, 1tsp cinnamon 1tsp allspice)
  • 1 large egg ( I used a medium egg as it was all that I had in and it worked well)

28. Jamaican Black (Rum) Cake – The most alcoholic cake I’ve ever baked

Jamaican Black Cake

Officially the most alcoholic cake that I have EVER baked. Jamaican Black cake is most definitely not for the faint of heart or soberest of people. Containing 2 bottles of dark rum and a half bottle of Brandy, the fumes emanating from the cake are enough to make you slightly squiffy, never mind devouring a full slice!

Dark Rum (not just any dark rum but Marks and Spencers Dark Rum)

I happened upon the idea of a Jamaican Black cake when looking for Christmas cake recipes and I spotted it for sale at the continental Christmas markets. I required a wonderful cake recipe to bake for my first ever venture into the world of Clandestine Cake Club where the theme was cakes with beverages and also something luxurious for my mam’s mothers day present too. This is how I ended up scouring shops for a ridiculous amount of prunes, raisins, booze and Angostura Bitters. Did you know that they are difficult to find despite their 47% volume and are rumoured to be poisonous in large quantities… Good job this only needed 2 tablespoons of the pink stuff!

rum soaked fruit

I soaked the mammoth amount of dried fruit in an entire bottle (1 litre) of rum for about 2 weeks. I had to split the fruit into 2 jars as I simply did not have a vessel large enough to contain the copious amounts of booze and fruit.

I probably should have read the recipe more carefully as I would then have discovered that this recipe is enough to yield 3 or 4 cakes. I had produced a Jamaican Black Cake factory!! [I've revisited this recipe and reduced it down to Just the one Jamaican Black Cake here if you want to bake fewer cakes.]

The recipe also did not specify the volume of the bottles of booze so I shall let you know what worked for me (and as per usual I did end up substituting something for things that I like better. I hope that doesn’t detract from its Jamicanness? (or Trinidad – ianness origin also).

Rum soaked fruit… how much can I cram in to the food processor?

I figured that soaking fruit in this sheer amount of rum as well as being highly decadent is enough to ensure a good result (or get you very drunk so you no longer care what the cake actually tastes like). The idea behind such a long soak is to help macerate the fruit and also creates a much denser and moist texture than traditional fruit cake/Christmas Cake. I also think that it might make a wonderful Christmas pudding.

Maybe a bit more…

Following the long rum soak the fruit required mushing up. My weapon of choice was my food processor. Rather dangerously I crammed the entire fruit and rum mix into the bowl and forced the lid on. It took rather a lot of whizzing to get the mix to condense down into a fruit paste but it’s a determined little processor and did a wonderful job. Adding the Angostura bitters left a pink hue to the mixer bowl for future Jamaican Black Cake memories.

Eeek! Full to capacity but valiantly managed to macerate the fruit fully

With the food processor chugging away I had a chance to get on with ‘browning the sugar’. This is a new technique for me and undoubtedly adds to the depth of the final cake colour. Light brown sugar is heated in the pan until it melts to create a caramel. Adding a little water (in total half a cup) at a time. I struggled to get the sugar to melt and in frustration tipped all the water in, which wasn’t a good idea as it crystalised into chunks and required a much more vigorous heat and stir to get a smoother caramel. And even then it was still on the crunchy textured side for my liking. But I figured the heat of the oven would help to incorporate the crystals into the cake, I’m pretty sure I was right too! No sign of crunchy sugar lumps in the final cake.

Bubbling and browning the sugar to a caramel

Perhaps I was multi tasking to the extreme as I then attempted to beat the butter, sugar and eggs together whilst macerating the fruit and drowning/browning the sugar. But hey I have 2 hands, why not use them?!

Creaming the butter and sugar

After a short while I realised I don’t own a bowl big enough to house all of the cake ingredients in. I now had 3 separate and extremely full bowls which were already overflowing!! Once I stirred the browned liquid sugar into the beaten eggs and sugar I then only had 2 massive bowls of stuff to combine…

Mixing the browned sugar into the mix

Tonnes of butter, sugar, eggs and browned butter!

A spot of logical thinking brought me to the conclusion that this was possible, I just needed to divide the mix in order to conquer it.

Emmmmm how do I combine all of this???

I poured roughly half the beaten eggs, butter and sugar into one large mixing bowl. I then decanted half of the mushed up fruit and rum on top of the batter. This meant I had some space to fold the mixture together with my metal spoon. Although some ingredients fell over board I feel I salvaged the majority of it.

Hope it doesn’t overflow…

I repeated the process in a separate bowl with the other half of the mixture. Although I’m sure my guess work is highly accurate I couldn’t help but notice one bowl of batter looked a bit blacker than the other which worried me that I had put more fruit in inequality bowl than the other but there was nothing to gain by fretting about it and these monster cakes needed a.good 3 hours in the oven so I had to plough on.

It was a bit of a tight squeeze!!

Fully combined all of the ingredients!!

I had already greased and double lined 2 round springform cake tins with an extra high collar fixed on the outside with string to prevent the cake top from burning. I used a.22cm tin and a 20cm tin and found I still had cake to spare so quickly greased my favourite bundt tin (with a very generous layer of butter as I couldn’t line the moulded tin with paper and wanted to make sure I could get the cake back out again!!) Due to its shape I also couldn’t tie a protective collar of greaseproof paper round the bundt tin so opted for a lid of tin foil over the top. This scrunched up edges to create a seal over the top of the tin and stayed put throughout the baking process.

Doubled lined and dressed in collars – cakes ready for the oven

I smoothed the tops of the cakes as flat as I could as I wasn’t expecting them to rise very much.

I did check on the cakes regularly and turned them slightly so as to avoid burning the edges. But I resisted opening the oven for at least 2 hours to keep the heat in and the cakes rising. No one wants a sunken and heavy cake…

Trio of Jamaican Black Cakes hot out the oven

After 3 hours they were definitely done and the skewer came out clean.

The final touch was to pour half a bottle of rum over the 3 cakes whilst they were still in their tins and warm.

More rum glistening on top

What a wonderful cake! It was definitely worth the extra preparation time and although it’s not traditional to ice a Jamaican Black Cake, my Mam loves marzipan and royal icing so I created a Cath Kidston -esque star design especially for her using the largest of my trio of cakes. This wasn’t the easiest cake to ice as the cake was still rather moist (and full of rum) so I struggled to get the icing to stick. Some say that it is too sweet with the layers of icing, but I actually really quite liked it. It is very similar to a Christmas Cake however it smells so much more of booze and brings a lovely rose to the cheeks.

Cath Kidston Jamaican Black Cake

The second cake which I baked in the bundt tin required some coaxing to remove it from the tin. (I implemented a cocktail stick to loosen the cake around the sides, then I let gravity do the rest of the work, turning the tin upside down on a plate.) I took this to my first ever Clandestine Cake Club and shared the cake with lots of other cake lovers. I will tell you more about this another time :)

Jamaican Black Bundt Cake – note the slight cocktail stick indentations… oops but rum hides all sorts of sins

The more traditional shaped Jamaican Black Cake

The Towering Trio of Jamaican Black Cakes

Things that I used to make Jamaican Black Cake…

An insane amount of dried fruit and alcohol! Although I didn’t stick completely to the combinations below I think you can play around with which dried fruits you use depending on what is available provided it all adds up to the same total amount of dried fruit. I also worked from 2 different recipes to make sure I had a good all rounder recipe and that I made it as authentically as possible.

[Since creating this recipe I have revisited it and reduced it so you can also now follow a recipe for Just the One Jamaican Black Cake if you prefer!]

Fruit Puree Base:

Soak the fruit in rum for up to 2 weeks (or at least 3 days) prior to macerating

  • 500g prunes
  • 500g dark raisins
  • 750g currants
  • 500g dried cherries
  • 250g mixed candied citrus peel
  • (Total of 5 and 1/4 pounds of dried fruit or 2.4 kilograms)
  • 1 bottle cherry brandy (I had to make do with plain old Brandy and used a 500ml bottle)
  • 1 bottle rum and/or Bailey’s (I used a 1 litre bottle of dark rum. I didn’t include Baileys)  -Other recipes also suggest using Manischewitz Concord grape wine which doesn’t seem to exist in England so I just opted for adding a bit more rum
  • 2 tbsp Angostura bitters

Browning:

Heat the sugar in a heavy based pan until it melts and then add a little bit of the water at a time until it becomes a dark caramel. Careful not to burn it, but it will come very close to being burnt to achieve ‘browned’ perfection.

  • 500g brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup boiling hot water

Cake:

Beat the sugar and eggs together and then beat the eggs in one by one. (You will need a big bowl as it gets a bit messy with 8 eggs!) Add all the flavours to the egg mix.

Sift the dry ingredients together and then fold it into the beaten eggs, sugar and butter.

Then mix in the fruit puree and browned sugar liquid.

Pour into 3 greased and double lined cake tins.

Bake at 120 degrees celsius (250F) for 3 hours

  • 500g unsalted butter
  • 500g sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 tsp lemon essence (I didn’t have this so used lime juice instead…)
  • I used the zest of 2 whole limes (but then realised the recipe said 2 tsp lime rind)
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 500g plain flour (I used plain white flour but you could make this cake gluten free by using your favourite gluten free plain flour or a combination of gluten free flours such as 250g cassava flour + 250g rice flour)
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

The Final Touch:

Pour a generous amount of rum/brandy onto the top of your cake. It should absorb rather a lot of rum at this point. The cake will get darker with the more rum that you force feed it. It may take a day for the cake to absorb the rum but it will get there.

Wait until the cake has cooled completely before removing it from the tin and pop the cakes in an airtight container. I even left one cake in the tin for a week with tin foil over the top while it absorbed the rum (and I had ran out of containers big enough to keep it in!

MORE RUM 1 500ml bottle of dark rum for pouring on the hot cakes

Keeping Your Jamaican Black Cake:

The cake should keep for (at least) a month in an air tight container. Or perhaps even longer if you can resist eating it as it’s almost pickled with that amount of alcohol in it! Tin foil is also a good idea help seal in the rum and prevent the cake from drying out.

I froze my final cake and I think it will keep for at least a month in the freezer before I decide what to do with it.

This recipe was created using inspiration from Auntie Olga’s Trinidad Black Cake  and the Naparima Girls’ High School Cookbook.

Thank you for reading!

25. Happy Birthday to me! Triple Lemon, Triple Layer Victoria Sponge – Extravagana – England

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Triple Lemon, Triple Layer Victoria Sponge

Ok, ok I’ve baked rather a few things already from good old England so it may not be that exotic to choose a Traditional Victoria Sponge. However! I know a true test of baking skill lies in the creation of a perfect sponge. I’ve never made one of these before but I sure have eaten my fair share of them. I have pondered over baking a layered cake for quite some time and debated over experimenting with a Hummingbird Bakery venture delicious although it would have been it involved too many ingredients that I couldn’t find so back to Marguerite Patten! Always wanting to try something a little bit different, and having rather a lot of home made lemon curd still to use up, I made mine a triple lemon triple layered Victoria Sponge…
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The Marguerite Patten recipe for Victoria Sponge has so many variations I think you need a Home Economics degree to put it all together! After engaging my non mathematical brain I managed to measure out in ounces (reading my scales correctly this time- I recently realised that I’ve been reading Llbs instead of ounces… This may explain why my last sponge cake went SO very wrong…)

The Many Variations of Marguerite

I used the variation for one 10 inch cake tin, the plan being that I would simply split my one cake in half and fill it with buttercream and my lemon curd.

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Whisking the eggs well

As I was making probably the biggest cake in Marguerite’s recipe options I had to increase all the ingredients from 4oz to 6oz. Simple?

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Creaming the butter, sugar and lemon zest together

I simplified the method for myself: 6oz of butter and 6 of sugar creamed together. 2 medium eggs to be whisked ‘well’. 2 lemons zest and half a lemons juice added to the butter then beat the eggs gradually into the butter being careful not to curdle the lot.

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Scrambled eggs?

Then to fold in the 6oz of plain flour and ta da we have a cake mix!

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Folding in the flour

Careful not to knock the air out of the mixture I lovingly spread it as flat as I could get it into the greased and lined tin. 35minutes at 180 degrees and I had one slightly thinner than I expected lemon sponge.

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Spread as even as possible in the tin

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One slightly sad looking thin lemon sponge

This rather sad looking sponge would be impossible split down the middle and ice. So I just had to bake another 2 layers!! It would have been a bit of a disappointing cake had I not. To speed up the process I doubled the ingredients to make enough for 2 cakes in one go. I wasn’t entirely sure this was technically the best thing to do but hey I didn’t want to be on all night. The problem being I only have one round cake tin so I had to bake one sponge at a time in order to re use the tin. This meant cooling the cake quickly and hoping the last sponge wouldn’t be airless and dry after the sponge mix had sat around waiting to be plopped into the tin.

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Citrus buttercream

Throwing an unmeasured amount of butter and icing sugar into the food processor, (probably around 1 and a half packs of butter and enough icing sugar to make a good smooth sweet texture) I whizzed it all up with a splash of orange extract and vanilla too. I ran out of lemons by this point so thought any citrus would be a good move…

I am not very good at icing cakes with buttercream. My cupcakes always look a bit sad so this was a bit of a trial by fire. I’ve watched Lorraine Pascale ice cakes and it looks easy so I do what I do best and make it up as I go along. Lorraine made a mint sugar syrup and spread it on to her layered sponge cakes before icing, so I thought this must be a good idea although it did mean deviating from Marguerite’s recipe somewhat.

Lemon Syrup

Using what I had left over from the sponges I simmered the juice from all of the zested lemons with some sugar (enough to cover the bottom of the pan) to make a lemon drizzle. When it and the cakes had cooled slightly I spread a generous sticky coating on all 3 sponge layers to add to the lemony flavour and to help keep it moist.

The Terrible Trio

The exciting bit was then whacking on a thick layer of lemon curd followed by buttercream then smushing on a sponge layer (and it cracked slightly but no one will see this once I coat the entire thing in buttercream. The problem was the lemon curd started to dribble out everywhere! For the second layer I put buttercream first then lemon curd which helped hold it in place a bit better.

Layer 1! Lashings of Buttercream

Layer 2. I could stop here for a traditional Victoria Sponge…

Lemon Curding it up

Layer 3! Looking a bit rustic

It was looking enormous and slightly lopsided. I had obviously not spread the buttercream evenly but the leaning tower of Pisa look is so in right now (I tell myself). Once the third sponge layer was added I spread the remaining butter cream, around the sides of the cake, sealing all 3 layers in. Smoothing the cream round with a palette knife. I saved a little buttercream to finish it off after the entire cake had a little rest in the fridge to ‘set’.

All 3 leaning layers encased in buttercream

The cake was so massive I had to take some shelves out of the fridge just to squeeze it in! Once I smoothed on the final finishing touches of buttercream in an attempt to hide some of the crumbs that had broken off the sponges and worked their way into the cream I faced a little challenge. How to cover the leaning tower of cake up to keep it fresh in the fridge?! It was too big for any of my cake boxes and I had welded it to my glass cake stand with buttercream so it wasn’t possible to move it.

Cake Tent

I fashioned a rudimentary cake tent by selotaping cocktail sticks underneath the glass cake stand and gently folding 2 sheets of tin foil around the cake and skewering them onto the sticks. The cocktail sticks meant the tin foil didn’t touch the buttercream but would stop it all drying out in the fridge. Perfect!

Triple Lemon, Triple Layer Victoria Sponge

Once you start you can’t stop

This cake was immense!! I loved the sharp lemon flavour of the Curd combined with the gentle citrus buttercream. The sponge was probably a bit dry around the edges (hence the loose crumbs) so I would probably take it out the oven a little sooner if I was making it again. But hey for a first attempt at a layered cake I was happy. The tilt definitely gives it a certain je nais sais quais. I enjoyed the quirky take on the traditional Victoria Sponge. I took some to work and one comment was “that is the best cake that I have ever tasted’ which is high praise indeed!

Ps. This cake was perfect for trying out my lovely new cake slice!