A Christening Cake with a history. 3 years on our final tier of wedding cake transformed.

Christening cake. Two tiered iced fruit cake with duck egg blue polka dots and bunting

Christening cake with a history. In a previous life it was a tier in our wedding cake. 3 years on it’s had a make over and tasted great!

As you may recall I got a bit carried away when baking our 5 tier fruit cake for our wedding almost 3 years ago. I ended up baking 8 cakes in total (!) We managed to eat most of the cakes but had one 7 inch round cake left.  So I carefully wrapped the cake in greaseproof paper and tin foil and popped it in a biscuit tin and put it in the back of the  cupboard and forgot about it. It managed to survive our house move and kitchen renovations too!

image of 3 year old fruit cake preserved in brandy ready for transforming into christening cakle

The original 3 year old wedding cake, full of booze and deeper in flavour and colour.

It’s a well known English tradition that you save the top tier of your wedding cake for the christening of your first child. Fruit cake keeps extremely well, provided you give it a good drink of booze every now and then. It also needs to be kept in a dry cool environment.  It’s important to store it in a tin,  not a plastic container, as the cake will sweat in plastic. And sweat means mould which you really don’t want! A layer of greaseproof paper and tin foil helps to stop the cake from drying out and keep the booze, which preserves the cake, in.
Every time I moved the cake (about once a year) I had a quick peek in the foil and topped it up with the orange brandy liqueur that I used in our original wedding cake. Drizzling just enough booze over the top of the cake to make it slightly damp (about 2-3 tbs). After 2 years I replaced the paper and foil.

Cutting the cake!

The actual wedding cake in it’s moment of glory.  (Any excuse to include another photo of it…)

I was a bit nervous about feeding a 3 year old fruit cake to my family but on close inspection the cake looked absolutely perfect just much darker than when I first baked it from absorbing all that delicious brandy.

I had such high ambitions and a million ideas on how to decorate the cake but with very limited time and a 5 month old baby who needs feeding every hour or so my ability to make fondant hot air balloons and elephants totally escaped me. And to be honest sugar craft has never been my strong point!

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I gave up sugar crafting and instead ate a lump of marzipan with a cup of tea.

As a compromise I opted for the smoothest finish I could manage of white fondant with duck egg blue polka dot design (much simpler and quicker!) And a year later I realise I’ve clearly got an unhealthy obsession with duck egg blue polka dots as I’ve just decorated the little one’s room in them too!

Image of duck egg blue and gold polka dots on bedroom wall

Polka dots galore

And don’t tell anyone but I cheated and bought a polystyrene 6 inch round to decorate for the top tier to give extra height and interest! As I was baking loads of chocolate cupcakes, flapjacks and brownies for my non fruit cake loving nieces and nephews I didn’t want to bake another round cake to ice as sponge cake can’t be iced a month in advance!

Our traditional English christening cake. 3 year old wedding fruit cake

Our traditional English christening cake. 3 year old wedding fruit cake

I iced the fruit and fake cakes a month in advance to give it a chance to dry and set. Making the cakes more durable and easy to transport. I iced them directly onto half inch thick drum cake boards for extra height with a layer of marzipan and fondant.

To hide any rough edges I pinned white ribbon into the drum boards around the edge of the cake. And found some beautiful grey polka dot ribbon that my friend gave me which worked perfectly to make a decorative bow on the top tier. As the cakes were on their drum boards I used dress making pins rubbed with brandy to pin the ribbon directly into the board without fear of the pins rusting.

Once the cakes were iced, buffed and smoothed (method here) I dabbed the small fondant polka dots (cut out with the round end of a fine piping nozzle) with a spot of brandy to help it adhere to the fondant.

I stored the cakes in cardboard cake boxes to protect them and help them dry and then all I had to do was make the bunting cake topper using some glitter sticker letters and paint my cardboard letters. So you definitely know our little one’s name!

I was so impressed with the cake. It actually tastes better than I remember. The orange brandy really popped and had intensified throughout the cake which was moist and rich. Fruit cake definitely gets better as it ages. The more mature the better. I’m so pleased I saved the cake. Not only did it save me from having to bake one whilst clutching a small baby but I managed to slice it into half inch fingers and feed our 50 family members and keep a couple of pieces for me to enjoy and savour later on!

Traditional, tasty and time saving. What’s not to love?

Liked this post? You can read about our epic wedding cake adventure here…

Part 1 – My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake – My biggest booziest cake yet 

Part 2 – How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake

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The Final Frontier – Decorating and Assembling my 5 Tier Wedding Cake

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

When I engaged in creating hundreds of Hydrangea blossoms to adorn the wedding cake with I didn’t really stop to think too hard about how I was going to get them on the cake… It can’t be that hard right? I purchased a pot of edible glue (amongst many other things from the lovely cake shop) and trotted off to carry on baking, pushing all thoughts to the back of mind about how edible glue works.

Some of the cakes resting nicely in my kitchen cupboards

Some of the cakes resting nicely in my kitchen cupboards

Fast forward 3 months to December 2012 and I have now 5 iced wedding cakes resting nicely in their cardboard cake boxes, up on some book shelves in our spare  room/wedding dumping ground. I have 1 extra iced cake just in case of any disasters and 2 naked fruit cakes leftover from the epic baking stage of this cake.

We were going to celebrate Christmas early this year, what with the wedding being on 30th December. So I started wrapping all of my presents very early. I was wrapping until 11 one night and popped everything under the tree only to look up and discover yellow stuff running down the walls, behind the tree. I showed Chris and he discovered that I had also placed all of my freshly wrapped presents into a quickly mounting pool of water gathering under the tree.

The wall was quickly turning into a water feature in our house. It also joins onto the spare room. A spot of investigating further revealed that the flood had started in the spare room, saturated the wall and then seeped into the living room and across the floor! Thank god my dress was at my parents house and thank god for Kate’s cake boxes! They were the perfect protection against any damp that was lingering in the air (there was a lot!). Luckily the shelves weren’t up against the soaked wall too and lucky that I had been wrapping presents to discover the leak as I wouldn’t have noticed it until we were swimming in our sitting room.

We're all having a dehumifier party

We’re all having a dehumidifier party

One emergency cake evacuation later and removal of everything out of my kitchen cupboards, the 8 cakes had a new dry home!  Our landlord delivered a dehumidifier to get rid of the damp and the stink and we were good to go. Although further calamities were awaiting me whilst Chris was away for his stag do and I had friends round for festive fizz, mulled cider and spare wedding cake tasters. The dehumidifier started to leak! I then flooded the toilet trying to mop it up and broke a handle off the door just before everyone arrived. I think it was best to get all the bad luck out of the way before the wedding.

Sticking a milliong sugar flowers in place

Sticking  millions of sugar flowers in place

To give myself plenty of time to glue the flowers on to the cakes I set aside a Saturday the week before Christmas to give them a chance to dry fully and me to repair any breakages/falling offs. This happened to coincide with the painter coming to repair our flooded flat. It made for an interesting 5 hours of glueing flowers whilst directing decorators to dust pans, brushes and keeping the cat at bay.

Edible glue takes a ridiculously long time to dry! In hindsight I think royal icing would have been a MUCH better idea… I used a cocktail stick to smear a little spot of glue onto the back of each flower (which had become really rigid and quite fragile so had to be handled extremely carefully). The moulded reverse of each flower results in grooves and ridges that the glue disappears into. It needs a bit more glue so that the it can actually touch the cake.

The glue should be tacky before attempting to apply it to the cake… If you try to stick it on while the glue is still runny you will have a happy game of chase the flowers as they fall off the cake leaving a trail of glue which has now taken on some of the blue food colouring all down the cake. Many of the flowers fell on the floor and smashed this way but I also realised that I have quick reflexes, almost a cake decorating ninja.

The painters were highly amused by my antics in the kitchen where I didn’t even stop for a cup of tea for 5 hours whilst contorting myself into all shapes to catch the falling flowers and hold 4 flowers in place with each hand until the glue dried enough to support their weight. Patience and flexibility were useful qualities to have a this stage in the cake decorating process. It’s a good job I do yoga.

Almost there but not quite yet...

Almost there but not quite yet… have a look at the varied blue hues in the hydrangea

Zoe Clark’s original design for this cake uses buttercream icing to cover all of the cakes. The sugar flowers can then simply just sit on the buttercream and be held in place. No glue required. The fondant icing that I used, had now hardened and had no give to it to help hold on to the flowers, so it really was the glue doing all of the hard work.

I realised after about an hour of catching and reapplying flowers that I needed to paint the flowers with glue, leave them for about 5 minutes and then the glue would be just about right to stick it onto the cake. Some flowers also had to be rejected as when they dried they hardened into such a curly shape that they lacked a flat area on the back where I could paint the glue on.

I wanted the flowers to appear as natural as possible cascading down the cake.  I chose a combination of hues of the blue hydrangea blooms and applied them randomly at different angles to the cake to give a more varied finish. Tapering off towards the bottom of the cake.

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

The decorated wedding cake in my kitchen

With most of the flowers stuck into place, reserving a gap down the back of the cake, so I had some space to pick each cake up and stack it back together later on. I retired for an essential lie down.

A couple of hours later the glue was really dry and the flowers were stable enough so the cakes could be returned to their boxes and shelf for safe keeping.

One Tier - complete with a full round of dowls - how to ice a wedding cake

Back in it’s box. One Boxed Tier – note the gap down the back – no flowers here yet so it can be handled without damaging the decoration.

I arranged to deposit and arrange the cake at Jesmond Dene House the day before the wedding. It was an exciting and cautious trip in the car trying to keep all the flowers on the cake and intact.

I hired a cake stand to add extra height to the cake and whipped up a batch of royal icing to glue the cakes together and popped it in a icing bag so pipe it easily into place in situ.

All together now in Jesmond Dene House. The day before the big day! (please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair it was a busy day! BUt the cake is almost as tall as me!)

All together now in Jesmond Dene House. The day before the big day! (please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair it was a busy day! But the cake is almost as tall as me!)

Each tier of the cake required a generous dose of royal icing to hold it in place but not too much so it oozes out the sides. When royal icing dries it’s rock solid. That cakes wasn’t going to be moving anywhere!

With all 5 tiers stacked and arranged with the floral cascade running down the front and the joins in the ribbons running down the back I could then add more flowers to fill in the gap that I left to pick the cake up down the back. Amazingly only 2 flowers fell off in the process! Royal icing was a perfect glue and each flower didn’t need to be held in place for hours!

The final result was everything that I had hoped for. The 5 tiers of fruit cake ontop of the cake stand made it almost as tall as me! Please excuse the lack of make up and scraped back hair.

Birds eye view of the cake in place in the great hall at Jesmond Dene House

Birds eye view of the cake in place in the great hall at Jesmond Dene House

I have no idea how the wonderful staff at Jesmond Dene House managed to manoeuvre the gargantuian cake upstairs. The 12 inch tier by itself was just about all I could carry!

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

When we arrived at JDH after the ceremony it was amazing to see everything all together. I loved it. The flowers, the cake, the vintage glass, the real fire, and the sweets and treats I’d made. It was a dream come true with all of my most favourite people in the world together in one room! It was the most perfect day.

Cutting the cake!

Cutting the cake!

And then we got to cut the cake and the dancing began. I didn’t sit down all night but I managed to squeeze in a sneaky slice of wedding cake and it was truly my best ever cake. Rich, extremely fruity and moist, with not too much of an alcoholic burn. The 3 months of maturing were a really good idea! I love the amaretto and cherries. I will definitely be using this recipe again in the future.

What an adventure. This is without doubt my most epic bake yet. Exciting and exhausting in equal measures. I daresn’t even think how much time and energy I spent on the whole cake process, in fact I’m not even going to consider it (or how much I spent on eveything along the way) as it would detract from the very happy memories. I’m so proud that I could make my own wedding cake. Who would have thought a year ago when I hadn’t even made pastry before that I’d be baking and icing a 5 tier wedding cake?  I’m very grateful for the help I’ve had along the way too. It was all the more special that I made it myself and that I could share with all of our family and friends. I even posted some to my Aunty Carol in Canada. Cutting the wedding cake is supposed to bring good luck to the marriage. I wonder if making it yourself gives you extra kudos in the luck stakes?

I’ve saved one naked cake for a special occasion and I still have enough cake left for one last slice. I’m saving that one for a rainy day. I’ll even get the wedding photos back out and relive it all just one more time…

 

This is part 4 of the 4 stages of wedding cake baking! You can read more about my epic wedding cake adventures here…

Part 1 – My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake – My biggest booziest cake yet 

Part 2 – How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake

How many Hydrangea Sugar Flowers does it take to make a Wedding Cake?

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After you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time baking 8 enormous boozy fruit cakes, how do you decide which wedding cake design to go for? Do you opt for a classic look, a fashionable design or something to match your colour scheme?? For those that know me, you will know that there has never been a colour scheme in my life. I don’t manage to match things very well. In fact if things clash that’s probably for the better. (

I couldn’t bring myself to decide on just one colour for my bouquet, as I love so many colours so I went for a bit of everything. It was only a last minute decision to leave out the bright pink roses from the bouquet. I decided it may be a little bit too much.  You can even see the blue hydragena flowers peeking out between the hyacinths. It was touch and go as to whether these flowers would bloom with it being a December wedding. It was clearly meant to be!

My wedding flowers

My wedding flowers – a little bit of everything

Part of me longed for a classic cake that I would love forever and part of me me wished for an entire room of different types of cake from around the world. Unfortunately there is not enough space in my freezer to create such an awesome display unless I baked them all the day before the wedding which in reality, was never going to happen.

Petite Italian Lavender Meringues

Petite Italian Lavender Meringues

As a compromise I baked as many extras as I could possibly manage. Opting for petite Lavender Meringues

Mini Brownie Bundts and Madeleines

Table Treats – Mini Brownie Bundts and Madeleines

and mini bundt brownies and madeleines to adorn the tables with.

I found so many gorgeous cake designs flicking through endless pages of Pintrest and magazines but many were way out of my skills set. One favourite was an impossibly beautiful white damask lace design on a pale green fondant  I made many many trips to my local cake decorating shop and experimented with different technniques,  I was never going to be able to use a stencil. (I practiced with a little one I had in the house and I always managed to smudge it or it oozed out of the sides.)  I was then going to make millions of sugar roses, but I made about 4. It took me ALL night and I felt angry. It was way too fiddly and my roses always turn out ridiculously enormous and ‘rustic’ looking.

Green Damask Lace Cake – The Cake Parlour

Another of my favourite designs was a tiered cake with a cascade of hydragena blossoms. Little did I know that both of these cakes were designed by the same woman the amazing Zoe Clark. (I have since purchased her books as I love her designs!)

I continued in an experimental vein ordering lots of plastic sugar tools online and waited a month for them to arrive. I attempted to make fondant pearls by hand but didn’t think about how they needed to dry so ended up with one lump of sugar pearl. That would never do.

One lump of pearl for me please

Just the one lump of pearl for me please

Back to the drawing board and my two favourite designs. My Mam invested in a hydrangea cutter and mould for me (thank you Mam) rather than watch me struggle with trying to do everything for myself.

Zoe Clark’s design used pink blossoms which is lovely but I’m not much of a pink girl. Instead I experimented with a few different colours including, lilac, baby blue, teal and finally decided upon ‘hydrangena blue’. I coloured some florists paste with food colouring and added a little more to get the right colour. I also left some to dry for a couple of weeks to see how the colour developed as it can fade as it dries out fully. I had found my winner. I made 3 slightly different shades of hydrangea blue paste to give the flowers more of a natural look and variety in the final cascade.

Using a tooth pick add a dot of your chosen food colour gel to the florists sugar paste and knead it until it's the colour you need.I chose hydrangea blue. Beware adding too much colour in one go, once it's in you can't take it out! You may need to colour your paste in advance to allow it to dry a little so it's not too sticky!

Using a tooth pick add a dot of your chosen food colour gel to the florists sugar paste and knead it until it’s the colour you need. I chose hydrangea blue. Beware adding too much colour in one go, once it’s in you can’t take it out! You may need to colour your paste in advance to allow it to dry a little so it’s not too sticky!

When adding food colouring gel to sugar paste it always makes the paste sticky. I find it much easier to handle if I colour it a few days before I need to use it.

Roll out the colourful florist's paste on a lightly dusted surface - making sugar flowers hydrangea

Roll out the colourful florist’s paste on a lightly dusted surface

You can add a little icing powder to the worksurface when you’re rolling it out but not too much as it will dry the paste out and it will crack. Florists paste isn’t cheap but it has a special ingredient (albumen) which allows you to work it into much thinner and more delicate shapes than normal sugar paste. It also dries really hard quite quickly so it keeps it’s shape. I tried to make my own (I know this was not my best idea!) I thought it would be cheaper to buy powdered albumen and knead it into sugar paste. In reality this was an extra faff on that I didn’t have the time for. It was much easier to just buy pre made florists paste and mix my own colour. If you’re feeling extravagant you could even buy yours in the shade you really want.

strategically press your cutter into the paste and carefully lift it away from the paste - sugar flowers hydrangea

Strategically press your cutter into the paste and carefully lift it away from the paste

My hydrangea cutter and mould instructions informed me that I needed vegetable fat to smear on the silicon mould to prevent the paste from sticking to the mould. It was late, I was all ready to cut out some flowers so I wasn’t going to make it to any shops. Improvising I took some pearl lustre powder and popped it in a shallow bowl.

Pearl Lustre Powder makes a great alternative to vegetable fat and icing sugar

Pearl Lustre Powder makes a great alternative to vegetable fat and icing sugar

Using a brand new clean blusher brush I coated the mould liberally with a combination of edible pearl and baby blue lustre powders.

Dust like your life depends on it

Dust like your life depends on it

Et voila. I have satisfactorily released flowers with a touch a sparkle and glamour that I was going to have to paint on afterwards. Success and time saved!

Using a clean blusher brush first the mould with lustre powder to stop it sticking. You can use trex but I discovered this saved me a job later on!

Using a clean blusher brush first the mould with lustre powder to stop it sticking. You can use trex but I discovered this saved me a job later on!

The little mould that I loved to hate. The first 50 flowers were a breeze but your fingers do start to ache after so much cutting, folding and pressing! The trick is to fold the mould over carefully so you don’t dislodge the flower inside. Or if the paste is too thick it oozes out of the sides of the mould when pressed…

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There is a lot of patience and gentleness required in this process…

The pressed Hydrangea Blossom

The pressed Hydrangea Blossom – look at that beautiful detail

If you’ve lustred up the mould enough it should pop out quite easily but you might need to coax it out if it’s a bit stubborn. (Spot the cocktail sticks in the background). Flipping over the mould allows gravity to do the work for you and release the lovely detailed blossom into your palm.

Gently coax the flower out of the mould by peeling the mould away from the flower or let gravity do it's job

Gently coax the flower out of the mould by peeling the mould away from the flower or let gravity do it’s job

The final result! I also added a little baby blue edible lustre powder to the mix to ad depth and variation to the blossoms. I was glittering for a week after this!

Hey presto! You have a sugar flower all sparkly and full of lustre which helps bring it to life

Hey presto! You have a sugar flower all sparkly and full of lustre which helps bring it to life

I found a good way to make the flowers look more realistic was to gently roll themeach one in my cupped hand before leaving them to dry. This gives more shape to the petals, so they don’t appear too flat and fake. Then repeat times a million… This is probably an extreme exaggeration but I lost count of how many flowers I actually pressed. I used about 2 and half 500g packs of florists paste to create maybe around 150 hydrangea blossoms. Not all of them ended up on the cake however as I dropped some on the floor… Some snapped after they dried. They are quite delicate little flowers! And some flowers just weren’t that pretty (sorry flowers but some had to be prised apart and suffered the consequences) so they didn’t make the cut.

Gently roll the flower in your hand to encourage the edges to bend in slightly and create a bit of variety

Gently roll the flower in your hand to encourage the edges to bend in slightly and create a bit of variety

The flowers need to be held in shape whilst they dry. You can splash out on a special sugar paste foam mat if you like, or you can wrap an egg box in cling film and pile them all up like me. Crinkled up tin foil works really well too. It may also be a good idea to add layers of cling film to stop the flowers sticking together. I know I’m biased but don’t they look pretty all sparkly and delicate??

Line an egg box with cling film and pop all your pretty flowers in to hold their shape whilst they dry. Repeat repeat repeat...

Line an egg box with cling film and pop all your pretty flowers in to hold their shape whilst they dry. Repeat repeat repeat…

It takes about a day for the flowers to dry out. I made mine in stages so I could spend an hour or two at a time pressing hydragenas until I thought I had enough. Then  all that’s left to do is ice the 5 tiers of fruit cake and assemble it all.

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

The Final Result! The Wedding Cake

This is part 2 of the 4 stages of wedding cake baking! You can read more about my epic wedding cake adventures here…

Part 1 – My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake – My biggest booziest cake yet 

Part 2 – How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake

5 Tiers of Fruit Wedding Cake – My biggest booziest cake ever

Five Tiers of Fruit Cake on our wedding day

Five Tiers of Fruit Cake on our wedding day

After Chris and I got engaged my first thoughts turned not to the arranging the wedding, or buying my dress, but to the wedding cake. I got my priorities right. My theory is sort out the cake first and everything else will fall in to place.  I actually bought the first wedding dress I tried on and my nephew who wasn’t quite 1 years old helped me choose it but that’s a completely different story. Let’s concentrate on the cake. We knew we wanted to get married as soon as possible, so the vast majority of the 6 months of our planning and preparation time I spent creating our wedding cake.

Fruit cake is very popular in my family as you can tell by my previous Caribbean Christmas Cakes and Jamaican Black Cake so I knew I needed to make something extra special, something a bit more challenging and flavour packed to feed about 120 of our family and friends. A few sleepless nights later of conjuring up flavour combinations in my head I had it planned. 5 tiers of fruit cake, each with it’s own booze and fruit combination.

12 inches worth of dried fruit soaking in their temporary storage box home

12 inches worth of dried fruit soaking in their temporary storage box home

I quickly realised that I needed much BIGGER kitchen equipment than I owned to create the largest 12″ tier. No bowl was big enough to house the enormous quantity of dried fruit to soak it in the flavoursome booze. A quick hunt round the house and I discovered a hard plastic storage box which I disinfected and decanted all the ingredients into. I like to soak my fruit for as long as possible, in a bit more booze than is recommended so then I don’t really need to feed the cooked cake on a regular basis. It matures nicely wrapped up in greaseproof paper and stays moist. I pour enough booze onto the fruit to give it a pungent glistening alcoholic coat, but not so much that it’s swimming in a pool of booze. If you stir it regularly you can make sure the fruit is absorbing the booze. There should be no liquid left after 2 weeks.

Soaking 3 tiers of boozy fruit - wedding cake fruit

Soaking 3 tiers of boozy fruit

Weighing out the fruit and measuring in the booze can be quite complicated as I found out, especially if you don’t mark on your pot which size cake the fruit is eventually intended for.  Note to self: You really won’t remember which fruit is which after 2 weeks of soaking in booze so don’t even pretend that you will. Your memory is good but it’s really not that good. Squashing an 8″ cake’s worth of fruit into a 6″ cake will not work and you won’t realise that this is the problem, even when you can’t fit it all into the cake tin and have to make extra cupcakes with the rest of the mixture. The cake will be extra moist and you will think it’s not cooked so you have to bake it for an extra 3 hours to convince yourself it’s definitely cooked. To compensate for the extra oven time you will then pour way too much booze on the hot cake when it comes out of the oven and drown it. You will never be happy with this cake so you will then have to start again. From scratch. (You will also have to make another 8″ cake as you decided to bake the two cakes simultaneously and made a right pigs ear of the whole thing. That was a really good Saturday well spent.)

one incinerated wedding cake - let's eat the middle with a spoon

One incinerated wedding cake – let’s eat the middle with a spoon

For my 5 tier wedding cake I ended up baking 8 actual cakes! Mainly due to my own stupidity and also because the oven broke. The 2 cakes which required an extra 3 hours of baking (when added onto their original 4 hours of baking is a lot of time in an oven!) made me realise that the oven wasn’t playing nicely. I invested in an oven thermometer to check the temperature throughout the wedding cake baking process and followed this precisely. Only to then incinerate one cake completely. It was a charcoal cake. Although once I chipped away the outer charcoal casing the centre of the cake was really rather nice. I was determined not to let the amaretto soaked cherries to go to waste. So I chopped up the inside of the cake and served it with ice cream. It was delicious!

The quick ice day late spare cake

The quick ice day late spare cake

The other ‘ruined’ cakes did not go to waste either. I decided to donate one of my reject cakes to the church bake sale and quickly iced it. However upon arrival we discovered we were a day late for the bake sale… Ah the brain fog of wedding preparations! So I shared it with friends instead when they came round for festive drinks. I must admit the extra booze and fruit in the cake made it tricky to cut but it was so tasty!! The final uniced extra boozy tier is still maturing nicely in the cupboard. I’m going to save that one for a special occasion. I’m sure it’s good to keep for at least a year or two.

I despaired slightly as I still had 3 cakes left to bake with a broken oven. Then I did a bit of googling and decided instead to dismantle the oven, clean it and put it back together.  Thankfully this seemed to do the trick! I also watched the other cakes like a hawk and turned them every hour to avoid any charring from the hot spots in the oven. The result? The final 3 tiers were the best cakes I’ve ever baked in my life. I’m sure that extra care and attention was the secret to their success. They were so level they didn’t need to be propped up when icing them to get an even top.

Creaming the butter and the eggs - wedding fruit cake

Creaming the butter, sugar and orange and lemon zests

The method for each sized cake is exactly the same and after baking 8 of them I was starting to know it off by heart. I think this Christmas I may make chocolate cakes! After soaking the fruit in booze for at least 24 hours (if not 2 weeks) you cream the butter, sugar and fruit zests together until light and fluffy.

Whisk in the eggs to the butter and sugar

Whisk in the eggs to the butter and sugar

Then to add the eggs, whisking them into the butter and sugar mix one at a time. I had to use the biggest bowl I own for this job as the eggs inflate like mad when whisked. The mixture can start to curdle or separate at this point, but it’s not the end of the world. You can whisk in a little flour to stop it separating but it’s still going to taste pretty amazing.

The whisked eggs are dangerously close to overflowing the bowl

The whisked eggs are dangerously close to overflowing the bowl

Then to prepare the dry ingredients. A separate bowl was definitely required to sift the mountain of flour and spices together. I love a spicy cake, so I’m always quite liberal with the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Mountains of flour and spices

Mountains of flour and spices

For the 12″ cake I didn’t have a bowl big enough to fit everything in so had to resort to stirring it all together in the plastic storage box! Who knew it was so difficult to stir things in a square box… I ended up with cake mix right up to my elbows and consequently my face and hair. But I did it!

Time to stir it all together! Wooden spoon at the ready

Time to stir it all together! Wooden spoon at the ready

You have to fold the wet and dry ingredients in a third at a time until it’s all incorporated. Then finally fold in the ground almonds, chopped nuts and treacle.

Almost fully combined just the treacle and almonds left to fold in

Almost fully combined just the treacle and almonds left to fold in

I hired the largest cake tins from my local cake shop. At 50p a day it was much cheaper than buying massive cake tins and I don’t have to worry about storing them in our already full to capacity flat. It’s really important to double line and grease the cake tins to help prevent the cake from burning as it needs to bake for a really long time at a low (ish) temperature (150 degrees Celsius).

I always tie an extra collar of greaseproof paper around the outside of the tin and use that to prop up a greaseproof paper lid to protect the top of the cake from burning too. As it doesn’t have any raising agent in it the fruit cake won’t really rise any higher than it sits in the tin uncooked. I wanted to try to get the most even finish that I could so I carefully layered the mixture into the tin, spreading and flattening it down with a spatula. No air pockets for me thanks and the smoothest top I’ve ever achieved.

An even spread - all of the 12" cake mixture in it's very large tin

An even spread – all of the 12″ cake mixture in it’s very large tin

The largest cake obviously takes the longest time to bake. In hindsight starting a massive cake at 6pm is probably not the best plan. It takes at least an hour to combine all of the ingredients together and prepare the tins. Then it needs 6 hours in the oven. This meant I was babysitting the cake until 3am. I accidentally fell asleep and awoke with a fright with the oven timer going off, in my own personal inferno with the oven and the heating on, whilst wearing fleecy pyjamas, a dressing gown and a furry blanket with the cat sat on top of me. I forgot to turn this cake whilst it was baking, due to me being asleep and all , so the cake had a nice diagonal shadow across it, but once it had an extra feeding of booze and it was iced no one noticed. And with a cake this big, using so many ingredients there was no way I was going to start again!

The biggest 12" fruit cake with a slight shadow... shhh no one will notice

The biggest 12″ fruit cake with a slight shadow… shhh no one will notice

The cake fruit and booze combinations I created were…

  • 4″ Cake – Amaretto Tier – Almond, Amaretto and cherry
  • 6″ Cake – Vanilla Tier – Vanilla Brandy, dates, peel and sultanas
  • 8″ Cake – Tropical Tier – Malibu, dried pineapple, coconut, papaya and mango
  • 10″ Cake – Traditional Tier – Brandy and mixed fruit
  • 12″ Cake – Orange Tier – Orange Brandy sultanas, cherries, peel
Putting things into slightly frazzled perspective. This cake was bigger than my head.

Putting things into slightly frazzled perspective. This cake was bigger than my head.

Each cake had a different baking time too although all were baked at 150 degrees

  • 4″ Cake – 2 and a half hours
  • 6″ Cake – 3 hours
  • 8″ Cake – 4 hours
  • 10″ Cake – 4 and 3 quarter hours
  • 12″ Cake – 6 hours
The 6 inch wedding cake. Quite the smooth level finish even if I do say so myself

The 6 inch wedding cake. Quite the smooth level finish even if I do say so myself

What I used to bake my wedding cake – Ingredients

4″ Cake – Almond, Amaretto and Cherries

  • 150g dried cherries
  • 100g sultanas
  • 40g candied peel
  • soaked in (at least) 2 tablespoons of amaretto
  • 100g butter
  • 100g brown sugar
  • zest of 1/4 of lemon
  • zest of 1/4 of orange
  • juice of 1/4 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 10g ground almonds
  • 10g flaked almonds
  • 1/2 tablespoon treacle

6″ Cake – Vanilla Brandy, dates, peel and sultanas

  • 70g glace cherries
  • 375g sultanas
  • 200g dried chopped dates
  • 45g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 4 tablespoons of vanilla infused brandy (pop a vanilla pod in your bottle of brandy and leave a vanilla pod in with the fruit whilst soaking in brandy)
  • 175g butter
  • 175g brown sugar
  • zest of 3/4 of lemon
  • zest of 3/4 of orange
  • juice of 1/2 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 20g flaked almonds
  • 1 tablespoon treacle

8″ Cake – Tropical Tier – Malibu, dried pineapple, coconut, papaya and mango

  • 125g glace cherries
  • 650g sultanas
  • 320g dried tropical fruits (pineapple, papaya and mango)
  • 100g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 5 tablespoons of malibu (coconut flavour white rum)
  • 350g butter
  • 350g brown sugar
  • zest of 1 and half of lemons
  • zest of 1 and a half  oranges
  • juice of 3/4 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 6 eggs
  • 350g plain flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 35g ground almonds
  • 35g desicated coconut
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons treacle

10″ Cake – Traditional Tier – Brandy and Mixed fruit

  • 180g glace cherries
  • 800g sultanas
  • 210g dried apricots
  • 250g dried chopped dates
  • 250g dried cherries
  • 110g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 8 tablespoons of brandy
  • 450g butter
  • 450g brown sugar
  • zest of 2 of lemons
  • zest of 2 of oranges
  • juice of 1 orange (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 8 and half eggs
  • 450g plain flour
  • 3 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 55g ground almonds
  • 55g flaked almonds
  • 2 tablespoons treacle

12″ Cake – Orange Brandy sultanas, cherries, peel

  • 250g glace cherries
  • 1460g sultanas
  • 400g dried apricots
  • 350g dried chopped dates
  • 250g dried cherries
  • 200g candied mixed peel
  • soaked in (at least) 10 tablespoons of orange brandy liqueur
  • 660g butter
  • 660g brown sugar
  • zest of 3 of lemons
  • zest of 3 of oranges
  • juice of 1 and 1/2 oranges (add to the soaked fruit just before you combine the rest of the ingredients)
  • 12 eggs
  • 660g plain flour
  • 4 tsp cinnamon (or more…)
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 75g flaked almonds
  • 3 tablespoons treacle
5 teetering tiers of fruit cake. Stacked and ready to mature

5 teetering tiers of fruit cake. Stacked and ready to mature

Once all 8 cakes were baked I had a job trying to find places to store them. A bit of strategic thinking and double wrapping in greaseproof paper and tin foil later 8 cakes were ready to mature for a month before being iced. I’ll tell you all about that adventure later on along with our house flooding 2 weeks before the wedding and making over 100 sugar flowers…

My bakers impression of the final 5 tier wedding cake

My bakers impression of the final 5 tier wedding cake

Love from the new Mrs Lauren Hoy x

Me

Me – more bridey than cakey

This is part 1 of the 4 stages of wedding cake baking! You can read more about my epic wedding cake adventures here…

Part 1 – My 5 tiers of fruit wedding cake – My biggest booziest cake yet 

Part 2 – How many sugar flowers does it take to make a wedding cake?

Part 3 – Where to start icing a 5 tier wedding cake?

Part 4 -The Final Frontier – Decorating & assembling my 5 Tier wedding cake

45. Rosca De Reyes – Spanish Three Kings Cake

Rosca de Reyes - 3 Kings Cake

Rosca de Reyes – 3 Kings Cake

I’m so excited! I’ve been invited to join an online bake off with 4 amazing bloggers, including the wonderful Yasmin Lambert from the Great  British Bake Off! We’re all baking the Spanish festive bake, Rosca de reyes and the baker with the most votes will win £500 worth of holiday holiday vouchers! (which would come in very handy for our honeymoon which are still yet to arrange following our wedding in less than 3 weeks…) I’m so happy to also be able to offer you the chance to win  £50 of vouchers to spend on the very.co.uk Christmas Shop, perfect for finding those last minute Christmas gifts! My first ever competition on aroundtheworldin80bakes! 

If you would like to enter this competition all you need to do is vote for my Rosca de Reyes (aroundtheworldin80bakes) on the Cosmos Holidays website by leaving a comment at the bottom of the article and a 5 star rating. This would be very gratefully appreciated! You can see the full Rosca de Reyes in all it’s glory over on the Cosmos holiday website. The closing date is Wednesday 19th December. Then please let me know that you have voted by leaving me a comment on (any or all!)

This means I can then contact you if you are the lucky winner. I will choose one winner at random from all of those who vote for me. You could tweet something like “I’ve voted for @laurenprince #roscadereyes  to win£50very.co.uk vouchers http://aroundtheworldin80bakes.com #bakeoff #competition Vote to enter”

Now for the bake itself! I hope you like it!

Rosca de reyes  (Kings’ Cake) is a traditional Spanish  cake with an amazing story. It’s eaten on 6th January, the day that the 3 Kings (or wise men) reached the stable to visit Jesus.  This is also known as the religious holiday the Epiphany, a day where Christians celebrate the Son of God taking on human form as baby Jesus. In some countries this is the day that children open their presents rather than Christmas Day so this day definitely needs a special cake to celebrate!  A little figurine or a bean is usually hidden inside the cake to represent baby Jesus fleeing from King Herod who was trying to kill Jesus. Whoever finds the baby bean/figurine is blessed  as ‘King’ or ‘Queen’ of the banquet and should take the figurine to church with them on February 2nd. In Mexican cultures this person also has to throw the Epiphany banquet party for their families and friends the following year!

I’ve never eaten a Rosca de reyes despite all of our family holidays in Spain as a child. We always visited Spain in the Summer holidays where we contented ourselves eating ice cream and custard filled donuts whilst basking in the sun on the beaches instead. Some of our best family holidays were in Spain, so this recipe intrigued me. I’ve never attempted to hide things inside my cakes before and was unable to find a figurine in my house small enough, or that wouldn’t poison us all so I decided to make one out of sugar paste instead and hope that it doesn’t melt in the oven!

My marzipan interpretation of the baby Jesus...

My marzipan interpretation of the baby Jesus…

Looking for a suitable recipe I discovered there are quite a few variables. The Rosca de reyes is usually a ring shape or it could also be an oval (depending on how many people you’re baking for!). The festive dried fruits usually include wonderful reds, greens and oranges so you could use cherries, apricots, figs, cranberries, or mixed candied peel. The choices are endless.

This is essentially an enriched dough, shaped into a bejewelled festive wreath. It’s a bit of a cake/bread/pastry hybrid and stuffed with beautiful dried fruits.

Whizz up the flour and yeast

Whizz up the flour and yeast

If you’re using instant dried yeast you can throw it straight into your flour and mix it evenly through the flour. Using my Russian Doll measuring cups makes life a bit easier than weighing things out on the scales.

As it’s almost Christmas (we’re celebrating on 15th December this year as our wedding is just around the corner…) I wanted to make light work of this recipe. I struggle to knead dough for a long time, I’m simply not tall enough to put enough weight into it! So I whacked it all into my food processor to ease the process. If you don’t have a food processor you can mix it together by hand instead.

Grind up a star anise

Grind up a star anise

I whizzed the yeast and the flour together first to make sure the yeast is evenly distributed throughout the flour. Then while the food processor was running I added the dry ingredients first, the sugar, salt, cinnamon and ground star anise.  The spices really enhance the colour of the dough giving it a wonderful brown hue.

Rub in the butter

Rub in the butter

Once this is combined I popped the butter in and rubbed/blended it into the flour.

Rub in the butter until it looks sandy

Rub in the butter until it looks sandy

Followed quickly by the  beaten eggs, vanilla pod seeds and water. In the future I probably wouldn’t add any water as this made an extremely wet and sticky dough which meant my food processor went into over drive and actually caught fire! The poor food processor didn’t make it but the dough was thoroughly kneaded!

 

Beat in the eggs

Beat in the eggs

 

 

The food processor may screech a bit in protest but it can (usually!) knead the dough (using the dough hook) for a good 3 minutes before it starts to rock out of control and dance off the work top.

I had to add a little more flour in order to knead the dough by hand as it was more of a paste at this stage.

It was rather a sticky dough...

 

Once it becomes a firm dough it’s ready for a final knead on the work surface for 5 minutes or so until it bounces back when pressed lightly with a finger.

I had to bring out the cavalry to sort out this sticky mess - dough scraper!

 

Then to rest the dough for 2 hours in a greased and covered bowl in a warm place until it’s doubled in size. Or if like me you like to do things in stages feel free to let it rise slowly over night in the fridge and shape it at your leisure the next day.

A nice firm brown dough

 

When the dough has risen, punch it down and knead it thoroughly before starting to shape it into a ring or wreath. This really reminds me of my Swedish Tea Ring attempt. Roll it into a rectangle  about 30cm by 20cm. I oiled the board to stop the dough from sticking rather than dusting it with flour.

Roll it out to an even rectangle about 5mm thick

Roll it out to an even rectangle about 5mm thick

Spread the melted butter all over and give a generous coating to the outside edge of the dough.

Spread a generous coating of melted butter all over

 

I found I had an extra bit of dough which I trimmed off to make my rectangle extra straight. I used this to make another plaited version of Rosca De Reyes later on.

My second plaited Rosca de Reyes

 

Line the dough with an even covering of candied fruits, cinnamon and sugar.

Coat with sugar and spice and all things nice

 

Take your figurine/bean (or in my case a hand crafted marzipan baby Jesus) and hide him amongst the fruit.

Hide your figurine inside the fruit

 

Then roll it up into one long sausage, from the longest edge to the longest edge.

Roll roll roll your dough

 

Once you have you sausage shape you can add a smattering of melted butter to one end and coax the 2 edges together to form a ring. Feel free to pop a small greased pudding dish in the centre of the ring to ensure the ring has a hole in the middle as the dough rises.

The final sausage shape

 

A final egg wash and decoration with your chosen candied fruits, I used glace cherries and mixed peel, and it’s ready for the final proving.

Using lazy egg wash in a can (!) and dotting with cherries

 

Cover your ring with greased cling film to prevent it sticking and leave it for an hour to double in size on a baking tray greased and lined with greaseproof paper.

Bejewelled and ready to prove itself

 

After 40 minutes in the oven at 170 degrees C the Rosca De Reyes will have taken on a golden tinge and be firm to the touch. You can check it’s cooked through by tapping the bottom, of the ring, it should sound hollow.

Straight from the oven

 

Once it’s cooled completely I carried on decorating my Three Kings Cake. I’ve been saving my gold lustre spray for a special occasion and this seemed to be the perfect time to use it! I thought the gold would add a regal touch to the ring and additional symbolism as one of the 3 Kings brought gold as a present for baby Jesus. So I’m presenting a very gold Rosca de Reyes to you!

Then it seemed a bit too gold… so I added a sprinkling of marzipan stars with a dab of brandy on the back of each star to hold it in place. The original plan was to add just the one star, as the 3 Kings followed the star to Bethlehem to find baby Jesus in the stable, however I got a bit carried away with my cutters and made an entire starry night of marzipan instead. Resulting in a very decadent Rosca De Reyes!

A very decadent Rosca de Reyes - 3 King's Cake

 

With my left over dough I created a plaited Rosca De Reyes and smeared cinnamon, butter and sugar in between the plaits and dotted a few more glace cherries on the top. I hid one whole cherry underneath and tucked it into the dough.

A golden plaited Rosca de Reyes

 

Once it was baked I also gave it a liberal coating of edible gold lustre.

This bake feels so festive and is a wonderful cake to share with friends and family. It’s a bit like hiding a silver sixpence inside your Christmas pudding, waiting in anticipation to see who finds the baby Jesus inside their piece of bread. I loved this bake and think it may become a regular festive creation in my house. The egg wash gives the outside a fantastic bite to it. I love warming spices and this definitely packs a punch, with the cinnamon and star anise spices in the dough, carried through to the spicy sugary fruit inside. It is also rather reminiscent of a sticky Chelsea bun but even more festive and sparkly!

Cinnamon swirls - a slice of Rosca de Reyes

 

Marzipan is not traditionally found inside Rosca de reyes, but I adore it and try to fit it into everything that I possibly can. The addition of marzipan made the rosca de reyes slightly stollen-esque and what’s not to love about stollen? (It’s another of my favourite festive bakes – as if I don’t have enough already?!)  I try not to waste any ingredients  and wanted to put my left over marzipan to good use from icing my Wedding and Christmas cakes. You can adapt this recipe to suit your own favourite ingredients and play around with the shape too. Have fun and hope you enjoy it as much as me!

 

Things I used to make Rosca De Reyes:

Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 350 degrees F or 170 degrees C

  • 1/3 cup warm water (only add as much as you need)
  • 1 packet of yeast (7g dried instant yeast)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Filling

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon/mixed spice
  • A marzipan baby Jesus (or you can use a small figurine or toy or a bean)
  • Dried/candied fruit (about 2 cups of assorted fruit cut into small pieces  such as sultanas, orange/lemon peel, mango or cherries)

Decoration

  • Large dried fruits (so they don’t burn in the oven) such as glace cherries
  • Beaten egg (to wash over the whole ring)
  • Edible gold lustre spray (or glitter) if you wish!
  • Marzipan and star cutters

42. Swedish Tea Ring – the cake for busy bakers

Planning to bake something in advance of an event or special occasion can be difficult. Sponge cake will dry out if baked too far in advance and if you freeze it you can’t ice it beforehand. I seem to be in a real baking frenzy at the moment. Partly because I’m in the process of baking my 5 tier wedding cake…

The teetering tower of fruit cake… shame 2 tiers need to be re-baked.

I’ve chosen fruit cake for my 5 tier wedding cake is because I love fruit cake and it will be Christmas(!) but also because I can plan it in and bake it in advance. Then take my time with icing it, hopefully resulting in a well organised and non stressful experience. Also fruit cake improves with age! The longer I soak the fruit and feed it BOOZE the better it will taste.

Swedish Tea Ring

So what else keeps well? A rich yeast dough, that’s what! Bring on another new discovery and favourite of mine, The Swedish Tea Ring!!

Marguerite Patten has been tempting me with this recipe for years and I finally found a reason to bake it! To give as a present to my friends Josh and Mark for looking after me in Manchester at the Blog North Awards last week.

It’s like a robust Chelsea Bun/Cinnamon Roll/Belgian Bun hybrid. Perfect for cinnamon junkies like me and for preparing in stages for the busy baker. I can also confirm it’s portability! It survived a 3 hour drive through lightening and torrential rain! That’s one sturdy bake.

Whisking the dry ingredients together…

One thing I dislike about making yeast doughs is the kneading time required. I no longer own a hand whisk with dough hooks attached and my food processor can only handle dough for 2-3 minutes before it starts rocking around the counter top precariously. So, in my mad baking frenzy, I improvised as best as I could do. I used my electric hand whisk and beat the dough together… Who knows if this is an acceptable baking practice?

Whisking in the egg

But despite my poor little electric whisk’s protests (it’s been through a lot this year) It managed to combine the wet dough together with minimal effort required from me. I call that a result (although the blown out birthday candle smell emanating from the little whisk’s motor might suggest otherwise…)

Whisking in the milk – making a wonderfully sticky dough

Now as Marguerite arranged each bit of this recipe in a different section of the book, I managed to confuse my recipe somewhat. I used the full rich yeast dough recipe and didn’t adjust it for the Swedish Tea Ring, which means you either make one massive tea ring or one modest sized ring (according to the recipe) and a smaller mini one for later with the off cuts. (I made 2!)

Poor little burnt out whisk – thoroughly kneading/whisking the dough

Whisk all of the dry ingredients together. Then whisk into the mix the butter, followed by the egg and then the milk until you get an elastic, wet sticky dough.

One thoroughly kneaded lump of richer yeast dough

Leave it in an oiled bowl and cover with greased cling film to prove. I popped mine in the fridge over night to prove slowly (although it should only take an hour or two in a warm spot).

Or if you’re in a hurry you could pop your bowl over a pot of soup on the hob to prove…

Remove the proven dough from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (if you have proven it in the fridge).

Fully proven dough straight from the fridge

Kneaded the full proven dough thoroughly to re distribute the heat throughout the dough.

Kneaded and shaped into a rectangle ready for rolling out

Roll the dough out to a rectangle 10 inches by 8 inches about 0.5mm thick. I was feeling very precise so I even measured and trimmed the rectangle so it had straight edges, to avoid the misshapen ends I found when making Chelsea buns

Rolled and trimmed to perfection. (Note the ball off extra dough leftover…)

My favourite bit was smearing the entire rectangle of dough with melted butter. I don’t think you need to be precise here. I found a pastry brush too delicate for this job and slapped the lot on with my hand instead straight from the microwave. (It only needs about 30 seconds to melt the butter through). The more generous with the butter the more gooey your filling.

Smeared with butter

For those who adore cinnamon, don’t feel restricted by the recipe. Feel free to pour as much cinnamon into your sugar as you can handle. Give it a quick stir to combine and then throw it onto your butter dough until you have an even blanket of cinnamony wonderment. I like to use enough cinnamon to give the sugar a dark brown colour. I ran out of brown sugar so improvised with normal caster sugar. Perhaps brown sugar would produce more of a caramelised effect?

Generously coat the butter in cinnamon and sugar (I was clearly in a hurry when I took this photo – apologies for it’s blurriness!)

After watching the Great British Bake Off, I realised my rolling skills may bye somewhat lacking. I have a tendency to misunderstand which side is the long side of the dough so I took photos to make sure I can bake this again in the future. Roll the dough towards you from the longest edge to the longest edge creating a ‘swiss roll’ of cinnamon dough.

Cinnamon swiss roll

Don’t worry if some of your sugar falls out of the roll. There’s plenty in there to make it taste wonderful. Keep the roll as tight as possible and if you have some melted butter leftover, it’s a good idea to spread a bit along the longest exposed edge to help ‘glue’ the dough to itself. I would also add a bit to one end to help later on…

Keeping the roll tight with one hand and glueing with butter the dough together

Press your fingers along the join in the dough to encourage the dough to combine and stick together. Turn the roll over so the join is firmly disguised under the roll of dough. Gravity should help to force the roll to stick together and stop the sugary goodness running out whilst it bakes.

Firmly joined together – then hide this join underneath the roll of dough

This also means you have the smooth (and prettier) side of the dough roll to play with. The most difficult bit of this bake is definitely joining the two short edges of dough together as they are very sugary and don’t want to stick.

This is my Chelsea Bun attempt but it’s very similar! The swirl of cinnamon at each end makes it difficult to join but making sure you have straight edges when you roll out the dough (unlike here – look at the overlap!) makes it much easier to join

I coaxed them together with butter and nipped the edges together with my fingers until they begrudgingly worked with me.

The troublesome join

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it finally stayed in place! It could almost be one MASSIVE cinnamon doughnut at this point. But it had to have another little rest to prove again (about 20 minutes) before the next step…

a MASSIVE cinnamon doughnut

Now here my recipe reading skills escape me again. What I failed to understand was Marguerite meant for me to cut completely through the ring to create a fan of cinnamon buns in the shape of a ring, like this…

Marguerite’s Swedish Tea Ring – How it should look in real life – fully exposed cinnamon

Unfortunately the photo was on a completely different page and I interpreted the instructions like this…

Partially exposed cinnamon – my interpretation

Brandishing my sharpest kitchen scissors I snipped delicately and diagonally into the ring to partially expose the cinnamon swirls. I must admit I was nervous that this slicing would compromise the integrity of my dough join so was possibly overly hesitant at this stage.

Snippity snip

All it needed was to be placed into a moderately hot oven for 30 minutes or so, until it turned golden brown.

Swedish Tea Ring ready for the oven

As the Swedish Tea Ring is essentially a bread dough I also made sure it was baked through by knocking the bottom of the ring to listen for the resounding hollow tap.

Fully baked (and a bit more irregular in shape than Marguerite’s)

The baked Swedish Tea ring is a tempting sight with glitterring cinnamon peeking out from the dough (although not the most organised of rings it still looks inviting to me!)

Lemon Glace Icing

Once the ring cooled fully I whipped up a batch of lemon glace icing. It hides an enormous amount of irregularities and flaws, especially if you layer up your icing! Again I can;t say I followed Marguerite’s recipe exactly. I like a tart lemon flavour so I sloshed in a bit of lemon extract to give an extra punch to the icing. I also free poured the icing sugar and mixed it with enough lemon juice to create a runny yet thick icing. (This does take quite a bit of icing sugar!).

free pouring icing – balanced over a big mug

When the icing is just about right in consistency it should taste good (obviously!) not be gritty, the sugar should totally melt into the liquid and it should part when stirred in the bowl. (see the picture above) This means it’s starting to hold it’s shape a bit whilst still being runny to cascade over your tea ring and coat the cake in thick white goo.

iced and decorated Swedish Tea Ring

It’s best to pop your Swedish Tea Ring on some greaseproof paper (or a plate) before you pour the icing over it to catch the icing waterfall. It needs some time to dry and set. I iced mine just before bed so it had time to set over night before being deposited into it’s travel box. Please note you may need more than 2 hands and a palette knife to prise your cake from the paper after it’s iced!

The final Swedish Tea Ring

Mary Berry recommends decorating cakes in groups of threes. I didn’t have the traditional galce cherries in my cupboard but I always have a store of sultanas, hence the trio of sultanas dotted on each section of ring. It’s also best to add these decorations while your icing is still wet.

The Swedish Tea Ring in it’s rustic glory

I loved this bake. It was a pleasure to make, especially as I could spend an hour at a time doing each step making it a more manageable bake to do after work over 2 evenings. The contrast of the sharp and sweet icing against the warming cinnamon is so comforting, just what you need after a long drive in the winter night. Each slice reveals a beautiful cinnamon swirl…

A cinnamon swirl in every slice

I can recommend it with a celebratory gin or a cup of tea. Whatever your preference, I think you’ll enjoy this one. I enjoyed seconds, and could have even squeezed in thirds if I wasn’t being polite!

A chunk of Swedish Tea Ring

It was a good job I had baked my mini Swedish Tea Ring and froze it for later on that week for my friend’s house warming, as it then made a special appearance in a photo shoot for the Sunderland Echo who published an article on my Blog North Award. You can see the mini Swedish Tea Ring being balanced on a cake stand by me here

Double Swedish Tea Ring – Little and Large


Things I used to make my Swedish Tea Ring

1 quantity of Richer Yeast Dough

  • 7g of dried instant yeast
  • 3 oz sugar
  • 1 lb plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 0z butter/margarine (you choose)
  • 1 egg
  • just under 1/2 pint milk (room temperature)

Swedish Tea Ring

Use 8 oz of richer yeast dough to make one tea ring or the full quantity of richer yeast dough to make a larger ring (and a mini ring like me)

Filling

  • 1 oz melted butter
  • 2 oz brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon (although I added enough to ensure the sugar was a dark brown colour…)
  • Sultanas to decorate (although it should really be glace cherries)
  • 30-35 minutes 350F, Gas mark 3-4 or 170 degrees C

Lemon Water (Glace) Icing

  • about 200g-300g icing sugar (you may need more to get the right consistency)
  • about 3-4 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • a good slosh of lemon extract (not essence)

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

35. Merry Christmas! Stollen – Germany

Ok, ok, this may have been a long time coming (or perhaps I’m just ultra organised for this coming  prepared for Christmas)  BUT now it’s Summer it makes perfect sense to stop by Germany for a spot of Christmas Stollen. My wonderful baking friend Julie over at Sweetgum Bakery sent me a copy of her Patisserie course workbook (all the way from Australia I may add) which had this delicious recipe. I love this  book. It teaches you the techniques to create beautiful ‘bakery products for Patissiers’ including pastries and breads. I have already had a good go at a few things like  pretty dinner rolls pretending to be a real Patissier. This Stollen recipe  encompasses everything that I love about Christmas. Marzipan, spice, RUM and dried fruit. What’s not to love??

Stollen is for life, not just for Christmas

A stollen is a sweet, rich yeast dough laced with almond paste (or marzipan) and studded with dried fruit. Perfect for your Christmas celebrations (or any tea table al year round! Why deny yourself something so gorgeous just because it’s not December?!)  I may start just eating this all year round. I bet you could also make smaller Stollen buns or a Stollen Crown loaf, or a Stollen plait, or Stollen cupcakes! I might be getting carried away but the possibilities are endless.

Stollen is a traditional European dish which originated in Germany. You can vary the filling depending on your mood (or what’s in your cupboards) with flaked almonds, poppyseeds, or sultanas and candied peel. Whatever you prefer! Apparently you can also purchase Stollen tins to help keep the traditional shape during baking, but I am yet to find one. Although I’m sure it would be a wise investment indeed as I think mine spread a little on the baking sheet, but this didn’t stop it tasting lovely.

It’s always a good idea to pre soak your sultanas in a generous slosh of rum overnight to plump them up and enhance their flavour. It also adds to the festivities.

As with any yeast based dough it requires some proving time so make sure you have some time to spend with your Stollen. The recipe calls for compressed yeast. I was using instant dried yeast so adapted the method to suit.

Yeasty flour

Mix the 20g of  flour, 7g instant yeast (normally when I make a loaf of bread 500g of flour requires 7g of instant yeast so I used 1 sachet of Hovis instant yeast) and milk (200g)  together. Mix together then leave to prove for 20 mins in a warm place.

Yeasty batter

Add the rest of the flour (380g) to the mix along with an egg, lemon zest, lemon extract and sugar (100g). Mix all of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film. Leave in a warm place to prove until it’s doubled in size

Buttery yeasty batter

Add the butter and mix it in until it becomes clear.

Proving time

Cover and leave the dough to prove again in a warm place, for an hour or so until it has doubled in size.

Dough has definitely doubled in size!

Knock back the dough and mix the sultanas, mixed peel (and optional nuts) in carefully, so as to not break the skins of the dried fruit.

Mixed Fruit

I used sultanas and cranberries (what I had in the cupboard!)

Fold in the fruit

Leave the dough to prove again for another half an hour, whilst you prepare the marzipan filling.

Making Marzipan Filling

Taking shop bought marzipan (120g) add the lemon zest and  an egg yolk and mix together to create a firm paste.

Marzipan paste

Divide the marzipan into 3 and roll into 3 long ‘logs’ (about 30cms long). I found my marzipan was a bit on the sticky side at this point so arranged it onto a sheet of cling film and rolled it inside the clingfilm. This made it a bit easier to move into the fridge to let it firm up a bit more.

Marzipan logs

Chilled Marzipan Logs

Take the dough and roll it out lightly with a rolling pin, into a rectangular shape. Aproximately 30cm long and 15 cms wide.

Flattened sticky fruity dough

Arrange the chilled marzipan logs in the centre of the flattened dough and fold the edges of the dough over to enclose the marzipan. Seal the edges of the dough.

Arranged Marzipan Logs

Place the dough, sealed edge down, onto a baking sheet greased and lined with greaseproof paper. Allow the dough to prove for the final time. Then bake for 25 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Sealed and shaped stollen

Once it’s baked place on a wire rack to cool. While it’s still warm pour the melted butter over the top of the loaf. This step may feel a bit on the odd side, as when pouring a cup of melted over the Herman the German Friendship Cake  but believe me it’s utterly delicious.

Straight out the oven Stollen

After a day the butter seeps into all  of the available sweet dough crevices and infuses the Stollen with a gorgeous buttery moisture. It also helps to stop it from going stale so it can keep for a week (if you can bear to hang on to it for that long).

Soaked in butter Stollen

When it has cooled completely dust the Stollen with a generous dose of icing sugar, for added Christmas magic and sweetness. (It also helps to keep your fingers from getting all buttery and greasy.

Snowy Stollen

One of my friends told me this was her favourite bake so far in the aroundtheworldin80bakes challenge. I have to agree. I love the gooey marzipan layer sandwiched into the dough and I love the plump and juicy sultanas.

Snowy sliced Stollen

Although I think my dough didn’t rise quite as much as it should have, as it spread out on the baking sheet, it was most definitely worth the effort. To help spread the Stollen love and festive cheer I chopped it up into Stollen bites and took a batch to work and it quickly disappeared. A good sign indeed!

Stollen Bites

Does it feel like Christmas yet??

Extreme Stollen Close Up

yum yum yum

Just in case you would like to have a go here’s what I used to create this German Stollen

To make the initial yeast paste

  • Strong plain flour (20g) –
  • Instant yeast (7g)
  • Milk at 30 degrees C (200g)

Yeast Dough (add the yeast paste to)

  • Sugar (100g)
  • Lemon zest (1/4 tsp)
  • Lemon extract (1g)
  • Butter (100g)
  • Strong Plain Flour (380g)
  • 1 egg
  • salt 3g

The Fruity Filling

  • Sultanas (pre soaked in a slosh of rum) (120g)
  • Mixed peel (25g)

The Marzipan Filling

  • Marzipan (120g)
  • 1/2 egg yolk
  • Lemon zest (1/4 tsp)

The Final Topping

  • Butter (melted) 40g
  • Icing Sugar (40g)

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

image

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!