The Caribbean Christmas Cake Collection Continued…

Caribbean Christmas Cake Collection

This post has been a long time in the making. About a month ago I began the Caribbean Christmas Cakes after an extreme test of my patience in greasing and lining 14 assorted mini cake tins and baking the little blighters for a couple of hours. I don’t mind this of course as I know the fruits of my labours are worth the effort and the wonderous rum, raisin, cinnamon and coconut smell that permeated the entire house let me know just how wonderful it will be.

The baked cakes

I’ve tended to my little cakes every week, topping them up with a bit more rum, until they could take no more. They still required a little house of marzipan and another week to dry out all in their specially purchased enormous Tupperware box.

Roll out a lot of marzipan... this has got to fit round 14 cakes

I decided one Saturday night, before heading out for a party to attempt to coat them all in a quick blanket of marzipan. I managed to finish 9 of them before I decided enough was enough and I would very much like to go to have a dance instead.

Firstly they needed to be glazed with apricot jam to make the marzipan stick…

Warming Apricot Jam

Then as all the cakes are very different shapes and sizes, they each needed to be fitted individually for their marzipan house. In an attempt to minimise rolling out marzipan, as it is frankly infuriating with its tendency to stick to the work surface just as you get it to the right thickness and it’s perfectly smooth so you have to start again, I squeezed as many on to one sheet as possible and trimmed it so there was very little excess to remove on the cake itself.

cutting each cake its own marzipan house

Once it was face down on the marzipan I had to simply lift the marzipan up and force it to stick to the sides of the cake, achieving a (relatively) smooth finish. I’m not too bothered about getting it perfect at this stage as the fondant should cover any major flaws…

Off with its head! (far too wonky)

Occasionally I got too frustrated with the cake being all oddly shaped and cut a lump off it. This didn’t really help matters as the cake was no straighter after being hacked into. I just made a big mess and dropped cake everywhere… but it did mean that I had a midnight snack when I got back in later on. 🙂

Then for the fondant

After a week the marzipan was settled enough to add the final icing layer. I was greeted by a fantastic whiff of almond and rum when I came back to the little cakes. The white fondant icing needed to be kneaded until it was pliable and then rolled out in the same way as the marzipan, however a bit more carefully and precisely (if I can ever be precise?!) as this is the layer that everyone sees. Cue more irritated rolling pin action.

I didn’t have any vodka to brush onto the marzipan so I used the rum in the cupboard. I’m sure that will do the same job and perhaps enhance the rumness of the cake while it’s at it?

Trim its skirt

The cakes needed a little trim to tidy the edges and I ended up rolling the cakes themselves around like a rolling pin (as they’re so small) on the worksurface to smooth them out and flatten the icing down. It’s impossible, even with my childrens sized rolling pin to roll the icing smooth on the cakes. Then they needed a quick polish with the palm of my hand to bring the icing to life.

I love the film Elf. It always makes me think of candy canes so as an homage to Elf I wanted to make Candy stripe cakes. I was very kindly donated a block of red fondant which is amazing!! (Thanks Lucy!) I rolled it out and using many handy palette knife/ruler cut strips of red icing.

Lines and lines and lines and lines

Then I glued them on to the cakes using a dab of water.

Chunky Candy Stripes

Not bad for my first attempt even if I do say so myself (and as I was completely making it up as I went along). Not content with just one design, I had ordered some daisy flower cutters from Ebay and thought I could perhaps christen them and pass them off as Poinsettia?

The daisy/poinsettia flower cutters

Poinsettia Flowers

I added some silver edible ball things (can’t remember their real name) by mixing a tiny bit of icing sugar with water to make a paste then squishing them into the cakes. There’s still 5 more cakes that require some attention and I have some holly leaf cutters and green food colouring to play with 🙂

All shapes and sizes welcome in this collection of cakes

4 hours of icing later... 9 down, 5 more to go.

I’m also entering this in Vanessa Kimbells’ fantastic Let’s Make Christmas Competition as I will be packing up these mini cakes in cellophane with lashings of ribbon and giving them to my friends and family very soon! Have a look at her blog and competition below…
 

13. Lovely Lamingtons – Australia – Lord Lamington’s Finest

As a surprise birthday treat, I decided to bake Chris his favourite Australian treat, Lamingtons. We ate Lamingtons the size of house bricks when visiting Australia. One particular Lamington stands out from our visit this year when we drove the Great Ocean Road and stayed in the seaside towns of Lorne and Apollo Bay to take in the sights (and the cakes and pies too).

Look at this little fella! Spotted on the Great Ocean Road

Somewhere over the rainbow…

I spotted a Lamington recipe in Marguerite Patton’s Everyday Cookbook and planned it all well in advance, purchasing an industrial sized bag of desiccated coconut, only for Chris to then ask for Lamingtons (and a Chocolate Roulade) for his birthday! My plan was discovered, but then again I’m not very good at keeping surprises secret and our tiny Tyneside flat doesn’t leave much to the imagination anyway…

Lamingtons. The classic Australian ones

I googled Lamingtons as they caused a bit of debate in the office. Many of us remember eating these chocolate, coconut, jam, sponge cubes as children, although others remember a pink version. They are also known by different names, such as Madelines, or pink Lamingtons. Some Australian Counsellor put me right. Apparently an Australian Lord loved cake. His maid  accidently dropped his cake into chocolate. Despite being a Lord he didn’t want to waste his cake (Don’t blame him!). So he told her to roll it in coconut so he wouldn’t get messy fingers. Et voila! Lamingtons were born and Australians are very proud of their 100 year recipe. (Check out the Australian Lamington official blog for evidence of the City Counsellor of Queensland shovelling Lamingtons into his mouth and the record breaking Lamington).

Celebrating 100 years of the Australian Lamington

Counsellor Paul Tullly enjoying Lamingtons – Courtesy of australianlamingtons.blogspot.com

I was a bit worried about how technical this recipe was and I didn’t actually own a square tin. I made a quick trip to visit my mam to borrow her tin. I’ve never baked one cake and sliced it in half before. It seems a bit dangerous. Is it difficult? What if I slip with the knife and ruin the entire cake?!

Sponge time

The sponge itself was pretty simple to make. A basic vanilla batter, which smelled gorgeous and tasted rather like a dense madeira cake.

Smells so good

I had to leave it to cool overnight and the next day chopped off the slightly domed top to create a flat surface instead. This was nerve wracking too as the last time I attempted this I cut my hand. I managed and kept all my fingers intact. This meant that I got a sneak preview and ate the lid before work. Hurrah! It was delicious!

Off with it’s dome

I set about creating the chocolate soup, from cocoa powder and icing sugar. I carefully sliced the cake through the middle widthways and had two perfect halves!!

Chocolate Soup?

The recipe was supposed to make 16 portions… I was a bit worried that this dinky square cake just wasn’t enough for the Australian cakes that we were accustomed too. So I baked another one. This time in a big roasting tin to make one flat cake, remembering this time to leave a bit of a dint in the top (pushing more mixture to the edges) so I didn’t get a dome finish.

The second sponge… (please ignore the cat food in the background)

Our guests were arriving for fish and chips and Lamingtons so I didn’t have much time for mistakes. I threw almost a full jar of strawberry jam onto the sponges and rubbed it in with the back of a spoon. (Excessive? Me?)

JAM

Then plonked one half on top of the other and decided that 4 big cakes were better than 16 little ones. I used the sharpest knife I could find and cut the sponge into quarters. Although they still didn’t look that ‘Australian sized’ to me.

That’s more like it

The recipe suggests you use a skewer to pierce the cake and dip gentily into the chocolate soup before lovingly rolling it in desiccated coconut. Who has time for these things? I picked the cakes up with my bare hands and within 2 seconds was up to my eyes in chocolate and coconut. Everything stuck to me! My messy yet effective method.

Step one. Dunk yourself in chocolate

Step two. Roll around in coconut (Do not try to a. answer the phone b. push your hair out of your face c.  say hello to the cat until hands can be throughly washed.)

The cakes needed about an hour to ‘set’. I definitely used more coconut than suggested as the chocolate from my fingers kept leaking onto the pristine white finish and ruining the effect slightly.

The Setting Process

When piled onto my new vintage cake plate, topped with candles, lit and then carried through the beaded curtain from the kitchen to the living room. (No fires were caused in the making of these cakes, don’t worry), They suddenly transformed into magnificent brick like beasts. I had made giant cakes. One cake was more than enough for two people and I still had an entire sponge cake left to assemble!

Happy Birthday Chris!

Happy Birthday Chris! I loved these cakes and was so impressed with how they turned out. The sponge doesn’t need to be the perfect shape, the coconut makes up for any inconsistencies and they are so very moreish.

My Half

I attempted some pink Lamingtons (or English Madelines as Nigel Slater informs me in his ‘Eating for England’ book) especially for Caroline at work as they were her favourite, using powdered jelly. Bizarre stuff but apparently they tasted excatly like the ones she had when she was little. Success!

Pink Jelly Soup

One flat sponge cake goes a long way…

Things that I used to make Lovely Lamingtons…

Sponge cake

  • 5 oz butter
  • 7 oz caster sugar
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 10 oz self raising flour
  • 4 tablespoons of milk

Filling

  • strawberry/raspberry jam

Coating

  • 7 oz icing sugar
  • 1 oz cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons of boiling water

Decoration

  • 6 oz desiccated coconut (or as much as you need to coat the lamingtons liberally!)

Method

  1. Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla essence together
  2. add the eggs gradually
  3. fold in the sieved flour alternatively with the milk
  4. spread the mixture into a baking tin (8 inch square)
  5. bake for 50-60 mins at 350 degrees F/gas mark 4
  6. cool the sponge and store in an airtight container over night
  7. carefully slice the sponge through the centre to create 2 square sponges
  8. spread with jam
  9. sandwich the two sponges together
  10. mix the icing sugar and cocoa powder together in a shallow bowl adding the boiling water gradually to create your chocolate soup. Add more sugar/water as required.
  11. chop the sponge into equal sized squares (4 if you want big pieces or 16 smaller ones)
  12. dip each piece into the chocolate soup and then into a shallow bowl of desiccated coconut
  13. leave on a cooling rack to harden
  14. eat with a big cup of tea!

* Recipe lovingly adapated from Marguerite Patten’s Everyday Cookbook

 

12. Carribean Christmas Cake – Jamaicing me crazy and setting the kitchen on fire

My battered Delia Recipe

I LOVE Christmas and Christmas Cake! A few years ago I decided, the week before Christmas, to make my first ever independent Christmas Cake. I now know that this is breaking all of the Christmas Cake rules. It needs time to mature, to be fed Brandy and then the icing needs to be spaced out, one layer at a time over a week, so the marzipan has time to dry out and to achieve a much smoother finish. But in true Lauren style, I dove straight in and was sitting up til 1am waiting for the cake to bake. Then a spot of slap dash icing (which I had never EVER done before) til ridiculous o’clock on Christmas Eve.

My first ever Christmas Cake and decoration attempt. I went a bit overboard with the fondant icing! The marzipan snowman lost his head on the way too!

I didn’t want to make the same mistake(s) again this time. My Mam has a fantastic recipe, but I ended up adapting a Delia Recipe as it was a very spur of the moment decision when I first baked it and I have used it ever since. Even the same print out to be exact!

As per usual I didn’t have the correct ingredients in the cupboard so I had to substitute a the vast majority of Delia’s recipe. Ending up with dried mango, dates and raisins instead of cherries, candied peel and currants. Although I did splash out on a big bottle of brandy.

As the rules of Around the World in Eighty Bakes states, I have to bake something that I haven’t baked before. I pondered over this for a while and decided to modify my Christmas Cake and put a Caribbean twist on it. Also I wanted to make mini Christmas Cakes so I can give them as presents this year too,  inspired by a wonderful little short story by Truman Capote, A Christmas Memory.

Rum Soaked Fruit

In order to put a different slant on the classic Christmas Cake I replaced the Brandy with Rum. There’s always some in my cupboard and having tried to drink the leftover Brandy following reading  Gone with The Wind (Scarlett was a Brandy advocate) I realised I’m not a huge fan, perhaps Tesco Value Brandy is not the best to start with….

After soaking all the dried fruit in rum for a day. Opting for cranberries (very Christmassy), raisins and apricots, it was time to start mixing everything together. The butter was a bit hard so I decided to soften it slightly in the microwave, after ensuring the butter packet was paper only I popped the whole block in the microwave for 30 seconds.

The microwave went up in a loud bang and a massive white flash. I created fireworks in the kitchen! A little girly squeal from me and I ripped open the microwave door, to discover actual flames coming from the cleverly disguised tin foil sandwiched inbetween the paper of the packet.

I’ve never set the kitchen on fire before, so I got a bit of a shock.  But I managed to think quick and decided to blow the flames out, whilst balanced precariously on my tip toes. The microwave is on top of the fridge and I’m only 5 foot 2 (ish) so it’s a bit of a stretch at the best of times… Thankfully it worked and I rescued the butter and the kitchen.

The Offending Article

I persevered following the slight disaster and finished mixing the ingredients, with the addition of coconut too. Let’s hope this tastes nice!

Lovely Mixing. (Make a wish)

Then to grease and line 14 small tins of various sizes! This was a bit of test of my patience. I made the next mistake of popping another pack of butter directly on the oven shelf, ‘just for a minute’ to soften. I forgot about it and returned about 20 minutes later to an empty pack of butter and an oven swimming in grease. Eugh!

Oh dear

I got a bit bored of making lids for my mini cakes and decided to wrap the entire tray in baking paper to protect it from the heat. As the cakes are much smaller than the norm I reduced the cooking time slightly
too, so no 1am cake vigils for me!

Mini Cakes. Individually greased and lined.

Patience wearing thin... I'll wrap the entire tray!

They look lovely and smell beautiful too. These cakes are most definitely a labour of love. Now to feed them rum on a regular basis. I’ll store them for a few weeks then attempt some sort of creative decoration. I predict some sort of gold lustre making an appearance. I will keep you posted on my progress!

Phew! 14 mini Christmas Cakes baked

Close up