Blackberry, marzipan and orange cake

I know, I know – I’m late to this party.  The excuse for my tardiness lies somewhere between being on holiday for most of last week, unthinkingly baking a giant chocolate cake just before the first episode aired (couldn’t bake another cake straight away, could I?) and a general scepticism about whether I’d want to get on the Bake Off Bandwagon at all this year.

I’ll admit that along with the rest of the nation, I was unsure about the move to Channel 4.  This wasn’t helped by the fact that just as the dust had settled and we’d all started to make peace with a Mel, Sue and Mary-less GBBO, somebody or other important at Channel 4 trailed the new series with a doom-laden reference to giving the show a “Channel 4 edge”.  If you’ve ever seen Channel 4 offerings like My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, you too would be concerned as to what on earth this “edge” might be.

Turns out it’s mainly just the presence of Noel Fielding.  And not really knowing who he was but being slightly put off by his hair (sorry) I have to admit I think he makes a pretty nice host – friendly and goofy rather than obnoxiously edgy.  Plus he is charmingly offset by the British institution that is Sandi Toksvig, so we can all calm down and enjoy another helping of basically-the-same-old-GBBO.  So I’ve decided (belatedly) to bake along!

Initial thoughts aside, it’s (well, was… see above) cake week.  The signature challenge was a cake with fruit in it.  I decided to adapt a beautiful orange and marzipan cake I’ve made before to include more blackberries and a little less orange. I had lovingly collected a heap of them at the cost of scratched shins, nettle stings and purple-stained fingertips, so they needed a home.

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Ingredients

For the cake

  • 175g (6oz) butter
  • 100g (3½ oz) caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g (8oz) self-raising flour
  • Zest and juice of one large orange (reserve 2 tbsp for the icing)
  • 140g blackberries
  • 250g (8oz) white marzipan, fairly finely chopped

For the icing

  • 100g (3½ oz) icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice

Directions

  • Set the oven to 180°C (160 fan) and line a square or rectangular tin with grease proof paper.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using a handheld mixer.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a tablespoon of the flour each time, then beat in the orange juice (reserving two tablespoons for the icing) and zest.
  • Fold in the rest of the flour and half the marzipan pieces.
  • Sprinkle a handful of blackberries onto the bottom of the tin, then spread about a third of the mixture on top.  Sprinkle in about a third of the remaining berries, and about a third of the remaining marzipan.  Add half of the remaining mixture on top.  Repeat – add the rest of the marzipan and blackberries (expect a handful) then spread the rest of the mixture on top.  Sprinkle the handful of blackberries evenly over the surface.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Leave in the tin for 10 minutes to cool slightly before removing from the tin to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  • To make the icing, mix the two tablespoons of orange juice with the icing sugar to reach a consistency with a good dribble.
  • Once the cake is cool, slice into 16 squares before drizzling the slices with the orange icing – leave to set.

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Recipe adapted from goodtoknow.co.uk; all other content and photographs are © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

Gooey Glastonbury brownies

Brownies — a classic, undoubtedly, but deceptively difficult to get right.  There are a lot of rich chocolate cakes knocking around masquerading as the real deal.  They’re very nice, but they aren’t brownies.  A gooey, very-almost-liquid interior finished with a cracked, shiny top is the order of the day here — lifted out of the oven tantilisingly close to being raw and perfectly squidgy once cooled.

So why Glastonbury brownies?  This recipe is from Nigel Slater who has a glorious knack for describing his culinary creations.  Although Nigel calls these his ‘very good chocolate brownies’, and they are, it’s his subtitle that has stuck (pun intended?) with me — ‘a 24-carat brownie as dense and fudgy as Glastonbury mud’.  Yes please.

N.B. This recipe is fairly forgiving — 70% cocoa solids are delicious, but it works just as well with Asda’s own brand plain baking chocolate. The caster sugar can be replaced with bog standard table sugar, and a mix of brown sugars you have to hand if need be, or if you’d prefer it.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 250g butter
  • 250g plain or dark chocolate
  • (Optional) 50g white chocolate
  • 3 large eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
  • 60g flour
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder

DIRECTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 180c, 160c fan or gas mark 4 and line a 23cm by 23cm baking tin with grease proof paper
  • Using a handheld mixer (or a stand mixer if you’re lucky) beat the sugar and butter together for a few minutes until light and fluffy — keep going until it’s creamy
  • Set 50g of the dark chocolate aside, then melt the rest however you like (I find bain-maries a faff, and luckily one of my mother’s life lessons was how to melt chocolate safely in a microwave. It burns easily, but the key is checking the chocolate often, and stopping when there are still some chunks unmelted — stir to melt the rest.)
  • Chop the remaining dark chocolate (and white chocolate if using)
  • Break three eggs into a small bowl and add the egg yolk before beating lightly with a fork
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and a pinch of salt.
  • With the mixer running, gradually add the egg and beat well after each addition
  • Fold in the melted chocolate, then the chopped chocolate, with a large spoon
  • Finally fold in the flour mix without knocking the air out (gently but firmly)
  • Scrape into the tin, smoothing the top
  • Bake for about 30 minutes.  It’s worth checking at 25 minutes, and then again every 3 minutes – you want a skewer to come out slightly sticky with some moist crumbs, just not completely coated in raw mixture.  Remember the brownie will keep solidifying as it cools, so err on the wet side.
  • Serves 12, or one after a bad day

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Listening to Twist and Shout by The Beatles, Respect by Aretha Franklin and Your Song by Rita Ora.

© Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2017.

Elderflower and almond cake

This is the most moist cake (try saying that three times, fast) I have ever made. By a million miles! It’s similar in many ways to a lemon drizzle in texture, but the ground almonds make it both denser and squidgier. The cream cheese frosting is not overly sweet, which perfectly offsets the sugary goo of the cake itself. This is summer in a pudding – yellow sponge dripping with elderflower and lemon, swirls of bright white frosting and a sprinkling of crushed pistachios make it a joy to behold. And to eat.

Special shout out to my mum, who not only made the elderflower cordial featured here but also nursed it on the train down from Darlington to London and then carried it around the city all day to give to me. Thanks mum!

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Ingredients

225g butter at room temperature

50g self raising flour

200g ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

225g golden caster sugar plus 15g extra

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

4 eggs, beaten lightly

150ml undiluted elderflower cordial (I used homemade, but you can buy in shops too)

150g cream cheese

150ml double cream

A generous handful of chopped pistachios

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c (160 fan) and grease a 9 inch springform cake tin or similarly sized loose bottomed one with butter or a non-stick cooking spray.  Line with greaseproof paper.
  2. Using a mixer of electric whisk, cream together the butter, lemon zest and 225g of sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Add the beaten eggs gradually, beating well between each addition.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and almonds then add this to the butter-sugar mixture.  Mix together scrape into the cake tin, smoothing the top gently.
  5. Bake for 35-45 minutes until risen and golden.
  6. While the cake is cooking make a syrup by combining 100ml of elderflower cordial, the extra sugar and lemon juice in a small pan, stirring gently until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat to cool.
  7. Once it’s done, leave the cake in the tin to cool, pricking lots of holes all over with a skewer, then pour over the elderflower syrup, spreading it all over the cake’s surface so it sinks in evenly.  Leave to cool completely.
  8. For the frosting, mix the remaining 50ml elderflower cordial and the cream cheese together until smooth.
  9. Add the double cream and mix again until really smooth.  When the cake is completely cool, remove it from the tin gently and cover with the frosting, using a knife to create swirls if you like. Scatter over the pistachios and devour.

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Listening to: Your body is a wonderland by John Mayer, Send my love (to your new lover) by Adele and Hold Up by Beyoncé.

I adapted this recipe from eat the right stuff, the main change being swapping the marscapone for cream cheese. Everything else is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2016.

Jam and cream and all things nice: Victoria sponge

This was the first cake I ever made; for a long time, it was the only cake I ever made. It’s perfect for a beginner: pretty much foolproof and reliably delicious despite its simplicity. My boyfriend requested it for his birthday this year, and it’s my Dad’s favourite too. If you’ve never had it, you need to make it soon!

There are of course many similar recipes out there, but this cake goes back to first principles in that it’s the same weight of everything (except the vanilla essence, but that’s optional anyway), and mum uses a method designed to account for differing weights/sizes of eggs. At home we had a pair of those old fashioned scales which use tiny weights on one side and a removable metal dish on the other; this method was devised with that in mind, but the same principles apply with any other type of scale.

In the ‘old fashioned’ way, you put your eggs (I used three this time, but you can use two depending on how big you want your cake to be) on the part where the weights would go, and then use their weight to measure all of the other ingredients. If you’ve got any other type of scale, weigh your eggs and then measure out the same amount of everything else. In my case, three large eggs weighed 200g, so I used 200g of the other main ingredients too.

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Ingredients

For the cake

Sugar

Butter or margarine

Eggs (2 or 3, see above)

Self raising flour

A splash of vanilla essence

A little icing sugar (for dusting)

For the filling

Double cream (as much as you like)

Jam (any kind, I used strawberry)

– Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan), then grease two 20cm sandwich tins and set aside

– Cream together the butter and the sugar using a wooden spoon, or an electric whisk if you’re feeling fancy

– Add the eggs one at a time, with a tablespoon of flour each time, mixing after each addition

– Splash in the vanilla essence

– Sieve in the rest of the flour and fold in until the mixture is smooth

– Divide the mixture between the two tins and spread into a fairly even layer.

– Bake for 20- 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean (with a few moist crumbs)

– Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

– Meanwhile, beat the double cream until stiff – when the cakes are cool, spread the underside of one with the cream, and the underside of the other with a generous helping of jam.

-Sandwich together and dust the top with icing sugar – the easiest way is to put a few spoonfuls of icing sugar into a sieve, hold it about 10cm from the top of the cake and gently tap the side until you have a light layer of powdery goodness.

– Slice generously and serve.

Because it contains fresh cream, you need to keep this in the fridge unless you live somewhere really cold! It’s not ideal as it can make the sponge really hard, so each time you want some more try to remember to lift the cake out about half an hour  before to allow it to return to room temperature. Because of this, the cake is really best devoured as soon as possible – I don’t think you’ll have too many problems persuading people to eat this rapidly though.

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Listening to Beat me Daddy (Eight to the Bar) by The Andrews Sisters, New York, New York Medley by Mel Torme, That Old Black Magic by Ella Fitzgerald, Night Club by Mose Allison — I’m going through a serious jazz phase… It’s genetic.

This recipe is one I learned from my mum – it’s one that’s been around forever, seemingly. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Home Time is Pudding Time

A couple of weekends ago, I went home. Sadly, home is now not the house where I lived the last ten years of my life- the home I left to go to high school, then sixth form, then university. When I moved to London, my parents also moved house: so going home meant going to a place I’d never actually lived.

But, it was wonderful. I left when the house was full of boxes and looked like a storage unit. And I returned to find that my parents had made it really lovely (of course). And, stupidly, I was surprised to find that, because they were there, it felt like home. It was home. All the home feels were perfectly intact, even if the place was unfamiliar. And home time is, of course, pudding time.

Not just any pudding though. The QUEEN of puddings. Here’s my mum’s recipe (originally from a glorious ‘full- colour’ 1970s cookbook which I forget the name of…) for Queen of Puddings. It’s a wonderfully traditional British pudding, a concoction of milk and bread and jam and meringue. It may sound weird, but trust me, it’s fabulous.  You should make it.

Ingredients

425ml (3/4 pint) milk

2 egg yolks

1 egg

75g (3oz) fresh white breadcrumbs

37g (1.5oz) sugar

(For the topping)

Raspberry jam

2 egg whites

100g (4oz) sugar

Directions

– Preheat oven to 160c (325F)

– In a large saucepan, heat milk slightly and mix in the whole egg and the egg yolks. Fold in the breadcrumbs and the sugar.

– Pour into a baking dish and bake in a bain-marie for around 45 minutes, or until set.

– Spread the top with raspberry jam.

– Make the meringue topping: whisk the egg whites until very stiff, then gradually beat in half the sugar. Fold in the remaining sugar.

– Pile the meringue on top of the pudding.

– Flash bake at 200c (390F) for 3-4 minutes, or until the meringue peaks are lightly browned.

– Serve immediately, and enjoy immensely.

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 Just look at those layers…

 

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Carrot Cake on the Underground

Twice this week, I’ve found myself on packed commuter trains clutching a gigantic Tupperware box containing varying amounts of carrot cake. On Thursday, the cake was complete in all of its cream- cheese frosted glory. Children gazed longingly up at it, adults looked quizzically down at it. The guy giving out the free Metro newspaper asked wryly if it was for him. At one point a very friendly man asked if I’d like to put it in the overhead luggage rack. I tried hard to hide my horror, fending off the visions of the cake splattering onto the train floor as I politely declined, preferring to clutch the box protectively to my chest. When I arrived at work and complained about my aching arms, serious discussion ensued about how I could transport cakes to the office more efficiently in future: Tupperware on wheels, a Tupperware rucksack, and a Tupperware headdress were all suggested.

On Friday, I brought about a quarter of the carrot cake home. Again, everybody stared. Less admiration this time, more confusion. And as my friend pointed out, I looked like I’d taken a very indulgent packed lunch to work, and hadn’t quite managed to finish it. But personally, I think more people need to open-carry cake on the Underground. People love it when unusual things happen ‘down there’: there’s even a Buzzfeed article dedicated to it (!) London work days very often seem to begin with something along the lines of ‘You’ll never guess what I saw on the Tube’ –  it gives us something to talk about. And to complain about, of course: ‘Who the hell takes a carrot cake in such a massive box on the Tube in rush hour?’

But all the staring (and honestly, people really did stare very intently) made me realise that we begin and end our days surrounded by complete strangers. And we sit, on the whole, in silence. But we must all be wondering about each other. We spend this limited amount of time glancing at each other, apologising to each other every time we bump elbows, getting annoyed at each other for not standing clear of the doors, and then as soon as the Tube stops we all pour out, and never see each other again. I find that strange, somehow. But maybe that’s just me.

In any case, back to cake. In case you too want to make a super- duper fabulous carrot cake for your colleagues and then get it to them using the mode of transport of your choice (no cars please, people, that will not brighten anyone’s day, or give anybody something to grumble about) then here’s the recipe that I used from Sally’s Baking Addiction… Super Moist Carrot Cake.

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I even won the ‘Stab Baker’ congratulations spoon. Yes, it’s meant to say ‘Star Baker’, ala The Great British Bake Off, but my friend struggled with the ‘R’ and this version is a lot funnier.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014