Sunday, 16 November 2014

Tea loaf cake

Classics become classics for a reason – usually because they’re great.  There is something about a tea loaf cake that is inherently nostalgic.  I feel it has always been in my life and I can clearly remember, from a young age, the smell of it being toasted and buttered to have with a cup of tea on Sunday afternoons.  Back then I wasn’t a fan of it being toasted but I like it now.

I enjoy making any recipe where soaking of fruit is involved, be it an alcoholic bath for Christmas cake fruits or – as in this instance – tea.  Each time I pass the bowl I cannot resist tinkering with it; carefully mixing the fruit to ensure each sultana and raisin gets a chance to soak and absorb the flavours.  What is unusual in this recipe is that you add the sugar at this stage too – I’d not seen that before.  The only thing to be aware of with this recipe is the soak time i.e. you need to start it a day before you wish to make it.  Other than that, it’s a doddle!

When you spoon the cake into the tin it will seem like the mix is all fruit and no cake.  That’s often the way with these sort of bakes but don’t worry, the magic of the oven will sort it all out and I promise you’ll end up with a lovely tea loaf!  Mine seems to have come out huge (even by my standards) – not sure why!

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you will know my only rule for buttering a slice of fruit loaf: the butter has to be thick enough that you leave teeth marks in it when you take a bite.  If your dentist couldn’t identify you from the impression you have left in the slice of fruit loaf then you need to reconsider your approach to buttering. 


250g sultanas
250g raisins
250g caster sugar
375ml cold tea – any tea you like!
1 egg
500g self raising flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg


The day before baking place the sultanas, raisins, caster sugar and cold tea in a bowl and mix together. 

Cover the bow and leave to stand overnight.  Stir occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper.

Beat the egg and then stir into the bowl of soaked fruit.

Add the flour and spices to the fruit mix and stir well to ensure that everything is well combined and there are no clumps of flour.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve in slices with thick butter.  As the loaf ages it is delicious to toast.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 9 November 2014

Date and ginger cake

This sort of cake personifies the start of winter to me; it’s got lots of rich flavours and warming spice.  The dates taste like toffee and the gentle hint of chocolate in the background adds depth to what could otherwise be just another nice spiced sponge.  It has the lightness of texture that you find in really good sticky toffee puddings.  Oh, and if you’re still not sold it’s a doddle to make, smells divine whilst cooking and keeps for days thus, if you were so minded, you could eat the whole thing yourself!

I served the cake at room temperature but, if you omit the glaze, it would be great served warm with custard for a winter pudding.  I smiled when I typed that because one thing I have realised being married to The Custard King aka Mr CC is that pudding and custard is an all-seasons food!

This cake just grew and grew – it came out enormous! There’s practically a whole other cake in the huge dome!

I know some people are wary at using the C word too early, but I think this could easily be adapted to a Christmas cake for those who don’t want to go down the traditional fruitcake path.  You could go the easy route i.e. make it as I have but plonk some plastic reindeer on top, or change the tin to a traybake tin, increase the amount of icing and create a snow scene on top i.e. plonk some plastic reindeer, trees and snowmen on top.  You will notice from my suggestions that I am not much of a cake decorator…..


For the cake:
140g dates – stoned and chopped
410ml evaporated milk
100g soft dark brown sugar
225g plain flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
50g stem ginger – chopped
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs

For the glaze:
100g icing sugar
Enough stem ginger syrup to form a thick, glossy icing – add a teaspoon at a time


Preheat the oven to 160C/fan oven 140C/320F/gas mark 3.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Place the dates, evaporated milk and dark brown sugar into a saucepan.

Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the dates are soft and the sugar has melted – you can see this by looking on the back of your spoon; if you can see any granules you need to cook for longer.

Put the pan to one side to cool.

Place the flour, cocoa powder, ground ginger, bicarbonate of soda, stem ginger and butter into a food processor and blitz until there are no lumps.

Add the cooled date mixture and the eggs and blitz briefly just until the ingredients are combined.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 1 hour – it may take longer – or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin as initially the cake will be very soft.

De-tin after about 30 minutes and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cake is cold you can add the glaze: use just enough stem ginger syrup to turn the icing sugar into a thick white glossy glaze.

Drizzle over the cake and leave to set.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Cherry shortbread

I used to work in an office where we got particularly nice biscuits in meetings.  I’m not saying the biscuits made us book more meetings but……well, nope, I think that’s exactly what I’m saying!  The prize on the plate was always the cherry shortbread ring – it could make any meeting palatable (it’s no coincidence it was shaped like a life saver).  I’m sure this golden snitch of a biscuit ensured punctual starts to meetings more than any other reason; you could get to the meeting room 10 minutes early and would rarely be the first one there!

Happy memories of the cherry shortbread ring drifted into my head this week, probably because I was sitting in a meeting room sans biscuits (I know – the horror!).  I decided to pay homage to this glorious biscuit and also tackle what I call a ‘pressed’ shortbread, something that’s been on my to-bake list for a while.  This method is where you tip the dough crumbs into the tin and then  press it into shape, which is where the real binding together of the ingredients takes place.

This is an incredibly flavoursome biscuit given the small number of ingredients.  And who knew it would taste even better when eaten sitting on the sofa, rather than around a meeting table?  You learn something new every day!


280g plain flour
60g ground rice flour
230g unsalted butter, from the fridge
115g golden caster sugar, plus 2-3 tablespoons extra for dusting
85g glace cherries, chopped small – you could use chocolate chips or chopped stem ginger instead, if you so wished


Preheat the oven to 170°C/ fan oven 150°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Line the base of two 20cm round springform tin with baking paper (loose bottomed sandwich tins would also be good).

Place the plain and rice flour into a bowl.

Rub the butter into the flour until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs (this can be done with your hands, or in a food mixer).

Stir in the sugar and chopped cherries.

Press the mixture into the prepared baking tin and use your hand to ensure the mix is evenly distributed.

Prick with a fork and cut into segments – this will help to cut into pieces post baking.

Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes or until a very light golden colour.

Leave to firm in the tin for 30 minutes.

Use a sharp knife to rescore along the lines you cut pre-baking.

Dust (generously!) with caster sugar.

Leave to cool in the tin until it is firm enough to de-tin without breaking.

Snap along the score lines.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 26 October 2014

Sticky orange potato cake

I remember watching Sesame Street when I was growing up and there would always be a bit where the screen was split into quarters depicting four different things or activities accompanied by a song, ‘one of these things is not like the others’.  You had to spot the odd one out.  You can play that game with the title of my cake this week: the correct answer is ‘potato’.

There are German plum dumpling recipes that use a potato based mix to enclose the plums but this is my first potato cake.  With all that mashed potato in it you expect it to be heavy or densely textured.  It isn’t!  It’s a light sticky cake and it melts in your mouth.  Enjoy it at room temperature with a cup of tea (always my preferred option) or warm with ice cream for dessert.  Or get the best of both worlds by eating it at room temperature and then warming the leftovers the next day for dessert.

The ground almonds provide texture and the syrup gives a sticky, wet texture.  The texture is unusual at first.  After my first bite I wasn’t sure if this was the cake for me however, once I got used to the texture I really enjoyed it.  I have pondered how best to describe it and struggled; I think the best way is to say that if you don’t like the following then it’s not the cake for you: 
  • Syrup cakes 
  • Baklava (the stickiness of it) 
  • Semolina (the texture)

Really – I’m not trying to put anyone off but this is not a cake for everyone and I want you to bake it knowing what you’re going to get.  Satisfied customers only on my site!

Using gluten free baking powder will turn this into a gluten free bake.


For the cake:
350g potatoes suitable for mashing – I used maris piper
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
155g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
175g ground almonds
2 tablespoons (not a typo) baking powder
Zest of two oranges

For the syrup:
Juice of two oranges
3 tablespoons caster sugar


Peel the potatoes and cut into large chunks.

Place in a pan and cover with water.

Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, part cover the pan, and simmer for approximately 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft enough to mash.

Mash the potatoes.

Put to one side and leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm springform round tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Don’t skimp on this stage.

Beat in the vanilla.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Stir in the ground almonds, baking powder and orange zest.

Stir in the cooled mash potato.

Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

About 20 minutes before the cake is cooked, place the orange juice into a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Let boil until the liquid has halved.

Remove from the hob and leave to cool.

Stir in the sugar – wait until the orange syrup is cool or the sugar will melt.

When the cake has been out the oven for 15 minutes de-tin it and place on a wire rack with a piece of foil underneath.

Spoon the orange syrup over the top (the foil underneath the rack will catch any drips)

Leave to cool completely before serving.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.