Sunday, 30 November 2008

Plum and vanilla custard tart

Plums and custard are a great combination as they provide a perfect balance of sweet and sharp.

I think this tart looks effortlessly elegant – it’s amazing the difference arranging the plums cut side up makes. It’s the sort of thing you’d see in a patisserie sold in miserly thin slices. So make one yourself and have some proper sized pieces!

Buttery pastry and custard are true comfort foods and just so easy to eat. Why can’t I feel that way about celery?

Mmmmm, buttery pastry:

I am now heading off to Zurich on a work trip so will get around to reading all your blogs a little later than usual this week. This will sustain me for the journey:

For the shortcrust pastry:
175g plain flour
120g unsalted butter, cold
3 tablespoons icing sugar
2 egg yolks

For the filling:
6 medium plums, halved and stoned
6 tablespoons caster sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
284ml single cream

How to make:

- Start by making the pastry: put the flour, butter and icing sugar into the food processor and blitz until you get fine breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg yolk and blitz until the pastry just starts to come together.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and bring together into a ball of dough, handling no more than is absolutely necessary.
- Here’s where I differ to most pastry recipes; I roll the dough out straight away between two sheets of baking paper and use to line a 24cm loose bottomed flan tin (no need to grease as the pastry is extremely buttery).
- Leave any overhanging pastry.
- Chill the pastry once the tin is lined i.e. not before rolling out. The reason for this is that rolling out chilled pastry is hard work and it cracks. Rolling it when it’s soft gives a much cleaner finish and is easier. Chill the pastry for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line the chilled pastry with a sheet of baking paper and cover with baking beans.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.
- While the pastry is baking make the filling: start by preparing the plums then sprinkling 1 tablespoon of caster sugar over them.
- Lightly whisk the eggs and vanilla then whisk in the remaining 5 tablespoons of sugar and finally the cream.
- Remove the cooked pastry and trim off any excess.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/fan oven 140°C/315°F/Gas mark 3.
- Arrange the plum halves cut side up in the pastry case.
- Carefully pour in the cream mixture, taking care not to dislodge any of the plums.
- Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes or until the custard is set. Mine actually took quite a bit more at almost an hour.
- Leave to cool completely in the tin, on a wire rack.
- Serve with thick cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Blackberry fluff and butter biscuits

The recipe for blackberry fluff has been in my “to make” folder for about three years and, even though blackberries are not in season at the moment, I decided to make it this weekend.

I think what’s held me back is that the dish always seemed a little incomplete but this week I had my eureka moment and realised that what it needed were some little biscuits to dip in it. I find that little biscuits are the answer to most of life’s problems.

The biscuits could not be easier to make and if you leave the raw dough in the fridge for several hours it is very easy to cut and you get a nice clean looking biscuit.

Chilling the dough in a sausage shape makes it easy to cut uniformly shaped biscuits:

The fluff is not oversweet and retains the slight sharpness of blackberries. This works really well with the sweet buttery biscuit.

For the fluff (this quantity makes 4 small portions, the recipe is easily doubled for more):
300g blackberries
1 tablespoon caster sugar
250g mascarpone
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150ml double cream

For the biscuits:
275g plain flour
200g unsalted butter
90g icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Optional: Demerara sugar to roll the biscuits in

How to make:

- Heat the blackberries (keeping a few aside for decoration) gently with the sugar until they just start to create some juice.
- Blitz the blackberries in the food processor then sieve. You will have a very dark thick syrupy liquid.
- Beat the mascarpone until it softens and then fold in the blackberry puree and vanilla.
- Whip the cream to the soft peak stage and fold in.
- Spoon into dishes and decorate with the whole blackberries you put aside at the start.
- Refrigerate.
- Now make the biscuits: put the flour and butter into a food processor and blitz until they resemble bread crumbs.
- Add the icing sugar and vanilla and blitz again until the mixture just starts to form a dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly.
- Shape (i.e. roll) the dough into a fat sausage shape approximately 30cm long.
- Optional: roll the sausage in some Demerara sugar to add some crunch to the finished biscuits.
- Cut the sausage in half so that you have two more manageable pieces of 15cm each, and wrap each half in clingfilm.
- Refrigerate for at least an hour – the longer the better.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/Gas mark 6.
- Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
- Take one of the sausages from the fridge and cut into discs marginally less than 1cm thick. Use a sharp knife so that you don’t squash the shape of the biscuit.
- Lay the discs, slightly apart on the baking sheet and repeat the process with the second sausage of dough and the second baking sheet.
- Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until the biscuits are pale golden. The tray on my top shelf took exactly 10 minutes and I found that the lower shelf needed a further 4 minutes.
- Let the biscuits firm up before you move them onto a wire rack – they will be fragile straight from the oven.
- Leave to cool completely before storing in an airtight tin until needed.
- Serve the blackberry fluff with the biscuits.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Further birthday fun....

Along with just about everyone else, the Caked Crusader’s Brother (CCB) went for a cake theme for my birthday gift. Quite why everyone thinks I’m obsessed with cake is beyond me....ahem.

These cute little cakes are actually towels and flannels from Japan. Each is patterned and rolled to resemble a cake and topped with fruit which are magnets.

Chocolate cake anyone?

Or perhaps you’d prefer some strawberry swiss roll?

Or maybe some gateau?

Here’s a little something I couldn’t resist buying; a Richard Armitage magnet. This shows him as Sir Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood but you may have lusted over him as John Thornton in North and South or Lucas North in Spooks. Or – like me – anything he’s in!

Richard Armitage or cake? Which is best? On the one hand I’ve enjoyed the many dramas Richard Armitage has starred in, but I also like cake. Both are good. There’s only one way to settle this.....FIGHT!!!!!!!!! (OK, that won’t mean anything to you unless you’re a TV Burp fan)

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Glazed chocolate cream cake

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday Caked Crusader, happy birthday to me. And so on. OK, so my birthday was yesterday but the cake was today – and I’m sure you’ll appreciate which was the more important!

Yes, I am one year older (I hesitate to add “and wiser”) and what better way to celebrate than eating a sinfully rich, chocolatey cream cake? This cake is a beauty – quite simply the best chocolate cake I have ever eaten. Every layer has a different texture and is just plain divine!

Unlike many chocolate cakes it gives a really strong hit of cocoa and although very rich, the cream filling lightens the eating you can eat lots of it!

The chocolate sponge is rich and delicious:

It’s a layer cake. Here is the bottom layer in the tin:

Add a layer of rich chocolate cream:

I played with the recipe a little. Originally the chocolate cream sandwiched the cake, but when I saw how thick the chocolate cream was, even I baulked at it being too solid and rich. So I decided to lighten some of the chocolate cream by adding it to whipped cream and making a lighter mousse! In other words, my solution to something being too rich and heavy was to add lots more cream to it. It made sense at the time....

The thick cream filling means that you serve the cake as it is – there is no need for any additional cream; it would almost be gilding the lily.

For such an impressive looking cake there is nothing tricky in the making. The sponge cake part is actually embarrassingly easy. The chocolate cream filling requires a little concentration but again, please don’t think it’s complicated to make.

I made the sponge and the cream the day before I wanted to serve the cake. On the morning of the day, I assembled the cake and made the chocolate glaze. Once assembled the cake must be refrigerated for at least an hour before serving.
We all agreed that you have to plunge the fork down and make sure you get a bit of each layer in every mouthful.

As the recipe also provided the quantities in cups, I include them in the ingredients list below.

The great thing about everyone knowing your obsessions is that you get themed gifts. Look at this lovely cake stand I got from my friend Soo:

For the cake:
150g (1 cup) plain flour
50g (1/3 cup) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200g (1 cup) caster sugar
250ml (1 cup) milk (whole or semi skimmed)
90g (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the chocolate cream:
100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
50g (1/3 cup) cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornflour
375ml (1 ½ cups) double cream, plus a further 420ml (1 2/3 cups) i.e. 795ml in total
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the chocolate glaze:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
150g (1 cup) icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Additional: water or cream to reach the right consistency

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Butter a 23cm springform round cake tin and then dust with some cocoa powder.
- Start by making the cake: place the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sugar in a bowl and mix together.
- Into the dry mix, beat in the milk, butter, egg and vanilla until well combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took 45 minutes.
- Leave to cool for approximately 15 minutes in the tin, before turning out onto a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.
- Now make the chocolate cream filling: In a medium saucepan stir together the sugar, cocoa, and cornflour.
- Gradually stir in 375ml of the cream.
- Simmer over a medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and starts to boil.
- Boil for 1 minute, stirring all the time.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.
- Transfer to a bowl and cover with clingfilm, making sure that the clingfilm is pressed directly onto the surface of the cream.
- Leave to cool to room temperature before refrigerating until you build the cake.
- On the morning of the day that you wish to serve the cake slice the sponge into two layers and place the bottom layer on the plate you will serve the cake from. Put the side of the springform pan over the sponge (i.e. the tin without the base) as this will give a nice mould for the finished cake. Spoon 1/3 of the cold chocolate cream onto the base and spread evenly.
- Flip the top layer of sponge and spread 1/3 of the chocolate cream onto it. Put to one side.
- Whip up 420ml of double cream to soft peak stage. Add the remaining 1/3 of chocolate cream to it and continue to whisk until you have a firm mousse consistency. Spread over the bottom layer of sponge and then put on the top layer of sponge.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes of so before removing the tin and making the glaze.
- To make the glaze: melt the butter and water in a saucepan and then remove from the heat.
- Stir in the cocoa powder.
- Using an electric whisk, beat in the icing sugar and vanilla until smooth. I found I needed to add a further 5 tablespoons of cream before I reached the thick but still spreadable stage.
- Leave to cool slightly before pouring over the cake. This will stop all the glaze just running off the sides!
- Chill in the refrigerator for a further hour before serving.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Banana and walnut cake

If you’re of a similar age to me you will no doubt recall that one of the best investments you could make with your weekly pocket money was a tube of Toffos. I don’t think they still make them but they were individually wrapped round toffees. The connoisseurs’ choice was, of course, the assorted tube as it contained the holy grail of toffos – the banana toffo.

‘Now this is all very interesting and we’d love to hear more of your reminiscences of sweets past, but what’s it got to do with cake?’, I hear you ask...good question. The answer is that one bite of this cake dredged up all that dormant Toffo love. This cake tastes of banana toffos!

This is real comfort food cake – the soft sponge is moistened by mashed bananas and to add some bite there is a centre layer of sliced banana and chopped walnuts. I chose to serve it with clotted cream but was very tempted to make some custard cream in homage to the old nursery food favourite of bananas and custard. In the end the clotted cream won out – it seemed to call to me from the supermarket shelf much in the same way that San Francisco did to Tony Bennett.

It’s not a light cake – you know you’ve eaten it. The best way to describe the texture is to say it’s like banana bread pudding. It’s not dense or heavy but is pleasingly substantial.

3 ripe bananas
150g soft brown sugar
75g unsalted butter
250g self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 eggs
50g walnuts, chopped

To sprinkle on top, once baked: 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and caster sugar

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line a 20cm round cake tin with baking paper.
- Mash two of the bananas in a small bowl and stir in one tablespoon of the soft brown sugar. Put to one side.
- Gently heat the remaining soft brown sugar and the butter in a saucepan until the butter has melted. The mixture will be gritty but that’s fine – you’re not looking to melt the sugar. Put to one side to cool slightly.
- Place the flour and cinnamon in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
- Beat the eggs into the slightly cooled butter/sugar mix and then pour into the flour mixing all the time.
- Stir in the mashed banana and spoon half of the batter into the prepared cake tin.
- Slice the remaining banana and arrange over the batter. Sprinkle the walnuts on top.
- Spoon the rest of the cake batter on top and level the surface.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes of until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took 50 minutes.
- Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack.
- Sprinkle with one teaspoon each of cinnamon and sugar.
- Serve with either clotted cream or custard cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Stem ginger steamed pudding

This is the pudding to top all puddings! The light sponge, the heat of the ginger, the syrupy sauce oozing into the pudding when turned out. Pudding heaven.

The stem ginger shines almost like it’s lit from within:

The pudding uses a lot of stem ginger. Stem ginger is wonderful – I love the rotund shape of it and the stickiness of the syrup it sits in. It packs a punch but not too much. Not only are there slivers of ginger on top of the pud, but also finely chopped chunks in the sponge. You can just make out the flecks of ginger:

The recipe suggested serving with whipped cream but, for me, it would be a crime to serve this pudding with anything but custard!

Steaming a sponge always results in a lighter texture than baking. The sponge of this pudding was so light it was like eating a cloud:

Here’s my arty close up to end this post:

For the syrup:
2 chunks of stem ginger cut into thin slivers
5 tablespoons stem ginger syrup from the jar
4 tablespoons golden syrup

For the pudding:
150g golden caster sugar
150g unsalted butter
3 eggs
200g self raising flour
75ml milk (whole or semi skimmed)
3 chunks stem ginger, chopped finely
1 teaspoon ground ginger

How to make:

- Generously butter a 1.5 litre pudding basin.
- Place the slivers of stem ginger into the basin.
- Mix together the stem ginger syrup with the golden syrup. Pour over the stem ginger slivers in the pudding basin.
- In your steamer, ensure that you have enough boiling water to come halfway up the basin. However, I used a steamer basket, so my sponge didn’t sit in the water. Both ways work just as well.
- Now make the pudding: cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, alternating with the flour.
- Pour in the milk and beat until smooth.
- Stir in the chopped stem ginger and the ground ginger.
- Spoon into the pudding basin. The basin will not be full as the pudding needs room to rise.
- Cover the top of the basin with a centrally pleated piece of baking paper, and another of foil.
- Secure with string and steam for approximately 1 ½ hours. A little more won’t cause any harm.
- Remove the foil and paper and run a knife around the edge of the pudding before turning out.
- Turn the pudding out onto a lipped plate, in order to ensure that you don’t lose any of the syrup.
- Serve straight away with hot custard.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Babka cake

This cake is Polish in origin and seems to be one of those recipes that has many variations – each family would have their own version. Sometimes the cake is made with yeast, but the recipe I am using contains self raising flour.

Babka is Polish for “grandma”, and who doesn’t love their dear old granny? Stereotypical grannies are always depicted knitting or baking cakes. I don’t recall ever eating a cake baked by either of my grandmas but don’t feel sorry for me...both my grannies were utterly brilliant. No one on earth will ever think you quite so gifted and wonderful as your grandma does!

This is a very simple cake. It looks pretty when sliced and is perfect with a cup of tea. By using a slightly smaller tin than usual you obtain more height.

225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
275g caster sugar
4 eggs
275g self raising flour
2-4 dessert spoons single cream (start with 2 and add more if the batter is dry)
3 teaspoons cocoa powder

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C/315°F/Gas mark 2-3.
- Line an 18cm loose bottomed tin with baking paper.
- Start by beating together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Slowly beat in the eggs and 2 dessertspoons of cream.
- Fold in the flour. If the mix feels too dry add 2 more dessertspoons of cream.
- Spoon 1/3 of the cake batter into the prepared tin and level the surface. Put to one side.
- Spoon half of the remaining cake mix into a dish. Put to one side.
- Add the cocoa to the half left in the bowl and stir gently until the batter is a nice even brown.
- Spoon the cocoa batter into the tin and level the surface.
- Spoon the remaining plain batter into the tin and level the surface.
- Bake in the over for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took 1 hour 5 minutes.
- Leave to cool completely in the tin, on a wire rack.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Pina colada cupcakes

The weather has been horrible all week: cold, grey, damp and just generally yucky. Therefore I decided to put a little sunshine into my baking with these pina colada cupcakes. The sun even came out for the photo!

These are the real deal – they use coconut rum, cream of coconut and pineapple, just like the cocktail. I defy anyone not to smile at the cocktail umbrella – which is somehow so naff it’s cool! I tried to keep the cupcakes as authentic as possible and used proper cocktail ingredients:

The smell of the cupcakes cooking was lovely; strong coconut but also the tropical smell of rum and pineapple. The recipe says to use glace pineapple but I couldn’t find it and didn’t have time to make my own, so I used dried sugared pineapple. Although it is dried it still tastes juicy. Using scissors I cut it into small, currant-sized, pieces. You can just make out the flecks of pineapple in this photo:

OK, so these would be better enjoyed sitting on a beach in the Caribbean, but then most things fall into that category!

For the cupcakes:
90g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
125ml cream of coconut
2 eggs
2 tablespoons coconut rum (I used Malibu)
150g self raising flour
100g glace pineapple, chopped (you can use dried pineapple as long as it’s still soft and juicy)

For the icing:
300g icing sugar
1 tablespoon coconut rum
100ml cream of coconut (you might need a bit more or less, depends on consistency of icing)
12 pieces glace pineapple (or chunks –fresh or dried)
12 glace cherries

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line a 12 hole bun tray with paper cases.
- Start by beating together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the cream of coconut, eggs, rum and flour until the mixture is smooth.
- Stir in the pineapple.
- Spoon the mixture into the 12 paper cases and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took 20 minutes.
- Leave the cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack.
- To make the topping, place the icing sugar, rum and some of the cream of coconut in a bowl and beat until thick and glossy. It is best to add the cream of coconut gradually as you may not need all of it; on the other hand you may need a little more. Use your judgement until you get the thick consistency of glace icing.
- Spread the icing over each cupcake.
- Thread a piece of pineapple and a glace cherry onto a cocktail umbrella and press into the cupcake. Repeat until all cupcakes are thus decorated.
- Leave the icing to set before serving.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Brussel Sprout cake

I know that I’ve probably lost most of you with the title of this one! Many people would look more favourably on a cake made from toxic waste than the humble brussel sprout. Maybe the cake is named so purely for the shock factor; however, if you glance at the ingredients you’ll notice that it’s basically a carrot cake with a mischievous twist.

Many cakes featuring vegetables are now commonplace; for example, carrot cake, courgette cake, chocolate and beetroot cake. I’ve even seen recipes that use mash potato. So why not the least loved vegetable in the UK? (I’m not making this up – in 2002 a national poll was conducted to tell us what we already knew). For the avoidance of doubt, these are the babies in question:

The recipe was featured in an article in the Times about Felice Tocchini – a man with perhaps the best job title ever: Chef and Sprout campaigner!

Just in case you’re a sprout fanatic (who isn't?) and wish to mingle with your peer group, please note that this year’s British Sprout Festival will be held 13-14 November in Worcester.

I have to admit that I was drawn to this recipe because I hate sprouts and thought it might convert me. Whilst raw, the mix did smell a bit sprouty...and when it was cooking too. Yum – are your tastebuds watering yet? When cooked it...god, I really want to say that it didn’t smell sprouty...but I can’t still smelled sprouty. However, this could be me. I am very anti-sprout. No one else could smell sprouts or taste them. You can only just see the flecks of green:

Bizarrely, the only criticism this cake got was that the frosting was a touch sweet. My eaters thought it tasted like any carrot cake but my sprout-radar detected the extra ingredient. Try it! If nothing else, it’s a talking point!

For the cake:
2 eggs
125g caster sugar
100ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125g self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
125g carrots, grated
125g brussel sprouts, grated (I did this in my electric mini-chopper)
35g walnuts, chopped
35g raisins or sultanas
25g desiccated coconut

For the frosting:
125g cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)
250g icing sugar
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Walnut halves to decorate

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease and line a 20cm round tin or a 900g loaf tin. I made it in the round tin but actually think a loaf tin would be better.
- Beat the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla until well combined.
- Add the flour, cinnamon and ginger and beat for a few more minutes.
- Fold in the grated carrot, sprouts, walnuts, raisins and coconut.
- Spoon into the prepared tin and cook for approximately 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took exactly 50 minutes.
- Leave to cool, in the tin, on a wire rack.
- Now make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese until soft and then beat in the icing sugar.
- Add vanilla extract to taste.
- Spread the frosting over the top of the cake and finish off with some walnut halves.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Dorset apple cake

I have fond memories of family holidays in Dorset; Bridport to be more exact. We’d load up the car with everything from sandwiches for the journey (the sausage and ketchup would always go first) to the dog’s basket and hope that we’d get there without Dinky (the dog) puking over one of us. Waiting for us was Mallards, the fabulous shop in Bridport High Street that sold a thrilling array of pies including big pork pies with crimped tops. We were Blackadder obsessed at the time so the shop instantly became known to us as “Miggins” after Mrs Miggins’ Pie Shop. Ahhhh, memories.

What that little jaunt down memory lane is meant to indicate, other than most of my memories involve food, is that I have a fondness for anything with a Dorset connection. In my mind Dorset is a place of lovely pies and cakes, thus when I saw this recipe I gave it my full attention.

The cake is moist because of the apple. As there is sugar in both the cake and the extremely crumbly topping I chose a tart apple – a Granny Smith – to provide some contrast. It worked very well.

I served the cake at room temperature with Chantilly cream. It would also be lovely hot with custard.

For the cake:
110g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g light brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
175g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons milk (whole or semi skimmed)
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced (I used Granny Smith)

For the crumble:
25g unsalted butter, cold
75g plain flour
50g Demerara sugar
Pinch of cinnamon

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C/315°F/Gas mark 2-3.
- Grease and line a 20cm square tin. It’s easier if the tin is either springform or loose bottomed.
- Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. I always find this takes longer when using brown sugar.
- Gradually beat in the eggs. If the mix looks like it’s curdling add some of the flour.
- Fold in the flour, baking powder and cinnamon.
- Stir in the milk.
- Stir in the chopped apple.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and put to one side.
- Now make the crumble topping: Rub the butter into the flour until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the sugar and cinnamon.
- Scatter the crumble over the top of the cake and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took 45 minutes.
- Serve either hot with custard or cold with cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Blond ginger cake

I think the “blond” in the title must refer to the icing as the ginger cake is the usual colour. It was the icing that sold this one to me as I’ve never made buttercream with golden syrup in it before...and yes, it was as delicious as you’d expect! Picasso had his Blue and Rose Periods; I’m going through a buttercream period – it may last some time!

The other unusual ingredient is lager. I have used lager in gingerbread before (in my pre-blog days) and found it lightened the batter; it’s not really dissimilar in concept to using lager or beer in batter for fish and chips or tempura batter. The recipe only requires a tiny amount of lager and if, like me, you hate waste ensure you have a lager drinker on standby to consume the rest!

Here you can see the light, open texture of the cake:

I probably use ginger more than any other spice but I know I’m not alone in this – whenever I post a ginger cake it always becomes one of the most popular recipes. At this time of year when it’s cold, grey and wet the warmth that ginger gives is most welcome!

If you make this cake in advance of eating, the flavour matures and the top goes deliciously sticky. I recommend making the cake one or two days before you intend to serve, then make the buttercream on the day.

For the cake:
110g light muscovado sugar
110g unsalted butter
30g golden syrup
55g runny honey
225g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 eggs
2 tablespoons lager (I used stella artois)

For the buttercream:
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
90g icing sugar
1 teaspoon golden syrup

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper.
- Place the sugar, butter, golden syrup and honey in a saucepan over a gentle heat until all the ingredients have melted leaving a smooth thick paste. Stir occasionally to ensure that there are no lumps.
- Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ginger into a large mixing bowl and combine.
- Pour the melted ingredients into the flour and stir well. At this point, the mix will be very thick and won’t actually look much in volume.
- Beat in the eggs.
- Add the lager. You will now have a runny batter with lots of air in it.
- Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took 50 minutes.
- Leave the cake to cool for 15 minutes in the tin before turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, the cake can be kept for several days in an airtight container.
- When required, make the buttercream: whisk the butter until it’s very light and fluffy.
- Whisk in the icing sugar until the mixture looks almost like a mousse.
- Whisk in the golden syrup.
- Spread the buttercream over the top of the cake.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.