Sunday, 29 August 2010

Clotted cream cake

This continues my theme of (ahem) healthy cakes; you may recall my
honey cake from a couple of weeks back that contained no sugar – just a whole jar of honey, well this cake contains no butter! Instead it uses a whole pot of clotted cream, which is known for being low in fat and calories. Don’t say anything...just nod and we might get away with it!

If you need proof why you should never read food labelling this is it:
my lovely pot of clotted cream told me that one teaspoon (note – teaspoon – not tablespoon) contained 150 calories and a whopping 54% of the recommended daily intake of saturated fats. When I read that horrid label spewing its hate-speak I needed a slice of cake to cheer me up!

Replacing the butter content with cream produces a snowy white cake and the flecks of vanilla looks very pretty in contrast.

The texture is light and spongy and the taste is – as you would imagine – creamy!
I’d say that the overall effect was a softer, more delicate cake. I made a very simple strawberry compote to serve with the cake and it worked really well; it elevated the cake to something more elegant.

As it’s a holiday weekend I also revisited one of my favourite things I’ve ever baked – a
Rheinish apple tart. I can’t believe it was almost two years ago that I made it!


2 eggs
225g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, seeds only
225g clotted cream
200g self raising flour

Optional: strawberry compote. I bought one box of strawberries, washed and hulled them. Mashed half with a fork and added sugar to taste, then chopped the rest and added them to the mashed ones.


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.
Place the eggs, sugar and vanilla seeds into a bowl and whisk until very thick – almost like a mousse. Don’t skimp on this stage.

Stir the clotted cream so that the crust is mixed into the cream and stir it into the egg and sugar mix.

Fold in the flour taking care not to knock air out of the batter.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack until it is cool enough to handle, then de-tin and leave to cool completely on the wire rack.

Store in an airtight container.

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


Sunday, 22 August 2010

Cupcake kebabs

I’d seen cupcake kebabs on the internet but they were full size and interspersed, on the skewer, with marshmallows and other bits and bobs. I fancied ‘all killer, no filler’ so decided to make four different mini cupcakes and skewer them so they remained horizontal i.e. the right way up – the ones Id seen skewered them vertically. I think they ended up looking like the little figures in table football.

Everyone loved these skewers because you got a wide range of flavours on each one. The mini cupcakes equate to a quarter of a normal sized cupcake so each skewer is only actually one cupcake! Oh yes, I’m a master at justifying eating lots of cake!

I balanced it so there were two light, and two dark cupcakes. I chose vanilla sponge with vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream, butterscotch sponge with butterscotch Swiss meringue buttercream, blackberry sponge with blackberry Swiss meringue buttercream and chocolate sponge with....chocolate ganache. You lose a mark if you thought it was going to be chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream!

Although this sounds like a lot of work it wasn’t because the sponge cooks very quickly and I made one batch of Swiss meringue buttercream and split it into separate bowls before adding the flavours.

The blackberry Swiss meringue buttercream was amazing. I know many of you find Swiss meringue buttercream too sweet so I recommend you try this version – the slightly tart, acidic blackberries calmed down the sweetness and created a fresh, fruity tasting sticky buttercream. It’s one of my favourite buttercreams I’ve ever made...and to think it only came about by chance, because Tesco didn’t have any raspberries!

The butterscotch chips came from a supplier of US food stuffs and were very popular – I used them whole in the sponge and melted them to add to the buttercream:

Special thanks must go to my new best friends at Tate and Lyle for sending me a selection of all their lovely sugars. I think there are certain brands where you just know you’ll get a great product every time, and Tate and Lyle are such a brand. For this recipe I used the caster sugar. Those of you on facebook might want to check out Tate & Lyle’s “
We love baking” page and also the “Taste & Smile” website.

For the plain cupcake sponge:
62g unsalted butter, at room temperature
62g caster sugar
1 egg
62g self raising flour
1 tablespoon milk

Then add either vanilla extract (to taste), 80g mashed blackberries or 80g butterscotch chips

For the chocolate cupcake sponge:
62g unsalted butter, at room temperature
62g caster sugar
1 egg
50g self raising flour
1 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon milk

For the swiss meringue buttercream – this will make enough for the vanilla, blackberry and butterscotch cupcakes:
4 egg whites
250g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Then add either vanilla extract (to taste), 80g mashed and sieved blackberries, heated until reduced by half or 80g melted butterscotch chips

For the chocolate ganache:
142ml whipping cream
½ tablespoon liquid glucose
100g plain chocolate, roughly chopped


The method for all the cupcakes is the same, so please follow this method for both. Each recipe makes between 18-24 mini cupcakes.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.

Line a mini cupcake pan with paper cases (each recipe makes between 18-24 cupcakes).

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, flour and milk – then add your flavouring/cocoa/fruit of choice.

When the mixture is smooth and well combined, spoon into the paper cases.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean. Mine took 12 minutes.

Leave to cool on a wire rack and remove from the tin when cool enough to handle.

When the cupcakes are cool, you can make the Swiss meringue buttercream. Place the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir pretty much constantly to prevent the egg from cooking.

After 5-10 minutes, when the sugar has dissolved (when you cannot see any crystals on the back of the spoon), remove the bowl from the pan of simmering water and whisk until the meringue has puffed up and the mix is cool.

Add the butter to the meringue and whisk until the butter has been completely incorporated into the meringue. At first it will look a disaster – it will collapse and look curdled but don’t worry! Stop when the mixture is smooth, light and fluffy.

Separate the Swiss meringue buttercream into three bowls and add you flavouring/fruit to each. Beat again until whipped and light.

Spoon into a piping bag and pipe over cupcakes.

To make the chocolate ganache: Bring the cream to the boil in a saucepan.

Remove from the heat and stir in the liquid glucose.

Place the chocolate in the cream and stir until the chocolate melts.

Leave to cool and then whisk to lighten the texture. If it isn’t thick enough to pipe, refrigerate for 30 mins and try again – it was an extremely damp humid day the day I made it and I found it needed refrigeration.

Pipe or spread over the chocolate cupcakes.

Slide one of each type of cupcake onto a wooden skewer.

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


Sunday, 15 August 2010

Honey cake

This cake contains no caster sugar, no brown sugar, no icing sugar, no sugar that you can think of.
OK, it does contain a whole jar of honey but let’s accentuate the positive – no sugar! Using honey instead of sugar made the batter silky and smooth – so much that it shone. It also gave the baked cake a firmer texture, but at the same time crumbly. I know that sounds impossible but you’ll see what I mean when you make it.

A friend of mine (Engelbert’s mum) brought me back a jar of honey from a day trip to Ickworth House.
She has what I believe would be termed a “high concept” blog (i.e. if I didn’t like her I would call it ‘mad’) based around her little crocodile called Engelbert.

To repay her kindness, Mr CC and I decided to try and make Engelbert cake decorations out of sugar paste.
It was our first foray into such an art form but we were pleased with our creations (Mr CC’s is on the left, mine on the right):

The Suffolk honey was mild in flavour – not dissimilar to golden syrup.
I often find honey too strong so loved this one.

Mr CC declared this one of the best cakes I’d ever made...high praise indeed!
It’s a very simple recipe – the sort that it’s easy to pass by in a book without it registering, but was so delicious that it really should be tried.

The real Engelbert showing his appreciation of our tribute:


150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g runny honey
3 eggs
300g self raising flour
225g sultanas
Dash of milk


Preheat the oven to 170˚C/fan oven 150˚C/325˚F/Gas mark 3.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.
Beat together the butter and honey until you have a whipped, silky smooth blend. It will be much lighter than a traditional butter/sugar creaming.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, alternating with a third of the flour.

Add a dash of milk if the batter is too firm – you’re aiming for a dropping consistency i.e. if you take a spoonful of batter and lightly tap the spoon, the mixture drops off.

Stir in the sultanas.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for anywhere between 1 hour and 1 ½ hours. Check after an hour and if the edges are cooking too fast, lower the heat. Mine took 1 hour 15 minutes and I didn’t find any problem with the edges browning too quickly.

When a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out cleanly, remove the cake from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack to cool.

Take the tin out of the cake when it is cool enough to handle, and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container.

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


Sunday, 8 August 2010

Black and blue streusel cake

Why black and blue?
Because it contains blackberries and blueberries, of course! This cake has it all: fruit, sponge, crunch, squidge and spice – be very wary of someone who’d refuse a second slice!

The blackberries seem to like the hot, parched summer we’ve been having in the South East corner of England but I didn’t want to risk relying on them just yet, and ended up buying mine.
I should’ve been more of a gambler because there were plenty of ripe berries for the picking.

You don’t need me to point out that this isn’t the most perfectly beautiful cake you’ve ever seen; some of the batter fought its way up during cooking giving a splodgy crust around the edge – pretty it ain’t, delicious it is.
Mr CC commented that he wished the whole cake could be made of the crusty sponge around the edge proving that one person’s baking disaster is another’s delight!

This cake looks particularly attractive when cut; the fruit burrows a little into the sponge and is topped with a crunchy, nutty streusel.
Because of the batter eruption at the edges, the fruit pooled a bit in the middle – again, it doesn’t help the look much but tasted lovely.

The flavour combination of the black and blue berries worked very well and was a nice mix of tart and sweet.
I admit I was crestfallen when I took the cake from the oven and saw the batter balling up at the edges and the fruit sinking in the middle. It’s funny how we beat ourselves up because we all agreed this was one of the nicest cakes we’d eaten in ages – no one could resist picking the sponge from the edge!


For the streusel:
50g plain flour
50g unsalted butter
50g caster sugar
50g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

For the cake:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
175g self raising flour
50g hazelnuts, ground in a food processor until you have fine crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
200g blackberries
100g blueberries
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

To serve: thick cream


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

Line a 23cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Start by making the topping: Place the butter and flour into a bowl and rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Stir in the sugar and nuts and set to one side for later.

Now make the cake: start by beating together the butter and sugar until it is light and creamy. Don’t skimp on this stage as it is key to achieving a light, soft sponge.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, alternating with spoonfuls of the flour.

Stir in the remaining flour along with the ground hazelnuts and baking powder.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Spread the berries over the top of the batter and sprinkle the cinnamon over them.

Scatter the streusel topping over the fruit – some fruit will still be visible.

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

Leave to cool in the tin, on a cooling rack until the tin is cool enough to remove.

Leave the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

It will keep in an airtight container for at least 3 days.

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


Sunday, 1 August 2010

History corner – Normandy short cakes

“The Housewife’s Referee”, subtitled ‘A treatise on culinary and household subjects’ was published in 1898. Written by Mrs de Salis, who you may remember from other books such as “Tempting Dishes for Small Incomes”, “New Laid Eggs”, and “Dogs and their Ailments”, it takes a rather unimpressed view of the modern woman.

This is my favourite bit from the introduction. I quote word for word because to edit it would be a crime:

The silly ignorance of so many gentlewomen is astounding. Let me give an example: I was present at a lecture a short time since at one of the recent cookery exhibitions, where Miss Young was teaching pastry making, when a lady among the audience asked,

“Must we put out bare hands into the dough?”

“Certainly,” replied the teacher; “you cannot make it otherwise.”

“Oh, then,” remarked the questioner, “perhaps that is the reason why I failed when I made my last tart; my gloves did seem in the way!”

I consider this a very good example of the terrible ignorance which prevails regarding the knowledge of the cuisine.

I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson there – the number of long white evening gloves I’ve wasted! Also, while Mrs de Salis is keen to point out the failings of others I would like to expose her, for this recipe undoubtedly contained a typo. She says to use the same quantity of flour as the sugar and butter; any seasoned biscuit maker will tell you that you need a lot more flour in order to bind the dough. Further, her instructions tell you to add flour until you have a stiff dough and then roll it out - so the dough is obviously not meant to be as soft and sticky as it was. The amounts set out below are what I actually used rather than her flawed recipe!

The whole tone of the book is rather high-handed and Mrs de Salis or Harriet, as she would no doubt not let me call her, can’t ever resist slipping in some heavily italicised French whenever the chance arises. These are actually called
Sables Normands with the English provided as an afterthought.

I didn’t want to add too much flour and lose the buttery focus of the biscuit so I made a decision to roll little balls of dough between my hands rather than add more flour so I could roll it out and use a cutter. I think that was that right way to go as the texture was great – crumbly but rich and flavoursome.

As is often the way with old recipes there is no cooking time or temperature given. We are told the oven should be “brisk” which I’ve interpreted to mean medium-hot. You will note from the rather scanty ingredients list below that the biscuits are not flavoured. Personally, I’d be tempted to add some vanilla but wanted to keep them as the recipe stated for this first attempt.


3 eggs
230g/ 8 oz caster sugar
230g/ 8 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
460g/ 1lb plain flour – don’t be afraid to use more if the dough is too sticky


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

Line 2 biscuit sheets with baking paper.

Place the eggs, sugar and butter in a bowl and beat until well combined.

Using your hands (remember ladies – no gloves!) add the flour a little at a time until you have a thick and firm paste. I never actually achieved this state and my dough remained too soft to roll.

If your dough permits it, roll out the paste between two sheets of floured baking paper and use a cutter to cut out biscuits. As my dough was soft and I didn’t want to over flour it and diminish the butteriness I took walnut sized balls and rolled them between my floured hands.

Place on a baking sheet, leaving a little room for expansion. If you’ve rolled balls, flatten them slightly.

Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until the biscuits have turned pale golden.

Remove and leave to cool on a wire rack. Remove the biscuits from the baking sheet when they have cooled – they are far too soft when straight from the oven.

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