Saturday, 26 February 2011

History Corner – St George Cake

Last July (which feels like years ago!) I made a pineapple cake from the “Coronation Cakes and Pastries” booklet provided free with 23rd January 1937 edition of Woman’s World magazine. This was the coronation of King George VI i.e. the present Queen’s father. Of course, nowadays he’s known to us as Colin Firth, thanks to the wonderful film “The King’s Speech.

As it’s Oscar weekend I thought it would be fitting to revisit this booklet and make another recipe from it. It’s my way of supporting the King’s Speech and hoping that it gets all the accolades it deserves, (it probably won’t, but I’ll settle for Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush coming out of it with shiny new trinkets for their mantelpieces!)

Anyway, the cake. Light fruit cakes are a thing of beauty and this one relies solely on sultanas for its fruit. I do love sultanas. Often I’ll use extra sultanas in a cake rather than the currants the recipe lists. They’re golden and soft and sweet and I can just eat them by the handful!

The original recipe recommended dusting the baked cake with caster sugar but I did this before the cake went in the oven to ensure a nice crisp top. I also did 1.5x the quantities as it looked a bit mean (the quantities set out below are the quantities that I used).

This is probably close to Mr CC’s perfect style of cake. It’s a beautiful cake to enjoy with a cup of tea and a sit down!


170g/6oz unsalted butter, at room temperature

170g/6oz caster sugar – plus extra to sprinkle on top

3 eggs

340g/12oz self raising flour

225g/8oz sultanas

6 tablespoons milk


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Take your time on this stage to get lots of air into the mix.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Stir in the flour.

Stir in the sultanas.

Stir in the milk until the dough is soft. Add more milk if necessary.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Sprinkle an extra 2-3 tablespoons of sugar over the surface of the cake.

Bake for approximately 1.5 hours or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Mine took 1 hour 10 minutes. I recommend checking the cake after an hour just to make sure it isn’t browning too quickly – if it is, cover it loosely with foil and continue cooking.

Leave to cool on a wire rack and remove the tin when it’s cool enough to handle safely.

Leave the cake to cool completely on the wire rack before storing in an airtight container.

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


Sunday, 20 February 2011

Peach and almond tart

The weather has brightened a little – I have seen the sun on more than one occasion this week!
Maybe that’s why I started thinking about summery flavours. It’s a good few months until peaches are in season but I do love a tinned peach – definitely the queen of tinned fruits!

The almond sponge might be called a frangipane in some circles (I’m never entirely sure when almond sponge becomes frangipane – perhaps it depends on the price the restaurant wishes to charge for the dessert?); it’s densely textured and rich with almond flavour.
It has that almost oily moistness that sponges do when they’re heavy with almond – OK, I know that's possibly not the most appetising description but I'm sure you'll know what I mean! It ages wonderfully too, tasting better each day you can bear to leave it after baking!

The pastry contains virtually no sugar and it’s dry biscuity texture works really well against the rich sponge and juicy soft fruit.
Indeed, this tart could be topped with many different fruits – I think pears, plums, raspberries or cherries would work particularly well.

I think this is the most professional I’ve ever rolled my pastry out and lined a tin...

...and it looked really nice after baking too:

The jam glaze on top is worth doing as it creates a professional looking finish – one tip I would offer is to add the jam glaze on the day of serving; I did mine the day before and it got absorbed!

I never thought I’d find peach jam but found it in Panzer’s, a fascinatingly well-stocked grocery/deli shop in the St John’s Wood area of London. The shop also has a good selection of US baking goods although I was disappointed that they didn’t have cake flour. I bought a bottle of date syrup (amongst other things) which you can apparently use in anything you’d usually use treacle/golden syrup in...looking forward to trying that!

This tart was incredibly popular – everybody loved it and started playing around for ideas of how it could be adapted to make different versions. It all got eaten in record quick time (don’t worry Mr CC – I have saved you a “generous” slice!)


For the pastry:

175g plain flour
85g unsalted butter, cold
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons water

For the filling:

140g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
140g ground almonds
50g plain flour
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 cans of sliced peaches (or 3 fresh peaches slice)

Optional: peach or apricot jam to glaze

To serve: thick cream


Start by making the pastry: place the flour, butter and sugar into a food processor and blitz together.

Keep the processor running and add the egg yolks and water, blitzing until the dough just starts to come together.

(If you prefer to make the pastry by hand rub the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs, stir in the flour, then the egg yolks and water)

Bring the dough together and form into a fat disc before wrapping in clingfilm and refrigerating for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C/fan oven 180˚C/350˚F/Gas mark 6.

Have ready a 23cm loose bottomed flan tin – no need to grease it if it’s loose bottomed.

Roll the pastry out between two sheets of clingfilm (this will stop the need to add extra flour) and use to line the tin; leave the spare pastry overhanging.

Line with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the paper and beans and prick the base with a fork.

Return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes (or until it looks golden, firm and biscuity).

Leave on a cooling rack.

Now make the filling: beat together the butter and sugar until it’s pale and smooth.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, if it looks like it might curdle add some of the flour.

Stir in the almonds, flour and, if using, the extract.

Spoon into the cooked pastry case and level the surface.

Arrange the peach slices on the top – I went for concentric circles as I think it looks pretty and professional.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the almond sponge is cooked – test with a skewer, the same way you would for a cake. If the skewer comes out clean it’s ready.

Incidentally, don’t panic that the pastry turns a much darker brown that pastry normally does – it’s a dry, biscuity pastry and the colour doesn’t affect the taste.

Leave to cool, in the tin, on a wire rack. This dish is best made the day before as it gives the almond time to develop and release its oil and flavour into the sponge!

Cut away the excess pastry that is overhanging the tart tin. This is a rather tasty bonus for the cook!

If you wish, you can brush melted apricot or peach jam over the top of the cooled tart – this will give it the professional patisserie glazed finish.

Serve the tart at room temperature with thick cream.

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


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Pies, puddings, jelly and ice cream – Ickworth House

As part of my birthday present last year Mr CC booked us to attend the above named event at Ickworth House. The house and grounds are spectacular enough to warrant a visit but when you add a historic jelly and ice cream masterclass from one of the country’s premier food historians – Ivan Day – you’ll agree that a good day out just became a great day out! Here’s Ivan making his ice cream:

During his fascinating talk and demonstration Ivan covered the history of jelly and ice cream, at the same time making ice cream using only an ice pail, freezing pot and spaddle (a spatula/paddle cross). Notice that the table has a slope on one side for the melting ice to run off:

In this photo you can actually see the melted ice dripping off the slope:

The ice cream was ginger and lemon; as a lemon hater I have to admit it was beautiful. The texture was so light and smooth ...probably helped by the ice cream being made with cream rather than a custard base!

We were all invited to approach the spaddle with a teaspoon and help ourselves to a taster. I would happily have walked off with the spaddle! Mr CC, as is his way, merely turned to me and said of the ice cream, "make it happen." I have since obtained the recipe from Ivan and will be making [it happen!] soon.

Ivan brought a beautiful collection of antique ice cream moulds for us to look at:

My favourite, by far, was the tiny Cleopatra’s needle/obelisk/pyramid shaped hinged mould that had minute hieroglyphs cast into it in relief, so when the ice cream was turned out it would have perfect markings all over it:

It was probably the jellies that proved to be the crowd pleasers! Ivan certainly deserves some sort of bravery award for turning out four complicated jellies in front of an audience of 50 people...of course, they all turned out perfectly! Sadly, because the tin lining of the moulds was no longer intact, the jellies could only be admired visually.

I’d never seen such complicated moulds before. This one has fitted spirals moulds within the mould so that a stunning two-tone jelly can be created:

The jelly produced by this mould actually drew gasps from the crowd:

Indulge me while I ogle it some more!

A slightly simpler insert mould produced an equally bold result. The white cross (as for the spirals in the previous jelly) is made from flummery which is an early forerunner of blancmange.

While it may not have had the technical dazzle of the previous two moulds, I loved the look of this star mould:

This ceramic mould relies on simplicity and clean lines for its appeal. Ivan explained that in Edwardian/Victorian times this dessert would have garnered giggles and blushes from the ladies present at the table...I wonder why?!

I’m really getting into my jelly making and am frustrated that no one is making modern food-safe jelly moulds like this anymore. Of course, I dream of owning vintage moulds but when Ivan told me that the more complicated moulds can sell for around the £1,000 mark I realised (much to Mr CC’s relief) that it would probably remain just a dream...unless my lottery ticket comes up trumps!

In case you’re wondering, the “pies and puddings” part of the course name related to the lunch we were given. Any menu card that lists the puddings (steamed chocolate sponge with chocolate custard, jam roly poly and apple crumble with custard) stating “please come back for as much pudding as you want” is a winner with me!

This was a wonderful experience (thanks Mr buy awesome pressies!) and I can thoroughly recommend attending any talks by Ivan Day. On his site there are details of various courses he of which is historic ice cream making...mmm, how long is it till my next birthday?

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Peanut butter biscuits

Early update this week, as Mr CC is whisking me off to a puddings, jelly and ice cream event on Sunday – I hope to blog about this soon!

I have a complicated relationship with peanut butter. I find it a curious ingredient. Mr CC enjoys it on toast but I hate it like that; the gloopy, claggy texture and the way it coats your mouth. Not for me. However, baking with peanut butter is a different story – you lose the texture but retain all that lovely peanut flavour.

These biscuits are so easy to make – there isn’t even any time consuming rolling out of dough, as you spoon the biscuit dough straight on to the baking sheet.

Using crunchy peanut butter adds texture and it’s satisfying when you crunch into a piece of peanut. The biscuit dough has a nice crisp bite to it, just how I like my biscuits. They have to be able to withstand a dunk in a cup of tea.

When I saw the small amounts of ingredients I was tempted to double up the ingredients. Then I read that you should get 35 biscuits from the mix. I actually got only 17 (Mr CC can’t waste his time with miniature biscuits) but it still goes to show how economical biscuits are to make. Imagine what it would cost to buy 17 artisan biscuits.


90g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g soft brown sugar
4 heaped tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
1 egg
125g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon


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

Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until it is whippy and paler – it will never get fluffy and pale with brown sugar but it will get fluffier and’s all relative! Beat in the crunchy peanut butter

Beat in the egg.

Stir in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon and mix well.

Drop teaspoonfuls of the dough on the prepared baking sheets leaving space for the biscuits to spread as they cook – don’t worry about pressing them down, they’ll find their own level when they cook.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until the biscuits are golden and firm to the touch.

Leave to cool, still on the tray, on a wire rack.

When the biscuits have cooled and firmed you can place them directly on the wire rack – if you do this when the biscuits are soft straight from the oven they will break.

Store in an airtight tin.

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


Monday, 7 February 2011

The Caked Crusader takes to the airwaves....

How flattered was I to receive an invitation to join Hannah Murray, host of the Food Show on Talk Radio Europe and chat about my favourite topic i.e. cake? Answer: very!

If you would like to listen to my pearls of wisdom you can via the Talk Radio Europe website. Click on this link which takes you to the ‘listen on demand’ option - the show is available for download for one week.

Select the following from the drop down menus:

Monday 7th February 2011 14:00-15:00

The easiest way is to download the show to ipod/MP3 format. I listened to it via my Windows Media Player (because I’m vain, and wanted to check that my voice didn’t sound too funny before giving you the link to hear it!).

If you listen to that hour, my interview starts after 13 minutes 20 seconds and runs through to the 29 minute mark. That’s a lot of cake chat!

Thanks to Hannah and all at Talk Radio Europe for inviting me onto the show.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Blueberry and sour cream cake

I have fallen for blueberries in a big way but I’m not the only one.
British blueberry consumption is soaring – at the turn of the century (i.e. 2000) only 1,000 tonnes of blueberries were sold in Britain each year; now the figure is 15,000 tonnes (according to the BBC). It was only relatively recently I first tasted a blueberry – I don’t recall them at all from my childhood.

Blueberries lend themselves beautifully to baking either holding their shape and bursting with juice in your mouth, or collapsing and infusing the sponge with their rich indigo colour.
It’s what I’d term a win-win.

This is a satisfying cake as the flavours are simple but effective.
Preparation time is virtually nothing – I had it in the oven within 10 minutes of starting! The use of golden caster sugar enhances the sponge with almost a hint of caramel and it contrasts well with the berries. Texturally too, the crumbly sponge and the juicy berries are a match made in heaven.

I always tell my eaters the bare minimum of what the cake is to see what they can detect (it keeps them on their toes, plus how else do you think I got any takers for the sprout cake!
); this cake was pitched to them as “blueberry sponge”. Everyone asked what else was in the sponge as it tasted moister and softer than usual – that would be the sour cream!

Don’t panic if the blueberries settle a bit towards the bottom of the cake – they did in mine, and they did in the original recipe too.

You could dress this cake up with frosting but I fancied it left plain with some thick cream on the side.
You could, of course, substitute the blueberries for any similar berry of your choice.


175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g golden caster sugar, plus 2 tablespoons extra to sprinkle on top
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
225g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons (60ml) soured cream
250g blueberries

To serve: cream


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until it is whippy and pale. Take your time over this as your cake will be lighter for it.

Beat in the eggs one at a time. If the mixture looks like it might curdle add some of the flour to stop it.

Beat in the vanilla extract.

Fold in the flour and baking powder.

Fold in the soured cream.

Carefully stir in the blueberries; some may collapse but don’t worry – this will give the sponge a lovely colour!

Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.

Sprinkle the extra caster sugar over the top.

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

Leave to cool, in the tin, on a wire rack.

Remove the cake tin when it is cool enough to handle, and place the cake back on the wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight tin.

Serve with thick cream.

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