Archive for March, 2010

March ’Meanderings’ …

Pictured (top to bottom)
‘Oxford’ (& ‘Cambridge’) Style Seville Marmalades
Fragrant Marmalade Cake
Easter Biscuits
Bran Brack – Irish Tea Bread

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

The first of March dawned bright and sunny and spring is most definitely in the air with a row of daffodils now making a lovely yellow splash in the garden.  The scents of Spring are starting to be on the air.  Floral fragranced food has appeared this month, with orange flower water added to both cake mixture and icing and also rosewater infusing desserts.  Lavender is also commonly used as a culinary flavouring, with Lavender sugar being easy to make by simply putting a few stems in a jar of sugar and leaving it to absorb the scent.  Lavender is also sometimes used in Herbes de Provence, a fragrant herb mixture from the south of France.  All of these scents can also be used in ice creams and as the summer goes on I shall be getting out the ice cream maker again in order to try them.  I have also been researching another bottled fragrance I have seen in shops: Kewra water (from the Pandanus flower), but have yet to buy a some.  I’d like to have a recipe or two to use first: if you have a one to share, please do get in touch via the comments box below. 

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So what have I been up to in the kitchen this month?  I started with a marmalade making session, having found some Seville oranges on the market.  These have such a short season and can be found for just a few short weeks from late January to late February. I made what I have called ‘Oxford’ (& ‘Cambridge’) Style Seville Marmalades.  I had been planning to post some cake recipes, so started with some citrus ones: Fragrant Marmalade Cake and Lemon Drizzle Bread, followed by a Fragrant Chocolate Orange Marble Cake using the versatile basic recipe for The Adaptable Sponge.  I then moved on to some of our favourite family fruit cakes: Bran Brack – Irish Tea Bread and a much used family recipe called ‘Knock Up’ Fruit Cake, which can be easily adapted with a variety of ingredients: I separately posted a Apricot, Date & Brazil Nut Cake version of this cake where I doubled the quantity to make two cakes, one of which was for Mothering Sunday teatime.  Finally there is Gingerbread Cake, which I first learned to make at school but has stood the test of time and Nigel Slater’s unusual but delicious Beetroot Seed Cake.

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Easter this year falls at the very start of April so at the end of March and in Holy week I shall make my usual pre-Easter food preparations.  The Simnel Cake is looking lovely – I use the family Special Occasion Cake recipe handed down from my Nanna: my father’s mother.  There will be Spicy Hot Cross Buns, of course, using the same Nigella Lawson recipe as last year, with Cardamom giving a lovely fragrance.  I shall also be making Easter Biscuits and am hoping my daughter will help me make some Chocolate Rice Krispie Nests using the extra sugar coated eggs I have bought.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

March is a busy month for celebrating.  We have birthdays, a wedding anniversary and usually Mothering Sunday as well: all these dates usually falling within a few days of each other.  I love feeding friends and family to celebrate special occasions and was delighted to give mum a special birthday meal.   We ate Duck Stewed in a Vietnamese Style Spiced Orange Sauce, which was flavoured with Star Anise, a recipe from Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey that I had seen him make on TV in Saturday Kitchen.  I had previously made a chicken version and knew that it was delicious as well as slightly unusual.  (Mum likes trying new things.)  This was served with some Thai Jasmine Rice and some simply stir fried vegetables. Dessert was Cherry & Rosewater Pavlova Meringue Roulade, from a recipe by Rachel Allen.  I will definitely be making these again, I made some simple stir fried veggies, but I need to experiment to find a good Thai vegetable recipe.  

Recently, I have started to post only two rather than three recipes each week, due to time commitments.  However, to keep to the spirit of three posts a week, I have started adding Meanderings Revisited, a brief midweek post linking to a favourite recipe from my archive.  

Finally, on 1 April I will have been Meandering through my Cookbook for one year, my 1st cookbook ‘Blogiversary’.  I am amazed at how many posts there have been and the variety of material I have covered.   Here’s to my second year: I have lots of lovely recipes waiting to be shared, so watch this space! 

March Recipes …

Basic Recipe: ‘Knock Up’ Fruit Cake
Basic Recipe: The Adaptable Sponge

Apricot, Date & Brazil Nut Cake
Beetroot Seed Cake
Bran Brack – Irish Tea Bread
Fragrant Chocolate Orange Marble Cake
Fragrant Marmalade Cake
Gingerbread Cake
Sylvia’s Lemon Drizzle Bread

Easter Biscuits

‘Oxford’ (& ‘Cambridge’) Style Seville Marmalades

Meanderings Revisited (links to original post):
Creamy Pasta with Bacon & Butternut Squash
Simple Cheese & Tomato Topped Baked Fish
Spicy Hot Cross Buns
Spicy Chicken with Chickpea Couscous 

Read Meanderings ‘a la carte’ from previous months 

‘For what we are about to receive…’ April 2010 and beyond

Food Focus – North African style food: Tagine meals, accompaniments & desserts using North African Spices (Harissa, Ras el-Hanout) & Rosewater
Recipe Book(s)
…from my shelf
Tagine: Spicy Stews from Morocco by Ghillie Basan
…from the Library
– Food & Cooking of Africa & the Middle East by Josephine Bacon &  Jenni Fleetwood
Non Fiction Food book (still reading) Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey 

There will continue to be a taste of Easter in the recipes posted at the start of April.  Mostly, however during April, I will be posting some of the North African style recipes I have tried in the past few weeks, especially recipes to go with or using the Tagine I received for my birthday in February.  I have been learning about the spice mixture Ras el-Hanout, which I have mixed myself and have also used Rosewater as a flavouring in several dishes.  The Rosewater proved to be a revelation – fragrant and delicious, I am definitely hooked! 

Thinking further ahead, as the evenings get lighter I hope that the food will get lighter too (and possibly my waistline too!)  A chance, perhaps, to get back to simpler foods with more salads.  

Wishing you a very Happy Easter and…
…Happy Eating!


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The word biscuit literally means twice cooked, taken from the Latin bis (twice) and coquere (to cook). It is this slight cooling followed by a second burst of heat that gives crispness to a biscuit, a method used by the recipe I use for Easter Biscuits.  Sure enough the resulting biscuits are light and crisp and very ‘moreish’: a crispy sugar topped treat for Easter.  These Easter Biscuits are similar to the round ‘fruit shortcakes’ that can be found in shops, sometimes called ‘squashed fly biscuits’ (although I know that this title can also be given to the long Garibaldi biscuits).  I am not sure why they should particularly be associated with Easter.  Easter Biscuits are said to have originated in the West Country of Britain where they were given as gifts on Easter Sunday, (though they are also claimed by Shropshire and probably other places as well).  They were often larger too, measuring up to 4 inches (10cm) across.  An article in the Times, which includes an alternative recipe (untried by me) suggests that the ‘tradition’ be moved to Easter Monday.  Not all recipes include the mixed spice with some Easter Biscuits including lemon zest, such as this Netmums recipe (also untried by me). I will definitely add zest next time, even though there is already mixed peel in the recipe. 

The recipe used below comes from The Women’s Institute Book of Biscuits which was published jointly with Mornflake Oats.  For these small biscuits I used a 2 inch (5cm) cutter: a metal one is good as it cuts through the pieces of fruit.  However, I like the idea of bigger biscuits and I will definitely be making them larger next time.

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Easter Biscuits

(Makes about 3 dozen x 2inch biscuits)

175g/6ozs plain flour
75g/30zs butter
75g/3ozs caster sugar
50g/20zs currants
15g/½oz candied peel
Large pinch of mixed spice
1 egg yolk
Scant 2 fl ozs milk
1 egg white (or a little milk)
Caster sugar

1.  Preheat the oven to 170oC Fan oven/180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Grease 2 or 3 baking sheets.

2.  Cream the butter and the sugar together and beat until it is soft and fluffy.

3.  Add the egg yolk, spice, fruit and flour and mix together.

4.  Add just enough milk to make a stiff dough.  If the dough becomes sticky then add a little more flour but too much flour will make the biscuits a little hard and less rich.

5.  Roll the dough out thinly on a floured surface.  Cut rounds and place them fairly closely on the greased baking sheet:  they do not need too much room for expansion.

6.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  After 10 minutes remove the trays from the oven, brush the biscuits with egg white or a little milk and sprinkle with a little caster sugar.  Return them to the oven for the remaining time – remove when just starting to become golden.

7.  Remove from the trays and cool on a wire rack.  Store in an airtight box or tin.

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Do you find that some recipes stay with you down the years?  This cake is one I learned to make in Domestic Science (Cookery) when I was at school.  Seems a long time ago now, but it has stood the test of time.  (The original recipe uses the old Imperial measurement of the gill.  I remember learning: ‘4 gills are 1 pint, 2 pints are 1 quart, 4 quarts are 1 gallon, 1 pints are 1 gallon …’ so there you are, proof that I listened in school!  Nevertheless I have converted it to a more measurable amount for the 21st Century.)  The teacher called it simply Gingerbread but, as I usually now connect this word with something more like a biscuit, I have added the word Cake to the title.  There are one or two other good recipes in my old exercise book which ought to be added to this site at some future date. 

The recipe uses a technique (my 12year old handwriting says) called the ‘melting method’: the sugar and oils are gently heated together until liquid and then combined with the dry ingredients.  The basic recipe is for a plain ginger cake but sultanas or raisins could be added, but for real ginger lovers crystallised ginger or ginger marmalade could be included instead or as well.  I think it would be possible to make a citrus/ginger version but have not tried a it: experiment by replacing some of the milk with juice and/or adding orange or lemon rind or marmalade.  The proportions of 50% Treacle and 50% Golden Syrup can be adjusted as well to give a less treacly version.  The school version was baked in a square tin, but I have successfully made it in a round tin as well and am sure that it could also be baked in a loaf tin. The cake is finished with a dusting of icing sugar or drizzled icing.  Alternatively a sticky top could be achieved by adding a sugar & water glaze – see Fragrant Chocolate Orange Marble Cake.

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Gingerbread Cake

6ozs/170g self-raising flour
1tsp/5g ground ginger
¼tsp/1.25g mixed spices
¼tsp/1.25g cinnamon
pinch salt
2ozs/55g black treacle
2ozs/55g golden syrup
20zs/55g dark brown sugar
3ozs/85g lard (try white vegetable fat as an alternative, but I have never tried it)
1 egg
¾gill/scant 4fl ozs/110ml milk
¼tsp/1.25g bicarbonate of soda

Additional flavourings to add (but not all at the same time), not in original recipe:
20zs/55g dried fruit or chopped crystallised ginger – optional
2tbsp marmalade or ginger marmalade – optional
grated lemon or orange zest – optional
lemon or orange juice, in place of milk – optional

1.  Preheat oven to 170oC Fan oven/180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Line a 7inch/18cm square tin with baking parchment.  Alternatively use an 8inch/20cm round tin or a 2lb loaf tin (see picture).

2.  Sift together the flour, spices and salt.

3.  Put the treacle, syrup, sugar and lard in a saucepan and carefully heat together on a low temperature until melted.  Do not boil.  Leave to cool a little.

4.  Beat the egg and pour into a well (a depression) in the centre of the flour.  Add a little of the melted mixture and blend together.  Continue to mix together gradually until all the melted mixture is used up.  If using orange or lemon zest, dried fruit or crystallised ginger it should be added at this point.

5.  Add about three-quarters of the milk and stir in.  Blend the bicarbonate of soda into the remaining milk and stir into the rest of the cake mixture.  Beat very well.

6.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.

7.  Bake for about 50mins-1hour.  Cover with a piece of tin foil for the final 15 minutes of cooking time if the cake starts to get too dark. 

8.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with icing sugar.  For a sticky surface brush with a mixture of sugar dissolved in water before the cake dries.

8.  Can be served both as a cake and as a dessert with custard or cream.

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It used to lead to raised eyebrows, but carrot is more or less universally accepted these days as a cake ingredient, however beetroot is less so.  Now though, especially following some recipes and publicity in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage television series, where it was used to make Beetroot & Chocolate Brownies, it is now becoming a little more well known.  I stumbled across this Beetroot Seed Cake recipe online, when looking for a soup idea.  It was on the same page as Parsnip & Split Pea Soup: I got side-tracked and thought I would give it a go.  (I did make the soup too and must post it sometime.)  The finished cake really didn’t taste of beetroot.  My family could not work out the ‘secret ingredient’ in the cake and thought the red splashes might be dried cranberries or cherries.  When first mixed the bright pinky-red cake mix was rather unnerving, but the resulting cooked cake was surprisingly un-red.  Actually I was rather sorry about that, but the cake itself did not disappoint.  It was moist and delicious, especially when still warm and was not too sweet.  The grated beetroot had become slightly caramelised, with a lovely crunch from the added seeds.   I will definitely be making this again and not just because it is a talking point.   It has started me wondering about using other root vegetables in cakes.  I wonder what parsnip would be like: it’s already quite sweet so could be a good candidate for an experiment.  There is an interesting sounding recipe for Parsnip, Lemon & Walnut Cake on the Good Food Channel website, but I would be pleased to have other recommendations.

The original recipe for Beetroot Seed Cake came from Nigel Slater’s column in the Guardian online (April 2007).  The only change I made was with the oven timings, as I found it needed a longer cooking time: about 1hr 10-15 mins rather than 50-55mins.  The cake looked rather strange at the stage when the oil, sugar and egg were combined, but became more like a conventional cake mixture when the dry ingredients were added.  I used a third each of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and linseeds but these can be varied according to personal preference.  I decided to leave my cake as it came from the oven, however Nigel Slater suggests topping the cooled cake with a drizzled scented icing made from 8tbsp sieved icing sugar combined with either lemon juice or orange flower water and sprinkled with poppy seeds.  This should be left to set before serving.

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Beetroot Seed Cake
(Serves 8-10)

225g/8ozs self-raising flour
2.5g/½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Scant 5g/1tsp baking powder
2.5g/½ tsp ground cinnamon
180m/6½fl ozs sunflower oil
225g/8ozs light muscovado sugar
3 eggs
150g/5½ozs raw beetroot
juice of half a lemon
75g/3ozs sultanas or raisins
75g/3ozs mixed seeds (25g/1oz each sunflower, pumpkin, linseed)

1.  Preheat oven 170oC Fan oven/180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Line a 20cm x 9cm x 7cm loaf tin with baking parchment.

2.  Sift together the dry ingredients: flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cinnamon.

3.  Beat the oil and sugar together until well creamed. Separate the eggs and reserve the whites for later.  One by one gradually introduce the beaten egg yolks to the mixture and mix in well.

4.  Peel the beetroot, grate it coarsely and fold it into the mixture.  Add the lemon juice, raisins or sultanas and the  seeds. Fold in the dry ingredients.

5.  Beat the egg whites until they are light but not too stiff.  Gently but thoroughly combine them with the mixture using a large metal spoon.

6.  Turn the mixture into the prepared cake tin.  Bake for 70 – 75 minutes.  Cover the top of the cake with some tin foil after 30 minutes. When cooked the cake should be moist inside but not sticky.  A skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean if it is cooked.

7.  Leave the cake in the tin for 20-25 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

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This recipe is based on the ‘Knock Up’ Fruit Cake basic recipe, with apricots, dates and brazil nuts taking the place of the dried mixed fruit.  This version would be good for a special occasion as it uses more expensive ingredients: I made it  when my mother came to tea with us on Mothering Sunday.For this cake the quantity of mixture was doubled, using five eggs and it was then divided between two equally sized tins.  I mixed the cake mixture the evening before it was baked the following lunchtime, covering and leaving it in the fridge overnight.  I had not tried doing this before but it did not affect the finished cake in any way.  I would definitely make this fruit cake in advance again if necessary.  The sugar topping was added just before the cake was baked.  In this case I was over generous with the sugar I had reserved, but the cake ended up with a lovely thick and crunchy sugared topping.

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Apricot, Date & Brazil Nut Cake

Basic Recipe: Knock Up Fruit Cake without the dried mixed fruit, plus … 

4ozs/125g dried apricots, cut into 3
4ozs/125g pitted dates, cut into 3
2ozs/65g brazil nuts, chopped (large pieces)

Mix and bake the cake using the basic recipe instructions, replacing the mixed dried fruit at Step 5 with the apricots, dates and brazil nut pieces and sprinkle over reserved sugar for a crunchy topping.

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This is the fruit cake version of the Adaptable Sponge, given to my mother by a friend, Dorothy Spicer.   We have both been making it for many years and it can be different every time as the ingredients are varied.  If you use the ‘Knock Up’ Fruit Cake method to make a cake, then please consider sharing your version with me and others via the comments below – thank you. 

The basic recipe can be adapted by varying the dried fruits, replacing some or all of the mixed dried fruit with dried apricots/dates/figs/cranberries, glacé cherries, crystallised ginger, nuts or seeds.  Some of the the flour can be replaced with cocoa to give a chocolate fruit cake.  The mixed spice can be omitted or replaced with dried ginger or another flavouring.  The milk can be replaced with orange juice.  Orange zest can be added as well.  I usually double the quantities below, making either two small or one large cake and will take 2hrs – 2hrs 15mins in the oven.  For this doubled quantity I used 5 eggs.  Some links to adaptations of this basic method are listed after the recipe. 

100_4864 Knock up cake

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Basic Recipe: ‘Knock Up’ Fruit Cake 

5ozs/140g soft margerine
2 or 3 eggs, depending on size
8ozs/250g self raising flour
2 fl ozs/60ml milk
5ozs/140g caster sugar – reserve 1-2tbsp for cake topping (optional)
10ozs/285g mixed dried fruit (replace some fruit with cherries – optional) 
1 level tsp/5mg mixed spice 

1.  Preheat oven 150oC/300oF/Gas 2  

2.  Grease and line a loaf tin. 

3.  Cream the margerine and sugar together until soft and fluffy. 

4.  Gradually add the eggs to the mixture a little at a time and one by one, mixing well each time some is added. 

5.  Put the mixed fruit into a bowl and add 2 or 3 tbsp flour.  Put the mixed fruit and flour mixture into the sieve and toss so the flour goes into the mixture and the fruit is coated with flour. (This will help stop the fruit from sinking.)  

6.  Sieve the remainder of the flour and the mixed spice into the cake mixture.  Gently fold the fruit and flour into the mixture as well. 

7.  Add the milk and gently mix in. 

8.  Spoon into the pre-lined tin and smooth the top.  Sprinkle over any reserved sugar to give a crunchy top. 

9.  Bake in the centre of the oven for about 2 hours, although check to see if it is cooked after 1hr 45minutes as it can become dry if overcooked.  A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake will come out clean if the cake is cooked. 

10.  Turn out and cool on a wire tray. 

Further uses and adaptations of this basic recipe:
(Please leave comments about the following recipes with the recipe at the link given rather than here – thanks!)

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Apricot, Date & Brazil Nut Cake








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Ginger Fruit Cake
(from 30.3.11)




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This is a very old recipe the original of which my mother still has, written out in my childhood handwriting.  I was probably about eight, or so – I seem to remember that it came from the Girl Guides, but I might be wrong!   It is called a Tea Bread: both made with tea and eaten for tea.  Bran Brack is also sometimes known as Bara Brith or Barm Brack – and before you ask, I know that bran is not listed below. (I haven’t missed an ingredient from the original recipe when I typed it in!)

It is really important not to omit the soaking in tea, preferably overnight: essential for re-hydrating and plumping up the dried fruit.  Providing you have thought ahead and done this Bran Brack is a simple and quick cake to make and is very moist with a high proportion of dried mixed fruit.  The quantity of fruit could be reduced but it is this generous amount that makes Bran Brack so delicious.  The tea needs to be fairly strong: strain off tea left over in the teapot until there is enough to make a cake!  I use a standard, everyday tea: we drink Sainsbury’s Red Label (preferably the loose version) which is Fairly Traded.  (Substituting speciality teas could give a different flavour, but I have not experimented with this alternative.) Butcher, Baker has a recipe for Bara Brith including about 2tbsp marmalade, which sounds good, but have not tried it.  A teaspoon of mixed spice could also be added for flavour.  It is worth doubling the quantity to make a larger cake, or perhaps two cakes.  Bran Brack keeps fairly well but once made it gets eaten very quickly.  Bran Brack is a fat free cake/tea loaf.  It is, however, delicious spread with butter, especially if eaten fresh and slightly warm. Please note that the original quantities were written as Imperial measurements and the metric is as close as I can get.

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Bran Brack – Irish Tea Bread
(makes 1 x aprox 2lb loaf)

12ozs/375g Mixed Dried Fruit
8fl ozs/225ml strong cold tea
4ozs/115g soft dark brown sugar
8ozs/225g Self Raising flour
1 egg

1.  Soak the fruit and sugar in the cold tea, preferably overnight.

2.  Pre-heat oven to 170oC/325oF/Gas 3

3.  Line a 2lb loaf tin.

4.  Mix the egg and the flour with the ingredients that have been soaking overnight.

5.  Pour into the prepared tin.

6.  Bake for around 55 mins – 1 hour and turn out when cool.  Cool on wire tray.

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Mocha Fruit & Nut Cake
(a variation on Bran Brack using coffee and chocolate chips)

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Chocolate and orange complement each other so well (think Terry’s Chocolate Orange, although don’t try to copy the TV advert and knock the cake on the table to break it into segments!).  This recipe arises from an experiment and is the second version I have made.  The first reason for the experiment was to see if I could replicate a good Chocolate Orange flavour successfully in a cake.  I decided that with two flavours this was the ideal candidate for a marble cake, where the batter is divided into two (or more) portions each coloured and/or flavoured separately and then randomly placed in the tin.  The result is a very attractive patchy cake where every slice is unique.  The chocolate part was easy: cocoa  powder supplemented with some good quality chopped chocolate.  I used Green & Black’s Fairtrade cocoa (I had been itching to open a newly bought tub anyway) and wonderfully rich Dark Cooks Chocolate (72% cocoa – silver & brown wrapper), available from the baking sections of most larger supermarkets.   Getting a good orange flavour, however, proved less easy.  My first version of the cake just did not have enough juicy orange flavour.   Even though I used orange zest and orange juice (in place of milk) throughout the cake and not just in the orange half, adding some mixed peel as well, the flavour was overpowered by the chocolate.  This started me thinking: I could not use any more orange juice as it would make the cake too wet.  How about using marmalade, I reasoned? ….. Then I had an epiphany!  I made the Fragrant Marmalade Cake and realised that what this cake actually needed was a good hit of Orange Flower water.  Scent and taste are so closely linked that this lifts the orange flavour to a whole new level: the first warm slice, eaten with my eyes shut was heavenly!   Next time I might just add the marmalade and/or try chopped orange flavoured chocolate as well:  I will update the recipe, if necessary, to include any more improvements.

As for the cake mixture recipe, I used one handed down in our family, which I have dubbed The Adaptable Sponge.  The other half of the experiment was to try making this adaptable sponge recipe in a loaf or deep round cake rather than for the shallow sandwich style ones we usually made. (It can also be quickly made to top a helping of stewed fruit, then baked to give a sponge topping for dessert.)  This second experiment was also successful and I think this versatile sponge mixture will be used again and again in a variety of disguises: one of the beauties being that you never have to look up the recipe as long as you are able to weigh the eggs.  (See entries at the bottom of The Adaptable Sponge page, where more links will gradually be added – currently just this recipe!)

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Chocolate Orange Marble Cake

The Adaptable Sponge mixture using 3 eggs – I used a loaf tin

Additional ingredients:
2tsp Cocoa powder – but more/less if you wish
25g/1oz cooking chocolate (chopped block or chips) – plain or orange flavour
Zest of 1 large orange, but no pith
1tbsp orange flower water
1tbsp marmalade or mixed peel (optional, again adjust to taste)

1.  Mix the cake as above adding the zest to the undivided mixture before the flour and the milk. 

2.  Once the flour has been added, divide the mixture into two bowls.  To one bowlful add 2tbsp sieved cocoa powder, the chocolate chips and about 1tbsp milk.

3.  To the second bowlful add the mixed peel or marmalade (if using) and mix in 1tbsp orange flower water.

4.  The mixtures need to be of a similar consistency, but not too runny, so add a little more milk if needed (or gently stir in a tablespoonful more flour if absolutely necessary and the mixture seems too  runny)

5.  Alternately and randomly put tablespoonfuls of the different coloured mixtures into the prepared tin.  When all the mixture is finished up, using a skewer going down to the bottom of the tin, carefully make a zig-zag through the mixtures to give a random pattern.  (If using a round tin try using the skewer to make radiating spokes from the centre, either in one direction or alternately middle to rim and then rim to middle.)

6.  Bake in the centre of  the oven: 170oC/325oF/Gas 3 for 50-60 minutes, or until well risen.  A skewer inserted into the centre of the baked cake should come out clean.

7.  Turn out onto a rack. 

8.  Optional:  Before the cake cools, for a pronounced orange flavour, blend together 1tbsp hot water and 1tbsp sugar until dissolved and add 1tsp orange flower water.   Use the skewer to make a number of deep holes in the surface of the hot cake and gently pour over the mixture allowing it to soak in.  It will leave a fragrant sticky sugary crust.

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Why the Adaptable Sponge, you might ask? Well, the weights of the basic ingredients of  this cake depend on the weight of the eggs, whole and in their shells. This means that you never have to worry about whether your eggs are small or large, because the other ingredient amounts are simply ‘adapted’ to suit.  Your calculations might look a little strange, but they will work perfectly. Rather than this Adaptable Sponge recipe, for fruit or fruit and nut cakes the Basic Recipe: ‘Knock Up’ Fruit Cake should be used either in its original or an adapted version.

This useful method has been handed down to me: I learned it from my mother, who learned it from hers … I had not used it for some time, but I checked the method with mum and can see it being much used now it has been resurrected.  We use it particularly when making a Victoria Sponge type of cake (but obviously not a fatless sponge) where one or more of the layers are sandwiched together.  It can also be used to make a larger flavoured cake or it can have other items added. Additionally, this is always the recipe I use if I am making sponge topping for a hot fruit dessert. (See Sweet Crumble Mixtures for fruit suggestions.)  Some alternative uses and adaptations of this basic method are listed after the recipe.  If you use The Adaptable Sponge method to make a cake, then please consider sharing your version with me and others via the comments below – thank you.

The Adaptable Sponge
(Multiply ingredients according to the number of eggs used)

Soft Margerine or Butter
White sugar, caster if available but not absolutely necessary
Self-raising flour
a pinch of salt (can be omitted if you wish)
A little milk

1.  Pre-heat oven and line any tins to be used.

2.  Weigh the egg or eggs while still in their shells.  Using the figure on the scales weigh into three separate bowls exactly the same amount of fat, exactly the same amount of sugar and exactly the same amount of flour, plus a little more: I usually add about 1tbsp flour extra per egg. (Obviously you can do this using either imperial or metric measurements, but I suggest that you do not mix the two.)

3.  Proceed as normal for cake making:  Beat the fat and sugar together in a bowl until creamy.  Break the eggs into a small cup and beat in the beaten egg a little at a time.  Essences or extracts, such as vanilla, almond or rum, can also be added according to personal taste. 

4.  Sift the flour and salt (if using).  For a chocolate cake remove some flour and replace it with cocoa powder: about 1tbsp per egg.  Ground spices, if desired, are added as an extra along with the flour.  Gently fold in. 

5.  Thin with a little milk: about 1tbsp per egg (strong cold coffee, orange or lemon juice give a different flavour). 

6.  Spoon into a prepared tin and bake: temperature 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  I used 170oC/325oF/Gas 3 for the deeper tin to allow the cake to cook thoroughly. When cooked (when well risen, around 40-60 minutes, depending on thickness) turn onto a rack to cool. A skewer inserted into the centre of the baked cake should come out clean.  Finish as you wish: dusted with icing sugar or cocoa, topped with melted chocolate or glace icing (and possibly decorated as well), two or more layers sandwiched together with cream or buttercream, glazed with a sugar syrup mixture while still hot (see Sylvia’s Lemon Drizzle Bread), or simply left plain.

Further uses and adaptations of this basic recipe:
(Please leave comments about the following recipes with the recipe at the link given rather than here – thanks!)

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Fragrant Chocolate Orange Marble Cake (pictured)
(More uses and adaptations to follow)

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In the early 1980’s our church home bible study group used to meet at Sylvia’s house and sometimes she made us cake to go with our tea and coffee.  This was one of our favourites and I managed to get her to let me have the recipe.  I love the mixture of Orange and Lemon zests that flavour the cake, as well as the crunchy sticky lemony topping and moist inside. 

Sylvia always called it Lemon Bread, but as it is so similar to Lemon Drizzle Cake, I have slightly amended her title.  Be sure to pour the topping over as soon as the cake comes out of the oven: it will not be absorbed properly if the cake is allowed to cool.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Sylvia’s Lemon Drizzle Bread
(Makes 1 x 2lb loaf)

8ozs/225g caster sugar
3ozs/85g soft margerine
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Grated rind of 1 orange
1 large egg, beaten
8ozs/225g plain flour
1 level tsp/5g baking powder
¼pint/5 fl ozs/140ml milk
For the topping:
Juice of 1 lemon
1tbsp/15g caster sugar

1.  Line the tin with baking parchment.  Pre-heat the oven to 180oC/170oC Fan/350oF/Gas 4

2.  Beat the caster sugar and margerine until well combined.  The mixture will look like dessicated coconut when it is fully combined. 

3.  Beat in the lemon and orange rind along with the beaten egg.

4.  Sift the flour and baking powder together and stir them into the mixture with the milk.

5.  Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake on the centre shelf of a moderate oven for 70-90 minutes.

6.  While it is cooking, make the topping: squeeze the lemon juice and mix with the caster sugar.

7.  Remove the cake from the oven and immediately take it from the tin and peel away the parchment.  Place the cake on a wire rack with a plate underneath to catch any lemon topping drips.

8.  Carefully pierce the top surface of the cake with a thin skewer (or a fork).  Slowly and carefully pour over the lemon topping, allowing it to soak into the surface rather than run off onto the plate.  Any that does run onto the plate can be poured back into the jug and then over the cake again.

9.  Leave to cool thoroughly before serving.  The lemon topping should have penetrated well into the cake which will be moist and lemony.  Although it is called bread it does not need butter, however it would be extra delicious spread with home made Lemon Curd.

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