Archive for March, 2011

March ’Meanderings’ …

March was cake month.   There were so many good ones I had made in the past few months that were just waiting to be given a wider airing.

Recipes this month

Mini Sweet Heart Cakes

Whole Orange Cake                                              Cherry & Coconut Cake
Cinnamon Swirl Banana Cake                                       Ginger Fruit Cake
Mocha Fruit & Nut Cake

All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’ http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com/

Bookshelf Meanderings:
Perfect Cooking by Marguerite Patten.
This book was bought for me as a present many years ago as a ‘starter’ book containing basic recipes and a complete overview of cooking.  I have also seen the same book produced as a ‘part work’ available in magazine format purchased over a number of weeks.  I have produced a number of recipes using this book.
Already on this site: (just one so far) Cherry & Coconut Cake
On my list: Eccles Cakes, Bourbon Biscuits, Florentines, Apricot Lemon Souffle, Cyprus Chicken Salad in an Orange Rice Ring; Baked Scotch Eggs; Piperade; Salmon Pie Florentine; Salmon … Chicken Chowder; Paprikascsirke/Hungarian Paprika Chicken; Crêpes Suzettes; Savarin; Danish Pastries; Nougat; Nut Brittle; Fish in a Jacket; Spinach Niçoise; Parsnip Roast; Boston Baked Beans; Bubble & Squeak; Eskimo Risotto; Buttermilk Fruit Cake; Salmon Cream Flan; Orange Cheesecake

Blogosphere Meanderings:
This month I want to mention a fellow clergy wife, Amanda, at The Vicar’s Wife whose simple, quickly made and most importantly, delicious Whole Orange Cake I have now made many times.   Need a quick cake to take to an event?  This is the one!  The Vicar’s wife writes on life in and around her West Midlands Vicarage. There are a few more recipes there too as well as posts on a diverse range of subjects: I particularly liked the Holy Week Timeline, Resurrection Eggs (and the additional post Resurrection Eggs for Toddlers, Sunday School and Busy Vicars), Afterwards I Knew (a book review), Hallelujah in a Modern Church and A Very Short Sermon – the best type? (1minute 43seconds).  I never know what I will read next! Coming up on this site soon, my version of Amanda’s Spanish Gammon Hotpot. Other recipes she has that I particularly want to try are Lemonies, and Date and Coconut Chews.
Entertaining Meanderings: 
There was another big church lunch to cater again this month.  Four people were leaving the parish for pastures anew, including two members of staff and a church member leaving for mission work in South-east Asia.  We found ourselves catering for 150+ … and having to use the considerably larger facilities of the girls’ secondary school next door to the church.  In the end it was a fabulous occasion with plenty of food and plenty of choice with a large number of willing helpers.  My contribution was Mexican Style Chicken & Pepper Salad for 50 people using Poached Chicken Breasts, which were cooked in advance so easy to assemble on the morning and a large Black Forest Trifle.

Miscellaneous Meanderings:
I can hardly believe that I have been ‘Meandering through my Cookbook’ for two years and have posted a roundup to celebrate my 2nd blogiversary.


‘For what we are about to receive…’ April 2011

Coming in April … a change of posting plan.  Rather than a collection of similar recipes each month I am going to try posting a much broader range of recipes: both savoury and sweet.  Starting with a special Afternoon Tea on a special day for a special lady!

Happy Cooking & Eating!

 Read Meanderings ‘a la carte’ from previous months

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If I want to make a everyday fruit cake, unless it is the very rich type eaten at Christmas, this is the recipe I turn to.  The basic recipe for ‘Knock Up’ Fruit Cake, given to my mother by a friend, can easily be adapted.  This particular cake was made as a double quantity using very large tin (something I often do with this recipe) for a coffee and cake quiz evening at church.  

In this version, as well as dried mixed fruit I used some chopped crystallised ginger.  I felt that the ginger in my cupboard was a little hard, so soaked it in the milk for about 1hr to soften before cutting up and adding to the cake.  The gingery milk, of course, was reserved to add to the cake as in the instructions.  I also replaced the mixed spice with powdered ginger for an extra gingery flavour and as usual topped the cake with a little sugar for added crunch.

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

Ginger Fruit Cake

Basic Recipe: Knock Up Fruit Cake plus … 

4ozs/115g chopped crystallised ginger (soak in the 2 fl ozs milk if necessary) 
Make up quantity with dried mixed fruit up to 10ozs/285g.
Replace Mixed Spice with Powdered Ginger

Mix and bake the cake using the basic recipe instructions, weighing the ginger first  (beford soaking) and then making up to 10ozs/285g in weight with mixed dried fruit. Sprinkle over reserved sugar for a crunchy topping.

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A while ago I was invited to an ‘all girls’ afternoon tea by a friend.  Lots of tea served with dainty little savoury nibbles, scones and cake … wonderful cake!  One cake in particular took my fancy.  A moist cake filled with dried apricots and prunes which had been soaked in strong coffee.  I had made cake with fruit soaked in tea before, but never soaked in coffee.  Over the following days I did some hunting and some experimenting.  I love Mocha (the mixture of coffee and chocolate) and one recipe that caught my eye added nut chocolate to the cake mixture in place of fruits.  Unfortunately the recipe was tasty but the mixture far too moist, so not really successful.

In the end, I decided on a variation of my existing Bran Brack – Irish Tea Bread recipe (also sometimes called Bara Brith or Barm Brack) that always comes out well, but using coffee in place of tea and adding either nut chocolate or chocolate and nuts.  The coffee (preferably Fairly Traded) needs to be strong and freshly ground for best flavour.  It is very important not to omit the soaking in black coffee which is essential for re-hydrating the dried fruit to make it juicy.  Earlier in the day, when I had a cup of fresh coffee, I made an extra cup and left it to go cold.  Use Fairly Traded nuts and chocolate too, if available.  One third of the amount of dried fruit in the original Bran Brack recipe has been replaced by roughly chopped chocolate and nuts.  I used a small bar (100g) of Chocolate with Almonds plus a few extra almonds to make up the weight.  (Hazelnuts or Brazil Nuts would be equally as suitable and possibly walnuts, but not peanuts.)  It is essential that the loaf tin is properly lined with baking parchment as it is very inclined to stick.  This is a moist cake with a background coffee flavour with, providing the chocolate chunks are not too small, a concentrated taste of chocolate in some bites.  Mocha Fruit & Nut Cake is lovely with a cup of tea or coffee: delicious when still slightly warm, but much easier to cut when cold.  Perhaps I ought to re-visit the original recipe and try a version using apricots and prunes in place of the mixed fruit, nut and chocolate…

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

Mocha Fruit & Nut Cake

8ozs/225g Mixed Dried Fruit
8fl ozs/225ml strong cold black coffee (preferably freshly ground & Fairly Traded)
4ozs/115g Demerara or soft brown sugar
40zs/115g Milk Chocolate with nuts (100g bar plus a few extra of the same nuts)
30zs/85g Milk Chocolate & 1oz/30g nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, brazils) 40zs/115g in total
8ozs/225g Self Raising flour
1 egg

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

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

3.  Line a 2lb loaf tin.

4.  Chop the chocolate and nuts into large pieces. (Cut each square of chocolate  into three or four pieces.  Nuts should be chopped into 2-4 pieces each – more for large nuts.)

5.  Mix the egg and the flour with the ingredients that have been soaking overnight and the chopped chocolate and nuts.

6.  Pour into the prepared tin.  Push down any pieces of chocolate that stand out from the cake mixture so they are hidden: this prevents the chocolate from burning.

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

Bran Brack – Irish Tea Bread
(this is the original recipe)

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Cherry cake is one of my favourites and this version where the cherries are combined with coconut is extra delicious.  I first made this cake many years ago but it took me a while to track down the instructions.  I could find plenty of recipes in my many books for cherry cake and for coconut cake but not one with them together.

I finally tracked down a recipe, which I am fairly sure is the same one as at some previous date I had written in an amendment.  It was in one of the first cookery books I owned: a Christmas present from my parents when I had asked for a book with lots of basic ‘how to cook’ information.  The book is a large volume, Perfect Cooking by Marguerite Patten.  The book is divided into sections and I have seen a copy of it in file version, which makes me think it could have been published as a ‘partwork’ with a new section to collect each week.  My copy, however, is properly bound.  As I have said, I did make amendments, in particular reducing the amount of sugar by one third (from 6ozs to 4ozs) and deciding that the mixture needed just a little milk.  The original recipe also suggested a row of cherry halves could be added on top of the cake, but I found that they sunk into the mixture as it cooked and it is simpler just to mix them in.  I usually add a crunchy top by sprinkling over a little extra sugar before cooking.  The original instructions were mixed by first rubbing the fat into the flour but I decided to use the more familiar creaming method, with no noticeable effect.  It is suggested that this would be also be good eaten warm as a dessert.

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

Cherry & Coconut Cake

60zs/170g self-raising flour (or plain flour and 2 level tsp baking powder)
4ozs/115g soft margerine
4ozs/115g caster sugar
2ozs/50g dessicated coconut
3ozs/85g glacé cherries
2 eggs
1tbsp milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Line a 2lb loaf tin or 8″/20cm baking tin.

2.  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.  

3.  Mix in the dessicated coconut.

4.  Chop the cherries into three or four pieces each.

5.  Sift the flour, placing the chopped cherries in the sieve at the same time.  This means they are coated with flour and helps prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake.

6.  Mix the floury cherries into the cake, then gently fold in the flour and finally stir in the milk. 

7.  Spoon into a prepared tin and level the top.  Sprinkle with a little extra sugar for a crunchy topping.  Bake for about 1 hour.

8.  Turn onto a rack to cool.  A skewer inserted into the centre of the baked cake should come out clean.

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A Vicarage can be a busy place and this cake has proved a really useful find which is rapidly becoming a favourite.  I find it such a quick and easy make that it is perfect for when I need to rustle up cake at short notice.  It reminds me of two of our favourites: a Lemon Drizzle Cake, but much less complicated, or a Marmalade Cake without the bitter orange flavour.  The first time I made this it came out of the oven at supper time so we all had a slice of warm cake with a piece of fruit for dessert – what more could you want! 

The recipe comes by courtesy of the Vicar’s Wife: not me but Amanda, a fellow clergy wife and vicarage based blogger.   She got it from another site (probably the Australian site Best Recipes, so I suppose that might make it an Australian recipe).  I am very grateful to her for converting the quantities into something I can understand as I share her nervousness of cups and their potential inaccuracy.  (I have given the original cup quantities below too).  This cake hardly needed any adaptation, though I did make sure that I cleaned the orange well with a little detergent and then rinsed it to remove any pesticide residue – or wax added to give it shine!  (I tend to buy my fruit on our local street market so it is rarely organic.)  The original version was topped with an orange juice and icing sugar mix but I reserved a little of the sugar to sprinkle on top to give the cake our usual favourite slightly crunchy topping.  This cake can also be made in a loaf tin.  I have been thinking about how I might make some variations on the theme and will post them here if successful, so watch this space!  (I was wondering about trying Lime, perhaps Lime & Chocolate Chip or Lemon, though this could be very similar to Lemon Drizzle cake.)

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

Whole Orange Cake

1 orange, including its skin
180g soft margerine or melted butter
3 eggs
1 cup/220g caster sugar (keep 2tbsp back for the crunchy topping)
1½ cups/210g self-raising flour

1.  Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Line an 8″ cake tin. 

2.  Gently melt the margerine or butter either in a microwave proof bowl or in a saucepan on the stove top. 

3.  Meanwhile, thoroughly clean the orange with a very little detergent and rinse well.  Cut the orange into quarters and remove all the pips and the central core of white pith.  Place the orange in a blender, food processor or mini chopper and process until puréed. 

4.  Pour the melted margerine or butter and the puréed orange in a mixing bowl.  Stir in the remaining ingredients, remembering to reserve some sugar for the topping if required, until you have a rather sloppy batter.

5.  Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle over the reserved sugar. 

6.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until risen and golden brown.

7.  The original recipe had a very sweet topping made from a mixture of icing sugar, orange juice and zest and melted butter.

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A while ago a friend made a delicious cake which I think she called Cinnamon Streusel.  It was a cake batter with cinnamon flavour sugar swirled through the mixture which was then topped with drizzled glace icing – it may have had some nuts in as well.  I begged the recipe (of course!) but sadly it could not be found.  She thought it might have come from a Waitrose magazine or leaflet but I have been unable to track it down (any ideas on this gratefully received).  In spite of much searching drew a blank with finding a recipe that looked like the cake I ate.  One recipe I found, which was somewhat similar, was this variation on Banana Bread.  My usual recipe, to which I sometimes add walnuts, is OK but this sounded so much better.  The other plus is that it’s a great way of using up those soft bananas that have hung around in the fruit bowl a bit too long!

The original recipe, Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread, was a colleague’s recipe posted by Pippy on a message board back in 2005.  The recipe was in cups but I have converted it to metric and imperial.  I used four very ripe medium sized bananas (the unpeeled weight was just over 1lb).  For the crunchy texture I knew it would give to the topping, I substituted demerara in place of white sugar.  The finished article was dense and much more of a cake, so I changed the title.  The cinnamon sugar amount is rather generous and the sugar, but not the cinnamon, probably needs reducing, perhaps by a third.  For a less strong cinnamon flavour reduce the quantity of the spice in the topping mix.  This recipe gets positive feedback on the message board with one respondent renaming it ‘Cinnamon Smile Banana Bread’ because of the ‘U’ shape in the middle: as you can see mine is smiling too!

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

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Cake

3-4 over-ripe bananas, mashed (about 1lb, or just over, unpeeled weight)
100g/3½ozs melted butter
175g/6ozs white sugar
1 egg, beaten
1tsp vanilla extract
½tsp baking powder
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt (unless using salted butter)
230g/8oz plain flour
For the swirl
(this quantity is very generous – I reduce the sugar by ½-1oz, keep cinnamon the same):

100g/3oz demerara sugar
1 scant tbsp cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 170oC/325oF/Gas 3.   Butter and line a 2lb loaf tin.

2.  Mash the bananas and mix together with the melted butter, white sugar, egg, and vanilla.

3.  Sprinkle the baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt onto the banana mixture and stir in.

4.  Gently fold in flour without over mixing.

5.  Mix the demerara sugar and cinnamon together.

6.  Spoon half of the cake mixture into the loaf pan.  Sprinkle over about half of the cinnamon sugar.  Spoon over the rest of the batter and finally sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar on top.

7.  Bake for 50-60 minutes until browned.

8.  The original recipe suggests the addition of extra ingredients such as milk or dark chocolate chips or chopped nuts at the same time as the flour.  Other ideas would be crystallised ginger chunks, glace cherries, dried dates or dried apricot.  I would certainly try it with walnuts which we always enjoyed when I made my original Banana Bread recipe.

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I made these little cakes for a Valentine’s Day themed Family Funday at the church one Saturday in early February.  I had been fortuate to find some small heart shaped silicone cake moulds – 8 for £1 – in Poundland, so I took the risk and bought 2 packs.  I have read mixed reviews about silicone moulds and this is the first time I have used them and I had absolutely no problems, even though these were from the cheap end of the market.  The cakes unmoulded very easily.  I would not pay a large amount for a silicone mould as I am more than happy with my tins, but these served their purpose well.  The reason for this post is mainly to collect together ideas of fillings and toppings for small cakes.

I used the basic recipe for adaptable sponge cake using 3 eggs and kept filling cases until I had used all the mixture, making about 25, or so, cakes.  With these cakes I tried four different flavour combinations for the toppings/fillings: chocolate and cherry with drizzled rose syrup in the centre; banoffee with Dulce de Leche drizzled both on top and mixed with mashed banana as a filling; lemon curd (home made of course) topped with lemon icing and citrus jelly slices, and lastly, simple chocolate/coconut with a chunk of chocolate in the centre.  I have some other ideas for future batches of cakes: individual portion chocolates (Heroes or Celebrations) baked into the centre of the cakes (or half in the cake centre and half embedded in the iced topping), centres made from jam or marmalade or baked with fresh blackberries or raspberries.  (A full list of my thoughts are listed below.) Next time I would be a little less generous when filling the cases as one or two cakes lost their distinctive heart shape and ended up with ‘muffin tops’.  The Dulce de Leche was delicious but did not set so was rather sticky – not a topping I would use again apart from on a cake eaten as a dessert with a fork, perhaps. 

Mini Sweet Heart Cakes
(Use any shape of small cake or muffin tin with our without paper cake cases: tins and silicone moulds are available in a variety of shapes)

Basic Recipe: Adaptable Sponge Cake mixture
(This mixture can be flavoured by adding vanilla, cocoa powder, coffee or another flavoured essence, orange flower water or rose water, but obviously this will affect the entire batch.)

Suggested fillings:
Dulce de Leche
Fresh Fruit: Banana, Blackberries/Raspberries
Dried Fruit (including alcohol soaked fruit: ie. raisins soaked in rum)
Whole or halved individual chocolates
Mint chocolate
Chocolate chips – dark, milk or white
Soft fudge
Chunks of marzipan
Crystallised ginger
Dessicated coconut
Rose Syrup
Fresh whipped cream

Suggested toppings:
Chocolate – dark, milk or white
White or flavoured glace icing
Glace Cherries, sugar sprinkles, jelly fruit slices
Slices of fresh banana (must be eaten the same day)
Halved individual chocolates (other half inside)
Dessicated or shavings of coconut
Crystallised ginger
Chopped nuts/walnut halves/small brazil nuts

1.  Preheat oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4

2.  Make up the cake mixture and half fill each of the cake moulds.  If baking jam or chocolate into the centres the cases should initially be quarter filled.  Once the filling is put in (make sure this is centrally placed) top up to half full and make sure the filling is covered.

3.  Bake in an oven until risen and golden brown: 20 minutes cooking time at the most.  Remove from the tin or silicone cases (do not remove paper cases unless the cakes are going to be halved and spread with jam or similar).  Cool on a wire rack.

4.  When cooled the cakes can be finished.  Unless already filled carefully split in half and fill and add a topping of your choice.  Pipe icing if possible.

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