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Archive for the ‘Cakes-Pastries’ Category

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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So, here we are in a New Year with Christmas over and just a few remnants of festive foods lurking in the fridge and cupboard.  This recipe is one of the best I know for using up the last of the mincemeat, but actually I would happily open a new jar to make this.  There are two recipes for sweet mincemeat on this site.  Most recently I have added a delicious Suet Free Mincemeat which is ideal for this recipe.  There is also Last Minute Mincemeat, a method for augmenting a standard shop bought jar and very helpful if you have just small amount left over from Christmas.  (For a small quantity for each 4tbsp mincemeat add around 3tbsp dried mixed fruit, 1tbsp brandy, 2tbsp orange juice and 4 chopped glace cherries.)  About half a jar full is needed for the recipe, but if it is slightly less don’t worry.  If you are just slightly short of the quantity required, a third and very quick method would be to simply add a scattering of mixed dried fruit.  For the record, another good way of using up leftover sweet mincemeat is in a Candlemas Crumble, which is good at any time, not just on 2nd February!  I served a large (double sized) version of Mincemeat & Almond Delight at this year’s New Year’s Day meal for our extended family as an alternative to a Sherry Berry Jelly Trifle.  Most people ate seconds, coming back for the pudding they had not tried first time round! 

The recipe for Mincemeat & Almond Delight comes from The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cookbook.  It is a shortcrust pastry flan case filled with Mincemeat and sliced banana and covered with an almond mixture similar to that in Bakewell Tart, known as crème d’amande (almond cream).  French Style Pear Tart/Pear Pie Bordalue (Tarte aux Poires), also with crème d’amande, uses a similar method and a recipe will eventually also be posted here.  I am indebted to Clothilde at Chocolate & Zucchini (one of my favourite blogs) in her post  about Galette des Rois (something else I fully intend to make one day!)  She helpfully writes:

“There is a lot of confusion between crème d’amande, and frangipane, so here’s the difference: crème d’amande (almond cream) is a simple mix of butter, sugar, ground almonds, and eggs, more or less in equal parts. Frangipane, on the other hand, is a blend of crème d’amande and crème pâtissière (pastry cream), which is made with eggs, milk, sugar, and flour or cornstarch.” 

So now you – and I – know the difference.  Having written that the filling for this recipe and the Pear Pie Bordalue was Frangipane I now stand corrected and I have amended my words accordingly.  Thanks Clothilde!  The original recipe used a butter rich pastry crust, but I opted for a standard Shortcrust Pastry using my usual method.  I also finished the tart with a sprinkling of split almonds, toasted as the tart baked, which gave a Bakewell Tart appearance.  This recipe can also be made as individual sized tarts for tea time. 

Mincemeat & Almond Delight
(Serves 6)

Shortcrust Pastry to line a 20cm/8inch flan case
50g/2ozs butter
50g/2ozs caster or soft brown sugar
50g/2ozs ground almonds
2 eggs, lightly beaten
a few drops almond essence, extract if you can get it
225g/8ozs mincemeat (about half a jar – see details above)
2 bananas, thinly sliced 
25g/1oz split almonds to finish (optional)

1.  Make the shortcrust pastry (I used 6ozs flour and 3ozs fat). Wrap in plastic and leave in the fridge to chill for at least 30minutes.

2.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.   Roll out the pastry and line the greased and floured flan case.   Fill with beans and bake blind for 10minutes.  When cool enough, remove the beans and when cool store for another use.

3.  Reduce the oven heat to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.

4.  Make the almond cream. Cream the butter and sugar together.  Gradually beat in the egg.  Add the ground almonds and almond essence and mix together well.

5.  Spread the mincemeat evenly into the pastry case and cover with the slices of banana.

6.  Pile the almond cream on top of the banana and spread evenly to the edges of the case.

7.  Sprinkle with almonds and bake for 35-40minutes until golden brown. 

8.  Best served hot or warm, but also good cold.  Serve with custard and/or cream, crème fraîche or soured cream.  If you have leftover brandy butter it can be served with this tart.

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A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY READERS

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

Starry Night Christmas Cake 2010

I am seeing stars this year – and am very pleased with the outcome of this year’s cake.  I was inspired by some pretty transparent ribbon with glittery stars and a wired edge, which I have used around the outside of the cake.   The cake, using the basic recipe for our family favourite Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake, was first covered with a marzipan layer followed by a layer of shop purchased white fondant icing, having previously reserved just enough to cut out the overlapping stars.  (The decision to have a non asymetric design was deliberate, by the way.)  I rolled the marzipan and the icing out between two sheets of cling film which helped avoid sticking.  I used three different sized star cutters and three different types of silver decoration: silver balls (readily available in supermarkets), tiny sugar pearls (Belbake brand, bought in our local Lidl supermarket – I actually hand picked out just the silver ones as they were mixed silver and gold!) and The Sparkle Range Rainbow Dust edible glitter, colour Hologram Silver. This came from a (new to me) local very small specialist shop: Lilac Domino’s, Unit 15, Wood St Indoor Market, Walthamstow, LONDON, E17.  The friendly helpful owner deserves a little plug here – it’s good to support local small businesses!

The ribbon came from one of our many inexpensive £1 – or 99p – shops.  I bought it  last year and got 5 rolls for 50p in the post Christmas sale!  The starry silver and gauze runner used underneath came from the same shop – also a 50p sale item.

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At the end of November I made several cakes to feed friends at a church event, settling on a Mixed Fruit & Ginger version of our favourite (never known to fail) Knock Up Fruit Cake, a double sized Fragrant Marmalade Cake, made in two sandwich tins with more marmalade spread in the middle plus, as a nod towards Christmas and having come across the recipe the previous week, these White Christmas Slices.  They proved to be very ‘moreish’ and I am thinking of making some more batches to give away at Christmas.

I discovered this competition winning recipe by Caroline Richards for White Christmas Slices in my local Sainsbury’s supermarket: one of many free cards available, in this case giving new ideas for Christmas food.  It appealed because, not only did I have everything available at home (apart from the inexpensive and easily bought coconut biscuits and the white chocolate), it also looked quick, easy and did not require baking.  I rarely make a recipe exactly as written and adapted this just a little.  Firstly, I cut the amount of butter by one third as I do not like to add too much unnecessary fat.  Secondly, I felt the original recipe was lacking something and decided the something was fruit, or similar.  To compensate I added dried cranberries to give one of the flavours of Christmas: glacé cherries, sultanas/raisins, dried apricot, fig or date or even crystallised ginger could be added instead.  In fact I have decided that this successful – and useful – little recipe is highly adaptable, so variations may be posted here.  I have my eye on a gingery version, which I know would be a great hit here!  These slices are quite rich so do not make them too large:  I cut mine into bite sized squares.

Update 22.12.12:  I have just made my third batch of these this year – they go like hot cakes, or should that be hot slices!  I have also made Nigella Lawson’s Sweet & Salty Crunch Nut Bars, from her new book Kitchen, but the post will have to wait for another occasion.

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

White Christmas Slices
(Makes 20-24 small pieces)

200g dark chocolate
75g unsalted butter
400g coconut cookies
2tbsp runny honey
200g white chocolate
50g desiccated coconut
50g dried cranberries or alternative (see my suggestions) – optional

1.  Gently heat the dark chocolate, butter and runny honey together in a pan, stirring with a spoon until the chocolate and butter are melted.

2.  Crush the biscuits in a bag until they are large chunks and crumbs.  Do not crush too much.  Add to the melted chocolate along with the dried cranberries, if using. 

3.   Carefully stir, continuing for about 5 minutes until well coated and so the mixture starts to cook.

4.  Using a spoon, press the mixture down well into a 30cm x 20cm baking tray lined with foil (or cling film as suggested in the original recipe, but foil is easier to handle).

5.  Gently melt the white chocolate over a low heat.  Do not overheat as the white chocolate spoils very easily. Drizzle over the biscuit base and spread out. (The base may be unevenly covered and dark patches may show through, but this does not matter.)

6.  Sprinkle over the desiccated coconut.  Place a layer of cling film on top and chill for 4 hours.  If you are short of time then the covered tray can be placed in the freezer for about an hour, but do not leave too long as chocolate is better if it is not frozen for an extended period.  Do not cut from frozen as it will shatter. 

7.  Once it is set, place the block on a board and while it is still cold cut into small squares with a sharp knife.  If it warms up it is more likely to crumble, and should be returned to the fridge to harden before cutting.   I cut my block 6 squares by 4 squares, giving 24 bite sized pieces.

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This is a very special recipe, one I turn to again and again for a rich fruit cake: for Christmas, Easter or even the occasional ‘special’ birthday.  (It would also make a good wedding cake, but that is outside my experience.)  Its full title in my recipe file is Special Occasion Cake (from Mrs Maud Farrant) written in my mother’s hand.  As with all good recipes it is a ‘hand-me-down’.  I am the third generation, at least, to use it.  It came from my father’s mother, my ‘nanna’ as we called her and through her daughter, my aunt, to my mother.  Each time I make this recipe I do so with a sense of pride and connection with the past, especially as my nanna and aunt are no longer with us.  It is especially lovely to have it each Christmas and also to turn it into an Simnel Cake at Easter.  I really hope that the tradition will continue with my own daughter: that in years to come I will be able to eat a slice of a cake from the same recipe in her home!

Here is this year’s Christmas cake, made a little later than I had hoped but looking just as tasty as usual. Each year it is decorated slightly differently. This year it will be a version of the traditional topping of marzipan and icing (the photo will appear on this page in due course). Last year I finished the cake with an unusual sweet and crunchy Florentine topping, from an idea in Tesco’s 2009 free instore magazine which I will definitely be repeating (recipe and picture further down). I have also often made it into a Dundee cake, covered with concentric rings of nuts and glacé cherries before it was baked. Our last Dundee Cake was before I started this blog so there are no photos, but it is about time we ate one again. Perhaps Christmas 2011 unless I develop another plan. (As mentioned before I also use this recipe for my Simnel Cake at Easter and more recently for our Silver Wedding Celebration Cake – pictures and details below or by following the link.)

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

Although this cake doesn’t take long to mix, it is really important to have the timings in mind. For best results it needs to be started in advance, preferably the day before as the fruit needs to be soaked in alcohol and plump up. Actually, I have forgotten this several times and it is still delicious – just leave for as long as possible and go ahead. Remember too that the cooking time is around 2¼hours, give or take a bit, so if you put it in the oven late in the evening (again I admit to doing this) plan to stay up past midnight waiting for it to cook – you have been warned! Some people like to ‘feed’ a cake by piercing the bottom of the cooked cake with a skewer and pouring over a small amount of additional alcohol. There was no instruction to do this in the original recipe and I know my mother does not, however, as recommended by others, I feed my Christmas Cake just a little and like to think it is an improvement. I never feed a Simnel Cake and we enjoy it just as much. It all comes down to personal preference. (The measurements given are Imperial and I am loth to convert the original as I am afraid that adjusting the measurements may make the cake less successful.)

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Basic Recipe: Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake
*Mixed dried fruit can be either a combination of sultanas, raisins and currants or the ready mixed variety with mixed peel included, in which case add an extra 2ozs mixed fruit instead of adding the peel or add another 2ozs glacé cherries.

Start this recipe in advance and soak the mixed fruit in the brandy at least overnight.
2tbsp brandy (rum can be used as an alternative)
1½lb (or 1lb for a less rich and heavy cake) mixed dried fruit (*see note above)
2ozs peel (unless using mixed fruit with peel – *see note above)

8ozs butter, at room temperature
8ozs soft brown sugar
3 large or 4 small eggs
10ozs self raising flour
large pinch salt
1 level tsp mixed spice
1 level tsp cinnamon
2ozs glacé cherries (*see note above)
1oz blanched chopped almonds or flaked almonds
a little milk to mix, if required

1.  Place the mixed fruit in a bowl, pour over the brandy and cover.  Leave to soak overnight.

2.  Line a 8-9inch loose bottomed tin with non stick baking parchment.  I do this by cutting a ring for the base and a long strip that is 2 inches more that the width and height of the sides.  Fold up the spare 2 inches of liner along the long side and cut into it at about 1inch intervals up to the fold along the entire length.  Use this to line the inside of the tin, folding in the cut pieces to part line the bottom.  Place the circle of liner on top.  It should not need greasing, but you may just like to add a few dabs of oil to help it adhere to the tin.

3.  Preheat the oven to 150oC/140oC Fan/300oF/Gas 2.

4. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and very creamy.

5.  Break an egg into a jug and gently mix with a fork.  Add a little at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating well between each addition.  Continue in the same way until all the eggs are added.  Beat the mixture very well.

6.  Add the soaked fruit, cherries and almonds and mix in well.

7.  Sift the flour, ground spices and salt into the cake mixture and gently fold in, until the flour has disappeared.  Gently stir a little milk to the mixture if it seems a little stiff.

8.  Tip the mixture into the prepared tin, pressing down well into the bottom and smooth out so the top is flattened.

9.  Make a collar out of three or four sheets of newspaper about twice the height of the tin and tie in place around the cake with string.  This prevents burning.  (I find the Waltham Forest Guardian makes an excellent ring, but doesn’t add anything particular to the taste – so feel free to use any newspaper!)

10.  Place in the centre of the preheated oven.  Check after 2hours by gently pressing the top to see if it is still spongy and/or inserting a skewer to see if it comes out cleanly.  I usually find that it needs a further 15 minutes in my oven but the original instructions specify 2½ hours (and in one place it says 2½ to 3hours – a non fan oven instruction).

11.  When cooked remove from the oven, take off the newspaper collar, ease out of the tin and remove the lining paper.  Place onto a wire rack to cool.

12.  When cold the cake can be stored in a tin until it is ready to be finished.  Place it on the lid of the tin and cover with the upside down tin base.  (Label the bottom ‘this way up’ so no one forgets!)  If you want to ‘feed’ the cake pierce the base, not the top, with a skewer and gently drizzle about a tablespoon of extra brandy into the holes.  This can be repeated at regular occasions.  If I make my cake in November I usually do it four or five times between baking and the time it is decorated.

The cake is now ready to be decorated.  See below for some of the cakes we have eaten … plus decorating information.

Finishing touches …

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

Starry Night Cake – Christmas 2010
Traditional marzipan and white icing (fondant).  Design by hopeeternal
(more information about the cake and design)

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

Florentine Topping for Christmas Cake (December 2009)
(Amount generously covers a 23cm/9inch cake)

Florentine Topping is an alternative to the usual Christmas marzipan and white icing. Mixed red & green cherries, if available, would be a pretty alternative.  If you can get whole candied fruit to chop this is preferable to bought ready chopped peel in a tub. This recipe comes from the Tesco In Store Free Magazine, November-December 2009.

25g/1oz butter
2tbsp golden syrup
50g/2ozs flaked almonds
50g/2ozs roughly chopped walnuts
200g/7ozs halved red cherries
50g/2ozs chopped mixed peel
1tbsp plain flour

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180oC/160oC Fan oven/Gas 4

2. Melt the butter and golden syrup together in a pan.

3. Stir in the almonds and walnuts.

4. Stir in the cherries and mixed peel.

5. Stir in the flour and mix thoroughly.

6. Place the cake on a baking tray and spoon over the Florentine Topping aiming for as even a layer as possible.

7. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes. Gently lift onto a rack to cool and decorate with ribbon to serve.

8. Can be stored in a cake tin for up to two weeks.

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Dundee Style Christmas Cake – December 2011
Walnut halves, pecan nut halves, blanched almonds, red and green glace cherries. Design by hopeeternal
More information about this cake

Dundee Cake (simplified topping using blanched almonds & cherries)
For a generous topping use 50-60 whole blanched almonds and 12-15 halved cherries.  Start with a ring of evenly spaced nuts around the edge of the uncooked cake mixture.  Within this place a ring of halved cherries.  Then a second ring of nuts and finally a small ring of cherries and a central cherry or nut if space permits.  Try to place the nuts and cherries without smearing the cake mixture on them for a clean looking finish.  The finish can be varied by adding other nuts, differently coloured cherries or changing the design from the usual formal concentric rings.

——-

Traditional Simnel Cake for Easter
A Simnel cake can be made with brandy or rum, as in the basic recipe above, or alternatively pre-soak the fruit in the juice of half a fresh orange.  Simnel Cakes were originally made for their mothers by working children as a gift for Mothering Sunday, the third Sunday in Lent, which falls three weeks before Easter.  Nowadays Simnel Cakes are mostly eaten at Easter.  See Afternoon Tea for Mothering Sunday for more information.

A Simnel Cake traditionally has 11 marzipan balls around the edge – one for each Disciple or Apostle of Jesus, except for Judas Iscariot!  Counting is not my strong point (!)  I miscounted and managed to add 12 balls instead of the usual 11.  A pity because I was very pleased with the cake.  Here it is …

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First make the 11 small marzipan balls of around 2cm in diameter, before dividing the remaining marzipan in half.  Cut the cake horizontally through the centre into two equal pieces.  Roll one piece of marzipan into a circle.  Lightly spread the cut surface of the cake with apricot jam and place a rolled out circle of marzipan on top, putting any trimmings to one side.  Spread over a little more jam and cover with the second half of the cake. Roll a second circle from the remaining marzipan and place on the top of the cake. Trim to size and reserve the trimmings. The top can be marked in a lattice pattern, if required, using a light touch of a knife and the 11 marzipan balls are then placed equidistantly around the edge – a very little jam can be used to keep them in place.  Flash grill the top of the cake until the marzipan starts to bubble and slightly brown – take care as it burns quickly.  Any other decorations, such as sugar or foil covered chocolate eggs, fresh or sugar flowers or other items should be added when the surface is cold.

This version is decorated with a nest using the marzipan trimmings pushed through a clean garlic press to create strands.  When cool place a small pile of sugar covered chocolate eggs in the central nest.

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Silver Wedding Anniversary Celebration Cake

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

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Although some sources try to connect these pastries with Napoleon I of France, it is more likely that they originated from Naples in Italy with the connection with the Emperor made at a later date.  Mille-feuille a French word is translated literally ‘thousand leaves’, referring to the fine layers of puff pastry.  In the UK  the most common version contains thick cream or custard (and sometimes jam as well) plus a feathered decorative icing, when it is is often given the name Cream, Vanilla or Custard Slice.  Whatever the name this pâtisserie is relatively simple to make, especially as if uses ready made puff pastry (make your own if you wish), with the pastry layers made in advance and the layering done within an hour or so of eating to avoid losing the crispness.  This last stage is rather fiddly and time consuming but well worth the effort and should earn appreciative comments from those you are serving!

This recipe called Napoléons with Lemon Cream and Strawberries was found in a small book from the library: French Desserts by Laura Washburn.  It is a variation on the original plainer versions and containing layers of lemon cream and strawberries.  I felt that the finished Napoléons, whilst delicious, could be rather too acidic in flavour for some people.  Using a sweeter, less acidic, lemon curd mixed with extra cream and well sugared strawberries (rather than unsugared) could go some way to solving this.  In my version of the recipe I have substituted my own lemon curd (still lemony but milder), sugaring the strawberries well to counteract their natural sharpness. Thinking further, it would be interesting to try some more combinations using curd and cream mixtures with fruit: orange curd would go well with apricot and lime curd with stem ginger and both could have added chocolate shavings, for example.  If the curd was omitted and the cream was increased then flower flavourings such as rosewater or orange flower water would be delicious in combination with fruit. Dainty individual servings of just a bite each would make an ideal finger buffet snack or single element of a multi part dessert. There are many possibilities for these Napoléons and I shall definitely be doing some experimenting.

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Mille-feuilles Napoléon with Lemon Cream & Strawberries
Napoléons au citron et aux fraises
(Makes 10-12 pastries)

500g packet of Puff Pastry (or home made if you wish)
Milk, just a little for brushing
Caster sugar, just a little for sprinkling
2lb/900g strawberries, aproximately
4 or 5 tbsp sugar, depending on sweetness of Strawberries, more if needed
For the lemon cream:
1 jar of lemon curd, home made if possible or good quality
150ml whipping cream, Elmlea half fat if possible
Icing sugar, to dust

1.  Preheat oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6

2.  This step can be done well in advance, leaving just the finishing to be done closer to serving.  Roll the Pastry into a large oblong on a floured board and cut into 15 to 18 equally sized 2 x 4 inch/5 x 10cm rectangles.  Place these, spaced out, on baking trays.  Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for 10-15minutes, or until golden.  Carefully lift onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

3.  Slice the strawberries into thin layers, sprinkle generously with sugar and leave to one side.

4.  Within an hour or two before eating whip the cream well and thoroughly combine with the lemon curd.

5.  The pastry rectangles must be completely cool before filling.  Slice each carefully in half.  This is easiest with a serrated knife.  The pastries are made in three layers so choose the best looking top pieces and keep to one side.  The remaining pieces, either tops or bottoms, form the other layers.

5.  Layer the Napoléons together.  First put about 2 teaspoons of cream mixture on a bottom layer.  Cover with about 8 strawberry pieces.  Add a second pastry layer (this will be either a bottom or a top of the halved pieces). Follow again with lemon cream and strawberry pieces.  Finally, add one of the selected top pieces as a lid.

6.  Move each Napoléon to a serving dish as it is completed.

7.  Just before serving dust the completed plate of Napoléons generously with icing sugar.

8.  Serve with additional strawberries and extra cream.  Allow 1 or 2 Napoléons per person, depending on size of serving and appetites of diners.

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Pavlova is believed to have been created in the 1920s to honour the Russian ballerina Ánna Pávlova when she toured Australia and New Zealand, with its original creation contested by both countries.  This recipe caught my eye on a Saturday morning television programme last Summer: for some reason, until then, Irish cook Rachel Allen had passed me by.  I think it was the combination of chewy Pavlova style meringue combined with coconut, as well as the cherry and creamy filling, laced with rose water, that attracted my attention.  I made a mental note that it was the sort of recipe that my mother would like and a few months later produced it for her birthday meal, where it was extremely well received. The meringue was crunchy on the outside and satisfyingly gooey on the inside, a heavenly flavour combination with a delicate perfume – delicious!  This is a wonderful recipe for a special occasion as the meringue and the filling can be made separately in advance, with the dessert being assembled an hour or two before serving.  I have since watched several Rachel Allen programmes and copies of her books are on my ‘wish list’.  I have my eye on some of her other recipes, which may well appear on these pages in the future. 

I think the programme was called Rachel’s Favourite Food for Living and certainly there is a book with that name.  The recipe is available on the Good Food Channel website, called Pavlova Meringue Roulade with Cherries and Rosewater Mascarpone (a bit of a mouthful, I know)I like to use low fat dairy products in an attempt to be a bit more healthy, difficult I know with a rich and luxurious dessert like this one.  I had great difficulty tracking down low fat Mascarpone (30% fat), which I had never used before.  I eventually found some and used it, but decided that the recipe would be just as good, in fact better, using low fat crème fraîche (or fromage frais).  I substituted a bottle of cherries in syrup (Harvin brand from Lidl supermarket), which was drained and the cherries then spread out on kitchen paper to soak up dampness before being checked over for stones (pits).  (Reserve the cherry juice and use it in place of some or all of the water when setting a jelly.)  The bottled cherries was a good substitute for the fresh cherries used in the original, which were anyway well out of season.  The jar yielded slightly more cherries than the quantity below so I was able to serve a few extra on the side.  Rachel Allen has a second similar recipe on the Good Food Channel site for a Meringue Pavlova with a Raspberry Filling, also including coconut in the meringue and flavoured with rosewater, but with a lemon cream filling.  The basic pavlova roulade would be delicious with any number of fillings in combination with either plain or flavoured cream and I shall certainly be making versions of this recipe again. 

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Cherry & Rosewater Pavlova Meringue Roulade
(Serves 5-6)

4 egg whites
225g/8ozs caster sugar
50g/2ozs desiccated coconut
1tsp white wine vinegar
1tsp cornflour

For the filling
250g/9ozs low fat crème fraîche, fromage frais (or mascarpone, as in original recipe) 
1tbsp caster sugar
1tbsp rose water
1  x 350g jar bottled cherries
   or
300g/10½ozs cherries, halved and stoned

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 

2.  Use tin foil to line a Swiss roll tin, leaving a border of 4cm (11/2in) high all round.  Fold the sides of the foil up to make a frame, squeezing the corners together to help the sides stand upright.  

3.  Brush the foil lightly all over with sunflower or vegetable oil. 

4.  Separate the eggs and whisk the whites in a clean bowl until they form soft peaks.

5.  Carefully fold in the rosewater, the wine vinegar and sifted cornflour.  (The egg yolks can be individually frozen for use in other dishes.)

6.  Add the sugar to the egg white mixture.  Whisk at full speed for around 4–5 minutes until it forms stiff peaks that hold their shape.  

7.  Using a large metal spoon, firmly and quickly fold the coconut into the mixture. 

8.  Spoon the meringue into the prepared tin and smooth carefully into an even layer with a palette knife. 

9.  Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, watching so it does not overcook.  It should be light brown in colour and firm to the touch. 

10.  The meringue should be allowed to cool for a few minutes, before it is turned out by being inverting onto another sheet of foil.  The foil on the underside of the meringue should be very carefully removed.  Set aside in a dry place and allow to cool completely. 

For the filling 

11.  If using bottled cherries these should be drained of their juice, checked carefully for stones (pits) as not all are removed during manufacture, and allowed to dry on plates covered with kitchen paper.
   or
Fresh cherries should be carefully checked over, washed, halved, their stones removed and set aside in a cool place.

12.  Gently beat the crème fraîche with the caster sugar and rosewater.  (Use immediately or set aside in a cool place until the roulade is assembled.)

13.  Within an hour or two of eating at most, place the meringue layer on a work surface with the longest edge layer nearest you.  Spread the mascarpone evenly over the meringue leaving a 4cm/(just less than) 2 inch band along the nearest edge free of cream.

14.  Before rolling, scattering over the halved and stoned fresh cherries. 

15. Holding the edge of the foil closest to you, carefully roll up the roulade away from you until all the cream and cherries are folded inside. The exterior will crack as it is rolled.  Leave the roulade rolled in the foil until serving (it will hold together well in the fridge for a couple of hours maximum). 

16.  Just before serving, unwrap and gently position on a serving dish guided by a palette knife or cake slice.  Dust generously with icing sugar and serve a few more cherries by the side, if you wish and if available.  (A large jar of cherries is more than needed for the roulade so there will definitely be some extra.)

17.  A little pouring cream adds extra luxury.

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Around Easter, when I was searching for a recipe for Chocolate Rice Krispie Nests, the clearest recipe and the one I eventually used came from the Netmums site.  Another recipe there, for Banana Flapjacks, caught my eye and I made a mental note to try it out. Flapjacks are so simple to make: in less than 45 minutes I had a wonderful smelling batch cooling on a wire rack.  These are ideal lunch box fillers.  I made a mental note to make a larger quantity in the future: somehow 8 or 10 bars is not really enough for a hungry family! 

The original of this recipe, Banana Flapjacks, was contributed by Anne at NetmumsIt is certainly a great way to use up ripe bananas.  I have adapted it a little, adding dessicated coconut which we love and combines really well with the banana.  It is certainly worth doubling the original recipe.  Why not make two trays: one flavoured with coconut plus another with cocoa powder (an alternative suggested in the original recipe) or by replacing the sultanas with chocolate chips, a different dried fruit or nut.  (See additional recipe below.)

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Banana & Coconut Flapjack

(Makes 8-10 pieces)

40g/1½ozs butter
60g/2½ozs demerara or soft brown sugar
1tbsp golden syrup
225g/8ozs porridge oats
50g/2ozs raisins (halve quantity if dividing mixture to make two flavours)
2 small bananas
15g/½oz dessicated coconut (optional)

1.  Preheat the oven to 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.  Lightly grease a baking tray around 15cm x 20cm/6 inches x8 inches.  (Foil trays from shop bought flapjacks are ideal.)

2. Melt the butter in a saucepan or in the microwave in a microwave proof bowl. Stir in the sugar and golden syrup. Stir well. (If using a microwave it is better to melt in several short bursts of heat until the butter is just melted to avoid overheating.)

3. Mash the bananas well.  Mix into the butter/sugar/syrup mixture along with the oats.

4.  The raisins should be added at this point. 
(Alternatively two different flavours of flapjack can be made.  The above ingredients should be doubled and the resulting mixture halved, finishing each half differently: 
To the first half add raisins and the dessicated coconut (if using).
To the second half add 1tbsp cocoa powder: with either chocolate chips or more raisins – or something else, as you wish).

5.  Spread into the greased baking tray and flatten well with a fork.

6.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 mins until slightly brown.

7.  Leave to cool slightly, carefully remove from the baking/foil tray, cut into squares or fingers and leave to cool on a wire rack.

8.  Store in an airtight box or tin.

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Choc-Nut Banana Flapjack
Use above recipe omitting raisins & coconut:

2tbsp cocoa powder, sieved (or more)
50g/2oz roughly chopped hazelnuts

Eat quickly as the nuts soften and deteriorate and we felt did not keep very well.

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Choc-Cherry Banana Flapjack
Use above recipe omitting raisins & coconut:

25g/1oz dark chocolate
  (chopped or chips) 
or
2tbsp cocoa powder, sieved
and
50g/2ozs chopped glace cherries

 

 

 

Thoughts on other possible alternative combinations (untried):

Double Chocolate & Banana – add:
2tbsp cocoa powder, sieved (or more)
and
50g/2ozs chocolate chips (in place of raisins)

Chocolate, Ginger & Banana – add:
2tbsp cocoa powder, sieved (or more)
and
50g/2ozs chopped crystallised or stem ginger (in place of raisins)

Apricot-Ginger & Banana – add:
3ozs of crystallised ginger and chopped dried apricots (in place of raisins)

Date-Ginger & Banana – add:
30zs crystallised ginger and chopped dates (in place of raisins)

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