Monday, 24 September 2007

Sticky Ginger Cake

In my youth I was never a fan of ginger, now I’m making up for it. Everything about stem ginger makes it great for baking: its mouth-watering stickiness, its wonderful aroma that fills your head so you can’t smell anything else, its warm taste and beautiful glossy golden colour. Plus the smell of it cooking wafts gently from the oven so that eventually the whole house smells of ginger cake!

This cake is very easy to make and can also be frozen un-iced. It’s warming to eat and exactly the dense, sticky texture that you want from a ginger cake although lighter than parkin. Which is great, as it means you can eat more of it!

I’ve never yet baked it without it cracking on the top, so don’t worry – it will still look marvellous:

Cracking doesn’t matter, especially if you’re going to ice the top. I would advise this as the sweet icing beautifully compliments the warm spices, and increases the stickiness! There are options as to what icing to use – these are set out below. You could also serve it warm with custard as a pudding. I chose to use the plain icing; here it is just when the icing has been put on and is hardening:


For the cake:
225g self raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
100g unsalted butter
100g dark muscovado sugar
100g black treacle
100g golden syrup
250ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
85g stem ginger from a jar – finely grated
1 egg

For the icing:
11 tablespoons icing sugar
3-4 tablespoons water


For lemon drizzle icing:
50g icing sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon lemon juice

How to make:

- preheat oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/Gas mark 4 and line a 18cm round deep cake tin with baking paper – I prefer the cake tin liners
you can buy, the ones that look like giant cupcake cases, because then there is no need to grease the tin.
- Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, and spices into a large bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles bread crumbs. (NB. If you want your cake to be spicier, add more of the ground ginger. Don’t add more stem ginger as this is moist and will upset the balance of the cake).
- Heat the sugar, treacle, syrup and milk gently in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. You know this has happened when you cannot see grains on the back of your spoon.
- Turn up the heat and bring the mixture almost to the boil. Then turn the heat off.
- Add the grated stem ginger to the flour mixture. I find stem ginger easiest to chop in my electric mini chopper; you could grate it by hand but it is very sticky and might be tough to hold on to.
- Pour the treacle mixture into the flour mixture stirring all the time. Crack in the egg and beat until the mixture looks well combined.
- Pour the mixture into the tin. It will be very runny so don’t panic!
- Bake for approx 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. I have made this cake three times and each one took a different length of time. Definitely check it after 50 minutes but don’t panic if it needs an hour or more even.
- Leave to cool in the tin completely before turning out.
- To make the icing, put the icing sugar and water in a bowl and whisk until smooth. It really isn’t an exact science – if it looks too runny, add more icing sugar, too thick, add water until you get the consistency you want. Spoon over the top of the cool cake and let it run where it pleases.
- The lemon icing is the same method but makes less so drizzle it in a criss-cross pattern over the cake.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Custard Cream

Can’t choose between custard and cream? Why not have both? I love this because it has the flavour of custard but the lightness of whipped cream. It would work well with any cake or flan with fruit, or as a trifle topping, or just with fruit. The result you get for simply whisking together two different pots dairy products is stunningly sophisticated – a great trick to have up your sleeve when you want to impress in a hurry.

Here it is in the mixing bowl:

And here it is about to be put to good use:

Whilst making this I endured one of the saddest moments one can have in the kitchen. The death of an old friend; my vanilla il mort:


284ml double cream (whipping cream would be just as good)
500ml ready made good quality fresh custard
Vanilla extract, to taste

How to make:

- whip the cream a little on its own.
- when it just starts to thicken add the custard and vanilla.
- whip until it holds its shape taking care not to over-whip.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Apple Crumble Teacake

This could be just about the best cake in the world. It’s more than a cake, sort of a cake/dessert hybrid – and if I haven’t caught your attention with a statement like that, then what are you doing on this site in the first place?

You can serve it at room temperature for tea with some whipped cream, or warm for dessert with custard or ice cream. Or with my awesome custard cream, (the recipe for which is set out further down under the title “Custard cream”):

I love the way the apples are cushioned by the cake, it all puffs up around them while baking – it’s great when you cut a slice and get to see how far the apples have bedded down. There’s a great mix of taste and texture too – light, crumbly, buttery sponge; soft sweet apple chunks and the sugar and spice, slightly crunchy crumble topping. Heaven on a plate, and what better time of year than autumn to celebrate the apple?


For the cake:
200g unsalted butter
4 eggs
200g caster sugar
200g plain flour
2 apples (I used Braeburn but Gala or Cox would work too)

For the crumble topping:
50g caster sugar
50g plain flour
50g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

How to make:

- preheat oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/ Gas mark 4 and line a 23cm springform cake tin with baking paper – I prefer the
cake tin liners you can buy, the ones that look like giant cupcake cases, because then there is no need to grease the tin.
- Make the crumble topping by putting all the ingredients in a bowl and rubbing the butter in until you get a coarse crumb texture. Put to one side.
- Now make the cake: melt the butter in a saucepan and then leave to cool.
- Put the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and whisk. This is where a free standing mixer, such as a kitchenaid really earns its keep as you can let it whisk away whilst you get on with other things. If you haven’t got one, use as electric hand whisk as this takes a lot of whisking. At least 10 minutes. Whisk until the mixture has increased hugely in volume and is very pale and fluffy. It should soufflé up to 4 or 5 times it’s start size. In my kitchenaid it came about 2/3 of the way up the bowl.
- Add the flour and melted butter (strain the butter through a sieve so the white bits that will have formed don’t get in the mix) to the egg mix and fold in thoroughly.
- Pour (it will be runny) into the cake tin.
- Peel and core the apples and cut each one into 8 segments.
- Lay these gently on top of the cake mix; it is important that you do this carefully so they don’t disappear into the mix.
- Sprinkle the crumble topping over the apples.
- Bake for approx 1.5 hours or until a skewer comes out clean. Probably best to start checking on it after 1 hour 10 mins as different ovens cook at different speeds.
- Cool in tin. I find that the cake dips a tiny bit as it cools but nothing dramatic.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

What the Caked Crusader chose to bake to this week (22 Sept 2007)

Autumn really seemed to have arrived with a vengeance this week – dark days and chilly morning air. All rather bleak. Therefore I chose something uplifting to bake to this week: Ben Folds Five.

I was shocked that it was way back in 2000 that Ben Folds Five split up; I would never have thought it was that long a go. There were only ever three members of the group: Ben Folds (vocal and piano), Robert Sledge (bass) and Darren Jessee (drums) yet they produced a really full sound and it wasn’t twiddly studio effects because I’ve seen them live a couple of times and they were awesome then too. Why don’t more pop acts use a piano instead of a guitar? And write witty, elegant, and sometimes heartbreaking lyrics? Ben Folds may have called their music ‘punk rock for sissies’ but I don’t think does it justice; their songs did something that not much pop music manages – combining personality and intelligence with incredibly catchy tunes.

Just try singing about ‘one angry dwarf and two hundred solemn faces’ without smiling. I dare you…

Congratulations Ben Folds Five – you have officially joined the ranks of ‘good music to bake to’.

A little bit of poetry

This needs a little bit of explanation. My work colleague, Alan, is a fan of William McGonagall . Who? I hear you cry. William McGonagall is widely recognised as the worst poet ever to put pen to paper – a perfect example of the phrase ‘so bad it’s good’. He had a fondness for putting irrelevant details into his poems ranging from the full home address of someone he was writing about, to rather extreme moral judgements. He also seems to mention Dundee in practically every poem no matter where it’s set or what it’s about. In an idle moment at work, I challenged Alan to write a poem about cake in the style of McGonagall. He took the challenge and, following a lunchtime stroll along the Thames to discover his muse, produced this; it’s worth sticking to until the end as the final couplet is the best (he assures me the recipe is genuine):

Lines in praise of cake

All ye good people, afar and near
In praise of cakes pray lend an ear
There are many cakes that are lovely to be seen
And can be enjoyed whilst in the garden, amongst trees and shrubberies green

A fine cake is Battenburg, I do confess
And some like fruitcake no less
Christmas cake none shall gainsay
Is good festive fare without delay

To regard the Simnel cake is a fine food be it said
Especially when eaten after a meal with some bread
The swiss roll is also nice no doubt
And those who are hungry for cake should never be without

Cup cakes are such as to fill ones heart with glee
And almond slices are most lovely to see
But the loveliest of all is the cake of Dundee
With its fine ingredients as you shall see

Eight oz flour and one teaspoon of baking powder
And six oz butter and five oz of caster sugar
Two tablespoons of whisky, oh, thou demon Drink
And one point five oz mixed peel of which to think

Six oz of currants, raisins and sultanas without dismay
And four eggs which will be remembered for many a day
Grated rind and juice of lemon I do declare
And one oz blanched almonds to take away all care

Two tablespoons of boiled milk and one tablespoon of sugar, nice to eat
Will make this tasty recipe a most wonderful treat
It is a good cake, I venture to say,
Which I declare to the world without dismay,

And in conclusion I will say
And none shall gainsay without delay
That the bigger we our cakes do build
The greater chance we have of being filled

Monday, 17 September 2007

Caramelised Apple Cupcakes

These little cupcakes have a surprisingly delicate flavour. They are the sorts of cakes you’d see in an upmarket cake shop or tea house. If you like a gutsier cake they’re probably not for you; however, if you want a little piece of naughtiness, the evidence of which will disappear quickly, these are ideal! I used Golden Delicious apples and found them a little mild and lost in the taste of the finished cake. I think next time I'll use a more robustly flavoured apple such as a Gala or Cox.

They look very pretty:

And look nice on a plate to serve at tea. Here they are under the watchful eyes of brothers Remy and Emile, stars of Ratatouille :

I realise that it’s always good to see the inside of a cake; normal practice would be to cut one in half. I am more dedicated than that – here’s one I’ve had a bite out of!

This could be one of those ‘ok, it’s just me then’ moments but I never tire at the beauty of apple slices slowly cooking in a pan. In this photo, the apples are bathing in melted butter, and I haven’t added the sugar yet:

This will make 16 cupcakes
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
100g soft brown sugar
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
120ml milk (either whole or semi skimmed is fine, but not skimmed)
Vanilla extract

Caramelised apples:
65g unsalted butter
4 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 16 (i.e. cut each ¼ into 4)
4 tablespoons sugar

Caramel glaze:
65g unsalted butter
50g light brown sugar
225g icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk

How to make:
- preheat oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/ Gas mark 4 and line 2 muffin trays with paper cases.
- In a mixer, or by hand if you’re strong, mix the flour, baking powder and sugar.
- Add the remaining ingredients i.e. butter, eggs, milk and vanilla and beat until smooth and well mixed.
- Spoon the batter into the cupcake papers until about 2/3 full.
- Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool.
- To caramelise the apples melt the butter in a large pan then add the sliced apple. Gently turn the apple to ensure all surfaces get smothered in butter.
- When they are soft and golden (don’t overcook or the slices might break) add the sugar and remove from the heat.
- Lay four apple slices on top of each cupcake.
- To make the glaze, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the brown sugar.
- Stir until the sugar is melted then remove from the heat and whisk in the icing sugar, vanilla and milk.
- Dribble the caramel over each cupcake.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful things you have made.
- Eat.

The Caked Crusader bought this

I am a member of a group within society that is routinely subjected to discrimination: British home bakers. When I look on US websites at the huge range of available baking equipment, I feel like the proverbial child with my nose up against the sweet shop window. Why are there no UK based sellers of these products? Some lovely US sellers (hurrah), but not all (boo, hiss), will ship to the UK; however the postage can double the cost of the item as good cake tins are weighty. While I am willing to pay this I resent it – as my good friend Soo has so eloquently stated: Postage costs are a tax on the needy. (NB. Soo is, clearly, a wise woman; she is also the most talented knitter I have ever come across. I don't knit - the patterns scare me what with all those tiny boxes containing symbols - but can recognise incredible skill when I see it.)

Take this item:

It’s a two tier container for transporting cupcakes/muffins.

I had to order this from a retailer in the US.
Is this because it wouldn’t sell in the UK? I doubt it.

This is a plea to UK retailers to widen their ranges and save me from spending the equivalent of a small African nation’s GDP on international postage costs. Phew, now that rant is out of my system I feel better!

What the Caked Crusader chose to bake to this week (16 Sept 07)

I was very angry when I started my baking session on Sunday – I’d wasted almost an hour talking to the ironically named ‘helpdesk’ regarding my faulty internet connection. That meant there could only be one choice – System of a Down
For the uninitiated I admit it’s a hard sell – they’re Armenian-American heavy rockers. But put your prejudice aside and joy awaits you. I don’t like heavy metal or shouty rock yet I love SOAD. I confess I haven’t a clue what half their lyrics are on about – what is a terracotta pie? Do I even want to know? Possibly not. What could ‘wired were the eyes of a horse on jet pilot’ mean? All I know is that I want a tapeworm who’ll tell me what to do and where to go. And I really should start eating seeds as a pastime activity.
I think I enjoy SOAD so much as they have a surprisingly strong understanding of harmony and melody which makes it all the more wonderful when it disintegrates into life-affirming shout-a-longs that then pull back into quieter interludes.
Mostly, if you say a song makes you smile it’s a compliment to the performer. If it makes you laugh, and it isn’t a comedy number, that’s usually an insult. But SOAD get this reaction from me – it’s joyous music, it’s big music and EVERYONE SHOULD BE LISTENING TO IT!!!!

Monday, 10 September 2007

Genoese Sponge and Buttercream

Genoese sponge

I love this sponge because it’s versatile; it’s just as happy being a big cake as it is a cupcake. I also like it as it has more guts to it than a lightweight, taste-free, puff-of-wind sponge. It’s dense-but-still-light texture makes it perfect for more ornate cake tins as it shows off the detail of the design. The other reason I love this recipe is that the cake keeps in an air-tight tin for up to a week without any loss of quality (I only know this because I made far too many cakes last Christmas and it took a while to eat our way through them- in normal circumstances I would never have found out that it kept for a week) .

I made it as cupcakes – I split the mix in two and left one half natural whilst colouring the other half red to suit my Arsenal theme; the icing is simply icing sugar and water. I made this by trial and error adding more of either ingredient until I found the consistency I wanted (you'll notice the icing on number 11 is a bit runny so I thickened it up):

I love this aerial shot as it makes me think of synchronised swimmers. They look great in the
cupcake tree:

And I made it as a big cake:

You can really see the beautiful texture of this cake in this shot:

The cake is less dramatic without candles but you can see the 'difficult' playing surface the players are contending with - no wonder things are getting dirty. One of the blues is down but the ref's spotted it:

This is to make approx 14 cupcakes/2 x 20cm sandwich tins/1 x 23cm deep cake. Scale recipe up/down as required.
225g Unsalted butter
225g Caster sugar
225g Self raising flour
4 large eggs, beaten

How to make:
- Preheat oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C/325°F/Gas mark 3
- Grease (or brush with cake release) your chosen tins
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage as it’s the key to creating an airy sponge. I like to beat the butter on its own and then add the sugar as it seems to give a paler, lighter result..
- Add the flour and eggs a little at a time. Because you’re adding them alternately in small amounts the mix will not curdle.
- Add the vanilla and beat the mix until it’s fluffy, pale and glossy. Taste a tiny bit to ensure it tastes smooth – if you can taste any grittiness it isn’t properly mixed.
- Spoon into your tin(s) and fill ¾ full.
- Bake. The larger your cake the more cooking time it will need. Cupcakes should be checked after 20 minutes but may well take longer. Larger cakes can take anything from 40 minutes to over an hour. The key, as always, is the look and whether a skewer comes out clean. If you’re making one large cake ensure that you skewer it in different places as I often find the edges may be cooked but the centre still very raw. Be patient – it’s worth the wait!
- Let cool in tin before turning out.
- Decorate it as required – it works with anything: fresh cream and fruit, buttercream, ice cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful things you have made.
- Eat.


Buttercream benefits from prolonged beating on a high speed. The more you beat it, the lighter and smoother it becomes. There is nothing worse than gritty or greasy buttercream. It should be whipped and light so that although you’re aware it’s sickly and you’re starting to feel ill, you have to have more.
It takes colour well – here it is in a fetching shade of green to replicate the grass of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium:

The starting ratio of icing sugar to butter is 2:1. Why ‘starting ratio’? Well, it’s not an exact science and you have to use your eyes and taste to guide you. Too greasy looking? Add more icing sugar. Dry and crumbly? Add more butter. Put a tiny amount on your tongue and press it to the roof of your mouth – if you can feel any grittiness it needs further beating.
It takes any flavour but I love it with vanilla. My favourite vanilla extract is provided by
Vanilla Bazaar – what they don’t know about vanilla really isn’t worth knowing.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Vanilla shortbread biscuits and dipping sauce

Vanilla shortbread biscuits

I came across this recipe several years back in one of those Christmas recipe magazines that seem to surface October time each year. They suggested tying the biscuits with ribbons and hanging them on the Christmas tree. I can’t quite explain why this upset me so much; it’s just so wrong – you wouldn’t hang pork pies as decorations, or sandwiches, so why demean biscuits in such a way?
Anyway, I love these biscuits – they’re not really a shortbread, but they share that sort of crumbly texture although smoother. They melt in the mouth and leave you with a lovely vanilla taste and the feeling that all is right with the world.

I used an extremely small cutter as I wanted some of the biscuits to top cupcakes…(this photo shows Arsene Wenger talking last minute pre-party tactics with his team’s captain, William Gallas):

…and others to be the biscuit equivalent of crudités. The dipping sauce is quick and easy to make and the recipe follows on from the biscuit recipe; it’s also versatile and is great with a slice of cake or as the topping for trifle:

It's fun to personalise the biscuits too - for instance, to please old ladies who should know better but nonetheless still have 'fondness' for Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho:

The mix makes a lot – in fact, a whole Arsenal squad (including manager Arsene Wenger who can be seen front, centre right) :

140g Icing sugar
1 Egg yolk
250g Unsalted butter, at room temperature
375g Plain flour
Vanilla extract

How to make:
- Heat oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/gas mark 5
- Tip the icing sugar, butter, vanilla and egg yolk into a bowl and mix. I use my mixer for this but it’s possible to do it with a spoon if the butter is soft enough.
- Add the flour and mix to a dough. It comes together quite easily into a shiny, beautiful, golden dough that practical glows with buttery goodness. Using icing sugar rather than caster means the dough is exceptionally soft.
- Shape the dough into 2 discs and wrap each one in cling film. (You can if you wish, freeze the dough at this point. Make sure you defrost thoroughly before rolling out and baking. I have kept the dough in the freezer for 2 months and not noticed any dip in quality.)
- Refrigerate for 20 mins minimum.
- Line baking sheets with greaseproof or baking paper. This saves any worries about the biscuits sticking and breaking when you try to move them to a cooling wrack.
- Roll out the dough. You can do this on a lightly floured board but my big tip is to roll it out between sheets of greaseproof paper. The advantage of this, apart from making it easier, is that you don’t have to dry the mix out with extra flour. I use this method for all my pastry and dough and wouldn’t do it any other way.
- The thickness you’re aiming for depends on the size biscuit cutter you’re using. If it’s a big cutter i.e. the size of a digestive biscuit, then aim for 0.5cm. If it’s a smaller cutter you can make it a little thinner.
- Bake for 10-12 mins, but check after 10 minutes as they can burn quickly. Once they’re lightly golden, remove from oven and let cool slightly before trying to move as they are very fragile for the first few minutes out of the oven.
- Cool on a rack.
- Decorate as much or as little as you desire.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful things you have made.
- Eat.

Dipping sauce

Dipping sauce ingredients:
250g Mascarpone cheese
500ml Good quality Ready-made custard

How to make:
- Whisk ingredients together until blended, thick and creamy.
- Refrigerate until needed.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Labels: vanilla, shortbread, biscuits, dipping sauce

What the Caked Crusader chose to bake to this week (8 Sept 07)

It was a mammoth 2-day session of baking this week for my nephew’s birthday party. Day one entailed rolling out biscuit dough and icing faces on the biscuits. For this I chose Catatonia. Is it just me or is it impossible to sing along to Cerys Matthews without putting on a Welsh accent? I love her voice – it’s so raw and powerful yet can switch to soft and delicate in a second. I did learn one lesson though – it’s impossible to ice faces on biscuits if singing about ‘Road Rage’ with gusto; you can’t hold the icing bag steady!

Day two was the more labour intensive day: cupcakes and decoration, plus large party cake. For this it had to be Bobby. Bobby Darin is quite simply the best singer who’s ever walked the earth. I have every single one of his albums and have them in all saved in a single MP3 file. Put that on shuffle and you have hours of entertainment ranging from 1950s rock and roll, to big band, to protest/folk/spiritual. You never know what’s coming up next. Just hearing him close ‘I Got Rhythm’ with “anyone who wants anymore than that outta life is just plain evil” and you know you are listening to something special. Which incidentally is the title of one of his rarer recordings. Find out more at this cool fan website.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Damson Jam

The basis of this recipe comes from Delia Smith who let’s not forget, before she started yelling ‘come on, lets be avin ya’ and other strange things at football matches, was as reliable source of cookery information as our own mothers. To her recipe, I have added my own thoughts and experiences along the way.

Put bluntly, jam is not cake. It doesn’t behave like cake and it can seem a bit of a dark art. If you follow a recipe and bake a cake chances are it will work. Jam requires more judgement. However, a tree heaving with damsons and a shiny new maslin pan meant I was more than up for the challenge:

A little perseverance and you get these:

Which are full of this:

Ingredients: (reduce or increase based on how much fruit you have, but always in this ratio)
900g damsons (stoned)
700g caster sugar (if you can get jam sugar – that is sugar with pectin, you’ll get a more reliable set)
225ml water

How to make:
-Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan oven/350°F/Gas Mark 4

-Put 3 small plates or bowls in the freezer. These are needed to test if you have a ‘set’.

-Tip the sugar into a bowl and place it in the oven.

-Simmer the fruit and water and let cook for 30 minutes until the fruit is soft and breaking up.

-Give it the odd stir but mainly, just let it do its stuff on its own.

-Add the hot sugar and stir in. Feel very happy at the first jam-type smells wafting up from the pan.

-Leave, on a low heat, for 15 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. If in doubt plunge a wooden spoon into the mix and then study the back of the spoon – any granules mean the sugar has not dissolved.

-Turn the heat up to the max and boil the jam for 10 minutes. It will spit and bubble like mad and you will realise that your kitchen will need a thorough clean when you’ve finished.

-Turn the heat off. Spoon some mix onto one of the frozen plates and let cool. Push the jam with your finger – if it crinkles it’s set. If not boil for 5 more minutes. Test again. Keep doing until the jam has set. Don’t panic if you need to boil for much longer – I find that sometimes my jam sets after the first attempt, other times I can have to boil for a further 20 minutes.

-Turn the heat off and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove any scum from the surface. While you’re letting the jam cool slightly, put the jars into the oven for 5 minutes or so. If you put the hot jam into cool jars they could shatter.

-Pour the jam into the jars. I find a ladle gives the best control. Fill jars to the top and screw lids on. Don’t put anything like wax paper discs between the jam and lid – it’s not necessary.

-Don’t be scared when, as the jam cools, the lids ‘pop’. This is the vacuum happening – you know when you unscrew a new jar you get that pop as the air gets in? Well this is why that happens. Even though I’m warning you not to be scared, it stills makes me jump about 8 foot in the air when the first lid ‘pops’.

-Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.


Rum Baba Cupcakes

These are delicious juicy little sponges steeped in a sugar rum syrup. I’m not a lyrical sort of person but the only way you can understand the joy of these is if you imagine eating a cloud - a cloud that’s full of sweet sugary rain.
Serve at room temperature with whatever floats your boat e.g. cream, custard, ice cream etc. In this picture – which can only be described as food porn – I’ve served them with lightly whipped vanilla cream (which is simply cream whipped so it just holds it’s shape, with some vanilla extract – repeat extract – I will not sully my cakes with ‘essence’. Nor should you.)

125g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 eggs, separated
125g caster sugar
6 tablespoons hot milk
60g unsalted butter
Vanilla extract (put as much as makes you happy – I tend to go for 3 teaspoons)
450ml water
150g caster sugar
6 tablespoons rum
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

How to make:
-Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan oven/350°F/Gas Mark 4
-Take non-stick muffin pan (1 tray of 12 will be enough) or, if you have silicone cupcake moulds use those. Do not use any paper liners as they will disintegrate when you steep the cakes in syrup.
-Using a mixer, cream the egg yolks with sugar until pale and creamy. When the mix turns to a puffy batter you’ll know you’re there.
-Keeping the mixer running, add the hot milk, the flour, baking powder and vanilla. Mix until it looks smooth and well combined.
-In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they are stiff (i.e. you can tip the bowl and the whites don’t move) but not so stiff that they’ve lost their gloss.
-Fold the whites into the batter. Add one spoon of egg white first to slacken the mix and then add the rest. Folding is much easier when you use a metal spoon.
-Pour the batter (it will be runny) into the moulds – about ¾ full.
-Cook for approx 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. This is the ONLY way you can guarantee a cake is cooked. Remove from the oven and don’t be disheartened as your puffy little delights sink before your eyes. Be glad, as this will give you a much easier time of pouring the syrup over them.
-Leave to cool in the mould. This is very important.
-Now make the syrup. In a saucepan bring the water and sugar to the boil and then let boil for 2 minutes.
-Remove from the heat and add the rum and vanilla.
-Slowly pour over the cupcakes until all the liquid is used. At first it will look like there is far too much syrup but, if you do it in stages, your little sponges will eventually suck up all the juice.
-Keep the cupcakes in the mould until you’re ready to serve – this will allow them maximum opportunity to juice up. I’d also recommend keeping them in the fridge but make sure you serve at room temperature.
-Bask in glory at the wonderful things you have made.

Almond Cake

In terms of the greatness of reward for the minimum of effort, this cake has to top the list. This is a light crumbly sponge unashamedly packed with almond-y goodness from the aroma and delicious moistness to the lovely flaked almonds on top providing a crunchy contrast. Potentially a dangerous cake; it’s the sort of cake you could eat and eat and eat and then wonder why you felt a bit overfull (of course you will blame it on the muesli you had for breakfast for it could not be this delightful sponge which has done you wrong).

How could anyone not want a slice of this?

It is such a thing of beauty that I had to stop, mid forkful and take a photo:

225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
Almond extract (whatever makes you happy – I tend to like a lot – 3 teaspoons or so)
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g ground almonds
25g flaked almonds (or more if you fancy)

How to make:
- Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C fan oven/325°F/Gas Mark 3

- Grease and line (I use greaseproof paper or ready made cake tin liners – these are brilliant time savers as you needn’t grease the tin) a 20cm cake tin. That’s 8” for those of you over 40. Loose bottom is good, springform is even better.

- Cream together the butter and sugar. You can do this by hand but why would you when there are kitchen mixers? Do not skimp on this stage – I believe this is the most important stage of cake making. Spend some time ensuring that the mix is creamy, pale and smooth.

- Beat in the eggs one at a time. Towards the end the mix may curdle a bit; if this shames you, you can add some of the flour to stop it but there’s really no need.

- Beat in the almond extract.

- Fold in the flour and baking powder – remember, a metal spoon always gives the best results.

- Fold in the ground almonds. Make sure they are well distributed in the mix.

- Spoon into the cake tin and level off.

- Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top.

- Bake for approx 1 ½ hours or until a skewer comes out clean.

- Cool on a wire tray. I let it cool in the tin before turning out.

- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.

- Eat.

What the Caked Crusader chose to bake to this week (1 Sept 07)

Is there more perfect music to bake to than Louis Jordan? For the uninitiated Louis Jordan was a singer and saxophonist who lead his own band the Tympani 5 (there were never 5 members though – much in the same vein as Ben Folds Five) in the 1930s-50s. Not only is the music boisterous and the lyrics warm and witty but Louis also favours food themes. Having given it some thought, I can break his food songs down into the following genres; there are songs about:

Food – Beans & Cornbread, Cole Slaw
Things that will become food – Ain’t Nobody Here But Us Chickens
Places that sound like food – Salt Pork West Virginia
Places that serve great food – Saturday Night Fish Fry
People that probably enjoy their food a little too much – Fat Sam From Birmingham, I Like ‘Em Fat Like That
Equipment that helps with food preparation – I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts of Town. This song contains the line “don’t need no ice man, I’m gonna buy a Frigidaire”

In fact, there’s only one thing I have to disagree with Louis about and it’s a serious grievance. His, admittedly great, song ‘Knock Me a Kiss’ contains the following:
I like cake and no mistake, but baby if you insist
I’ll cut out cake, just for your sake
Baby! C’mon knock me a kiss

I needn’t tell you how wrong this is on every level.