Sunday, 31 August 2008

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...

...The Caked Crusader's blog is one year old! It doesn't seem five minutes ago that I set out to bake and eat every cake on the planet and, although I've been trying hard, there's still so much work to do!

So what I have I learned over the past year?

1. The world loves cake - I have been visited by people in 93 different countries
2. West Virginians in the USA do not like cake - it is the only state I'm yet to be visited by
3. The most popular recipes on my site are as follows:
  • Cherry bakewells, for the recipe click here
  • Berry and custard cake, for the recipe click here
  • Kourabeides, for the recipe click here
  • Custard tart, for the recipe click here
  • Upside down peaches and cream cake, for the recipe click here
  • Dark Jamaican ginger cake, for the recipe click here

I get tremendous enjoyment knowing that you're all reading my site, and I love your comments. I only hope that you enjoy this site half as much as I do - thanks for stopping by and please - don't be a stranger!

Here's to the next year....

Bakewell tart

Sometimes you’re watching a TV programme and you see something that you know you need to make as soon as possible. It happened to me this week when I saw the BBC’s Hairy Bikers new series “The Hairy Bakers” making a rather lovely looking bakewell tart.

I have previously made cherry bakewells and know from my blog stats that it’s the most popular item on my site – well this recipe is the more grown up sibling!

Any recipe that uses 11 eggs, 5o0g of almonds, 250g of butter and almost a whole jar of jam can’t be bad, which is just as well as this is not a cheap bake! But I need to correct myself - saying this tart isn’t ‘bad’ is a bit like saying Usain Bolt can ‘run a bit’ or Frank Sinatra could ‘hold a tune’ or Cary Grant ‘was an ok actor’ – you get my drift! This is a stunner!

You have to be generous with this jam, like this:

One word of warning – the pastry is not very friendly. The addition of almonds to the pastry adds an extra texture which I really liked but all that butter makes it very short i.e. a nightmare to roll out but a joy to eat. My advice? I suppose it can be broken down to four points:
· Chill it for at least 30 minutes before you roll it out;
· Flour the pastry even if you roll it out between two pieces of baking paper;
· Think soothing thoughts;
· Remember that it doesn’t matter if it tears or you have to press it into the tin by hand because, once the topping is in place, no one will see it.

I had to do some patchwork work with my pastry but, because it’s so buttery, it patches easily – look how well it came out:

The filling is so packed with almonds that in our current, extreme humidity, it drew the almond oil out making the tart super moist:

It’s arduous writing this blog – mmmmm, bakewell tart...


For the pastry:
425g plain flour, plus extra for dusting the pastry
250g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
Pinch of salt
1 egg
2 egg yolks

For the filling:
400g ground almonds
175g caster sugar
8 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon almond extract
Raspberry jam to taste – I used almost the whole jar
50g flaked almonds

How to make:

- Make the pastry: place the flour, butter, sugar, almonds and salt in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the egg and pulse again. Then add the yolks. Pulse until a smooth pastry is formed. The dough is very shiny and moist – this is because of the butter and the almonds.
- Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- You will need a 23cm loose bottom flan tin that is about 3cm deep. As the pastry has so much butter in it there is no need to grease the tin.
- However you like to roll out pastry i.e. on a marble board, between two pieces of baking paper or clingfilm, ensure that you flour the surface.
- Roll the pastry out, gently at first to minimise cracking. It will crack a lot around the edges but, as it warms, the pastry in the middle will be beautiful.
- Line the tart tin with the pastry. Don’t worry if you have to patch it, the important thing is to ensure there are no holes. Prick the pastry base with a fork. (I found I had a lot of pastry left over, so froze it – I reckon it will be enough for a small tart or individual tarts).
- Line the pastry with baking paper then add baking beads. Bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and remove the paper and beads. If the pastry looks wet or raw return to the oven, uncovered, for a further 2 minutes.
- Trim the pastry to the tin and put to one side while you make the filling.
- Reduce the oven to 165°C/fan oven 145°C/315°F/Gas mark 2-3.
- Now make the filling: Mix together the ground almonds and caster sugar then add the eggs and the almond extract. Mix well.
- When the pastry is cool, spread the jam over the base.
- Pour the filling onto the jam and top with the flaked almonds.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took 35 minutes and I found that, because of the low temperature the top didn’t get very golden.
- Leave to cool completely on a wire rack and serve either warm with custard or ice cream, or at room temperature with cream.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Ginger topped shortbread fingers

This recipe has been on my “to bake” list for a while and I finally got round to making it this week. I was attracted to the recipe as it used lots of my favourite components but in a novel way.

Shortbread biscuits can do little wrong in my eyes but I’d never seen a recipe for ginger shortbread before – that’s what forms the base here:

I think I must have bored everyone on the planet with my love of golden syrup – here it’s used to make a sticky ginger topping for the shortbread. Divine! The topping is so shiny you can see my camera flash in it:

Cut the biscuit into fingers; this is best done when the biscuits have cooled a little but haven’ t totally firmed up:

I think these biscuits look rather stylish when finished and it belies just how easy they are to make.

The shortbread has a lovely open texture; I paused my eating long enough to snap this picture:

For the biscuit base:
225g plain flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
85g golden caster sugar
175g unsalted butter

For the ginger topping:
55g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Optional: white glace icing
2 tablespoons icing sugar
water (add tiny drops at a time)

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease and line a 28cm x 18cm tin (the sort of tin you would use for traybakes). I strongly recommend lining the tin as it makes it easier to remove the biscuits.
- Put the flour, ginger, and caster sugar in a bowl and mix together.
- Rub in the butter until the mixture starts to form biscuity clumps.
- Press the mixture into the tin and level.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until the shortbread is lightly browned. Mine took exactly 40 minutes.
- About 5 minutes before the biscuit base is baked, start making the topping. This is because you want to be able to pour the topping over the straight-from-the-oven shortbread base.
- Melt the butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan. Keep the heat low as you do not want to burn the butter.
- Stir in the icing sugar and ginger and ensure the mixture is smooth, glossy and lump free.
- Take the shortbread from the oven and pour the topping over straight away. Spread with a knife to ensure the topping is evenly distributed.
- Leave to cool slightly i.e. approximately 30 minutes, and then cut into 16 fingers. This is easiest when the biscuit base has firmed up a bit but is not hard.
- If you wish to add some white icing swirls simply mix together the icing sugar and water until you have a thick white icing. Either pipe or spoon over the ginger fingers.
- Leave to cool completely. I left the fingers in the tin until I served them.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Cake comedy

Have to confess that I've never heard of Jim Gaffigan but anyone who can be this funny about cake is clearly worth paying some attention to. Enjoy!

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Introduction to this week’s posts - CakeFest II: This time it’s personal

Five new posts this week (including this one!)

Summer has been a wash out this year. Luckily, there is one thing that never disappoints and even the weather can’t spoil it: CakeFest. For those of you who missed the inaugural CakeFest back in April you can read about it here. To summarise: it is a weekend long celebration of baking and cake, culminating in a tea party on Sunday. It has few rules but one is that nothing must be eaten on Sunday other than cake (cream and jam is acceptable as long as attached to cake when eaten).

CakeFest went a upmarket this time; since their newfound celebrity due to frequent mentions on this site, The CCM and CCD (Caked Crusader’s Ma and Caked Crusader’s Da) won’t go anywhere unless goody bags are on offer. Here’s what lured them:

The CakeFest table is a joy to behold and this photo alone will cheer me in low moments:

Just like last time, Betty Boop held the menu board. You can see that I, The Caked Crusader, and my trusty sidekick, The Boy Wonder, have been busy:

So, let's have a look at the fine fare that was on offer:

The recipe for the custard tart can be found here

The recipe for the mini pavlovas can be found here

The recipe for the dainty cupcakes can be found here

The recipe for the double chocolate cookies can be found here

The recipe for the scones can be found here

The recipe for the buttercream sponge can be found here

Hopefully this will inspire you to hold your own CakeFests. Only then will appreciate the happiness that such a day can bring!

Mini pavlovas

I love meringue whether it’s the soft sort that tops pies and cupcakes or this – the crunchy kind. What has previously put me off making a pavlova is the amount of cooling time required in the oven – many of the recipes require the pavlova to be cooled in the oven, often overnight. That’s why this Nigella recipe caught my eye – the pavlovas are mini and this dramatically cuts the cooking and cooling time.

It’s impossible to make a pavlova look anything but decadent – they are the Miss Worlds of the cake world! Sweet, but light enough that you can eat loads, what’s not to love?

This tasted as delicious as it looks!

Here it is with the side off, so you can see the cream sitting in the meringue:

I topped mine with strawberries, raspberries and blackberries but any fruit would work. If the fruit is a little tart, this gives a lovely contrast to the ultra-sweet meringue as well as providing one of your five a day. One of the statements in the prior sentence was a lie – can you spot which one?

8 egg whites
Pinch of salt
500g caster sugar
4 teaspoons cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
750ml whipping cream
Fruit for topping – use whichever combination you like.

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line three baking sheets with baking paper (I used non stick foil as I find it easier to remove the meringue from without breaking it) and draw 6 10cm circles on each sheet (I used a round biscuit cutter as my template). The meringues puff up on cooking so they need to be spaced apart.
- Whisk the egg whites and salt until the firm, but not stiff, peak stage.
- Gradually whisk in the sugar until the meringue is shiny then fold in the cornflour, vanilla and vinegar.
- Spoon the meringue onto the circles you have drawn on the baking paper and make the meringue bowl shaped as you need to be able to fill it later.
- Put in the oven and straightaway reduce the oven temperature to 150°C/fan oven 130°C/300°F/Gas mark 2.
- Bake for 30 minutes and then turn off the oven. Leave the meringues in the oven for a further 30 minutes before taking out and cooling on a wire rack. I had to do the baking process twice as my oven only has 2 shelves and the meringues take up 3 baking sheets! I put the third tray to one side (on a marble board) and it was fine.
- When all the meringues have cooled whip the cream until it is firm but not stiff. Spoon it into your little bowl shaped pavlovas.
- Top with your chosen fruit.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Dainty cupcakes

These cupcakes are slightly different to the norm in that they use golden caster sugar. This is an ingredient I like a lot as it adds a subtle extra something to the cake – you get an almost caramel hint to the sponge but without any loss of lightness in texture.

I love white icing and find it so satisfying watching it set – it’s definitely not the culinary equivalent of watching paint dry! The icing is glossy and runny at first but then turns matt finish and sets just enough to hold firm. Beautiful! If you fancy a twist on the classic, use lemon juice to make the icing rather than water.

These are traditional cupcakes (in my youth they would have been called ‘fairy cakes’) and are simple to make, but put them on a fancy cake stand and they suddenly look very chic. Obviously, there is a myriad of ways to decorate these – I chose to use wafer flowers.

You can see the lightness of the sponge here:

For the cupcakes:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
175g self raising flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the white glace icing:
225g icing sugar
2-3 tablespoons water (start with 2 – you can always add more)

For decoration:
Wafer or icing flours

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line a 12 hole muffin pan with paper cases.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Due to the proportions of the ingredients and the fact that you’re using golden caster sugar, the mix won’t go pale as creamed mixes usually do.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time adding a little of the flour if the mix starts to curdle.
- Fold in the flour and vanilla until well combined.
- Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took 20 minutes.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- To make the icing, put the icing sugar in a bowl and mix with the water until you have a smooth dropping consistency.
- Spoon the icing onto the cupcakes (work quickly as the icing will set) and decorate as desired.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Double chocolate cookies

This recipe was selected by superhero The Boy Wonder (who, when he’s not being The Boy Wonder, is my ten-year-old nephew). It’s a great recipe - I'd say they are a halfway house between cake and biscuit - and, apart from chopping the chocolate, he was able to do it all himself . I managed to find milk chocolate chips but couldn’t find white chocolate so I had to cut a bar into rough little chunks:

There is something about sinking your teeth into a biscuit and hitting chocolate that is one of life’s highlights! Even more perfect when followed by a sip of tea and the chocolate melts gently coating your tongue and teeth. I always see that as the way to get maximum value from the chocolate!

What could be more enticing?

You can clearly see the chunks of chocolate:

These cookies attract attention from everyone...


125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
250g self raising flour
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped (or buy chips, if available)
100g plain or milk chocolate, roughly chopped (or buy chips, if available)

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line three baking sheets with baking paper, or if you prefer, simply grease the sheets with butter.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla.
- Add the flour and chocolate and bring the dough together – this is easiest using your hands (I found that it helped to add a little more flour as the dough is very sticky).
- Knead the dough lightly until you have a nice ball. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- Divide the mixture into 24 pieces and roll each into a ball.
- Flatten the ball slightly into a disc and place on a baking sheet. Space well apart – only put a maximum of 8 on a sheet at a time.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden. Mine took 13 minutes.
- Leave on the baking sheet for 5 minutes (biscuits are very fragile straight from the oven and need to firm up before moved) then transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Golden buttercream cake

I would describe this as one for the cake purists. What I mean by that is there’s nothing fancy on show here – just the perfect combination of sponge (this one’s a light Genoese) and buttercream.

The cake gets its name from the traditional adding of yellow food colouring to the buttercream. As both sponge and buttercream are naturally a golden hue I left the colouring out.

The sponges are beautiful in themselves; here they are cooling from the oven:

This is an old-fashioned cake although I always think it a little ridiculous to talk about cakes in terms of fashion. What I mean by “old fashioned” is that you can imagine it on a tea table at any point in history being enjoyed alongside a cup of tea.

I know it’s wrong to laugh at cake, but whenever a sponge comes out of the oven with its paper collar on I can’t help but think it looks like those collars that are put on poorly dogs to stop them biting their stitches! See what I mean?

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
225g self raising flour

For the buttercream:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g icing sugar
3 drops yellow colouring (optional)

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Grease and line two 20cm round sandwich tins.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla along with the flour. Adding the eggs and flour gradually at the same time stops the mix from curdling.
- Spoon the mixture into the tins and level the surfaces.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took 35 minutes.
- Leave to cool in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack and letting cool completely.
- For the icing beat together the butter and vanilla until pale and smooth.
- Beat in the icing sugar and food colouring (if using). Beat until totally smooth.
- Sandwich the cakes with just over half the buttercream, then spread the rest on top of the cake.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


This week’s winner of a CAFTA (Cake’s Achievement in Film and Television Arts) award was nominated by Courtney who runs the (always entertaining) blog Coco Cooks. Thanks Courtney for taking the time to provide so much information!

The award is for “Cake that is so beautiful it is art” and goes to all the stunning Ladurée creations in Marie Antionette. It’s all there – dainty pastries, meringues, cakes and macarons and each in the most exquisite pastel shades. Incidentally, Ladurée invented the double decker macaron (i.e. two macarons sandwiched with buttercream) and still sells 15,000 per day!

In this photo Marie Antoinette is surrounded by the loveliest, girliest looking cakes I’ve seen in a while. I think I’d have a slice of the one nearest the camera, for starters...followed by the two tier lovely on the tall stand in the background.

I love the way the macarons are stacked on their sides – see them, on the right of the photo?

If you wish to see the cake in the flesh (so to speak) and – as any good cake should – being eaten, then this clip will fulfil your wishes:

I think historians have agreed now that Marie Antoinette never actually uttered “let them eat cake” but I’m not listening - sometimes advice is just too good to ignore!

Please email me (with photos) your CAFTA nominations.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Nutella cupcakes

I’ve wanted to make nutella cupcakes for a while now but each recipe I found didn’t quite do it for me – can’t put my finger on why. So I decided to tinker with my trusted cupcake recipes and create my own version.

Here are the cupcakes fresh from the oven:

Nutella has it all; it’s thick, smooth and has such a depth of rich flavour that I have to limit myself to one suck of the spoon when I’ve finished making my cakes!

Beating the nutella into the Swiss meringue buttercream was particularly fun; watching the snowy buttercream slowly turn brown was pleasing and strangely relaxing. I knew this would work as my earlier strawberry and vanilla cupcakes beat jam into the buttercream.

Twelve happy little cupcakes ready to be eaten!

The buttercream was softer than usual, which must have been down to the nutella. It was – and I know I’m blowing my own trumpet here – the best buttercream ever, a cream/mousse hybrid. Divine!

A little extra nutella in the cupcake doesn't hurt!


For the cupcakes:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk (whole or semi skimmed, not skimmed)
5-6 teaspoons nutella

For the Swiss meringue buttercream:
4 egg whites
250g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons nutella (I used 3)

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.
- Line a muffin pan with 12 paper cases.
- Start by making the cupcakes. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, flour and milk and beat until well combined and smooth.
- Spoon half the mixture evenly into the 12 paper cases.
- Spoon a scant half teaspoon of nutella onto each cake and then cover with the remaining batter.
- Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took 17 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Now make the swiss meringue buttercream. Place the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir pretty much constantly to prevent the egg from cooking.
- After 5-10 minutes, when the sugar has dissolved, remove the bowl from the pan of simmering water and whisk until the meringue has puffed up and the mix is cool.
- Add the butter and vanilla to the meringue and whisk until the butter has been completely incorporated into the meringue. At first it will look a disaster – it will collapse and look curdled but don’t worry! Stop when the mixture is smooth, light and fluffy.
- Beat the nutella into the buttercream – add a spoon at a time so you can judge how much nutella the buttercream needs.
- Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag and swirl onto each cupcake.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.

Dark Jamaican ginger cake

All ginger cakes are moist, but this one has to be the darkest, juiciest, tastiest most fragrant of them all! Two things attracted me to the recipe: firstly, the inclusion of evaporated milk and, secondly, the use of fresh grated ginger. When you grate ginger it seems to produce so much juice that I recommend grating into a bowl so you can capture all of this for your cake.

The CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) has a passion for ginger. Oddly, it can never be too hot for her. I say “oddly” because she doesn’t like spicy food – no chilli or peppers for her but, put a ginger cake in front of her and she can take it as strong as you like, usually commenting “I could’ve done with it a bit hotter”. So I’ve really stoked this one up! The original recipe only used fresh grated ginger but I have added some ground ginger too. If your tastebuds are more delicate then probably leave the ground ginger out. (Unsurprisingly, the CCM claimed she could have taken it hotter. Curses!)

You have to wonder about the great food discoveries in history. Ginger is a good example – I mean, who was the first person to look at this and think “yum, that looks tasty”?

This cake can be made either with or without the icing. Personally, I love the sweet white icing taking the heat out of the ginger – it’s a perfect combination.

One thing I did learn making this: as it is so squidgy and moist, I find that ginger cake sometimes sinks a little on cooling. It happened to me with this cake:

When the cake was still warm I turned it out of the tin and inverted it to cool – this was how I served the cake so the sunken bit was out of sight:

On cutting the cake the next day – lo and behold – the sunken bit had corrected itself. It must have been because I inverted it while it was still cooling. See, no sunken bit:

225g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground ginger (optional)
225g unsalted butter
125g light brown sugar
2 tablespoons peeled and grated fresh root ginger
125ml evaporated milk
125g black treacle (or molasses)
2 eggs

Optional: white glace icing
125g icing sugar
2-3 tablespoons water (start with 2 – you can always add more)

How to make:

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line a 900g loaf tin.
- Put the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, allspice nutmeg and the (optional) ground ginger into a bowl and mix together.
- Beat in the butter until well combined.
- Beat in the sugar and the grated ginger. Put to one side.
- Put the evaporated milk and black treacle into a saucepan and heat gently until the two have combined. Don’t wander off as the mixture shouldn’t be allowed to bubble. At first the liquids will stay separate even though you are stirring them and then, in an instant, they combine.
- Remove from the heat and pour into the cake mix. Stir until well combined.
- Beat in the eggs. The batter will be runny(ish) but don’t worry – ginger cake mix is always thinner than other cakes and this is what gives such a lovely moist cake.
- Pour the batter into the tin and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took exactly 50 minutes.
- Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes as ginger cakes are particularly fragile on coming out of the oven. As they are so moist, ginger cakes do tend to sink a little on cooling. If this bothers you, invert the cake when you turn out onto the wire rack and no one will know! Leave to cool totally on a wire rack.
- If you decide to make an icing simply mix together the icing sugar and water and add more water if required. You are aiming for a thick, glossy consistency that will ooze over the cake but not run off. Spoon over the loaf as desired.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.