Sunday, 30 October 2011

Coble cake

Mr CC and I have just returned from a splendid jaunt to Whitby
; a beautiful town on the rugged North York coast. It is also the inspiration and setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

My cake this week is therefore Yorkshire-themed. Cobles are open fishing boats, with flat bottoms, commonly sighted on the North York coast. This cake is named after them but doesn’t seem well documented – there are some mentions but I couldn’t find a recipe anywhere on the internet. The cake is a spiced sponge, filled with apple puree and served with cream. This was all the detail I needed to produce my own version!

I was tempted to whip the cream and fill the sponge with it, along with the apple puree but I think this wouldn’t have produced such an elegant finish. I also considered stirring the apple puree through the cream but again, I wanted to keep the flavours distinct.

The one thing that the internet seems in agreement about re: Coble cake is that it needs to be served with cream. I was happy to oblige:

There were some lovely tea rooms in Whitby; one thing we noticed very quickly was that the region hasn’t got much time for fancy patisserie, favouring good hearty cakes in – and remember this is me saying this – hearty portions! We enjoyed, amongst other things, a toasted teacake so huge it took both hands to lift it to my mouth! I took the biggest bite I could out of one half (f
or photographic purposes only, obviously) – it barely made an indent:

I think our serving of chocolate cake and flapjacks highlights the generosity of Yorkshire portions. There aren’t many places where TWO flapjacks are considered the standard serving! Also notice how the chocolate cake is only just contained within the boundaries of the plate:

Another highlight was this toffee apple betty cake – the flavours were a delight and I loved how the apple was layered in the middle section:

This scone was lovely – unusually for me I chose to have it with butter and jam rather than cream and jam:

Mr CC was pleased with his carrot cake...and who wouldn’t be, having a triple-decker slice like this put in front of them?


For the cake:
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
220g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
80ml milk
300g self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ teaspoon mixed spice

For the apple puree (puree is never an exact science so make whatever quantity you wish – it freezes brilliantly); however for this cake I used:
1-2 Bramley apples
10 tablespoons caster sugar – or to taste

To serve: thick or whipped cream


Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Line two 20cm round loose bottomed sandwich tins with baking paper.

Start by making the sponge: Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage as this is when you get lots of lovely air into your sponge.

Beat in the eggs gradually, adding some of the flour if it looks like it might curdle.

Beat in the milk.

Fold in the flour and all the spices until the mixture is smooth and well combined.

Spoon into the prepared tins and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the sponge comes out clean. Another good sign is if the sponge is just pulling away from the edge of the tin.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the apple puree. Take a saucepan of appropriate size – roughly so that the apples will half fill the pan.

Cover the bottom of the pan with water – ideally about 2cm deep.

Peel, core and thinly slice the cooking apples.

Slowly simmer until the apples break down and you have a puree; if the pan looks dry add some more water. You can speed this up placing the pan lid 3/4s over the pan.

Personally, I like my puree with some apple chunks still in it; if you don’t cook until smooth.

Add the sugar right at the end – this is totally to taste so add gradually until you have the right sweetness for you.

When you are ready to assemble the cake place one sponge layer, flat side up, on the serving plate.

Spread the apple puree over the sponge and then sandwich with the second sponge, flat side down.

If you wish, dust the top sponge with icing sugar.

Serve in generous slices with whipped cream.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Ginger and chilli biscuits

Now I’m going to start with a moan: I am fed up with the way chilli is being put into things it has no place being just to be trendy. Maybe it’s me, but I’m yet to taste any chocolate bar that benefits from teaming up with chilli - it always tastes like an unwanted add-on. I don’t like lots of spice with creamy things – it’s a personal choice – I can’t even eat creamy curries. These biscuits have proven to me that chilli in baking can work. I haven’t tried any chilli in cakes so if you have any recipes you think might educate me please share!

The first time I made these biscuits I wondered why they didn’t spread on baking. Then I realised that the idiot making them i.e. me, had left the golden syrup out – but they tasted delicious and looked like domed buttons:

Second time of making I made sure my brain was awake, and added the golden syrup. This created a softer dough that did spread on baking. Just as tasty, but a different look. The golden syrup does diminish the hit of chilli – so if you use it, I’d consider adding more chilli. Here they are made with the syrup:

This recipe appealed to me because I suspected the spice would work really well...and it does. You don’t get a burn of chilli; what you get is delicious enhancement to the gingery fire of the biscuit. This recipe is the way forward for me, as often in the past I’ve put loads of ginger into biscuits to get that burn of spice and it’s been a hit-and-miss affair. This is far simpler – you only put in a little ginger and the tiniest hint of cayenne yet achieve a warmer, rounder flavour.

The biscuits can be made two ways – larger for a soft, chewy cookie (don’t get me started on soft, chewy cookies. I’ll save that rant for another day!) or smaller for a crisp biscuit. I got 50 cherry-sized (they spread on baking) biscuits from the mix. Did someone say, “bargain”?

These biscuits couldn’t be easier to make. The one snag, which could hold you up if you don’t read the recipe in advance, is the chilling time required. It needs to chill for several hours (or overnight) before you roll your biscuits. You need a firm, chilled dough:

Incidentally, it’s National Baking Week this week; I only knew because Tanya from Cooking Fantastic
told me! Was everyone else aware and it’s just me with my eyes and ears closed?

No update from me this weekend as I’m off to enjoy a long weekend with Mr CC.


125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
75g light muscovado sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup – you can omit this if you wish and you’ll get a firmer, smaller biscuit
180g self raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper – use two pinches if you include the golden syrup
50g stem ginger, cut into tiny pieces – I used the food processor


Cream together the butter and sugar until it is light and well combined.

Add the golden syrup and beat well. (NB. you can omit the syrup for a smaller, firmer biscuit - just as delicious!)

Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and cayenne pepper along with the chopped stem ginger and stir well.

Place the dough in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/ fan oven 180°C/ 390°F/ gas mark 6.

Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

Take cherry sized balls of dough and roll between your hands. This will give you crisp biscuits; if you want chewy cookies take a walnut sized piece of dough.

Place on a baking sheet leaving approx 2cm between the biscuits. Maybe leave more room if you put golden syrup into the mix.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the biscuits are golden.

Leave to cool, on their trays, as they will be soft at first.

When cool store in an airtight container. They will keep for several days.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have made.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Morello cherry sponge cake

If I see something interesting or tasty looking in the supermarket I will buy it even if I have no planned use for it. This means I have beautifully stocked but permanently overfull cupboards. When I say “overfull” I mean full to the point that I can’t always face looking at what’s up the back of the cupboard. I’m trying to get Mr CC to appreciate how exciting a well stocked cupboard is but I think I’m failing – he sees my ‘treasures’ as obstacles hindering him access to the cereal.

Every time I tidy my baking store cupboard I take out the jar of morello cherries, check the date is still ok, and then put them back. Too ashamed to go through this ritual again I decided it was time to use the cherries....and here’s the cake!

Usually I find a recipe to bake and then make sure I buy everything I need to make it. It’s a nice change to start with a jar of cherries and seek a recipe to use them. This cake is adapted from a German recipe; I always seem drawn to German recipes – I like no-nonsense, no frills flavoursome cakes and Germany seems to share my fondness!

Morello cherries are unique; they have the sweet fruitiness of other cherries but also that tart/sour note...I want to say they have an almost nutty taste but don’t want to mislead anyone! I’m not really sure how to describe their complex flavour but I love them contrasted against sweet, soft, buttery sponge cake.

The shiny glaze on the top comes from brushing molten apricot jam over the hot cake; it elevates a simple cake to something more patisserie-style. The glaze sets shiny and unsticky so it’s not a pain to eat!

Of course, while I’m pleased I have finally used the morello cherries, I can’t help thinking that there’s room on the shelf for another jar now......!


For the cake:
350g jar morello cherries
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 drops lemon juice – I always have a jif lemon on standby in the fridge for such things!
3 eggs
200g self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk

For the glaze:
2 tablespoons apricot jam
1 tablespoon water


Preheat the oven to 180°C/ fan oven 160°C/350°F/ Gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm springform round tin with baking paper.

Drain the cherries and leave them to air dry while you make the cake.

Beat together the butter and sugar until it is light, pale and whippy. Don’t skimp on this stage.

Beat in the vanilla and lemon.

Beat in the eggs one at a time; if the mix looks like it might start to curdle add some of the flower.

Briefly beat in the flour and milk. Don’t overbeat it – just go until the batter looks smooth and the ingredients are well combined.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Gently place the cherries on top of the batter. Don’t press them down as you don’t want to encourage them to sink!

Bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanly.

While the cake is baking, pass the jam through a sieve and stir in the water.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, heat the jam and water to boiling point then brush over the hot cake.

Leave the cake to cool on a wire rack. Leave it in its tin until you can safely remove it.

The cake will store in an airtight container for several days.

Serve in generous slices with thick cream.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Caked Crusader plaque...made by a talented friend!

One of the best things about having artistically gifted friends is that presents tend to be thoughtful, unique and totally tailored to you. My friend Soo is not only a mega-talented knitter but has now branched out into paper crafts.

I love my glittery plaque – when I put the lights on at night the glitter goes bonkers; it’s like having a disco in a frame! Oh yes, in case you were wondering – she made the frame too!

If you’d like to read more about how Soo made it here's the link.

Thanks Soo!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

History Corner – Empress cakes

Miss Tuxford’s “Cookery for the Middle Classes” was – despite its rather exclusive title – a big hit. Originally published in 1902, my copy is the 11th edition dating from 1930. That’s quite a lifespan for one cook book.

The subtitles of this book highlight how far food and food preparation has come in a short period of time. The full title is “Cookery for the Middle Classes (including a few vegetarian dishes) and Useful hints on Gas Stove Cooking Including the New Automatic Control”. This book is set in the time when having a temperature control on your oven was cutting edge innovation. There is a section at the back of the book instructing you how to set the oven properly depending on what you’re cooking. Sponge cakes need to be baked at 5E, if you’re interested.

One wonders what Miss Tuxford would’ve done had any of the lower classes dared bake from this book? It seems a crazy thing to limit your market in such a way especially when Miss Tuxford had an entrepreneurial streak. At the back of the book she has a page of items for sale included food essences such as vanilla, and also “useful and inexpensive utensils”, my favourite of which is the “Straining grid for use in deep fat frying or boiling fish and cauliflowers whole (designed by myself)”. A whole boiled cauliflower. Imagine it. Are you imagining it? Well, you don’t have to – here is the least appetising illustration of a cauliflower ever (with a strange looking thumb thrown in for free) :

And a close up:

I chose the Empress Cakes recipe as they were probably a well-known recipe at the time the book was originally published. Queen Victoria died in 1901, only a year before publication. No doubt these little cakes were named in honour of her, as one of her titles was Empress of India.

Lining the pan with nuts wasn’t as fiddly as I thought it might be. The recipe gave no indication as to the amount of nuts to use so I guessed (my guess is in the recipe below) – feel free to use less if this looks too nutty:

The cocoa is delicate; I wouldn’t call these a chocolate sponge, more sponge with a hint of cocoa. The idea of lining the pans with nuts so that they bake into the sponge works surprisingly well and creates a nice look. However, I wasn’t sure which way to serve them – nuts up or nuts down? On this blog post you’ll see a mix of both!

As you’ll notice my cakes came out a touch on the large side – that’s the problem with old recipes; they don’t tell you what size pans to use or guidelines. I know I should’ve trimmed the mushroom top off to make them look daintier but, let’s be honest, the mushroomy top is often the best bit of a cake!

They were also delicious warm with custard – a cake or a pud; what’s not to love? One thing I would say, they definitely dried out a couple of days after baking (tasted lovely though) – still fine to serve as pud with custard, but if you had them with a cup of tea if would be a good idea to add a dollop of cream.

Although Miss Tuxford wrote the preface well over 80 years ago it shows how nothing really every changes. Except for the old fashioned phrasing, this could’ve been written today:

“During recent years the cost of living has greatly increased and many ladies have sought a cookery book giving recipes which, whilst ensuring dainty, wholesome and nourishing dishes, are withal modest in cost.”


½ lb / 227g unsalted butter, plus extra to grease the pans
½ lb / 227g caster sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
4 eggs
¾ lb / 340g plain flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking powder
Milk, if needed
Chopped almonds to line the tins – I used a mixture of ground almonds and chopped hazelnuts totalling 120g


Preheat the oven to 150°C/ fan oven 130°C/300°F/ Gas mark 2, or as the recipe calls it – “slow”.

Generously grease a cupcake pan – if you have a deeper, more ‘muffin-y’ pan that will be better. Take a second pan and grease half the holes – the mix will make 18 cakes. I made 12 from mine and they were too big!

Sprinkle the chopped almonds into the pans ensuring that they stick to the bottom and sides. This can be a bit fiddly but is worth the effort.

Place the butter, sugar and cocoa in a bowl and beat together until light and whipped.

Add two of the eggs and beat well.

Add half the flour and stir in.

Add the remaining two eggs and beat well.

Add the remaining flour, along with the vanilla and baking powder and stir well.

If the mix is dry i.e. not a dropping consistency, add a little milk – do this with caution so you don’t add too much.

Carefully spoon into your almond-lined cake pans and level the surface. Fill them more than you would a cupcake case because the low baking temperature means they won’t rise as much. I filled mine to the top because the recipe gave no guidance – I think the ideal would have been somewhere between 1/2 - ¾ full.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Mine took much longer – just over 30 minutes, so don’t worry if yours take longer too!

Leave to cool – in the tins – until cool enough to handle and safely remove. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

The cakes will store for several days in an airtight container but note they will dry out – best to have some cream on hand!

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Famous Faces’ Favourite Fancies – Ginger cake

“Legend” is a word that is bandied about far too often these days if you ask me, but I’m going to use it here and mean it. If you asked most people to name a snooker legend the first name out of their mouth would be Steve Davis

In terms of someone dominating a sport you’d have to look quite a way to beat Steve Davis. Just read this incredibly potted (ha ha, pun totally intended!) summary of his achievements:

  • First player to complete a televised 147 (maximum) break;
  • More professional titles than any other player;
  • Winner of the World Championship six times in the 1980s;
  • World number 1 for seven years running;
  • Famously lost the black ball finish in the 1985 World Championship final against Dennis Taylor, which although finishing past midnight had an audience 18.5 million people – still a record for BBC2;
  • BBC Sports personality of the year;
  • MBE and OBE;
  • Top ten hit with Chas & Dave (OK, he might want to forget that one!)

Famous for his ginger hair he gained nicknames such as “The Nugget” and “The Ginger Magician”. My grandmother though, who was a staunch fan, only ever referred to him by one name: Lover Boy. Quite how she came up with this name I do not know, but that was what she ALWAYS called him! Maybe that’s why I decided to write to him; he provided my grandmother with so much entertainment that, even now several years after her death, we still refer to him as Lover Boy (which might freak him out if he ever reads this!)

His calm-under-pressure temperament led him to be called boring, something that he has always played up to despite having a terrific sense of humour. Perhaps it was that sense of humour that led him to choose ginger cake as his favourite fancy!

This ginger cake is something a bit different; it is adapted from a German ginger spice cake recipe and doesn’t contain the usual golden syrup and treacle. This results in a lighter, less sticky texture. It replaces sugar with honey and adds some lightness in the addition of soured cream. I was further intrigued by the use of rye flour...which I couldn’t find anywhere so will have to revisit this when I find some! There’s quite a lot of spice:

I brushed some ginger syrup over the cake as it cooled just to intensify the flavour. This is optional. As with all ginger cakes, the flavours develop over time so try and make a day or two in advance of when you wish to serve it.

For this cake, I made my white icing much thicker than I normally would. I think it was the German influenced recipe which got me thinking about the thick icing on German Christmas gingerbread – often the biscuit will be shaped like a house with thick white icing representing snow on the roof. That’s what I’ve tried to do here and I love it –the icing looks almost cartoony!


For the cake:

125g unsalted butter
250g honey
3 eggs
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon allspice
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g rye flour – I couldn’t find this in my local shops so used wholemeal flour
150ml soured cream

Optional: 2 tablespoons ginger syrup to brush over the cake when it comes out the oven

For the icing:

100g icing sugar
Enough water or syrup from a stem ginger jar to make a thick icing – add a tablespoon at a time


Generously grease a 20cm bundt tin with butter or, ideally, cake release spray. The recipe I used gave no indication of cake tin size so I used a 23cm tin, which was too big.

Place the butter and honey in a large saucepan (all the other ingredients need to fit in here) and melt together. Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/ fan oven 150°C/325°F/ Gas mark 3.

Beat the eggs and spices into the butter-honey mixture.

Fold in half of the plain flour, rye flour and baking powder.

Fold in half of the soured cream.

Repeat the folding process until all the ingredients are combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.

Bake for 15 minutes then lower the temperature to 130°C/ fan oven 110°C/250°F/ Gas mark 1 and bake for approximately a further 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Mine only needed 35 minutes which surprised me as I never thought the cake would cook successfully at such a low temperature.

Leave to cool, still in the tin, on a wire rack. I find ginger cakes rather fragile so usually let them cool in the tin before turning out.

If using, brush the ginger syrup over the cake in the tin, let it seep down the edges too (the cake will have just started to pull away from the tin giving a gap for the syrup!)

When the cake is cool it can be iced: place the icing sugar in a bowl and gradually beat in either water or ginger syrup. Add liquid sparingly as it is easy to make it too runny. I made mine very thick.

Pour the icing over the cake and leave to set.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.