Sunday, 27 March 2011

Orange cupcakes

I’ve not baked with orange before because virtually every orange cake recipe you see is for chocolate orange – a combination I hate.
I wish I liked it; the concept of peeling and then breaking a Terry’s chocolate orange into segments always seems such a nice way to eat chocolate, but – alas – not for me.

The other problem I have with a lot of citrus baking (this post won’t be entirely about my hang ups – honest!) is zest.
I can be quite happily enjoying a citrussy cake when the zest hits me. There’s something about the stringy texture, like a worm of peel, that is so unpleasant in my mouth. Yuck. So, as you may have gathered, I left the zest out of these cupcakes but compromised by using an orange juice with “bits” in it. “Bits” are pulp rather than zest so acceptable!

These are fragrant and delicious cupcakes; the orange adds moisture to the sponge but doesn’t make it heavy.
I loved the purity and simplicity of the flavour – both sponge and buttercream are orange through and through; it’s surprising for your taste buds because it feels like you’re eating a drink!

Using fresh orange juice gave these a fresh and zingy taste. For my tastebuds, orange blossom water or orange extract can sometimes be too much so I really appreciated the naturalness of the flavour here. On first bite it seems that the flavour is barely there but then it bursts with a fruity explosion in your mouth.

These are cakes that reward you with a wonderful burst of aroma every time you take the lid off their storage container. Sunshine cupcakes for a lovely sunny day!


For the sponge:

120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
145g caster sugar
2 eggs
185g self raising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
125ml fresh orange juice – as I didn’t use the zest, I chose an orange juice with “bits” in it (Tropicana – I like this make as it’s fruity but not overly sweet)
Optional: 3 tablespoons grated orange zest

For the buttercream:

120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
180g icing sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (start with 2 and add more if the mix needs it)


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

Line a 12 hole cupcake pan with paper cases.

Start by making the sponges: beat together the butter and sugar until pale, light and whippy. It will take quite a while (depending on the softness of the butter) but don’t skimp as this is the stage that makes the sponge light and airy. I will often beat for 10 minutes or more.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Fold in the flour and vanilla extract.

Stir in the orange juice and, if using, the grated zest.

Spoon into the paper cases and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the sponge comes out clean. Mine took 20 minutes. Don’t panic that they look pale – the sponge is pale and won’t turn golden on baking.

Place the tray on a wire rack and, as soon as you can safely do so, remove the cakes from the tin – leaving them to sit in the hot metal tin means that they carry on cooking and can become less fluffy.

Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Now make the buttercream: place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well combined and light. Add more orange juice until you reach a soft but spreadable buttercream consistency.

Spread or pipe over the cupcakes.

Decorate as desired – I used sugar flowers.

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


Friday, 25 March 2011

Baked & Delicious magazine giveaway!

Those nice people behind Baked and Delicious magazine have offered a very special giveaway for one reader of my site.

One lucky reader will receive issues 2-5, that’s 4 magazines INCLUDING all the silicone bakeware that comes with them. Now that’s what I call a prize worth winning! To be in with a chance of winning, simply leave a comment telling me which cake you would choose to be the cover star of the first edition of your own baking magazine, and why.

The lucky winner will be selected at random at 10am on Friday 1st April, and must be able to email me their address by Wednesday 6th April as Baked and Delicious wish to send out the magazines shortly after. The prize can only be sent to a UK address. Good luck!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Battenberg (or Battenburg) cake

I still can’t decide which spelling to go with for this cake; the more I think about it the more both spellings end up looking equally wrong (if I was of a more optimistic bent I might have said “equally right”).

It is generally accepted that Battenberg cake was invented in honour of the marriage, in 1884, between Queen Victoria’s granddaughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg.
The four squares symbolise the four Battenberg princes. However, that doesn’t help to explain why two of the squares are pink, and two yellow…but they always are (except when a silly baker doesn’t put in enough food colouring...ahem).

When you’re making a classic you have to follow the rules so I used food colouring in this recipe - it simply wouldn’t be a Battenberg without it. Sadly, I didn’t put enough so had an orange rather than pink sponge, but it still looked rather attractive and had that all important colour contrast to achieve the chequerboard effect. Jamming up the sponges is one of the more fun parts of the process:

It’s worth taking the time to make your own marzipan for this cake; it will mean extra work and home made is -in my experience - harder to roll out but it is so superior in taste, and that’s what really matters. Not sure if I made a mistake or the recipe was wrong but I found my marzipan far too soft to roll and had to add a lot more icing sugar. Here’s what it started out looking like:

I find you can get away with a softer marzipan (although not as soft as the photo above!!) if you’re just covering the top of a fruit cake but this needed to be more firm to wrap the sponge. There may have been swearing but I persevered and kept kneading more and more icing sugar into the marzipan and I ended up with something, still sticky, but capable of rolling:

Once I’d cursed everything I could think of and sworn I would never make marzipan again, I tasted tasted good!

The combination of classic sponge, apricot jam and soft almond paste is a joy – every mouthful delivers flavour and texture. While mine may not be the prettiest Battenberg you’ll ever see I will venture it’s one of the tastiest. Just make it the day before you want to eat it – that way the pain of the marzipan will be but a distant memory!

Being a caketinoholic (it is a proper addiction as my cupboards and bank statements prove) I used my Battenberg cake tin which takes the effort out of the process.
You could, of course, use a normal square tin and make dividers out of foil.

Sept 2011 – Battenberg update

I made this cake again with pink colouring – if anything I over compensated for my colour failure last time as you’ll notice it’s somewhat lurid!

Had a much easier time using my no-bake marzipan recipe. It rolled easily and tasted divine.


For the cake:

175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
175g self raising flour
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
red food colouring
Apricot jam

For the marzipan - see Sept 2011 update above for easier recipe:

115g caster sugar
115g icing sugar, plus a lot more (potentially) to bring into a dough and for rolling
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk e.g. 3 egg yolks and 1 white
2 tablespoons lemon juice
265g ground almonds


Preheat the oven to 190˚C/fan oven 170˚C/375˚F/Gas mark 5.

Grease a Battenberg cake tin or a 20cm square tin. If using the square tin use a rigid strip of foil or baking paper to divide the tin in half.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Don’t skimp on this stage as it’s the most important time to get air into the cake.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Stir in the flour and vanilla.

Divide the batter into two separate bowls. You can weigh these to ensure the batter is evenly divided.

Add some red food colouring to one bowl of batter – add enough so that the cake is starting to look red, it will bake paler. I didn’t add anywhere near enough and got an orange sponge!

Spoon the batters into their separate sections of the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the sponge comes out clean. Mine took 30 minutes.

Place the tin on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out and leave to cool completely.

When cool level the surfaces so that your cake is flat and even on all sides. If you used the square tin with a central divider, now is the time to cut each coloured sponge in two – divide them by cutting down the longest length.

Store in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Now make the marzipan: place a bowl over a pan of simmering water, ensuring that the water cannot touch the bowl.

Place both sugars, egg and egg yolk in the bowl and whisk for about 10 minutes or until pale and thick.

Take the bowl off the heat and stir in the lemon juice and ground almonds. It will be very sticky and not at all like a paste that you can roll! With hindsight, this is where I should’ve added extra icing sugar to bring to a firm dough. You’re aiming for something thick enough that you can roll it out. You may need to add a lot of extra icing sugar – I did.

Wrap the marzipan in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Now prepare the sponges for assembling: warm the apricot jam (about 6 tablespoons) then use to glue the four canes of sponge together.

Cover the outside of the cake with apricot jam and put to one side.

Roll the chilled marzipan into a rectangle big enough to accommodate the sponge – about 30cm x 20cm should do it. I rolled the marzipan between two sheets of clingfilm. If your marzipan is still sticky dust the work surface (or clingfilm) liberally with icing sugar.

Place the cake at one end of the marzipan and roll it up ensuring that the seam is at the bottom and cutting off any excess marzipan.

If the marzipan tears at all you can patch it up with spare marzipan.

Tidy up the edges by trimming any surplus marzipan.

Serve in thick slices.

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


Baked & Delicious Magazine

Thanks to the nice people at Baked & Delicious magazine for sending me a copy of issue 2 to review.

This is a lovely, albeit thin (only 26 pages!), magazine. Recipes are clearly set out with photos accompanying each stage of the recipe. I can imagine it would be invaluable to someone just starting out baking – particularly as each issue is accompanied by a piece of silicon bakeware. Issue 2 came with a spatula and pastry brush.

I haven’t baked anything from issue 2 yet, but have already made the Mediterranean tarts from issue 1 for Mr CC’s and my dinner – very tasty they were too! Both issues I have seen contain recipes that I want to bake; while that sounds an odd thing to say, I increasingly find that cookbooks are getting too fancy and losing touch with what people at home actually want to cook - this magazine doesn't and has lots of lovely sweet and savoury recipes.

On the Baked & Delicious website (link given above) it says that due to the huge success of issue 1, issue 2 is being released early – hopefully this is evidence in a surge in popularity of home baking!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Famous Faces’ Favourite Fancies - Lemon drizzle cake

Fanfare please as I launch a new feature on my site: Famous Faces’ Favourite Fancies!
I have written (for my younger readers by “written” I mean composing a letter, printing it on paper, putting it in an envelope and using the postal system, not asking via Twitter or Facebook!) to some of the country’s most famous faces and asked them what their favourite cake is. I have received gruff refusals from some (you know who you are!) but thankfully a larger amount of lovely replies and it is these that I shall feature periodically on my site.

My first Famous Face sharing his Favourite Fancy is the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
Probably Britain’s most well-known personality politician, he is as controversial as he is hilarious (just reading through the wikipedia account of his appearances on satirical news quiz “Have I got News for You” made me laugh out loud). What’s not to love about anyone who says, when talking about his one week spent as a management consultant, “Try as I might, I could not look at an overhead projection of a growth profit matrix, and stay conscious.”

Boris Johnson has chosen lemon drizzle cake as his Favourite Fancy.
The lemon drizzle cake I have made is light and juicy – from not only the lemon juice but also the inclusion of ground almonds.

For the drizzle I used a combination of caster sugar and icing sugar; this is because icing sugar will seep into the cake whereas the caster sugar will sit on top and add a lemony crystallised topping.
In other words, using two sugars provides the best of both worlds! When pouring the drizzle over the cake it’s a good idea to put a piece of paper or foil under the rack so as to protect your work surface; it also makes cleaning up easier as you simply dispose of the mess along with the paper/foil.

Pondering what plate to set the finished cake on, Mr CC pointed out that it had to be my “London map” plate, given that the cake was inspired by Boris Johnson. Mr CC is very useful to have on hand at such moments!

Finally, I end with an apology to Boris. A few months ago, at the traffic lights on the north side of London Bridge, I tried to nip across the road as the traffic lights were changing. Who came hurtling towards me on his bike –at a frankly startling rate of knots - white-blond hair sticking out from his cycle helmet? You’ve guessed. I am pleased to report that he was a perfect gentleman and didn’t swear at me or gesticulate. Sorry about that Boris...hope this recipe makes up for it!


For the cake:

225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g caster sugar
2 lemons – zest and juice
4 eggs
200g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g ground almonds

For the drizzle:

2 lemons – zest and juice
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Icing sugar – enough to make a runny icing; the quantity required will depend on the juiciness of your lemon!


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy – don’t be tempted to skimp on this stage; the mixture needs to be pale and whippy.

Stir in the lemon zest.

Beat in the eggs on at a time, add a little of the flour if it looks like the mix might curdle. (If you’ve beaten the butter and sugar for long enough nothing should curdle).

Fold in the flour and baking powder.
Fold in the ground almonds and lemon juice.

Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Mine took 1 hour 5 minutes.

Put the cake, still in the tin, on a wire rack and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the drizzle glaze: Place the lemon zest, juice and caster sugar in a bowl and beat in enough icing sugar to make a thin, extremely runny icing. (The reason for using caster as well as icing sugar is that the caster won’t sink into the cake and leaves a lovely light sugar crust on the top of the cake).

Remove the cake from the tin and place it back on the wire rack.

Place a sheet of baking paper or foil under the wire rack.

Slowly pour the glaze over the top of the cake taking care to ensure that the whole top and sides are covered, and then leave to cool completely before storing in an airtight container (it will keep for several days).

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


Sunday, 6 March 2011

Traditional Ginger Cake

This cake is so amazing it's moved me to song; to paraphrase a song from a musical (bonus points for guessing the song!):

The most beautiful sound I ever heard
All the beautiful sounds of the world in two words – Ginger cake
Ginger cake - I just ate a cake named Ginger cake
And suddenly I bake - how wonderful a cake can be
Ginger cake - say it loud and there's music playing
Say it soft and it's almost like praying – Ginger cake
I'll never stop saying Ginger cake, Ginger cake, Ginger cake...

I do love ginger cake. I thought I’d seen it all but then this wonderful recipe came into my life. The difference with this recipe is that it doesn’t have that thick white icing that usually offsets the gingery heat; it has a glaze that part sinks into the cake and part sets as a thin crust on top. It’s divine! Just to point out so you can eat your cake accordingly, the glaze only stays crisp for a day after you make it, then it turns sticky and soft.

As soon as I found this recipe I knew I had to share – all the ginger cakes I post feature in my sites “most viewed” recipes list. What is it about that warm, mellow spice that has such a hold on our taste buds? As with most ginger cakes, the flavours develop over time so this cake offers continual rewards!

The cake is light and flavoursome – the ginger is strong but not overpowering. For a cake containing so many syrupy ingredients, the sponge is surprisingly soft and crumbly. What I’m going to say will sound contradictory to my previous sentence, but somehow it isn’t: the syrup and treacle are a dominant feature of this cake, making it more akin to a syrupy juicy cake with ginger highlights. It would be fab served warm as pudding with thick custard but I like it best at room temperature. How is manages to be crumbly and syrupy I can’t say – but try it for yourself and you’ll see exactly what I mean!

My tip? Make two – it’s the only way you’ll get a second slice!


For the cake:

225g self raising flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger (this gives a mild ginger flavour, next time I will double it to 4 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g unsalted butter
100g golden syrup
100g black treacle
100g light brown sugar
50g stem ginger, finely chopped
2 eggs
200ml milk

For the glaze:

4 tablespoons ginger syrup from the jar of stem ginger
4 tablespoons boiling water
200g icing sugar


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

Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.

Place the flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and butter into a food processor and blitz until you have bread crumbs. Put to one side

Place the golden syrup, black treacle, sugar and diced stem ginger into a large saucepan – it needs to be large because all the other ingredients will eventually be added to it.

Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved; you can tell this by looking for sugar crystals on the back of the spoon – if you can see them, you need to cook further.

Raise the heat and cook for a further couple of minutes, then remove from the hob.

Beat the eggs and milk into the hot syrupy mixture.

Beat in the flour and butter crumbs.

Stir thoroughly to ensure the ingredients are well incorporated.

Pour into the prepared cake tin (the mix will be runny) and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out virtually clean. Check after 40 minutes as mine was done at that point.

When the cake has almost finished baking make the glaze: beat together all the ingredients until they are smooth and well combined. Don’t expect it to be like icing – it will be much thinner and runnier.

When the cake is cooked, place it – still in its tin – on a wire rack and let it stand for 10 minutes.

Pierce the cake all over using a skewer and then pour over the glaze. Some will seep into the cake while the rest will harden and create a fine glaze on the cake.

Leave to cool and set completely before removing from the tin or serving.

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