Sunday, 26 February 2012

Eccles cake

I buy so many food magazines every month that, to save myself from being buried under piles of paper, I tear out the recipes that I might make and then pass the magazine on to the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma).

This recipe was one that caught my eye and I tore it out. However, I didn’t tear out the full page photo of it as I’m trying to keep my recipe files as compact as possible and the little photo on the recipe page was adequate.

When I went round to visit the CCM she presented me with the full page picture. The conversation then followed thus:

Me: oh, I don’t need that – I tore the recipe out.
CCM: I know, but I thought you might like this visual aide.
Me: Not really. I will make it at some point.
CCM: Why not next week?
Me: Are you trying to subtly hint that you want this cake?
CCM: I wasn’t aware I was being subtle.

So, here’s the cake! It’s a modern take on the traditional Eccles cake
but, whereas the Eccles cake encloses the fruit in an individual pastry pasty, here the filling is in a sponge cake.

I loved the spiced fruit filling and also that the sponge contains apples. It’s a lovely concoction of warming flavours and textures. The restrained amount of white glace icing on top is a perfect addition!

On a different note, the CCB (Caked Crusader’s Brother) bought me a present this week:

Now normally, I wouldn’t be pleased to be gifted a tube of toothpaste; I would think they were trying to tell me something but this is cupcake flavoured toothpaste and it tastes just like vanilla buttercream – it is delicious. I will hold off worrying until he presents me with a can of cupcake deodorant!


For the filling:

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
30g unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
50g currants
85g raisins
85g sultanas
Dash of lemon juice

For the cake:

2 medium sized eating apples peeled, cored and diced into small pieces (I used pink lady apples)
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
100g plain flour
250g self raising flour
100g buttermilk

To decorate:

100g icing sugar
Enough water to make a runny but thick glaze


Start by making the filling: place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until the spices, sugar and butter have coated all the fruit. Put to one side.

Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C/320°F/gas mark 3.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Peel, core and chop the apple into small pieces (about 1cm square max) and put in a bowl of cold water with a dash of lemon juice. This will stop the apple browning.

Place the butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat together until creamy and pale. Take your time over this stage as this really is the key to making a nice light sponge. The mix will never turn as pale and fluffy as when you use caster sugar, but you will notice it turn paler as you beat.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time. If it looks like the batter might curdle add some of the flour.

Fold in the flours and the buttermilk.

Drain the apple and carefully stir into the batter.

Spoon a generous half of the batter into the prepared cake tin.

Level the surface and spoon in the filling – taking care to leave an inch free around the edge. This is to stop the filling leaking out and burning while cooking, it also means that the cake will hold together better when you cut it.

Spoon the remaining cake batter on top of the filling and level out making sure that you go right to the edge of the tin.

Bake for approximately 1 hour 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool, on a wire rack, in the tin. The cake will store overnight in an airtight container.

On the day of serving the cake take it from the tin and place on the serving plate you have chosen.

Now make the glaze to top the cake: place the icing sugar in a bowl and beat in water, a teaspoon at a time.

When you have a runny – but not watery – white icing drizzle it over the cake and leave to set.

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


Friday, 24 February 2012

Rock buns

No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to make a rock bun look pretty or beautiful in anything other than a knobbly, rugged way. However, eaten about 10 minutes after they’ve come out the oven, these might be the most delicious bakes ever.

Like a mixture of all the best elements of a cake, scone and biscuit, these are soft, crumbly with a thin crusty exterior and packed with juicy raisins.

If I haven’t all ready won you over, these take less than 10 minutes to get into the oven and only require the most basic of store cupboard items. A very handy recipe to have up your sleeve should you need some home baking ready at very short notice. (NB. I can’t imagine what scenario that might be...bandits turning up threatening you with evil deeds unless you can produce some cakes in under 30 minutes? Could happen.....)

These are best eaten on the day of baking, and within an hour or two of baking if possible. Shouldn’t be too hard! It’s amazing how something so easy to make can get people so excited – these, more than anything else I’ve made had my family clamouring round the tin as soon as I took the lid of and, whereas normally they all wait for a cup of tea before tucking in, these were enjoyed as an aperitif to afternoon tea!


200g self raising flour
75g unsalted butter, cold
75g caster sugar
80g raisins
1 egg
1-2 tablespoons milk


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

Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Place the flour in a bowl and add the butter in cubes.

Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs. I did this in my stand mixer.

Stir in the caster sugar and the raisins.

Add the egg and mix.

Add enough milk until you have a stiff dough. It mustn’t be too wet i.e. you’re not aiming for a cake batter, more a biscuit dough texture.

Spoon into nine equal heaps on the baking tray – try to make them as uniform in size as possible.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

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


Sunday, 19 February 2012

Lemon Curd Cupcakes

Sometimes, the urge to make cupcakes is overwhelming; I think it’s that they’re so pretty. Mr CC and the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma) both love lemon and Mr CC had been muttering that he never gets anything lemon because I don’t like it. So I decided to make lemon cupcakes.

For an ingredient I loathe so much, I actually really like baking with lemons; they’re a beautiful colour and shape. I enjoy zesting them, juicing them and I think I’ve extolled the joy of making curd before. If only I liked the taste they would be a perfect fruit! In contrast, I find apples totally irritating to work with – peeling, fighting their mania to discolour, coring, slicing etc – but adore their flavour.

The cupcake sponge is different to my usual recipe and the inclusion of yoghurt added an extra lightness to the batter. It is amazing how lemony it tasted when the only lemony ingredient was the zest. By the time I’d added some curd it was zingy in the extreme.

I adapted the recipe from the BBC Good Food site
by ditching the poppy seeds and replacing with the lemon curd element and then adding this to the buttercream as well. In my experience, the lemon lovers want their citrus left pure!

These are very big cupcakes; when I had filled my 12 paper cases and still had batter left over for about another four cupcakes, of course the sensible thing to do would have been to make a further four cupcakes...but that’s not the way I roll! So, 12 mega large cupcakes it was!

The addition of curd to the buttercream seemed to make it extra creamy and whippy – almost mousse-like. My eaters said that these cupcakes tasted really fresh and natural, which I suppose is understandable as the lemon flavour comes only from fresh lemons.


For the lemon curd:

1 lemon – zest and juice
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
50g unsalted butter

For the cupcake sponge:

225g self raising flour
175g golden caster sugar
2 lemons – zest only
3 eggs
100g natural yoghurt
175g unsalted butter, melted and left to cool
Some of the lemon curd

For the buttercream:

225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
400g icing sugar
1 lemon – juice only
Some of the lemon curd – I used all that remained (approximately 4-5 teaspoons)

Decoration: sprinkles or wafer flowers


Start by making the lemon curd (you can do this 1-2 days ahead of making the cupcakes): Place the lemon zest and sugar in a bowl.

Whisk together the lemon juice and eggs and pour over the sugar.

Cut the butter into little pieces and scatter over the top.

Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (or use a bain marie pan if you have one) and cook for approximately 15 minutes.

Stir occasionally but not obsessively until you have a golden, thick curd.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Refrigerate until required.

Now make the sponge: Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Line a 12 hole cupcake pan with paper cases.

Place the flour, sugar and zest into a bowl and mix.

In a separate bowl mix together the eggs, yoghurt and cooled melted butter.

Add the wet ingredient to the dry and whisk until well combined and smooth.

Spoon into the paper cases.

Spoon a scant half teaspoon of lemon curd on top of the batter in each paper case, then take a cocktail stick and swirl it into the batter.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. (NB. The cake sponge will stay pale even after baking so don’t rely on colour as a guide to ‘doneness’!)

Cool briefly in the tin before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Now make the buttercream: beat the butter until it is really soft and whipped.

Gradually beat in the icing sugar, then the lemon juice.

Beat in the lemon curd a teaspoon at a time. (Any leftover curd can be eaten on toast!)

Spoon the buttercream into an icing bag (if it feels soft, refrigerate it for 5 minutes before piping) and pipe over the top of the sponges.

Finish off with a flower decoration of sugar sprinkles.

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


Sunday, 12 February 2012

Apricot, almond and panna cotta tart

I was fairly restrained this Christmas with purchasing food frippery. Yes OK, there’s an unopened large tin of Roses, plus a couple of giant toblerones lurking in a cupboard somewhere and we still seem to have half a pot of twiglets (honestly, I think they multiply whenever you put the lid back on), but with regard to those odd purchases that only seem like a good idea for two short weeks in December, I didn’t do badly...except for this jar of apricots in amaretto syrup.

What can I say? I lost my mind. I’m not mad about apricots...ditto amaretto. But the jar was nice and it was a special price if you bought a matching jar of cherries in port (expect to see these featured in future weeks/months!).

I fancied making pastry this weekend and chose this almond pastry to compliment the amaretto. I thought about making a crème patisserie filling but wanted something more set – so opted for panna cotta.

Panna cotta is so easy to make and has such a lovely creamy flavour and texture that I wonder why it isn’t used more in baking. It is a perfect filling for tarts as it sets and then cuts into lovely clean slices. Plus, unlike some crème patisserie or custards, when cut it doesn’t all squidge into an untidy mess. I think it looks rather elegant!

Yes, this tart tasted as heavenly as you’d expect; if you want to know just how heavenly, Mr CC had a second slice...Mr CC never has a second slice of anything (until now!). While I wasn’t overly keen on the amaretto apricots on their own, when eaten with the pannacotta and pastry all the flavours balanced out so that the fruitiness tempered the creaminess and vice versa.

I only used the apricots as I’m determined to exhaust my Christmas stocks before Easter arrives (for me this is traditionally the next period of grocery madness on the calendar). It would work well with any fruit; I already thinking of raspberries perhaps setting some in the base of the panna cotta itself.


For the almond shortcrust pastry:

170g plain flour
60g ground almonds
110g unsalted butter, cold
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks, plus 1 further egg yolk when baking
2 tablespoons cold water

For the panna cotta:
6 gelatine leaves
500ml milk (anything but skimmed – does that even contain milk?)
500ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, cut open and seeds scraped out
50g caster sugar

To finish the tart: apricot halves in amaretto syrup


Start by making the pastry: Place the flour and ground almonds in a food processor and briefly pulse until they are combined.

Add the butter, diced into small cubes, and blitz until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor you can use the rubbing in method.

Add the sugar and blitz briefly.

Add the 2 egg yolks and water and pulse the processor until the dough just starts to come together.

Tip the dough out onto a sheet of clingfilm and bring together into a soft ball.

Flatten the ball into a disc shape (this will make rolling out easier) and wrap in the clingfilm.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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

Roll the chilled pastry out between two sheets of clingfilm and use to line a 23cm loose bottomed round flan tin. No need to grease the tin as the pastry is buttery enough not to stick. It is very important that your pastry has no holes in it so patch carefully if need be! Don’t trim the pastry yet – leave the excess hanging over the side.

Line the pastry with a sheet of baking paper and weigh down with some baking beans.

Bake the pastry case for 15 minutes, then remove the beans and paper.

Brush with the remaining egg yolk (this seals up any tiny cracks and ensures the pastry won’t leak when you fill it with panna cotta) and bake for a further 5 minutes or until the pastry is golden and cooked. The pastry will not be baked again so must be fully cooked at this stage.

Leave to cool on a wire rack – do not remove from the tin until you serve the tart.

When cool, trim the excess pastry away; some will have already dropped off during cooking. (BTW, don’t throw the offcuts – they are delicious! Cooks perks and all that....)

Now make the panna cotta: Soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water until they are soft.

Place the milk, cream, vanilla pod, vanilla seeds and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Discard the vanilla pod.

Squeeze as much water as you can out of the gelatine leaves and whisk into the creamy mixture. It will dissolve pretty quickly but make sure you’ve thoroughly whisked it in as you don’t want lumps.

Leave the panna cotta mixture to cool for about 20 minutes.

Ladle the mixture into your cooled pastry case.

Refrigerate for several hours (overnight is best).

On the day of serving place the apricot halves on top of the set panna cotta and drizzle some of the amaretto syrup over the top.

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


Sunday, 5 February 2012

Rhubarb crumb cake

One of the few cheering sights during this sudden cold snap of weather has been the appearance of the wonderfully pink forced rhubarb. Seriously, is there a better colour anywhere in the world of fruit and veg than this:

My local market sells better quality rhubarb than any supermarket – I do think rhubarb is a product that supermarkets can never compete on; maybe it sits around for too long in their warehouses?

Anyway, I digress! I wanted to make a very simple cake that complimented the rhubarb but in no way competed with it – this cake is it. The sponge is soft with a small, close crumb as it uses icing rather than caster sugar; I think this photo shows the texture well:

It has a hint of vanilla and the rhubarb bakes into the batter and the juices sink into the sponge. The crumb topping adds some texture and a further pop of sweetness to balance the sharp, tart rhubarb. A brief note re the crumb – when you make it, it won’t look like a crumble topping; it’s more like a biscuit dough and can only be crumbled after chilling. This is what it looks like:

As I stand in my kitchen baking on a Saturday afternoon I realise that I am now officially old. Why? Because there’s a forecast of heavy snow overnight and I’m praying the forecast is wrong. I don’t want it to snow [Sunday update: too bad what I wanted – it DID snow. Lots.] I have never felt like that before...suppose all I can do now is plug in my heated slipper boot, boil up some fish for tea, dye my hair a silvery lilac colour and play some bingo.......

Sunday update: Because of the snow, no one is travelling – and rightly so, I hastily add. However, I baked two of these rather large cakes and am now wondering what to do with them! I’ve already decided that I can heat slices and serve with custard as a pud, and I reckon the rest should freeze well.

It is always the joke in my family that I am cake obsessed and see cake in things where no cake should be seen. I would therefore like to point out that it was the CCD (Caked Crusader’s Da) and not me who thought these looked like little iced cakes:


For the crumb topping:

90g unsalted butter, melted
100g brown sugar – I used half light, half dark
125g plain flour

For the cake:

250g rhubarb, cut into 1.5cm chunks
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
185g self raising flour
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
185g icing sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To serve: thick cream (I used clotted cream)


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

Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper.

Start by making the crumb topping: mix together the melted butter and sugar then, using a fork, press in the flour until you have a firm, almost biscuit dough type mixture. I know it doesn’t look very crumbly at this point but keep faith!

Place in the fridge until needed.

Now make the cake: Mix together the rhubarb, brown sugar and 30g of the flour. Put to one side.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. It will look like whipped butter as the icing sugar seems to almost dissolve.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Stir in the vanilla.

Fold in the remaining 155g of flour.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface – take care to ensure the batter goes right into the corners.

Add the rhubarb on top of the batter. If any flour has pooled at the bottom of the dish you kept the rhubarb in, don’t use it – you only want the flour that has stuck to the rhubarb.

Take the crumb mix from the fridge and crumble it over the rhubarb.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out virtually clean (you may find it has rhubarb juices or crumb topping on it).

Leave the cake to cool, on a wire rack, but still in its tin.

Cut into generous squares and serve with thick cream.

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