Sunday, 26 May 2013

Raspberry and cream Victoria sponge


This was rather a last minute concoction.  I had planned on making raspberry ripple pavlovas and dutifully made my meringues last night and left them to cool in the oven.  Last night they looked amazing.  This morning, the raspberry swirl had turned to mush and I wasn’t so much left with mini pavlovas as pink swamp things!  At least it happened before I wasted any of the expensive what’s a girl to do when she has a basic store cupboard at her disposal and lots of raspberries and cream?

Glammed-up Victoria sponge was, of course, the answer!  I cut the sponge into four tiers and layered it with whipped cream and fresh raspberries.  And I might be being presumptuous but I suspect everyone enjoyed it more than they would have enjoyed the pavlovas (in truth, they were a selfish eatership isn’t really into fancy meringues!)

When I’ve made multi-tiered sponges in the past I find they can get a bit wobbly on the upper layers.  So I deployed my adjustable dessert ring to hold everything in place – it does give more precise sides and structure.

Having cut the sponge into four layers I then found I couldn’t use the fourth layer as it would have made the sponge too tall...and that’s me saying that.  I think when you come up to the top of the deep dessert ring it’s a good sign that you should stop.  It wouldn’t have fit on a small plate if I’d pushed on with the fourth tier...and cake served on dinner plates seems a bit much!  I will possibly use the spare disc of sponge for little trifles but, if my spidey-senses are correct, I suspect Mr CC will just polish it off with a cup of tea.

For the sponge:
4 eggs, at room temperature
Unsalted butter, at room temperature
Caster sugar
Self-raising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
A little milk, if necessary
For the filling:
400g raspberries, washed and dried
600ml double cream
To assemble the cake:
Icing sugar or caster sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/fan oven 160˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4.
Line two 20cm sandwich cake tins with baking paper; I put a disc of paper in the bottom and a strip around the side that comes up above the height of the tin.
Weigh the eggs in their shells – this will tell you the weight for the butter, sugar and flour. Mine weighed 263 grams.
Whatever the weight of your eggs (in their shells) weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour.
Beat the butter until it is light and whippy, then beat in the sugar until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage as it’s the key way of getting air into your sponge.
Beat in the eggs one at a time; if you whipped the butter and sugar enough there shouldn’t be any curdling, but if there is add some of the flour to correct it.
Beat in the vanilla extract.
Fold in the flour.
If the batter is thick and won’t easily drop from the mixing spoon, fold in a tablespoon of milk. It may need a further tablespoon. Add enough milk to reach “dropping consistency”.
Spoon the batter into the prepared sandwich tins and gently smooth the tops with a knife.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the sponge comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
When the sponges are cool cut each one through horizontally so that you have four discs of sponge.
Whip the cream until it holds firm peaks – somewhere between soft and stiff!  Don’t overbeat it.
Now you can build the cake: place a disc of sponge onto the serving plate.  If you have an adjustable ring mould it is useful to build the layers in that, as it keeps it upright and stops the cream squidging out the sides.  If you haven’t – don’t panic!  Just take care not to put too much cream at the edge of the sponge.
Spoon 1/3 of the whipped cream onto the sponge and spread.
Scatter 1/3 of the raspberries over the cream and top with a second disc of sponge.
Repeat until you have used all the cream and raspberries and have the final disc of sponge on top of the cake.
Refrigerate until serving, and dust with some icing sugar.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Birthday gingerbread train


Mr CC is very weird in that he prefers biscuits to cake.  How I find myself married to a man with such an obvious and serious flaw is a mystery but – to quote Some Like it Hot – nobody’s perfect!  When I saw this biscuit cutter set that allows you to build a 3D free-standing steam train I knew I had found the design for Mr CC’s birthday cake (I’m sorry, but calling it a ‘birthday biscuit’ is just plain wrong), for Mr CC likes trains almost as much as he likes biscuits.

I used the recipe included with the cutter set...and that was perhaps a mistake.  It baffles me why companies include recipes with their products that don’t quite bring out the best in their product.  Firstly, they called it a gingerbread train recipe but it didn’t include any ginger – so I had to amend that!  Secondly, the quantities they list to make a whole three carriage train looked mighty scanty.  I doubled the quantities and still only had enough for a two carriage train.  Thirdly, they tell you to brush the uncooked biscuits with egg yolk – I assume to glaze the biscuit.  This came out a bit streaky, so I didn’t glaze the second batch and it looked much better.  However, the gingerbread was very tasty (even if it did puff up during baking!):

It’s like the spongier gingerbread you get at German markets, rather than the crisp biscuit type.  Very nice texture indeed:

The big benefit with this recipe is that you can make the dough in advance and keep it in the fridge.  I made it two days ahead although it will apparently keep for up to fourteen days.  The other benefit is that the recipe is dairy-free – I was sceptical as to whether one could make good gingerbread without butter, but you can!

About once a year I like to take on an ambitious (for me) decorating project, for no reason other than to remind myself that I am not a decorator, never will be a decorator and that watching ‘Amazing Wedding Cakes’ on the Food Network channel will never turn me into a decorator.  I think this train has achieved it...I don’t think there is a straight line on it.

If you are wondering why the loco tender has ‘4472’ on it (or rather icing squiggles that look a bit like it if you squint), it is because this is the number of the famous Flying Scotsman train, the first steam loco to reach 100mph.  However hard you may fight it, you learn things like this when you are married to a train enthusiast (and, of course, by enthusiast I mean an out-and-proud nerd...and I wouldn’t have him any other way!)

Happy birthday Mr CC!


2 eggs
320g plain flour
100g icing sugar
80g runny honey
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger


Place all the ingredients into a bowl and mix together to form a dough.

Knead until you have an even ball of dough – it will be sticky.

Form into two fat discs and wrap in clingfilm.

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 14 days.

Preheat the oven to 150°C/fan oven 130°C/300°F/gas mark 2.

Line three baking sheets with non-stick foil or baking paper.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of clingfilm – I dusted the dough with a little extra icing sugar as it was still tacky to the touch and I worried about it sticking.

Roll the dough to just under 0.5cm thick.

Cut out the dough and place on the prepared baking sheets; it will not expand in width so you can place them close together.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, turning the trays halfway through cooking.  It is ready when it has turned a dark golden colour.

Leave to cool on the baking sheets until cold and firm.

Decorate as desired.

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


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Oatmeal and honey cake


Apart from parkin, all my oat recipes have been biscuits.  Time to redress the balance a little.  The best way I can describe this recipe is that it is the flavour of a flapjack but with the lightness of a cake.  The topping provides the oaty flapjack dense texture but then is balanced by a light sponge.  My major problem with flapjacks has always been that because they are pretty heavy going I can never eat as much/as many as I want to...consider that problem solved with this cake!  Here’s the oaty topping:

You scatter this on top of the cake (before baking) like so:

The cake has a great mix of textures and – as everyone knows – the addition of oats must mean it’s healthy!

A perfect cake to accompany a mid morning cuppa or equally at home warmed up and served with a jug of custard for dessert.  Ice cream would work too (I’ll whisper that so that I don’t upset Mr CC).

I made the cake plain, as per the recipe set out below, but I really think it could take a pinch of spice if you were so inclined.  I think it’s best plain for this time of year but I can imagine it in the darkest depths of winter with a good hit of cinnamon or ginger.  Perhaps with some lightly poached plums on the side.  Oh god, I’m making myself hungry now!

This would make a great cake tin cake, by which I mean that cake you have no particular need for but like to know it’s there so you can have a slice over the course of several days.  It gets better with age as the oats and honey seem to mature and develop their flavours.  I think it would also be rather nice made as a tray bake.


For the topping:
100g unsalted butter
100g honey, plus extra for drizzling over the baked cake
150g rolled oats

For the cake:
200g unsalted butter
50g medium oatmeal
100g light brown muscovado sugar
150g self raising flour
4 eggs


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Start by making the topping (sounds weird, but it needs time to cool!): melt the butter and honey in a saucepan over a gentle heat.

Remove from the heat and stir in the oats taking care to ensure that every oat is covered in the buttery honey.

Tip into a bowl and leave to one side.

Now make the cake: melt the butter.

While the butter is melting, place the oatmeal, sugar and flour in a bowl.

Beat in the melted butter.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Pour (it will be runny) into the prepared cake tin.

Scatter the oaty topping over the cake – don’t worry that some will sink into the cake as the oats are heavy and the cake batter is liquidy. 

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin until it is safe to de-tin, then leave the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cake comes out of the oven drizzle over some extra honey.

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


Sunday, 5 May 2013

Rhubarb, orange and almond cake

Some people listen out for the first cuckoo to tell them when spring’s here.  I wait for the CCD (Caked Crusader’s Da) to tell me that he’s got tons of rhubarb and I’d better come up with some plans for it or it will pressure then!

So here it is; my first home-grown rhubarb bake of the year.  Spring has officially arrived!  Rhubarb and almond always work well together, as do rhubarb and putting all three together is dynamite!  Orange seems to add freshness to rhubarb and lift the flavour to something even zingier.  The almond does what it always does and adds lovely body to the sponge and a comforting blanket of flavour.

This is a big cake but it keeps well.  It’s the sort of cake I find irresistible – homely and rustic.  I love how the rhubarb bakes down and becomes squidgy but retains a hint of sharpness.

Definitely a cake you have to be genteel to eat – it requires a plate and fork as it is very soft and crumbly.  You won’t get away with a quick hand-held slice gobbled down in the kitchen while you make a cup of tea! (please tell me it’s not just me who cuts themselves a little slice to sit down with, but then cuts a ‘bonus’ slice to eat while you’re waiting for the kettle?)


400g rhubarb cut into 1cm chunks
280g golden caster sugar
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
zest and juice of one orange
225g self raising flour
100g ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
2 handfuls flaked almonds

To decorate: icing sugar

To serve: if serving warm then custard or cream, if serving at room temperature then definitely cream!


Place the chop rhubarb in a bowl and sprinkle 50g of the sugar over it.  Stir to ensure that the rhubarb is covered and leave for 30 minutes.

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

Line a 20cm round springform cake tin with baking paper.

Place the butter, remaining sugar (i.e. 230g), orange zest and juice into a bowl and beat until smooth and well blended.  It might look a bit curdled and yucky at first but keep beating and it will all come good.  You will end up with a rich yellow whippy batter.

Add the flour, almonds, baking powder and eggs and beat until well combined.

Tip in the rhubarb and all the juice that has come out of the rhubarb.  Stir in until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Scatter the flaked almonds over the top.

Bake for approximately 1 hour 25minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  NB.  Check the cake after an hour in case the edges are browning too much – if they are, wrap a piece of foil around the edge to shield them, and continue baking.  I had to do this. 
Don’t worry if it takes longer to bake than the guideline time – the rhubarb releases a lot of juice and this can slow down the baking process.

Leave to cool in the tin until you can safely remove the tin.

Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Just before serving, sieve some icing sugar over the top.

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