Sunday, 27 July 2014

Light ginger fruit cake

If you find traditional celebration fruit cakes too rich and heavy this may well be the cake for you.  Once baked it will store just like its heavier counterparts, and can also be decorated.

There are two options with this recipe – you can soak the fruit in 200ml of ginger wine and bake a spongy, light fruit cake; or you can take the route I did and use 400ml of ginger wine resulting in a cross between a fruit cake and bread pudding.  My cake came out dark and squidgy but was still light.

On my travels I came across Gran Stead’s ginger wine
.  I’m glad I went for the “dark and mellow” rather than the fiery one as it still had some sting to it!  It’s also non-alcoholic so the finished cake doesn’t have that burn of booze that some cakes have.

This cake keeps for ages –just like its more traditional cousins...but, you might also want to bear in mind how awesome it is warmed up and served with custard or ice cream (my nod to summer!) as a dessert.


350g raisins
125g sultanas
125g currants
200ml or 400ml ginger wine – depending on whether you want a spongy or a pudding-y cake, plus 4 tablespoons extra
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g dark muscovado sugar
4 eggs
200g plain flour
50g ground almonds
1 teaspoon mixed spice
2-3 teaspoons ground ginger, depending how hot you want it!
1 tablespoon black treacle


The night before you make the cake place the dried fruits and ginger wine in a bowl to soak.  Stir occasionally.

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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper ensuring that the paper comes up about 2cm above the height of the tin.

Beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and well combined.  The mixture will lighten a bit in colour.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding some of the flour if it looks like it might curdle.
Mix in the flour, almonds, spices and treacle.

Stir in the soaked fruits along with any liquid left in the bowl.

Spoon into the tin (it will come up almost to the top) and level the surface.

Bake for 30 minutes then lower the temperature to 150°/fan oven 130°C/300°F/gas mark 2 and bake for a further 1 ½ - 2 hours, but definitely check after 1 ½ hours as mine was almost done.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pierce all over with a skewer and brush on the 4 tablespoons ginger wine.

Leave the cake to cool completely in its tin before removing and wrapping in baking paper and foil.  Once wrapped the cake will keep for up to 3 months.  If however, like me, you wish to eat the cake straight away, simply de-tin it and put it on a serving plate!

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


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Orange semolina cake

This recipe is adapted from a traditional Greek Revani cake recipe; I have halved the amount of syrup to stop the cake being too sweet and sticky.  For me, there’s a tipping point with syrup – I love baklava for example, but not when you bite into it and syrup pours out.  I realise it is unlike me to call for restraint, but it had to happen one day!  I added some finely grated zest to the batter to make sure the orange flavour wasn’t lost.

Mr CC and I are in the process of moving.  That perhaps makes it sound more organised than it is – basically, we’ve sold our place and we’re looking for a place to move to (did anyone say ‘stress’?).  I’m trying to wind down my larder cupboards...currently so well stocked that the Russian army could drop in unannounced and all enjoy several courses.  That was a favourite phrase of my mother’s; I’m not sure why it was always the Russian army rather than any other country – perhaps she felt it conveyed scale?

Anyway, as Confucius never said: the task of clearing larder cupboards begins with the first bag of semolina.   Hence this week’s bake of semolina cake.  Unusually for me, it’s a dairy free bake.

The semolina gives the cake a different texture to classic sponge; perhaps a little more bite, but in a pleasing rather than gritty way.  As with all syrup cakes, this is best made a day in advance and left to absorb.


For the cake:
175g caster sugar
4 eggs
325g semolina
200g plain flour
225ml olive oil – I used the light one suitable for baking
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
250ml water
Grated zest of one orange

For the syrup:
250ml water
225g caster sugar
Large pieces of orange peel from 1 orange


Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/gas mark 6.

Line a 23cm round springform pan with baking paper.

Beat together the sugar and eggs until thick and creamy.

Add the semolina, flour, olive oil, vanilla, baking powder, water and zest and beat until well combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanly. 

Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Now make the syrup: place the water, sugar and peel in a pan and bring to the boil without stirring.

Leave to boil gently for 8-10 minutes until it reduces and turns syrupy.

Pour through a sieve into a jug or bowl.

Pour/brush over the cool cake and leave to absorb.  I like to leave the cake in the tin for this stage as any leakage is trapped and absorbed into the cake (if you’re using a loose bottomed or springform tin wrap the outside of the tin with foil so that, if there is any leakage, it’s not all over your work top).

Serve with thick cream.

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


Sunday, 13 July 2014

White chocolate sponge cake


Now don’t get me wrong, I have love for all baked goods (even those I don’t personally like) but given the choice of fancy patisserie or a nice simple sponge I will ALWAYS choose the sponge.  What can I say?  I’m clearly low-rent.  Just saying the word ‘sponge’ pleases me.  Low-rent and easily pleased?  Who can say….

I needed sponge cake this week; it’s the cake equivalent of a security blanket.  Have a slice of sponge and all is right with the world.  This sponge recipe is soft and fluffy with a lovely crumb and little pockets of white chocolate baked into it.  The thick, sticky frosting is smooth and perfect for picking up any crumbs that try and escape!  The cream cheese/white chocolate combination worked well as the tang balanced out the sweetness – it was a big hit!

You can decorate it how you please; it truly is a blank canvas.  You could jazz it up with fruit dipped in white chocolate or opt for colourful with smarties.  I chose Aero balls simply because they were big and I liked the two-tone look of them.  I cut the cake into 15 pieces...of varying sizes.  I cannot cut straight to save my life.  Here's the proof:

Recently I have made a discovery.  I always found melting chocolate on the hob a bit stressful because, even though I made all efforts to melt it slowly,  it did occasionally seize on me (go grainy) and it would always be at a high pressure moment when I didn’t have any spare chocolate (in truth, does anyone ever have spare chocolate?  But maybe this is just semantics).  So I switched to the microwave but that can be hit and miss too if it overheats.  My discovery is this: a heat diffuser.  Unfortunately it only works on gas hobs. You place it on the gas ring and put your pan of chocolate directly on top of it.  I have never had any issues since I’ve started using this.  And it only costs around £6!


For the sponge:
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g golden caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
300g self raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
150ml natural yoghurt
3 tablespoons milk
100g white chocolate, finely chopped – or you could use white chocolate chips if you prefer

For the frosting:
100g white chocolate
300g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
100g icing sugar

Optional: sweets of your choice to decorate, or chopped white chocolate


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

Line a 20cm x 30cm tin with baking paper.  You can, if you prefer, use a 20cm square tin or a 23cm round tin but this will alter the depth of the cake and therefore also the cooking time.

Beat the butter until it is soft and creamy.

Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and whippy – do not skimp on this!

Beat in the vanilla.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding some of the flour if it looks like it might curdle.  (Use this as a learning opportunity – if it curdles you didn’t spend long enough beating together the butter and sugar – increase the time next time)

Stir in the flour, baking powder, yoghurt and milk – ensure they are well incorporated into the batter.

Finally, stir in the chopped chocolate.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out cleanly.

Leave to cool in the tin.

Now make the frosting: melt the white chocolate either in the microwave (in short 30 second bursts) or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (ensuring the bowl does not touch the water).

Put the chocolate to one side to cool a little.

Beat together the cream cheese and icing sugar.

Stir in the melted chocolate.

Chill in the fridge until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Spread over the cake and decorate with the sweets of your choice.

Cut into chunky squares.

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


Sunday, 6 July 2014

Coconut and lime loaf

I knew this weekend was going to be a little unpredictable with lots of comings and goings (not to mention one of the greatest Wimbledon finals of all time...sorry for the late posting of this!) so I wouldn’t get my normal, nice, calm baking time.  However, I did still want some homemade cake – obviously!  This recipe is a perfect one to have up your sleeve at such times:  minutes to get in the oven, delicious, and perfect for summer with its tropical flavours.

Coconut and lime is a combination I can be funny about, particularly if the lime is too dominant.  I like the lime in the background to lift the coconut, not as a strong acidic flavour.  To achieve this I used the zest in the sponge, and the juice in the icing.  If you’re a little more hardcore where lime is concerned, add the juice of an additional lime to the cake mix.

Using condensed milk in the cake produces a dense, moist crumb reminiscent of a yoghurt-based sponge.  Condensed milk is very sweet so the recipe does not use any other sugar in the sponge – it really doesn’t need it! 

Next time I make this I might ‘up’ the tropical element and add some Malibu to the batter; it could also be used instead of the lime juice in the icing, although that little kick of zing in the glace icing was one of my favourite elements.  My only regret is that I didn’t have a little cocktail umbrella to decorate the cake with!


For the sponge:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
250g condensed milk
80g desiccated coconut
Optional: 1 teaspoon coconut extract
Grated zest of 2 limes – if you want a stronger hit of lime in the cake use the juice of one lime too
175g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the icing:
100g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut

Optional decoration: lime zest or coconut shavings (or both!)


Preheat the oven to 170°C/ fan oven 150°C/ 340°F/ gas mark 3.

Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper.

Beat the butter until it is light and whippy.

Add all the remaining sponge ingredients and beat until pale and creamy looking.

Pour (the batter will be runny) into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the sponge comes out clean.

Check the cake after 55 minutes and, if it is browning too quickly, cover the tin lightly with foil.

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

Now make the icing: beat together the icing sugar and enough of the lime juice to make a thick, glossy icing.  Add the lime juice 1 teaspoon at a time as it doesn’t take much to make the icing too thin – you might not need the whole lime.

Drizzle the icing over the cake.

Scatter over the coconut shavings or lime zest and leave to set.

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