Sunday, 28 June 2015

Madeira LSP Cake

I am so totally out of the loop on current television ‘must sees’ that it’s embarrassing.  You name a hit show of the last 5-10 years and I can guarantee I won’t have seen it.  Mad Men?  Breaking Bad?  Game of Thrones?  Nope.  Never even seen a snippet of them.  House of Cards? No, which really baffles me given I’m a huge Kevin Spacey fan.  What about home grown ‘must sees’ like The Thick of It?  Downton Abbey? Broadchurch?  Nope, they are just names to me.  I’m not trying to be cool, and I’m certainly not one of those people who says, ‘oh no, we don’t watch television’ in a tone that suggests you’ve just asked them whether they eat babies.  I can’t explain it – modern drama just doesn’t appeal.  There is however one TV show we are utterly obsessed with and it’s a cartoon series called Adventure Time.  I don’t usually like animation but there is something about Adventure Time that is so original, imaginative and downright bonkers that I am hooked.  It packs more creativity into one short episode than most shows could dream of doing in a series.

Adventure Time is set in a post-apocalyptic world, which is never-quite-explained.  We know that the world and most humans seem to have been wiped out in the ‘Mushroom Wars’ and all the characters now live in the Land of Ooo, which is divided into different regions most of which are ruled by a princess or a king.  The protagonists are brothers Jake the Dog and Finn the Human (it is explained- Jake’s family adopted Finn as a baby, yes I have got it the right way round!) but for me the best character by a country mile is Lumpy Space Princess (often referred to as LSP).  LSP is the self-centred, pretty horrible princess of Lumpy Space who prefers to live rough in the woods and is happy as long as she has a can of beans to heat up for dinner.  Even her apologies turn into insults this is my favourite so far: ‘I'm sorry that you're starving because I ate all of your crops, even though you're all still really fat, and I probably helped you lose some weight.  Completely convinced of her gorgeousness (fair enough – look at her!) she has a brilliant voice and way of speaking that is quite hard to impersonate, much as I try.

This cake is my tribute to the awesomeness of LSP.  The flower tin I used gives an approximation of her luscious lumps but isn’t 100% accurate.  It was better than trying to carve a cake into the right proportions….me and cake carving do not get along; look at the issues I’ve had with the decoration alone!

The cake itself is a classic madeira – buttery, spongey and, thanks to the addition of the almonds, moist and keeps well (I say that, but I’m guessing….don’t judge!).  If LSP does nothing for you, then overlook the decoration and focus on the lovely Madeira underneath – it’s a cracker!  I am under no illusions that my decoration skills are poor.  If I asked LSP what she thought of it I have no doubt she would say something like: ‘it’s totally lame, whatever.’


For the cake:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
1 tablespoon milk – only add if needed (see method)

For the glaze:
300 icing sugar
1-3 teaspoons boiling water – you might not need it all
Purple food colouring

To decorate: gold star, black icing


Preheat oven to 170C/Fan oven 150C/340F/gas mark 3.

Grease a 20cm flower shaped pan – you can also use a normal 20cm round springform, or a 900g loaf tin if you’re not fussed about making your cake look like LSP!

Beat together the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy – don’t skimp on this stage.  Because of the ratios, and the fact that it’s golden caster sugar, the batter won’t go quite as light and fluffy as it would for say a normal sponge mix.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Beat in the vanilla.

Fold in the flour and ground almonds.

The mixture should be dropping consistency i.e. fall of the spoon with only gentle encouragement.  If it isn’t, fold in a tablespoon of milk to slacken it.

Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 40 mins – 1 hour.  It will take nearer the hour if you use a loaf tin, but less if you use a round tin.  Start checking after 30 minutes for a round tin, just to make sure you don’t leave it in too long.  The cake is ready when a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Once the cake is cool place a large sheet of foil under the cooling rack – this will catch any icing drips and make the clean up easy.

Now make the glaze:  Beat the boiling water into the icing sugar a teaspoon at a time.  This doesn’t seem like a lot of water but the glaze can become too runny so quickly that I like to go slow and monitor the change each teaspoon makes.

When the glaze is gloopy but not quite as runny as you want, add the food colouring.  As this is a gel it will also have an effect on the viscosity of the icing.

Once you reach the point where the icing is glossy and runny (but still thick) spoon it over the cake and gently spread it out so that it runs down the sides.  To get good coverage on the sides there will be waste, hence the foil under the cooling rack.

Leave to set.

Using a black icing pen (I wanted to get one from the supermarket but they didn’t have any – Tesco, grrrrr, so I ended up making one with food dye which was a bit grey) ice on LSP’s eyes, mouth and arms.

Place the gold star in the centre of her forehead.

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


Sunday, 21 June 2015

Chocolate custard tarts


Did you miss me?  When I signed off in February I wasn’t planning on being away for so long but you know how things are sometimes...weeks become months and so it goes on.  Sorry.  If it’s any consolation I missed you all!    I can’t promise that I’ll go back to my regular-like-clockwork weekly updates but I shall try my very best.

This is the first time I have attempted chocolate pastry.  I’ve read before that it’s ‘tricky’ and can be difficult to roll etc, therefore I decided to take the approach I would to turn a sponge into a chocolate sponge: use a trusted recipe and replace some of the flour with cocoa.  It worked well and I didn’t have any issues with texture or rolling.

I didn’t have to pack chocolate flavour into the pastry as the tart filling was pure chocolate indulgence!  It combines the intense richness of ganache with the velvety texture of custard – be careful not to overbake it or you will lose the lightness of texture.  The use of milk chocolate makes it a tart to suit most palates (except those odd souls who like their chocolate so bitter it’s more of a punishment than a pleasure).

I only ever make individual pies and tarts in disposable foil cases now – they are so easy to use and the pastry never sticks.  There is no sadder sight in baking than a beautiful tart or pie ruined because it wouldn’t come out of the pan.  We’ve all been there – I remember mine was a batch of mince pies that ended up so scarred and battered by the knife I attacked them with to dislodge them, that I suspect they formed some sort of support group to get over the trauma.

Now of course these don’t need any adornment at all but I never know when to stop, so piped a simple rosette of whipped cream on the top of each tart.  I like the contrast it gave against the dark tarts.  I showed a modicum of restraint in not sprinkling crushed flake over the top….but you can bet your life I thought about it (and wanted to!).


For the pastry:
150g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
85g unsalted butter – cold
30g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water

For the filling:
225ml single cream
75ml whole milk
300g milk chocolate
2 eggs

To decorate:
200ml whipping cream


Start by making the pastry: place the flour, cocoa and butter in a food processor and blitz until you have crumbs that look a bit like wet sand.

Add the sugar and blitz again.

Add the egg yolk and water and blitz just until the pastry starts to form.

Tip out onto a sheet of clingfilm and bring together into a ball of dough – don’t over handle or it may become tough.

Roll the pastry out between two sheets of clingfilm and, using a cutter of the appropriate size, cut out rounds to line either a cupcake pan or individual foil tart tins (I use the latter as they are a nice way to transport and protect the tarts).  I got 18 tartlets.

Prick the base of each tart with a fork, then cover with clingfilm and chill for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.  It won’t do any harm to chill overnight, if you want to get a head start!

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

Line each pastry case with baking paper or non stick foil, then weigh down with baking beans or rice.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the baking beans/rice and paper/foil and return to the oven – uncovered – for a further 5 minutes or until the pastry base no longer looks wet or shiny.  This is the best test for chocolate pastry as the colour will not help you!

Put to one side to cool.

Reduce the oven to 140C/fan oven 120C/275F/gas mark 1

Now make the filling: place the cream and milk in a saucepan and bring just to boiling point.
Remove from the heat and add the chocolate.

Stir until all the ingredients are combined.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes before beating in the eggs.

Spoon into the pastry cases – I found a ladle worked best.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the filling looks set but wobbles when you shake the tray – they will continue to set as they cool.

[If you have leftover filling spoon into ramekins and place them in a roasting tin.  Fill the tray with hot water until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until set with a wobble – bonus dessert!]

Leave to cool on wire rack.

Decorate with whipped cream if required.

Refrigerate until about an hour before you wish to serve.

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