Thursday, 10 April 2014

Stamford Clandestine Cake Club Spring Fling

Just as Spring has been springing into life in our gardens, so too did the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club, with our Spring Fling themed event on Monday, April 7. We had 12 tasty Spring cakes to sample in the upstairs room at The Crown Hotel, Stamford. We met here just over a year ago when there were only 7 members; this month, we had 15 attendees with 12 cakes, ranging from a chocolate orange marble cake to two lemon and poppyseed bundts.

Unfortunately I couldn’t taste the two chocolate cakes we had this month, as I gave up all things chocolate for Lent. Stupid idea! I did accidentally lick my finger on which was resting a smidge of chocolate cream but we’ll overlook that indiscretion. I have told member Victoria Sponge that she needs to make me her chocolate nest cake with Cadbury Mini Eggs for Easter!

Lemon poppyseed bundt cakeFlourless chocolate nest cake

The roll of honour was as follows:
Two lemon and poppyseed bundts – Sophie and Louise
Flourless chocolate nest cake – Vic
Lemon sherbet cake – Anthea
Ginger and lime layer cake – Simon
Citrus sunbeam cake – Kerry
Lemon parsnip and hazelnut cake – Vicky
Violet and orange posy cake – Lisa
Apricot and almond cake – Sarah
Lemon meringue cake – Alice
Chocolate orange marble cake – Celia
Lemon sponge with lemon curd – Ros

Lots of lovely lemon cakes but no lemon drizzles – hurrah! I’m always impressed at how hard the Stamford members try to bake a new and different recipe, and everyone says it’s great to have a challenge of a theme.

Ginger and lime cakeLemon sponge with lemon curd

We enjoyed a lovely evening of chat and cake in The Crown and the bar staff really loved the plates of cake we provided. Looking forward to the next event, on May 12th. 

For information about the Clandestine Cake Club click here

Friday, 7 March 2014

Chocolate and raspberry opera cake

For the March meeting of the Clandestine Cake Club in Stamford, the theme was 'Such drama' and I plumped for an opera cake. I thought it would be a challenge - and it certainly was.

I can easily say I won't be rushing to make this sort of cake again. It took about 7 hours from start to finish, and I was knackered by the end of it - and I didn't enjoy the process. The cake was fine to make, but the French buttercream - what a faff. It was divinely smooth, but oh-so-rich - too buttery for my liking. And a real skill to master (I think I bodged it in the end). You might also notice a deliberate mistake from the photograph - I ran out of raspberries. Although several people at cake club thought it was meant to look like that - modern art if you like - I could've got away with it!

For the kirsch syrup
100g caster sugar
3 tbsp kirsch
For the sponge
3 egg whites
15g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
100g icing sugar
3 eggs
30g plain four, sifted
30g butter, melted
For the chocolate ganache
100ml double cream
100g dark chocolate
For the French buttercream
3 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
225g butter, cubed and softened
2 tsp vanilla paste
To decorate
60-ish raspberries
200g seedless raspberry jam

Preparation method

For the kirsch syrup, tip the sugar into a small pan. Add 200ml water and cook over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes, or until the syrup has reduced by half. Remove from the heat, add the kirsch, stir and leave to cool completely.

For the sponge, heat the oven to 220C/Fan 200C. Grease and line a 33x23cm Swiss roll tin with baking parchment. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Add the caster sugar, one teaspoon at a time, whisking between each addition to make a glossy meringue. Cover with cling film and set aside.

Tip the ground almonds and icing sugar into the bowl of a food mixer and add the whole eggs. Whisk together for 3-5 minutes, or until doubled in volume. Fold in the flour, and then gently fold in the meringue in three separate batches. Pour the melted butter down the side of the bowl and fold in, until incorporated. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 5-7 minutes until pale, golden-brown and springy to touch.

Place a sheet of baking parchment over a cooling rack and turn the cake out onto it. Peel off the baking parchment from the base of the cake and leave to cool completely.

For the chocolate ganache, pour the cream into a small pan and heat until just bubbling. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth and glossy. Pour into a bowl and leave to set.

For the French buttercream, place the egg yolks in the bowl of a food mixer. Whisk until pale and fluffy. In a pan over a gentle heat, dissolve the sugar in three tablespoons of water and then boil it steadily until the syrup reaches 110C on a sugar thermometer. With the food mixer running, slowly pour the syrup over the egg yolks. Continue whisking until the mixture is thick and mousse-like. Add the butter, a little at a time, whisking continuously and finally add the vanilla paste.
Make sure the sugar isn’t too hot. If it is, it will solidify the second it hits the bowl or the whisk. This happened to me the first time - I had a second go, making sure the sugar didn’t get too hot (I think my sugar thermometer is unreliable so I just watched it).

To assemble, slice the cooled sponge horizontally so you have two 33x23cm sponges. Cut each of the sponges in half vertically, so that you have four sponges.

Place one of the sponges on a cake board and brush with some of the kirsch syrup. Spread over some of the French buttercream with a palette knife. Top with another sponge and brush with kirsch syrup, then spread over the chocolate ganache.

Top with a third sponge and brush with more kirsch syrup. Spread over more French buttercream. Top with the final sponge. Brush with the remaining kirsch syrup and spread with the remaining crème au beurre.

Arrange the raspberries over the top in rows and brush over the melted jam to glaze. Refrigerate the opera cake for at least two hours to set the layers and make it easier to trim. Trim the edges using a sharp knife to reveal the layers.

This is a recipe from BBC Food.

I won't be making it again, although everyone thought it was lovely. It was too rich for me. Give me a Victoria sponge any day.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Drama at Stamford clandestine cake club

The venue for the Stamford CCC on March 3, 2014, was the Stamford Corn Exchange, in the Green Room of the Lounge Bar. With such a theatrical location, our theme reflecting the dramatic nature of the building – and our fabulous bakers didn’t disappoint. It was a tricky theme but the range of inspiration was brilliant – from Murder She Wrote, to opera, to Macbeth, Mamma Mia, and razmataz.
We snuck into our little room past the Stamford elderlies playing bingo – they didn’t know what had hit them! – and had a great close-knit meeting. With several last-minute cancellations out of our control, we made the most of our more intimate group this month and had a good natter. It was great having a smaller group as we could all join in discussions together!
We shared a range of baking disaster stories this month, from my new-found hatred of French buttercream and staggering lack of raspberries, to Simon’s Yorkshire-pudding-esque creation, Vic’s flatness, and Rhoda’s not-enough-Drambuie-ness. But despite our concerns all the cakes were as delicious as ever!
Much gravitas goes to Vic, for her Angela Lansbury cake (“Don’t cut her head off!”), Sammy, for her amazing cauldron of delights, complete with black lace and jelly snakes, and Alice’s brilliant popcorn box. A warm welcome was given to Ros with her fab chocolate theatre masks.
The cake roll of honour:
Chocolate and raspberry opera cake – Sophie
‘Sticky situation’ date cake – Vic
‘To BEE or not to BEE’ or ‘Honey, Honey’ cake – Vicky
Razzle dazzle lemon roulade – Anthea
Green tea kasutera cake – Simon
Popcorn box cake – Alice
‘Hubble bubble, toil and trouble, fire burn and chocolate cauldron’ Macbeth cake – Sammy
Passion(fruit) and Drama(buie) cake – Rhoda
Madame butterfly cake – Sarah
Chocolate and raspberry theatre cake – Ros
To find out more about the Clandestine Cake Club, click here.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

St Petersburg restaurant, Peterborough

I have to share with you the delights of the St Petersburg restaurant in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. I haven't yet visited this establishment (I actually picked up the menu while waiting for my table at the curry house over the road, The Bombay Brasserie, which is a personal favourite). Some of the names of the dishes are brilliant! I'm sure I'll be taking a trip to the St Petersburg restaurant very soon.

Top attractions on the menu include:
Breakfast, for him (ham, cheese and onion omelette)
The hungry man's dream (omelette with prawns and vegetables)
Stepmother's whim (pasta with salmon, cream, and spinach)
A man's dream (pork strips in tomato sauce with kidney beans)
Bear roast (grilled pork with mushrooms)
Dragon tongue (pork with coleslaw)
Beer pizza (cheese, cumin, and garlic)

I am equally pleased and disappointed that the bear roast isn't actually bear.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Baby shower ombre mini loaf cakes

For a friend’s baby shower recently (more on that subject later) I took the opportunity to use one of my Christmas presents, a mini loaf tin from Lakeland. I’d been itching to put it into practice.

I made some very simple little sponges, with the basic 6-6-6-3 recipe, with a little vanilla paste thrown in. I then decorated them with pink ombre icing, using three varieties of pink, from pale to blushing. They looked quite cute when finished.

I love the tin and think mini loaf cakes are a great idea. However I did struggle to get them all out in one piece, and so they were a little crumbly around the sides. I did butter and flour the tin before I put the batter in (which, with the loose bottoms for each hole, was a bit of a feat in itself) as I didn’t trust its claims to be non-stick. Maybe that was my error – next time I’ll try not greasing them and see what happens.

I detest baby showers, I’m afraid to say. While I love to embrace the miracle of new life and am excited about the new arrival, I do not enjoy sniffing nappies full of melted chocolate that ‘looks like poo’, or tasting baby food, nor do I want to melt the ice in that shot glass containing a toy baby.

But most of all, I don’t want to spend the entire afternoon defending why I don’t yet have children, why I don’t want any tomorrow, and why I’m not sure whether I want any at all. I think it’s a very personal question, ‘do you want children?’, and I don’t like the judgement on people’s faces when I say ‘I’m not sure, actually’. What would that person say if I answered ‘I can’t have children’? I got fed up of explaining that at the moment, it might not be the right thing for me, although yes I’m thinking about it for the future, but no I’m not desperate for children tomorrow thanks all the same, and that is OK.

With all the politicians wading in at the moment about how irresponsible young women are for not starting a family until 30 or later, I wish people would just leave us non-mothers and our clanging ovaries alone. There are a million reasons behind everyone’s decision to have children, or not. My reasons are wound together in a mess of finding the right partner, money, employment, mental health, career, family, house, and worry, worry, worry about everything. I refuse to apologise for my current lack of children. I hope the powers that be look down on me and Steve and we are lucky enough to have a child in the future, but that is none of anyone else's business, quite frankly.  

Suzanne Moore wrote a recent article in the Guardian about such things, give it a read.