Saturday, 17 August 2013

Nectarine loaf cake

I had a few nectarines in the fridge looking decidedly dodgy, and, getting that feeling that you need to make a cake and nothing else will do, I thought I'd put them to use. I made a plain loaf cake mix, with extra flour to adjust for the liquid in the fruit; dotted chopped nectarines in layers with the mix, and also heavily on the top.

Once baked and out of the oven, I drizzled over a mix of granulated sugar that had been melted with some lemon juice. There was a LOT of sugar so the crust was really thick (and made my teeth hurt a little). I have mislaid my scrap of paper that had all the measurements written on, so I can't repeat the recipe here. But, it wasn't that great anyway. The nectarines didn't taste of nectarines much, and the sugar crust was too much. It was very moist, to the point of a little claggy. I won't be baking this one again (I can't really, anyway, seeing as I can't remember how I made it - good job really!)

It looked quite attractive though.

A very, very, very sugary crust

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Earl Grey tea cake

For the August meeting of the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club, we met at St John's Church, Stamford, so I thought it appropriate to bake an Earl Grey tea cake - More Tea Vicar!

This is a recipe from the Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook, which I have made a couple of times now. The first time, I opened the oven after the allotted baking time, only to find it not quite done yet and quickly sinking in the middle as all the air escaped out of the oven door. This time, I left it in a big longer to avoid the same - and I think it was a little overdone. Next time, I will get it spot on.

2 tbsp Earl Grey leaf tea
200 plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb
120g butter
330 caster sugar
3 eggs
120ml buttermilk (the first time I made this I had no buttermilk, so instead used a little natural yogurt and a little milk, and it seemed to do OK)
1/2 tsp vanilla paste

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
Bash the hell out of the Earl Grey leaves with a pestle and mortar.
Sift together the tea, flour, and bicarb.
Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.
Gradually add the beaten eggs, adding a little flour if it looks like it is separating.
Mix in the flour a third at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Add the vanilla. Mix well. Pour into the tin.
Bake for about 45 minutes.

Once the cake is cool, pour icing over the top to drip down the sides. Make the icing using icing powder, lemon zest (about 1 lemon), and a couple of tablespoons of cold Earl Grey tea until you get the right consistency. I never measure the icing sugar.

This cake has a lovely texture with an interesting fleck of tea through it. The tangy lemon icing really does the flowery tea justice, and it went down really well with everyone who tried it. I made this for a birthday party the week before the cake club, and it disappeared so quickly I almost didn't get a piece.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Delicious ginger biscuits

For my annual jolly to the Festival of Quilts, I made me and my friend some delicious ginger biscuits to snack on - the joys of the NEC food halls aren't much to write home about (or indeed write about in a blog!). These biscuits really look the part - better than you could buy in a shop, and with that wonderful home-made wonkiness that gives them their charm.

They're really easy to make, and make a good batch - about 26 - 30 depending on how big or small you go. I like to go a little small, so I get more out of them - quality and quantity.

115g butter
85g golden syrup
350g self-raising flour
1 and a half tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarb
200g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 lumps of stem ginger, chopped

Preheat the oven to 170C (150C fan) and prepare three baking trays.
Melt the butter and golden syrup over a low heat, then allow to cool until almost cold.
Sift the flour, bicarb, ground ginger, and sugar into a bowl.
Pour the butter and syrup mixture into the bowl, briefly stir, then add the egg, and the chopped ginger. Stir well until it all comes together - you might need to get your hands in to make sure it's a good dough.
Roll into golf ball sized balls and place on the baking trays, spaced out well.
Bake for about 15 - 20 minutes.

It is an effort not to eat several of these at once. They are great on the day of baking, as they are crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The day after, if you haven't placed them in an airtight box (oops, I didn't), they might be a little less crunchy - but still delicious.

This is my favourite ginger biscuit recipe I think. I haven't made them in a while, mainly because they are just too moreish. I can't stop at one.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Stamford cake club saints and sinners

In an historical turn, the Stamford CCC met on Sunday, August 4, for a sermon, service, and slice of cake at St John's Church. This 15th-century church isn't active in the sense of regular services, but rather serves as an historical base for visitors and cake lovers alike. Once everyone arrived in the church and took a pew, standing with my notebook I did feel compelled to give a sermon - but, luckily for the members, I simply encourage some cake eating instead.
It was fascinating to learn about the history of this hidden Stamford gem while we scoffed down 12 cakes, all baked to the theme of 'Saints and sinners'. We had three new members, and three guests, giving a congregation of 15 altogether.

The group was evenly split between saints and sinners (I thought we'd have more sinners!) - six of each:
'More tea vicar' Earl Grey cake - Sophie
Angel cake - Kelly F
Low-fat orange and poppyseed cake - Vic
Victoria sponge - Sarah G
Baked berry cheesecake - Katie
Strawberry and white chocolate cake - Anthea
Devil's food cake - Rhoda
Sticky toffee cake - Vicky
Red velvet cake - Katerina
Devil's food cake - Jane
Chocolate orange marble cake - Louise
Chocolate cake - Natalie

Poor Vic had a total caketastrophy - a mechanical failure of her cake tin meant her low-fat orange and poppyseed cake went all over the road 100 yards from the venue.... However, following a detailed risk assessment and in-depth warning sheet, several of us adhered to the motto 'a little bit of dirt won't hurt' and gave the cake a go - and it was delicious. My 10-minute warning from my stomach didn't kick in so we all assumed the 3-second rule on the floor had worked OK.
It was great to see Louise ventured into the realm of baking after coming as a guest a couple of times - long may your lovely cake baking continue! The new tin was worth it!
Despite the rain, everyone had a good natter and enjoyed all the cakes, filling our cake troughs to the brim at the end of the afternoon. Kelly missed out on a couple of cakes in her trough however, as she was chatting too much about the history of the church!

It was great to support the Church Conservation Trust while enjoying our cake and conversation. Giving something back to the community that supports our cake group feels as good as the baked goods in our stomachs.

I'm loving our cake club. I have to admit to being totally nerve-racked during the events, running around like a blue-arsed fly and talking to everyone without actually talking to anyone - I love the organising, and the write-ups afterwards, but I am so nervous and high on adrenalin that I don't enjoy the meetings themselves! I am getting better each month, though, and hopefully one month soon I'll be able to relax...