Monday, 8 December 2014

Guinness fruit cake recipe

If you're a fan of sticky, rich fruit cakes, then this recipe for Guinness fruit cake will suit you. I made this for the last meeting of the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club - the theme was 'Boozy Bakes'. The recipe came from the CCC Cookbook although I adapted it slightly. This would make a good base for a Christmas cake I think - although I didn't make one this year, next year I might dust off this recipe.

300g mixed dried fruit - my mixture was sultanas, raisins, and dried cranberries
330ml Guinness or other stout
2 eggs, beaten
100g soft light brown sugar
100g dark muscovado sugar
270g self-raising flour
1tsp mixed spice

Marinate the dried fruit in the Guinness for a day if possible, or at least 3-4 hours to make the fruit plump and sticky.
Stir the beaten eggs into the fruit and Guinness mixture. Add the sugars, and then sieve in the flour and spice, and mix well. Be careful not to leave any big lumps of dark sugar.
Pour into a prepared loaf tin (900g).
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C (160C fan), for at least an hour, until a skewer comes out clean.

I think this would be really good served with a nice knob of butter spread over, a bit like a malt loaf. I might like to try it with icing on too. This is a rich and warming cake, with a lovely deep flavour from the Guinness.

I recently wrote about why we love Christmas cake over on the Clandestine Cake Club website - please have a read! Please comment below and tell me why you love Christmas cake, and what sort you've made this Christmas.

Clandestine Cake Club

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Classic Victoria Sponge and a review of the Oregon Scientific kitchen timer

I was recently sent a Oregon Scientific kitchen timer to review for this blog. I was undecided about what to bake for a review post, when I realised, what's more of a test than a classic Victoria sponge cake? Not only is this a delicious, simple, wonderful cake to eat, but it is also a traditional challenge for the home baker. If you can't make a good Vicky sponge, there's no hope. Something that was captured on this year's Great British Bake Off in the final.

The recipe I used was your classic and simple Victoria sponge:
6oz butter
6oz caster sugar
6oz self-raising flour
3 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
Dash of milk (semi-skimmed)

I don't follow Mary Berry's rule of bung it all in together and mix - I stick to the traditional creaming of butter and sugar, add the eggs and paste, sift in the flour and baking powder, and add a bit of milk.

Here comes the science bit - bake for 22 minutes at 170C degrees.

I decided it was a good idea to figure out how the Oregon Scientific  kitchen timer worked before making my cake - I didn't want all the air to sneak out of the mixture while I was frantically pressing buttons. But I needn't have worried, as it was really simple to set up. There are two windows, as you can set two timers at once - this will be really handy for Christmas dinner when you're cooking a million different dishes at once. You can use one window as a clock too, and there's a stopwatch option too.

Thankfully setting the timer didn't mean a hundreds beeps - unlike the timers used on GBBO (one of my favourite memories of this year's show was Chetna pressing her timer a thousand times, I think because of Jo Brand's An Extra Slice). I was impressed with how easy the timer was to use.

It was accurate and certainly rousing - I wandered off into our lounge to see how easy it was to hear the timer from across the house - nothing to worry about there, as it was louder than our smoke alarm. I would like to see more of a volume control, as I'm sure the neighbours knew my cake was ready too. There is a switch to select mute, quiet, or loud, but I didn't dare try the 'loud' button as I'm sure the local fire engines would have arrived. I'd like more control over the volume.

The only other downfall was the strength of the magnets - the timer wouldn't sit happily on the front of my fridge, but kept slipping down. But I wouldn't keep it on the fridge anyway, so that wasn't really an issue.

Oh, and the cake was delicious, by the way...

The Oregon Scientific kitchen timer was given to me in return for a review on this blog; this is not a paid-for blog and all opinions are my own. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Stamford Clandestine Cake Club - Signature bakes at the William Cecil

We've all been loving the Great British Bake Off, and this month we were inspired by the show to make our Signature Bakes for our meeting of the Clandestine Cake Club. We visited The William Cecil and were hosted in the Darcy and Bennet rooms - how very Pride and Prejudice!

For my signature bake, I made Devil's Food Cake - and I got in a bit of trouble for announcing it to be my favourite of the month! However, once the ruckus had died down, everyone did admit that cake is a very personal thing and we all have our own preferences. And Devil's Food Cake is my preference.

Here's a list of the cakes we baked this month:

Devil's Food Cake - Sophie
Double Chocolate Loaf Cake - Vicky
Lemon Meringue Cake - Louise
Malteaser Cake - Kerry
Lemon Drizzle and Fizzle Cake - Sammy
Green Tea and White Chocolate Opera Cake - Simon
Sticky Marmalade Cake - Rhoda

We had a few absences this month due to work commitments and illness, which was a shame, but a smaller group always means a more intimate discussion. And it means you can try ALL of the cakes without feeling too sick. 

Read more about the Clandestine Cake Club 

Clandestine Cake Club

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Birthday coffee and walnut cake

For my dad's 70th birthday, I was thinking of making an elaborate 70-shaped cake with rolled icing and hours upon hours of decorating. However, my dad simply wanted a coffee and walnut cake. And what the birthday boy wants, he gets. So, a simple coffee and walnut cake it was.

8oz marg
8oz caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
8oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water

Cream the marg and sugar together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, then sift in the flour and baking powder, before adding the coffee. Pour into 2 prepared round tins. Bake at 180C (160 fan) for about 30 minutes until golden and coming away from the sides of the tins.

I decorated the cake with coffee buttercream, using a pack of butter, about 600g icing sugar, and 3 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water - but let the coffee cool first else it'll heat and melt the butter.

I covered the cake in a thin layer of buttercream before piping roses over the sides, then adding walnuts to the top. For such a simple recipe, this coffee and walnut cake is delicious - proving yet again that simple is best. Dad was really chuffed, and there was loads left over for me to scoff too!

Apple loaf cake for Stamford Cake Club

What to bake for a fairy tale-themed cake club... I decided upon a Snow White-inspired apple loaf cake for the latest meeting of the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club, finished off with Snow White icing and apples on top. We met at Burghley Park, with the wonderful Burghley House as the backdrop for our fairy tale cakes.

The recipe is quite simple and easy to knock together. I did worry about the look of the mixture before it was baked, as there seemed to be far too much apple and not enough cake - but it turned out great in the end. Fluffy and moist without being soggy, tart apples, and sweet icing on top.

200g self-raising flour
75g marg
100g light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Bramley apples, peeled and cored
3 eggs, beaten

Put the marg and flour together in your mixer, and blend until you have fine breadcrumbs (you can do this by hand too). Mix in the sugar and cinnamon.
Add the eggs, and the apples, and gently mix.
Tip into a large loaf tin (I think mine might be a 2lb tin).
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C (160C fan) for about an hour. You could also split this into two smaller tins, but bake for less time.
To finish, make normal icing with icing sugar and hot water - not too runny, but loose enough to drip down the sides a bit.
I made some apples out of Renshaws red paste, making one red and green for the poisoned apple.

I would recommend this cake heartily as it was really delicious.

It was a smaller group at Cake Club this month, with several drop-outs and a few no-shows, but the smaller groups are often my favourites. They give you a chance to talk as a group without feeling like you're holding court. And even if it was just me and one other baker at cake club, I'd still be happy. If you haven't signed up for the Clandestine Cake Club yet, why not!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Total caketastrophy!

My latest attempt to make an Earl Grey tea loaf was a total caketastrophy - I've never had such a cake disaster! All was going well, the mixture tasted lovely when I licked the spoon, but when I went to take it out of the oven all hell broke loose. It had collapsed in the middle, like a volcano. I can only assume it developed a huge air pocket in the middle which exploded. I nearly cried. But the bits around the side still tasted pretty good. Note to self: knock the air out of the tin before you bake!

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Stamford cake club at Love Stamford

This month, I took the Stamford cake club to the new venue Love Stamford. This is a great community venture, mixing shops with a cafe, and a children's play area, plus craft, art, and allsorts of fun stuff. I love the atmosphere in this open-plan venue, and knew it would be perfect for our cake club.

The owner, Andraya, laid out her gorgeous unique armchairs and sofas around little tables for our cakes. It was a great afternoon and everyone enjoyed themselves. Not only did we get the chance to scoff 11 different cakes baked to a Stamford theme, but we also got to do a bit of shopping too - I came away with a new foxy scarf from The Little Scarf Co.

Cakes this month were:
Daniel Lambert Strawberry Roly-Poly Swiss Cake
Georgian vanilla baked cheesecake with almond biscuit base
Dundee cake
Chocolate mousse cake
Chocolate box church cake
Stamford Stone ginger cake
Scripture cake
Daniel Lambert chocolate cake with buttons and belt
Coconut cake with blackcurrant jam
Coffee and walnut cake
Gingerbread cake

All delicious. To find out more about Clandestine Cake Clubs click here

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Strawberry Swiss Roll

The recent Stamford cake club theme was quite literally Stamford - find a recipe inspired by the Georgian town itself. I related to the fattest man in England, Daniel Lambert, who's a notorious character in Stamford. He died in 1809 weighing 52 stone. So, I thought, he was a bit roly-poly... Now, I couldn't make a Jam Roly Poly pudding for cake club, so instead I made a Strawberry Roly Poly Swiss Roll Cake.

A simple recipe:

4 eggs
100g caster sugar
100 self-raising flour
Dash of vanilla paste

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until very light and fluffy, leaving a trail when you lift up the whisk.
Carefully fold in the sifted flour, and drizzle in the vanilla paste.
Pour into a Swiss roll tin prepared with butter and greaseproof paper.
Bake at about 200C for 10 minutes, until nicely brown and coming away from the sides.
Turn out on to another piece of greaseproof paper dusted with more caster sugar. Peel off the greaseproof paper from the back, scour a line an inch in from a short end with a sharp knife.
Spread good-quality strawberry jam over the sponge while it's cooling, cover with chopped up fresh raspberries, and roll.
(NB don't leave it to cool for too long before rolling, as I mistakenly did, as then the outer layer will stick to the sugar and the greaseproof paper and will come off. However, if that happens, just cover it in icing sugar like I did!)

To find out more about Clandestine Cake Club click here

 Clandestine Cake Club

Monday, 26 May 2014

Chocolate raspberry fudgey cake

If you're in need of a decadent dinner party dessert, or just a delicious weekend bake, try this chocolate raspberry fudgey cake. It's much like a rich brownie, and is great served with fresh raspberries - it would also be brilliant warm with some vanilla ice cream. Rich, fudgey, delicious - I'll definitely be baking this again!

240g marg
5 tbsp raspberry jam
75g cocoa powder
300g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
3 tsp kirsch
100g plain flour
Pinch of salt

This is an easy recipe. Melt the marg and jam in a large saucepan over a low heat. Remove from the heat, then sift in the sugar and cocoa. Beat the kirsch into the eggs, then add gradually into the mix. Sift in the flour and salt, and stir in.

Pour into a prepared tin (mine was a 20cm round loose-bottomed tin). Bake for 15 minutes at 180C, then turn down to 160C for another 40 minutes.

Leave to cool, then serve with a dusting of icing sugar and cocoa powder, with fresh raspberries on the side.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Pear Drops cake

For the latest Stamford Clandestine Cake Club meet, the theme was sweet shop, and I'd seen this cake on Dolly Bakes' blog a while ago and wanted to give it a go - Pear Drops cake. Rachel (aka Dolly) made this as a proper bundt in a 10 cup bundt tin, but my ring tin isn't a proper bundt tin and is about half the capacity - this means I get a nice big cake plus lots of little cakes too.

For the full recipe, please visit Dolly Bakes. The only difference I made when baking was to use just butter, rather than a mixture of butter and vegetable fat.

The M&S Pear Drops fizzy pop is definitely worth a try if you're a fan of these retro sweets - but be warned, you might need dentures after a glass of this sugary treat.

Click here for more information about the Clandestine Cake Clubs.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Stamford cake club at the sweet shop

The gorgeous cricket pavilion of Burghley Cricket Club, in the grounds of stunning Burghley House, Stamford, played host to the Stamford CCC on May 12. The venue was especially clandestine this month, as most members couldn’t find it – I had to act as traffic steward, waving everyone the right way. At the end of the night, the park gates had been locked so we couldn’t leave… We thought of knocking on the door of Burghley House to ask for a few beds for the night, before we were rescued by the cricket captain. As member Sarah said, “It all adds to the magic and excitement that is cake club!”

Our theme this month was a diabetes-inducing ‘Sweet Shop’ and we had an amazing array of sugary cakes. Everyone really pushed the boat out this month with some great flavours, imaginative ideas, and super decorations.

The roll of honour was:
Pear Drops cake – Sophie
Fruit Salad battenburg – Anthea
Confetti cake – Kat
Kit Kat and Smartie cake – Celia
Coconut mushroom cake – Rhoda
Sweet treats cake – Jo
Rhubarb and custard – Alice
Pineapple cube cake – Lisa
Curly Wurly cake – Sarah
Walnut whip cake – Deborah
Coconut cake – Kerry

Rhoda’s coconut mushroom cake was brilliant. Actually made up of lemon sponge and carrot cake, the bottom stalk of the mushroom was likened to Nora Batty’s tights, but (luckily) didn’t taste of them. Deborah’s Walnut Whip was full of fantastic marshmallow, and we urged her to enter it into the CCC Book 2 – Lynn, keep your eye out for that one. Top trumps to Alice’s rhubarb and custard cake, which everyone loved, and we all agreed it would be really good warm with a bit of cream.  I think everyone needed dentures after the sugar attack of my Pear Drops cake (made with Pear Drops fizzy pop from M&S). All the cakes looked brilliant and thanks to all the bakers for their hard work.

The setting was beautiful, looking over the cricket green into Burghley Park, surrounded by grazing sheep (we had to stay on ‘sheep watch’ to make sure they didn’t get on to the wicket), and managed to miss the monsoon downpour happening nearby but instead were treated to a lovely pink sunset over the Georgian rooftops of Stamford. Oh, how I love our cake club…

To find out more about Clandestine Cake Clubs click here

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.