Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Strawberries and Cream

Wimbledon may be over, but this quintessentially British combination is a Summery classic that shouldn't be restricted to just one fortnight a year. British strawberries are delicious at this time of the season and what can be better than a big bowl of strawberries doused in fresh, cold cream? A big bowl of strawberries doused in fresh, cold cream on top of a CAKE, of course! I've kept this cake simple, as I don't want the natural, delicate sweetness of the strawberries to be overpowered by any unnecessarily fussy flavours. Fresh cream can only be left out of the fridge for up to 4 hours, or less in hot weather, so bear this in mind if you're planning on taking it on a picnic. The cake is best filled and served immediately, but if you do fill it in advance and stick it in the fridge, let the sponge come up to room temperature a bit before serving. If you want to make something that doesn't need to be eaten quickly or kept in the fridge, substitute the fresh cream for vanilla buttercream; it's still a cream of sorts, so it's not a total cheat.

Strawberries and Cream Cake

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) and grease and line two 8" sandwich tins

Ingredients

8 oz/ 200g caster sugar
8 oz/ 200g unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
8 oz/ 200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
A generous splash of vanilla extract
A splash of milk

A large pot of double or whipping cream
1 tbsp icing sugar (optional)
2 punnets of strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced. 
More icing sugar for dusting.

Method
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
  • Add the eggs, one by one, thoroughly beating after each addition.
  • Mix in the vanilla
  • Sift the flour and baking powder over the top and fold into the creamed sugar, butter and eggs.
  • Add a splash of milk to slacken the mixture if necessary.
  • Pour the cake batter into your prepared tins and bake on the centre shelf for 20 - 25 mins or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for 10 minutes before turning out on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Once the cakes are completely, whip the cream to soft, billowing peaks. If you want, sift a tablespoon of icing sugar into the cream and whisk in.
  • Carve each cake horizontally in half.
  • Fill the cakes with a layer of whipped cream and a layer of sliced strawberries, building up until the whole cake is filled.
  • Sift some icing sugar over the top of the cake and it's ready to serve.
If you want to make this with vanilla buttercream instead of fresh cream, whisk 8oz/200g soft, unsalted butter until pale and creamy. Sift over 8oz/200g of icing sugar and whisk in until thoroughly combined. Sift over another 8oz/200g of icing sugar and whisk this into the mixture. Add a tbsp of vanilla extract and whisk in. Add a drop of milk to slacken the mixture if necessary and whisk again.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is a real favourite for many. Maybe because of its moist, delicate flavour and fresh, zingy cream cheese icing. Maybe it's because people feel more virtuous if their afternoon slice counts as one of their five a day. In either case, it doesn't stop this crowd-pleasing cake being utterly delicious. It's the perfect cake to bake for school fetes or afternoon teas and is a popular flavour choice for at least one tier of many Victoria's Cake Boutique client's wedding cakes.

I'm all in favour of big flavours and have an aversion to anything that tastes a bit nothing-y, so I like the levels of fragrant spice and citrus in this cake, but if it's too much for you, you can always reduce the amounts by half. I prefer using pecans to walnuts, but if walnuts are more your thing, by all means substitute them or you can leave the nuts out altogether. Likewise with the sultanas. You can substitute them for raisins, soak them in apple juice, calvados or rum if the mood takes you, or leave out the dried fruit altogether. It's your cake, so don't put anything in it that you don't like.

I've been inspired to make carrot cake this week by Caroline's Cake Company, a cake maker based in Birmingham. She makes beautiful looking cakes and has been on a mission to find a special carrot cake for a client. So, here you go, Caroline. I hope this ends your search!

Carrot Cake
Preheat the oven to 150C (130C Fan) and grease and line a loaf tin or 7" round.

Ingredients

for the cake

2 eggs, beaten
5 fl. oz sunflower oil
8 oz/ 200 g light muscovado sugar
10 oz/ 250 g (about 3- 4 carrot's worth) grated carrot
3 oz/ 75 g sultanas
The zest and juice of one orange
3 oz/ 75 g pecans, roughly chopped
7 oz/ 175 g self raising flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp cinammon
1 tsp mixed spice
A pinch of salt

for the icing

10 oz/ 250 g cream cheese
4 oz/ 100 g soft, unsalted butter
12 oz/ 300 g icing sugar
The juice of a lemon and half an orange


Method

for the cake
  • Soak the sultanas in orange juice for about half an hour (or longer if you have it), so that the sultanas are plump and citrus-y.
  • Beat the eggs, oil and sugar together until completely combined and slightly frothy.
  • Add the carrot, chopped nuts and drained sultanas and mix together.
  • Sift the dry ingredients over the wet and mix.
  • Add the orange zest and stir through.
  • Pour the cake batter into your prepared tin, level the top and bake on the centre shelf of your oven for 1 - 1 1/4 hours or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before turning the cake out of its tin on a wire rack until completely cool.
for the cream cheese icing
  • Whisk together the butter and cheese and sift half the icing sugar over the top and whisk it in.
  • Sift over the remaining sugar and whisk until smooth.
  • Mix in the lemon and orange juice to taste.
  • Smooth the icing over the top of your cooled carrot cake and its ready to serve.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Citrus and Poppyseed Cake

No one can deny that Summer has definitely arrived. The last couple of weeks have been HOT HOT HOT and there are plenty of lobster legs walking the streets of London to prove it. In the heat, I crave fresh, zesty flavours. The invigorating smell of citrus makes you feel you're cooling down, even when the temperature is rising. I have a soft spot for lemon and poppyseed cake, but I only had one lemon left in the fruit bowl this morning and one is never quite enough. I added the zest of a lime and an orange to make up for the lack of lemon and made some deliciously light and fluffy citrus and poppyseed fairycakes. I've made them into fairycakes this time, as they'll be feeding some miniature visitors in the form of my nephews. A whole cupcake is a bit too much for them, in the eyes of their mother, if not their own. For adult tummies, cupcakes are a more satisfying size or you can bake this in a loaf tin for soothing, citrus slices. If you want to make it as a lemon and poppyseed cake, substitute the orange and lime for another lemon.

The reason many recipes only advise a single lemon is because the acid in the lemon will start to "cook" the raw egg on contact. My advice is use as much zest as your palate demands, but finely grate the zest first and cover with clingfilm. Mix up the cake batter and at the last moment, scrape in the citrus strands and fold them in quickly before pouring the batter into your tin. This mixture doesn't like to sit about for long, so get your skates on and get these babies in the oven as soon as you can. It's no great feat as they are as fairly effortless to whip up.

Citrus and Poppyseed Cake
Makes 24 fairy cakes, 12 cupcakes or 1 loaf
Preheat the oven to 180 C (160 C Fan) and line your muffin tray with paper cases or grease and line a loaf tin with baking parchment.

Ingredients

4 oz/ 100 g soft, unsalted butter
6 oz/ 150 g caster sugar
6 oz/ 150 g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
4 tbsp milk
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, 1 lime and 1 orange.
1 - 2 tbsp poppyseeds

Citrus Syrup:

Juice of 1 lemon, 1 lime and 1 orange.
4 oz/ 100 g caster sugar.

Method

  • Place all the ingredients, except the zest and poppyseeds, into a large bowl and whisk with an electric whisk (if you have one) for a couple of minutes.
  • Fold in the zest and poppyseeds and spoon the mixture into paper cases or pour into a loaf tin.
  • Bake on the centre shelf for 10 minutes for fairy cakes, 12-15 minutes for cupcakes and 25-30 minutes for a loaf, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  • While the cakes are in the oven, mix the citrus juices and sugar in a bowl or jug, ready to use later.
  • Place the cakes on wire racks and stab their tops with a cake tester and spoon over the citrus syrup while the cakes are still hot and in their tins.
  • Once cooled, turn the cakes and they're ready to serve. Enjoy.