Make cake, not war

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Happy 2017 everyone!  I think we can all agree that the year we have just ushered out was rather bruising, whether you’re talking politically, artistically, or for many of us, personally.  So, what we really need to ring in the New Year is not cucumber sticks, lycra, mineral water or resolutions. No, what is called for is a big, comforting, chocolatey cake.  Or at least that is how I felt today in amongst reading, watching Netflix and snoozing on the sofa with our cats.

I’m not going to pretend I was feeling sparky enough to whip up my own recipe.  And why would I need to, when I’m lucky enough to have my very own copy of Alice Arndell‘s Alice in Bakingland?  This recipe, sweetly titled ‘Nanny’s chocolate cake’ is a winner, delivering a pleasingly chocolatey cake every time.  Because I really felt the need to up the nourishment factor on this one, I slathered jam and cream on cut halves before sandwiching the cake back together and topping it with a generous serving of chocolate icing.

Take care everyone and I’m hoping this cake sets the tone for a much sweeter, kinder year.

Nanny’s chocolate cake by Alice Arndell

Ingredients:

  • 170g butter
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2/3 cups cocoa
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp intant coffee granules
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 & 1/2 cups milk

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees celsius.  Grease and line a 23cm cake tin.

Place the butter and golden syrup in a microwave-proof bowl and heat on high until the butter is melted – this is 1 minute 10 seconds in my microwave.  Stir to combine and set aside.

Place all other ingredients in a large bowl and beat for 5 minutes.  The original recipe calls for a stand mixer, which I don’t have, so I find a handheld electric beater works well.  You may need to beat for a little longer if you do this by hand.

Pour in the butter and syrup and mix through.

This mixture is runny so don’t worry!  Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean with a few crumbs.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

 

 

Edmond’s apple steamed pudding

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Steamed pudding is like a sweet, jammy hug in a bowl.  I love it.  It’s a special favourite in our little country.  I was recently introduced to a New Zealand specialty steamed pudding which is the queen of both steamed puddings and now of my heart…burnt sugar steamed pudding.  Oh wow.  Like hot, soft caramel made into a cake and served with lashings of runny cream.  My mouth waters at the mere memory.

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So, it’s not a surprise that steamed pudding features in that bastion of all that is cooking and kiwi, the Edmonds cook book.  This particular version is jazzed up with a little apple, and all the better for it, as the tart apple partners nicely with the sweet apricot jam and the fluffy sponge.

To make this you will need:

  • 50g butter
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T apricot jam
  • 1 C plain flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 2 T stewed apple

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat well.  Stir in the jam.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the butter mixture and fold in.

Dissolve the baking soda in the milk and add to the mixture, along with the apple.

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Grease a 2-cup pudding basin.  Spoon in the sponge mixture and cover the bowl with some greased baking paper.  Secure with string.

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Steam the pudding for half an hour, or until it is springy to the touch.  This took about 45 minutes for pudding.

Serve with cream and a cup of tea!

 

 

Welsh cakes for St David’s Day

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I always loved visiting Wales when I lived in the UK, and what’s not to love?  Beautiful countryside, that lovely lilting accent and, most importantly, Welsh cakes.

To the uninitiated, these little morsels may present like just another baked good.  I promise you, they are so much more.  Sugary and dotted with currants, they are gently browned like fat little pancakes on a hot bake tone, which in other words is a whacking great slab of cast iron heated on top of the oven elements.

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The secret to the toothsomeness of Welsh cakes lies not just in the sugar, butter and dried fruit, but in the addition of lard.  Yes, I too felt a little ill when informed of this fact.   But please believe me, it adds a little something wonderful without any taste of fat, leaving the finished product just ever so slightly crisp on the outside, in contrast to the fluffy sweetness inside.

I was very privileged this past weekend to receive one-on-one tuition from a genuine Welsh person, my lovely friend Suze.  Not only did she share her bakestone with me, but also her Nan’s welsh cake recipe.  Very kindly, Suze also hunted out the required lard, seemingly impossible to find outside of a butchers, which arrived in a slightly piggy-scented white tub.

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To learn how to make Welsh cakes a la Suze’s nan, read on…

Ingredients:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 50g butter and 50g lard, cut into small pieces
  • 50g currants
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Splash of milk

Tip the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt into a bowl

Add the butter and lard and rub in with your fingers until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Mix in the currants, then add the egg and work in together with your hands until you have a soft dough.  If it looks a little dry, add the splash of milk.

Lightly flour your bench top.  At this point, put your bake stone (or heavy-based pan; I am reliably informed it will work just as well) over a moderate heat.

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Roll out the dough to the thickness of your little finger (as demonstrated!).  Use a 8cm cookie cutter to make the cakes.

Add a spot of lard to the bake stone and, once melted, cook the cakes in batches.  They take about 3 minutes each side to become golden brown, crisp and cooked through – you can observe the colour changing as it cooks through along the side of the Welsh cake.

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Sprinkle with caster sugar once cooked.  I cannot emphasis enough how delicious they are served all fresh and warm with a good cup of tea.   Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus!

 

A belated Christmas cake

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The busy run-up to Christmas is paved with good intentions, namely my intention to publish this post.  So forgive me for missing the boat a little with this one.  I think we can still consider this timely though, as many of us will have tin-foiled lumps of Christmas cake waiting for a cup of tea.

I would never try to better my go-to Christmas cake recipe – Nigella Lawson’s chocolate fruit cake.  I have made her cake for a least five years and partly what makes it so great is that it’s another of my favourite one-pot recipes.  You don’t need to make it weeks in advance as all of the delicious fruity, boozy, buttery ingredients are gently boiled together to mellow and release their flavours.  Not only does this make it scrumptious, it will also make your house smell amazing.

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So without further ado, here are the ingredients and method below. It’s a long list of ingredients I know, but worth it!  My only little tweak is the brazil nuts, which make the cake feel all hearty and wholesome and slightly good for you.  I also used brandy in my most recent version instead of coffee liqueur, but both are equally good and cointreau’s not bad either.

For Nigella Lawson’s chocolate fruit cake you will need:

  • 3 cups pitted prunes
  • 1 ¾ cups raisins
  • 1 cup currants
  • 50g candied peel
  • 175g soft unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown or muscovado sugar
  •  cup honey
  • ½ cup tia maria or other coffee liqueur (or brandy or cointreau!)
  • 2 – 3 oranges (juice and zest)
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • And if you’re like me, 1 cup brazil nuts

Put the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, booze, orange juice and zest, mixed spice and the cocoa in a big saucepan over a medium heat and bring it to the boil, stirring.  Simmer for 10  minutes and remove from the heat, letting it stand for 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, warm your oven to 150 degrees celsius and get your cake tin ready.  You are going to line it so the baking paper towers up beyond the sides of the tin and your finished, prepared tin looks like it has an extra top layer of baking paper.

This may seem a lot of faff but I promise it’s worth it as without it, the top of the cake can be burned and tough.  There are more explicit instructions here.  In short, I find it works for me if I grease the whole tin liberally to start.  I cut out a circle of baking paper for the base and two long strips which circle around half of each side, and then plaster it all on, the side pieces first and then the base circle.  This is not the best picture, but I’m including it to give an idea of the finished product if that’s helpful and, like me, the idea of origami makes you balk a little.

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Add the eggs and all dry ingredients to the cooled butter mix and stir gently to combine.  Pour the mix into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1 and 3/4 to 2 hours, until the top is firm but shiny and a skewer inserted into the middle has a little gooey mixture clinging to it.

Cool in the tin.  It keeps for ages wrapped in a layer of baking paper encased in tin foiled. It’s not at all bad with a little nip of something!  And of course, it goes well with tea.

Keep safe and happy this Christmas season, wherever you are in the world.

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Apple Coconut Flan by Edmonds

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How do you like them apples?  That’s how I feel I should be addressing you, because we really have had a lot of apply recipes by this point in the Edmonds A section.  But I love a good flan and this little number is easy and satisfying, so it’s worth a try if you like the sound of it.  d

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It all beings with a packet of Edmonds butter cake mix.  I haven’t bought cake mix for years. It gives me a little guilty pang and I feel like I should be making my own from scratch.  One of the last times I used cake mix was a formative baking experience back in the mists of time.  I had to produce a cake for Girls Brigade and Mum, sick with the flu and no doubt not feeling up to chaperoning a junior baker in the kitchen, bought me an orange cake mix.  I proudly presented the finished product to the family table and Mum, who probably wanted to eat anything else in the world apart from a vivid orange pile of stodge crafted by a 10 year old, gallantly rose from bed and forced down a bowlful.  Being the anxious kid I was, I decided then and there if anything happened to Mum I would always remember that moment.  Probably a little hysterical on my part (I always was a worrier) but it was a very touching moment nonetheless and I still appreciate her sucking it up for the sake of my feelings.

IMG_3652If you want to make this Apple Coconut Flan, you will need:

  • 1 packet Edmonds Butter Cake Mix
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 125g butter
  • 2 cups stewed apple
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Set the oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Combine the coconut and cake mix in a bowl.  Edmonds offers you the choice of doing this by hand or with a food processor.  I don’t think you need a food processor, I did this by hand very easily.

Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  In another bowl, combine the stewed apple and lemon rind and put in the bottom of a greased, oven-proof baking dish.  Spoon the cake mixture over the apples, and then combine the water and lemon juice and pour this over the top.  Bake for 55 minutes or until pale golden and firm to touch.  You can serve this hot or cold.

The apple in my version caramelised rather charmingly at the corners of the dish and the coconut toasted up a little in the topping.  We had ours semi-warmed with some yoghurt and it went down a treat, I hope particularly for my Mum.

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Lemon yoghurt cake

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You know something’s a winner, don’t you, when you’ve adapted from our national treasure, Dame Alison Holst.  As you’ll all know, I have a bit of a thing for old-school cook books and recipes.  So you can imagine I could not leave Alison Holst’s Simply Delicious cookbook, circa 1975, behind when I found it for three dollars at a Star Boating Club book sale.

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I don’t mean to imply, of course, that you need or want to be adapting Alison’s recipes.  It’s just that the original of this one, Lemon Cream Cake, calls for a cup of cream.  I like my cholesterol as much as anyone, but these days you’re just much more likely to have yoghurt in the fridge.

It’s a great cake for this time of year, when although the dark of winter is lifting a bit, you still want something moreish and warming.  And, just to be helpful, lemons happen to be in season, so the rest is common sense.  I whipped this up recently to go with a cup of tea following a family roast lunch; it’s so easy that you can get it in and out of the oven before you need to worry about getting any mains cooked.

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I generously slathered this one with lemon icing and passionfruit pulp, but it also works very pleasingly with a little stewed fruit.  It’s another of my lazy all-in-one bowl baking jobs, and perhaps this is what I like about it most of all.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • Grated rind of one lemon
  • 2 cups self-raising flour, sifted

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Grease a 23cm round cake tin and line the bottom.

Put the eggs, sugar and yoghurt into a medium-sized bowl.  Beat them together until thick and creamy.

Sprinkle the lemon rind over the top and fold in the self-raising flour.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the centre springs back when pressed.

When it is cold, ice it if you fancy.

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Tamarillo pudding

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I am so happy it is tamarilo season once more.  I love tamarillos.  Not just for their cheek-sucking tartness, but also because I think they are one of the most beautiful fruits, with their plump, ruby skins and yellow flesh.

Tamarillos, which were once known as the very cute name ‘tree tomatoes’ in New Zealand, are considered by some to be the lost fruit of the incas.  How exotic!  These gorgeous little fruits spring from the Andes, and are now found in countries including India, USA, China, Malaysia and of course New Zealand.

And it’s not only me who loves them…one half of our recent two-cat addition to the family spent the best part of the afternoon pestering the tamarillos too.

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My inspiration for this recipe comes from the New York Times plum torte.  I was introduced to this delight by my good friend Sondra who, as it happens, also introduced me to our new cats the same night.  I love the story behind this plum torte. It was published every Autumn for seven years until the editors decided that was plenty long enough.  However, this was met with outrage and a slew of angry letters, and so now it is published every year, just in time for Autumn.

So, with many thanks to the New York Times and its plum torte-loving readers, here is my take on their classic, with my beloved tamarillos.

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 ripe tamarillosIMG_3099
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup four
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 eggs

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Halve the tamarillos and scoop out the flesh into a bowl.  Add the vanilla essence, sugar and cinnamon.  Combine and set aside.

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In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs, and beat well.

Spoon the batter into a springform cake tin, between 20 – 25cm diameter.  Place the tamarillos over the top of the batter and drizzle with the remaining liquid.

Bake until the torte is cooked through and springs back to the touch, approximately one hour.

This is quite lovely served warm with some yoghurt, or even better, cream.

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