October 26, 2015

MOCHA BANANA CAKE or a Bellau Kitchen inspiration.

mocha banana cake

Blogging has been an unexpected joy and revelation in my life.  Being able to tell a story and have total strangers from all over the world read and respond is something I still find quite amazing*.  On top of that, reading other blogs has been inspirational, educational and sometimes very helpful.  We have also made many good friends, real ones who we meet up with often, as a result of blogging, which is probably the greatest joy of all.

I have countless recipes from baking blogs bookmarked for future use – sometimes I feel compelled to bake something almost immediately, other times the inspiration is just tucked away for the right time.  One of the blogs where I regularly get inspiration is Dom’s Bellau Kitchen.  Just the other day I was looking at one of his recipes and ended up following a link to his coffee, chocolate and banana cake.  With two rather sad looking bananas sitting in the fruit bowl just waiting to be loved, the inspiration fell into the immediate category.

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The great thing about the recipe is that it was so fast to make.  I didn’t even have to mash the bananas – they just went into the mixing bowl with all the other ingredients and in less than an hour later I had a really delicious cake on the table.  You would never know that it was such a quick and easy cake to make and that I hadn’t spent hours sifting, mixing, blending and beating.

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The banana flavour was strong but not too sickly or overpowering.  The cinnamon, chocolate and coffee were all identifiable in the background and made for a change from my usual date and walnut combination.  Definitely a recipe I will be using again, especially when I’m pressed for time and feel the urge to bake something that will be on the table in super quick time.

Love Cake logo

This month’s Love Cake theme at Jibber Jabber UK is “in a hurry”.  You can read the details here.

When making my cake I followed Dom’s recipe which you can see here, but as usual I didn’t have all the suggested ingredients to hand so I improvised a bit.  I mixed 1 tblsp of cocoa and 1 tblsp of instant coffee powder to a paste with 2 tblsp hot water as I didn’t have any freshly made espresso on the go.  I also used golden caster sugar and omitted the icing entirely –  I used my 20cm Ikea tin which produced the shape on top to make it look more interesting without it.  It would have been even more delicious and glamorous with it of course, but sometimes a plain cake is just what you need when you’re in a hurry.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

*I’m one of those sad people who still find it amazing that you can shove a piece of plastic into a slot in a wall and get money in return.  I remember the days when you had to go to a bank and draw money out using a cheque and if you hadn’t done it by 3pm on a Friday the weekend could be a fairly miserable time.  Unless you had enough cheques to pay the greengrocer and the butcher, and were prepared to hide under the kitchen table when the milkman called for his money on Friday evening.

October 10, 2015

A GLUTEN FREE WEDDING CAKE

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The Alphabakes Challenge this month is for the letter “W”.  White chocolate is an obvious choice of ingredient, also walnuts or possibly whisky, but there are plenty of other choices too.   Whisked sponge, wholemeal…..numerous possibilities in fact.  Just thinking about it made me realise how much I miss our walnut tree chez nous in France and feel rather sad.

This time last year there was a magnificent walnut tree in the garden.  It was fully laden with walnuts which fell to the ground in quantities that we could hardly keep up with and we gave them away to everyone who came to the house.  Our kitten Daisy had a fine time chasing them around the garden.

Unfortunately our walnut tree was doomed.  There was nothing wrong with it, it was a beautiful, healthy tree.  Sadly it fell foul of our need for a new “fosse septique” – something we were obliged to do by law when we bought the house.  The roots of the walnut tree were in the way of the extensive pipework so it had to go - there are legal limits as to how close a tree can be in order for it to comply with the regulations.  Which all seems rather a shame when so many other people in rural France are still using antiquated systems which often consist of little more than a big concrete box with a hole in the bottom.  They seem to work perfectly well – as long as you don’t worry too much about where your waste goes.  Hey ho.

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Putting all thoughts of walnuts and plumbing behind me I looked in the index section of my recipe books for anything to bake that begins with “W” and another thing that crops up frequently is “wedding cake”.

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I have only ever made one “sort of” wedding cake and that was for my friends Elizabeth and Colin.  They were married in England last September and held a second party for their friends and neighbours in France a few weeks later.  I offered to make a copy of their wedding cake for the party and I wanted to make it gluten free so that Elizabeth would be able to have a slice herself.

She sent me photos of her original cake, which was a beautiful two tier sponge cake, covered in marzipan and decorated with fresh flowers.  We settled for a smaller version – a one tier sponge cake, covered in buttercream – my marzipan and icing skills being minimal.

I used my tried and trusted gluten free almond sponge sandwich cake recipe here, doubling up on quantities to make two 23cm cakes.  I sandwiched them together with cherry jam and some whipped cream, and made a simple buttercream to cover the cake.  When we arrived at the house for the party we selected some flowers from Elizabeth and Colin’s beautiful garden to decorate the top.

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It looked lovely on the table.  I can’t see me ever getting involved in sugarcraft or making wedding cakes that are covered in fancy icing, but I was pleased with this one.  It was a reasonable replica of the original wedding cake and when decorated with the fresh flowers looked just right for a gathering of friends and neighbours on a lovely sunny day in early October, to celebrate the wedding of two very special people.

alphabakes

You can see the challenge run by Caroline of Caroline Makes and Ros of The more than occasional baker and you can see the details here.

Gluten free summer wedding cake.

I made two cakes using a 23 cm springform tin, baking them individually.  The recipe will fill each tin with a little left over which I used to make some cupcakes.  ( I suppose if I was really clever I could have calculated the ingredients needed to fill the tin twice exactly – but I didn’t trust my arithmetic that well for something as important as this!)  For the buttercream I adapted this recipe, increasing the ingredients by half.

Ingredients

For each layer

185g softened butter

185g caster sugar

4 eggs

200g ground almonds

125g gluten free self raising flour

150ml crème fraîche

½ tsp almond essence

For the filling and icing

5 tblsp cherry jam

250ml double cream

200g softened butter

400g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

3-4 tblsp milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°fan/gas mk 4.  Grease and base line a 23cm springform tin.

Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat or whisk until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time and beat well with each addition.

Add the other cake ingredients and fold in gently until evenly combined.

Spoon the mixture into the tin, filling to about two thirds full and bake for 30-40 minutes until the cake is done.  Remove from the oven, turn out and cool on a wire rack.  (There will be some mixture left over which can be used for cupcakes or buns.)

Repeat to make a second cake.

Whip the cream until firm and spreadable.  Spread the jam on one of the cakes and spread the whipped cream on top.  Put the other cake on top.

To make the buttercream, put the butter into a medium bowl and beat until creamy.  Sift in a third of the icing sugar and beat in.  Add the rest of the sugar with the vanilla and enough milk to make it spreadable. 

Spoon about a third of the buttercream on the top of the cake and spread it over.  Use the rest to coat the sides of the cake.  Decorate with fresh flowers (remove these before eating).

Cuts into 16-20 slices.  Keep refrigerated because of the fresh cream.

October 5, 2015

BLACKBERRY AND CHOCOLATE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

chocolate and blackberry upside down cake3

We have just returned from a week’s holiday in Anglesey, where we were blessed with the most amazing weather for the time of year.  It was sunny and warm every day and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

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In fact I would go as far as to say it was one of the best holidays I have ever had, ever.  The skiing holidays in Austria, the diving holidays in Devon, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley experience, the motorcycle camping tours of Europe, are of course all now a distant memory and they were great, but I’d go back to Anglesey for its pretty harbours, deserted beaches and coastal walks any day.  Also for the blackberries.

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The hedgerows were full of the most beautiful blackberries, large, plump, sweet and juicy.  To find so many at the very end of September was a real joy.  On the last day of our holiday we picked bagfuls of them so we could bring them home and freeze them.

Back home in Derbyshire, Sunday was a lovely day, so instead of sorting out our holiday baggage we decided to make the most of it and spend the afternoon in the garden.  The forecast was suggesting that the fine weather was coming to an end.  Sunday was also my sister-in-law Kathy’s birthday so we invited her round for tea and cake in the garden and the sunshine.  With all those lovely blackberries washed and ready for freezing I decided to rustle up a quick birthday cake that would use some of them while they were fresh.

book

In case you’re wondering why there’s a picture of the new CCC cookbook here it’s because I have a recipe in it! 

When contributions were invited at the beginning of the year I sent in one of my favourite recipes for a quick but fairly special looking cake that I make when I’m short of time but need to produce something that looks and tastes good – a pear and ginger upside down cake.  I was amazed when a few weeks later I received an email saying the recipe would be in the book!  Not only that, but as a contributor I was invited to the book launch party in Leeds last month and one of the other contributors at my table said she had already made the cake from the book and it was delicious – was I chuffed or what ??!!

So I decided to make a chocolate version for Kathy’s birthday cake, also using some of my lovely Anglesey blackberries.  It was made and on the table in just about an hour.

chocolate and blackberry upside down cake4chocolate and blackberry upside down cake5

It was a bit of an experiment and I had no idea if it would work, but it did.  The blackberries made a nice pattern on the top of the cake and I added a few more whole ones on top for decoration, fixing them and making sure they stayed in place with a smear of blackberry jam.  The cake was filled with more jam and whipped cream.  Definitely a cake I shall be making again. 

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Dom’s Simply Eggcellent challenge at Beallau Kitchen this month is “Anything Goes”.  You can read the details here.

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The Love Cake theme at Jibber Jabber UK this month is “In a hurry” and you can read the details here.

Ingredients

For the cake

200g softened butter, or spreadable butter (I used Stork with butter)

175g self raising flour

1tsp baking powder

4 tblsp cocoa powder

4 tbslp boiling water

200g golden caster sugar

4 eggs

2tblsp milk

For the topping

2 handfuls of washed fresh blackberries (preferably from Anglesey)

2 tblsp light soft brown sugar

For the filling

2tblsp blackberry jam or bramble jelly

125ml double cream (I used Elmlea Double)

1tblsp icing sugar

For the decoration

8-10 nice large Anglesey blackberries

1 tblsp blackberry jam or bramble jelly

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease two 20cm sandwich tins, line the bases with baking paper and grease again.

Mix the cocoa powder with the boiling water to make a paste.  Add a little more water if it’s very stiff.  Set aside to cool.

Put all the other cake ingredients into a large bowl and whisk with an electric hand whisk (or use a food mixer) until fully combined and smooth.  Add the cocoa paste and whisk again.

Sprinkle the soft brown sugar evenly over the bottom of one of the tins.  Add enough blackberries to make a single layer which covers the sugar.

Divide the cake mixture evenly between the two tins, being careful not to disturb the blackberries and remembering that the tin with the fruit on the bottom will inevitably look fuller.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are done.  The one with the fruit on the bottom will take about five minutes longer than the other.

Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out carefully onto a wire rack.

While the cake is cooling, whisk the double cream with the icing sugar until spreadable.  When the cakes are cold, spread the jam on the bare cake half.  (Warm it slightly in a small pan if necessary to make it runny enough to spread.)

Spread a thick layer of whipped cream on top, remembering to let the jam cool completely first.  Put the fruited cake on top of that.

Smear another spoonful of jam or jelly in the centre of the top of the cake and place a few blackberries for decoration.

Cuts into 6-8 slices.