October 1, 2019

APPLE AND BLACKBERRY CAKE


A while ago recipes for something called a hedgerow cake seemed to be turning up everywhere I looked.  There were numerous variations of the cake around but most had blackberries in there somewhere and also on the top as decoration. 



With friends coming round for a birthday tea and a few of my hedgerow blackberries going spare I decided to make my own version.  It's another adaptation of Mary Berry's apple and lemon sandwich cake which you can see here. 
When I made this cake before, I filled and topped it with lemon buttercream.  This time I filled it with a layer of bramble jelly and whipped cream and decorated it with cream and blackberries just like the hedgerow cakes I saw on Facebook.  I later added a light dusting of icing sugar to the top before serving.

This really is a nice sponge cake recipe, very moist with the grated apple in it and hugely adaptable.  I love recipes that I can change easily to use what I have in the fridge and can imagine an elderflower and gooseberry version, or apple and raspberry.  Lovely.

Ingredients

For the cake
225g each of baking spread, caster sugar and self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs, beaten
2 eating apples, peeled, cored and grated*

For the filling and decoration
a few tblsp bramble (blackberry) jelly
150ml double cream
a few blackberries

Method

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

Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk until well combined.  Fold in the grated apple and divide the mixture evenly between the two tins.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until done.  Cool in the tins.  Turn out and fill with the jam and whipped cream, reserving a little of the cream for piping rosettes on the top of the cake.  Place a blackberry onto each rosette.  Dust lightly with icing sugar if you like before serving.

Cuts into 8 -10 slices.

*Mary's tip for grating the apple is a good one:  Cut the unpeeled apples in half and remove the cores.  (I find it easy to do this with a melon baller.)  Hold each apple half by the skin to grate it and as you do so you will be left with the skin only in your hand to discard. 

September 29, 2019

PLUM AND BLACKBERRY SLICE

 
 
 
As well as the gorgeous yellow St Catherine plums from our plum trees, the other week I ended up with a pound or so of blackberries.  We were out walking our dog Hugo and there they were.  We couldn't resist.  Apart from anything else, the blackberry harvest has not been great in our part of France due to the extended drought and reasonably plump ones were scarce.  These were not huge but quite tasty.
 

 
There were not enough blackberries to make a blackberry crumble and I didn't think I should go out and buy apples as I had all the plums to use up.  Pondering what I could make with the combination I remembered the Bill Grainger recipe for peach and raspberry slice which you can see here.  I had used it several times to make an apricot and blueberry slice which you can see here and I saw no reason why a plum and blackberry combination shouldn't work just as well.
 
 
I adapted the original recipe to try to counter the very moistness of the plums and hopefully produce a less soggy cake - more like a cake than a pudding in fact.  It worked.  It was delicious either warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or cold with a cup of tea or coffee. 
 
Ingredients
 
185g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder plus an extra ½ tsp
125g butter, chilled and diced
100g soft brown sugar 
100g caster sugar
300g approx. plums, halved and stoned - prepare enough fruit to almost cover the area of the tin
a handful of blackberries, picked over, washed and dried
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
150 ml milk
 
Method
 
Grease and line the base of a 24cm square baking tin.  Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk4. 
 
Sift the flour and 1½ tsp baking powder into a food processor with the butter.  Blitz for a few seconds to make crumbs.  Add the sugars and blitz again to mix.
 
Tip half of the crumbs (I did actually weigh mine) into the prepared tin and press over the base.  Scatter the fruit evenly over the top. 
 
Add the vanilla, egg, milk and the other ½ tsp baking powder to the food processor and process to make a batter.  Pour this over the fruit and bake for about an hour until golden brown.  Cool in the tin.
 
Cuts into about 15 slices.  

September 27, 2019

A CHARITY COFFEE MORNING

 
Today is the day that the Macmillan Cancer Support suggest for holding a coffee morning to raise funds for the charity.  I held mine three weeks ago so that I could catch all our friends in France who might have gone back to the UK for winter by now.
 
 
It was, as several people pointed out, much like the old days of cake club.  Which is exactly what I was hoping for. 
 
The cake club I have been organising for seven years has gradually morphed into a lunch club, with quiches, salads, pies and even sandwiches appearing on the table.  For me it was always all about the cake but it turns out that a lot of people were actually thinking that there were too many cakes and were pleased to see them gradually being replaced by the savouries. 
The club has evolved and now at meetings people bring all kinds of food, which for me is a shame because the cake club was unique.  It's no longer an afternoon get together over a cup of tea and a slice of cake, it's a buffet lunch.  (When I was working we used to call it a fuddle.  People would bring a variety of tasty things to nibble on in the lunch break.)
 

 
To go with the cakes, biscuits and buns there were tea, coffee - and later on a glass of fizz.
There was also a bring and buy stall where people were asked to donate any cast off items for sale.
 


 
The weather was perfect, most of the items were sold, we all stuffed ourselves with cake, people were very generous and we raised €165 for the charity.
 
It's sad though to think that I shall probably never again see another table groaning under the weight of so many gorgeous cakes!

September 26, 2019

PLUM AND ALMOND CAKE

 
In our French garden we have four plum trees.  One produces a few small, purple plums every year.  The other three were said to be Mirabelle trees but they're not.  Mirabelles are smaller and more round than these decidedly plum shaped plums.
 
 
Our trees produce a smallish oval yellow plum which is absolutely delicious and not unlike a Victoria plum.
 
I haven't had Victoria plums for a while now.  We are usually in France when they are in season in the UK and I do miss them.  So in stating that these plums are very like a Victoria plum I'm relying very much on my memory of how wonderful they taste.
 
This year the three trees have done incredibly well, which is amazing considering the drought that we have had here in France for three months.  For all that time we have been unable to water freely and have saved our precious rainwater in the water cube for our tomatoes and the plants we really didn't want to lose.  We have lost a rowan tree, an apple tree, several roses and numerous other plants.  It was impossible to keep up with the watering and in the area where the plum trees are everything else is brown and dead. 
 
And yet we have had loads and loads of plums and they just kept on coming.  I have used them for several cakes, bakes and crumbles, given bagfuls away and put more bagfuls in the freezer.  They have been an absolute joy.
 
 
For this cake I adapted a favourite recipe, called "fantasy cake" by Lisa Faulkner.  She was a Celebrity Master Chef winner some years ago and since then has written several cook books.  This recipe comes from the one called "recipes from my mother to my daughter" and I have used and adapted it successfully several times.  She makes the cake with strawberries but it works with any soft fruit or chopped stone fruit.  This time I made it in my lovely new "blossom" Bundt tin and it worked really well.
 
The cake was moist and fruity and the combination of plums and almond was lovely.  It was delicious with a cup of tea and also lovely served as a dessert with ice cream. 
 
Ingredients

175g spreadable butter
150g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour, sifted
2 eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons milk
100g ground almonds
1 teaspoon almond essence
Approx 400g plums, washed, stoned and roughly chopped

Method

Preheat the oven to 160°C / 140° fan.  Grease and line a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin, or prepare a Bundt tin using cake release paste, spray or butter and flour.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl using a hand mixer (or wooden spoon) until light and fluffy.  Add the flour, eggs, milk, ground almonds and almond essence and mix well.  Fold in the fruit.

Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and level the top.

Bake for about ¾-1¼ hours.  Check after 45 minutes – mine was done in 50 minutes.

Cool in the tin for about ten minutes then carefully turn the cake out of the tin onto a wire rack to finish cooling.  Dust with icing sugar before serving if you like.

Cuts into 8-10 good slices.

September 15, 2019

BLUEBERRY CRUMBLE CAKE

 
 
You will know by now that I can't resist adding to my cook book collection, mostly these days found in local charity shops.
 
 
Well, it happened again - this book came with an extra recipe, a clipping from a magazine tucked inside the book.
 
This has happened to me twice before.  There was Sharon's Hotpot and Sandringham cake, both of which were magazine clippings that fell out of a secondhand book.  I was compelled to make both of them and they turned out to be very good.  My mum used to say that things come in threes so with the third clipping in front of me I just had to try the recipe!
 
 
The magazine that it comes from is Good Housekeeping and in fact you can see it on the internet here.  It's proper name is "blueberry and sour cream loaf" but I changed it because the interesting feature is the crumble topping rather than the sour cream.  In any case I didn't have any sour cream and rather than go out and buy some I used crème fraiche, which I did have.
 
 
The cake is made using oil instead of butter and in a very similar way to making muffins.  It had a very light and fluffy crumb and unlike muffins was still good several days later.  I thought the crumble topping looked a bit odd because it was not very brown, but in any case the cake was delicious.
 
Ingredients
 
For the topping
15g cold, unsalted butter
40g plain flour
15g demerara sugar
 
For the cake
50 ml vegetable oil
2 medium eggs
200ml sour cream or crème fraiche
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g self raising flour
175g caster sugar
125g blueberries
 
Method
 
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.  Grease a 900g / 2lb loaf tin or use a paper liner.  (I used my small roasting tin which produces an oblong cake rather than a loaf shape.)
 
First make the crumble topping by rubbing the butter into the flour and stirring in the sugar.  Set aside.
 
To make the cake, sift the flour into a large bowl, add the sugar and stir to combine. 
 
Put the wet ingredients into a large jug and beat together.  Pour into the flour mixture and stir until almost combined.  Fold in all but a spoonful of the blueberries.
 
Turn the mixture into the prepared tin, scatter the remaining blueberries and crumble mixture over the top.  Bake for about 50 minutes until done.
 
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out.  Serve warm or cold.
 
Cuts into 10-12 slices.

August 22, 2019

SLOW ROAST LEG OF LAMB AND A LAMB SALAD

 
Last weekend we treated ourselves to a leg of lamb.
 

It was a last minute idea to do slow roast shoulder of lamb for Sunday dinner but when Nick got to the butcher's shop late on Saturday afternoon, the person in front of him bought the last shoulder joint.  There were a couple of leg joints left so he picked the smallest which weighed about 2kg.

It's interesting to think that when I was a child my mum would cook a shoulder of lamb most Sundays because it was the cheapest joint she could buy.  Pork was an occasional treat and we rarely had a joint of beef because she couldn't afford it.  The only beef we normally had was skirt or shin beef made into a delicious beef stew.  Chicken was served only for special occasions, just a few times a year for Christmas, Easter and sometimes Bank Holidays.  How things have changed.  Chicken is now an everyday meal and lamb is a treat.

 
We studded the lamb joint with some garlic cloves and sprigs of rosemary and cooked it for about 5 hours, after which it was juicy, tender and fell off the bone.  Delicious.
 
The next question was - what to do with the leftovers?
 
 
I would normally make shepherd's pie with leftover lamb but this time there was a lot of it, more than for just one pie.  Another favourite is "Sunday dinner pie", where all the leftovers, including the veg and gravy, are put in a pie dish under a pastry lid and baked in the oven.  Sadly we had eaten all the veg, the gravy was destined for the shepherd's pie and the only other thing left was a small dish of new(ish) potatoes.  So I settled down with a mug of coffee and a pile of my cook books to look for ideas.
 

This River Cottage book was a recent purchase from a charity shop (where else?) for just £1. 
 
In this book, amongst the ideas for leftover lamb there was a recipe for lamb salad.  We don't often have salad in the evenings, Nick especially being a "salad for lunch, hot meal in the evening" kind of traditionalist.  I decided to go wild and make the salad, or at least a variation of Hugh's recipe.  Essentially it was a pile of lettuce, the potatoes coated in mint sauce, lamb and peas.  Delicious.
 
Slow roast leg of lamb
 Ingredients
 
2 kg joint of leg of lamb
1 bulb of garlic
4-5 sprigs of rosemary
1 glass of red or white wine
1 pint of lamb or beef stock
1 large onion
2 large carrots
 
Method
 
Peel the onion and carrots and slice thickly.  Put them in a single layer in a roasting tin with a lid.
 
Stab the joint several times to make slits in the skin.  Tuck peeled cloves of garlic and small tufts of rosemary into each slit and sit the joint on the veg.  Drop the remaining unpeeled cloves of garlic into the tin beside the meat and lay a couple of twigs of rosemary over the top.  Pour the wine and stock into the tin, season with salt and pepper.
 
Put the lid on and cook in the oven at 140 Fan for about 5 hours until the meat is tender and cooked through.  Remove the meat from the oven and from the tin and rest on a board, covered in foil to keep warm, while you make the gravy in the roasting tin.
 
Serves at least 8, with veg, gravy and mint sauce.
 
Lamb salad  
Ingredients
 
3/4 of a romaine lettuce (or any other you prefer), shredded and washed
a good few cooked new potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 heaped tsp mint sauce from a jar (or home made of course)
1 large or 2 small spring onions, sliced
2 handfuls frozen peas, cooked
1 small avocado, peeled stoned and cut into wedges
strips of cooked leftover lamb from the joint, as many as you like according to appetite
Chopped herbs (parsley, chives) (optional)
 
Method
 
Pile the washed, shredded salad leaves into a large bowl.
 
Put the potato chunks into a small bowl with the mint sauce and stir until the potatoes are coated in the sauce.
 
Scatter the peas, potatoes, lamb, avocado and onions over the salad leaves, season with salt and pepper, add some chopped herbs if using, toss lightly and serve with chunks of bread.
 
Serves 2-3.

August 21, 2019

RASPBERRY AND COCONUT CAKE, be careful what you wish for and a demon banished.


It has been a strange summer.  While in France we have had to endure not one, but three heatwaves.  They only ever last for a few days when at their worst but either side of those three days it can still be unbearably hot.  During the last heatwave we had temperatures of 38 - 43C and either side of that it was well over 30C for days on end.  Consequently we were glad to return to the UK for a couple of weeks to cool off a bit.

 
And so, back in the UK, we're getting typical school holiday weather.  A few sunny days in between pouring rain.  In years gone by I would have been spitting nails about the lousy summer weather but this time, having experienced how strangulating such heat can be, I'm glad to be able to get out and about as much as I like, albeit with an umbrella. However, having wished to be a bit cooler, when it was tipping it down the other day I wondered if I should have been more careful what I wished for!  Hopefully it will not continue to rain every day until we return to France. 
 
 
Last week was, apparently, "afternoon tea week". 
Who would have thought it?  Everything one does now has its own week!  Still, with visitors coming, at least it presented an excuse to be indoors, while it poured down outside, and bake a cake.  I chose to make a raspberry and coconut cake because there were boxes of beautiful raspberries being sold off very cheaply in the supermarket - a casualty of the cool, wet weather no doubt.
 
Ever since I made the disastrous and inedible cake to Tom Kerridge's recipe a few months ago (here) I've been looking for another recipe that might actually work and found this one on the Waitrose website.  It looked very promising so I decided to risk it, although adapting it slightly to make a round cake rather than a loaf cake.
 
 
 
It was delicious!  Moist, with a perfect balance of the sweetness and texture of coconut and the sharpness of the raspberries.
 
 
 
I cheated a bit, having spotted a bottle of coconut flavouring in Waitrose (on one of our occasional pilgrimages to our nearest shop which is about an hour away).  I have no idea how much it actually enhanced the flavour of the cake but I would use it again anyway.
 
 
These pictures were taken outdoors the day after I made the cake, when the sun was shining.  I had to be careful not to leave my one last slice of the cake unattended as I seemed to be being watched!
 
 
 
The cake recipe is definitely a keeper.  Instead of decorating it with coconut yoghurt and raspberries as per the recipe I added a drizzle of plain water icing, a scattering of toasted coconut flakes and a sprinkling of freeze dried raspberry pieces.  It looked pretty glamorous I thought. 
 

 
The cake looked and tasted just as good the second time I made it, for a Macmillan coffee morning which we held in France.  (We raised £150.)
 
 
 
As well as the cake I decided I would have another bash at scones in honour of the concept of "afternoon tea week".  The visitors had been prewarned of my track record in the scone department and promised to bring a saw!  I used a recipe for ordinary fruit scones in the National Trust Book of Scones and......they worked a treat!  Maybe my scone demon has finally been banished - at last - I was pretty chuffed.  I have finally triumphed over my fear of scones after more than fifty years!
 
Ingredients
 
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
1/4 tsp coconut flavouring
175g self raising flour
100g dessicated coconut
150g raspberries, halved
2-3 tblsp icing sugar, sifted
a handful of coconut flakes
a sprinkling of freeze dried raspberry pieces
 
Method
 
Butter and line the base of a 20cm round cake tin.  Preheat the oven to 180C /160 Fan / gas mk 4.
 
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar using a hand mixer, until light an fluffy.  Beat the eggs in a jug with the coconut flavour and add a dribble at a time along with a little flour, beating well with each addition.
 
Fold in the remaining flour, then the coconut and raspberries.  Spoon into the tin and level the top.
 
Bake for 50-60 minutes, covering with foil after 30 minutes, until done.  When you remove the cake from the oven leave the heat on, scatter a handful of coconut flakes onto a baking tray and put in the oven for 3-5 minutes until nicely browned at the edges.
 
Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
 
When the cake is cold, transfer to a plate or stand, mix the icing sugar with a little water to make a runny icing and drizzle it over the cake in a diagonal pattern.  Scatter the toasted coconut over the cake and sprinkle with the dried raspberries.
 
Cuts into 6-8 generous slices.  (Leftover slices are nice served warm as a pudding with pink custard!)

August 14, 2019

A CRAFTY CHOCOLATE CAKE

 
These have to be some of the worst photos of a cake that I have ever put up in this blog but the cake is one of the best.
 
 
Some time ago Phil of "As Strong as Soup" blog posted about Michael Barry's Crafty Chocolate Cake and ever since then I have been meaning to bake it. It's hard to believe that I have waited seven years to make this cake! (So many cakes, so little time.)  You can read Phil's post about it here.
 
Michael Barry had the cooking slot in the old Food and Drink series on the BBC and I remember enjoying his no nonsense style.  Phil gives more information about him in his post and a link to the recipe on the Oxfam website.  Sadly the link no longer works so I googled the cake and came across it posted as a contributor's recipe on Nigella Lawson's website.  Something about this version of the cake somehow didn't quite ring true and at the back of my mind I thought it was not the same as the original.
 
 
 
Luckily, not long ago I acquired a copy of  the book that it comes from, Michael Barry's Food and Drink Cookbook, published in 1991. (From a charity shop for £1, where else?)  There are subtle differences between his recipe and the one on Nigella's website so I decided to go with the original.
 
 
The cake was destined for a birthday get together of just five ladies and I was dismayed when the cream I intended to fill it with would simply not whip up stiffly enough to use it.  Glurpy cream oozing out of the middle of an otherwise acceptable cake just will not do for a birthday so I left it out and just filled it with a good layer of cherry jam instead.  I was equally, if not more dismayed when the second sponge cracked as I placed it on top of the first.  A good dense dusting of icing sugar was not enough to hide the crack but nobody seemed to mind.
 
Cracked top and lack of cream notwithstanding, this was an excellent cake.  Phil waxes lyrical about it and quite rightly so.  In the book Mr Barry boasts that his cake was quicker to make and preferred by the Food and Drink team over a similar recipe by the WI! 
It is a doddle to make, (although it takes longer to bake than other all-in-one sponge cakes) has a lovely light texture and good chocolate flavour.  What more could you want from a recipe?
 
Ingredients
 
175g self raising flour
4 heaped tblsp cocoa powder
1 heaped tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
1 dessert spoon black treacle
150ml sunflower oil
150ml milk
2 large eggs
 
For the filling
 
4-5 tblsp cherry jam
approx. 200ml double cream
 
Method
 
Grease and line the bases of two 18cm sandwich tins.  Preheat the oven to 160C / 140 Fan.
 
Put all the cake ingredients into a food processor and blend until you have a dark brown creamy batter.
 
Divide between the two tins and bake for 40-45 minutes.
 
Remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.
 
To serve, sandwich the cakes together with a good layer of jam and some whipped cream.  dust thickly with icing sugar on top.
 
Cuts into 8-10 slices.

August 9, 2019

LEMON MADEIRA CAKE

 
I was asked to make some cakes for a charity cake sale that could be frozen until the day of the sale.  Loaf cakes and traybakes are easy to freeze but can look a bit plain and not sell as well as the more fancy cakes on the stall.
 
Then I stumbled across a blog with a recipe for Madeira cake made in a Bundt tin.  What a great idea thought I - much more appealing.  Just to be on the safe side I decided to make one for home consumption beforehand to check that it would work.  It worked.
 

 
A friend had asked her visitors from America to bring me a Nordic Ware Bundt tin that I coveted which was called a "blossom pan".  They are so much cheaper to buy over there and I thank this mystery person from the bottom of my heart for bringing it in her luggage.  When you look closely at Nordic Ware pans (tins) you just have to admire the design.  All those intricate curves designed so that the cake will come out with a beautiful shape.  Then when you consider the hefty material they're made of and the superb non stick coating, there's no wonder they're so expensive.
 

 
It occurred to me that with this particular tin the cake would still look right if some of the design was missing from the bottom.  Judging from the quantity of flour and other ingredients in the recipe I realised that there would not be enough mixture to fill the tin - or up to two thirds as is usually recommended - so some of the pattern would be missing when the cake was turned out.  This would look odd with some of the Nordic Ware designs I have, but fine with this one.
 
I also learned a new trick from the recipe.  To make a channel in the top of the mixture would produce a flatter top to the cake which was very handy when the cake was turned out.  I have often had to remove a bulge from the top in order to get the cake to be level when inverted and this solves that problem.  It's such a simple solution that I feel rather silly that I never thought of it myself before. 
 

 
Anyway, the cake looked gorgeous and tasted lovely.  This will be my go-to lemon cake recipe in future I think.  Nice and moist and just lemony enough, with an excellent crumb.  It kept really well in an airtight tin for several days.  A keeper in more ways than one.  Even in a loaf tin.  You can see the recipe here.
 
Ingredients
 
175g softened butter (I used Lurpak Spreadable)
175g caster sugar
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
3 large eggs
1 tsp almond extract
1.5 tsp baking powder
150g plain flour
75g ground almonds
splash of milk
icing sugar to dust (optional)
 
Method
 
Prepare the Bundt tin (or use a 1kg loaf tin) by brushing with melted butter and dusting with flour, or using home made cake release paste.  (See sidebar.)  Preheat the oven to 170C / 150 Fan.
 
Using a stand mixer, beat the butter until pale and creamy then beat in the sugar.  Beat in the lemon zest. 
 
Whisk the eggs with the almond essence in a jug and pour into the mix a dribble at a time, thoroughly mixing between additions.  Add a spoonful of the flour if it begins to curdle.
 
Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and sift in half of the flour and baking powder.  Fold in carefully and repeat with the other half then the ground almonds.  Add enough milk to get a soft dropping consistency.
 
Transfer to the tin, level the top and run the spoon around the centre to make a shallow channel.  Tap the tin a few times on the worktop to help remove any trapped air bubbles.
 
Bake for 40-50 minutes (mine was done in 40) until golden brown and coming away from the sides of the tin.  Cool for 10-15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
 
Dust with icing sugar if you like.  Cuts into 10-12 slices.

July 25, 2019

BLUEBERRY, MINT AND LEMON CAKE


We have friends who are completely baffled why we live (half of the year) in France.  They have the impression that, away from the towns, the place is deserted.  Dead as a dodo.  They recall holidays where they have driven round from village to village for hours and barely seen a soul.  All houses appear shut up and empty, almost like in a ghost town.

Well, dear readers, trust me when I say, you could not be further from the truth.  Behind those shuttered windows and doors lie the real France, the goings on are way beyond your imagination and experience.....read on...…...

 
 
We are at the tail end of a heat wave.  Yesterday we were in the middle of three days of "canicule" (the French word for heatwave) and believe me, it is flippin' hot.  Yesterday the temperature was expected to reach 40C by teatime and it was hardly the ideal weather to hold a cake club meeting!
 
And sure enough, if you had driven around the village of Boussay in Touraine yesterday afternoon, you would have found the place deserted, all windows and doors shuttered against the heat and yet......an awful lot of cars parked along a certain street outside a certain house opposite the château and the sound of laughter and the clinking of glasses coming from within.  Yes, it was a cake club meeting.  Undaunted by the weather the members rose to the occasion and baked an amazing selection of cakes and bakes to the theme of "herbs".
 
 
And so I come to my blueberry, lemon and mint cake.  I saw the recipe as a loaf cake on the Delicious Magazine website and also on a blog where the writer had baked it as a Bundt cake instead of a loaf.  That was more my kind of thing so I decided to go for it.
 
It was lovely.  A nice texture which held up well (with no buttercream to melt in the heat).  I thought it had the right amount of mint but if I make it again (which I probably will) I would use double the lemons (use two instead of one) and use halve the quantity of blueberries.  In spite of adding the fruit in thirds most of the blueberries sank to the bottom of the tin which meant they were bizarrely at the top of my Bundt cake.
 
I thought it looked much better without the drizzle which was rather like mint sauce and put a kind of green sludgy finish on it but....I doubt that anyone expects glamour from this kind of cake and it did have the effect of giving the cake just the right mintyness.  I decorated mine with mint leaves, viola flowers and the rather weird looking flowers from our garden mint.  Definitely one to be made again.  You can see the recipe I used here and here for the Bundt version.
 
Ingredients
 
115g very soft butter
25g freshly picked mint leaves
250g blueberries (try 150g next time)
finely grated zest and juice of 1 large lemon (try 2 lemons next time)
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
120ml whole milk
25g desiccated coconut
 
For the glaze
 
100g granulated sugar
 
Method
 
 
Rinse and dry the blueberries and put into a bowl.  Finely chop about a quarter of the mint leaves to yield roughly 1 tblsp.  Add to the blueberries with one tsp of the lemon juice.  Stir together and set aside.
 
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk4.  Butter a 900g loaf tin or a Bundt tin.
 
Using an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (this will take longer than usual due to the high proportion of sugar).  Beat in the lemon zest then the eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with the second egg.
 
Beat in the milk then fold in the flour. baking powder and coconut.
 
Spoon one third of the mixture into the tin followed by one third of the blueberries.  Repeat twice, ending with a layer of blueberries.  Bake for 60-70 minutes until done.
 
While the cake is cooking make the glaze by putting the rest of the mint leaves and 2 tblsp of the granulated sugar into a mini processor or pestle and mortar and process until a paste is formed.  Stir in the lemon juice and set aside.
 
When the cake is cooked leave in the tin for ten minutes then turn out if using a Bundt tin, leave in the tin if using a loaf tin.
 
Press the mint mixture through a fine sieve or tea strainer into a bowl or jug and stir in the remaining granulated sugar.  Pour the liquid over the cake and leave to cool completely.
 
If you like you can add a further drizzle of icing made with icing sugar and lemon juice.  Decorate as desired.
 
Cuts into 10-12 slices. 
 

July 20, 2019

APRICOT AND BLUEBERRY SLICE


Earlier this week a friend gave me a whole box of apricots from her tree.  There were several kilos of beautiful fruit, all ready to eat or use very soon, so I had to put my thinking cap on.  The first thought that sprung to mind was to make jam.
However, I'm not really a jam making person in the sense that whilst I enjoy the process of making jam and find it very satisfying and therapeutic (there's something so homely and wholesome about it), we don't actually eat a lot of jam.  Consequently the pleasure from the making is short lived when trying to find somewhere to store the jars of jam or someone to give them to.  It seems most of our family and friends don't use a lot of jam either and more tends to come our way than we can give away.  The result is a net gain of home made jam every year, delicious and tempting stuff.  We have home made jam dating back to 2014 or even earlier, unopened and crying out for a good scone...….

One of the benefits of being a recipe addict is that I recall a lot of recipes.  By that I mean that I can recall that I saw somewhere a recipe for something or other - remembering where I actually saw it is more of a challenge.  In this case I remembered that I had seen a recipe by Bill Grainger for a cake that might just do for my apricots.  I have no idea who Bill Grainger is other than that he is Australian and I have seen his books for sale here and there.  As it happens, after I had seen this recipe on the internet some time ago I then spotted the book that it comes from in a charity shop for £1 so I bought it.  It is in fact full of interesting and useful recipes.



 
The method is unusual in that you make a rubbed-in mixture, put half of it in the tin, put the fruit on top, add more ingredients to the other half of the mixture to make a batter and pour over the fruit.  It produces a very moist cake with a firmer layer on the bottom which makes it work as either a cake or a dessert.  I made mine using a food processor so it was very quick and easy to make.  The original recipe is for a peach and raspberry slice so it occurred to me that my apricots and a handful of blueberries would be an ideal alternative. 
 
 
 
It was absolutely delicious.  Just as delicious as the peach and raspberry combination would also be I'm sure.  I had to guess how much fruit to use - how many apricots of various sizes are the same as three peaches?  It made very moist cake so I wondered if less fruit would be better next time but several comments where the recipe appears on the internet suggest using less liquid in the batter so I might try that.  One of the places you can see it is here.
In any case, it is definitely one I shall be making again.  This is how I adapted the recipe: 
 
Ingredients
 
185g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder plus an extra ½ tsp
125g butter, chilled and diced
115g **soft brown sugar 
115g **caster sugar
9 apricots, halved and stoned
a handful of blueberries
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
185 ml ** milk
 
Method
 
Grease and line the base of a 24cm square baking tin.  Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk4. 
 
Sift the flour and 1½ tsp baking powder into a food processor with the butter.  Blitz for a few seconds to make crumbs.  Add the sugars and blitz again to mix.
 
Tip half of the crumbs (I did actually weigh mine) into the prepared tin and press over the base.  Scatter the fruit evenly over the top. 
 
Add the vanilla, egg, milk and the other ½ tsp baking powder to the food processor and process to make a batter.  Pour this over the fruit and bake for about an hour until golden brown.  Cool in the tin.
 
Cuts into about 15 slices. 
 
** I made second cake using less sugar and less milk. 
100g each of the sugars, 150ml milk.  It was better I think.