September 29, 2019


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. 
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
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


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 evolved 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 some people were actually thinking that there were too many cakes and were pleased to see them gradually being replaced by the savouries. 
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.

At our Macmillan coffee morning, to go with the cakes, biscuits and buns, 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


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. 

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


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


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.
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
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.