Done and done. Now to feed it whisky for the next 2 months.
Oh is that teasing? OK. Here’s a cake shot too.
Cor blimey look at the raisins on that. Etc.
Last year I went into the winterval-cake-making-process in some detail, dissecting the various recipes I had and trying to establish what made a particularly wintry fruit cake. I found that Mrs Beeton had a higher cake:fruit ratio than Delia, so I tried that. It was good, but I didn’t think it was quite fruity enough. So this year, I’m going back to Delia’s classic recipe, but tweaking it for my own sordid purposes.
Right now, my dried fruits are soaking. I have 450g raisins, 175g sultanas, and 100g each of chopped mixed peel, glacé cherries (natural colour btw, none of this fake red crap) and glacé ginger, all stirred together with a glug of whisky. It smells luscious.
I cannot wait to get started. I’ve not baked enough recently… so it’s probably a good thing that next week is National Baking Week. I would have held on to make this cake as the climactic end to the week but if I don’t make it now, I won’t be able to feed it anywhere near enough booze before it gets decorated. So instead, it can be a teaser.
Finally, after months of waiting, I managed to get my hands on some raw beetroot. I’d been intending to make a beetroot and chocolate cake for ages… so I made this experimental number. It turned out brilliantly – a really juicy cake, nicely chocolatey, with just a hint of dirt. Lovely.
The pictures just came out looking like any old slab of cake, so here I’m treating you to an in-pan shot of the beetroot mixture as the marg is being melted into it.
It’s great once you mix it in with the chocolate as it bears a striking resemblance to puréed human flesh (if you believe the movies, at any rate). Also… in the interests of dietary requirements (after the gluten-free success last time) I note that this cake is dairy-free and eggless, but obviously check all your labels before cooking if you’re not sure. It also has plenty of vitamins A and E – respectively, 12 and 18% of the RDA, I calculate, if you’re dividing the cake into 8. But that is about 300kcal per slice, so don’t be scoffing it all back and blaming your podge on me.
Beetroot & Chocolate Cake
Makes a 9×13″ cake (use a baking dish).
2 medium/150g fresh raw beetroot, grated
1 cup/175g sugar
7 tbsp/125g margarine
1/2 tsp salt
pinch Chinese five-spice
1 cup water
2 cups/230g plain white flour
1/4 cup/30g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Place the beets, sugar, butter (or equivalent), salt, spice and water in a saucepan. Heat and simmer until the butter is melted, then put to one side to cool.
Sieve the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Grease a 9×13″ baking dish. When the beetroot mixture is merely warm, rather than scalding, mix into the dry ingredients. Pour into the prepared dish, and bake in a 160C oven for 35-40 minutes until a skewer/cocktail stick comes out clean.
Last Thursday was Bake Night at Casa Careless. Two birthdays and a spurt of enthusiasm led to these pinwheely delights:
and what I affectionately named Biscotti Mountain:
I actually made two lots of the biscotti, one set gluten-free, one set gluten-rich. Since the gluten-free one was my own adaptation, I thought I’d share (as when I was looking for gluten-free biscotti recipes I shied away in horror from just about all of them. So needlessly complicated!)
Gluten-Free Pistachio & Chocolate Biscotti
makes about 40-50 biscotti
200g plain gluten-free flour (I used this stuff, which is just what they had in the shop but seems very nice)
60g cocoa powder
150g caster sugar
50g plain chocolate
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
splash of milk, probably less than a tablespoon
100g roasted unsalted pistachios
Pulverise the flour, cocoa, sugar, chocolate, baking powder and salt in a food processor until the chocolate has broken into tiny pieces. Add the eggs, vanilla and a splash of milk and mix until a dough forms. Tip onto a floured surface and knead in the nuts. Divide into four and roll each out into a narrow log, about 3cm wide and 30cm long when flattened. Place onto a lined baking sheet and bake at 180C for 25 minutes.
When cooled, cut diagonally into 1-2cm size pieces. Y’know, like biscotti are supposed to look. Then put back into the oven for 15 mins, until further crisped. And you’re done.
The only real difference I found between the different flours was that the gluten-free didn’t hold its shape as well (I expected that) and was a bit stickier and harder to roll into logs. But that was solved just by keeping one hand to be coated in goo, and the other relatively clean and floured for rolling. Other than that, almost identical results for both batches.
My mum used to make this for us when I was a kid – I think it’s quite possibly one of my favourite recipes ever. I’m not sure if she knows that… Actually, I think I’ve had drunken conversations with her when I’ve slurred my appreciation for it, so it’s all ok. I have expressed my gratitude for it. Anyway, it’s one of those recipes I pretty much know off by heart, and which I don’t really alter any time I do it. It’s quick and simple, and brilliant comfort food.
250g puff pastry
1 onion, chopped
175g mushrooms, chopped in a similar fashion
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp marmite
3 slices worth of breadcrumbs
50g cheese, grated
1 small egg, lightly beaten
Sauté the onion and mushrooms in a little olive oil until the juices start to run. Remove from heat and stir in the basil, pepper & marmite; then add the breadcrumbs and cheese, and lastly the egg.
Roll out the pastry to about the size of your baking tray. Fold in half along the long edge to make a crease, then fold one of those halves over again and cut diagonal slashes in it. Unfold and lalala you have little arrow shapes like > > > in your pastry.
Pile the filling on the other side, wet the edges, fold the > > > side over the top of the filling and mush the edges together so they stick and seal. Brush with milk (for a glaze) and bung in the oven for 20-25 mins until pretty and golden.
(Alternatively, divide pastry and make cute little pasties, bake for a bit less time then freeze individually for ready meal goodness.)
Now, discussions. The cheese only needs to be cheddar or somesuch… did think about experimenting with stilton but the marmite gives it enough of a salty kick, so I don’t think it’s necessary. Also, is a bit of over-complication for something which is supposed to be down-to-earth and, umm, uncomplicated.
Oh 3 slices of bread is about 100g. If that makes much of a difference. And you’ll only be using half a block of bought puff pastry, so you can use the rest to make cheese straws/other pastry-based snacks. In fact I’m considering mince pies… I have at least one jar of mincemeat in the cupboard that I failed to make anything with at Christmas.
You’re not going to believe it. I found another recipe for coffee cake that doesn’t actually contain any coffee. How is that fair??? I really fancied some, but by the time I realised I was amused enough to make the non-coffee coffee-cake anyway. It’s not bad, either.
Cinnamon & Walnut Cake
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup caster sugar
1/4 lb butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup plain flour
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp cocoa
Preheat oven to 180C.
For the cake mix: mix the flour, , baking powder and sugar. Rub in the butter and add the salt. Add rest of cake ingredients.
For the filling/topping: Mix all ingredients.
Grease and flour a cake tin (8″ loose-bottomed one for me as usual). Shove in half the cake mix, sprinkle with half the filling, drop in the rest of the cake mix and sprinkle with the remaining filling. Or topping, now. Whack in oven for about 40 minutes or until done.
I got a craving for scones. So I made some.
8oz plain flour
4 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 oz butter
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp (ish) milk
Sift the dry ingredients and rub in the butter. Mix in the milk to make a springy dough. Knead lightly and roll out to about 1/2″ thick. Cut in 2″ rounds, brush with milk, whack on a baking sheet and into the oven for 10 minutes. Done.
Went for a bit of a wander round the markets the other day (my new favourite place) and was suckered in by a charming gentleman hollering “TRAY OF PLUMS FOR A PAAAHNND”. I looked at the tray, thought ‘that’s not too bad a deal’, and purchased. Somehow, I seem to have ended up with about 6 times as many as I thought I would, which while being a good deal (about 3p per plum) means I’m going to be eating plum-based goodies for months. Ah well.
On to the first delight.
Upside-Down Plum Cake
Serves 8, maybe 12 if you’re a bit less generous with the slices.
2 tbsp butter
6 plums, pitted and cut into 6 wedges
1/2 cup caster sugar
Melt the butter, add the sugar and plums and cook gently until the plums look soft and the sugar is totally dissolved. Remove the plums and set to one side; boil the syrup until a bit thicker and leave to cool. Arrange the plums in the bottom of a greased & floured cake tin (I actually did it in a casserole dish as more of a pudding-type dessert, because my cake tin is loose-bottomed and I didn’t want the syrup to drip everywhere), pour over the syrup, and leave to cool.
1/2 cup (100g) butter
3/4 cup (160g) caster sugar (plus 2 tbsp)
2 eggs, separated
1 tsp lemon extract
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1/4 cup milk
Cream the butter and the 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, then beat in the lemon extract. Sift the dry ingredients and beat into the buttery mixture alternately with the milk. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, add the 2 tbsp sugar and beat to stiff peaks. Fold a third into the batter until just mixed, then mix in the rest (this avoids losing all the air you’ve spent all that effort putting in. Somehow.)
Spread this batter over the plums in the prepared tin. Whack in a pre-heated 180C oven for 50-55 minutes until risen and pretty. Leave until cold then turn out onto a plate.
Saw a recipe on the internet for a vanilla cake with orange cream cheese frosting, but then Tesco had no loose oranges (wtf is that all about? I don’t want 12 oranges, even if they are on offer, I just want one, perhaps two at a real stretch if they look really nice which is doubtful considering the time of year. But never mind). So I decided to go for marmalade AND cream cheese frosting instead. I dutifully bought the cheapest marmalade I could find and got a horrible shock when I tried to eat it because it was so sweet and sickly. No! No no no! Marmalade’s not supposed to be like that! It’s supposed to be grim and sour and make your face pucker up like Teddy Sheringham’s!
Actually I’m sure I read an article somewhere recently about marmalade and its decline in popularity. That’s probably why I decided to buy it, just to prove these trend-noticers wrong. Hahaha, you thought people were going off it, but I’ve just STARTED eating it, so there ner. Meh. I’m quite disappointed with it so I don’t know if the cake will quite have the same piquancy I was looking for, but it’s not like there’s going to be anyone else but me eating it. If I can help it.
Oh bugger, and now I’ve overdone the cake. Damn you all for distracting me.
As an aside… the ratios for this cake are the traditional 1:2:3:4 in butter:sugar:flour:eggs where the first three are measured in cups. It was originally supposed to be literally 1 cup butter 2 cups sugar etc but I thought that looked a bit too big for ye english eaters as this was compiled from American recipes. You could probably also do this as a whole 8″ cake and then frost over the top of it… but this way is easier for me to freeze it for work snacks. If I frost the top it gets all stuck to the inside of the clingfilm and wasted. You have been warned.
Vanilla Cake with Marmalade & Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves 12 or at least cuts nicely into 12 slices if you chill it first so the layers don’t slide over each other.
2 1/4 cups plain flour
3/4 tbsp baking powder
good pinch salt
1 1/2 cups caster sugar (I use unrefined, darlings)
1 tsp vanilla essence
3/4 cup milk
150g icing sugar
100g cream cheese
2 heaped tbsp marmalade
Prep a couple of 8″ baking tins (grease, flour, neither, whatever you do). Seive the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium-sized bowl. In a large bowl, soften butter and cream with sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time (or altogether, doesn’t seem to matter). Add in vanilla, and beat in flour mix and milk alternately to a smooth batter. Pour into prepared tins and bake for 30-35 mins (not 50 as I managed to do, although if you do you do end up with a nice crispy outside and a nicely fluffy inside. Ahem.)
For the filling, cream the butter (softened) and the sugar (sifted) together, then beat in the cream cheese. Spread over the bottom half of the cake, then spread the facing side of the top half of the cake with marmalade and sandwich appropriately.
That’s it. And here it is, in all its faintly singed glory.