Saturday, 29 October 2011

An illicit culinary lovechild...

Have you ever played that game, where you can breed two imaginary animals together and come up with something completely new and original (and usually ridiculous). For instance, my favourite creation is a Peep - a pink wooly creature with a wet snuffly nose and curly tail - the offspring of a pig and a sheep. You get the picture.

So imagine if you applied the game to baked goods... a world of possibilities!

A friend of mine celebrated her birthday last week, and since her favourite cake is Battenberg, it gave me the perfect opportunity to make one for the first time. But then I thought: "It can't be an ordinary Battenberg, surely?! What would you get if you crossed a Battenberg with a Cherry Bakewell...?"

Coconut and Cherry Bakewellberg Cake

For the cake:
4oz Stork
4oz Caster Sugar
4oz Self-raising flour
2 eggs
1oz dessicated coconut
1 oz ground almonds
10 glace cherries, processed with 1 tblsp water
Dash of red and yellow food colouring

For the frosting:
4 tblsp Stork
4 tblsp icing sugar, sieved
1 des. sp ground almonds
1/2 tsp almond essence

To decorate:
5 glace cherries, to decorate   
1 packet of natural marzipan, to decorate


1. Prepare (grease and line) a 6" x 4" cake tin, split into two partitions of 6" x 2". I am lucky enough to have recently invested in a square tin with removable dividers, which makes this stage all the easier. However, you can carefully fold foil-lined greaseproof paper to create a wall in the middle of your tin if you don't have one of these. Instructions can be found here:

2. In each of two separate bowls, cream half of the Stork and half of the sugar together until pale and creamy, and gradually add one beaten egg to each.

3. Add the coconut, processed cherries, red food colouring and half of the flour to one of the bowls, and stir thoroughly. Add the ground almonds, yellow food colouring and half of the flour to the other bowl, and stir thoroughly.  

4. Spoon the mixtures into the prepared tin and bake at 180 degrees celcius for about 20-30 minutes, then allow to cool on a wire rack.

5. In the meantime, make the frosting. Mix together all of the ingredients, then whisk with an electric whisk for about 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Set aside.

6. When the cakes are completely cooled, stack on top of each other, and cut down the middle, to create four evenly-sized strips. It may be necessary to trim the tops slightly if they have not risen evenly.

7. Roll out the marzipan on a surface lightly dusted with sieved icing sugar, until it's nice and thin and the right size to cover your Bakewellberg. I then covered the marzipan in a thin layer of frosting - enough so that the cake would adhere to it nicely. I then stacked the four sections on top of the marzipan (sticking with frosting), before bringing the marzipan up and around to cover it. I am sure that the received wisdon probably warns against this approach, to avoid getting crumbs in the surface of your marzipan and spoiling the outer layer of the cake. However, if you're careful, I think this is definitely a better way of getting a nice, neat, smooth finish than trying to drape the marzipan around a Bakewellberg that is only held together by frosting.

8. For the finishing touches, slice of the very ends of the cake so that is appears nice and neat, and the traditional squared pattern is visible. I then crimped the top two edges of the marzipan with my fingers. As well as giving a nice decorative finish, this also means that if your marzipan isn't perfectly tight, you can take up some of the slack in the crimping process. Finally, I added some halved glace cherries on top, as further decoration and to warn my friend that this was no ordinary Battenberg.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Seriously rich....

So, the lottery winners Dave Dawes and Angela Dawes are making twenty of their friends instant millionaires after their recent £101million win. Perhaps with their entry into the high life, they'd be interested in this little beauty of a cake.

As someone who is not overly enthusiastic about chocolate puddings, this might seem like an odd choice for me. But then again, I believe if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well - and this cake definitely does that! It's superbly rich, chocolatey and moist. And best of all, it contains no flour, which made it perfect as a birthday cake for my mother, who's a coeliac, and not really a pudding person, so doesn't tend to get very excited about cake. However, I just knew that this would be worthy of excitement from even the most cynical cakeophobe.

The recipe is amended from a BBC Good Food recipe, with Baileys substituted for Cointreau.

Seriously Rich Chocolate Cake

100g butter
140g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
6 large eggs, separated
140g ground almonds
1 tblsp Baileys
85g caster sugar
Icing sugar, ground almonds and edible gold glitter to decorate
Clotted cream, to serve

  1. Grease and line the base of a 9in springform cake tin. Melt together the chocolate and butter in a bain marie, stirring until smooth. Leave for about 5 minutes to cool slightly.
  2. Stir in the egg yolks, ground almonds, and Baileys. Whist the egg whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Then, adding the sugar a little at a time, continue whisking to stiff peaks. Stir 2 tablespoons of the whites into the chocolate mixture, then carefully fold in the remainder until no traces of white are left. 
  3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake at 170 degrees Celcius for 30-35 minutes until the mixture has risen and is just firm to the touch.
  4. Allow to cool in the tin. If the cake sinks slightly or cracks, it will still be fine. If you are not planning to serve the cake immediately, leave it in the tin and cover in a double layer of cling film until ready to serve (up to three days). According to the BBC website, the cake freezes well for up to one month.
  5. To serve, remove the cake from the tin and peel away the lining paper. Sift the icing sugar liberally over the top and sprinkle with edible gold glitter for a touch of glamour. Although the original recipe recommends serving with crème fraîche, I found that the bitterness was just too much for the smooth decadence of the cake, and would suggest that a good dollop of clotted cream would be your best bet!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

High tea through the looking glass....

A few years ago, when I was working in a library, I made one of the most important friendships of my adult life. This friendship was, and still is, based almost entirely on an overenthusiastic appreciation of tea, cake, and those marvellous mealtimes (some real, some invented) whose purpose is purely to combine the two. This is the reason that the library-based stage of my career saw me gain an extra stone of cakey insulation, built up steadily over time during an almost religious observance of daily elevenses.

So when this same friend informed me that a super-kitsch new tea room had opened in the heart of Manchester, I was filled with giddy excitement. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present.....

Richmond Tea Rooms

Picture courtesy of Richmond Tea Rooms website
First impressions of Richmond Tea Rooms were overwhelmingly positive. The decor is an Alice in Wonderland-themed mix of red and black 'Eat me' and 'Drink me' salutations set amongst beautifully upholstered regal wooden armchairs and perfectly grannyishly decked tables. There is even a small conservatory-type nook in one corner, though sadly it has been occupied on both our visits.

The selection of tea is admirable, with more than a couple that neither my friend nor I have tried (quite a feat) and the display of cakes, pies and buns is a thing of real beauty. The crockery is delicate and beautiful, and the overall attention to detail is quite astounding - perhaps explaining the slightly elevated prices. On our first trip we were blown away by just how delicious the chocolate torte was, and decided immediately that we'd have to trek back for one of their high teas. This we duly did, at the end of last week.

Once again I was blown away by the look and feel of the place - even the forties/fifites music selection is just perfect for setting the scene. The Queen's Tea was very exciting when it arrived, with the highlight surely being the fig and goat's cheese finger sandwiches. The selection of cakes and pastries was pretty wonderful too. The best bits were a lovely miniature meringue (divine), and a moist and mouthwatering coconut macaroon. The strawberry and custard tarte was nice enough, though the pastry was a little dry, but the fruit scone (something about which I am rather particular) was a little thin and crisp for my preferences. Having said that, I barely made an impact on the scone in any case, since I was so full of other sweet treats! The clotted cream supplied was delicious though, so I did make the effort for at least a couple of bites of the scone.

All in all, this place is well worth a visit - a kitsch little oasis of vintage music, decadent decor and very naughty confections.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Chocolate and Baileys cupcakes

I came up with this recipe a couple of weeks ago, and since then I haven't been able to stop myself cooking up batches of the stuff! The first version was a set of dainty little cakes bursting with decadent richness. Next up, I made a miniature heart-shaped cake to the same recipe for a friend's birthday, but decorated with giant chocolate buttons. And finally, next week, I am planning to make a violin-shaped chocolate and Baileys celebration cake for a 21st birthday. One taste and you'll know exactly why I'm so enamoured.....

Cakes (makes 12)
4oz Stork
4oz dark muscovado sugar
2 eggs, beaten
good tablespoon Baileys Irish cream
4oz self raising flour

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g icing sugar, sieved
good tablespoon Baileys Irish cream
100g good quality dark chocolate

1. Cream together the stork and the muscovado sugar until light and creamy, then stir in the Baileys.

2. Gradually stir in the egg, adding a little flour if necessary to avoid curdling.

3. Stir in the remainder of the flour. Spoon into 12 cupcake cases and bake at 160 degrees celcius for about 15 minutes.

4. Whilst these are in the oven, melt the chocolate in a bain marie, then leave to cool slightly.

5. Whisk together the butter and the icing sugar until light and creamy, then stir in the Baileys and the melted chocolate. Leave the frosting at room temperature, so that it stays easy to spread (it will set in the fridge).

6. Leave the cupcakes on a wire rack to cool. When they are completely cool, use a palette knife to cover them with frosting, and sprinkle with a little gold edible glitter for best effect.

7. Make sure you give the majority away before you try one, otherwise you risk eating the whole batch in one sitting and not even feeling guilty about it.