The Humble British Fairy Cake

So, I’m starting off this blog for the first time in about a year or so with a little rant about the difference between fairy cakes and cupcakes.

Now I’m not a huge fan of this cupcake craze thats been sweeping the UK, I think it’s overshadowed the wholesome and very British fairy cake. Fairy cakes are smaller than the cupcake and the perfect size for small children. I made this quick batch to give to my girl guides (that’s right, people put me in charge of their children) as a little treat for their enrolment tonight.

Some of my fondest memories from childhood is making these lovely little cakes with my mum.

 

Ingredients

110g/ 4oz butter or margerine

140g/5oz caster sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it, see store cupboard if you are unsure what this is)

3 eggs

1 tsp of vanilla essence

200g/7.5oz of self-raising flour

1.5 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp of salt

80ml of milk

 

Method

1. Basically chuck everything in a bowl…

2. …and mix well with a spoon, whisk, hand mixer, feather duster, your choice!

3. Bake in the oven at 170C fan oven for 15 minutes until risen, slightly golden and a skewer comes out clean

4. All you need to do now is allow them to cool on a wire rack before mixing 5 heaped tbsp of sifted icing sugar with 1 tbsp of boiling water. Mix this to a stiff paste, adjust the water or icing sugar as you see fit.

5. Dollop a spoonful of this on each cake and top with hundreds and thousands.

And their you have it, the humble British fairy cake! Enjoy kiddiwinks!

Humble British Fairy Cake

 

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A brief pudding interlude…

Pudding interlude! Chocolate filo parcels!

Take 2 sheets of filo pastry and cut each of them into 4 strips. Place 3 squares of chocolate at one end, baste the whole sheet in melted butter and wrap the chocolate up in the filo, sealing the end with more melted butter. Bake in a pre heated oven at 190C until crisp and golden. Try to use an expensive chocolate as I used dairymilk, which is nice but doesn’t melt very well…goes a but stiff and chalky. Enjoy :)

 

 

 

 

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Bocconcini, wiltshire ham and rocket pizza

I made pizza once at Leiths and it was the most fun afternoon there. So seeing as it was my day off I invited a friend round and we cooked pizza together. It is really quite easy, just make a simple bread dough for the base and dump on anything you like and chuck it in the oven and you’re done!

 

 

Pizza base ingredients

 

Makes 2 rather large deep pan pizzas (mainly because I couldn’t roll it out to thin crust…)

450g/1lb strong white bread flour

30g fresh yeast  (which you can buy from Morrisons or Sainsburys) or a 7g packet of fast action yeast.

2 tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil

 

Pizza toppings ingredients

 

half a jar of pizziola sauce

4 Bocconchini or 1 ball of (decent) mozzarella

2 slice of wiltshire ham

a large handful of rocket

or

whatever you so desire!

 

Pizza method

 

Now if you haven’t made bread before this is the best recipe to start of with. You don’t have to use it as a pizza base, you can use it just a one rise plan loaf and it is rather fabulous.

1. Sift the flour and the salt together. Weigh out 225ml of blood temperature or luke warm water. In a little bowl mix the yeast with a small amount of the water, dissolving it. If using fast action then just add it in to the flour.

2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the oil, the yeast mix and the rest of the water. Mix together to make a soft dough and knead for about 5 to 10 minutes. This is to distribute the yeast and develop the gluten, which makes bread all springy. To test if the dough is ready make a slight indent with your finger and the dent should spring back out. Shape the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm, but not overly warm, say in the airing cupboard or the boiler until it has doubled in size.

3. Once it has doubled in size, cut it in half and then using a rolling pin roll the dough into a rough circle, do the same with the other half.

4. Place the dough on a baking sheet or a pizza stone (actually your pizza stone should already be piping hot in the oven and you should transfer your pizza to it using one of those wooden shovel things).

5. Spread the base of the pizza with a pizziola sauce (you can make one, but I honestly think lifes too short and that I could easily buy one from Marks and Spencer). Then just put on top anything you want, I added bocconchini, which is baby mozzarella which we use at work and which I also bought from marks and sparks. I seem to seriously be bigging up M & S here, but their food is fantastic. I then added some lovely wiltshire ham.

 

 

6. Once you’ve added all your toppings place it in the oven at 230C/450F/GM 8 for 5 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 200C/400F/GM6 and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes until all the cheese is melty and the sides of the pizza are nice and crispy. Once it’s out chuck a handful of rocket on and then all you have to do is eat and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Triple Chocolate Cookies

So I made some cookies, I make these all the time. They’re really quick and easy to make and they don’t require any fridge time which is always the boring bit when you make cookies and biscuits.

Pre heat the oven to 160C/GM4/350F and line a baking tray or two.

Cream 110g/4oz margerine with 100g/ 31/2oz granulated sugar and 100g/31/2oz of soft dark brown sugar. Beat in 1 egg and 1 tsp of vanilla essence. Stir in 140g/5oz plain flour, 55g/2oz cocoa powder, 1/2tsp bicarbinate of soda, 1/2tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt. Mix it all up and once it’s nearly all combined add in 100g milk chocolate chips and 100g white chocolate chips.

Scoop blobs of cookie dough on the baking sheet several inches a part and flatten them with a spatula or back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes or so. Until they are still very soft but with a slight shell on top. Leave them to cool for a little bit before transferring them to a wire rack to cool. Though I do suggest eating these warm from the oven, they taste the best then!

 

 

These make about 10 obsese cookies according to my mother, but I just think they’re a good sized cookie, but if you like smaller ones they’ll probably make about 15 or so.

That’s all for now, happy baking folks!

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Honeycomb and Sugar Syrups

So,  I have a new job! I’m a commis chef at a rather well known chain of Italian restaurants, I’m not sure whether I’m allowed to mention the chef who owns them, I had to sign some sort of privacy agreement and I can’t remember what’s in it, but needless to say he is rather well known… but I am loving it! I also, obviously, have a new blog name because the last one was boring. This ones a bit more ordinary, I bit more me!

In my new job I am required to tackle things like honeycomb and butterscotch sauce and me being me I thought that would be a piece of cake, I’m good at the sweet stuff! But it happens to be the one thing I can’t do… That and making my gorgonzola salad stand in a tower (which I have just cracked). So I went home and practised. The first attempt went pants, I ended up making something like taffy, yummy, but not what you want! Fuming, I decided to go away, calm down, get my Leiths techniques bible and read what they have to say on sugar syrups. Now the recipe I have to use is completely different from any I’ve found on the Internet, but very similar to what Leiths teaches.

First, kids, we need to cover the basics…

Now there are several stages in sugar making, be very careful when you test these stages seeing as you have to pick up the sugar syrup with your bare hands. Have a jug of cold water near you and every time you want to test the sugar syrup use a spoon to pick out some sugar syrup and dip your thumb and forefinger in the cold water before touching the syrup.

1. Vaseline, where the syrup feels slightly slimy between your fingers

2. Short thread, where you can pull you’re fingers apart and a thin line of syrup will remain.

3. Long thread, duh, exactly the same as short thread just longer.

So all these are used for sorbets and syrups etc

4. Soft ball, where you can pick the syrup up and roll it into a squishy ball

5. Firm ball, where you can make a ball which won’t squish as much as soft ball.

We’re getting onto some seriously technical terms and descriptions here, I hope you can keep up.

6.  Hard ball, this will crack if you tap it against something…now I think this is the stage I went to for honeycomb…I think. According to the chef at work,  you need to take it to 130oC which so happens to be only a little bit higher than the hard ball stage (124oC).

After that comes

7. Soft crack for toffees

8. Spun sugar for hard toffees

9. Hard crack, the hottest sugar which is actually for spun sugar so, not sure why it’s isn’t called spun sugar, but still. You make pretty sugar baskets and things out of this. Or you just burn yourself like I do.

Or instead of this, you could just use a sugar thermometer which has all of these on anyway and it means you don’t have to burn yourself..repeatedly…like me.

Now we’ve got all that out of the way. Now onto the recipe:

 

Ingredients

 

400g white granulated sugar. We use white because it is the most refined and therefore the cleanest and granulated because it has a larger surface area to volume ratio and therefore will dissolve quicker.

500ml/1/2 litre of water (if you use boiling water from the kettle it will start the process off quicker, otherwise you will be standing there waiting for your sugar to dissolved for years)

1 large tbsp of honey (not syrup, as this is honeycomb, not syrupcomb)

Approx. half a tbsp of bicarbonate of soda

 

Method

 

1. Place the sugar and honey in a deep, wide based pan and add the water (boiling preferably)

2. Heat very gently and if you want stir also very gently with the end of a spoon

3. Once all the sugar has dissolved turn up the heat and boil the living day lights out of it until it reaches either 124oC/130oC or using the other method until you can form a hard ball with the sugar syrup. Basically when you drop it in cold water it will harden immediately.

4. Chuck in the bicarb and turn the heat off. Whisk until it goes all foamy and pale and rises up the pan. Pour it out into a lined tin and leave it until it goes hard.

 


 

Once that’s done you can break it up and either dip bits in chocolate so you have a Crunchy bar or just enjoy on its own…I did!

 

Well I should be back sooner than I said I would be last time with my recipe for proper American triple chocolate cookies, yummy.

 

 

 

 

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vanilla snowflake biscuits

So…it’s been a while. In an effort to feel a tad more Christmassy seeing as it has been rather warm for the time of year, I decided to make some festive biscuits. And they’re just a quick something to get me back into the habit of blogging. Now I know that for these you need special cutters, but they are worth getting as they look rather spiffy! This recipe comes from my go to recipe book, the Leiths Bible.

Pre heat the oven to 190C/375F/GM 5. Cream 110g/4oz butter with 110g/4oz caster sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in 1 egg and 1 tsp vanilla essence (or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste). Mix in 285g/10oz of sifted flour with a pinch of salt. Bring the dough/paste together with your hands and turn out onto a floured work surface. Roll out to pound coin thickness and then cut out whatever shapes you so desire. Place on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until just browning round the ages. This should give you a nice crisp biscuit. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Once they are cool you can ice them if you want, or whilst they are still warm sprinkle over some brown sugar, or just enjoy them plain. I did!

And hopefully you will be slightly neater than me with your cutting, fiddly bits aren’t my forte.

 

 

Hopefully I will be back soon with some mince pie fun and if you haven’t already made yours, a fabulous Christmas pud!

 

Enjoy folks!

 

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Coffee and Salted Caramel Cake

So my favourite new cake is coffee with a salted caramel buttercream which is AMAZING!

 

The cake part is easy to make, it’s the same recipe for the coffee and chestnut cake I did in my very first blog, but I’ll give it to you again just in case you weren’t listening.

 

Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

 

330g butter/margarine (stork)

330g caster sugar

330g self raising flour

6 eggs

3 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp coffee granules dissolved in 2 tbsp of water

 

Method

 

1. Pretty much chuck everything in a bowl (sans egg shells of course) and mix with a hand whisk or free standing mixer until all combined.

2. Pour into 3 prepped (greased and lined with greaseproof paper) 8″ cake tins and bake in the oven at 180C/350F/GM4 for 20 mins or so until well risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

3. Leave aside to cool

 

Now comes the fun and yummy part…

 

Salted Caramel Buttercream

Ingredients:

 

250g granulated sugar

190ml double cream

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

 

320g butter

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

400g icing sugar

 

Method

 

Making the caramel. Now this isn’t that difficult you just have to keep a very very VERY close eye on it because it can burn in a split second. I’m speaking from experience here. The reason we use granulated and not caster is because granulated sugar has a large surface area and therefore will dissolve quicker than caster. However it is do-able if you don’t have granulated.

1. Place the granulated sugar in a pan.

2. Boil the kettle and measure 125ml of boiling water and pour over the sugar (this will help with the initial dissolving process).

3. Place the pan over the lowest heat possible and using the end of a wooden spoon make very small circular motions in the sugar to help it dissolve. Don’t stir too much or the sugar will start to crystallise and then you will be left with an unusable pan. If you do see the sugar start to crystallise stop stiring and just heat very slowly and hope and pray it doesn’t crystallise further.

4. Now once its all dissolved and you’re left with a clear syrupy liquid (this is called a stock syrup), turn the heat right up and boil the syrup WITHOUT stiring, never, ever stir at this stage, you can swirl the pan occasionally but no stiring, ok, got that? Good. Now the syrup as it boils will start turning a nice brown colour and there will be a lovely smell of caramelised biscuits, swirl the pan to get an even distribution of colour. Have the cream all measured out at this point with the vanilla and the salt mixed in.

Once the caramel is a nice builders tea colour take it of the heat immediately and very quickly chuck in the cream and take a step back whilst giving the pan an energetic but not panicky swirl.

5. You should now be left with a lovely caramel sauce, which you can use just as a sauce. However we are making a buttercream, so whilst that cools we’re going to cream the butter.

6. Blend the butter with the sifted icing sugar, vanilla and salt until lovely and fluffy and creamy, have a quick taste, just because you can. Then if the caramel sauce is cool enough beat that into the buttercream and have another quick taste (or two, or three). Now it may be that like me you are a tad impatient and have not waited for the caramel sauce to cool down and have slightly melted the buttercream, but never fear just place it in the fridge for a bit and it will be fine.

 

 

Construction

 

1. Remove the greaseproof paper carefully from all three of your cakes. There’s nothing worse than cutting into a beautiful cake and finding paper (don’t laugh, I have done this before).

2. Pile all your buttercream into a disposable piping bag or into a fabric piping bag. Snip the bottom off the bag until you have a hole about  the size or a twenty pence piece, which is about 1.5cm, I think, I don’t know that could be a lie, I’m on a train without a ruler.

3. Place one of the cakes on the plate you’re going to serve it on and pipe a 1/3 of the filling in a swirl like a cumberland sausage, if there are gaps in the middle don’t worry but make sure the filling reaches the edges. Place the next cake on top and press down slightly, then use the next 1/3 of the buttercream and do the same. Place the final layer on top and pipe the remaning buttercream in a swirl. Then using an angled spatular or a normal one smooth over the buttercream to get it looking all pretty. And voila one amazing cake.

 

Happy eating folks!

 

Oh and beware if you happen to be a klutz (like me) and splash hot sugar syrup or caramel on yourself don’t whatever you do pour cold water on it, because it will then go solid and burn even more and you will never get it off. I speak from personal experience, sugar syrup burns are the worst.

 

 

 

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Banana, Apricot and Cranberry Tea Loaf

I know, I’m late again, my silly cat when AWOL so I was out flyering to try and find the little bugger. He came back eventually after like 5 days.

Now this next thing is yummy, doesn’t look the nicest, but tastes amazing. The best bananas to use are the squishiest, blackest ones lying in your fruit bowl, which means this is a brilliant leftover cake.

 

 

Ingredients

 

2 very ripe/over ripe bananas

175g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g rolled oats

150g light soft brown sugar

50g cranberries

50g apricots

2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

150ml oil

 

Method

 

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/GM4 and prep either 2 1lb loaf tins or 1 2lb loaf tin. Prep is easy, just oil or butter the sides and base and then cut a strip of baking parchment (not paper, parchment) and place it along the bottom, hanging over the sides…like so:

 

 

1. Roughly mash the bananas with a fork or another mashing implement.

2. Add the flour, baking powder, oats and the soft brown sugar and combine.

3. Roughly chop the cranberries and apricots and reserve a teaspoon of each before adding the rest to the banana mixture.

4. Combine the eggs, oil and vanilla and add to the banana stuff.

5. Now you can either separate the mixture between 2 1lb loaf tins or put it in one 2lb loaf tin.

6. Bake in the oven for about an hour until risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

7. Wait until it’s cool before mixing some sifted icing sugar with some boiled water to make a reasonably thick icing that will drizzle quite comfortably over the tea loaf. Then finely chop the reserved teaspoon of apricots and cranberries and sprinkle them over the top of the icing.

Just slice and enjoy with a nice cup of tea!

Next week I will be back to normal with a rather fetching coffee and salted caramel triple layer cake…yum.

 

 

 

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A Small Interview, based on cake..

So my dad has just had his first book published called Mrs. Darcy versus the Aliens, so I decided to interview him during his month-long blog tour. We debate the finer points of alien cooking, or cooking aliens, however you want to look at it…

 

Tell me a little bit about your book.

 

It’s a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice”. With aliens. That do? So where’s the cake? I was told there’d be cake…

 

How did you come up with the idea?

 

I was talking to a fellow writer a few years back about another book I’d read (“Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell”) and we decided it was basically a Regency novel with wizards. From there it was a very small step to thinking up a Regency novel with aliens. Now can I have some cake?

 

Did you have a particular snack or food that you ate when you were writing?

 

You’re checking up on me, aren’t you? No. Nothing at all. Definitely not. Not even cake. Although some cake would be very nice now…

 

What’s your favourite type of cake?

 

AT LAST! THE CAKE QUESTION! Actually I like all types of cake. What have you got?

 

What do you think Mrs Darcy’s would be?

 

To hell with Mrs Darcy, WHERE’S MY CAKE? I WANT CAKE!

 

There are aliens in your book. What do you think they would taste like?

 

Probably chicken. Most things taste like chicken. Maybe with a hint of squid. So there’s no cake. That’s what you’re trying to tell me, isn’t it?

 

I bet they’d be good battered and deep-fried with some sweet chilli dipping sauce.

 

Actually, most things are good battered and deep-fried with some sweet chilli dipping sauce. Especially cake. Which reminds me…

 

Boring details about the book: The web site is here. The Wickhampedia is here. And there are some trailers here. You can buy it from all good bookshops (especially WHSmith, where it’s on promotion) and all the usual online places, including the Jane Austen Centre Online Giftshop, where they have signed copies.

 

 

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Blackberry Jam

‘Sup ladies and gents, missed me?

‘Fraid I’ve been having fun picking blackberries, raspberries, elderberries and sloes… I now have more than I know what to do with and have given myself nettle rash in the process.

But I thought I would make some jam. Now jam is easy, you just simmer fruit with sugar and voila, yummyness in a jar.

 

The jam making process:

 

1. Pick a fruit, any fruit (this is not an exaggeration, you can literally use any fruit)

2. Weigh your fruit. We were taught at school to not even attempt making jam with over 2kg of fruit as it gets hard to pot, but under that you’re fine.

3. Make sure you remove all bruised and battered fruit and it’s best to use fruit that is slightly under ripe.

4. Make sure you check (via t’internet or a jam making book, which if you have then I don’t know why you’re bothering to read this, but then again I have one so I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing this) the level of pectin your fruit contains. I have differing opinions on blackberries, my book says low, my teachers say high. I went with a low level of pectin. Pectin is a carbohydrate found in the skin and cores of all fruit, it helps with the setting of the jam…I think.

5. Use a large crystal sugar i.e. granulated sugar or preserving sugar, as it will dissolve quicker. Also whatever the weight of you fruit the weight of the sugar will be the same.

6. If the fruit is low in pectin use a jam sugar or certo, which is liquid pectin

7. Have a cold plate in the fridge, this is for your flake test later.

8. I swear there was another point which I’ve forgotten, actually if I’m honest then there’s probably a lot of points that I’ve forgotten, but I think most of the important bits are there.

Right, now that the boring stuff is out of the way we can get onto the good bits, but first look at this picture of blackberries:

 

That was nice wasn’t it? Now, moving on swiftly…

 

The Recipe

 

700g blackberries

700g jam sugar or 700g preserving sugar with 60ml certo

2 tbsp lemon juice

50ml water

1. Firstly we’re going to sterilise the jars. Pre-heat the oven to 140C/GM 1/275F, wash the jars that you will be using with their lids in very hot soapy water, dry them and then place them in the oven for 20-30 minutes. You will need about 3 x 440ml (1lb) jam jars for this amount.

2. Place blackberries in a large pan with the water and lemon juice and heat until the blackberries have released their juice and have broken down slightly

3. Meanwhile weigh out the sugar, place it on a baking sheet and place in warming oven (around 110C) for about 10 minutes. This helps the sugar to dissolve quicker when added to the fruit.

4. Once the blackberries have broken down turn the heat right down, remove the sugar from the oven and add it to the blackberries. Stir very gently until the sugar has dissolved and then turn the heat back up again.

5. Boil the jam for about 8 minutes. To check if it is ready remove the plate from the fridge and dollop some jam on and place it back in the fridge for a minute of so. (Whilst this is happening make sure your jam is off the heat so you don’t go beyond the jam point into cheese territory.) Remove the plate from the fridge and if you can push your finger through the jam and create a channel that stays then your jam is ready. If not then keep heating it until it does.

6. Once your jam is done turn the heat off, and gently skim off the fat that has accumulated (or apparently you can add a knob of butter and this will do it for you). Leave the jam to cool down for a little bit otherwise all the fruit will sink to the bottom and then carefully pour it into your sterilised jars, whack on a lid and leave to cool completely until set. Then enjoy on toast, or on a tea cake, or in a bakewell tart, whatever you fancy!

Oh and if you are uber clever then you can just skip most of step 5 if you have sugar thermometer, just boil it until it reaches the word jam and your done. Or you can be a complete idiot like me and have one but not use it…

In other news my cat has decided to shun all kitty beds and sleep on my Hobbs trousers instead, such expensive taste, thanks Marvin (that’s the cat)…this is him:

Strange isn’t he? Trust me he looked weirder when he was younger…

Anywho, happy jam making! I’m making elderberry tomorrow.

 

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