Greek Coconut cake

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We all have those people that enter our lives, becoming firm friends then through no fault on any part drift apart. There is nothing better than rekindling those friendships years later. I have one such friend, Angela. This blog is dedicated to her.

Last Saturday, Angela hosted a Greek themed dinner party. Whilst Angela provided the main course, I provided the dessert, Baklava and Ravani or Greek Coconut cake. The meal was accompanied by several bottles of prosecco and lots of laughter. To round the evening off we put on the Sing-a-long version of Mama Mia and belted out some classics! Gimme, gimme a man after midnight will never be the same again. Not to mention Angie busting out her clubbersize moves to Voulez Vous! We might be over 40 but we know how to party!

You know it is a good night when you find yourself confronted by your son and grounded for being late home!

This cake is a light, refreshing dessert and an absolute doddle to make.

Cake Ingredients

4 eggs, separated

2 cups of margarine

2 cups of caster sugar

1 cup of plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 cups of desiccated coconut

2 tsp orange oil

 Syrup Ingredients

1.5 cups of icing sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

0.5 cup of water

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C  / 160C fan
  2. Grease and base line a 10 inch round deep cake tin.
  3. Cream the marge and sugar together until light and fluffy
  4. Beat in the egg yolks and orange oil
  5. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites with a pinch of sugar until you have stiff peaks.
  6. Fold a third of the egg whites and dry ingredients into the batter
  7. Continue until all the whites and dry ingredients are incorporated.
  8. Bake in the prepared tin for 1 -1 hour 15min or until cooked through when tested with a skewer.
  9. Allow to cool slightly in the tin.
  10. Boil all the syrup ingredients together for 5 -10 minutes or until the syrup is slightly thickened.
  11. Spoon the syrup over cake, allowing each spoonful to be absorbed into the cake. I find spreading the syrup over the cake with a pastry brush stops the syrup pooling at the edges.

This cake is gorgeous with vanilla ice cream but would work just as well with Greek yogurt.

 

 

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Chocolate Dense Cake

DSCF5256This may not be the prettiest of cakes but what it lacks in looks, it more than makes up for in taste. I’m not really a lover of chocolate cake, I much prefer lemon cake or carrot cake or better still a biscuit or 3! I make the exception, however, for this one. It is rich, sweet and deliciously dense! Yummy!

I made this cake to take to my sugarcraft class last night. I take them a cake or cookies every week to have with a cuppa whilst they work. Usually I have written the recipe up on this blog so when they ask for it I can simply say “Check out my blog”. I was in so much trouble last night when I confessed that I hadn’t actually written this up. So this one is for my sugarcraft ladies so that they can stop moaning at me!

It is not my recipe but one of Nigella Lawson‘s, the domestic goddess herself. Nigella is my inspiration when I’m after something scrummy and I have adapted and developed so many of her recipes over the years, I have lost count. This cake is simply divine. It is gorgeous cold or served warm straight from the oven with a dollop of ice-cream which is how my son had it last night. It is also really easy to double up so you can have one fresh and one for the freezer.

Ingredients:

225g butter

375g soft brown sugar (Nigella says muscavado but I find it a bit too treacle-like so used a mixture of that and soft brown)

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g dark chocolate melted

200g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

250ml boiling water

 

Method:

  1. Grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together until well mixed
  4. Beat in the eggs, chocolate and vanilla until mixed but not whisked.
  5. Fold in the flour and bicarbonate a spoonful at a time, alternating with the boiling water.
  6. This will result in a VERY wet batter
  7. Pour into the loaf tin
  8. Bake at 190C / 170C fan for 30 min.
  9. Reduce the temperature to 170C/ 150C fan and bake for a further 15 mins
  10. The cake will be squidgy in the middle when tested and will fall back in on itself on cooling. This what helps to make it so dense. It also gets better with time!

 

Traditional Fruit Cake Recipe for a Celebration cake

I am asked time and again for my fruit cake recipe. More and more brides are choosing to have sponge wedding cakes but many still require a small fruit cake for cutting (Don’t get me started on why you can’t have a small fruit top-tier – just read my wedding cake post!).

To make a really good traditional fruit cake, it is essential that you have enough time to allow your cake to mature before it is eaten, at least 6 weeks if not longer. I personally like to get my Christmas cakes made over the October Half Term holiday so that they will be ready for Christmas.

Most fruit cakes contain some form of alcohol. The alcohol of choice is down to personal preference. I always use whiskey because I think it compliments the earthiness of the fruit whilst my best friend swears by brandy and even know someone who uses Armagnac. The alcohol is important because it acts as a natural preservative whilst the cake matures and, of course, adds another flavour dimension.

Traditionally the cake was always painted with boiled apricot jam before the marzipan was added but nowadays most bakers prefer to paint the cake with more of the alcohol used in the cake. This “sterilises” the cake surface before the marzipan is applied and so eliminates any potential microbial growth. Boiling the apricot jam is simply not as effective a method.

The recipe I use has been in family for years. It belonged to my Great Aunt Olive. She was the most amazing cook! I spent many an hour standing on a chair beside her whilst she made a batch of homemade fudge or mince pies. She didn’t have any children of her own so upon her death I inherited her cook books. This particular recipe came from a dog-eared copy of a now out of print Stork Recipe book.  This is one of the few recipes that I have not altered because, in my opinion, it is perfect as it is. If it was good enough for Auntie Ol then it is good enough for me!

I will be sharing my last-minute fruit cake recipe shortly  for those of you who leave everything to the last-minute (the cake is on the cooling rack as I type!)

The following amounts shown will be enough to make an 8 inch cake.

Ingredients:

365g currants

250g sultanas

150g raisins

90g glace cherries, halved and washed

90g mixed chopped nuts

90g mixed peel

zest of 1 lemon or 1tsp lemon oil

250g plain flour

1.25tsp mixed spice

0.5tsp nutmeg

60g ground almonds

225g margarine

225g brown sugar

1 tbs black treacle

5 eggs

Spirit of choice – whiskey, brandy etc

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C / 130C fan.
  2. Grease and line a deep 8 inch cake tin
  3. Cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the eggs, treacle and lemon oil.
  5. Stir in the dried ingredients and the ground almonds
  6. Fold in the fruit.
  7. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 2.5-3 hours.
  8. The cake is cooked when a skewer comes out of the cake cleanly.
  9. Remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack. Stand the rack over a tray.
  10. Stab the cake all over with a skewer then apply alcohol liberally with a pastry brush. I tend to stop when the alcohol starts to drip into the tray under the cake.
  11. When completely cold, wrap the cake in greaseproof paper and place in an airtight container. Store for at least 6 weeks.

This cake should not need to be “fed” with more alcohol whilst it is maturing but I do paint it liberally with alcohol before I marzipan it. 

Last minute fruit cake

I have taken a number of phone calls over the past couple of years where I have been asked to provide a fruit cake for the following weekend  or even the following day! I have felt so mean having to turn people down especially when they start to tell you how their friend promised to make the wedding / birthday cake and then let them down at the last-minute or how Mum insisted on baking the wedding cake only to find that it is not as easy as it looks in the magazine! Since fruit cakes are not as popular these days with brides-to-be I tend not to keep maturing cakes in stock, only making them when specifically ordered.

I did, however, stumble across this little beauty of a recipe in a compilation of recipes from Australia‘s “Woman’s Own” magazine. It is a boiled fruit cake! I have made a boiled Chocolate Orange fruit cake in the past which boils the fruit in Tia Maria and results in a darkly decadent, rich fruit cake. This recipe is a little bit more down to earth and uses Sherry.

My best friend was kind enough to be my guinea pig for this recipe when she asked me to make an Olympic themed birthday cake for her husband. I asked them to give me their honest opinion but instead they saved me a piece and said try it yourself! I have to say that this cake is absolutely gorgeous! It is packed with fruit, 1kg in fact, and the sherry and orange zest /oil adds a beautiful citrus note without it being too cloying. 

I am so impressed with this recipe that I have decided to switch to using this for all of my wedding / birthday cakes. It really is that good!

Ingredients:

  • 1kg mixed dried fruit (currants, sultanas, raisins, glace cherries, prunes, mixed peel etc)
  • 250g butter
  • 275g light brown sugar
  • 250ml sherry (plus extra for spiking)
  • 60ml water
  • zest of 2 oranges or 2 tsp orange oil
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 225g plain flour
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 165g ground almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C / 130C fan.
  2. Grease and line a deep 8 inch cake tin.
  3. Place the fruit, sugar, butter, sherry, water and orange into a large saucepan. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until all the butter and sugar has melted then bring to the boil.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
  5. Beat in the eggs into the cooled mixture then fold in the dry ingredients.
  6. Turn into the prepared tin and bake for 3 hours. (I needed to put some foil over the cake about half way through to prevent it from getting to dark)
  7. Remove from  the oven and whilst still hot paint liberally with extra sherry.
  8. Allow the cake to cool in the tin then turn onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

 

Wilton 3D Skull cake tin – product review

I don’t know about you but I have a stupid amount of cake tins. Admittedly I do make wedding and birthday cakes for a living but there are some tins I have only ever used once. I have either bought them for a specific cake or it was an impulse buy because it looked nice! I mean, do I really need a beehive shaped tin or a Christmas wreath tin? What can I say in my defence? Nothing!

There are some shaped tins that I own, however, that I wouldn’t be without; my giant cupcake tin and a spherical tin are both used regularly. I have a feeling that this Wilton 3D Skull tin will be another. In fact I have already taken an order for a 60th birthday cake in January! I think this cake tin will pay for itself!

I am always a bit wary of shaped cake tins because invariably it does not do what the manufacturers say it does. The most common complaints being:

  • their example recipe is either in terms of shop bought cake mixes or if is simply inaccurate in terms of how much mixture is actually needed to fill the tins.
  • the cooking times are wrong or you have to cook each section separately because they each have a different cooking time.
  • the cakes stick to the tin which makes turning the cakes out very difficult and often results in the cake shape being damaged.

This particular cake tin had pumpkin spice pound cake as its suggested recipe to use. I personally am not over keen on pumpkin and certainly wouldn’t want a pumpkin flavoured cake. On review of their recipe and by converting cups to pounds and ounces I decided that my 6 egg maderia cake recipe should be a suitable alternative.

I made sure that the tin was well-greased and given a dusting of flour, preheated the oven and away I went. I split the mixture evenly between the two sections even though the one side does look like it needs more (it is a bit of an optical illusion!) and popped it in the oven at 160 C/ 140 C fan for 1 hour as per the manufacturers instructions.

Well, my first surprise was that they cooked perfectly in exactly 1 hour!

I left them in the tin for 5-10 mins then decided to turn them out onto a cooking rack. I fully expected to have to do battle with the tin to release the cakes but, surprise number 2, they turned out perfectly with no intervention from me!

Obviously the intention is for the two sections to come together to create a 3D skull shape but, as with all cakes,the tops are not perfectly flat. Wilton, however, have thought of that! They have designed their tins to have a “cutting” ridge. That means that once the cakes are cooked and completely cooled you can trim them using the cutting ridge as a guideline. The 2 sections will them fit perfectly together. I did find it necessary, however, to push a dowel through the cakes to stop the “face” cake sliding once I sandwiched them together with buttercream.

I cannot fault this cake tin! It is absolutely brilliant! I am sure that this tin will be escaping from cake tin purgatory on a regular basis! Well Done, Wilton!

 

 

 

Luscious Lemon Damp Cake

Well, it has been another one of those weeks when I don’t seem to have stopped but also don’t seem to have achieved anything! My poor whippet, Felix, who broke his leg recently is still having problems as one of the internal fixator screws has started to rub and has caused his stitches to burst. Needless to say we have not been able to venture very fair because poor Felix is so lame.

My son, Ben, has been really trying hard this academic year to improve his attendance and to keep up with all his work. As you know Ben has chronic pain syndrome and is an idiopathic toe-walker but having spent a month in plaster over the summer holidays he is now walking much better. To maintain his mobility and to help with the pain, Ben has hydrotherapy twice a week at the local additional needs school. To ensure that it doesn’t impact too much on his school timetable and more importantly his GCSE classes Ben has his hydrotherapy during his lunch hour. This means a crazy dash from his mainstream high school to therapy and then back again in time for afternoon lessons!

I must mention at this stage that Ben has two hydrotherapist, Emma and Mo, without whom I don’t think I would survive. They literally keep Ben moving! Emma is lovely,  sweet and so gentle with the kids whilst Mo is loud and boisterous and naughty! Mo is the yin to Emma’s yang! The kids absolutely adore them and I, personally, would do anything for them. They are stars!

It is my “job” according to Mo to provide cake on a Friday for them. It started off as nice way to thank them for their hard work then they became my recipe guinea pigs and now Mo panics if I arrive empty-handed! Today they had my luscious lemon loaf cake and a bit of  Rocky Road. I would be lost without these marvellous ladies and I think the thought of their Friday afternoon treat is what gets them through the week! Enjoy, you wonderful ladies!

Ingredients:

250g butter

350g caster sugar

4 eggs, beaten

2 tsp lemon oil or the zest of 2 lemons

350g self-raising flour

a splash of milk

juice of 3-4 lemons

200g icing sugar.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan / 180°C.  Grease and line two 1 lb loaf tins.
  2. Beat the sugar and butter together until it is light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs and lemon oil.
  4. Fold in the flour, add a splash of milk and fold until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Turn into the tins. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Meanwhile gently heat the lemon juice and the icing sugar until all the sugar dissolves and makes a thick syrup.
  7. Remove the cakes from the oven but leave in the tins and stab them all over with a clean skewer.
  8. Paint the syrup all over the cakes using a pastry brush. If you pour the syrup it tends to pool around the edges. By painting it you achieve a much better finish.
  9. Allow the cakes to cook completely.

Of course, you can easily half these amounts but I always make two because they freeze so well. You never know when Johnny Depp will drop round for a cuppa and a slice of cake! It is better to be prepared!

Peach and Amaretti cake

This cake is a variation of a birthday cake featured by one of my favourite bloggers, Frugal Feeding and she got it from the BBC’s Good Food website. The original cake was raspberry and amaretti but since I’m not a huge lover of raspberries I thought I would see how it worked with peaches. I was pleasantly pleased with the result.

It is a deceptively simple recipe but one that I’m sure would impress even the most particular of dinner party guests. You could always serve it with a homemade raspberry coule to work the whole Peach Melba thing.

Ingredients:

175g butter

175g caster sugar

3 eggs

140g SR Flour

85g ground almonds

140g amaretti biscuits, crushed

250g peaches (this is the amount of fruit left when a tin of peaches is drained)put

Method:

  • Beat together the butter, sugar, eggs, flour and ground almonds until you have a smooth batter.
  • Put half of the mixture into a greased and lined 8 inch loose bottomed cake tin.
  • Place the peaches over the mixture and add half the crushed amaretti.
  • Dollop the remaining batter over the surface and spread out as best you can.
  • Add the remaining amaretti and place in a preheated oven (140 C Fan / 160 C) for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.
  • Leave in the tin to cool a little then carefully remove from the tin.
  • Serve hot or cold.

Enjoy!

Love from

Ali xxx