Lardy Cake

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I have lived away from my hometown, Worcester, longer than I ever lived there! I left home at 18 to go to University in Liverpool and apart from holidays I haven’t lived at home since.You would think by now I would have stopped getting homesick but that simply is not the case. I miss  my family, Worcester cathedral, walking down the Shambles, even getting stuck in the one way system! Worcester is currently severely flooded due to the River Severn and the River Teme bursting their banks. The video below shows the extent of the flooding which is shocking.

One of the silly things I miss from home is Lardy cake! I was brought up on it. There is a tiny little bakery on Broad Street that make wonderful cottage loaves and the best lardy cake in the entire world! I always buy them when I go home.

This recipe is an homage to the lardy cakes from my childhood. They are slightly different from the ones from home because they are baked a little like a Chelsea bun where as the traditional ones are made in huge slabs. They might not look the same but they certainly taste like the lardy cakes I know  and love.

As the name suggests they are traditionally made with lard but you can just as easily use a vegetable fat alternative such as Trex if you like.

If you fancy having a go at making these, do it on a day when you have plenty of time as they need to rest and prove a couple of times. They are not difficult to make, however.

Ingredients

  • 1lb strong white flour
  • 1 level tsp salt
  • 1 oz lard or Trex
  • 2oz caster sugar
  • 1 oz fresh yeast or 1 sachet of fast acting dried yeast
  • 0.5 Pt warm milk
  • 4oz raisins
  • 4oz currants
  • 4oz sultanas
  • 6oz lard
  • 6oz soft brown sugar
  • 2 tsp mixed spice

Method

  1. Sieve the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl
  2. Rub in the lard.
  3. Mix together in a jug the sugar, yeast and warm milk
  4. Make a well in the flour mixture and mix in the milk to a smooth paste
  5. Transfer to a greased bowl and cover with oiled cling film.
  6. Put somewhere warm and allow to prove for 30 minutes.
  7. Knead in the fruit and allow to rest for 10 minutes, covered with the cling film.
  8. Mix together the sugar, lard and spice.
  9. Roll out the dough into a long rectangle.
  10. Spread the filling mixture over 2/3 of the dough.
  11. Fold the unfilled 1/3 into the middle and then bring the lower filled 1/3 over the top.
  12. Roll out into a rectangle again then roll into a swiss roll shape.
  13. Cut into 1 inch chunks, turn them over and place swirl side up into a lined 10 inch square cake tin.
  14. Cover with oiled cling film and allow to prove for 40 minutes
  15. Bake in a preheated oven (200C/180C fan/ gas mark 6) for 30 minutes. Check after 20 minutes and cover with foil if it is browning too much.
  16. Remove from the oven and turn out immediately onto a cooling rack.
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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. 

Fool-proof fairy cakes

I’m not sure whether it is the prospect of the Diamond  Jubilee, Euro 2012 (apparently it is some kind of soccer tournament) and of course, the London Olympics but here in the UK people are becoming very patriotic and decidedly nostalgic. 1970s retro is the new black!

For those of us of a certain age the 70’s represent our childhood. We are talking space hoppers, chopper bikes and CHiPs on TV. 1977 was, of course, the Silver Jubilee and we like many other people had a street party. Yes, the wall papering tables were erected and bedecked with red, white and blue crepe paper and anything that stood still long enough was tied up with bunting! We are talking cheese and pineapple on sticks, sausage rolls and dried up egg butties that no-one ever eats. One “posh” neighbour even provided vol-u-vents! The pudding table was laden with sherry trifle, black forest gateaux (hey, it was the 70s!), pink wafer biscuits and of course, fairy cakes.

Well, so I’m told anyway! Jubilee day I had German measles so was in quarantine! Whilst everyone else was outside enjoying themselves I was in bed poorly sick.

The afore mentioned fairy cakes are experiencing a bit of a revival at the moment. Cupcakes have been very popular for number of years now but many people, myself included, find them a bit overbearing. I would certainly struggle to eat a whole one! Fairy cakes, however, are absolutely perfect,  couple of bites and they are gone.

 This recipe is meant to be fool-proof so with fools in mind lets set out a few ground rules:

  • allows preheat your oven. If you put your cakes into a cold oven they will not cook evenly.
  • invest in a set of scales, ideally ones that measure in imperial and metric. Baking is a science, you need to weigh your ingredients accurately
  • always use a fairy cake tray to stand your cake cases in. If you don’t the weight of the cake mixture will cause the case to open out and your cakes will be big and flat.
  • weigh out all your ingredients before you start. There is nothing worse than discovering half way through making your cake that you don’t have enough flour or cocoa or baking powder!

Ingredients

4 oz butter or margarine

4 oz  caster sugar

5 oz self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

a splash of milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160◦ C fan / 180 ◦ C. Place the cake cases into the cake tray.
  2. Beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. I use a Kenwood mixer but you can just as easily do it by hand, just make sure the butter is really soft.
  3. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract
  4. Gently stir in the flour and baking powder until evenly mixed. You may need to add a splash of milk. The mixture should drop easily from a spoon.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the cake case until the cases are half full. I use a small ice cream scoop for this.
  6. Bake in the oven for 10-15 mins. It takes 12 minutes exactly in my fan oven. The cakes should be golden brown and well risen.
  7. Remove the cakes from the tray and place on a cooling rack.
  8. Once cooled the cakes are ready to decorate.

Decorating suggestions:

  • pipe a swirl of buttercream on the top of each cake
  • make them into butterfly cakes by cutting the crown of the cake off. Add a small blob of buttercream. Cut the removed crown in half and sink into the buttercream on an angle.
  • ice the cake with glace icing (icing sugar and water mixed into a stiff paste). Add half a cherry or sprinkles.

This recipe can easily be adapted too.  Try the following:

  • substitute 1oz of flour for 1 oz of cocoa
  • add a little grated lemon peel or orange peel to the mixture
  • add 1-2oz sultanas or raisins to the mixture
  • add 1-2oz quartered glace cherries to the mixture
  • add 1-2oz chocolate chips to the mixture

This recipe is perfect for that rainy Sunday afternoon when the kids need to be entertained and you need a nice tea time treat. They would be the perfect addition to any Diamond Jubilee street party feast too.

Enjoy!!

Love

Ali xx

 

Pint of this, pint of that Tea loaf.

We English are an eccentric bunch and quite proud of it. We, as a nation, underwent decimalisation on 15 February 1971 yet many of us still ask the butcher for half a pound of sausages and pop to the shops to buy a pint of milk. Well, it doesn’t sound quite the same asking for 227g of sausages and 473 ml of milk does it?

And it is the same when it comes to cooking. I originally trained as a clinical biochemist so I worked day in-day out with microlitres and millilitres and solids were weight to 2 decimal places in grammes. Yet in my own kitchen I more often than not work in pounds, ounces and pints! I am slowly getting the hang of using cup measurements but it really goes against the grain to do it!

This recipe is a doddle! It , as the name suggests, literally uses a pint of this and a pint of that. So simple! The beauty of this recipe is its adaptability. As long as you have a total volume of 1 pint of dried fruit, it doesn’t matter what you use. I love cherries so always include them but you can just as easily include dates or raisins. Similarly, you can vary the flavour by changing your choice of tea or including a spirit such as whisky or rum but in each case you must use a dark tea or spirit. I make a pot of good old-fashioned builders tea to soak my fruit in. Nothing fancy I assure you!  I quite often throw in a teaspoon of mixed spice too! See, I told you it was adaptable!

There is nothing better than a slice of this with a bit of butter on it and a steaming hot cuppa!

Ingredients:

1 pint dried fruit

0.5 pint soft dark brown sugar

0.5 pint of strong cold tea

1 egg

1 pint self-raising flour

Method:

  1. Soak the fruit and sugar in the tea overnight.
  2. Mix in the egg and flour until you a smooth batter.
  3. Pour into greased loaf tins. I split this mixture between two smaller tins but you can just use 1 large one.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven (160 degrees C. 325 F) for 40-60 mins depending upon the size of the loaf tin.
  5. Turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool.

This tea loaf keeps really well in a cake tin but will freeze well too. I love it toasted and dripping in butter! Is it any wonder I struggle to keep my weight down?

 Hope you enjoy it!

Love

Ali x