Monday, 30 September 2013

Highfield Blackberry Cake

This weekend I went to my first Clandestine Cake Club meeting. I literally cannot think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than chatting to new people over eight or so slices of cake. The premise is that you meet up every two months or so and everyone brings a cake relating to that meeting’s particular theme – and then everyone just sits around eating it and talking about cake. It’s not a competition, it’s just cake. Bloody lovely, I say.

The theme for this meeting was ‘Herts Delight’ where you had to make a cake using local ingredients from around Hertfordshire. My mum has been taking me on walks around Highfield all summer with enormous plastic bags, and we now have a freezer full of blackberries. Therefore it made a lot of sense to us to make a blackberry cake. Now I know this cake may not be the prettiest, but give it a chance, because it tastes absolutely gorgeous, especially with a dollop of cream or ice-cream.

5oz unsalted butter, softened
5oz caster sugar
5oz ground almonds
5oz self-raising flour
1 egg
1tsp ground cinnamon
2tsps vanilla extract
8oz frozen blackberries
Icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C, and prepare a 9 inch round tin either by greasing or with parchment.

Frozen blackberries work best for this recipe because they hold their shape better. To make the batter combine all of the ingredients, except for the blackberries, in a large mixing bowl. If you’re using real butter instead of something like stork then beat the butter and sugar together first. The batter should be quite thick, almost like a biscuit dough texture.

Halve the mixture. Use your hands to flatten balls of the batter to cover the entire base of the tin using one half of the mixture.

Scatter the blackberries on top, leaving a rim free all around the edge.

Flatten the remaining mixture and place carefully on top, sealing the edges.

Bake in the oven for one hour or until golden brown and cooked throughout. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

When you’re ready to serve, dust the top of the cake with icing sugar and a little cinnamon.

There were a few other blackberry cakes at the meeting, as well as a couple of Hertfordshire honey cake, two chocolate cakes and my particular favourite: A pear and mincemeat cake. I will definitely be making this for us at home soon.

The best thing about the meeting is all the cake you get to take home!

For more information on the Clandestine Cake Club or to find a club near you visit this website.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Banana Whoopie Pies

I hope you’ll forgive my use of the dreaded ripe bananas once again, because these are much more interesting and far more decadent than any old banana bread. I really love whoopie pies because they’re a cross between a cake and a cookie; deliciously soft and moist. You might notice that these are pretty massive, you could easily call them giant whoopie pies, but I simply don’t believe in bite-sized. You can use whatever you like to sandwich them together- buttercream, marshmallow type frosting, but I went for some whipped double cream.

125g butter
200g light brown sugar
1 egg
2 ripe bananas, mashed
300g plain flour
125ml buttermilk
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C. Line at least 3 baking trays with baking parchment.

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar together using an electric-hand held mixer until light and fluffy.

Add the egg and beat until combined. Don’t worry if the mixture looks slightly like it’s curdling.

Add the mashed banana, buttermilk, flour, bicarbonate and baking powder and fold gently into the wet ingredients.

Spoon dollops onto the prepared tray, leaving plenty of room for spreading.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden and just turning brown on the edges. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes on the tray before transferring to a wire rack.

Once they’re cool, make the filling. I whisked some double cream with a couple spoonfuls of icing sugar, and a drop of vanilla extract until it held its shape.

Sandwich two whoopies together to make a whoopie pie and then eat, and relish the feeling of the sugar coma.

It also happened to be my birthday this week. 22 years old. When did I get so old? This sentiment annoys the large amount of people that I know who are older than me, but I can’t help feeling it. Anyway, lots of my friends said that they hoped someone would make me a birthday cake like I make for them. Where do they think I learnt all this baking malarkey from? My mother of course. And here is the gorgeous teapot cake that she made for me. When you cut into it, it was marbled with chocolate to look like tea-leaves. I would have taken photos but we were far too busy eating it.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Plum Pudding

My mum’s garden is currently producing what she calls a ‘glut’.  That means that we have about twenty-thousand tomatoes, fifty-million apples, a few giant courgettes kindly donated from our neighbours and ten vats of plums. I know it sounds like I’m complaining about all this wonderful earth’s bounty that I’ve got to use at my disposal, but there’s only so much one person can do with giant courgettes.

As it appears that autumn has descended on us, my family has started to crave warm, satisfying puddings. To the point where one of them comes up to me every day asking what I’m going to make for pudding. I’ve tried to point out that this country is facing an obesity epidemic and therefore it is not NORMAL to eat pudding every single day. Still, the beasts will not be satiated with weekend-only desserts. In order to keep the porky-pies that I live with happy and use up some of the ‘glut’, we have Plum Pudding.

115g butter
150g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
140g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
12 plums, pitted and halved
2tsps of ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C. Grease and flour a pie dish or cake tin. I used the new Le Creuset one that I bought mum for her anniversary.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar using an electric hand-held whisk until light and fluffy.

Sift in the baking powder and flour, and combine into the mixture.

Add the eggs and salt, and mix until smooth.

Finally add 1tsp of the ground cinnamon, and fold into the batter.

Pour the batter evenly into the dish.

Prepare your plums, and then press then gently all over the top of the batter.

Sprinkle the other tsp of ground cinnamon, and as much caster sugar as you like over the top of the fruit.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until you can insert a skewer into a cake section and it’s cooked all the way through.

Serve whilst warm with hot custard or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.