Monday, 26 August 2013

Orange Blossom & Almond Bird Cake

The beauty of this bake is that it is as simple, or as fancy, as you wish it to be. The base is a lovely zesty orange and almond country cake, the topping a super sweet fantastical affair.
I had a lot of fun decorating it; with a few cookie or icing cutters in pretty shapes you can let your imagination run wild.

My own recipe
Serves 8-10

100g ground almonds
200g plain flour,
200g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
2 tbsps. whole milk
finely grated zest of an orange
1 tsp orange blossom water
1 tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
1 tbsp of jam
1 roll ready rolled white icing
Various food tint pastes or edible food colourings
Sugar flowers (optional)
Edible glitter (optional)

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C fan ovens). Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until pale and smooth.

3. Add the first egg, beat well before adding the second along with a tablespoon of the ground almonds. Beat again, before beating in the last egg and another tablespoon of ground almonds.

4. Next gently stir in the rest of the ground almonds, the orange blossom water, and the grated orange zest.

5. Sieve in half the flour and the baking powder, and stir gently with a metal spoon until well combined.

6. Sift in the rest of the flour, after which spoon in the milk. Continue stirring gently and briefly until well combined.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tin and place in the oven for approx 40 minutes. You'll know it's done when the top bounces back under your finger, and a skewer comes out clean.

8. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin, before turning it out onto a wire rack or plate.

9. Once cool, roll out the ready rolled white icing and cut into shapes with cookie cutters or icing cutters.

10. Heat the tablespoon of jam with some water, cool, then brush a thin layer over the base and the sides of the cold cake with a pastry brush. Stick the icing shapes in whatever pattern you fancy over the sides and top of the cake. Dot any gaps with ready made sugar flowers.

11. When all the shapes have been fixed to the cake, paint them whatever colours you want using a small paintbrush, food colour tint pastes or edible liquid colouring. Scatter edible glitter over the top.

12. Leave the paint on the shapes to dry, before serving with or without cream.

This cake was idly baked while listening to the Bat For Lashes album The Haunted Man

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Summer Pudding

I've always wanted to make a classic Summer Pudding, but it intimidated me: the architectural construction of firm-enough bread walls; the nerve wracking inversion of the pudding basin, watching with bated breath to see if the pudding would stay upright or collapse into a sad purple puddle. However, the other day I was lucky enough to help my dear Mother, a seasoned pudding maker, create one for her friends. It was so much easier than expected and has totally rid me of my Summer Pudding phobia, which is just as well as I have 4 bags of home grown blackcurrants waiting for me in the freezer.
Recipe adapted by me from one given in the book British Baking by Peyton & Byrne,  buy the book on Amazon


300g blackcurrants
200g redcurrants (or 100g more blackcurrants)
50g white currants (optional)
450g - 500g raspberries and/ or blackberries and/or blueberries
175g caster sugar
White best quality bread loaf (ideally slightly stale)
5 tbsp. Original Ribena (optional)
1 small sprig of mint (optional)

Serves 6-8

1. Put the blackcurrants, redcurrants, and whitecurrants into a large saucepan along with 115g of the caster sugar, and heat over a low temperature for 10-15 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Occasionally stir the fruit, but not enough to break the berries up as they need to be kept intact rather than turn slushy.

2. After the currant berries have been on the heat for about 5 minutes, place the raspberries, blackberries or blueberries (or a mix of these) into a second, slightly smaller saucepan with the rest of the caster sugar.  Heat the fruit as above, on a low heat for 10 minutes, with an occasional gentle stir until the sugar dissolves.

3. Once both saucepans of fruit have released their juice and all sugar has dissolved, tip all the fruit into a sieve set over a bowl to catch the juice. Leave the fruit and the juice to cool for about 20 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, take out a 1 or 1.5 litre pudding basin. Cut the white loaf with a knife into thick slices. Then remove the crusts, and using scissors (which makes it much easier for some reason), cut each slice into three equal finger pieces, to fit around the sides of the bowl. Save one slice, with which to cut a circle shape slightly larger than the base of the pudding basin. If you wish to use the Ribena (which we didn't bother with), add it to the bowl of fruit juice at this point.

5. When the juice has cooled, dip the circle of bread, gently, into the juice so that both sides are covered and purple. Place the circle firmly into the base of the pudding basin.

6. Next dip each finger of bread, one by one, into the juice so that both sides are covered. Avoid wetting them so much that the bread starts to disintegrate - the bread needs to stay firm. Place the purple bread fingers lengthways up the bowl, bottom to top overlapping slightly and touching the circle at the base. Basically you want to ensure there are no gaps and every angle inside the bowl is lined by those overlapping bread pieces. Press them gently to fit them into place. You'll need to keep some bread fingers back to seal the base of the pudding once the fruit has been put in.

7. With the sides and base of the pudding basin lined with bread, carefully spoon the prepared fruit into the lining, and pour most of the remaining juice over the fruit. Then gently dip the last fingers of bread into any leftover juice, before using it to line the top of the pudding, overlapping them again so that the pudding is sealed. Spoon the last bit of juice over the sealed top.

8. Place a saucer (or small plate which fits just inside the rim of the bowl) over the top of the sealed pudding. Place several heavy weights (or a couple of full heavy cans) onto the saucer. Place the pudding in its dish onto a large plate which will catch any juice that may seep out. Chill in the fridge overnight, for about 12-24 hours.

9. To serve, remove the weight or cans, and the plate. Trim any edges of the bread wall as you would with the pastry of a quiche, to make sure the pudding is a nice circular shape. Gently run a small sharp knife around the edges of the pudding in the basin, to loosen it. Turn the pudding out carefully and slowly onto an upturned plate. Remove the basin. Top with a sprig of fresh mint or some reserved cooked berries. Cut into slices, and serve with or without cream!
This pudding was idly baked while listening to the news on Radio 4.

p.s. Thanks so much for all your incredibly kind words on this year's Mad Tea Party post.
Full recipes for all the cakes and treats featured are to come in upcoming posts.