Saturday, 30 October 2010

Tangy Parkin Ginger Cake

This is a nice light Parkin with a tangy orange hint which starts off sticky and gets better and stickier IF you can leave it for a few days. It is also goes well with beer; a nice dark ale or a strong cup of tea. Traditionally served on bonfire night, if you make it now it will be perfect!

Text Only Printable Recipe


4oz (110g) Butter
4oz (110g) Soft dark brown sugar
2 tbsp Black treacle (Molasses)
2 tbsp Medium or Bitter marmalade

7oz (200g) Plain flour
3oz (90g) Oats
1tsp Ground ginger
½ tsp Mixed spice
2tsp Bicarbonate of soda

1 Egg
4 tbsp Milk




Preheat oven 140c/120c Fan/275F/Gas Mark 1.

Grease an 8 inch (20cm) square tin and line it with baking paper.

Gently heat the butter, sugar and treacle together, until butter has melted and combine with the marmalade. Stir into the dry ingredients. Add the egg and milk to the mixture and put into tin.

Check after 40 minutes. Cook for a further 20-30 minutes.  Ginger cakes can burn very easily so keep a check towards the end of the cooking time. Cook until risen and a skewer comes cleanly out.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes, make sure the sides of the cake are coming away from the tin and remove.  Brush the top with some warmed marmalade.

Now here’s one of our regular problems; it tastes pretty good the next day, but I repeat, it will taste really good and stickier if you wrap it and leave it for at least three days. 


An apology to anyone from Yorkshire for calling this a ‘Parkin Ginger Cake’ but for my international friends and relatives ‘Parkin’ didn’t translate that well.  My spell checker has been trying to change it to 'Parking' all week…

Meanwhile this is a variation and it is very light on the oats but they are an essential part of the ingredients for me. I hope you enjoy the tangy orange  hint with the ginger, one of my favourite flavour combinations.  If you are interested in the history of Parkin click *here* .

And while I was thinking about Yorkshire :

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Cake - Love You Madly

Midweek distraction No. 5 -  CAKE is an American alternative rock band from Sacramento, California. More info

A slice of their style for now:

I was asked this week if I used a favourite recipe book and the answer is 'sort of', more of an eclectic mix of books and ideas.  I cooked from a Good Housekeeping Compendium when I was very young and looked longingly at all the pictures in their garish 60's colouring. I used it so much that when it fell apart I bought another copy, same era, for nostalgic purposes of course!

As a teenager, I had a modern version of the Complete Cook, in magazine format which had brilliant pictures as well as some 'step by step' instructions. I also had a very traditional high school teacher who taught us all the basics and a 'free rein' in the kitchen at home.

Now I like food blogs due to their picture content and often flick through the image section of Google to see what's out there.  However, I do have a copy of Molly Keane's 'Nursery Cooking' which has no real food photography at all but has been well used and a Mrs Beetons.

I have a photographic memory for recipes but strangely enough not on any other subject.  I also like to take my taste buds on tour and collect recipes from all over the world.

I am sorry that I can not recommend one or two books and there are no Amazon sales here then, as most of the above are out of print! Perhaps this is a future project. Current favourite recipe book suggestions would be welcome.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Chestnut and Coffee Cake

This week’s cake is a subtle blend of chestnut flavours over four layers with a sweet coffee ‘kick’ inside. It’s quite a grown up cake; with a nutty texture, layered with sweetened chestnut puree, a strong central coffee cream and covered in a light coffee butter cream.

It's different to a standard coffee and walnut cake; what you get is far more subtle and sweet.  I would recommend this rich cake with a cup of coffee, a sunny autumn day and at least 15 minutes of daydreaming.

Prebake week – When you purchase your ingredients decide whether to make your own marrons glacé, purchase or leave them off the top altogether. I found them useful for portion control (!), as well as decoration. You should get 16 slices of cake from this recipe.  I enjoyed using the steeping method where you just left the cooked chestnuts in their boiled syrup overnight. Reboil again and leave to dry and, for this cake, I put them on the next day when they had cooled. There are lots of recipes on the net to try; I don’t know why we pay such high prices for these in the UK, have a go, it’s really easy.

8oz (225g)  Butter
8oz (225g)  Golden caster sugar
4                     Large eggs
8oz (225g)  Self raising flour
2 tsp              Instant coffee dissolved in a tbsp of hot water or
                        coffee essence
7oz (200g)  Cooked chestnuts

For the Icings:

Chestnut Icing
4oz (110g)  Chestnut finely ground (3oz – 90g if using tinned
8oz (225g)  Icing sugar

Dark Coffee Icing
1oz (25g)     Butter
4oz (110g)   Icing sugar
2tsp               Instant of coffee/or less but go for the stronger
                       contrast taste dissolved in 2 tsps of hot water

Light Coffee Icing
3oz  (90g)    Butter
12oz(340g)  Icing sugar
1 tsp               Coffee essence (or instant coffee dissolved in water.)
                         Water – add a little at a time to achieve a spreadable
Preheat oven to a moderate temperature 160c/140c Fan/325F/Gas Mark 3. If you find your cakes are browning too quickly turn down another 20 degrees.
Grease 2 sandwich cake tins, if you want to cut the cakes in half, for your four layers or grease four tins and divide mix up accordingly. I like using my false bottom 7 inch cake tins and I add greaseproof paper at the bottom as well.
In a blender (I use a Magimix with a Sabatier blade) chop up the chestnuts into small pieces. Put to one side.
Cream the sugar and butter together, whisk in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour, and then fold in the chestnuts

The prickly beasty on the side is the real McCoy, a chestnut from our woods but if that is not for you; go to Porter Foods, which are also stocked at Waitrose.
Divide into two cake sandwich tins or four tins. You can weigh each one to make sure you have the same weight of mixture in each one for even bakes. Place in the centre of the oven. Check after 15-20 minutes. Cook until risen and a skewer comes cleanly out. Allow to cool and make icing.

Lovely chestnut texture showing through.
Take the 3 types of icing ingredients and make each one separately.  If you have used two cakes cut them in half and spread the centre with the Chestnut Icing. Put cakes on separate plates. On one of them spread the Dark Coffee Icing and place the other half on top. 
Tips: If you have cut into fresh cake you will find it quite crumbly to ice, simply place these in the freezer when cool, for 10 minutes before you want to ice them, helps firm up the outside. For a smoother finish you can use 4 tins.

Spread the second layer with the Dark Coffee Icing

Now you are ready to coat the whole cake with the Light Coffee Icing.  Decorate with marrons glacé or as desired.


I found many recipes that used the traditional chestnut substitute for flour but I wanted more of an Austrian layer type of cake suitable for decorating.
I also experimented with the mix just using chestnut puree but found that it was not as interesting as having the chestnut pieces in the texture. The cake is very simple to make but give yourself time to make the icings, as the contrasts in light and strong flavours are the key to this original recipe.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Love Cake or Lurv Cake

Midweek distraction No. 4 – ‘Love Cake’ song by cake creative, writing duo, Rocky and Balls; aka Hannah-Rei and Sophie Madeleine. Good luck with the new album!

Yes, I am aware that some of the songs I have featured do have a double entendre but we’ll pretend it’s just about cake for now….

Also, food bloggers hazard no.2 Butter on the lens, see photo below.

However, you can still see the large strawberry in this slice, well it tasted delicious and it brings us back to food bloggers hazard no.1 Testing.  This weekend I am going to publish and test of course, the recipe for the Chestnut and Coffee Cake. It is a lot more work than a simple Victoria Sponge but well worth the effort.  And to eat it you do need a fork (apparently….)

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Honey Buns and Honey Cake

Take your taste buds back to simpler times; honey and butter for afternoon tea. Warm honey buns straight from the oven or slices of golden honey cake with butter. Sample the changes in texture and aroma, research never tasted so good!

I went back to basics and made a simple honey cake, ha! My honey buns came out a treat but since I didn’t put baking parchment around the tin, or grease and flour, the 1st cake  is now in the ‘Outtakes Box’ and not for public show since getting it out of the tin left a lot stuck on the edges....  I don’t know why I find this bit so difficult.  It’s only preparation and cutting the greaseproof to size but there you go.  Here is how it should turn out 2nd time around:

Text Only Printable Recipe


Cake :
8oz (225g) Butter
4oz (110g) Golden caster sugar
4oz (110g) Thick set honey
4  Large eggs
8oz (225g) Self raising flour
Honey to glaze.


Preheat oven 140c/120c Fan/300F/Gas Mark 2*

Grease a loaf tin and line it with baking paper, grease with butter and dust with flour. For this recipe I made three testing muffins and put the rest in a 2 lb loaf tin.

Cream the sugar and butter together and add the honey and mix. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well. Sift and then fold in the flour. Put into cake cases/tin or both and place in oven.

Check after 15 minutes. Take muffins/small cakes out if done and keep cake in for an extra 30-35 minutes subject to your oven temperature and if you have split the mixture; you will have a smaller loaf and a shorter cooking time. Remember; cook until risen and a skewer comes cleanly out. * If you make a large cake using a loaf tin I had the oven even lower by another 20 degrees and in for another 15 minutes to stop it over browning.

Brush the top of buns and cake with more honey while still warm.

                             Hudnalls Apiaries  

A nice set honey like this one, just warm slightly before brushing on cakes. 

You should have light fluffy buns; eat whilst warm with a large cup of tea and think of summer. Let the loaf cool slightly and remove from tin. Wrap and hide in the tin until at least the next day. Cut into thin slices and spread with butter for afternoon tea.

I came across a variation of this recipe which was a honey ginger cake and the main difference; chopped preserved ginger had been added and it was given a honey and ginger glaze. Very nice but I felt that the ginger overpowered the honey. However, you could have both - add pieces of finely chopped preserved ginger in some of the small cakes and have honey cake and, honey and ginger buns. Finis.

For Interest

Honeybuns is the lovely name of a bakery which bakes handmade, award winning gluten- and wheat-free cakes, some of which are also dairy-free. Available by mail order from their online shop and from cafes, delis, farm shops, supermarkets and their own Bee Shack Cafe in Dorset

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Eddie Izzard's Cake or Death

Cake Distractions No. 3.  I really should make these into a separate page.  Anyway, before I rush off to the big city this morning for those who want a mid-week distraction on cake, here is Eddie Izzard's Cake or Death sketch? Silly question I know....

Cake for me, of course - next blog will be Honey Buns and Honey Cake, honey.

Monday, 11 October 2010

White Christmas Cake

It’s Christmas according to our local shops all mixed up with Halloween. But it did remind me to get prepared for my Christmas Cake, now is the time to soak your fruit in brandy or a spirit of your choice!
This White Christmas Cake has distinct flavours of apricot, fine cut citrus peel and juicy sultanas, almonds and a generous amount of mixed spice, all infused with brandy.
Here's a ‘naked’ cake (decorate it as you desire) cut into, to show the lighter fruit and mixture.  

Text Only Printable Recipe

Pre bake week ahead:
8oz (225g) Sultanas
6oz (170g) Dried apricots
4oz (110) Candied citrus peel (fine cut)
All soaked in Brandy (½ cup)

Rinse and check over fruit for any stalks etc. Put into a small bowl with brandy and cover, stir each day to plump up the fruit.

White fruit mix above and compare this to a traditional mix. (They both look lovely to me.)

Cake :

8oz (225g) Butter
8oz (225g)Golden caster sugar
4  Large eggs
8oz (225g) Plain flour
2 tsp Mixed spice
2oz (55g) Ground almonds
4oz (110g) Flaked almonds


Preheat oven 140c/120c Fan/275F/Gas Mark 1

Grease cake tin. I like using a round 7 x 4 inch tin and I add greaseproof paper all around and cut a piece for the top to stop overbrowning.

Cream the sugar and butter together, add the  eggs one at a time and beat well. Fold in the flour and mixed spice. Pour any excess brandy juices into the cake mix and stir.  Pour the ground almonds over the fruit and stir gently, coating the fruit. Finally fold the fruit and almonds into the cake mix and put into cake tin and into the oven.

The cake takes about 3 hours to cook but check after 1 hour and add your extra greaseproof top to stop the top from overbrowning, reduce oven temperature; 120c/100c Fan/250F/Gas Mark ½ . These cakes take longer to cook due to the height/depth of the cake. Cook until a skewer comes cleanly out.
Inverted cake ready for brandy.

Allow to cool and start ‘feeding’ with brandy. To do this prick over base with a fork, pour brandy over; about 2 tbsp on the top and the following week turn cake over and repeat. Feed cake like this at least a week apart and twice more before icing.

For a traditional cake with slightly more fruit to cake ratio then Delia’s your girl:

I used to follow an old recipe with glacé pineapple but it was pretty tasteless.  Get the best candied citrus peel and finely chop, it should remind you of orange and lemon tang, not the hard tasteless bits which seem to be mainly candied pith you get in cheaper versions. Waitrose have a very good Italian brand and Crazy Jack do an organic one.


A Large Slice 
What I really like about my white fruit cake is that  it makes a nice contrast to all the dark fruit already in mince pies and Christmas pudding. The photo shows the fruit and nuts in a rather large slice but I had to cut into it to show you, didn’t I? mmmmmm.....

So much for the old sugarcraft days - how lazy can you get ?- just a few silver balls, can't wait to get my teeth into that.  Marzipaned and iced in November.

Product tasting started 1st December!


Background Artwork by Amy and Lars Heeren, the Netherlands.