The first bag of Agen prunes I bought didn’t last me very long at all. I ate three a day, every day, from the day they arrived. I also used a handful or so of them in a prune and Armagnac tart. I’ve reordered the prunes from Amazon and this week and have made a prune and almond fruitcake; something a bit different to the traditional ones made using raisins, currants, sultanas and candied peel.
Justin, once again, requested an afternoon fruitcake to accompany a cup of tea. He likes to stop work for a short break about 3pm before charging back into his daily chores!
I had about 100 grams of marzipan leftover from my recent batch of simnel cupcakes so I sliced it into little cubes and spooned it through the cake mixture; a deliciously successful addition!
As with most fruitcakes, if you can resist the temptation of slicing and eating it straight-away, the texture and flavour improves if left for a day or two.
Each Easter I like to make a dish that’s traditional for the celebration. Last year, I made a hot cross loaf; the year before that, a crescia and this year I’ve made simnel cupcakes.
A simnel cake is a fruit cake with a middle layer of marzipan and another layer on the top. Since Victorian times, the cake has been decorated with 11 or 12 little balls of marzipan. It was traditionally eaten on the middle Sunday of Lent – the 12 balls representing Christ and his 11 apostles (minus the 12th, Judas).
I have a confession to make, I’d never actually eaten a simnel cake until I made these. What have I been waiting for? They’re easy to make from scratch and are delicious! The idea of cooking them in used food tins is ingenious. A word of caution, however, try not to use ring-pull tins. They have a lip at the top that makes it difficult to ease the cake out after baking. I had to open the other end of the tin to get them out!
Even though I used small tins (150g Morrison’s own brand sweetcorn… around the size of small Heinz baked beans ones), we shared half a cake each.
Are cupcakes still all the rage? I never really got that into them, perhaps because I’m terrible at decorating them. The icing has to be perfect for me to really enjoy them. Crunchy icing puts my teeth on edge. It needs to be a sweet, flavoursome butter cream or cream cheese.
These jam-filled pound cupcakes don’t need any topping because the interest is all in the middle. I used some of my home-made mixed berry jelly from last autumn – there are always a few jars in the store cupboard. You can use any fruit jam, marmalade or lemon curd instead. Or what about a spoonful of Nutella? Mmmmmmmm…
I used a pound cake recipe I found in Marvellous Mini-Cakes – a little book full of teensy sweet & savoury cakes. I used to think a pound cake was a cake that weighed a pound! In actual fact, it’s a cake traditionally made with a pound each of its four main ingredients – butter, sugar, flour and eggs… so I guess it’s really a 4lb cake!
As tempting as they may be, please don’t attempt to eat these straight from the oven. The hot, molten jam will scald the roof of your mouth!
My chicken-sitting ended yesterday, I really enjoyed looking after them, they’re all such characters. During my 10 days of fostering, we must have got almost 100 eggs! We gave a few away and ate loads of omelettes, French toast and plenty of fried/boiled/poached eggs.
Last week, I made a delicious all-yolk layer cake and, as promised, this week it’s an all whites one. It’s Rose Levy Beranbaum’s white velvet cake. Sometimes with this type of recipe, what you’re trying to achieve is a cake as white as pure, fresh snow. If that’s the case, you can make a few minor adjustments to the original cake recipe below.
Instead of using vanilla extract, use white caster sugar that has been stored in an airtight jar along with a split vanilla pod for a few weeks so that the flavour infuses. Some people swear by the use of shortening such as Stork which gives less colour than butter. Other people who care more about the taste than the colour say that butter is far superior.
Have a look at the pair of YouTube videos below the recipe where Rose herself shows us how it’s done!
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
For the cake
Preheat the oven to 175ºC/350°F/Gas mark 4
Grease two 23cm x 4cm (9-in x 1½-in) cake tins, line the bottoms with parchment paper, then grease again and flour
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, lightly combine the egg whites, ¼ of the milk and vanilla extract
In a large mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend
Add the butter and remaining ¾ of the milk. Mix on a low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened
Increase to medium speed (high speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1½ minutes to aerate and develop the cake's structure
Scrape down the sides
Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure
Scrape down the sides again
Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the surface with a spatula. The pans should be about half full
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted near the centre comes away clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the centre. The cakes should start to shrink from the sides of the pans only after removal from the oven
Allow the cakes cool in the pans on wire racks for 10 minutes
Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and invert onto two other greased wire racks. To prevent splitting, flip over again so that the tops face up. Allow to cool completely before frosting
For the frosting
With an electric mixer on medium speed, whisk the whipping cream until stiff peaks form (be careful not to overbeat, or the cream will become grainy)
In another bowl, whisk together the mascarpone and icing sugar until smooth
Gently fold the whipped cream into mascarpone mixture until completely incorporated
Use immediately to frost the top of one cake
Place the other cake on top of the first and frost the top & sides
*If like me you're based in the UK and find it hard to find bleached cake flour in the shops, have a look at Kate Coldrick's meticulous method to make your own version
Our neighbours have gone on holiday this week and have asked me to look after their chickens again. They have about twice as many chickens as they did last time… so that means twice as many eggs every day.
I’ve been looking into recipes where you use lots of just yolks and just whites – as I don’t like to waste half the eggs. I found a couple of recipes by Rose Levy Beranbaum that fit the bill. I’ll be attempting her favourite yellow layer cake this week.
I decided to make the yolks-only cake first as I discovered, on my online travels, that egg whites can be easily and successfully frozen for use at a later date. Yolks take a little more effort. The yellow layer cake I made today – as you’ve probably deduced – uses just egg yolks.
It also uses bleached cake flour, something you don’t tend to find in supermarkets here in the UK. I took a lengthy detour on the website of Rose’s Devon-based friend, Kate Coldrick, who shows you in great detail how to make your own substitute.
I followed both Rose’s and Kate’s instructions almost to the letter, hoping that I’d produce a cake like never before.
The sponge was light & airy and the texture was crumbly. I teamed it with a vanilla buttercream icing which complements, not overpowers the flavour.