You may remember that we had a glut of eggs when we looked after our neighbours chickens whilst they went on holiday. Well, we had a freezer rearrange last week and realised that we had some egg whites that needed using. We also have a huge 1 kilo bag of dessicated coconut (not in the freezer!), two of the main ingredients needed for macaroons.
Seeing as it’s also Valentine’s Day we thought we’d make them a little extra special and made some coconut macaroon hearts drizzled in dark chocolate.
They probably take 10 seconds or so longer to make into hearts than the traditional dome shapes but don’t they look pretty?
If you prefer, you could also dip each heart into the melted chocolate instead of drizzling it… or omit the chocolate altogether, if you prefer.
I never realised that they were so quick and easy to make – just throw all the ingredients into a bowl, stir then spoon them on to a well greased or tray or parchment paper. A quarter of an hour in the oven, and they’re done!
As far as I could tell from the photos I’d seen, most red velvet cakes adhere to certain rules; layers, cream cheese frosting and a propensity towards flamboyance!
I need to point out, I used the Rowntree cocoa that I already happened to have in the store cupboard. It was Dutch processed, meaning that during production, it has been ‘alkalised’ to give it a smoother flavour. I could tell by looking at it that it had been processed because it’s quite dark brown. Unprocessed cocoa is often referred to as cacao and is much lighter in colour.
Unprocessed cocoa is called for in the recipe (although it’s not absolutely necessary) as all kinds of alchemy are involved in the making of the cake! The cocoa, buttermilk, baking soda and vinegar all commingle to produce the most moist, light, heavenly cake you’ve ever tasted – with the brightest, reddest crumb!
Now that I’ve got the Dutched versus un-Dutched details out of the way, let’s get on to the business of cake-making!
As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of science involved in making red velvet so the order in which the ingredients get added really makes a difference.
The buttermilk and the vinegar add acidity to the mix producing a bubbly chemical reaction with the alkaline baking powder and helping make the red colour really bright.
The eggs are separated and the egg whites whipped into peaks and folded in gently at the end to add even more lightness to the sponge.
I think I mentioned previously that big cakes are just too much for just the two of us (even with me being a greedy cake eater!). So, instead of making a 4-tiered cake, I made a large 2-tier and a smaller 2-tier cake, giving one of the cakes away to friends.
I wanted to use both my newly-acquired accessories in this recipe, so I thought I’d use the pastry cutters to make red, heart-shaped shortbread biscuits to adorn the cake.
I love cream cheese frosting, especially on carrot cake. Next time though, I’ll tweak the recipe so the mixture is firmer and less runny.
It’s delicious either way, but when it’s firmer you’re able to pipe the frosting on the top and have a thicker layer of it in the middle.
The resulting cake was so MASSIVE, we didn’t have a big enough plate to hold it!
I think I remained very restrained with my cake embellishments – I was considering red edible glitter, hundreds & thousands… in the end, I just studded it with a few little chocolate beans.
I’m really happy with my first attempt and can’t wait to have another go!
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/
Sweet potato cake
For the cake
350g plain flour
¼tsp ground cloves
2tsp ground cinnamon
1¼tsp ground ginger
½tsp ground nutmeg
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
350g sweet potatoes, peeled & grated (about 3 small potatoes)
235ml vegetable oil
300g soft brown sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
100g chopped walnuts
For the frosting
225g cream cheese
115g butter, softened
175g icing sugar
½tsp vanilla extract
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For the cake
Preheat the oven to 175ºC/350ºF/Gas mark 4 and grease a pair of 23cm/9-inch circular loose-bottomed cake tins
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, sift together the flour with the ground spices, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt
In a large mixing bowl, add the grated sweet potato, vegetable oil and sugar and combine
In a measuring jug lightly whisk the eggs before adding the vanilla extract. Stir to mix in
Stir in the egg mixture to the sweet potato in 3 batches, stirring well after each addition
Carefully fold the flour mixture into the sweet potato mixture
Add the chopped walnuts and stir in so they're well dispersed through the batter
Pour the batter equally between the two cake tins before baking for 20 minutes in the centre of the oven
After the 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 150ºC/300ºF/Gas mark 2 and cook for a further 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a cake come out clean
Allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before taking the cakes out of their tins
Allow to cool completely (at least another hour). Make the frosting.
For the frosting
Mix the cream cheese and softened butter until there are no lumps
Add the vanilla essence and icing sugar (sieve the sugar first if there are any lumps) and mix thoroughly. Cover with clingfilm and store in the fridge until the cakes have cooled and are ready to frost
Once cooled, turn one of the cakes over so that the top is face down on a serving plate. Cover the top generously with frosting.
Place the second cake on the first, with the top facing up. Cover the top generously with frosting. Serve. The cake will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.
H is for Home Harbinger http://hisforhomeblog.com/
We’ve long admired the designs of Tammis Keefe. No relation to Justin, although you may not have to go too far back in history before their family trees meet. It’s interesting that her middle name was Thomas – and her father’s name was Thomas – and that she adopted the name Tammis which we think is a Gaelic form of Thomas. Justin has the same marked tradition of Thomas Keefes & O’Keeffes in his family. Father, grandfather, great grandfather, great-great grandfather – stretching back to the 18th century.
Anyway, we’ve promised ourselves an example of Tammis Keefe’s work many times and it arrived recently. It’s very dangerous buying that first piece as it can be the start of a mad collecting frenzy. We’ve resisted for years, but this gorgeous “Home is where the heart is” tea towel was just the final straw! We had this piece shipped over from the States where most examples are to be found. It will look great when framed and be perfect for the kitchen wall – combining a vintage touch with warm sentiments. There’s also something very Christmassy about it so we might even save it for festive season appearances.
Tammis Keefe was born Margaret Thomas Keefe in Los Angeles in 1913 and, after initially studying maths at college, transferred to the Chouinard Institute of Art where she studied painting. Her early career was spent at Disney Studios – she then moved onto the influential Arts & Architecture periodical. Then followed a spell in the studio of textile artist Dorothy Liebes who was well known for developing the work of young designers. This was obviously a significant move with regards to her future career.
Her work from the 40s & 50s is very distinctive – full of wonderful graphic detail, colour, charm & wit. It was used on a great variety of home furnishing textiles, tea towels, place mats, napkins & handkerchiefs. Also clothing, crockery & glassware, wallpaper, stationery, product advertising & packaging. Sadly, she died relatively young in 1961, but has left such a wonderful legacy. And we’re pretty sure that this won’t be the last piece we acquire!
Here’s a list of further reading and examples of her work:
When I go out walking the dog, especially on a cold & windy day, I’m prone to a runny nose. Using this lovely set of Thornback and Peel hankies is much more ladylike than a load of screwed up tissue – I can keep one in a pocket of each of my walking coats!