Tell you what, my 2020 so far has been bloody spectacular (…are you picking up on the sarcastic subtext of that statement?). Firstly, a new year dog walk around the block with my mother-in-law resulted in a five hour wait in A&E after Bungle bolted and dragged her up a hill by the wrist. Not a day after the house emptied and a bit of normality resumed, Sunny went down with the flu. And a day after that, the other hairy bloke in my life caught bog-eye from shoving his face in too many butts (…I’m talking about Bungle, in case that wasn’t obvious). Then yesterday, the council oh so kindly informed me that pulling into a bus lay-by to drop your husband off for his Christmas Party is not cool and will result in a £75 fine. Awesome.
It’s been a howler so far, and so I shouldn’t really have been surprised that my first bake of the year turned out to be howler too. I’ve made plenty of cakes in my time – enough to be honestly surprised when one goes tits up – but the science behind it all still kind of eludes me – it is all just chemistry after all. All the basic ingredients need to be there and need to be balanced in a very specific way before you even get around to adding flavours and fillings. For example if you put too much structure-building flour into a cake, then it’s going to be dry. And sugar is responsible for more than just its sweet taste; sugar plays a huge part in the soft, spongy texture of cakes due to the way sugar crystals trap little pockets of air. Too little sugar and your cake’s not going to have a soft texture. Aaaand, if you put too much liquid into a cake – which I found out when I tried to make this London Fog Cake – then your cake’s going to be heavy and dense and is probs gonna end up going straight in the bin. I knew I’d put too much liquid in it as soon as it came out of the oven – but hindsight’s 2020, innit? (Badump tshhhh.)
Anyway, I managed to turn this baking fail into a baking win by making it my mission to read up a bit into the science behind good cakes, and now – hopefully – none of my future cake experiments will end up in the bin. I went back to the drawing board, and I have to say, my second attempt was much, much better. Pretty damn good, in fact.
If you’ve never heard of London Fog before (Just a heads-up, I’m not talking about the weather in London…), it’s basically just an Earl Grey Latte. Lovely bergamot-infused black tea made with frothy, hot milk. The perfect drink for glum (and sometimes foggy) January days. This cake is essentially the drink in cake form – a black tea-enriched sponge, with a creamy, vanilla-flavoured frosting.
London Fog Cake
3 Earl Grey teabags
75ml boiling hot water
3 large eggs, whisked
50g caster sugar
50g dark muscovado sugar
175g self-raising flour, sifted
For the buttercream icing:
400g icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
First things first, make some tea! Empty the contents of the teabags into a cup, then pour on the 75ml of boiling hot water. Leave to steep, then cool.
Set your oven to 170°C and grease a small, loose-bottomed cake tin.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Pour in the eggs, then stir to combine.
Pour in the flour and tea mixture, alternating between the two. Stir to make a soft batter.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes, then leave to cool. Meanwhile make the buttercream by whipping together the icing sugar, butter and vanilla bean paste.
Decorate the surface of the cake, then scoff (…with tea 🙂).
Have a lovely week! How’s 2020 treating you so far? 💓
A moist but structured white sponge cake, and the creamiest buttercream you’ll ever make…
Full disclosure; today’s post was supposed to be a recipe for some very Bonfire Night appropriate Smores Brownies(*sigh* they were going to be so good! If you’re looking for some Bonfire Bakes then check out this post…). But, the truth is that Mercury Retrograde found me, and last weekend everything mysteriously went a bit Pete Tong. Now, I’m not really someone who really believes in all that astrology stuff (although, when NASA announced that all the star signs were off and that I was actually a Libra instead of a Scorpio, I was understandably outraged), but on Friday it was like some cosmic switch got flicked and everything suddenly and inexplicably went tits up. I just felt a bit off and then I started making these really stupid mistakes all over the place. I managed to cut my finger and split my nail whilst grating a carrot of all things, my steam mop – out of nowhere – gave up the ghost just when I desperately needed to use it (muddy paw prints, everywhere!), I gave my lounge wall a bruising Glasgow Kiss when I bent over to pick something up, and I even managed to cock up not one, but two very simple bakes when I made a really stupid mathematical error in dividing down quantities. Ugh! What the hell had happened?Desperate to find something to blame my sudden inability to count and to function as a normal human being on, I rolled my eyes as I actually googled the words “Is Mercury in Retrograde?”, and ended up feeling a bit freaked out when – surprise! – it was. It had literally shifted on Thursday night. Spooky, no?
Anyway, thankfully one bake did work out this weekend – and that was Sunny’s birthday cake (on the second attempt…). My husband turned a ripe old age over the weekend, and I always make him a birthday cake (even when he protests), but this year I didn’t really have the time or the ingredients to pull anything particularly fancy out of the bag. So, instead, I pulled out my tried, tested and true recipe for plain old white cake with buttercream frosting. Yes, it’s basic – but sometimes that’s exactly what you need when making a birthday cake. You want a sponge that’s moist and easy to bake, but still has structure to it so you can slice it and stack it and mold it into whatever shape you need it to take. You want a simple but delicious flavour that’s going to suit everyone, and isn’t going to be too sweet once you’ve decorated it. And as for the buttercream, it needs to be thick, it needs to be creamy, it needs to hold its shape and it needs to be sweet – but not sickly. And this is the recipe I reach for when I need a cake that’s all of the above. Basic, but banging. And reliable! …Except for when Mercury moves into Retrograde, apparently… *eye roll*
Basic (but banging) Birthday Cake with Buttercream Icing
Tried, Tested and True, and your Brand New Birthday Go-To…
175g softened, salted butter
100g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
For the Buttercream
250g softened, salted butter
500g icing sugar
100ml double cream
*This should make enough to both sandwich and cover the cake.Make sure you use salted butter – that’s very important!
Set your oven to 180°C and grease a deep, loose-bottomed cake tin (I like to use one with a 15cm diameter for a doorstop slice, without the excess).
In a mixing bowl, cream together your butter and sugar until you get lovely, whipped and creamy mix – the more elbow grease (or electricity if you’re using an electric mixer!) you put in at this stage, the fluffier your cake is going to be.
Pour in the beaten eggs – gradually mixing everything together – then sift in half of the flour.
Next mix in the buttermilk, and then follow it with the last of the flour and finally the baking powder to make a smooth batter.
Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool.
Once the cake has cooled, slice it in half as evenly as you can. Sandwich with a layer of raspberry jam and buttercream, then cover with a smooth, even layer of buttercream – building it up gradually.Decorate with rainbow sprinkles. 🙂
It was my Dad’s birthday a couple of weeks ago and so – of course – I baked him a cake. He’s a big fan of coffee and walnut cake, and so I decided to bake him one of those – but fancied levelling up the flavours a little. I have a candle in my kitchen called “Coffee Break”(a TK Maxx bargain!) that I like to burn in the morning while I’m making breakfast or cleaning; I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t drink coffee but absolutely LOVES the smell of it. Anyway, this candle smells like an American Coffee Shop in the best kind of way; it gives off a kind of nutty, syrupy, dark roast smell and I love it! I kind of gave myself the challenge of making the cake taste like that candle smells – which is a very weird thing to do, I know – but I think I kind of pulled it off! I added in a good glug of maple syrup and some brown sugar and that seemed to do the trick! Nutty, syrupy, coffee(-y) – it’s the perfect bake for Father’s Day! 🙂
Coffee, Maple and Walnut Cake
2 eggs, whisked
2 egg whites
150g ground walnuts (just blitz them in a blender until they look like wet sand)
50g dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp maple syrup
100g self raising flour
2 tbsp coffee granules
50g ground walnuts
200g salted butter
400g icing sugar
Set your oven to 170°C and grease and line a small, round, spring-form cake tin (less than 20cm).
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar, then pour in the eggs and egg whites. Mix until well-combined and fluffy.
Next, warm the milk in the microwave and mix in the coffee granules. Leave the coffee mixture to cool before stirring it into the batter (you don’t want to scramble the eggs!). Stir in the maple syrup.
Next, sift all the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl (that’s the flour, salt, baking powder and ground walnuts), then gradually add the mixture to the batter – stirring until well-combined.
Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 50 minutes – or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool.
Once the cake has cooled, carefully slice into two or three layers (depending on how dab-handed with a knife you are!). Sandwich the layers together with buttercream, then ice the cake with whatever you’ve got left. Sprinkle with ground walnuts and decorate with whole nuts and fresh flowers. 🙂
Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there, but mostly to my awesome Dad. ♥
I feel like baking’s been on the back seat for a lot of this year; I’ve been so busy the past few weeks that just getting dinner on the table (/my lap… TV’s just been too good) has been a struggle. I just haven’t had time to batter up and whip up something sweet. Last weekend though, I had a little window and instead of just scrolling or snoozing through it, I decided that I wanted to bake something fuss-free that would perk up my mid-morning cuppa come Monday – and this is what I came up with.
This Strawberry Picnic Cake is one of those bakes that looks super fancy but actually involves barely any effort – if you’re a dab hand with a wooden spoon and can slice a strawb, then you’ve got this. Texture-wise, it’s a cross between a brownie and an angel slice – with a gooey layer of fresh strawberries (and some raspberries thrown in for a sour edge) sandwiched between a soft, pink sponge. Once it’s sliced up and dusted with a little icing sugar, it makes for a cute little lunchbox pick-me-up, or would be the perfect treat to pack in your picnic basket (…along with a little tub of fresh cream, obviously!) – if the weather ever perks up… 🙂
Strawberry Picnic Cake
150g Ground Almonds
150g Salted Butter
100g Caster Sugar
150g Self Raising Flour
2 eggs (whisked)
300g Strawberries (sliced)
A few drops of pink food colouring
Icing Sugar to dust
Grease and line a deep, rectangular baking tray and set your oven to 180°C.
Grab a mixing bowl and pour in all the cake ingredients except the strawberries and raspberries – hold those back! Stir everything together to make a thick, lumpy, pink batter.
Pour half of the batter into your baking dish and spread it out into all the corners. Create a sandwich layer by topping the batter with the strawberries and raspberries, then smooth over the remaining batter.
Before you pop the cake in the oven, add a neat layer of evenly spaced sliced strawberries on top – one for each slice (I cut nine slices).
Bake for 30 minutes, then leave to cool before slicing.
Finish with a dusting of icing sugar and serve with cream. 🙂
Aha! Honey, honey! It was my Dad’s birthday over the weekend and so, in celebration of him and the fact that the weather’s still behaving (I actually can’t remember the last time it rained, is this even Wales?) we had a bit of a barbecue and I decided to make a cake. If you saw Friday’s post then you’ll remember me mentioning that Sunny and I completely fell in love with the honey cake we tried at Bistrot Pierre last week, so, with the taste of that fresh in my mind I decided to try and make something similar.
I did a bit of research and found a couple of very old and dusty recipes for Burgundian Honey Cake – which is kind of like a French version of Christmas Pudding (heavy, spiced, sticky). Anyway, the recipe I ended up playing with must have come straight out of a medieval castle kitchen though, because IT, WAS, MASSIVE. It also took way, way too long to cook (I’ve only got a little oven, not a castle furnace after all) and was also far too dense and far too sticky. So anyway, I’ve fiddled around with the quantities and balanced everything out to make an actual cake… y’know, rather than something you’d throw off the battlements to ward off an invading army. 🙂
200g Runny Honey
1tsp Ground Cinnamon
100g Dark Muscovado Sugar
250g Self Raising Flour
1 tbsp Milk
Set the oven to 180° and grease a cake tin.
In a saucepan, gently heat the honey, butter, cinnamon, milk and sugar together until smooth and melted. Leave to cool.
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and create a well in middle. Gradually pour in the honey mixture and whisked eggs, and stir into a smooth batter.
Bake for around 45 minutes – or until you can poke the cake with a skewer and have it come out clean. Either eat warm with ice cream, or leave the cake to cool and serve with buttercream frosting (I mixed in a little honey and lavender flavouring to mine 🙂 then decorated it with flowers).