The inclusion of muscovado sugar gives these classic cakes a delicious caramel flavour
A few years back, I designed a strawberry tea cosy and held a private Strawberry Tea Party in aid of Breast Cancer UK. Last year, I learnt about Prostate Cancer UK's Tea for Victory campaign, which is a similar fundraising idea, with a 1940s theme. I decided to design some tea cosies to help raise money for the event, and have been selling them in kit form for the last year, as well as the patterns, so people can make their own. This year, I thought it was time I got around to holding my own event to raise even more funds, and having found a great central venue in Stamford that was offered to us for free, I decided to make it a public event.
Today, after much preparation, baking, and hard work, not just from me but from my wonderful friends and family, the event finally happened! The event was run like a cafe, and we discovered that running a cafe is harder than it looks! You have to be totally on the ball the whole time, notice who has arrived, and who hasn't been served, make sure you write down the order correctly, then remember to leave them the 'bill' so they can pay! I kept leaving the bill in the kitchen and then dashing back for it only to find it had gone missing and have to write another one! The other thing I kept forgetting was the tea spoon! I even forgot to give one gentleman's a mug for his coffee! He very politely pointed this out when I returned with his bill - that I had left in the kitchen....Thankfully it wasn't all down to me, or chaos would have ensued.
Thanks to all the help we had in marketing the event, we had a steady flow of people all morning. At several points, every seat was taken, and some people couldn't even get in the door. This was a shame, and with the benefit of hindsight, I would have put the 'cake and kits' table at the front of the room, which might have encouraged a few more cake only or kit only sales.
I was particularly touched by the contribution of a member of the public who brought in two orchid plants that she had grown herself, to donate. It was such a lovely idea, and we sold them both.
I am delighted that together the people of Stamford and beyond have raised the grand total of £400 for Prostate Cancer UK! The actual amount in the cash box came to £395, but I thought I would top it up to £400 to make it a round number!
Thanks to everyone who came along and who donated so generously. I would also like to thank my Mum, my Dad, my husband, Liz, Jennie and Claire, the lady who donated the orchids and Emily from 'Cake That', who donated a box of beautiful cupcakes. Thank you to the local media who publicised the event, and to Rachel at Ewe Wool Shop, who told all her customers about it. I hope that everyone who came thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and will be as thrilled as I am to hear just how much we raised for Prostate Cancer UK today.
Yesterday was an eventful day. Someone drove into me while I was stationary. I had to drive my daughter to the orthodontist 20 miles away, only to be told there was an 18 month waiting list for braces. I had a ton of work to do on my Autumn Collection, and some personal stuff to see to.
Despite this, I managed to make ice cream. I try and get at least one nice thing into every day, however stressful, and yesterday this was making something with the strawberries I had picked from my Mum's allotment the day before. When you have picked the fruit yourself, and your Mum has grown it, you feel much more motivated to make the most of it, and I therefore wanted to make something special. I had posted a photo on my facebook page the day before asking for suggestions, and someone had suggested ice cream. This idea appealed and I set about finding a recipe that didn't require a trip to the shops (something I definitely didn't have time for). I couldn't find one, so I made this up with what I happened to have in the house.
I started making it at about 2.30pm, which turns out not to have been soon enough to have lovely frozen ice cream for pudding at 7pm! Instead, we had semi-freddo. To get a good photo of the ice cream in its actual frozen state, however, I had ice cream for breakfast today for probably the first time in my life. It was good! Why is ice cream not on the menu for breakfast ordinarily, I now ask myself?!
525g strawberries, hulled
125g double cream
125g icing sugar
Makes approx 1 litre of ice cream
Apple and Cinnamon Muffins
175g (6oz) self raising flour
25g (1oz) cornmeal or polenta
225g (8oz) golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
150g pack of Sainsbury's 'Baking Additions: apple cinnamon and sultana' OR 150g mix of dried apple and sultanas, rolled in cinnamon
225ml (8flo oz) buttermilk
40g (1.5 oz) salted butter, melted
zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
12 hole muffin tin and cases
My daughter breaks up from school today and is having a friend over to celebrate. She put in a request for her favourite pudding, chocolate surprise pudding, earlier in the week. So really I have no excuse for discovering at 5pm, when I already have the butter sugar and flour measured out, that I haven't got any cocoa powder - the essential ingredient which creates the surprise.
There follows a moment of panic in which I flick through pudding cookbooks in search of a similar pudding recipe that doesn't use cocoa powder. This moment is followed by the realisation that all decent chocolate pudding recipes contain cocoa powder OR ridiculously large amount of chocolate, which I also don't have. Whilst weighing up the choice of jumping in the car and driving to the supermarket, ten minutes away, which would be, let's face it, a 30 minute round trip at least, for 2 tbsp of cocoa powder, or facing the disappointed faces, I suddenly had a brain wave. What is the closest thing to cocoa powder that I have in the house? Green and Black's Organic Hot Chocolate Drink. I decided to take a risk and substitute this for the cocoa powder - and face the consequences if it didn't work!
Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, of course. The verdict? This version was given 8/10 whereas the normal version always has 10/10, so if you have cocoa powder, use it! However, if not, then Green and Black's is a good alternative.
This recipe is one my Mum used to make all the time when we were kids, and I believe it came from her mother, so the actual origin is unknown. I am giving away a very special family secret by sharing this one with you. I hope you enjoy it!
Chocolate Surprise Pudding
1. Place all the Cake Ingredients, except for the milk, in a food processor or whisk together with an electric whisk. You will need to stop and scrape everything into the centre with a spatula half way through. When thoroughly combined, add the milk and whisk again until mixed in.
2. Tip the mixture into the prepared dish and smooth over with a spatula.
3. Sprinkle the dry sauce ingredients over the pudding to cover.
4. Pour over the boiled water. In preparation for placing in the oven, put a baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven (this catches any drips).
5. Place the pudding on the middle shelf of the preheated oven and bake for approx 30 mins. Check after 20 mins. If the sauce is bubbling up the sides and the top is browning too quickly turn the oven down for the last 10 minutes.
The pudding is ready when the sponge is firm all the way through. You can test this with your finger in the centre of the pudding and it should spring back. It should also start to split to reveal the sponge beneath. If you are not sure, carefully insert a skewer into the centre. It should come out without liquid sponge mix on it. (it may have sauce on it though).
I've got a lot on my plate at the moment, both with work and home life, and to try and relax and breathe out, baking is the filling in my work/home sandwich. On Saturday, I made a cake to take to my cousins house on Sunday. The recipe is adapted from an old one I scribbled down years ago in my favourite recipes book, and I've forgotten where it came from originally. Last time I made it, I didn't have enough ground almonds, so substituted some flour, and we all agreed it was delicious, so it has no become another recipe in its own right.
As the cake was for Sunday, I wanted to bake something for now, and it was a case of flicking through recipe books to work out what I had the ingredients for. I came across a recipe for 'Friands' which, as far as I can tell are light and fluffy versions of muffins. Of course, I had to adapt the recipe, ahem, to accommodate the actual amounts of ingredients I had, so in the process I invented another new recipe. My version also has chocolate chips in.
The friands use a whopping seven egg whites, so I set about creating a citrus curd recipe that would use seven egg yolks. I wanted it to be just lemon curd, but only had two lemons left after the lemon cake, so it had to be a mix of oranges and lemons.
Here are the recipes. I hope you enjoy them!
Libby's Luscious Lemon Cake
200g ground almonds
100g plain flour
4 medium eggs, separated
250g caster sugar
grated zest of one unwaxed lemon and juice of half of lemon
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
25g caster sugar
Libby's Luscious Lemon Cake
Chocolate Chip Friands
Chocolate Chip Friands
Finely grated zest and juice of two large lemons and 1 orange
250g caster sugar
125g butter, cut into small cubes
7 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Large clean jar
The results of an afternoon of baking
February half term is always a strange holiday. We are knee deep (literally for some) in the depths of winter here in the UK, all the more so because of the dreadful weather that we have been having. We are very lucky here in Lincolnshire that we have not been flooded (well, we did have to spend ONE afternoon shovelling water away from the garage). I feel for the poor people in other parts of the country who have lost their homes, or had to temporarily move out, or whose lives have been disrupted in some other way by the floods.
Disruptions come to all of us at some point, and I feel I have had more than my fair share of disruptions recently. As many of you will already know, I am writing a book, but my progress has been hampered by a significant disruption in my personal life, the details of which I cannot go into here and now.
At times of stress and distress, the small comforts of life seem to provide even more comfort than usual. I have been finding that baking and cooking are forms of therapy. Doing something normal, and something that it is intrinsically lovely, is so important for maintaining a sense of wholeness and just keeping going through a crisis.
Today I am fortunate to have all my children at home with me. We have been all doing different things this morning, but there has been a buzz of activity and a sense of company in the house, which I have welcomed. We all came together, as we always do, for a meal at lunch time. Yesterday we had a roast dinner, and there was just a little bit of chicken left over, so I made a chicken soup. I was rather pleased with the results, so I thought I would share it. This is for those people who need a little comfort in their lives. Remember that book 'Chicken Soup for the Soul'? Well, I never read it, so I have no idea what it was about, but I genuinely believe that a homemade meal, shared with family or friends, feeds the soul as well as the body.
Approx. 100g left over roast chicken, cooled and diced
4 slices of pancetta or a large handful of cubed pancetta
1 stick of celery
4 - 5 button mushrooms
1 tsp of dried tarragon (replace with another herb if you don't have tarragon
Left over chicken gravy topped up with boiling water to around 1 litre
1 tbsp olive oil
a handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Prepare the veg, by chopping it all into small dice. You are not going to blend this soup, so it is really important to get all the veg the same size, as you are making a 'soffrito' (click on the link for info about this) . You don't want it quite as small as you would if you were making a sauce, but smaller than you would chop it for a pie; so about 1cm square is about right.
Chop the pancetta into 1cm pieces and dry fry in a large pan (preferably with a solid copper base). When it is just turning crispy, but not too crispy, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, the herbs and the veg. Give everything a good stir.
Fry the veg with the pancetta and herbs for a few minutes, stirring every so often, until the veg is just turning golden and starting to soften. Don't over-fry. You shouldn't let the edges start to go brown.
Add the chopped chicken and the gravy stock and stir. Bring to just below the boil slowly, reduce the heat immediately pop a lid on and simmer gently for a maximum of ten minutes. Serve sprinkled with the parsley.
Raspberry and Amaretti Crunch Cake
In response to popular request from my Facebook Friends, I am sharing my version of this recipe, originally from The Good Food magazine mini book '101 Tempting Deserts'.
Baking is one of the things I do to relax from designing. Knitting might be relaxing, but designing is not! There is a lot of maths, and a lot of head scratching at times. You need to try and get the pattern exactly right otherwise knitters will be scratching their heads as well, as I don't like it when that happens. The level of precision required in writing knitting patterns is quite extreme. One typo (say a 26 instead of a 25) can cause a great deal of confusion. Not so with baking.
One of the things that appeal about baking is that you can be a little (or a lot) creative and it doesn't usually matter. The only people who will suffer the consequences of a cake 'gone wrong' will be your family or friends. And usually they don't mind too much, because let's face it - a homemade cake that's slightly sqwifffy is almost invariably (read 'always') better than a shop bought one.
So, last weekend, I took some time off from writing my knitting book, and made a cake. This is the one I made. I always do things ever so slightly differently from the recipe. Its my way of rebelling. In my work, rebelling against the principles of pattern writing is a pretty serious matter, so I have to find other ways to have fun.
Raspberry and Amaretto Cake 'Pattern'
175g/6oz soft butter (I always use goats butter - it makes much better cakes)
175g/6oz golden caster sugar
3 large eggs (the recipe just says 'eggs' but I reckon that large ones are always the best bet for a cake)
140g/5oz self-raising flour
85g/3oz ground almonds (I buy mine in this lovely big pack from Silver Lane Health Food shop, not to be found anywhere else that I have ever known They've had the same home printed labels since I was a child, and I remember dragging my long-suffering mother in there to buy free range eggs and Ecover washing up liquid when it was ever so new and super-worthy. It still the same amazing smell too.)
150g/5½oz amaretti biscuits - the crunchy ones, not the soft ones. The mini ones are best.
220g punnet raspberries. The recipe says 250g but the supermarkets seem to sell raspberries in 220g punnets, and let's face it, you are not going to buy an extra one for 30g....The recipe says serve the 30g raspberries with the cake, so I just put all the raspberries in the cake instead and have an extra dollop of creme fraiche.
Icing sugar to liberally dust
Half Fat Creme Fraiche (the recipe says cream, but there has to be SOME restraint shown here, surely, as its January, and I always find the fresh and tangy flavour of creme fraiche goes better with the sweetness of a cake like this. Cream is TOOO much).
I gather that this cake 'per serving' (depending obviously on the size of a serving) will give you an injection of 640 kcalories, protein 12g, carb 68g, fat 37g, saturated fat 17g, fibre 4g, added sugar 34g, salt 0.92g.
So all in all, maybe one for the 'day off' from your New Year diet!
Happy baking! Post your pics!
I'm crazy about yarn, Scotland, food, my husband and my three girls, and I live in a perpetual state of organised chaos. Some just call it creativity.