It was my wee sister’s birthday on Monday so I cooked up this cheery guy. Carrot cake with whipped mascarpone frosting.
Happy birthday wee sis!
It was my wee sister’s birthday on Monday so I cooked up this cheery guy. Carrot cake with whipped mascarpone frosting.
Happy birthday wee sis!
For the last three weeks I have been travelling in Europe with Fran (a Christmas present from our amazing husbands) having adventures and, of course, sampling the local cuisine wherever possible.
While the baking in Germany was exceptional, and there may be related blog posts to follow, the best sweet by far was in Prague.
Climbing the hill from the Charles Bridge to the castle, we spotted a cafe whose doors read “Support Tea, Tea Supports You”. This place not only serves a great cup of tea, but is also where we were introduced to Honeycake. Being a fan of honey in general, I have tried several “honeycakes” before, but this cool, pillow-soft confection in Prague beats them all, hands down. It was not too sweet, not too rich and somehow, slightly wholesome feeling. Not having much of a sweet tooth, despite being a baker and confectioner, I have never before returned to an establishment for a second slice of cake within a month of having the first, but that evening I found myself climbing the hill once more in search of honey cake.
Naturally as soon as I got home I started scouring the internet for recipes and, thankfully, came across this recipe for “Russian honey cake”. I made a few tweaks so I’ll write out my own version here in full:
dough – 125g slightly salted butter
a generous tablespoon of good quality honey (I used Hood of Ormiston’s pure Scottish blossom honey)
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 cups plain flour
filling – a 397g tin of Carnation condensed milk
3 eggs, beaten
2 generous tablespoons of honey (same as above)
170ml sour cream
topping – 2 digestive biscuits
75g walnuts or walnut pieces
For the dough – In a heavy saucepan or flameproof casserole dish, melt the butter over a low heat then stir in the honey. Beat the eggs and sugar together then add the bicarbonate of soda, making sure to completely mix it through. Add the egg mixture to the pan and stir to combine with the butter. Keeping the heat low, add the flour a little at a time and mix to make a smooth, uniform paste (sort of like the start of a white sauce). The paste will be thick by the time all the flour is added. Take off the heat and leave to cool. While the dough is cooling, preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180C). When the dough is cool, dust the work surface liberally with flour and divide the dough into 5 equal pieces. Roll the dough until it is about 2mm thick, then use a 22cm baking tin to cut a circle out of the dough (a 20cm tin would would just as well). Repeat for the other four pieces. You should then have enough left over dough to roll one more circle – making 6 layers in total. Bake each circle of dough on a flat baking sheet in the hot over for about 4 mins until they are a deep golden brown and cool on wire racks.
For the filling – put everything except the sour cream in a pan and stir over a medium heat while it thickens. Lumps will form at first but as long as you keep heating and don’t stop stirring it will eventually thicken to a uniform texture, slightly finer than semolina. Pour into a cold bowl or container and leave to cool a little.
To assemble – When the cakes are cool, but the filling is still slightly lukewarm, assemble the cake. If you wish your cake to be pretty, I suggest you trim each of your layers back to a uniform 22(or 20)cm, but if, like me, you can’t bear waste and only the family are going to eat it, just leave them as they come. Top each layer with a thin layer of sour cream and a slightly thicker layer of the honey filling before sandwiching on the next layer. When you reach the last layer, you should also top this with a thin layer of sour cream and a slightly thicker one of the honey filling. Top make the topping, pop the biscuits and walnuts in a food processor and blend to a fine crumb. Scatter this evenly over the top of the cake and press lightly down.
Leave for at least one hour before serving so that the cake layers soften up a little.
I find I enjoy this cake best with a cup of Oolong tea.
Tastewise, the only difference between this home made cake and the one I ate and adored in Prague is the subtle flavour of the honey. There is some magic in the honey from Czech bees that isn’t quite replicated by our local workforce. Still, I think the taste of a local honey really sets a thing in its right place and this cake is right for Edinburgh.
This recipe is very closely based on the one from the second Leon cookbook and makes a great dessert or afternoon snack that gives you a real, noticeable, energy boost. You don’t need to be on a raw vegan diet to enjoy this!
100g whole almonds
6 pitted dates
50g sunflower seeds
pinch of salt (if you are cooking for someone who is a raw vegan this needs to be Himalayan pink salt, I use Maldon at home)
4 tbsp coconut oil
2 very ripe avocados
3 tbsp tahini
6 tbsp cacao powder (for non raw vegans any good quality cocoa powder will do. I prefer green and blacks.)
4 tsp agave nectar
To make the base, gently melt the coconut oil in a bain-marie then blitz the almonds, dates, sunflower seeds and salt in a food processor. Once the pieces are relatively small, pour in the coconut oil and run the machne until it is all combined.
Line a 18-20cm loose based tart tin with greaseproof paper and press the almond mixture on top to form a flat base. Place this in the freezer to firm up while you do the next bits. Wipe the food processor with kitchen roll – you don’t need to bother washing it yet.
Peel the bananas, mash two and slice the other two into circles no thicker than a pound coin. Peel the avocados, discard the stone and pop the flesh in the food processor with the tahini, cacao powder and agave nectar and blend until completely combined.
Take the base out of the freezer and spread the mashed banana on top then arrange the sliced banana neatly on top. Cover with the avocado layer, making it as smooth or as rough as you like, then put it in the fridge until you are ready to serve it (it’s best if you can leave it to chill for at least 30mins).
Thanks to Ianthe for the photo!
I have been playing a lot of Skyrim recently. A lot. And I strongly suspect I am not alone in that. But you can’t always be at your Xbox. Sometimes you have to be at work, or having a cup of tea with a friend in the real world. Fear not! Now, you can take a little piece of Skyrim with you!
A friend pointed me at this rather excellent blog which provides everything you need to know to make a Skyrim-style sweet roll, but I thought I could do one better. Why stop at one snack when you can have two, eh? So, here follows my recipe for the “Honey Nut Treat” and it couldn’t be easier!
200g raw pistachio nuts
350g dried apricots
3 tbsp good quality honey
2 tbsp pineapple juice or lime juice
Blitz everything together in a food processor until it reaches the “sticky mess” stage then, with damp hands, roll the mixture into balls slightly smaller than golf balls. You can eat them like this, or for a more authentic finish, thread them in threes onto bamboo skewers. Either way, keep them in the fridge until you are ready to snack, or at least over night before packing them into a lunch box, so they firm up a bit.
And without further ado, more cakes!
I’ve been making a lot of interesting cakes and then going on to make more interesting cakes instead of sitting down and blogging about them. I apologise for being so easily distracted, and by way of apology, here are some pictures!
Stay tuned for more pictures!
Another long over due post. I made this awesome dude a few weeks ago. Sorry yet again about the terrible photography!
I made this teddy bear’s picnic cake as the centre piece for a stall I was running on Sunday as part of an event by the collective art gallery. It is a chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache filling and fully edible sugarpaste decoration.
Due to the tube strike in my first tour I left a lot of stones unturned in my hunt for a decent cupcake. So once again as Mark headed to Londinium for some serious work (so he says…but it looks a lot like playing with toys to me! – PS, Mark is not actually in this video but I have it on good authority that he was there) I tagged along, armed with my notebook, annotated maps and good comfy shoes. A lot of the places I planned to visit this time didn’t make the first list due to the fact that they often weren’t within walking distance of anything else and required semi-long tube journeys to get to. This in mind, I set off early with one rule – only one cupcake per bakery.
First on the list was the Buttercup Cake Shop. This is a really sweet little shop not far from the High Street Kensington tube station with a good selection of cupcake flavours including some unusual ones. I had to choose the limited edition chocolate marshmallow cupcake not just because of the cute heart piped on the smooth frosting but because I’m a sucker for anything I only get one chance to try. Close second, though was the passionfruit cupcake with its whipped cloud of pale orange frosting. Only at the first bakery and already my “one cupcake” rule is sorely tested!
As I wanted to start early, I did a bad thing and skipped breakfast. Or at least, it’s normally a bad thing to skip breakfast. In this case it gave me to opportunity to duck into a branch of ottolenghi and pick up a berry crumble muffin.
The berries in question were HUGE and delicious!
Suitably refreshed it was back to the underground and off to my next destination – Outsider Tart. However, on my way there I unexpectedly passed by a branch of Maison Blanc and even though it wasn’t on my list, not being a cupcake specialist, the pistachio cupcakes in the window looked good enough to try. Unfortunately the picture I snapped of them on display is just an indistinct blur so on to the outside of Outsider Tart.
This little shop is packed full of mad cookies, brownies and one that was a cookie with a brownie baked into it…or vice versa, it was hard to tell… as well as a few imported american products such as breakfast cereals and fluff in a jar. Unfortunately, I got there so early there were only two chocolate cupcakes sitting alone on a large stand. “I know,” commiserated the shop assistant, “they look so lonely waiting for their friends to come out of the oven!”. Still, at least this made my choice of flavours easy!
The next stop on my tour should have included three bakeries before getting back into the stuffy (but marvelously useful!) tube, however I was somewhat disappointed to find that the Euphorium Bakery (or at least that branch) does not do cupcakes at all and that, after a fourty-five minute search which ended in a small row of tiny industrial units which smelled tantalisingly of baking chocolate chip cookies but had no attached shopfronts, signs or doorbells, I had either been misled by the website into thinking that Sweet Things had an actual shop in the area or I had managed to get myself completely lost . Either way, the trip on the northern line was not a total loss thanks to Chewie’s Bakery where I found a small but nicely presented range of cupcakes to choose from. I selected a chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate frosting and coconut and headed back to the underground a little more footsore and a little less laden than I had intended.
Back in familiar territory I headed for topshop at Oxford Circus. Anyone who knows me well may be shocked by this announcement unless they also knew that Lola’s Cucpakes has a kiosk there on the ground floor. Last time I was in London I thought I had picked up one of Lola’s cupcakes from Harrods but it turned out to be a Lily Vanilli creation. This time I was dedicated to getting the real thing. Strangely located right in the middle of the bustling high street fashion store is a cute little kiosk selling cute little cupcakes. The cupcake of the month was black forest and looked ever so special with a fresh cherry perched on top.
From Oxford Circus I took the familiar walk into soho and stopped to collect cupcakes at two old favourites. I know that cupcakes from both these bakeries were reviewed last time but they both have such extensive ranges that it couldn’t hurt to try them again, right? First, to the Hummingbird Bakery to pick up a vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting.
Then to Cox, Cookies and Cake for a raspberry ripple.
By this point I was hungry and a little weary but it was lunchtime in soho and pouring with rain. The queue for Leon Caranaby Street was out the door and it was too wet to peruse the menus in chinatown so it was a mad dash to the Candy Cafe for a taro bubble tea and a comfy seat. Thus fortified, and the downpour passed, I carried on despite my cravings for savoury food. I had a few errands in chinatown – soot sprites, tofu and pocky – and then it was on to Sweet Couture, a beautiful boutique shop between chinatown and Covent Garden and just round the corner from CyberCandy, to pick up a peanut butter cupcake.
All my primary objectives complete I was now free to source a very late lunch from Leon on the strand. Mmmm, Slow-cooked shredded pork wrap and lemon, ginger and mint quencher.
Despite my concerns about all the travel to and from remote bakeries, I actually concluded my cupcake tour with time to spare before my scheduled meeting with Mark and Richard so spent some time shopping leisurely before being drawn into the tiny “Jen Cafe” on the Leicester Square edge of chinatown by the woman making dumplings by hand in the window and the promise of a warm cup of green tea. I was rewarded for my curiosity by a plate of the best fried dumplings I have ever had!
Watch this space for the first in a two part review of the cakes!
I had A LOT of fun making this cake for a joint 21st birthday at the end of last year! It was a vanilla cake with white chocolate buttercream filling and raspberry puree. Sadly ‘Big Daddy’ didn’t make it to the venue as he was too fragile, but serious fans might have found him a bit on the cute side anyway. I find it hard to make anything in icing look grim…
My favourite feature is the ooze around the portholes