Monday, 8 December 2014

Guinness fruit cake recipe

If you're a fan of sticky, rich fruit cakes, then this recipe for Guinness fruit cake will suit you. I made this for the last meeting of the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club - the theme was 'Boozy Bakes'. The recipe came from the CCC Cookbook although I adapted it slightly. This would make a good base for a Christmas cake I think - although I didn't make one this year, next year I might dust off this recipe.

300g mixed dried fruit - my mixture was sultanas, raisins, and dried cranberries
330ml Guinness or other stout
2 eggs, beaten
100g soft light brown sugar
100g dark muscovado sugar
270g self-raising flour
1tsp mixed spice

Marinate the dried fruit in the Guinness for a day if possible, or at least 3-4 hours to make the fruit plump and sticky.
Stir the beaten eggs into the fruit and Guinness mixture. Add the sugars, and then sieve in the flour and spice, and mix well. Be careful not to leave any big lumps of dark sugar.
Pour into a prepared loaf tin (900g).
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C (160C fan), for at least an hour, until a skewer comes out clean.

I think this would be really good served with a nice knob of butter spread over, a bit like a malt loaf. I might like to try it with icing on too. This is a rich and warming cake, with a lovely deep flavour from the Guinness.

I recently wrote about why we love Christmas cake over on the Clandestine Cake Club website - please have a read! Please comment below and tell me why you love Christmas cake, and what sort you've made this Christmas.

Clandestine Cake Club

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Classic Victoria Sponge and a review of the Oregon Scientific kitchen timer

I was recently sent a Oregon Scientific kitchen timer to review for this blog. I was undecided about what to bake for a review post, when I realised, what's more of a test than a classic Victoria sponge cake? Not only is this a delicious, simple, wonderful cake to eat, but it is also a traditional challenge for the home baker. If you can't make a good Vicky sponge, there's no hope. Something that was captured on this year's Great British Bake Off in the final.

The recipe I used was your classic and simple Victoria sponge:
6oz butter
6oz caster sugar
6oz self-raising flour
3 eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
Dash of milk (semi-skimmed)

I don't follow Mary Berry's rule of bung it all in together and mix - I stick to the traditional creaming of butter and sugar, add the eggs and paste, sift in the flour and baking powder, and add a bit of milk.

Here comes the science bit - bake for 22 minutes at 170C degrees.

I decided it was a good idea to figure out how the Oregon Scientific  kitchen timer worked before making my cake - I didn't want all the air to sneak out of the mixture while I was frantically pressing buttons. But I needn't have worried, as it was really simple to set up. There are two windows, as you can set two timers at once - this will be really handy for Christmas dinner when you're cooking a million different dishes at once. You can use one window as a clock too, and there's a stopwatch option too.

Thankfully setting the timer didn't mean a hundreds beeps - unlike the timers used on GBBO (one of my favourite memories of this year's show was Chetna pressing her timer a thousand times, I think because of Jo Brand's An Extra Slice). I was impressed with how easy the timer was to use.

It was accurate and certainly rousing - I wandered off into our lounge to see how easy it was to hear the timer from across the house - nothing to worry about there, as it was louder than our smoke alarm. I would like to see more of a volume control, as I'm sure the neighbours knew my cake was ready too. There is a switch to select mute, quiet, or loud, but I didn't dare try the 'loud' button as I'm sure the local fire engines would have arrived. I'd like more control over the volume.

The only other downfall was the strength of the magnets - the timer wouldn't sit happily on the front of my fridge, but kept slipping down. But I wouldn't keep it on the fridge anyway, so that wasn't really an issue.

Oh, and the cake was delicious, by the way...

The Oregon Scientific kitchen timer was given to me in return for a review on this blog; this is not a paid-for blog and all opinions are my own. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

Stamford Clandestine Cake Club - Signature bakes at the William Cecil

We've all been loving the Great British Bake Off, and this month we were inspired by the show to make our Signature Bakes for our meeting of the Clandestine Cake Club. We visited The William Cecil and were hosted in the Darcy and Bennet rooms - how very Pride and Prejudice!

For my signature bake, I made Devil's Food Cake - and I got in a bit of trouble for announcing it to be my favourite of the month! However, once the ruckus had died down, everyone did admit that cake is a very personal thing and we all have our own preferences. And Devil's Food Cake is my preference.

Here's a list of the cakes we baked this month:

Devil's Food Cake - Sophie
Double Chocolate Loaf Cake - Vicky
Lemon Meringue Cake - Louise
Malteaser Cake - Kerry
Lemon Drizzle and Fizzle Cake - Sammy
Green Tea and White Chocolate Opera Cake - Simon
Sticky Marmalade Cake - Rhoda

We had a few absences this month due to work commitments and illness, which was a shame, but a smaller group always means a more intimate discussion. And it means you can try ALL of the cakes without feeling too sick. 

Read more about the Clandestine Cake Club 

Clandestine Cake Club

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Birthday coffee and walnut cake

For my dad's 70th birthday, I was thinking of making an elaborate 70-shaped cake with rolled icing and hours upon hours of decorating. However, my dad simply wanted a coffee and walnut cake. And what the birthday boy wants, he gets. So, a simple coffee and walnut cake it was.

8oz marg
8oz caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
8oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water

Cream the marg and sugar together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, then sift in the flour and baking powder, before adding the coffee. Pour into 2 prepared round tins. Bake at 180C (160 fan) for about 30 minutes until golden and coming away from the sides of the tins.

I decorated the cake with coffee buttercream, using a pack of butter, about 600g icing sugar, and 3 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water - but let the coffee cool first else it'll heat and melt the butter.

I covered the cake in a thin layer of buttercream before piping roses over the sides, then adding walnuts to the top. For such a simple recipe, this coffee and walnut cake is delicious - proving yet again that simple is best. Dad was really chuffed, and there was loads left over for me to scoff too!

Apple loaf cake for Stamford Cake Club

What to bake for a fairy tale-themed cake club... I decided upon a Snow White-inspired apple loaf cake for the latest meeting of the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club, finished off with Snow White icing and apples on top. We met at Burghley Park, with the wonderful Burghley House as the backdrop for our fairy tale cakes.

The recipe is quite simple and easy to knock together. I did worry about the look of the mixture before it was baked, as there seemed to be far too much apple and not enough cake - but it turned out great in the end. Fluffy and moist without being soggy, tart apples, and sweet icing on top.

200g self-raising flour
75g marg
100g light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Bramley apples, peeled and cored
3 eggs, beaten

Put the marg and flour together in your mixer, and blend until you have fine breadcrumbs (you can do this by hand too). Mix in the sugar and cinnamon.
Add the eggs, and the apples, and gently mix.
Tip into a large loaf tin (I think mine might be a 2lb tin).
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C (160C fan) for about an hour. You could also split this into two smaller tins, but bake for less time.
To finish, make normal icing with icing sugar and hot water - not too runny, but loose enough to drip down the sides a bit.
I made some apples out of Renshaws red paste, making one red and green for the poisoned apple.

I would recommend this cake heartily as it was really delicious.

It was a smaller group at Cake Club this month, with several drop-outs and a few no-shows, but the smaller groups are often my favourites. They give you a chance to talk as a group without feeling like you're holding court. And even if it was just me and one other baker at cake club, I'd still be happy. If you haven't signed up for the Clandestine Cake Club yet, why not!