Summer is here at last and not only does it bring light and warmth, it also brings us a wealth of juicy fruit. When you’ve had your fill of fresh berries and stone fruit, you’ll probably be looking for other ways to eat them. This recipe for poached peaches and apricots in a spiced lemon & thyme syrup is simple to make and utterly delectable.
Far from putting me off them forever, judging the Liskeard Bun has reignited my love for all things bun. Yeasted or not, plain or fancy, there is something rather wonderful about the British bun.
Oh wow, I can’t believe it took me so long to try the pear and almond dark chocolate that I was sent some months ago by Elizabeth Shaw. The blackberry and ginger was good, but this is one I can see becoming a regular. I have a penchant for almond chocolate anyway; this one has the wonderful crunch of almond slivers and a faint yet perceptible pear flavour which was a surprisingly good combination. The dark chocolate is mild giving richness without bitterness. I used most of the bar to make these tortes. Sadly I only left 20g of it to enjoy as was intended and enjoy it I did.
Leafing through How to be a Domestic Goddess the other night, I saw Nigella’s treatise on Victoria sponges and although she didn’t have a chocolate one, I was inspired by her to create my own for the Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club, CCC. The theme was afternoon tea, so what could be more appropriate than a Victoria sandwich? I was also inspired by Karen’s drinking chocolate cake over at Lavender and Lovage, so decided to use a drinking chocolate mix rather than cocoa. As I was planning on using the vanilla apricot jam I made before Christmas, I was hoping this would make for a lighter taste, which would allow the apricot and vanilla flavours to shine through.
This is how I made:
Hot Chocolate Victoria Sponge with Vanilla Apricot Jam and Cream
- Creamed 250g unsalted butter with 240g vanilla (caster) sugar until very pale.
- Beat in 4 duck eggs, one at a time, mixing in a little of the flour in between each egg to stop curdling.
- Stirred in 210g flour (half wholemeal, half white), 50g drinking chocolate, and 2 scant teaspoons of baking powder.
- Added about 4 tbsp of milk to make a loose, but not runny mixture.
- Divided mixture between two 21 cm cake moulds and baked at 180C for 20 minutes until firm on top and cake tester came out clean.
- Left to cool for ten minutes, then turned out onto wire racks to cool completely.
- Spread one half with a jar of my vanilla apricot jam.
- Whisked 150 ml double cream until soft peaks formed.
- Spread cream over the top of the jam and placed the other half on top.
- Sprinkled with caster sugar.
One of my cakes broke up a little when I turned it out, a rare occurrence for me as I use silicone moulds; I am always taken aback when it happens and not best pleased. Luckily, I managed to rescue it by gluing most of it back together with the jam and using it as the bottom layer.
My goodness that jam was good. The cake wasn’t bad either. Others thought so too and demonstrated their appreciation by coming up for seconds – no mean feat with the vast array of cakes available.
Our CCC event was held at Lanhydrock, one of our local National Trust estates which is just up the road from us – in Cornwall terms anyway. The meeting was held in one of the offices away from the main house, a pleasant corner of the estate I’d not seen before. The converted stables, recently revamped, made an excellent location for our gathering. The cakes were many, splendid and varied. To top it all we had an informative and entertaining talk by Sue Bamford on the surprisingly dramatic history of afternoon tea. Who knew that a married woman in Victorian times could entertain a male guest in her dressing gown for tea, but was unable to do so fully dressed for dinner.
Many thanks to Ellie Michell for continuing to organise our wonderful cakey gatherings. As I said the cakes were many and varied and I rather lost the plot on what they were, who had baked them and whether I’d photographed them or not. So here follows a random selection:
|Kat’s lemon curd and raspberry sponge|
|Ellie’s Carrot Cake|
|Boiled Fruit Cake with Pineapple|
|Irish Whisky Cake|
|Nat’s Cherry Bakewell|
|Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake|
Inspired by Nigella as it was, I’m entering my Hot Chocolate Victoria Sandwich to Forever Nigella, created by Maison Cupcake and this month hosted by Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes. The Theme is Easter and I reckon this would make a perfect cake for Easter tea.
As I used four very large duck eggs which were coming to the end of their useful life, I am entering this to the No Waste Food Challenge, created by Kate of Turquoise Lemons and this month hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen. The theme this month is eggs.
Although most of my bakes are entirely made from scratch, I don’t often remember to submit them to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays, but I’ve remembered this time.
We were off on holiday and it was the usual scramble to try and use up perishable food before we left. A punnet of slightly under ripe apricots was one of the food items that needed attention. With all the talk of fairtrade vanilla on BBC Radio 4 and Vanessa’s blog back in August, it was a question of poached apricots in vanilla syrup or making jam. I plumped for the jam and oh boy, I’m so glad I did.
I used Trish Deseine’s recipe as my guide, but reduced the quantity of sugar to fruit and added some water.
This is how I made two jars of apricot and vanilla jam:
- Washed 400g apricots, then chopped and de-stoned them.
- Put into a stainless steel heavy bottomed pan with 300g caster sugar and the stones.
- Cut a vanilla pod into bits and scattered this over the sugar.
- Squeezed in the juice of a lemon and added a splash of water.
- Left overnight for the flavours to infuse.
- Bought the mixture to a gentle simmer and stirred until the sugar was completely dissolved.
- Bought it up to a rapid boil and let it go for a good ten minutes or more until the jam went from frothy to clear and setting point was reached (jam wrinkled when dropped onto a cold plate).
- Removed the stones and spooned into two sterilised jars.
I am entering this into Susan’s Home Made & Well Preserved challenge over at A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate in the vague hope I might get lucky and win a copy of First Preserves by Vivian Lloyd.
This was, of course, made from scratch as is the vast majority of what I make, so I am entering this into Mr JW’s Made With Love Mondays.
Now here is an intriguing idea – chocolate covered seeds. If you need an excuse to eat chocolate, this might just be it. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds all enrobed with our favourite ingredient. I was sent the new chilli and ginger Munchy Seeds to try as well as a packet of an apricot mix. Well, chilli and ginger combined with chocolate was not something I was going to say no to.
Belgian Dark Chocolate with Chilli & Ginger – unlike my chocotos, these are not going to cause a major melt down in your mouth, but they do leave a pleasant, if subtle warmth behind. Covered in Belgian Plain Chocolate (65%), the seeds were more palatable than they might otherwise have been. Although I enjoy raw pumpkin seeds, I’m not so keen on sunflowers in their raw state. The best bits were the ginger chunks, the chilli contributing to their overall heat and deliciousness – shame there were so few of them.
Belgian Chocolate Mix with Apricots – the pumpkin seeds and apricot pieces were covered in the same 65% dark chocolate whereas the sunflower seeds were covered in 30% milk. This made for an interesting combination. Again the sunflowers benefited from their chocolate covering and the dark chocolate offset the sweetness of the apricots.
These Choccy Munchy Seeds come in packets of 50g so are just about right for a moorland walk. They cost between £1.50 and £2.00 and are available at Harvey Nichols or directly from Munchy Seeds online. The seeds have a decent amount of chew to them and this slows down consumption and increases the enjoyment.
Tasty treats these are indeed, but I’m not sure they are quite as healthy for you as the manufacturer would have you believe – sugar is, after all, quite high up in the list of ingredients and these did taste rather sweet. That said, if you’re looking for a chocolate snack, these are likely to be better for you than a standard confectionary bar.
All in all, these were a fun and interesting way to increase our intake of some useful vitamins and minerals. They were, actually, good enough to inspire me to have a go at making my own. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Once again, another birthday has passed me by and in the age old tradition, it was time to make cakes for work. Keen to use more of the apricot curd, I thought I’d make a Victoria Sandwich similar to the lime curd one I made a couple of months ago. With one of my colleagues being vegan, I needed to make something a bit different too and that will follow in a later post.
This is what I did:
- Creamed 225g unsalted butter with 225g cardamom sugar until pale & fluffy.
- Beat in 3 duck eggs one by one.
- Sifted in 200g flour (50g wholemeal & 150g white), 25g cocoa, 1 rounded tsp baking powder and a pinch of bicarb of soda.
- Stirred in 1 heaped tbsp home made Creme Fraiche (I usually use yogurt).
- Spooned into two 22cm sandwich moulds and baked for 25 minutes at 180C until risen and firm to the touch.
- Left to cool for 10 minutes then turned out onto wire racks to cool completely.
- Stacked together with a piece of greaseproof paper between and placed a tin over the top for the night.
- In the morning, unstacked the cakes, only to find that part of one of them had stuck to the paper – oh well holes in the top of the cake it was to be!
- In the morning, creamed 50g of unsalted butter with 100g icing sugar until very light and fluffy.
- Beat in 3 heaped tbsp of apricot curd.
- Spread this over one of the cakes and put the other on top.
- Dusted with icing sugar.
Having just made apricot curd, I was keen to start using it in some baking. With a week of annual leave, it seemed like a good time to have some friends over for tea. At about the same time, I had also been sent a cupcake stand to review. So, apricot curd cupcakes it just had to be. Along with these I made some goats cheese and orach muffins based on a Rachel Demuth recipe from Green Seasons and some cinnamon and chocolate buns (recipe to follow). After spending some time mulling over how I was going to use the apricot curd in cupcakes, I eventually decided to base it on the raspberry and white chocolate ones I made for the first We Should Cocoa; these were a great success. Having recently fallen in love with cardamom sugar, the brainchild of Vanessa Kimbell, I substituted that for the vanilla sugar.
This is what I did:
- Melted 125g unsalted butter with 50g white chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of hot water.
- Stirred in 150g cardamom sugar.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs.
- Sifted in 180g flour (80g wholemeal, 80g white, 20g coconut) and 1 tsp baking powder.
- Stirred in 70g 0% fat Greek yogurt and 50 ml water.
- Spooned roughly half the batter into 12 cupcake cases.
- Placed a tsp of apricot curd on top of the batter the spooned in the remaining batter.
- Baked for 22 minutes at 180C.
- Turned onto a rack to cool.
- Stirred 4 tbsp of apricot curd into 125g of mascarpone and mixed until fully incorporated.
- Spread over the cooled cupcake cases and decorated with orange stars.
As luck would have it, the weather was set to be fair, so I took the opportunity to have a tea party down at the field. Our plot is looking really good at the moment, with the vegetable beds full and flowers blooming everywhere. Chairs were kindly brought along by friends as well as cups and a flask of tea. With 13 of us, aptly a bakers dozen, we had just enough chairs and just enough food. What with good weather and good company, I can’t think of a better way to spend time with friends.
Although this could very easily be an entry for this month’s We Should Cocoa, I have something else in mind for that.
I was really pleased with the cupcake stand, supplied by Find Me A Gift. It’s a four tier steel stand which takes up to 23 cupcakes or muffins. The stand can take any sized cupcake and you could dispense with one of the middle layers if you had fewer items to display. Twenty three seemed like a good number as this is two standard bakes of twelve cupcakes, which leaves one left over to be …. errr…. tested beforehand! The cakes all sat well on the stand where they had sunken holders. The only one I was concerned about was the very top one which relied on balance alone. Even though there was a fair breeze outside, not a single cake was blown off – not even the top one. I thought it made for a good display and showed off my cupcakes well. One step nearer to my pop up tea room!