Friday, 28 October 2016

Even more cakes

Last week was a busy baking week.  Toby turned six on Friday, so of course I had to make him a chocolate cake - or maybe two!  Fortunately he requested a simple design, because then a friend asked me to make a christening cake for her daughter and a birthday cake for her husband, on the same weekend.  Suddenly every available surface started filling up with baked goods...

So here's Toby's - a 6 with sprinkles in.  Basically the same as Theo's 2 earlier this year, except that I didn't sneak courgettes into this one.  We took this to his party at a local soft play centre, and I made a little one as well, for his birthday tea the evening before.



The christening cake was a Madeira sponge, from my tried-and-tested list of recipes.  I was reminded just how long it's been since I've done any serious piping with royal icing, as I struggled to get just the right consistency.  It was slightly on the solid side, but ju-u-ust about squeezed through the nozzle.  The end effect came out pretty well.



Meanwhile, the birthday cake was a completely new recipe; my first attempt at making an egg-, dairy- and nut-free chocolate cake.  I found the Vegan Society website a very useful resource.  For decoration, I was back to piping with good old buttercream (well, OK, dairy-free-baking-fattercream).  The recipient is a keen photographer, so I made an attempt at a very simple camera.



I was surprised that I could make a vegan cake without resorting to any odd ingredients.  It tasted a little different to regular cake, but not too much.  (I gave it a trial run, just to be on the safe side.)  This was my adaptation of the chocolate birthday cake recipe from the Vegan Society site.

Egg and dairy free chocolate cake

400g self-raising flour
4 tsp baking powder
60g cocoa powder
150g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
200 ml vegetable oil
600 ml (approx) cold water

Grease and line two 9-inch sandwich tins.  Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.  Sieve together the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder, and stir in the sugar and salt.  Add the vanilla, vegetable oil and about 500 ml water, and mix thoroughly with an electric beater.  Add more water as needed to get a fairly runny batter.  Divide between the tins and bake for about 40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

When cool, sandwich and ice with chocolate icing made with dairy-free baking margarine.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Not the post I was trying to write

I have spent over an hour writing, deleting, and re-writing a beginning to this post.  Somehow it is refusing to get written.  But after all this I'm determined to get down something which expresses a little of what I'm thinking, even if a full explanation has to wait.  So I give you this, from Matthew Henry's commentary on Hebrews 2:

Let those who dread death, and strive to get the better of their terrors, no longer attempt to outbrave or to stifle them, no longer grow careless or wicked through despair. Let them not expect help from the world, or human devices; but let them seek pardon, peace, grace, and a lively hope of heaven, by faith in Him who died and rose again, that thus they may rise above the fear of death. (Source)

And this from me: Life is precious and precarious.  Do the best you can with it.  But if you have any faith in Jesus and his resurrection, death is not the worst thing that can happen.  Please don't pray as if it is.

(I should probably add: No, this is not a reaction to anything happening to me or my family.  Don't start worrying that there is some awful news you haven't heard yet.)

Friday, 7 October 2016

A couple of cakes

It was the annual Macmillan Coffee Morning recently, raising money for the cancer support charity.  I had a couple to go to, at Toby's school and at Theo's playgroup, so I flicked through my recipe books and came up with these.  They are based on a recipe from sensational cupcakes by Alisa Morov, which has all sorts of interesting flavours (green tea cupcakes, anyone?)  This is a lovely combination.

Apricot cupcakes with ginger buttercream



Cupcakes
50ml whole milk
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
225g plain flour
190g sugar
1 tsp baking powder
200g butter
140g packet chopped dried apricots

Buttercream
200g butter
400g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
crystallized ginger, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 170C.  Mix the milk, eggs and vanilla in a jug.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and baking powder.  Make sure your butter is nice and soft, then add it to the dry ingredients with half of the egg mixture.  Mix slowly until everything is moist, then on high speed for one minute.

Add the remaining egg mixture and mix on medium speed for another minute.  Fold in the apricot pieces.  Spoon into 18 cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until springy.  Leave to cool.

For the icing, beat the softened butter, icing sugar, milk and ground ginger together until fluffy.  Spread or pipe onto the cupcakes and decorate with crystallized ginger.


And this was going to be my recipe of the month for August, but I didn't end up doing a Monthly Munch.  It's an old recipe in my handwritten book; I'm pretty sure it originally came from one of my mom's American recipe books, either Betty Crocker or Better Homes & Gardens.  Interestingly, it produces almost the same texture of cake as the apricot cupcakes (using almost the same technique) but uses considerably less egg.  I made this recipe once, and it vanished so quickly I had to make another very shortly afterwards.

A word on both of these recipes: you really do have to make sure your butter or margarine is SOFT, otherwise you'll just end up with flour flying everywhere.

Busy Day Cake



85g / 3 oz margarine
200g / 6 oz plain flour
150g / 5 oz sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
6 fl oz / 200ml milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 190C.  Grease and line 9x9 inch baking pan.
Place softened margarine in mixing bowl.  Add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Add the egg and half the milk.  Mix until flour is moistened, then beat 2 minutes on medium speed.
Add the remaining milk and vanilla; beat 2 minutes longer.
Pour into pan and bake about 20-25 minutes.  Cool on rack.
Ice with buttercream as above, omitting the ginger or adding other flavours if you wish.  Decorate with sprinkles.