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Rosewater wedding cupcakes…a whopping 96 of them…

This weekend was a very proud time for me…not only was I a bridesmaid for the very first time, but my good friends Nic & Will had also given me the honour of asking me to make their wedding cakes for them! I’ve spent the last few months planning, list writing and doing taste tests in preparation but finally, after a whole week of nights spent tossing, turning and (eventually) dreaming about all manner of cake related disasters, the big day arrived! The bride and groom had decided on rosewater cupcakes, which I set about making on Friday. This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what 96 freshly baked cupcakes look like…(I was sadly chuffed to be able to use my stackable wire racks 🙂

The next day, I was up early, I hired a car and made my way to Norfolk to Cliff Barns, the coolest wedding venue I’ve ever seen! It had it’s own dressing up room…

and ‘throne room’ dedicated to the Queen…

and the most awesome kitchen, equipped for every eventuality and made even better by the temporary addition of my KitchenAid…

I set to work making up industrial quantities of rosewater flavoured buttercream icing in white and pastel green to top my little army of wedding cupcakes…

Ansell, my very talented 3 year old helper kept me company (I was extremely jealous of his dinosaur apron!)…

The next day, the day of the wedding, it was time to set the scene. I’d brought along a vast array of cake stands, boxes, teapots, cups, saucers & plates to create the vision that I’d been planning. Here I am adding the finishing touches to it…

Before stepping back to admire the end result…

My friend, Reika, who lives in Japan sent over a hand-sewn bride and groom, which took pride of place…

and of course there was a bit of shameless self promotion 😉 …

The recipe I used was a very simple one, after a few trials I decided that to over complicate something that didn’t need over complicating was just plain silly.

So, to make a batch of 12 of my rosewater cupcakes with rosewater buttercream icing you need…

175g unsalted butter

175g caster sugar

3 eggs

175g self raising flour

30ml milk

1 tsp rosewater (I recommend Star Kay White Rosewater from Waitrose for flavour)

Preheat oven to 170 degrees and line a cupcake tin with paper cases.

Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy.

Beat in the eggs. Followed by the flour, milk and rosewater. Make sure everything is well combined.

Scoop the mixture into cupcake cases, I highly recommend using an ice cream scoop like this. It will change your cupcake making life for the better!

Pop them into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until light brown and springy when pressed on top.

To make the rosewater buttercream icing you need…

400g icing sugar

200g butter

A splash of milk

2 tbsp rosewater (now this time I chose to use this Rosewater from The English Provender as it had a much weaker but more delicate flavour, which balanced the stronger variety used in the sponge) 

Simply beat all of the ingredients except the milk together well until light and fluffy. Add a small splash of milk a a time until you have a good consistency for piping or spreading onto the top of your cupcakes.

Once your cupcakes are fully cooled you can use your artistic licence to decorate them any which way you like!

I think they make the perfect summer cupcake and it appears that the wedding guests approved as somehow 96 cupcakes were devoured extremely quickly with the last few making it until the next day and providing the perfect post-wedding hangover breakfast! 🙂 

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Punting & afternoon tea…the perfect combo…

I’m very excited to share some news about a cakey collaboration I’ve been working on with ’Let’s Go Punting’, a small independent punting company in Cambridge. This summer I’ll be providing birthday cakes for their birthday party tours and ‘Afternoon Tease’ packages for their picnics and hen parties!

In my mind, punting and afternoon tea are the perfect combo, but then again maybe I’m biased 😉 What better way to spend a summer weekend, kicking back and relaxing, whilst being chauffeured in a punt down the river Cam, laughing at the hoards of tourists trying to ‘do it themselves’ and careening into one another…it’s more entertaining than an episode of Britain’s Got Talent I can tell you! 🙂 Anyhow, I digress…you’ll now be able to do all of the above but with the added bonus of enjoying an inimitably English, homemade afternoon tea on the riverside! Take a look at the menu below, which can be booked alongside any of their punting packages…

A selection of delicate finger sandwiches (no crusts of course!)

filled with… 

cucumber & cream cheese

ham & wholegrain mustard

free range egg mayonnaise & cress

or cheese & homemade chutney

Homemade mini scones…

with a choice of either plain scones served with lashings of jam & clotted cream…

or cheese scones served with butter…

A homemade cake…

There’s a choice between either a victoria sponge sandwiched with jam & vanilla buttercream icing…

a chocolate fudge cake with chocolate ganache icing…

or a lemon drizzle cake sandwiched with lemon curd buttercream icing…

and as if that weren’t enough there’ll also be…

Mini homemade brownie squares

and…

Homemade iced tea 

Now, with the British weather being as unpredictable as it is, my afternoon tea’s can be supplied in a lovely reusable picnic bag that can be taken away to a location of choice (preferably somewhere cosy & dry) or if the the sun has got his hat on, can be enjoyed in one of Cambridge’s gorgeous green spaces. You can find everything you’ll ever need to know about booking etc on the ‘Let’s Go Punting’ website…or just give them a bell, they’re a lovely bunch 🙂

All this talk of afternoon tea got me craving scones so, I decided to revisit my good old Be-Ro cheese scone recipe. It’s one that I’ve been using for years and was originally recommended to me by my Mum.

As a slight cheese related aside…whilst wandering the aisles of Asda buying my scone ingredients I stumbled upon a selection of cheeses by none other than Alex James (The previously hot one from Blur). Now please excuse me, if I’m about to sound unbelievably snobby, but I was pretty shocked that not only had Mr James sold out to a major supermarket but also that he’d chosen Asda. Don’t get me wrong, I frequent Asda on a regular basis as a cost effective place to buy the copious amounts of baking goods that I need and even spent a summer (back in the day) as an Asda checkout girl, but…tomato ketchup and salad cream flavoured cheeses Alex! really!? Having done a bit of googling on the subject I found that I’m not the only one who thinks that Mr James may have sold out, Xanthe Clay is pretty vocal about it here along with blogger Fiona Beckett aka The Cheeselover. However, as the saying goes ‘Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it’ so I picked up the most innocuous looking variety…’Alex’s Best Ever Cheddar’…

It was actually ok, not amazing, but a good, strong cheddar, which made it suitable for my cheese scone recipe.

To make 8 small cheese scone you need…

175g self-raising flour

freshly ground salt & pepper (the recipe recommends a pinch but you can use your own taste and judgement on this one)

1/2 tsp mustard powder

25g butter

75g cheese, grated

1 egg

2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Mix the flour, salt, pepper and mustard powder together in a bowl.

Rub in the butter until there are no big lumps of it left and the mixture has the texture of breadcrumbs.

Stir in the grated cheese, saving a little for later to sprinkle on top of your scones.

Add most of the beaten egg and milk until you’ve made a soft dough. Add  little at a time until you’re happy with the texture, if it gets too sticky add a sprinkling of flour. There should be just enough of the egg mixture left for glazing your scones just before they go into the oven.

Once you’re happy with the consistency, tip the dough out onto a surface and roll it out until it’s about 3/4 inch thick. Using a circular pastry cutter, press down firmly to cut out your scones. Try not to twist the cutter as this has a detrimental effect on the way your scones rise…just one firm push is all it should take.

Place each scone on the baking tray, brush with the egg mixture and sprinkle with grated cheese…

then pop them in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they’re golden brown and delicious!…

Serve warm with a generous amount of salted butter…

and a nice cuppa…

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The winner of my twitter cake poll…ginger cake with ginger fudge buttercream icing…

I’ve spent a lot of time recently revisiting some of my favourite cake recipes in order to perfect them, making sure they’re faultless every single time I make them. This morning, however I woke up with an urge to bake something new, to experience the excitement of trying a new recipe, starting from scratch and hopefully finding a new fave to add to my repertoire! Unfortunately I was also feeling particularly indecisive. I flicked through a few of my recipe books and made a shortlist of 6 cakes but decided that the only way I was going to whittle down my wish list was to ask Twitter to make the decision for me. So I did a Twitter cake poll, asking the cake loving community to decide between…

1 – Squidgy lemon ginger cake

2 – Plum, almond & ricotta cake

3 – Cherry & marzipan cake

4 – Coconut cake with coconut buttercream

5 – Sticky ginger cake with ginger fudge buttercream icing

6 – Apple & cinnamon cake

The response was amazing! perhaps due to the fact that I caught everyone when they were feeling peckish for their elevenses. The sticky ginger with ginger fudge icing came up trumps with the coconut cake coming up the rear as 2nd most popular. I hopped on my bike to the supermarket to stock up on all things cakey, gingery and coconutty…I figured I’d make them both in the next couple of days anyway 🙂

But this bad boy is today’s cake adventure…sticky ginger cake topped with lashings of ginger fudge buttercream icing…

To make it you need…

200g unsalted butter

175g molasses sugar

3 tbsp black treacle

150ml milk

2 eggs, beaten

4 pieces of stem ginger, drained and chopped

300g self raising flour

1 tbsp ground ginger

For the ginger fudge icing you will need…

4 tbsp ginger syrup, drained from the stem ginger jar

300g icing sugar (golden icing sugar if you can find it)

140g unsalted butter

2 tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees and butter and line the base of an 8 inch or 9 inch round cake tin. 

Melt the butter, sugar and treacle in a saucepan over a low heat until smooth and lump free.

Let it cool for a few minutes before adding the milk. Then beat in the eggs and stir in the chopped ginger pieces. Finally sift in the flour and ground ginger and add a pinch of salt before stirring well until all of the ingredients are combined.

Pour the warm mixture into the prepared cake tin and pop it into the oven. If you’ve used a 9 inch tin it will need to cook for about 30-35 minutes. I used an 8 inch and mine needed 50 minutes. I always think it’s best to take the cake out and check it 5 minutes before the recommended cooking time, so after 45 minutes stick a skewer into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean it’s ready. If it’s still a bit wet in the middle just pop it back in he oven for another 5 minutes, before checking again. Repeat this checking process every 5 minutes until you’re happy that your cake is ready.

Leave it to cool in the tin for an hour or so before removing it and leaving it to cool completely on a wire rack.

Pierce the top of the cake all over with a skewer and drizzle over 2 tbsp of the ginger syrup, this will add to the moistness of the cake, not to mention giving it even more of a gingery punch.

To make the icing, beat together the butter, icing sugar, remaining 2 tbsp ginger syrup and the lemon juice until smooth and light.

Slather the buttercream on the top of the cooled cake and there you have it…

It is a gorgeously moist, rich cake…I found it a little overpowering what with the molasses AND treacle but I made my housemates do a taste test for me and they all proclaimed that it was a winner 🙂

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Triple layer maple & pecan cake…any excuse!

Last weekend I had 3 events to celebrate…

  1. Girls on tour…a weekend away for my good friend Nic’s hen.
  2. My friend Bee growing old very gracefully.
  3. and last but not least ‘The Afternoon Tease’s’ 2nd blog birthday! (I wonder…are blog years like dog years?)
To be honest I don’t usually need an excuse so to have 3 was epic! I thought I’d use them to revisit this divine triple layer (see what I did there) maple and pecan cake, originally from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days recipe book…

It’s a gorgeous cake, very moist and decadent and as I recently discovered after lugging it all the way from Cambridge to Brighton…it’s very heavy!
To give it a go for yourself you need…

120g unsalted butter

400g caster sugar

360g plain flour

1.5 tbsp (this is NOT a typo 😉 I do mean tablespoons not teaspoons!) baking powder

0.25 tsp salt

360ml milk

40ml maple syrup

3 eggs

100g pecans, chopped

And for the icing…

240g unsalted butter

750g icing sugar

60ml milk

1 tbsp maple syrup

pecan halves to decorate

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and grease and line the base of 3, 8 inch cake tins. Personally, I only have 2 tins so I divide the cake mixture between them, two thirds in one and one third in the other. If you do the same you’ll just need to leave the larger cake in the oven to cook for a little while longer.

So, now to get cracking, use a handheld or freestanding electric mixer to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt together until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs.

In a jug or bowl mix together the milk, maple syrup and eggs. Gradually pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a slow speed until it’s well combined. Finally stir in the chopped pecans by hand.

Divide the cake mixture between your tins and pop them into the oven. If you’re using 3 tins they will need to cook for 20-25 minutes. Due to my cake tin deficiency, I removed my ‘one third’ cake after 20 minutes and checked that it was cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre and making sure that it came out clean. I left the ‘two thirds’ cake in the oven for a further 10 minutes before doing the skewer test, which I then did every 5 minutes until it came out clean, meaning my cake was perfectly cooked 🙂

Leave your cakes to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before removing them from their tins to cool completely. 

In the meantime you can prepare the icing…

Pop the butter on a plate in the microwave for a few seconds to soften it (this will minimise the icing sugar snow storm that’s about to ensue). Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, add the butter and mix with an electric handheld or freestanding mixer until sandy in consistency and your kitchen is coated in a fine layer of icing sugar dust 🙂 

Mix the milk and maple syrup together in a jug and add to the icing sugar mixture gradually, whilst mixing on a slow speed. Once it’s all added, crank up the speed and beat until soft and fluffy!

When you’re satisfied that your cakes are totally cold (don’t jump the gun or your icing will melt), you can assemble your cake. First cut the ‘two thirds’ cake in half. Put the first layer of cake on a plate and spread a layer of about 2 to 3 tablespoons of icing on top of it. I recommend having a glass of boiling water to hand to dip your (palette) knife into, this makes the icing a lot easier to spread! However, make sure you dry your knife after dipping it in the water, you just want it to be warm not wet!

Place your next layer of cake on top of the first one and repeat the process of spreading a layer of icing over it before placing the final layer on top. Pile all of the remaining icing on top of the cake and patiently work it down the edge of the cake so that the whole thing is coated. Use the same method of heating your (palette) knife to get a nice smooth finish. This takes practice so don’t worry if yours looks a bit ‘rustic’ I can guarantee that it’ll taste AMAZING anyway 🙂

To give it a pretty finishing touch decorate the top with the whole pecans that you saved earlier and there you have it…

It’s always nerve-wracking cutting into a cake, especially in front of a gang of hungry ladies…you’re never sure exactly what the inside will look like! Luckily I needn’t have worried, just look at this beauty…

It went down a storm…and proved to be the perfect hangover cure 🙂

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Blinging it up at Cambridge Clandestine Cake Club

Last Saturday I attended my first Clandestine Cake Club in Cambridge. Word of the CCC is spreading like wildfire, especially after it’s founder, Lynn, appeared alongside our very own Miss Sue Flay of Secluded Tea Party fame on the One Show recently. I’d heard about the CCC on the bloggers grapevine before this sudden wave of popularity and was very excited to be able to attend a local event and to meet Lynn. We were set a theme of ‘Spectacular Show Stoppers’, which caused me some sleepless nights! The problem being that, although I’m very proud of the cakes I make, the best (and tastiest) ones don’t look particularly show stopperish! In the end I decided to make a larger version of my good ol’ sticky lime and coconut drizzle cake and then bling it up to the max! It was all a bit of an experiment. I cut some very thin slices of lime, blanched them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then made up some syrup with sugar and water and boiled the lime slices in it for about 30 minutes. Then I laid them out on a wire rack to dry overnight. On Saturday morning, I got up super early to but the finishing bling touches to my cake. I coated the candied lime slices with edible gold glitter…

and then began assembling my creation…

I sprinkled the cake with caster sugar mixed with lime zest and even more edible gold glitter…

and then arranged the gorgeous, glittery lime slices around the edge…

I was pretty darn pleased with the end result…

Behold my sticky lime and coconut, gold, bling, spectacular show stopper…

My friend Lauren, asked on twitter whether I would be wearing a gold medallion to complement my cake…I think she was joking but she gave me an awesome idea and before leaving the house I changed into my lime-iest, gold-iest, bling-iest outfit, to match my cake! :)…

and hot footed it across town to join the rest of the CCC-ers. As usual, I was the first there, eagerly awaiting the commencement of the cake eating festivities. Slowly but surely the cakes arrived and before I know it I was in cake heaven. Just check out these beauties…

There weren’t any duplicates!

Lynn started proceedings by giving a little speech about Clandestine Cake Club. I love the fact that there’s no element of competition, it’s all about getting together and enjoying cake, it’s as simple as that!

I had skipped breakfast so that I’d have even more room for cake but even so only managed 4 slices before slipping into a cake induced coma! I was so impressed with the variety and deliciousness of everyone’s contributions and spent a very enjoyable morning chatting away to cake friends old and new 🙂

Here are a couple more accounts of the event from fellow food bloggers Miss Igs and Helen of Half a Pot of Cream

As the morning started to wind up, we were encouraged to dive in and take some cake home with us…this is the aftermath…

If you love baking and eating cake then the Clandestine Cake Club is most definitely for you. Have a look at their website to find an event in your area or why not start one of your own? Everything you need to know is right here.

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An unashamedly luscious lemon sponge…

The sun well and truly got his hat on this week. Well, for one day only we got a glimpse of the mystical realms of summer! I spent that day in one of my favourite places…the kitchen, whipping up 2 delicious light lemon sponges, drizzled with lemon syrup and sandwiched together with unashamedly lavish amounts of lemon curd buttercream icing…

My recipe is a conglomeration of both this recipe from ‘The Magenta Cakes Blog’ and my old faithful Victoria sponge recipe from Be-ro that I’ve been using since I started baking when I was knee high to a grasshopper (for the record, I don’t think I’ve ever been that short 😉 I then added lemon zest to give the sponge a summery lemon zing. It’s a really easy cake to make and I hope you’ll agree that it looks amazing!?

If you’d like to give it a go you’ll need…

350g unsalted butter

350g golden caster sugar

6 eggs

350g self-raising flour

2 tsp baking powder

Grated zest of 4 lemons

Splash of milk

For the lemon syrup you need…

Juice of 2 lemons

50g caster sugar

For the lemon curd buttercream icing you need…

100g unsalted butter, softened

200g icing sugar

2 tbsp good quality lemon curd

Juice of half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees and grease and line the bases of 2 x 8 inch cake tins.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. I used a handheld electric mixer but you can also use a posh KitchenAid style appliance if you’re lucky enough to have one or just get stuck in with a wooden spoon like they did in the olden days!

Add one egg at a time and with each one add a small amount of sifted flour and baking powder. Mix well after each addition and continue doing this until you’ve added all 6 eggs and all of the flour.

Stir in the lemon zest. At this point you need to use your judgement and if you feel that the cake mixture’s looking a bit thick, add a splash of milk until it’s smooth and of thick dropping consistency.

Divide the mixture between the 2 cake tins as evenly as possibly and pop them in the oven.

Whilst your cakes are cooking you need to whip up your lemon syrup. Simply squeeze the juice from 2 lemons into a bowl and stir in the suagr until it has dissolved. Set aside for later.

Check on your cakes after 30 minutes by inserting a skewer into the centre of them, if it comes out clean it’s ready, if not, pop them back in and check them after another 5 minutes (don’t forget, this part is crucial).

When you’re happy that they’re cooked, remove them from the oven and stand them on a wire rack. Use a skewer to make some holes in the cake and then pour over the lemon syrup. This’ll make the cakes even more moist and delicious…

Leave them to cool completely before removing them from their tins.

Now, you can make the lemon curd buttercream icing by using an electric mixer to beat together the icing sugar and the butter. Then add the lemon curd and finally the lemon juice, which will also make your icing slightly thinner and easier to spread. Give it a final beat until light and fluffy and then dollop it onto the top of one of your cake generously. Stack the other cake on top and finish it off with a dusting of icing sugar. Et voila…

Pure, unashamed, spongy, light, lemony, summery goodness…

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A soda bread recipe for the impatient…

I’m quite obviously addicted to baking, which most commonly takes the form of cakes…large and small and of many different varieties! However, every now and again I have a longing to master the art of bread baking. I think the reason I keep putting it off isn’t the technical aspect but the fact that it takes so damn long! I love the (nearly) instant gratification you get from cake baking…mixing up the cake batter, licking the spoon, popping it in the oven and being rewarded by, first it’s divine sugary aroma, and then, a beautiful freshly baked cake, all within an hour (depending on variety obviously). 

I do however, love bread, especially of the wholemeal, seedy, substantial variety! I decided to end my bread baking evasion and meet it in the middle somewhere by trying my hand at Irish soda bread. It doesn’t use yeast so there’s no hanging around waiting for it to rise but has all of the winning bread characteristics mentioned above.

Without a modicum of modesty, I’m extremely proud to announce that my first soda bread attempt was a victory…

I used Rachel Allen’s ‘Brown Soda Bread’ recipe as a starting point but went a bit off piste with my choice of flours. 

To try it yourself you need…

225g wholemeal flour. I used this seed and grain bread flour and it worked a treat.

225g plain flour

1 tsp salt

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

Rachel suggests adding 50g mixed seeds such as sesame, pumpkin, sunflower or golden linseeds but the beauty of using the seed and grain bread flour was that they’d added those for me already! 🙂

25g butter

1 egg

375-400ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.

Sift the plain flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. There’s not point trying to sift the wholemeal flour as you’re really not going to get very far so just mix it in afterwards.

Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers tips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. 

Beat the egg and buttermilk together in another bowl.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the majority of the liquid ingredients into it. 

Now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get involved…use a hand to bring the flour and liquid together. It’s a messy old process so just embrace it and get stuck in! If it looks a bit dry, add a bit more of the buttermilk mixture. Your aiming for a soft dough that’s not too sticky. Don’t panic, if it IS too sticky, all is not lost, just sprinkle in a tad more flour.

When you’re happy with it, turn your dough onto a floured surface and shape it into a round that’s about 4cm high and cut a deep cross into the top like so…

Place it on a baking tray and pop it into the oven for 15 minutes. Then turn down the heat to 200 degrees and bake for a further 30 minutes. You’ll know when it’s ready because it’ll sound hollow when you tap it on the bottom and it should look a little something like this…

I made myself wait until it had cooled before tucking in but I can confirm that it was definitely worth the wait!…

I think I’ve found the perfect bread recipe for even the most impatient of people, like me. Prepared, cooked and cooled within an hour and a half and…entirely delicious! I already have plans to make another loaf this weekend as an accompaniment to… ‘Jool’s favourite beef stew’ ,a Jamie Oliver special, which my brother’s cooking up as a special Mother’s Day treat for us all! Yum!

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Floaty light marmalade layer cake…

Not another marma-laden blog post I hear you cry! It does seem that I’ve developed a slight marmalade addiction of late. The thing is…I still have a few jars of my homemade amber nectar to get through and delicious sounding marmalade based recipes keep invading my periphery! 

This month, for the ‘Book & Bake’ club that I attend we were reading ‘Case Histories’ by Kate Atkinson and baking something from Dan Lepard’s ‘Short and Sweet’. I’ve already baked quite a few things from his book and am very happy to report that everything has been an absolute success and his marmalade layer cake was no exception…

Now, I’m a little bit nervous about even mentioning Mr Lepard’s name as I know there have been a number of incidents where his publisher has requested that recipes be removed from blogs due to copyright issues. I’m hoping that posting a link to the recipe on the Guardian website is acceptable, so here goes…follow this link and you will find a recipe for the most deliciously light sponge with a marmalade zing. It doesn’t contain any butter just lashings of double cream and involves lots of beating to fill it with air and make it floaty light! To finish it off it’s sandwiched and topped off with swathes of vanilla laden cream! Awesome…

The ‘Book & Bake’ ladies had thrown themselves into the task at hand and excelled. Just look at that spread… 

Out of sheer luck we managed not to have any duplicates. From ‘Short & Sweet’ there was cherry beet cake, marbled chocolate crumb cake, alchemist’s chocolate cake (yes, it was as crazy as it sounds), banana blondies, dark chocolate chunk cookies and raspberry ripple tarts. We even had sweet potato brownie’s, malt whisky ginger cake and lemon curd cookies from Dan’s column in the Guardian. And of course there was my marmalade layer cake…

I took one for the team and, for experimental purposes only you understand, made sure I tried a bit of everything :)…

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Rhubarb & apple crumble with walnut topping…

On Friday afternoon I saw this tweet for help from FoodCycle Cambridge

We’ve 2 slots free on our cooking rota for tomorrow, no experience needed, 9.30am-12.30 at the Centre@StPauls. Get in touch if interested!

and bearing in mind what a great time I’d had last time (blogged here) I jumped at the chance to help out! After team introductions we were shown the booty of surplus food that had been collected and the menu was revealed…

Last time I had been too scared to volunteer to be on dessert duty because, although I love baking, I was nervous about scaling it up to the size needed to feed 30 odd hungry people! However, this time I decided to face my fears head on! We were in real luck with the donation of (surplus/waste) food, we had a huge pile of rhubarb…

some cooking apples and some oat and raisin cereal bars so decided to, with the aid of a few staple ingredients like butter and flour, make 2 giant trays of rhubarb and apple crumble based on this recipe on the Good Food website.

We sliced the rhubarb into approximate 4cm sections and cooked it in a saucepan on the hob with some sugar for about 15 minutes…

By which time it was really juicy…

We sliced the cooking apples and mixed them in. We didn’t pre-cook them in the hope that once the crumble had been baked in the oven they would still retain a bit of bite instead of turning to mush.

To make the topping we rubbed the butter into plain flour until our hands ached but it had the texture of breadcrumbs! Then we added the sugar (dark brown and granulated), some ground almonds, chopped walnuts for added crunch and the broken up donated cereal bars…

We poured this over the trays of fruits and popped them into the oven to bake…

The kitchen was a hive of activity as the team created the rest of the meal…

We used the rest of our time to get on with our side dessert of raspberry and orange fruit salad, which was made purely from donated food…

It was simply the segmented sections and juice from 5 oranges, a few punnets of ripe raspberries and some chopped fresh mint. The result was deliciously refreshing and the perfect, juicy accompaniment to the crumble. 

The frittata looked and smelled amazing especially once it was topped with gorgeous, bubbling melted cheese…

and was served up with new potatoes, roasted red peppers and tomatoes and green beans sautéed with garlic…

I watched the crumbles like a hawk but despite the slight unpredictability of the ovens, they turned out beautifully golden brown and bubbling around the edges…

They were slightly top heavy, which suited me perfectly as a complete crumble topping fiend 🙂

But without further ado, here’s the finished article, my rhubarb and apple crumble with walnut topping served with raspberry, orange and mint salad…

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Chocolate, marmalade & hazelnut cake…serious chocoholics venture forth!

Due to my recent Seville orange marmalade escapades (blogged here) I have 10 jars of the wonder stuff sitting, looking up at me from my bedroom floor (maybe not the standard place for marmalade storage but let’s face it, not many people are lucky enough to have a larder like Nigella’s!). They serve as a constant reminder that there’s so much baking I’d like to be doing but, frustratingly, not enough hours in the day to do it!

I treated myself to a relaxing Saturday morning holed up in bed, under the duvet, perusing cook books and deciding what was next on my baking agenda. I eventually settled for a chocolate, marmalade and hazelnut cake from Rachel Allen’s ‘Bake’ book…

It appealed to me because, not only would I be able to use my yummy marmalade but also for that fact that it’s a flourless cake, which is something I’ve not really experimented with before. Little did I know that it’d turn out to be the gooey-est, squidgy-est, richest and most intensely delicious cake ever! The kind of cake that shakes awake your taste buds, gives you a head rush and sends you into a food coma simultaneously! If you think you’re hard enough to give it a go you’ll need…

175g butter

175g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

5 eggs, separated

175g caster sugar

150g hazelnuts (with skins on) ground up in a food processor. I used a handheld stick blender, it was a bit messy but got the job done.

200g marmalade

Zest of 1 orange, grated finely

For the topping you’ll need…

75g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

75ml double cream

Zest of 1 orange, grated finely

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and grease and line an 8 or 9 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together with a handheld electric beater or some muscle power and a good old fashioned whisk until they’re light and have a mousse-like consistency.

Once the chocolate and butter have totally melted, add in the ground hazelnuts, marmalade and orange zest and stir well.

The final component of the cake mixture is the egg whites. Whisk them until they form stiff peaks. You need to make sure there is no yolk in with your whites and that the bowl you use is spotlessly clean or they’ll never reach the right consistency.

Now to put everything together…fold the egg yolk and sugar mixture into the chocolate and hazelnut gloop until well combined. Then, in 3 batches, add the egg whites, folding them into the mixture very gently so as to retain as much of their light, fluffy, airiness as possible. 

Pour the finished cake mixture into the prepared cake tin and cook in the oven for 20 minutes, before turning the temperature down to 170 degrees and cooking for another 35-40 minutes. I tested mine at 35 minutes by inserting a skewer into the middle of the cake and seeing whether it came out clean…it didn’t, so I popped it back in for another 5 minutes and repeated this process at 5 minute intervals until the skewer came out clean and I was satisfied that it was ready..

Leave the cake to cool for a few minutes in the tin before removing it and letting it cool completely on a wire rack.

When it’s cool, it’s ready for icing. Melt the chocolate, cream and orange zest in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. As before, be very careful that the bowl isn’t actually touching the water.

Something went a bit awry for me at this stage…my icing was very thick! The recipe told you to put the cake on a serving place and to pour the icing over, letting it drip down the sides. My icing, however, was far from pouring consistency! A taste test told me that although it didn’t look quite right, it tasted amazing, so I decided to make the best of a bad situation and used a pallette knife to coat the top of my cake with what was in essence, thick, chocolate ganache…

I couldn’t wait the recommended 30 minutes to 1 hour for it to set and instead, put the kettle on, made a cuppa and got stuck in…

My eyes were bigger than my stomach and the flavours so amazingly intense that I savoured it very slowly and had to pause for a rest midway. It’s most definitely not a cake for the lily-livered…only serious chocoholics should venture forth!

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