Cider and Spice Cake

I've had a very nice French lady staying with me . She came with a party from our twin town in France. I bought some wine and a nice bottle of cider, only to discover she didn't drink any alcohol! So I decided to use some of the cider in a cake.

A nice easy cake to make; am not sure where I found the recipe as it was scribbled on a piece of paper.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                Grease a 20cm square cake tin.

Cream 125g butter and 125g caster sugar together till nice and fluffy. Mix together 225g sr flour, 1 tspn bicarb and 1 tspn mixed spice.
Fold half of the flour mixture into the batter then add 200ml cider and mix well.
Stir in the rest of the flour and pour batter into the tin.
Bake for about 35-40 mins.
Cool the cake in the tin then sprinkle some caster sugar mixed with a little more mixed spice over the top.

It's a nice moist cake with a soft texture. The cider flavour comes through well and the spice was a nice background flavour. Adding the spice to the sugar topping gave an extra spicy boost to the cake. 

You could used other spices - whichever you like best, and you could add cubed apple to the cake.

A tasty, easy, teatime treat.


Strawberry, Ricotta and Mascarpone Tart

The friend I've mentioned before on here, who owns a tea shop, came over at the weekend and brought me some strawberries grown locally. I wanted to make a tart with some of them, so found a French recipe in a folder for this one.

The pastry is 'une pâte sablée', a rich sweetened shortcrust, but it's made in a processor or mixer. The filling is just a mixture of mascarpone, ricotta and icing sugar and the whole is topped with sliced strawberries.

For the pastry - 1 egg, 200g flour, 125g butter, 75g caster sugar, 50g ground almonds, 1 tspn almond essence [opt], pinch salt.

For the cream - 250g each of mascarpone and ricotta and 100g icing sugar

Topping - punnet of strawberries, sliced

Preheat oven 200c/gas6          You need a 23cm tart tin

Put all the ingredients for the pastry in a blender and mix till blended. Bring together into a ball, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Mix the cheeses and icing sugar together in a bowl.

Take pastry out of fridge and roll out to fit the tart tin. Bake for 20 mins till light golden colour.

When cold, spoon the cream into the pastry case and decorate with the strawberries.

Photography by my daughter!
It was a delicious ending to a family meal. The filling wasn't too sweet and had a lovely soft texture. The slightly sweet pastry was crisp and contrasted well with the filling, and the strawberries were delicious, really tasting like strawberries. A nice simple but delicious dessert.


Caramel Chocolate Cake

I always seem to find something I need to use up in my store cupboard, and this time it was a tin of Carnation Caramel just coming to its 'use by' date.
I love anything caramel, so decided to use it as a filling and topping for a cake. I know it's very sweet, but I took it to a coffee morning to share the sweetness!

It uses oil instead of butter, so perhaps that makes it a bit healthier!

For the cake:

Preheat oven 180C/gas4               Grease and base line 2x18cm sandwich tins.

Sieve together 175g sr flour, 21/2 tbspn cocoa powder and 1 tspn bicarb. Stir in 150g caster sugar.
In a jug  - put 150ml vegetable oil [I used sunflower] and 150ml milk, 2 eggs and 1 tspn vanilla extract and beat together.
Beat 2 tbspn of the caramel till smooth and add to the egg mixture. Add the wet mixture to the dry and mix well. [It's a wet mixture]
Pour into the tins and bake for 20-25mins till risen and firm. Cool the cakes in the tin, then turn onto a wire rack.

For the icing:

Melt 125g dark chocolate [I used 70%] in a microwave or over simmering water. Add the rest of the tin of caramel and 1 tspn vanilla extract and beat together till smooth. Add 1 tbspn sieved icing sugar and mix together.

Put one of the cakes on a plate and spread half of the icing on top. Add the second cake and cover the top with the rest of the icing. Leave to set.

I sprinkled a bit more icing sugar on the top. The cake has a lovely soft, moist texture and is a good contrast to the smooth caramel filling. Yes the filling is sweet, but the dark chocolate counteracts some of the sweetness and gives it a lovely flavour. A nice treat with a cuppa.


Maple, Parsnip and Apple Cake

I love carrot cake, and the other day I was out with a friend and spotted another vegetable cake, this time with parsnip in it, so I wanted to make one.
I have a friend who has a lovely little tea room, and she gave me this recipe - it's very popular in her shop.

For the cake you need - 175g butter or margarine, 200g demerara sugar, 100ml maple syrup, 3 eggs, 250g sr flour and 2 tspn baking powder, 2 tspn mixed spice, 250g parsnip, peeled and grated,1 medium eating apple, grated, zest and juice of an orange, icing sugar to dust the top.

Preheat oven 180C                     Grease and line the bottoms of 2 x 20cm sandwich tins.

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup gently in a pan. Allow to cool a bit then beat in the eggs. Stir in the flour and baking powder and the spice.
Add the parsnip, apple and orange. Pour into the tins and bake for 25-30 mins.
Cook in tins for 5 mins then take cakes out and cool on a wire rack.
Sandwich the cakes together with a vanilla butter cream or mascarpone or even whipped double cream, and dust the top with icing sugar.

For the vanilla butter cream you need 125g butter, 250g sieved icing sugar, about 2 tspn milk and 1 tspn vanilla extract. Beat the butter and icing sugar till creamy - add a little milk to help, then add 1 tspn vanilla extract and beat in.
Put one of the cakes on a cake plate then spread the butter cream on top. Add the second cake and dust with icing sugar.

 You couldn't tell that there was any parsnip in it, just an flavour of something elusive. It has a light texture and is moist with a nice spicy note. A good edition to a cake repertoire. Maple syrup is quite pricey, so you could use golden syrup instead.


Mini Chocolate and Ginger Puddings

I recently bought a set of 4 mini pudding basins, so had to try them out. I love the combination of chocolate and ginger so decided these flavours would be in my little sponge puddings.
The only drawback to these puds is that they need to be steamed.
Maybe you could do them in the microwave? Have made a large sponge pudding in my microwave, so perhaps these little ones would work too?

Lightly grease 4 small pudding basins [ I got mine from Lakeland].

Put 100g soft margarine or butter, 100g sr flour, 100g caster sugar, 25g cocoa powder and 2 eggs in a bowl and beat together. Chop up 25g dark chocolate and 50g stem ginger and add to the batter.
Spoon between the 4 basins  up to 3/4 full. Cover the top with circles of parchment paper then a pleated piece of foil.
Steam for about 45 mins till puddings are springy and cooked.

To serve with them  - chocolate custard.

Beat 2 egg yolks with 1 tbspn caster sugar and 1 tbspn cornflour to make a nice smooth paste.
Heat 300ml of milk in a pan till boiling, then pour it over the egg mixture. Pour back into the pan and cook over a low heat till it thickens.Take pan off the heat and add 100g dark chocolate broken into small pieces. Stir till chocolate melts.

Run a knife round the inside of the tops of the basins then tip out the puddings onto plates. Spoon some of the chocolate over the top and serve what's left in a jug.

I loved the little bits of stem ginger in the soft cakey pudding - gave it a bit of a zing - and the chocolate pieces hadn't quite melted.  The sponge had a soft texture and contrasted well with the lovely chocolate custard. A nice treat!


Apple Custard Cake - French Style

We all know we can't have enough apple recipes, and my lovely French friend G sent me this one to try. She loves finding new recipes, and often uses ingredients from other countries, including the UK, which she finds in her local Carrefour.
I haven't made any kind of apple custard cake before, so it was just right to make for my family coming on Saturday. I've adapted the recipe as there wasn't a mention of what size tin to use; there rarely is in French recipes, simply says 'moule à manqué', a deep cake tin! G didn't say what apples she used, but I used Bramleys, as I didn't want the cake to be too sweet. She must have got the custard powder at the supermarket [but I always take of tin of it with me when I visit her, together with tea, marmalade and Marmite!]

Preheat oven 180C/gas4               Grease a 20cm springform tin and line base with baking paper

Make the custard for the cake first - mix together 2tbspn custard powder and 55g of caster sugar in a pan then slowly add 250ml of milk, whisking it in then slowly bring to the boil. Stir it over a medium heat till it thickens. Take it off the heat and add 20g butter and 2 tspn vanilla extract. Pour into a bowl and cover with some clingfilm and leave to cool.

Mix 40g custard powder together with 185g plain flour and 2 tspn baking powder. In another bowl beat together 200g butter and 110g caster sugar till nice and fluffy. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, then add the flour mixture, 1 tspn vanilla extract and 1-2 tbspn milk.
Peel core and thinly slice 3-4 medium Bramleys.
Spoon half of the cake batter into the tin and spread the cooled custard over the top. Drop the rest of the batter over the top in spoonfuls, and smooth gently to completely cover the custard. A little spatula is useful to do this.
Put the apple slices over the top of the batter, and sprinkle some cinnamon and demerara sugar over the top.
Bake for about 50 mins.

A very different sort of apple cake. The texture of the main part is very smooth and custardy, then the slightly solid apples with a hint of cinnamon. The top has a crunch from the sugar which contrasts nicely with the other textures. Using the Bramleys it wasn't too sweet. It's a nice tea cake or a good dessert, maybe with s scoop of vanilla ice cream or a spoonful of crème fraîche.
Slice the apples thinly or they might not be completely cooked.


A Duo of Muffins for Easter

As I have already decided to make the chocolate cake in my last post for Easter,  I thought I'd make some small cakes for my grandchildren. They love muffins and they came to visit yesterday so we made them together.
The first one we made was topped with buttercream and my favourite  Cadbury's mini eggs, but the second batch was a great favourite of my 2 older grandsons - Crunchy Peanut Butter muffins.
I always use oil when making muffins - don't think it is really any healthier, but it sounds better than using butter.

For the Easter Muffins:

Preheat oven 200C/gas6           Grease a 12 hole muffin tin or use 12 paper cases.

Sift together 225g plain flour, 55g cocoa powder, 1 tbspn baking powder and a pinch of salt. Stir in 115g soft brown sugar.
Lightly beat 2 eggs in a jug then beat in 250g buttermilk and 6 tbspn sunflower oil.
Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and carefully stir in the wet ones. Mix till just combined - be careful not to over mix or your muffins will be hard.
Spoon the batter into tin - I use an ice cream scoop.
Bake for about 20 mins till risen and firm. Cool on a wire rack.
For the topping :
Put 85g soft butter in a large bowl and beat till fluffy; then sift in 175g icing sugar and beat together, then adding 1 tbspn milk .
Put spoonfuls on top of each muffin and swirl round, or you could use a piping bag with a large star-shaped nozzle to pipe the cream on. I did the one in the photo with a nozzle, but the boys just swirled with a fork to their hearts' content!
Decorate with a few of the mini eggs.

For the Peanut Butter muffins:

Same oven temp. and tin as for the Easter muffins.

Make the topping first - finely chop 50g unsalted roasted peanuts and add them to 40g demerara sugar; mix together.

Sift together 280g plain flour, 1 tbspn baking powder and a pinch of salt. Stir in 115g soft brown sugar.
Beat 2 eggs in a large jug then beat in 175ml milk, 6 tbspn sunflower oil and 175g crunchy peanut butter.
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients. Mix together carefully till combined, but don't over mix.
Spoon into the tin and sprinkle the topping mixture over each one. bake for about 20 mins till golden.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Good crumb on the chocolate ones - firm and moist. Love the contrast between the cake mixture, the soft creamy icing and the hard crispy egg.
Am a great lover of peanut butter so these were also my favourite. The cake mixture is soft and moist with a lovely peanut flavour. It contrasts so well with the crunchy peanut topping.