Monday, 30 November 2015

A Parcel of Christmas Goodies from DotComGiftShop

A few weeks ago I was delighted to find out that I had been included in DotComGiftShop's list of 25 Brilliant Baking Blogs. It's always lovely to hear that my blog has been noticed, especially as I haven't had the chance to add to it as much as I'd like recently.

Then, few days later, I received another email offering me one of their lovely recipe tins and a £30 voucher to spend on their website!

First to arrive was the recipe tin which is ideal for storing all of those random recipes you accumulate over the years and would make a lovely gift for someone. Or I might just keep it for myself!

After much deliberation I eventually managed to choose some goodies from the website. It was a tough decision though as there are so many lovely things to choose from, including some real bargains in the sale section. In the end I stuck to a seasonal theme and choose a lovely selection of things to help get the Christmas season off to a good start.

I chose...

A cute gingham print tea tray
A box of Christmas lights that will look perfect over the fireplace
A roll of red and white twine that will save us from untangling (again) the years-old card-hanging string we've put up with for years
A reel of ribbon to decorate the Christmas cake
A fold-out decoration
A mistletoe heart decoration
Two packs of gift labels
Two colourful pens for E&T's stockings (not in the photo)
And finally, a pack of paper chains to decorate the house with

A great selection I'm sure you'll agree. I should also mention that the parcel came well wrapped and was delivered promptly, less than an a week after I placed the order.

A big thanks to DotComGiftShop for the voucher. I'm really pleased with my Christmassy parcel and I'm sure I'll be visiting the website again in the future.

Disclaimer: I was kindly sent the recipe tin and voucher as a gift from DotComGiftShop and wasn't under any obligation to write about what I received.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Nigella's Not-Just-For-Vegans Vegan Chocolate Cake

In a recent episode of her new series Nigella shared a recipe for her "Dark and Sumptuous Chocolate Cake" that she says "might just be one of the best chocolate cakes you have ever eaten". There's a challenge if ever there was one. Better than her Chocolate Marmalade Cake? Better than a Chocolate Guinness Cake? And vegan?? Hmmm.

I'm always up for a challenge though when it comes to sampling chocolate cakes so, for the benefit of anyone who happens to read this, I thought I'd give it a try.

Vegan, of course, means no butter and no eggs (or any other animal product of course). Instead the recipe calls for coconut oil and coconut butter. Luckily I already had some coconut oil and managed to find coconut butter in my local Holland and Barrett. Beware though, this stuff is not cheap. A 250g jar is over £7 but luckily I had a 20% of voucher to soften the blow a little. Add to that 150g of dark chocolate and you have a pretty costly cake.

So was it worth it?

In short, yes! Seriously, this is a pretty amazing cake. The cake itself is dark and moist but still light with just the vaguest hint of coconut in the background (but don't let that put you off if you're not a fan). Ultimately though, this cake is all about the icing. Obviously the fact that it contains 150g of dark chocolate is a big help and this, combined with coconut butter, sugar and instant espresso power, made for something pretty special. Overall it has a very dark, rich chocolatey flavour so if you like your chocolate cakes more on the sweet side then this may not be for you but it was a big winner for me.

You can find the recipe on Nigella's website here.

For the record...

* The expensive coconut oil and butter can be substituted for 90ml of any vegetable oil and regular butter or margarine.
* I was concerned that my cake tin wouldn't be watertight enough for the running mix so decided to line it with foil before greasing and lining the base with parchment. This worked just fine.
* It took around 15 minutes longer than the recommended time for mine to cook through to the centre.
*My icing was not very runny by the time the cake was cool enough but it was still spreadable so didn't cause me any problems.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Lorraine Pascal's Twister Bread

I came across this recipe in Lorraine Pascal's book. I was planning to make the Broccoli and Stilton soup from the same book and this bread looked it would make the ideal companion.

Making bread can be very rewarding and I find that, if I follow the instructions, I generally end up with something pretty reasonable. Even a less-than-perfect, slightly-too-dense loaf tastes pretty good warm from the oven and slathered with butter.

I was really pleased with the way this one turned out though. I particularly liked this recipe as it only needs one rise and that only took around 30 minutes so you don't have to wait hours for the final result or spend too much time going to and from the kitchen to see how things are going. The end result looked quite impressive and tasted lovely. It went really well with the soup too.

You can find the recipe on the BBC website here.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Clandestine Cake Club - Saturday 17th October 2015

This month the Bury St Edmunds branch of the Clandestine Cake Club returned to a previous venue - the Six Bells in Horringer, just a short drive south of the town centre.

The Six Bells is a lovely spot for lunch or dinner and are always very welcoming to us. This time we had a lovely big table in the conservatory at the rear of the restaurant which was a perfect spot for us and our cakes.

This time our meeting was a little bit different as we were celebrating the release of the second CCC book, A Year of Cake, so in addition to our usual cake sharing activities we also had a bit of party-style fun with some extra decorations and games.

The publishers of the book, Quercus, kindly sent me a bag full of goodies so we were able to decorate the room with bunting and balloons, plus we had some CCC paper plates and napkins for our cakes.

I also organised a couple of games (with one lucky person winning a copy of A Year of Cake!)...

...and everyone brought along a small prize for the lucky dip!

And then, of course, we had lots of cake!

Kate's Apple & Blackberry Harvest Cake

Rene's Apple & Cinnamon Cake

Helen F's Caramel Pecan Brittle Swiss Roll

Anne's Chocolate Orange Halloween Cake

Anne's granddaughter Gracie's Battenberg Cake

Mel's Chocolate Surprise Cake (We all tried and failed to guess the surprise ingredient. Mel eventually revealed that it was made with a can of tomato soup! It made for a delicious and incredibly moist cake)

Amy's Zesty Lemon Celebration Cake

My Opera Cake (from A Year of Cake)

Thanks again to the Six Bells for letting us use their space again. For details of Clandestine Cake Club events near you have a look here.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Cinnamon Swirl Sour Cream Cake

This is one of those cakes that I tend to put in the category "plain cakes" which sounds a bit negative and unexciting but really isn't. It's just one of those simple cakes that are very easy to put together but even easier to eat. No layers, no icing, no decoration, just a straightforward one-tin bake.

I found the recipe when searching for inspiration for some leftover sour cream and discovered it in one of my Books for Cooks recipe books (compilations of recipes from the shop of the same name).

The cake itself is just a plain sponge, although sour cream is added to the usual ingredients, but the cake is well and truly brought to life by the layers of chocolatey, cinnamony nuts and raisins in the middle. No one flavour stands out; instead you have a lovely hint of the various ingredients mixed up in the slightly crunchy, slightly chewy layers. This is the sort of cake that is as perfect after dinner with ice cream as it is as an afternoon treat. P, who isn't keen on anything too sweet, really liked this one.

Cinnamon Swirl Sour Cream Cake
(adapted from Books for Cooks Favourite Recipes 7, 8 & 9)

For the mix
100g/3 1/2 oz walnuts or pecans
4 tbsp raisins
1tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
175g/6oz dark brown sugar

For the cake
250g/8oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
125g/4oz butter, softened
225g/7 1/2 oz caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
250ml/8 fl oz sour cream

1) Heat the oven to 180c/350f. Grease and line a 24cm/9 inch cake tin.

2) To make the spice mix, put the nuts and raisins in a blender and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cinnamon, cocoa and sugar.

3) Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour with each one.

4) Add one third of the flour to the mix and fold in then add and fold in one third of the sour cream. Alternate with the remaining ingredients until all mixed in.

5) Spread one third of the cake mix over the bottom of the cake tin then sprinkle with half the spice mix. Carefully add another third of the cake mix by dropping spoonfuls over the spice mix and carefully spreading it with the back of a spoon. Repeat with the remaining cake and spice mix, ending with a later of cake. Rap the tin on a hard surface a few times to remove any air bubbles.

6) Bake for 1 hour or until the cake has begun to come away from the sides of the tin and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool for 15 minutes before turning out.

Serves 8

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club - Saturday 25th July

This month we returned to The Cadogan Arms in Ingham, just outside Bury St Edmunds, for our July Clandestine Cake Club meet. As ever it was a great venue for us and the staff were very helpful and welcoming.

Our theme this month was "A Taste of Summer" and we had some really delicious cakes to share...

Hannah's Strawberry Sponge Cake

Sophie's Lemon Meringue Cake

Amy's Honey Cake

Kate's Pimms Cake

Sara's Persian Love Cake

Trish's Lemon Layer Cake

Rene's White Chocolate & Raspberry Cake

My Dark & Stormy Cake

Thanks again to The Cadogan for for being such great hosts. For details of events near you have a look at the website here.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club - Saturday 6th June

This month the Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club returned to the cosy surroundings of Oakes Barn in the centre of town. Their function room tucked away upstairs under the eves is the perfect setting for us.

This month the theme was Nigella vs Mary vs Delia with members invited to bring any cake by one of those three national baking treasures. Each of them were represented in our selection of cakes but in the end Mary was the winner with four of her cakes on the table, closely followed by Nigella with three and Delia coming in last with just one.

Here's what we had to share...

Sophie - Nigella's Honey Cake

Chrissi - Mary Berry's Chocolate/Orange Cake

Lynda - Mary Berry's Tiramisu Cake

Kate - Mary Berry's Coffee & Vanilla Layer Cake

Megan - Mary Berry's Sacher Torte

Sara - Delia's Iced Lemon Layer Cake

Katherine - Nigella's Lemon Syrup Loaf Cake

Me - Nigella's Chocolate Malteser Cake

Thanks again to the staff at Oakes Barn for being so helpful and welcoming. For details of upcoming events have a look at the website here.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Clandestine Cake Club - Saturday 18th April 2015

A couple of weeks ago the Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club returned to a great venue just a short distance from the centre of town. The Six Bells can be found in Horringer, just a short distance from the gates of Ickworth Park and is a fantastic place for lunch or dinner (their £10 lunch offer is an absolute bargain considering the quality of the food).

This visit was all about cake though and as well as the venue, I'd kept the theme a secret until just a few days before the event. This time, members were asked to bake a cake using just ingredients they had in their cupboards, so no choosing a recipe and then stocking up like usual! I made sure I kept to the brief as well and it was actually quite fun digging around in the cupboards and then searching for a recipe that fitted the bill.

There was just a small group of us this time but everyone did very well and we had a lovely selection of cakes to choose from...

Chrissi's Apple Crumble Cake

Hannah & Ian's Banana Loaf Cake

Sophie's Lime and Coconut Cake

My Ginger Syrup Cake

And finally, Trish's lovely Banana Caramel Cake which, even though there were only five cakes, I somehow managed not to get a photo of! Sorry Trish!

Thanks again to the Six Bells for being such great hosts as always.

If you like to find out about the next Clandestine Cake Club event in your area then take a look here.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Clandestine Cake Club - Saturday 7th March 2015

This month we returned to a favourite venue of the Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club, The Old Cannon Brewery which you can find tucked away down a side street in the centre of town. As before, their snug at the rear of the restaurant was a perfect spot for us.

Our theme this month was "Cakes around the World" and, as always, we had a fabulous selection to choose from...

Lynda's Amaretto Cream Cake

Rene's German Bienenstich  "Bee Sting Cake", a dense, sticky cake made with almonds and lots of honey.

Christina's Piernik Cake from Poland

I've again managed to miss one of our cakes when taking photos. This particular one was a delicious cake flavoured with spices and honey, sandwiched together with plum jam and covered in chocolate. Lovely!

Sophie's Boston Cream Pie

Kate's Grapefruit & Poppy Seed Cake

Amelia's Cookies & Cream Cake

My German Friendship Cake made with apples and raisins

Chrissie's beautiful French Entremet (pronounced on-tre-may), made with layers of chocolate cake, mousse and pears.

Trish's Lime & Coconut Cake

Thanks again to the The Old Cannon Brewery. For more details of upcoming Clandestine Cake Club events have a look here.