Saturday 8 February 2014

Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake

The theme of the next Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club meet is "Beautiful Bundts" so I thought I would dust off my ring mould tin (technically it's only a Bundt tin if it's made by the kitchenware company Nordic Ware) and try out one or two recipes.

I found this particular recipe in The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. This book has had mixed reviews due to the reliability of some of the recipes (the Brooklyn Blackout Cake in particular) but so far, touch wood, I've had no problems. This recipe certainly didn't cause me any problems, in fact it was very straightforward and the resulting cake is truly delicious.

This is basically a lemon drizzle cake so you kind of know what to expect but I've never made one with poppy seeds before and I liked the tiny hint of crunch they added. This recipe also just uses egg whites, beaten until stiff, rather than whole eggs, which added an extra lightness to the texture of the cake. Lemon syrup is always a great addition to this sort of cake (although next time I'll poke more holes in the cake so it soaks in a bit more) and the lemon icing provides the perfect sweet-citrussy finish.

Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

85g/3oz unsalted butter at room temperature
245g/9oz caster sugar
grated zest of 1 1/2 unwaxed lemons
15g poppy seeds plus extra for decorating
165ml whole milk (I used semi-skimmed with no obvious side effects)
235g/8 1/4oz plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites

Lemon Syrup
freshly squeezed juice and zest of 1 lemon
50g caster sugar

Lemon Glaze
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
250g/9oz icing sugar, sifted

1) Preheat the oven to 170c/325f/gas 3. Grease a 24cm ring mould and dust with flour, knocking out any excess over the sink.

2) Put the butter, sugar, lemon zest and poppy seeds in a bowl and beat together with an electric mixer or freestanding mixer until well incorporated. Slowly add the milk until mixed in (don't worry if the mixture looks like it has split).

3) Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and then gradually add it to the butter mixture. Beat well until the mixture is light and fluffy.

4) In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff then, using a metal spoon, fold them carefully into the cake mix. Pour into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when touched and a cake tester comes out clean.

5) While the cake is baking, put the lemon juice and zest for the syrup into a small saucepan with the caster sugar and 100ml water, and bring to the boil over a low heat. Raise the heat and boil until it has reduced by half or has a thin syrup consistency. When the cake comes out of the oven pour the syrup over the top. Leave to cool for about 10 minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool.

6) Make the lemon glaze by mixing the lemon juice and icing sugar together until smooth. It should be thick but spreadable. Add a little more water or icing sugar if necessary. When the cake is cold place it on a cake stand and decorate it with the icing and poppy seeds.

Makes 12-16 slices

Monday 3 February 2014

Nigella's Chocolate Cheesecake

This is another of those can't-believe-I-haven't-written-about-it-before recipes as it's such a favourite of mine. Like so many of my most used recipes I love it because it's so simple to make and also completely heavenly to eat. Also, as with many cheesecakes, you need to prepare it in advance the day before to give it time to set, which makes it a perfect dinner party dessert.

Very little effort is required to put it together. Yes, you need to wrap the tin in cling film and foil and bake it in a waterbath which sounds like a bit of a faff, but as you will be doing this a day before you need it all the hard work is done in advance. The result is rich and creamy but, thanks to the cream cheese, not overly sweet. The chocolate sauce made to serve with it is a great addition and looks good drizzled over the top before serving. This needs to be made just before you need it but if you have the ingredients ready it only take a few minutes.

You can find the recipe on Nigella's website here. Don't wait too long to try it!