Eating Disciples

I have been eating disciples this week. Following the traditional method of making and decorating a simnel cake has meant that I had 11 marzipan balls on top of mine (the marzipan balls on top of the cake are meant to represent the 11 disciples of Christ, excluding Judas). I might go for 12 next time. It’s easier to spread them out on top, you get more marzipan and there’s less arguing over the last piece. Rules are there to be broken right? Eating the cake BEFORE Easter was also a rule that I broke this time. Oh well.

THE RECIPE

(Note: the recipe says is cuts into 12 slices. If you’re going to put 11 disciples on it, then I would suggest cutting into 11 slices. Don’t chop up the disciples – it just gets messy.)

175g butter
175g light muscovado sugar
175g self-raising flour
175g sultanas
90g currants
90g glace cherries
30g candied peel
Grated zest 1 lemon
1tsp ground mixed spice

For the filling and decoration:
500g marzipan
2bsp apricot jam (or my mum’s homemade marmalade)
1 egg white

Roll out one third of the marzipan. Using the base of rouy cake tin as a guide (an 18cm round loose-bottomed tin is best), cut out an 18cm round. Grease the cake tin and line with greaseproof paper.

Combine all the cake ingredients and beat until thoroughly blended. Spoon half of the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Top with the round of marzipan.

Spoon the remaining mixture on top and level the surface.

Bake in a preheated oven at 150C/gas mark 2 for 2 1/4 hours or until golden brown and firm to the touch. As ever, don’t leave too long. I think a bit of bounce in the middle of the cake is ok, as mine came out a bit overdone round the edges when I left it till firm all over.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes, remove from the tin and then leave to cool completely. Brush the top of the cake with the jam/marmalade.

To decorate, roll out half of the remaining marzipan and cut out an 18cm round. Put on top of the jam and crimp the edges. Roll the remaining marzipan into 11 even-sized balls. Place around the edge of the cake, attaching them with egg white.

Brush the tops of the balls and the almond paste with egg white. Place under a hot grill for 1-2 minutes until the balls are golden. Et voila! Grilled disciples on fruit cake.

Advertisements

Healthy Homemade Flapjacks

I have been eating too many creme eggs and Easter eggs this week. I have therefore tried to abort this unhealthy regime by making another batch of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s honey and peanut booster bars. Not only are these healthier than Creme eggs, but they are fairly packed with carbs, which is handy as I’m running a marathon next weekend and need all the carbs that I can get! Plus even my mum asked me for the recipe for them, so they must be good!

Oaty, fruity, seedy goodness!

Very easy to make and very tasty. An easy competitor to Pret a Manger’s love bars I would say. And, of course, all the better for being homemade.

THE RECIPE

125g unsalted butter
1506 soft brown sugar
125g crunchy peanut butter
75g honey
Grated zest 1 lemon
Grated zest 1 orange
200g porridge oats
150g dried fruit, such as sultanas, raisins, apricots
150g mixed seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower, poppy, linseed

Grease and line a baking tin, about 20cm square.

Put the butter, sugar, peanut butter, honey and citrus zests into a deep saucepan over a very low heat. Leave until melted, stirring from time to time.

Stir the oats, dried fruit and most of the seeds into the melted mixture until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture out evenly into the baking tin. Sprinkle the remaining seeds on top, plus a drizzle of honey.

Place in a preheated oven (160C/gas mark 3) for about 30 minutes, until golden in the centre and golden brown at the edges. Be careful not to leave it too long. Golden brown edges, not black.

Leave to cool completely in the tin. Be patient – it cuts much better when cold and easily falls apart when warm. Turn out and cut out into squares with a sharp knife. Eat when an energy boost is required.

I like bees and Honey Wholemeal Cake

This recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book ‘River Cottage Everyday‘ feels kind of healthy. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that it uses wholemeal flour. Or the fact that there’s lots of honey in it, which is of course a sweet tasting but natural ingredient that I think, in the realms of cake baking, should be classed as healthy-ish at least. Also, as Hugh himself has said, it’s one of the few things that will actually help get rid of a cough – so a good winter recipe.

Honey’s been around forever – well since there were bees (and birds) anyway. But the bee population is now declining. I really hope that we can stop this, not only so I can still have my honey, but also because I like bees. Plus their role in the pollination process is actually pretty crucial for us having any crop production at all, so not only would I not have any honey for this cake if there were no bees, but also most of the other ingredients would be lacking too. Maybe I would still have baking powder – but I don’t fancy eating that neat.

Anyway, back to the cake. Not only is honey good at getting rid of coughs. It is also hygroscopic, which means that it pulls moisture towards it. And therefore, this is a lovely moist cake with lots of honey flavours. I’ve found it works pretty well with a few raspberries and some cream drizzled on top. And it’s also very easy to make.  So healthy it may not be, but it might subdue that cough/cold, and whilst your eating it – give a thought to those bees…

THE RECIPE

350g unsalted butter, softened
265g unrefined caster sugar
4 organic eggs
150g ground almonds
150g wholemeal self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g flaked almonds
3-4 tbsp runny honey

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/ gas mark 3. Grease a 24cm diameter, springform cake tin with a little of the butter and line the base with baking parchment.

Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl, and cream them together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the ground almonds, then sift in the flour and baking powder and gently fold these in, too.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, scatter the flaked almonds over the top, and bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife pushed into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and, while it’s still hot, evenly drizzle all over with honey. Place the tin on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cold.

Vanilla Fudge – second time lucky!

Thankfully my second attempt at fudge has been a roaring success! My first effort involved condensed milk and ended up in a sloppy, un-fudge like mess. I have now canned the condensed milk (haha) and have bought myself a sugar thermometer in order to get the temperature right – oh yes, we are in exciting times now!

So, armed with my sugar thermometer and a new fudge recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, I started on my second effort. And it was extermely straight forward. The thermometer worked perfectly so  I knew exactly when the mixture was hot enough and at the infamous ‘soft ball’ stage. And it seemed to set exactly as it was supposed to. And once cooled, it tasted suprisingly like vanilla fudge.

I’m keen to try out some more flavours now, but will have to finish this batch first. Lucky that I’m doing lots of running, as it is verrry sweet and I think is signficantly lacking in health benefits – but it tastes good anyway!

The Recipe

300g caster sugar

1 tbsp golden syrup

100g unsalted butter

100ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

Using a few drops of sunflower oil on a piece of kitchen paper, lightly oil a 15x22cm baking dish.

Put the sugar, syrup, butter and cream in a saucepan, making sure it’s not more than a third full as the mixture will bubble when it boils. Heat gently, stirring all the time, until the sugar has completely dissolved – tip the pan to make sure there are no crystal still visible on the base.

Stop stirring. Put a sugar thermometer in the pan and turn up the heat. Let the mixture boil hard until it reaches 116C (soft ball stage). This may happen quite fast or could take up to 15 minutes or more, so keep a sharp eye on the thermometer. Take the pan off the heat and leave to stand for 10 minutes.

Add the vanilla and beat vigorously until the mixture thickens, becomes slightly grainy and starts to come away from the base of the pan. This can take up to 10 minutes. Tip into the prepared dish, smooth and leave to cool.

Mark into squares with a sharp knife while it’s still slightly soft (I left it too late and it started crumbling). Leave for 2 to 4 hours to firm up completely and then remove from the dish.

Because there’s only so much cake you can eat

So, I had cupcakes already baked, but still fancied something else. I’ve therefore gone for a savoury option this time, as there is sometimes a limt to how much cake you can/should have at once…

Anyway, these are very cheesy spinach and cheese muffins. They are nicest warm and I’ve been finding them good for a pre or post run snack – I feel less bad about eating them as I do a sweet cake, although I do sometimes have both!

And very handy to pop in your lunch box. Oh dear, yes, I do take a lunch box to work with me!

PS. This seems quite an uncakey start, having a savoury item as the second post. I will ensure that this does not happen again. This is a cake blog, not a spinach and cheese muffin blog. Apologies.

The Recipe

30g butter
1/2 small red onion finely chopped
360gcups plain flour
2 1/2 tsps baking powder
1tsp cayenne pepper
250g  grated cheddar
220ml milk
1 egg
130g baby spinach leaves

Preheat oven to 170C (325F).
Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the onion until cooked. Set aside.
Put the  flour, baking powder, cayenne and cheese in a large bowl. I used chilli powder instead of cayenne – not sure if it’s an appropriate substitute but seemed to work fine, although wasn’t all that spicy. In a separate bowl mix the milk and egg together, then slowly pour the into the flour mixture and beat together.

Stir in the onions and spinach with a wooden spoon until evenly mixed.

Spoon the batter into muffin cases until 2/3 full and bake in oven for 30-35mins, or until deep golden and a skewer comes out cleaned.
Let the muffins cool slightly in the pans before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Chocolate cupcakes – let’s keep it simple

Not much to say on these really – they are cupcakes and they are chocolate. And they’re nice and quick and easy to make, with lots of lovely butter icing on top.  I’ll add that they feature an extra special devil’s food base – although I personally think I could have ramped up the chocolate flavour a bit more.

I would have liked to make them look a bit more sophisticated and sprinkle silver bits or chocolate things on top but, well – I didn’t have any so had to do with the multi-coloured sprinkles and marshmallows. Sophistication will come next time perhaps.

THE RECIPE
100g plain flour

20g cocoa powder

140g caster sugar

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

40g unsalted butter

120ml milk

1 egg

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

For the frosting:

300g icing sugar

100g unsalted butter

40g cocoa powder

40ml milk

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F).

Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter slowly until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

Whisk the milk, egg and vanilla extract together and then slowly pour half into the flour mixture. Beat thoroughly to combine and get rid of any lumps. Pour in the remaining mixture and continue mixing slowly for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.

Spoon the mixture into paper cases (I used 12 muffin cases) until two-thirds full and  bake for 20-25 minuutes or until the sponge bounces back when touched.

When cold, spread the chocolate icing on them and decorate with whatever you can find! Mmmm!

For the icing: beat the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder together until they all come together and are well mixed. Add the milk a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the milk has been incorporated, continue beating for a further five minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy (this is when my cake mixer came in very handy! And I would definitely agree that the longer you beat it, the fluffier it becomes).