Saturday, October 29, 2011

vanilla, orange & lemon tea cake

Sarah made us a cake.  After too long (for us), Sarah and her darling family arrived back in New Zealand from living in London.  Still loving food – and with a particular current affection for all things Nigel Slater, it is good to have her back and talk food. 

Sarah made a tea cake.  I like tea cake.  It makes no pretensions to be anything other than it is – a simple cake to have with tea.  Having said that I have jazzed mine up somewhat with lemon, orange and vanilla flavours.  If you prefer a more traditional topping, spread the cake with butter and sprinkle with 2 tbsp caster sugar and ½ tsp of cinnamon instead.

Simple cakes require simple posts so, bearing in mind that I haven’t posted for over two weeks, I’ll just say this.  Here’s the recipe

vanilla, orange & lemon tea cake
¾ cup caster sugar
50g butter, softened
1 egg beaten*
1½ cups standard flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ cup milk*

* Have the egg and milk at room temperature instead of fridge-cold.

1 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp vanilla sugar**
1 tbsp caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange

** If you don't have vanilla sugar, substitute with caster sugar.

Preheat oven to 180°C .  Grease and flour a 20cm cake tin.

Beat the sugar and butter together with a wooden spoon until well combined.  Beat in the egg.

Sift flour and baking powder together and fold into the sugar and butter mixture, alternately with the milk.

Place the mix into the cake tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until well risen and golden.  Leave the cake in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. 

While still hot, spread the butter from the topping over the cake and then sprinkle over the combined vanilla and caster sugars.  Scatter over the lemon and orange zest. 

Especially good served lovely and warm (not hot) from the oven. 

Have with butter and a cup of tea!

Thanks, Sarah, for the inspiration.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

sticky gingerbread

I hadn’t tried gingerbread in a long time.  I love it when it is sticky, moist, dark and spicy.  No wishy-washy gingerbread for me, please.  And I prefer it baked as a loaf rather than cut in squares.  I am fussy, I know.

What brought this to mind was a conversation with my sister.  She had been to Smith & Caughey and had gingerbread and tea in their café.  We then reminisced about the dark Jamaican gingerbread with the thick white icing, purchased from Jenner’s department store in Edinburgh, which we had eaten as children.  I imagined my teeth softly piercing the cool, white icing to reach the contrasting warmth of the cake below and knew I had to have it again.

So, when my sister and her partner came round last weekend it seemed the perfect time to bake my version of this one – Dark Sticky Gingerbread from Rachel Allan – to see if we could muster up some old childhood memories.

I used chopped candied kumquats to add a certain stickiness to the cake. They're kind of marmalade-y.  As they're not something you would normally have to hand, I've just put marmalade as the ingredient.  You can leave this out altogether if you prefer.  I omitted (no, I didn’t forget, it was deliberate!) Ms Allan’s ginger syrup, which she poured over the "hot from the oven" cake.

I was intrigued that she used 1tsp freshly ground black pepper but I chickened out and only used ½ tsp – so much for liking hot and spicy but it did look like a lot of pepper as I ground it onto a sheet (makes for easy measuring).

One cookbook recommended leaving gingerbread for a week before eating.  Oh, for the patience and resolve to wait so long.  So no, this cake did not get seven days to mature and mellow.  It was lovely and flavourful as it was and just how I imagined it to be.  My icing could have been thicker though to achieve the remembrance of things past. 

sticky gingerbread

60g butter
75g (1/4 cup) golden syrup
50g black treacle (or molasses)
50g marmalade 
110g flour
25g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp freshly ground pepper (grind onto a Teflon sheet or baking paper for ease of measuring)
100g caster sugar
1 pinch salt
120ml milk
1 egg lightly beaten

icing (optional)
200g icing sugar, sifted
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 170°C (Gas 3).  Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, golden syrup, treacle (or molasses) and marmalade (if using) over a low heat.  Set aside.

Sift the flours, bicarbonate of soda, spices and ground black pepper into a large bowl.  Stir in the sugar and salt.  Add milk and egg and mix until smooth.  Gradually add the melted butter mixture, stirring until well incorporated. The mixture will be fairly runny.

Pour mixture into the loaf tin and bake for approximately 50-55 minutes, or until the gingerbread is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. 

Remove cake from oven and leave it in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Mix the sifted sugar with enough lemon juice to get the required consistency.  Spread over the top of the cooled cake and allow to run slightly down the sides. The icing will set slightly.

I've decided to make this my entry into this month's Sweet New Zealand as I've not had time to post anything recently.   This month's Sweet New Zealand is hosted by Couscous & Consciousness.  Sue not only has a lovely blog but kindly gave me some advice on things technical.  Thanks Sue, I hope you enjoy the gingerbread.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

parsnip cake

Talking to one of the lovely girls in a local shop about the sweet offerings available at a local café, she asked if I’d tried their parsnip cake.  It was better than carrot cake, she claimed.  I hadn’t.  I hadn’t even seen it. Or maybe I’d glanced over the name, parsnip cake and moved on. 

Thinking I’d sample a slice on my next visit, I forgot all about all it until at home I was suddenly sure I had a parsnip cake recipe somewhere.  For once, I connected with the right cookbook first time - hallelujah!  Rather than wait to sample the café’s version, I set about preparing it.  The recipe comes from Julie Le Clerc’s Simple Café Food.

This cake has an earthy appeal when you look at the texture - flecks of parsnip, currants and pineapple.  This might sound daft or contrived but it did bring to mind the image of a parsnip being pulled from the ground with the earth still clinging.  The taste retains some of this earthiness but with a sweet and spicy caramel flavour.  Apparently, parsnips are very high in natural sugar and these caramelise in the baking.

Now there’s only one thing wrong with this cake and that is the name.  Sorry but Parsnip cake just doesn’t do it for me.  I’ve been trying to think of another name but haven’t come up with anything yet.  If cakes can be called Hummingbird then I don’t see why this one shouldn’t have a more fetching name.

It’s definitely delectable and was a big hit in our house so I will absolutely be baking this again.  In the meantime, can anyone think of a better name?...

parsnip cake
1 cup caster sugar
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil I used rice bran oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 large eggs
½ cup crushed pineapple, drained
4 cups grated parsnip
1 1/3 cups plain flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup currants I used raisins – I never seem to have currants
2 tblsp ground cinnamon

lemon cream cheese icing
1 cup cream cheese, softened
50g butter, melted
½ cup caster sugar
grated rind and juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 160° C.  Grease a 20cm springform cake tin. 

Whisk sugar, oil and vanilla together to combine.  Add eggs one at a time, beating until mixture is creamy.  Stir in pineapple.

Place grated parsnip, flour, salt, baking soda, currants and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Pour in the wet mixture and stir to combine.  Spoon cake mixture into the prepared tin. 

Bake for 1½ hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre, comes out clean.  Mine took about 1¼ hours.

When the cake is cold, ice with lemon cream cheese icing.

For the icing
Beat all the ingredients together until creamy.  Spread over cake.

Mmm, more please!