Monday, 28 March 2011

An update, finally!

Hello all,

Just a quick note to say that I haven't given up the blogging ghost. Since my last post (which seems like an eternity ago) I've had some pretty major changes including a new job and a complete change to my day to day life. Not least of all has been a humongous upheaval to my Internet access and an inability to be able to update me blog. Which I am missing far more than I would ever have realised.

Recent things that I need to blog about include:
  • Starting another cake club
  • Pancake day
  • My massive red nose day cake
And soon I'll need to write about an upcoming trip to Le Gavroche.

Hopefully I'll get it sorted soon, not quite sure how yet. But there must be an answer!

Friday, 18 March 2011

The Tale of the Red Nose Day cake challenge

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, a challenge was set to all of those in the employ of the great Lord ADAS,
"Red Nose Day - Cake Bake!

The Charity committee are looking for people from each office to take part in the Cake Bake for Red Nose Day. A prize to be given for the largest "red nose cake."

On hearing of this, the young(ish) new consultant with a penchant for cake saw an opportunity to make a mark in the strange town he'd been forced to live in and began to plan.

From the very beginning hurdles were put in our protagonist's way: a foreign kitchen, a lack of implements, the refusal of local tradesmen to barter with him (for the silver trays essential to the plan forcing him in to a compromise with the Tesco devil) and Lord ADAS sending him to a conference giving him just a single evening to meet the challenge.

Nevertheless the equipment and ingredients were gathered. With over 4lb butter, 3lb of flour and sugar, 24 eggs and nearly 2kg of fondant icing the size of the task ahead seemed daunting.

Hours later, when the burning furnace had been extinguished, six different tray bakes (cherry mallow, lemon, coffee, gingerbread, coconut carrot and white chocolate) lay waiting to be adorned with their icing.

The butter icing was laid down quickly and efficiently acting as the saddle ready to be ridden by the fine fondant.

The fondant was an opponent the likes of which our hero had never encountered. It tested his skill and patience like nothing before.

Gradually the fondant bent to the rolling pin of our hero and a gleaming white canvas was ready for the final stage.

After 10 hours of battle six cakes appeared from the cloud of icing sugar that enveloped the arena. A brief respite and as the Sun rose the trusty stead was loaded ready to unleash the mightiest of Red Nose Day cakes upon the unsuspecting Lord ADAS.

The furore caused by the cake was unprecedented: gasps, smiles and giggles of delight filled the air.

On measurement the cake was declared to be 39" (about the same size as one of the new magic viewers) and over 9kg.

The challenge had been met and all enemies vanquished. "Never again" muttered out exhausted hero. Well, not for another two years at least...

***THE END***

The easy part in all this really was making the tray bakes. Recipes for the six cakes can be found on the following sites:

Coconut carrot slices

Lemon cake - I didn't do a drizzle, but did use lemon butter icing
Cherry mallow - no marshmallow and cherry topping just vanilla butter icing
White chocolate - white chocolate butter icing here instead of creamcheese
Coffee cake - with a coffee butter icing

Monday, 7 March 2011

Lancashire apple cake

To further my mission to establish a cake club in my new office I took in a Lancashire apple cake today.

Cheese with cake is a classic Northern thing to do and this cake take it one step further by actually putting the cheese in the cake.

This cake is a batter-type cake and has that distinctive texture. It was incredibly apply (quelle surprise!), probably because I'd added so much grated Bramley to the batter. The cheese layer didn't stand out as a particularly prominent flavour. It added more of a subtle note and added some structure to the centre of cake. I'm glad I added a sprinkle of demerara to the top which added a much needed crunch. I think some cheese on the top of the cake could be another welcome addition.

This cake went down very well. That's two from two so far. I just need to find a way of manifesting the enthusiasm for cake eating as cake production.

Lancashire apple cake (taken from The Great British Kitchen)

½oz butter
7oz plain flour
2tsp baking powder
30z caster sugar
1 lb 10 oz made up of Bramley apples, grated and eating apples cored, peeled and chopped
4½oz raisins
1tsp nutmeg
2 eggs, beaten
4floz sunflower oil
5oz Lancashire cheese
1oz demerara sugar

1. Sift flour and baking powder together. Add sugar, apples, raisins and nutmeg.
2. Beat eggs into oil and stir into the mix.
3. Spoon half into a 9" cake tin . Add cheese and top with the remaining apple mix.
4. Bake for 1 hour at 170°C until golden. Cool in the tin for 30 minutes.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

In lieu of pancake day

Every year I look forward to pancake day and every year I ask myself (probably like quite a lot of other people) "why don't I eat pancakes more often?". They're so versatile: they can be savoury or sweet, flavoured or plain, stuffed or layered. Whatever form they are always yummy.

[Whenever I'm in Amsterdam I ALWAYS make a bee-line for The Pancake Bakery where you can get full-on pancakes ~18" in diameter and have an entire pancake-based meal: AMAZING!]

This year I knew I wouldn't be able to indulge in a pancake-fest on Tuesday so I decided to make Sunday lunch the focus of my annual pancakey desires and made a tomato and pancake bake (essentially a pancake lasagne without the ragu layer).

I seasoned the cheese filling with a touch (too much) cayenne which invigorated the whole thing. It was pretty good but I reckon you could put some of the tomato sauce in between the pancake layers, although that may take away from some of the cheesy pancake wonderfulness. You could also flavour the pancakes maybe with herbs.

Cheese and tomato baked pancakes (taken from Rachel Allen's recipe)


For the pancake batter
5oz plain flour
pinch salt
2 eggs
4fl oz milk
4 fl oz water
½oz butter, melted
For the tomato sauce
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1tsp sugar
3tbsp torn fresh basil leaves
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
For the filling:
300g mozzarella, grated
4oz ricotta
1oz parmesan cheese, plus a bit extra, for sprinkling

1. For the pancakes, place the flour and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and crack in the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, whisking all the time, until the batter is smooth and free of lumps. Add the melted butter and set aside.
2. For the tomato sauce, place the olive oil in a wide saucepan, add the onion and garlic, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, cover and cook on a low heat until the onions are completely soft.
3. Add the tomatoes and half the basil, leave uncovered and cook for about 20 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the sauce has thickened. Add the remaining basil and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper and the sugar.
4. While the tomato sauce is cooking, make the pancakes. You will need a total of eight pancakes.
5. For the filling, mix the cheeses together in a bowl, to make a spreadable paste.
6. To assemble, place a pancake on the bottom of a 25cm/10 inch square ovenproof dish, spread with a thin layer of the cheese mixture, top with another pancake and continue assembling, alternating seven layers of pancake and filling. Finish with a top layer of pancake.
TIP: You can cut the pancakes to cover the dish better (if it's not round!).
7. Pour the tomato sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining grated parmesan.
8. Bake at 180°C for 30-40 minutes until the sauce is bubbling around the edges and the centre feels hot when a skewer is inserted.
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