Tag Archives: Cake

The sweet side of life

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Edinburgh’s Luca’s ice cream – back in the day 

 

I love Marlborough. I may be a relatively new import but my fresh eyes appreciate it every day. It makes me smile, inside and out.

So when I was asked to share my blog on ‘searching for the good life ‘ in Admire , I didn’t hesitate!

Moving to a new area gives you the opportunity to reevaluate what is important to you, what you have left behind and what makes your new hometown great.

Amongst a long list of revelations are some that have made life just that bit sweeter.

Literally…..

I’m thinking sweets. Sweet treats. Cakes. Slices. Just like Grandma used to make ( or sometimes even better…!)

In the bigger cities, you are swamped with homogenous offerings that are mass produced and fill shelf after shelf of the vast number of bakeries around town. They satisfy a sweet tooth or craving but that’s about all. No one is ever going to ask for the recipes.

However, visit any home bake stall at a school gala or similar and just make sure you’re there early as they are always the most popular, sell out quick and make a tidy contribution to fund raising.

Books on home baking, jam making and preserving crowd the shelves and most of us can admit to having a few in the kitchen – either for use or (more likely ) decoration !

We love it. We can’t get enough of it. Honest, simple and ‘home-made’.

And lucky for us, Marlborough does it well and does it in abundance.

We are blessed with the number of high quality cafés that cater for every craving. But the stand out is the vast array of authentic baked goods that we are spoiled with . Most are lovingly made fresh each day.

Trust me, this is not normal.

Normal is the generic and standardised produce mentioned above that floods the larger town and cities.

Whether it’s a slice of heaven in the form of the lemon syrup cake with mascarpone and vanilla buttercream filling from Ritual, or the fabulous date and cinnamon scones that follow a precious recipe from generations of talented family chefs from CBD, or many many on my list, we are spoiled for choice.

Baking and treats are an emotional issue. They connect us with memories and can transport us in an instant to happy times gone by – often involving parents and grandparents.

When I was growing up in Edinburgh, it was a family treat to go to S Luca ice cream parlour for a chocolate nougat wafer or a ’99’  with their incredible vanilla ice cream ( there were 3 flavours back then – vanilla , chocolate and strawberry but they were all amazing). Then when my girls were growing up in North Yorkshire , it was Suggits ice cream in Great Ayton for their treats. Both have been around for a long time. In Marlborough we don’t have an ice cream shop with such a history, but we should and luckily we have one that merits longevity. D’Vine gelato transports me back to the best of the best. Not only that, but they make their own fudge on site – another treat destination for young and old alike. As we start our own next generation this year, I’m looking forward to many reasons to take them there for their treats.

Now although I will admit to having a selective sweet tooth, I’m very particular when it comes to choosing my empty calories! Not any chocolate will do ( I’ve been known to re route business trips to allow me to visit See’s candies in the USA for one particular chocolate…….I kid you not). But I’ve happily adapted to some of the wonderful creations at our very own chocolate factory – Makana – with the Marlborough salted caramels being my go to when I need a bit of a chocolate fix. How lucky are we to have our very own gold ticket to visit whenever we want – and get free samples too!

There are so many reasons to be happy here in Marlborough. Some more important than others.

Sweet treats and nostalgia may not have been top of my wish list when it came to moving but it has arguably been the icing on the cake…..…!

Fi

 

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Makana Chocolate factory in Marlborough

Best Christmas Cake ever!

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Deliciousness in a box

This is the best Christmas cake. Ever!

Now that’s quite a claim. Many of my friends have recipe books going back generations and I’m sure there will be a Christmas cake in there somewhere that they will remember as being something special.

But I’m laying claim to this one and ( hopefully) starting a generational thing that will be shared for many years to come. There are many things I would like to be remembered by and this could just be one of them !

It’s a sad sign of the times when most people I know are simply too busy to even think about making a cake at this time of year. Ok, I know it’s not a top priority but that’s the thing. What are the priorities?  I don’t even think it’s the cake that’s the problem. we are all just too busy doing ‘ stuff’ that one more thing to do could just be the step too far.

But tradition is good. It’s a link to our past, our heritage and where we came from. Christmas may be the last bastion of tradition so I for one am keen to keep some of the behaviours peculiar to our family going for as long as I can. And that includes cake.

So, put on some Christmas music, light a candle ( Christmas scent preferable) , pour a glass of egg nog ( ok, wine is absolutely fine as a substitute ! ), switch off the phone and start your own traditions….one slice of cake at a time….:)

Recipe 

 I use a 26cm cake box – lined on the inside and then wrapped in newspaper and tied with string around the outside to ensure it doesn’t cook too quickly on the sides.

  • 2kg mixed dried fruit – raisins, currants, sultanas etc
  • 500g butter
  • 500g brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 125g chopped blanched almonds if you like
  • Brandy  (be generous)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 500g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • chopped glacé cherries if you like

Put fruit in covered bowl overnight with generous swigs of your chosen tipple until it’s well sozzled ( not a technical term but you get my drift) .The smell is divine and it will take all your will power not to eat it all there and then and forget the cake!

Next day put the drunken fruit, butter, sugar and golden syrup into a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring to stop the mixture burning ( very important!). Add lemon, spices, salt, chopped almonds and a bit more brandy.

Stirring continuously, simmer for 10 minutes, then add cornflour. Mix well and remove from heat. Leave to cool thoroughly.

Beat eggs. Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda, add alternately to cooled fruit mixture. Bake in the middle of the oven at 160˚C for 30 minutes. Then 120˚C for 4 hours. (Cooking times may vary depending on the oven.) Cool in the box, then wrap in greaseproof paper and foil to keep it moist. Put in air tight container somewhere dark and cool.

Bask in the heavenly scent of the cake.

I suggest you make the cake about 5 weeks before the big day and then every week carefully unwrap it and use a skewer to make a few holes to allow a few tablespoons of brandy to soak through it.

Then for the icing. Our family tradition since I was little involved my Dad “making” the cake. Actually what was really the case was Mum doing everything , including making a royal icing but Dad then swirling it on the cake to make snow patterns and placing Santa and decorations on top. His cake 🙂

Whether you have children helping with making christmas biscuits or cookies or whether you gift yourself time to do the whole cake thing in splendid Christmas peace , make time to create and enjoy your own traditions.

Fi

The taste of Paradise…in a cake

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A taste of Paradise.Thank you to the wonderful people at Delicious for this amazing photo.

 

If I could sum up my first year in Paradise in cake, this would be it.

I had fully intended to blog are about food and less about drama but drama beat food hands down in the ‘keeping me busy ‘ stakes !

But this gem of deliciousness is worth sharing . And making.

I tasted it – or something like it- at the Marlborough Farmers Market where the lovely Lee works through the previous night in someone else’s kitchen to make some amazing ‘as they used to taste ‘ baking. Then I searched for something similar to allow me to make at home and played around with it until it tasted like heaven on a  plate.

You know how wine tasting can sometimes come up with very poncy descriptions for wines, well this is my equivalent for this marvellous and yummy cake. This cake transports you to a farmhouse kitchen groaning with nature’s bounty. Fresh from the country range. Sitting around grandma’s table. It’s squishy but firm enough to wrap in some greaseproof paper for an al fresco morning tea. it’s a cake to make friends with. Good friends. Long term friends.

But don’t take my word for it. Be good to yourself and have a go. I dare you not to have a Betty Crocker ( or equivalent) moment !

Enjoy

Fi

  • 50g each sultanas and raisins
  • 6 tbsp medium-sweet cider ( who am I kidding – be generous here – and one for the cook!)
  • 215g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 300g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 175g butter, softened
  • 2 medium free-range eggs
  • 750g eating apples (about 6-8), peeled, cored and cut into 1cm pieces
  • 100g lightly toasted walnuts, broken into small pieces – from your own trees if you’re really lucky!

 

How to make Paradise cake

  1. Put the sultanas and raisins into a small bowl, cover with a few tbsp of the cider and set aside for at least 2 hours or overnight.Be generous. And enjoy a glass yourself !
  2. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm round, loose-bottomed cake tin. Tie a thick band of folded newspaper around the outside of the tin, so it projects about 8cm above the edge of the tin, and secure it in place with string (this will stop any over-browning). It’s a bit of a phaff but keeps cake nice.
  3. Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder, salt and ground/grated spices into the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and butter and beat on a medium speed for 1 minute, stopping and scraping the mixture down the sides of the bowl, if necessary, until well mixed. Try not to eat all of this before baking….
  4. Add the eggs and mix on low speed for a few seconds, then increase the speed and beat for 1 minute until light and fluffy. Beat in the remaining 3 tbsp cider.And pour yourself another glass.
  5. Fold in the prepared apples, sultanas/raisins and walnuts. The mixture will look too thick and too appley, but don’t worry. Trust me ! Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and gently level the surface.
  6. Bake for 1 hour 25 minutes ish, covering loosely with foil or a double sheet of baking paper once it’s richly browned on top, until it is firm to the touch and a skewer pushed into the centre comes away clean. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack. Remove from the tin to a plate, sprinkle with caster sugar and serve.
  7. Make friends and enjoy your own slice of paradise.