Monthly Archives: July 2017

Princess Birthday Cake

Well, this was waaaaaaaaay out of my comfort zone but I do like a challenge! Made for granddaughter, Georgia’s 3rd birthday, my first princess cake didn’t turn out too badly (although I was striving for a more refined look). The sponge was gorgeous (bit like the granddaughter) and the assembly and decorating job wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be given the fantastic stuff that you can now buy ready-prepared. But….working with icing is definitely not a natural gift for me

Serves 12 – 16

What you need…

1 x Barbie-styled doll (supermarkets sell cheap alternatives to the original)

1 x cake board

1 x deep, 15cm-round cake tin, liberally buttered and lined with parchment paper

1 x 1 litre ovenproof glass pudding bowl, liberally buttered and lined with parchment paper

1 x baking tray

1 x 6cm round cookie cutter

1 x icing bag fitted with a star-shaped nozzle

500g unsalted butter, softened

500g caster sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

¼ teaspoon salt

10 large, happy eggs, lightly beaten

170g plain flour

200g full-fat Greek yogurt

500g self-raising flour

for the butter cream and decoration

250g unsalted butter, softened

500g icing sugar, sifted, plus extra for dusting

Pink food colouring

400g white ready-to-roll (fondant) icing sugar

500g pink read-to-roll (fondant) icing sugar

A fanciful collection of readymade flowers, cake decorations and glitter sprays!

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 160˚c/310˚f / gas 3.

If you have a tabletop mixer, that would be ideal; otherwise use a handheld electric whisk to beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until pale and fluffy. Gradually pour in the eggs, whisking the whole time and making sure that each addition is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next. (Add a little plain flour if it looks like the mixture might curdle).

Still whisking, add the yogurt. Mix the flours together and then tip them in, whisking until incorporated. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bowl, filling them both almost to the top. Pop them both onto the baking tray and then into your oven for 1 hour and 40 – 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out the clean and the sponges are golden.

Words of warning: the sponges rise massively over the top of the two dishes – don’t panic (as I did) – they’re supposed to!

Cool the cakes in their containers completely.

Meanwhile, make the butter icing by using a handheld electric whisk to beat the butter until really soft and then gradually whisking in all the icing. About half way through adding the icing, add a drop of food coloring – a little goes a long way. Add more nearer the end until you achieve shade you are looking for.

Back to the cakes: whilst still in their containers, trim the tops of the cakes level. Turn them out onto a board. Slice the pudding basin sponge into 3 layers. Slice the 15cm sponge into 2 layers.

Check your cookie cutter is big enough to go past the dolls hips and if so, use it to cut out a hole in the centre of each sponge slice.

Place 1 layer of the 15cm sponge onto your cake board and spread a little butter cream over the top. Add the other layer and again spread with the butter cream. Repeat with the three pudding basin layers, starting with the largest layer and ending with the smallest. Slather the whole sponge ‘skirt’ as it now is with butter cream, reserving a couple of large spoonfuls to use as ‘glue’ later.

Lightly dust your work surface with sifted icing sugar. Take 300g of the white fondant icing and roll out into a long strip, about 8cms wide. Attach to the bottom of the sponge skirt, pushing gently into the butter cream and leaving a ‘hem’ to spread out a little onto the board. Press a spoon right the way around the ‘hem’ to give a frilled effect (I did not master this!!!)

Roll out the pink icing to a 36cm circle. If like me, your circle isn’t very neat or accurate, use a large plate or round server as a template to cut around. Use your cookie cutter to cut a hole in the middle and then gently drape the ‘skirt’ over the cake (I folded mine in half to lift it from the work surface to the cake). This was the hardest bit for me – draping and arranging whilst trying to stop the fondant cracking or breaking. However, don’t worry if it does start doing that – you can use your decorative bits to hide pretty much anything!

Take the doll and tightly wrap her legs in cling film before inserting her into the cake. Make sure she’s standing up straight!

Use the left over white fondant icing to create a semi circle big enough to fit around the dolls waist and drop down over the cake skirt. Cut in whatever fashion you like and then ‘fit’ to the cake, using a little butter icing for glue if necessary.

Then, decorate to your heart’s content. I put the remaining butter cream in an icing bag with the star nozzle to create frills and swags and a waistband to hide tears in the fondant and clumsy joins; sticking flowers, silver balls and hearts wherever I fancied. I had also found a fabulous edible silver lustre spray that gave the pink dress a gently sparkly shimmer – very princessy! You can do as little or as much as you like here.

When complete, present your masterpiece to one very excited birthday princess and then….enjoy the spoils!

Princess cake 2 w

Inspired by…

BBC Good Food

How easy…

I struggle with icing and pretty cake decorating but I know it comes easier to other people. I spent a good chunk of the day, on and off, creating this and wouldn’t be in a hurry to do another one soon but hey, if you have the time and the patience, the recipient’s little face makes it worth the effort.

A Trio of Easy-Peasy, Luscious Ice Creams

Where to start with this one! All three ice creams were made on a whim this week when it was absolutely scorching outside. The base recipe is that of Mary Berry’s Honeycomb Ice Cream (we all know what it’s supposed to be called but I get in trouble for that). Anyway, so I took 1 huge tub of double cream and whisked it up, then folded in the splendid but absurdly naughty condensed milk, divided the mixture into bowls and stirred in the distinct flavourings of choice (as we couldn’t agree on a single favourite). Whopped them into the freezer for 6 hours and that was it– job done – delicious, delectable ice cream – the strawberry is fresh, exquisite and just shouts ‘English summer’, the rum and raisin is definitely an ‘after dinner’ number and boy, can you taste the rum and finally, the coffee and Kahlua – the favourite of the three – luscious, decadent, silky smooth and almost alluring in its temptation! Hmmm, which one(s) will you try…?

What you need…

(N.B. this recipe makes double the strawberry ice cream to the quantities of the other 2 flavours)

600ml double cream

397g (1 tin) condensed milk

for Cindy’s strawberry ice cream

100g strawberries

for John’s rum and raisin ice cream

A large handful raisins

2 tablespoons rum

for Connagh’s coffee and Kahlua ice cream

1 espresso coffee/50ml VERY strong coffee

½ tablespoon camp coffee

1 tablespoon Kahlua/coffee liqueur

What to do….

Use an electric hand held whisk to beat the double cream to form soft peaks. Pour in the condensed milk and use a balloon whisk to gently fold it in so that it is evenly incorporated.

Spoon ¼ of the cream mix into a smaller second bowl and then another ¼ of the mixture into a third bowl.

Pop the strawberries into your food processor and whizz until they are slightly mushy with little chunks in. Toss them into the large bowl and gently stir to incorporate. Pour into a plastic container, pop the lid on and stick it in the freezer.

Into bowl 2, tip the rum and raisins and stir to incorporate. Pour into a plastic container, pop the lid on and stick it in the freezer.

Into bowl 3, pour the cold espresso, Camp coffee and Kahlua and stir to incorporate. Pour into a plastic container, pop the lid on and stick it in the freezer.

Wait at least 6 hours. Go to your freezer armed with a sundae spoon and check them out. Invite husband and anyone else to do the same, proclaiming which one you prefer whilst continuing to taste-test. If there’s any left, serve in cones, bowls, casual or posh. Mostly, enjoy!

Inspired by…

Originally, by granddaughter, Georgia, who needed a little help when she was enjoying a local West Sussex strawberry ice cream. So taken was I with the unique gorgeousness of the authentic strawberry flavour that I determined to emulate it with my own recipe. The base recipe is Mary Berry’s; the flavourings are related to the cravings of individual family members! Sooooo happy!!!

How easy…

Ridiculously! This could become yet another naughty little addiction!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

soooo, just wandered out to the garage where we have two (yes two) American fridge freezers that accommodate the food mountain created by this ‘ere blog. Armed with a sundae spoon, I delved into three new tupperware pots that were filled with yesterday’s experiments: fresh strawberry ice cream, coffee & kahlua ice cream and rum & raisin ice cream. WOW!!!! completely blown away with the success of these no-churn, spectacularly simple ice creams and am concocting other flavours….will blog these first three tomorrow, which will, of course, require further tasting before my fingers hit the keyboard….xx

Limoncello Drizzle Cake

One of my favourite cakes to quickly whizz up is lemon drizzle cake so when I saw this recipe I did wonder if it was perhaps mucking about with something that was already perfect but…I was wrong: the inclusion of the limoncello syrup makes this cake even more luscious, moist and generally gorgeous. Also, the inclusion of alcohol precludes sharing with all but the most grown up of kids!!!! Try it – so simple, so delicious!

Serves 8 – 10 or just John and I!

What you need…

1 x 2 litre loaf tin, buttered and lined with baking parchment

200g unsalted butter, softened

200g caster sugar

4 large, happy eggs, beaten

150g ground almonds

50g plain flour

4 tablespoons limoncello liqueur

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

1 teaspoon baking powder

for the syrup

Juice of 2 lemons (those used for the zest in sponge above)

50g granulated sugar

60ml limoncello liqueur

for the crunchy topping

Juice of 1 lemon

60g granulated sugar

What to do…

Heat your oven to 180˚c / 350˚f / gas 4.

Tip the butter and caster sugar into your food processor and whizz until pale and creamy. Whilst still whizzing, gradually add the eggs, ensuring that each addition is thoroughly incorporated before adding any more.

Remove the mixing blade from your food processor and then tip in the almonds, flour, limoncello, lemon zest and baking powder, using a balloon whisk to gently fold in to the egg mixture.

Pour the mixture into your loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the syrup ingredients gently in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Use your skewer again to poke holes all over the surface of the cake and then slowly pour over the syrup, watching is soak in and knowing how lovely this cake is going to be!.

For the crunchy topping, mix together the remaining lemon juice and sugar and spoon evenly over the top. Leave the cake to cool in the tin (well, you’re supposed to but I couldn’t wait that long and had the first piece warm – delightful!) Turn out and cut into nice fat slices. Devour. Have another slice. Repeat.

 A little about limoncello…

A lovely, sweet Italian lemon liqueur that I really took to last year when we stayed on the Amalfi Coast and it regularly appeared at the end of our meals as a little ‘thank you’ for our custom. To serve in small chilled glasses straight from the freezer is quite heavenly…and one glass is never enough!

 Inspired by…

Delicious magazine

 How easy…

A bit of whizzing and a little stirring: very easy and the returns are many times greater than the effort!

 

Spicy Baked Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Aaaaah, such a treat and oh so simple with the added bonus that they are really satisfying to make! The meatballs are gently spiced so that your tastebuds get a lovely hit but aren’t overpowered and the tomato sauce is just really easy and a perfect foil for those lovely meaty balls! Absolutely perfect as a midweek family supper…time and time again! Will definitely be a favourite in our house.

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x large baking tray, lined with tin foil

500g beef mince

1 large onion, finely chopped

50g panko bread crumbs

A large handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon dried crushed chillis

Sea salt and black pepper

To serve, pasta of your choice (I prefer gluten-free spaghetti)

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 200˚c / 200˚f /gas6.

Take a large, roomy mixing bowl and tip in the beef, onion, breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, garlic salt, chilli and egg. Mix until thoroughly and evenly combined and then – my favourite bit – scoop out small amounts of mixture and roll it between your hands to create a ball somewhere between the size of a walnut and golf ball – your choice! This bit is most satisfying – no idea why… Repeat until you’ve run out of mixture and then place the meatballs on your baking tray in a single layer, drizzle with the oil and pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make your simple but perfect sauce. Into a medium saucepan, tip in the tinned tomatoes, caster sugar and crushed chillis. Season with salt and pepper, stir and leave over a moderate heat for 15 minutes.

Remove the meatballs from the oven and tip into the pan with the tomato mixture. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To cook the pasta, follow the instructions on the packet – I heated my salted water as soon as the meatballs went into their sauce. By the time the water came to the boil and then the pasta cooked, it was about the 25 minutes that the meatballs were nestling in their tomato sauce.

Whilst all this is going on, pour a glass of wine (red in my case) and carefully remove the foil from the baking tray – screw up and discard, returning your clean baking tray to the cupboard without any cleaning – a small joy but it makes me happy!

Take 4 large pasta bowls and heap in the pasta before topping with these luscious meatballs and their luscious sauce – so lovely and comforting – a top up of that glass of red wine doesn’t go amiss either – cheers!

Inspired by…

Gino D’Acampo

How easy…

Easy, relaxing and you can clear up and sip wine whilst it’s doing its cooking thing!

 

 

 

 

Almond, Strawberry and Rhubarb Cake

A deliciously moist little summer cake perfect for a lazy afternoon in the garden. The strawberries and rhubarb in combination with the hint of ground almonds create a wonderful little tryst of flavours. Served with crème fraiche or sweetened yogurt completes this summery treat and it would surely go well with a cold glass of fizz or pudding wine. Pull up a deck chair and relax!!!!

Serves 10 – 12

What you need…

1 x 20cm round spring form tin, liberally buttered and lined with baking parchment

175g unsalted butter, softened

175g golden caster sugar

2 large happy eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

175g self-raising flour

A pinch of salt

50g ground almonds

4 tablespoons natural yogurt

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

100g rhubarb, chunkily sliced

150g strawberries, hulled and halved

2 tablespoons raspberry jam

1 tablespoon boiling water from the kettle

A sprinkling of flaked almonds

A sifting of icing sugar

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180˚c / 350˚f / gas 4.

Tip the butter and sugar into your food processor and whizz until pale and creamy. Whilst still whizzing, gradually pour in the eggs and vanilla extract. Tip in the flour, salt and ground almonds and briefly whizz to fully incorporate.

Remove the mixing blade from the processor and pour in the yogurt, lemon zest and juice, using a balloon whisk to gently but thoroughly fold in until smooth. Spoon into the tin and level the surface with a spatula. Arrange the fruit on top, cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Then, remove the foil and pop back into the oven to bake for a further 15 minutes until cooked through and golden.

Cool for 15 minutes in the tin and then gently remove the tin sides and bottom as well as the baking parchment (I left the bottom piece on for fear of breaking the cake, just taking off the side bits) and cool on a wire rack.

Once cool, use a little balloon whisk to mix together the jam and hot water before drizzling it over the cake. Then sprinkle over the toasted almonds and sift over the icing sugar. This lovely, moist little summer cake is ready to be indulged in!

Serving suggestion…

Crème fraiche if you have it. I didn’t but mixed a little pre-made sugar syrup (a staple in our house, mainly for Maddie’s cocktails) with left over natural yogurt – bloody lovely!

Inspired by…

Woman and Home magazine

How easy…

Really quite effortless

Rather Yummy Carrot and Walnut Cake

Delicious, moist cake with the lovely, creamy filling and topping acting as the perfect foil for the dark, gently spiced sponge. Luscious (especially given that we doubled the amount of filling and topping!) Also, one of John’s favourites, hence this year it was his birthday cake! Happy days!

Serves 10 – 12

What you need…

2 x 20cm round sandwich tins, liberally buttered and lined with baking parchment

250ml sunflower oil

4 happy eggs

225g dark muscovado sugar

200g carrots, grated

300g self-raising flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon mixed spice

1 teaspoon ground ginger

75g walnuts, chopped, plus 8 halves to decorate

for the filling and topping

100g butter, softened

50g icing sugar

500g full-fat cream cheese

A few drops of vanilla extract

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180˚c / 350˚f / gas 4.

Tip the oil, eggs and sugar into a large mixing bowl and use a handheld electric whisk to beat until the mixture is well combined, lighter and noticeably thickened. Rinse off your whisks – you’ll need them again in a little while. Use a balloon whisk to gently fold in the carrot; then stir in the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, ginger and chopped walnuts until evenly blended.

Spoon the mixture evenly between the sandwich tins and pop the cakes into the oven to bake for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown, risen, and shrinking away from the sides of the tins. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Meanwhile, put the butter, icing sugar, cream cheese and vanilla extract into a bowl and use your electric whisk again to beat together until smooth and thoroughly blended.

Spread half the icing on one cake, sit the other cake on top and spread the remaining icing on top, making a swirly pattern for appearances’ sake. Decorate the top of the cake with the halved walnuts. That’s it! Dead easy and rather lovely for an afternoon tea or indeed any other time!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

Very, very easy. A great one to quickly knock up!

 

 

A Little Aside: Roasted Romano Peppers

Perfect as alternatives or additions to the salad accompanying your summer BBQ or roasted meats and fish, these gloriously sweet peppers are simply embellished with a few cherry tomatoes, some herbs, a drizzle and a dash to create a lovely, easy bit on the side!!!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x baking tray

6 romano peppers, halved lengthways and deseeded

24-ish cherry tomatoes, halved

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon capers

A dash of red wine vinegar

Sea salt and black pepper

A good drizzle of olive oil

12 thyme sprigs

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 200˚c / 400˚f / gas 6.

Place the peppers onto your baking tray. (I line my tray with foil which is discarded after cooking, leaving a clean baking tray – saves on the washing up!) You may need to balance the peppers against one another to keep them upright.

Into each of the peppers, wodge in as many cherry tomato halves as you fancy. Sprinkle over with garlic and capers and then around ½ teaspoon red wine vinegar per pepper. Season with salt and pepper and then drizzle with olive oil. Share the thyme evenly between the peppers and then pop your oven for about 30 minutes or until just starting to char at the edges.

Serve these effortless, tasty little morsels and marvel at the simplicity of something so tasty!

Inspired by…

Delicious magazine

How easy…

Literally a few minutes to prep before the oven takes over – couldn’t be easier!

Chocolate Cocktail (oh yeah!)

What a fabulous combo: two of my favourite things – chocolate and cocktails! This one is simply divine. Really, it should be sipped elegantly but it’s quite difficult to restrain from the silken, velvety loveliness that is this delectable chocolate cocktail as it glides around your taste buds and slips down the throat. And it’s not sickly and does have that essential gentle ‘kick’! The first batch was checked out with Maddie, which was not received well by Connagh so, being the good mother that I am, a second batch will be consumed this evening! Oh, and chocolate vodka – there’s a thing to behold!

Makes 4 delicious little numbers

What you need…

for the sugar syrup

200g sugar

200g hot water from the kettle

for the cocktail

50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

175ml vodka

5 tablespoons sugar syrup (made in advance – see below)

40ml brandy

10 cubes of ice

A drizzle of single cream (optional)

What to do…

First, make up the sugar syrup. Tip the sugar into a jug and then pour over the hot water. Use a balloon whisk to dissolve the sugar into the water. Decant into a bottle, cool and then keep in the fridge until required for this and other recipes! It keeps indefinitely.

Also to be prepared in advance is the chocolate vodka. Melt the chocolate in a bowl sitting in a steamer over a saucepan of simmering water. Allow to cool slightly and the tip into a screw top jar with the vodka. Pop on the lid and shake like mad to mix together. Store somewhere cool until required – it keeps for weeks (if left alone!)

To serve, mix the chocolate vodka with the sugar syrup, brandy and ice together, either in a cocktail shaker if you have one or a large jug. Divide equally between 4 martini glasses. Drizzle over a little single cream, if you fancy. Serve, indulge, enjoy. Consider for a moment whether it would be worthwhile creating a large stock of chocolate vodka so that this cocktail is readily available! Cheers!

Tip…

Always keep a batch of sugar syrup in the fridge – it makes life so much easier if you suddenly fancy this or another cocktail, i.e. a mojito – it’s a staple in our fridge!

Inspired by…

Rachel Allen

How easy…

Rather too easy really, but if one is to have bad habits this is a good one to have!