Sunday, 28 February 2010

Treats on turning twenty

Raspberry cheesecake brownie
I am a little (very) prone to indecision so deciding what to bake to celebrate my 20th birthday was a bit tricky. Until, a recipe caught my eye which seemed to combine all the good things in three layers: brownie topped with vanilla cheesecake and finally, raspberry whipped cream. This is a pudding with only one problem, it is heavy on the washing up. I think I used almost every bowl and spoon in the kitchen. Washing up aside, it was definitely worth the effort. Possibly my favourite birthday moment was the is the impromptu Mexican wave of appreciative noises, closely followed by sugar-laden silence, that occurred as I served this up to the gang.

Waves of cream leading the way for waves of delight...

Butterfly-shaped desserts
It has been too long since I have made a butterfly-shaped anything so, I just had to.

Raspberry cheesecake brownie

Raspberry and almond cupcakes
I added 3 tablespoons of ground almonds and 3 tablespoons of raspberries to a basic cupcake recipe substituting vanilla essence for almond essence. The batter turned a lovely purple colour which was a bit of a surprise. When I removed them from the oven my housemate remarked, "pretty cement cakes". A compliment from a poet?
Raspberry almond cupcake
Cross section!

Thank you so much to Izzy for making me such tasty custard tarts and Mutti for trekking to Norwich bearing rhubarb and custard tart from Paul patisserie.
Rhubarb and custard tart from Paul
Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb.
Custard custard custard.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Toadstool cupcakes for fairy friends

I made toadstool-esque cupcakes for my lovely friend Heather's birthday. She has long blonde locks and contacts in the fairy world of Devon so I thought this would be both apt and FUN! I dyed vanilla frosting a dark pinky hue with red food colouring and dotted some of the white frosting on top to make red toadstools and for (more realistic?) mushroomy cakes I used chocolate frosting with coconut around the edges, topped with a coconut mushroom sweet.

A troop of mushroom cupcakes
(Google informs me that the collective noun for a group of mushrooms is a troop)

mushroom cupcakes

P.S Heather is a fun-g(h)i(rl)

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Lavender cupcakes (its like eating a Granny)

For my Nona's 80th birthday on Saturday I baked lavender cupcakes. Mainly because 'When I'm an old woman I shall wear purple' but also because the idea of eating flowers, tasting smells, appeals.

The lavender flavour comes from infusing 3 tablespoons of dried lavender flowers in 120ml of milk for the cake plus a tablespoon of flowers in 25ml of milk for the frosting and then leaving the flowered milk to steep/brew overnight. I sourced the dried lavender flowers from Neal's Yard in Lower Goat Lane after being direct there by the man with the (delightfully) distinctive nose who runs the spice stall on the market.

I based these on a recipe in Hummingbird again. All the recipes instruct you to put the ingredients in a 'freestanding electric mixer' something I lack. However, being a free standing lady with excess nervous energy and a wooden spoon feels like a more organic way to stir things up.

To make the frosting purple I mixed together blue and red food dye. I write with false-authority since I expected that to spectacularly fail. A child wanting all the colours at once, hoping for a rainbow, creates sludge. Things worked fine this time, almost only because I didn't have the third primary colour to hand. I bought white and purple sugar-craft flowers from Digby's chocolate shop in the Royal Arcade and voilà kitsch attack!


Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Raison d'être... cake

On finishing Sartre's Nausea I decided to stir something up into being. Cake, as superfluous and perhaps as necessary as existence felt like the appropriate response to ideas that left me a little feeling hollow. I don't normally make cake without someone in mind but I wanted to test out my new set of scales and it is so-called Fat Thursday tomorrow, the last Thursday before lent, a day on which it seems we are obliged to feast.

So, this raison d'être cake is really Nutty Apple Loaf taken from the de-lovely Hummingbird Bakery book. The recipe states that you should leave the mixture overnight before baking. It doesn't tell you for why. But, I can't argue with a process that resembles a brew so I went to sleep with hopes of encountering a bowl of mellowed, matured or even bubbly batter in the morning. Purposefully delayed gratification gave me a good reason to be... waking up the next day.

On waking I found the batter looking.... pretty much the same. I have faith something magic happened though. The kind of magic you can't see.

Ingredients: 175g butter softened, 140g brown sugar, 2 tablespoons jam, 2 eggs, 140g plain flour, 1 tbsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 100g chopped nuts, 50g dark chocolate chopped, 2 apples cored and diced.

Beat the butter, sugar and jam together.
Add eggs
Sift in floury things.
Add nuts, chocolate and apple.
Mix more.
Cover and leave to mysteriously brew overnight.
Preheat oven to 170 C (or 100 C in our oven with the warped thermostat)
Bake for 50 minutes or so.

Tea and cake
Oh I don't know. Sartre has his moments -
'I'm going to outlive myself. Eat, sleep. Sleep, eat. Exist slowly, gently, like these trees, like a puddle of water, like the red seat in the tram.'