Sweet sweet Friday: Apricot and Orange Blossom Teacake

My jet-setting in-laws flew in yesterday, fresh from a month in the northern hemisphere. I had high hopes of making them a welcoming afternoon tea but my timings were a bit off and this cake, which I’ve been making in my head for about a month, didn’t come out of the oven until they were airborne again and on their way home. Oh well. Any excuse to make it again…

Apricot and Almond Blossom Teacake

I started thinking about making this cake ages ago, after rediscovering the delights of (good quality) tinned apricots. If you’re in the northern hemisphere you could make it with the real thing, but the tinned stuff works just as well. If you use orange blossom water (which I confess I bought because I loved the bottle), don’t be heavy handed or the cake will taste like it was made in a department store beauty hall.

175g soft butter
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup ground almonds
2tsp baking powder
2tsp orange blossom water (or you could use 1/2-1tsp almond essence, or vanilla)
1/4 cup milk
Apricots – fresh or well-drained tinned ones

Preheat the oven to 175C and grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Don’t take fright if it curdles, all will be well. Sift in the flour and baking powder and mix well, then add the milk, orange blossom water and ground almonds. Mix until combined, then scrape into the prepared tin. Arrange the apricot halves on top, pressing them lightly into the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake has risen and is golden brown on top. Let cool for 10 minutes before releasing from the tin. Lovely eaten warm on the spot or with a dollop of Greek yoghurt later.

Thank you all for your support and lovely comments about my dad. Hope you all have a sweet, sweet Friday and a happy weekend x

Sweet sweet Friday: Beetroot Cake

All I seem to be eating at the moment is cake, biscuits and bread, washed down with copious amounts of tea and wine. I think they call this the Stress diet, where your body tricks you into thinking that a nice wedge of cake will make you feel better. The act of making a nice cake is also a good distraction – and this one even has beetroot in it, which means it scores points on the balanced meal scale.

Beetroot Cake
This owes a little to a Ray McVinnie recipe published in Sunday magazine a couple of months ago, which he in turn gave credit to The Silver Palate Cookbook by Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso. The icing – my version of an Ottolenghi recipe – is so good I have to stop myself from eating it all before it goes on the cake.

120g rice flour
20g cornflour
40g ground almonds
300g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2tsp baking soda
3/4tsp baking powder
1Tbsp cinnamon
1Tbsp ground ginger
40g desiccated coconut
3/4 cup sunflower oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1tsp vanilla
240g grated beetroot
3/4 cup crushed pineapple, well drained

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 23cm springform tin.
Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Add the oil, eggs, vanilla, beetroot and pineapple and mix again. Pour into the tin and bake for about 45 minutes, until the cake passes the skewer test. Place on a rack to cool completely, then turn out of the tin and slice through the middle horizontally. Spread half the icing (recipe follows) on the bottom layer, plonk the other half on top and dollop on the remainder. Eat with a fork.

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting – inspired by the Ottolenghi Cookbook
Beat together 100g super-soft butter with 75g soft brown sugar (or that lovely dark, sticky muscovado sugar, if you can get it) and three tablespoons of golden syrup. Then beat in 200g cream cheese (room temperature) until you have a satin-smooth mixture.

Hope you all have a sweet weekend x

Birthday cake

The Small Girl turned two on Saturday. It was a bright, sunny, exhilarating and exhausting day, much like the one on which she was born. Last year we had champagne and cupcakes, this year it was coffee and muffins. Funnily enough, none of the party guests were that keen on a glass of champagne at 10.30am, so we saved it until they’d gone home. They were all keen on a slice of birthday cake though – a light and luscious Orange Chiffon Cake with a drizzle of orange icing and some clever candles.

I found the recipe here – and despite dirtying nearly every kitchen implement I had in the process and the fact that my laptop kept turning itself off everytime I needed to check something, it worked a treat. I’ll definitely make it again soon, especially because by next year I’ll probably have less say in what the cake is going to be.

What’s your favourite birthday cake? Are you a builder of castles and pirate ships, or do you favour flavour over form?

Sweet sweet Friday: Chocolate Roulade

Want to know how to make a Swiss roll? Push him off an alp (boom boom)!
Want to make a delectable chocolate roulade? Then you should try this recipe, which was the special occasion pudding of choice when I was a child. This is my sister’s recipe, which was written out and stuck to a page of my mother’s spiral-bound recipe notebook. It was a long time before I felt grown-up enough to tackle it on my own, but it’s actually ridiculously easy. What is not so easy is photographing it late at night after a glass of wine or two. Warning, extremely dodgy chocolate roulade shot approaching…

Marion’s Chocolate Roulade
This is my entry for this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge. You can’t tell from this terrible photo, but it’s light, chocolatey and rolls like a dream around some rum-soaked raspberries and cream.

6 large eggs, separated
155g caster sugar
50g cocoa. sifted

300ml cream
brandy or rum

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a sponge roll tin. (I didn’t have a tin big enough, so I just lined about half of a roasting dish. Worked perfectly!)
Beat the egg yolks until beginning to thicken, gradually add caster sugar and whisk until pale and thick. Mix in cocoa.
Whisk egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff but not dry. Fold into the chocolate mixture (stir in a large spoonful first to lighten it, then fold in the rest with large, gentle strokes). Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 20-20 minutes, until springy.
Cool slightly, then turn out onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and roll up.
To serve, unroll, remove the paper and spread with whipped cream etc. Re-roll gently. Dust some icing sugar over the top and serve.

Fit for a king in waiting

One of the first things I learned to make by heart was ‘Caroline’s Chocolate Slab’ from Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes. From memory, it involved butter, cocoa and crushed up wine biscuits (what we colonials call plain, sweet biscuits), topped with a rich chocolate icing. If the breathless news reports are to be believed, this is the sort of thing guests at Buckingham Palace will be nibbling on on Friday morning. But guests at our royal wedding party will be offered a silver tray of this, a slightly more posh (posher? poshly?) version.

Posh Chocolate Slab
This recipe is a version of something from an old Annabel Langbein book. I had a spot of bother when getting a chocolate cake out of a tin a few months back and the resulting broken pieces have been waiting in the freezer to be turned into crumbs for this express purpose. You could just as easily use a chocolate sponge (or indeed, any sort of sponge) from the supermarket. If you use a plain one, then up the cocoa in the recipe by a couple of tablespoons.

250g plain sweet biscuits
2 cups chocolate cake or sponge crumbs
2Tbsp cocoa
125g butter
2Tbsp caster sugar
2Tbsp golden syrup
1/4 cup condensed milk
250g dark chocolate
2Tbsp dark rum or brandy
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup cranberries

125g dark chocolate
1/4 cup cream
Line a brownie tin or sponge roll tin with clingfilm, allowing for plenty of overhang. Reduce the biscuits to gravel in a food processor (or use a rolling pin and brute strength). Add the cocoa and blitz again.
Put the butter, sugar golden syrup, condensed milk and chocolate in a large saucepan and heat gently until the butter and chocolate have melted. Stir well, then add half the cocoa biscuit crumbs. Mix, then tip in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Tip into the prepared tin and smooth the top.
Melt the second measure of chocolate with the cream, stir until smooth and pour over the top. Let set, then cut into small, elegant squares with a sharp knife.

(I apologise for the dreadful photo, but there comes a time in every blogger’s life where they think, argh, I have spent long enough fussing over this photo and I’ve already smudged the edge and I need to get dressed and make breakfast and get the Small Girl up and put the washing on and get to work… Trust me, it looks a lot prettier in real life!)