So, moving house happened, and now it’s time to get down to some baking. I’ve finally begun the process of registering my business, which involves frightening things like tax returns and hygiene procedures. Still working without an internet connection in my house until next Thursday, so I won’t be getting that far with it before then. But hopefully by the new year it’ll all be up and running. Next week I’m going to spend my days off working on recipes previously mentioned in my List, like mini salted caramel tarts and carrot cake. Every time I bake at the moment there are things I realise I still don’t have for my kitchen. Currently the main thing I am missing out on is a cooling rack, which I really need to buy before I start full scale cake making.
I’m really bad at using the cookery books I already own – working in a bookshop doesn’t help this – there are always new books with new recipes in. I’ve resolved to spend Monday going through my existing cookery books in order to stop myself from buying one I’ve now got my eye on – Rachel Allen’s Bake. The other day I made the poppy seed cake from this book, and it is excellent. Kitchen disasters happen though, and mine for this one was that I completely messed up the icing – let me just say that the picture of this cake in the book is fantastic, and I was so disappointed when mine basically ended up looking like it had been topped with scrambled eggs. The icing was vanilla buttercream, but wasn’t your conventional icing sugar + butter, instead it was a custard + butter. I have never made custard before, and this certainly wasn’t a good first attempt. It didn’t help that I was cooking dinner at the same time as trying to make this icing, so my attention wasn’t fully on the custard any way. It seemed to be going reasonably well until I added the butter too early and it went lumpy and disgusting. Also probably not helped by the fact I decided that I should just use a spoon instead of a whisk. Error.
Despite all of this, and the rather buttery consistency of the icing, it still tastes pretty good. I added some lemon juice and lemon zest because I thought that would be a good added flavour (I am a fan of lemon & poppy seed muffins), and it certainly does.
150g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
3 eggs, beaten
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
75g poppy seeds
1. Preheat the oven to 170C, gas mark 3. Butter a 20cm/8in cake tin and line with greaseproof paper.
2. Cream the butter in a large bowl or in an electric mixer until soft. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs, beating well between each addition.
3. Sift in the flour and baking powder, add the poppy seeds and stir until combined.
4. Spoon the mixture into the tin, bake for 25-30 mins or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
5. Allow the cake to stand for 5 mins before carefully removing it from the tin and on to a wire rack to cool.
125g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
175g butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Place the milk and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
2. Whisk the egg yolks in a small bowl, then pour the milk onto the yolks, whisking continuously. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a low-medium heat, stirring all the time with a wooden or silicone spatula until it thickens and the mixture just coats the back of a spoon – this may take around 10 mins. Do not allow the mixture to get too hot or it will scramble. Pour into a bowl or jug and allow to cool slightly.
3. Meanwhile, place the butter in a bowl and whisk until soft and light.
4. Gradually add the almost cooled (room temperature) custard to the butter, whisking all the time, until it is combined. Add the vanilla extract and mix.
Spread icing over cake, or cut in half and use it to sandwich the cake together.