Summer is here! (It’s forecast to rain tomorrow, but 3 days of sunshine and 20+ degree heat is good enough in the UK). To celebrate all the sunshine and possibility of sitting outdoors without a jacket, I made some delicious, delicious syrup. It was one of those recipes you see and think to yourself “I need that in my life”. And I wasn’t disappointed. I took some rhubarb from my parents’ garden, bought some strawberries and a lemon, and a cute milk bottle, and after very little effort, I had this:
It’s great as a summer drink mixer – use 2-3 tbsp of syrup and add sparkling water, or my personal preference, bitter lemon. If you’re feeling like you need some alcohol, add 2 shots of gin, and maybe a few crushed mint leaves. Beautiful.
A belated Happy Father’s Day to my father, to whom this cake was given (albeit a few days late). I cycled a 25km round trip to give him the cake, which I think kind of makes up for its lateness. On said cycle ride, I was yelled at by a woman who seemed enraged that I had only stopped to give her directions, not to have a conversation with her. Sometimes, people be crazy.
The cake was delicious, dense but moist, and most excitingly it was ring-shaped, because this was the first time I have ever used a bundt tin (many thanks again to Seb who has gifted me many a baking thing – especially as I never would’ve bought a bundt tin myself). I don’t think I realised quite how massive the cake was until I tried to lift it into the oven – despite having a hole in the middle, bundt cakes involve one hell of a lot of ingredients (like, half a dozen eggs). It’s gone to a good home though, and actually, has probably been eaten already.
I bought the cheapest blueberries I’ve ever seen to make the cake – on Cambridge market they were doing 2 punnets for £2.00, and I was like, that’s amazing! So I took them home, and naturally, it was too good to be true, because after leaving them in the fridge for a day, quite a lot of them had gone mouldy and I had to pick through and salvage what I could (miraculously, the amount I saved was exactly 250g, the precise quantity I needed for the cake!)
Earlier this week I made a strawberry cake and used up the rest of the chocolate icing left over from the cupcakes last week. One good thing about that icing is that if you can’t use it all at once, and you come back to it a few days later once it’s all hardened, it melts really easily and returns to its former consistency ready for you to pour too much over the cake you made so that it ends up all over your counter (see here). The strawberry cake was just a basic sponge with about 100g of mashed strawberries added, and it was GREAT. I’m trying to make the most of summer fruit season, so I’ve been consuming lots of strawberries and raspberries and jealously watching as my blueberry plants bear fruit back in my parents’ garden. I did have a joyous half hour or so last week though, picking strawberries in Oli’s parents’ garden, only to then find a rash all over my arms. Hayfever is really NOT my friend this year. All in all though, summer is shaping up to be pretty good. Birthday week soon, and in 6 weeks I will be in Canada! A lot of baking to be done, and a lot to look forward to.
Blueberry Cake (from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf)
350g unsalted butter at room temperature
350g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
450g plain flour
2 tbsp + 2 tsp baking powder
280ml sour cream
250g fresh blueberries (plus extra to decorate if you want)
icing sugar, to decorate
~ you can use cream cheese icing to cover the cake, but as I think it’s pretty tasty without, I’m leaving the icing off the recipe here~
1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3. Put the butter and sugar in a mixer with a paddle attachment and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.
2. Beat in the vanilla extract, flour and baking powder until well mixed. Add the sour cream and mix well until everything is combined and the mixture is light and fluffy. Gently stir the blueberries in by hand until evenly dispersed.
3. Pour the mixture into the prepared ring mould (note – grease the tin LOTS) and smooth over. Bake in a preheated oven for 40 mins (or an hour in my case) or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cake to cool in the mould before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar.
Next week: Little Blueberry Pies
This week the lovely Laura came to visit me. She had just returned from living in Paris for the last two years, and came covered in bags full of stuff. I do mean covered. It was her birthday a few weeks ago, and I sent her a wooden pop-out cupcake in place of a real one, because it’s not exactly efficient to post cake to people living in a different country. However, I did make up for it this week by making her these delicious Chocolate Chip Cupcakes. They have the most incredible chocolate glaze on top, which I was a bit apprehensive about at first, because I don’t remember ever putting egg in icing before, but it turned out beautifully – so glossy and delicious, but not too rich. There was, however, far far too much of it – I think I only used about half of the amount that I made. So later I’m going to be making a sponge cake to use up the rest of it, and the strawberries I picked in Oli’s parents’ garden yesterday.
The adorable cupcake cases and toppers came from Jordi a while ago, and I’ve been saving them for some kind of special occasion, and I thought Laura’s belated birthday cake should definitely be it.
These cupcakes are not only delicious, but also a good way of making yourself feel better after seeing ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, which Laura and I sobbed our way through on Thursday night. I think I cried the most out of everyone – at one point I blew my nose quite loudly and people turned around and looked at me. BUT it is an incredible film and everyone should go and see it (except for people with hearts of stone, because you won’t enjoy it).
Next week: Blueberry Cake
Chocolate Chip Cupcakes (from Baked in America by The Outsider Tart)
Makes 12-14 cupcakes
175g plain flour
340g light brown sugar
3/4 tsp bicarb of soda
115g butter, chilled and diced
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g sour cream
3tbsp whole milk
250g dark chocolate chips/finely chopped chocolate
1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3. Line a cupcake tray with paper cases.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, put the flour, bicarb and sugar. Mix on a low speed until well blended. Add the butter about a tbsp at a time, and continue on low speed for about 2 mins until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
3. Add the egg and vanilla and blend thoroughly. Stir in the sour cream and milk until the batter looks even. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate chips. Using a large spoon place a heaped spoon of batter in each case until about 3/4 full.
4. Bake for about 25 mins or until the tops feel firm and a skewer comes out clean. Cool for about 10 mins on a wire rack.
Dark Chocolate Glaze (this is the full amount, but if you don’t want to have tons left over, I’d do about 1/2 to 3/4 of the quantities below)
60g granulated sugar
340g dark chocolate, chips or finely chopped
1 large egg, gently whisked
1. Prepare all your ingredients first so you can add them to the mixture once everything reaches the right temperature.
2. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a light simmer. If the mixture comes to a boil, wait 2-3 mins before adding the chocolate. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate. Allow it to sit in the hot water for 4 mins or so before stirring to combine.
3. Once all the chocolate is melted and combined, slowly add the egg, stirring constantly. The heat from the liquid will cook the egg and you must constantly stir to ensure you get a thick, smooth and glossy glaze. This thickens as it cools so use immediately if for a smooth finish. Either dip into it or pour it on. Otherwise it can be spread on once cooled.
It has been such an unbelievably beautiful weekend! Admittedly I did have to work yesterday, but then I spent the evening at my friends’ housewarming, for which I made this cake, and today I have eaten roast dinner and sat in the sun reading Harry Potter down at Grantchester Meadows. Basically this is the way every Sunday should be.
This cake is an unusual one – the closest I can think of in terms of the texture it has is the chiffon cake I made for Rachel’s birthday last year. But the strawberry and elderflower flavour is really delicious, and it’s a lovely light, fresh summer cake to have. The recipe says to make this in one tin and then cut it in half, but my ability to cut in a straight line is basically non-existent, and I didn’t want to mess it up, so I separated the mixture into two tins and then halved the baking time. I only realised that I should halve the baking time when they’d been in for about 15 minutes and I went to check on them and they were cooked. Disaster averted! I will also confess that I did cheat, and I didn’t make the custard, mostly because I already had some ready-made stuff that Oli had bought, so it seemed silly to make more. However, the recipe for custard is below if you are feeling more industrious than me! The leftover elderflower cordial which is infused with strawberry goodness is delicious diluted with a bit of water – she suggests pouring it over the cake, but I was worried it would make the cake too soggy, so I drank it instead. Totally worth it.
Next week is the BEER FESTIVAL in Cambridge, which means I’ll be spending a large amount of my evenings sitting outside drinking beer (and praying for continuing good weather), but I might also try and find the time to make a walnut, chocolate and honey tart.
Bløtkake (from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen)
4 medium eggs
150g caster sugar
1/2tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
Filling and topping:
1 punnet fresh strawberries
1/2 batch skoleboller custard (see bottom), or 250ml ready-made fresh custard
200g creme fraiche
2 tbsp icing sugar (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3-4 and grease a 23cm round cake tin with sides at least 5cm deep (or two tins or similar size if you’re splitting like me).
2. Put the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water and whisk until pale and fluffy (this takes about 10 minutes or so with an electric hand whisk – the mixture will approx. triple in size whilst you’re whisking, so make sure your bowl is big enough!). The mixture should look mousse-like and when you remove the whisk, the trail of mixture it leaves on the surface should remain visible for about 4 seconds. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture a third at a time to the beaten eggs, gently folding through with a large metal spoon each time to distribute evenly whilst taking care not to knock out all the air.
3. Carefully pour the cake batter into the prepared tin(s) and tap the tin once or twice against the kitchen surface to pop any big bubbles in the mixture. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 mins (or 12-15 in two tins), or until golden and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5-10 mins in the tin, then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
4. Hull and quarter most of the strawberries, leaving 5 good ones whole to garnish. Pour the elderflower cordial (I used about 100ml) over the quartered strawberries in a small bowl and leave to macerate for 15 mins or so before draining. Reserve the strawberry-elderflower cordial.
5. Cut your cake in half, or not if you baked it in two tins. Shortly before you want to serve the cake (ideally no more than an hour in advance or it will go soggy), spread a smooth, even layer of the vanilla custard over the cut surface of the bottom half of the cake. Carefully put a layer of drained strawberries on top and drizzle with a little of the elderflower cordial for extra flavour if you wish. Sandwich the upper half of the cake on top.
6. If you wish to sweeten the creme fraiche, whip it gently with the icing sugar. Spread the creme fraiche over the top of the cake and garnish with the reserved whole strawberries.
4 medium egg yolks
500ml whole milk
75g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Put the egg yolks and cornflour in a bowl and whisk together so the cornflour is distributed evenly. In a saucepan bring the milk and sugar to a simmer and then remove from the heat. Pour a third of the hot sweetened milk on to the egg yolks and stir through to temper the yolks. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan, add the salt and bring to a gentle boil while stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and sieve if any lumps have appeared. Add the vanilla extract and stir through. Pour into a bowl and cover with cling film so that it sits directly on the surface of the custard to stop a skin developing. Allow to cool completely before refrigerating until needed.
OH MAN. My oven still isn’t fixed. It’s not great, but I’m learning to work around it (although hopefully not for too much longer…). An oven-free week has led to me making this super tasty honey mustard chicken casserole, and the best breakfast I’ve had in a while – aka, lemon ricotta pancakes. I can’t remember the last time I went to work when I wasn’t hungry when lunchtime came around (without spending the morning snacking), but these pancakes are super filling, and so good. It also seemed like destiny, because I had some leftover buttermilk that was probably going to go off soon, so it was, all in all, a good pancake opportunity.
I really love breakfast (read about that here), and so much of the time I just don’t have anything in the house that is breakfasty enough to keep me full until lunch. This has led me to believe I should always eat pancakes and fruit for breakfast. Not really cost-effective though. I will be looking into this. Breakfast suggestions welcome.
One of the reasons I hadn’t made these pancakes before was that there’s a section of my list which I’m reserving for summer. I’m one of those people who is pretty strict about not buying fruit that’s out of season that’s been shipped from Kenya or whatever. Blueberries in December? I don’t think so! The recipe suggests you should serve the pancakes with raspberries, but English raspberries aren’t going to be around for at least another month or two. I was in the process of trying to reconcile myself with buying some from Spain, when I realised that (slightly unbelievably) there were some strawberries from Sussex. I am fully aware that the amount of energy it took to grow strawberries in England before the summer is probably comparable to them just being shipped from Spain where they probably do just grow normally in April, but it made me feel better okay? I felt better about eating strawberries that came from Sussex.
Hopefully next week we will be back with an oven, otherwise it’ll be another non-oven recipe, or I will use my other option, baking at my parents’ house. It’s Easter, and I really wanted to make something awesome and chocolatey, but at the moment it looks like I’ll just be making chocolate cornflake cakes (which do fit the previous description, but aren’t really what I had in mind).
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Raspberries (or whatever fruit you feel like) from Dorset Cereals Breakfast Book
225g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large free-range eggs, separated
60g caster sugar
185g ricotta cheese
finely grated zest of 1/2 an unwaxed lemon
2tsp butter, melted
1 punnet of raspberries (or strawberries)
1 tbsp caster sugar (optional – or maple syrup is good too!)
1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, bicarb and salt. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, egg yolks, sugar, ricotta and lemon zest. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour and stir until just blended – there may be a few lumps.
2. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the egg whites into the batter until just blended.
3. Place a large griddle or frying pan over a medium heat until hot. Brush the pan with some of the melted butter. Put one ladleful of the batter into the hot pan (you can do them more than one at a time, depending on the size of your pan – I did two at a time). Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until small bubbles appear on the surface, the edges start to look dry and the bottoms golden brown, about 4 mins.
4. Carefully turn the pancake over and cook until lightly browned on the other side – about a minute. Transfer to an ovenproof platter and place in the oven to keep warm (heat the oven to about 120C). Do not cover the pancakes or they will go soggy! The batter will make about 16 pancakes. Serve with fruit and sprinkle with sugar (or maple syrup).