Christmas Cake

After last year’s Christmas creation, the pressure was on envision this year’s masterpiece. 

Muv, the dear, had her wooden spoon at the ready on Stir Up Sunday and baked an exquisite fruit cake, stored in the pantry for a month before ‘the handover’.



Fortnum & Mason’s marmalade was warmed and liberally applied to the cake as a glue and a crumb coat.

I made up a batch of marzipan, which is unbelievably easy to do and tastes nothing like the shop-bought variety. This was then rolled out and neatly wrapped around the cake. She then went back into the pantry for 3 days to allow the marzipan to dry out.

Meanwhile-

After reading Mima Sinclair’s Gingerbread Wonderland cover to cover, I set my heart on a gingerbread house cake.


Unfortunately, as my brother has stealthily worked his way though the vast majority of the golden syrup (I dread to think what he’d been doing with the stuff!) the gingerbread was to be a hybrid of light and dark- I hope Mima doesn’t mind such things!


Using a set of Lakeland gingerbread house cutters (cheat!) I set to work on my building blocks. When cutting out shaped biscuits, it’s always advisable to refrigerate them first to help them retain definition during cooking. Although I followed this advice to the letter, I was concerned that the shapes had spread slightly in the oven, so I used the cutters again after baking to make sure they were right. Potentially, the ‘building blocks’ may not have fitted together neatly had I not re-cut, so the open edges and a small amount of cracking from pressing down on the cutter were a small sacrifice.

To avoid any messy disasters, I built my house over several days. Farv frequently reminds me that I could never win Bake Off working at this pace, but now the dream team have split up I’m not sure it even matters!

Day 1: Baked gingerbread
Day 2: Iced design on to flat panels using royal icing
Day 3: Glued walls together using royal icing, supported by many cans of beans

Day 4: Glued cereal squares to roof panels, glued chimney to roof
Day 5: Glued roof panels to house, waited several hours then iced snow detail on to roof

Day 6: Iced cake with royal icing, added toadstools
Day 7: Christmas Eve- crumbs! It’s going to be close! Set house on cake, lit, added forest floor make from chocolate truffles, chocolate swiss rolls and ground almonds.
Day 8: Merry Christmas! Phew!

Below: My second cousin Ethan caught in the act of stealing my window frames- such a cutie!

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Oreo Cake

  

My dear friend Petula is rather partial to an Oreo biscuit (or cookie, as I believe they are actually called) so with her birthday approaching I set myself the challenge of creating her an Oreo cake.

I sketched out some ideas and decided upon chocolate sponge cakes sandwiched together by a crushed Oreo buttercream. Knowing the biscuits themselves are a very dark brown/black colour I realised that the brown of the cacao powder was never going to be dark enough so a dark chocolate ganache was required to cover it.

  
Experimental baker that I am, I created some sort of chocolate-caramel ganache, and then, because I like to make my life difficult, I covered the sponges individually so the buttercream would be neatly exposed.

  
I made a vanilla buttercream then crushed a whole packet of Oreos into it- terrible!

  
Once sandwiched I topped with a lovely, shiny dark chocolate ganache.

And this is where I made things really difficult for myself-

   
 I spent two hours cutting out a template for the Oreo design. Time well spent though I believe, as the finished cake did look rather spectacular.

   
  

Never one for a huge fuss, there were no candle or a horrific rendition of Happy Birthday, just a slice of cake and a cup of tea. It went down rather well I thought!
  

@ChambordChannel presents: Cake for Dinner

  One often dreams of living on the ‘C’ diet- chocolate, cake, champagne and perhaps the odd cocktail too. Rather fat-making in reality. 

Joyfully, one was given the opportunity to live the dream for an evening- a three course meal made entirely of cake, washed down with Chambord cocktails.

On arrival we were presented with a fork and golden bib inscribed with the oddly French-sounding phrase:

And who wouldn’t want to be served a champagne cocktail by gentlemen dressed as flamingos? 

We were led through a lovely faux topiary archway, which was dotted with tropical flowers. To our great surprise the centres of the flowers were edible. So we ate them.

 Our attention was soon grabbed by a fantastic looking feast: a roasted pig’s head, a tower of peas, a mountain of carrots, black pudding, scallops, garlic snails and cheese.

However…   

                

One found ones plate piled entirely with cake and covered in a caramel ‘gravy’. Sick-making indeed.

Once we felt we could eat no more, we proceeded through a bookcase and into a curious room of drawers.    

Within each drawer was a spoon for everyone, required for our ‘dessert’. The golden pineapple was opened and a new door was revealed- leading to a bar, of all things. 

Deliciously French music filled the room and we all cheered in celebration as the barman removed the cork (and neck) of a champagne bottle by zealously tapping it with the base of a champagne flute. How marvellous!

It was here we found our final course- a Chambord jelly. One’s recollection of the taste is rather vague but, fine.

  

I feel picking the finale session was a stroke of genius as there seemed to be a surplus of alcohol and one was rather sloshed by the end of the evening. Flapper-eque indeed.

Stir Up Sunday

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Friday night, wrapped in a blanket I watched a film called Snow Valley on TV. Very much a straight to TV movie, starring no one you’ve ever heard of and a pretty cliche story line. The thing that really got me was all the lovely Christmas traditions the family had. They very much had a programme of Christmassy events all the way through December, from decorating the tree and wrapping up presents for less fortunate children to icing gingerbread houses and indulging in the grand-sounding Feast of the Seven Fishes.
With no children in the family we are currently in that awkward limbo phase where we’re too old for the Christmas ‘magic’ ourselves, but too young (I say too young- I’m 27! Rather we’ve not in the position) to have our own children.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to celebrate to the extreme. I’ve got a few ideas but I’m definitely going to come up with some more.
I refuse to even talk about Christmas until after my birthday in November so it’s literally just starting to cross my mind. The starting point has to be Stir Up Sunday, which this year was Sunday 23rd November.
My mum and I are huge Christmas cake and Christmas pudding fans. In fact we eat Christmas pudding throughout the year, smothered in custard. We usually make a cake but had never really got involved in SUS, mostly because we’d never heard of it. We are both great believers in lovely family traditions so here we are. We got Nana involved too, reading out the ingredients as I got them out of the cupboard in a way that only a nan can!

Brandy, cherry brandy…
Brandy, cherry brandy, port…
Brandy, cherry brandy, port, bitters…

Nan! Stop repeating yourself!
Bless her.
I did have quite a hangover on Sunday so measuring out volumes of alcohol was a bit gagworthy! Once I’d got over that I mixed in the various dried fruits, heated for 15 minutes on a low flame then left to cool.
It’s now going to sit in the fridge sorting itself out for a week before we make a start on phase two.
I read on the internet earlier that it’s good luck for everyone in the family to have a stir of the cake mix so that’s what we’ll be doing!

Cake, Cake, Cake

Afternoon tea is for special occasions.

Nonsense. Have as much tea as you can. It has been observed by many a friend that I do rather love an afternoon tea.

I happened to see a Tweet from the Lancaster Hotel promoting their offer of 50% off afternoon tea with a glass Laurent Perrier. Now perhaps you don’t know, but other than tea and cocktails, flappers only drink champagne, so this suited me just fine!
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The tea itself was divine! The chefs should be commended on their cucumber sandwiches- the best I’ve ever tasted! I’m definitely going to take a leaf out of their book and start seasoning mine. Replenished sandwiches is a big tick in my book too.
The tea lounge was quiet and out of the way so it was easy to relax, and there was no pressure for us to leave, unlike some places, so we ended up staying until 7 o’clock!

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I’ve never been a fan of Halloween due to it’s proximity to and interference with my birthday. But for my love of the unusual I decided that I couldn’t resist the appeal of Cakeageddon. What?! I wasn’t sure either, but mystery is very appealing to me.
On Friday night we drove to Standalone Farm in Letchworth, Herts prepare to be scared slash filled with lovely cake. Themed around the fairytale we were guided round the farm by a “New York detective”, encountering the aftermath of a mass murder… Only all the corpses were made of cake!

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There was even a shop at the end of the tour where one could purchase all manner of disgusting looking (but undoubtedly delicious) cakes.
And yes, the cigarette butts are edible!

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Flappers & Tea Parties Part 2

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The other obvious thing to do on a weekend is have a tea party. And funnily enough it coincided with a need for an engagement party.
I’m not going to lie, I’m incredible at tea parties. I believe in doing things properly, so I begrudge buying anything in but this means I have to slave away for hours to get the results.
I also have a real thing for the details so have, for a long time, been collecting crockery and special objects to set the scene.IMG_6262.JPG
Normally I talk my guests through the names of dishes, the ingredients, whether they’re halal slash vegetarian slash suitable for people allergic to pepper. But frankly I couldn’t be bothered this time, so I made labels.
I also got fed up with doing the usual cucumber, egg, smoked salmon and ham sandwiches so thought I’d mix it up a bit.

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I looked to Pinterest for tea party inspiration and came up with some right crackers-

Another caramelised banana and rum sandwich, Vicar?

Alright, there wasn’t a vicar present but you get the idea.

The menu:

Champagne with mango juice ice cubes and edible glitter
Chorizo & apple sausage rolls
Vegetable pizza
Sliders
Chicken & mayo rolls
Egg mayonnaise & smoked salmon on French bread
Chocolate spread & sprinkles sandwiches
Caramelised banana and rum sandwiches
Tyrell’s Swanky Vegetable Crisps
Scones
Butterfly cakes
Layered chocolate cake
Cake pops
Cucumber with pesto cream cheese
Sticky date flapjack

Needless to say we had a fabulous time.

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Glitter sprinkled mango ice cubes

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Chorizo & apple sausage rolls

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ham & cheese swirls

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chocolate sprinkle sandwiches with heart cutout

GBBO

With the final of Bake Off fast approaching I felt compelled to get myself in the kitchen this week.

As we creep into autumn thoughts turn to fruit pies and crumbles. One thing I love about being in the countryside is that you’re never far from a blackberry bush, and what pleasure is greater than plucking a big juicy-looking berry and popping it in your mouth. Part of the joy has to be down to the hunt for the ripest looking ones (often standing on tip-toes, precariously leaning into the bush) and the accuracy required to not get prickled!

I saw this Tom Kerridge recipe for a toffee apple crumble tart aaaaages ago and really fancied adding a cheeky bit of toffee to my crumble. It’s definitely a treat for this autumn. Anyway, this idea evolved (as they do) into making biscuits. I found this recipe for toffee apple cookies on the Good Food website and ended up having a bit of a late-night baking sesh.

They didn’t last long at all as we ate about half of them fresh from the oven when they were still warm and crumbly. The next morning, by which time they had obviously cooled, the biscuit had firmed but the toffee had gone all lovely and chewy.

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My mind was wandering at work (as it often does) to what a peanut butter cake might taste like…
When we were little my mum had a Sun Pat recipe book. I wonder if Sun Pat still exists?? Anyway, it was a brightly coloured Lichtenstein-style one which I presume had come with (or been sent off for, as you did in those days) a jar of crunchy peanut butter. I can’t really remember which recipes were in it- peanut butter milkshake maybe? The only thing which sticks in my mind, and the only thing she made from it as far as I remember was the most gorgeous peanut butter cookies. I’m going to have to trawl through her massive stash of magazine cutting recipes to see if I can find it.

After all that I arrived at the idea of this cake. I was imagining quite a dense but moist sponge, a crunchy butter cream maybe… ooh how about a layer of strawberry jam to give it the peanut butter & jelly vibe?
I did some Googling and found this rather yummy sounding chocolate and PB cake. I won’t post the link as it was horrible! And I won’t disgrace the celebrity chef it belongs to either.

Honestly, I was so disappointed as I thought it looked lovely- all chocolately and studded with chopped nuts. I love the way it set exactly as I had dolloped it in the tin. Sadly the texture was really gluey and the smell which you sometimes get when you use cocoa powder was something like the smell of concrete!

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