Saturday, April 28, 2012

Random Recipes: Upside-down Apricot Cake

There seems to have been a proliferation of upside down cakes in the blogosphere this week, I've seen at least four others! However, this recipe is my entry into the Random Recipes challenge hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen. This month's challenge was to select a book at random from the baking books you own and then flick through with your eyes closed and whatever recipe you land on, you bake! The book I selected was Gorgeous Cakes by Annie Bell.
This challenge suits me down to the ground as I would estimate that over 90% of my recipe books are baking related. So I had rather a large selection to choose from as you can see from the picture...and this is only a fraction of the books I own. I think many people would agree that buying recipe books is just as addictive as baking out of them!!!
Well it's fair to say that my previous two entries for Random Recipes have been somewhat challenging. I selected a Fruit Slice with Flaky Pastry in January and an Alice in Wonderland Teapot cake in March. So I thought when I picked an upside down cake this would be the easiest yet but to be honest I'm a little dubious about the outcome and therefore the recipe below has the modifications I would make.                                                               d                                                                                                                          
The first thing I have to say is NEVER believe a recipe for an upside down cake or similar which suggests using a loose bottom tin. I was slightly dubious about this to start with but who am I to argue with the recipe. Well I was right to be dubious...within minutes of putting my cake in the oven the juice and melted butter for the bottom of the tin leaked out of the base... leading to some serious oven cleaning once the cake came out. I think had it not been loose bottomed all that lovely syrup and sugar would have given a better caramelised top to the cake. Lakeland have actually started selling something called PushPans which are essentially loose bottomed but they have a seal round the bottom to prevent just this sort of thing. Has anyone tried them?
So what other modifications would I make. Well I used tinned apricots as the British apricot season is May to September, and they worked just fine. In addition to the cake the recipe also calls for a syrup to be made to pour over the cake once turned out. This consists of honey, water and lemon juice, half a lemon in fact. However, I found the taste of lemon in the syrup completely overwhelming, it basically obliterates the flavour of the apricots and the cake. So if I were to make this again I think I'd just put in a tablespoon of lemon juice or quite possibly none at all.
My final observation is that the cake seemed to brown up very quickly on the outside and take a lot longer on the inside. This could well have been something to do with my baking but I did put foil over the cake towards the end but also had to leave it around 5 minutes longer than stated in the recipe.
All this aside the general taste of the cake was good but I definitely preferred it with less of the overpowering syrup! The apricots were lovely and soft and the texture of the cake was light. This is my first upside down cake and I'd certainly like to try another one!

Recipe adapted from Gorgeous Cakes by Annie Bell:


100g set honey
100ml water
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)


30g light muscovado sugar
30g salted butter
12 tinned apricot halves if out of season, otherwise you can use fresh apricots


150g salted butter
150g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
125ml whole milk
200g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Start by making the honey syrup. Weigh out the honey in the saucepan and add the water (and lemon juice if using). Bring to the boil. Whilst waiting, measure out the cornflour into a small bowl. When the honey and water comes to the boil pour a small amount in with the cornflour and mix to a smooth paste. Then add this back into the saucepan and simmer for one minute or until slightly thickened. Set aside to cool, you could serve this on the side in a jug if you'd like.

Heat the oven to 200c/180c fan/gas 6 before creaming together the muscovado and butter for the apricots. This is then smeared around the base of a 20cm cake tin WITHOUT removeable base. Maybe try a push pan or if you try a fixed base pan let me know how you get on!! Then arrange the apricots on top of the butter/sugar mix with the cut side down. The original recipe suggests 10, I found that 12 fitted better.

Finally, make the cake mixture to cover the apricots. This is fairly easy, just cream together the sugar and butter before adding the eggs one at a time. At this point add the lemon zest. You can then sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and add the milk. Give it a good mix before spooning over the aprictos and levelling the surface.

Bake for around 45-50 minutes, although it took me around 55 minutes. If the cake appears to be browning rather too much on the top just pop a bit of foil over it as you near the end of the cooking tim. When you remove the cake from the oven, leave it to cool in the pan for around 15 minutes but you can run a knife around the edge as it comes out.
To remove from the tin place a plate over the top of the cake tin and then invert the cake and it should come out onto your plate. To serve pour the honey syrup over the top of the cake. You could serve this warm or at room temperature. Warm with some ice cream might be good for dessert! :-)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Earl Grey Cupcakes

Anyone for a cuppa? It was a friend's birthday this week and a few weeks ago she happened to mention how much she loved Earl Grey tea. So when I came across these cupcakes they were the ideal choice as a birthday treat!

The recipe is from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days recipe book. The cupcakes themselves were light and moist with subtle hints of Bergamot. To get the flavour a couple of tablespoons of steeped Earl Grey tea was added, and then to the frosting tea infused milk was added.
Adding tea is a good way to add a twist to a conventional cupcake, for example the same recipe could be used but with peppermint or fruit teabags instead.
To continue with the tea theme, I accessorised with some cute red teapot toppers on top. I also tried out some silicone teacup baking moulds which you can present the cupcakes in, as above...and if that wasn't enough I couldn't resist the teapot cupcake display stands below from 'Talking Tables'...I may have got a bit carried away!


3 Earl Grey teabags
3 tbsp boiling water
80g unsalted butter
280g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
200ml whole milk
2 large eggs


50ml whole milk
500g icing sugar
160g unsalted butter

Half an hour before you want to start making your cake, place the 3 teabags in the 50ml of boiling water. These should then be left to infuse for 30 minutes. During this time the oven can be preheated to 190c/170c fan/ gas 5 and prepare a muffin tin with cases.

Mix together the flour, sugar, butter, baking powder and salt, preferably with an electric whisk or mixer. You should start on a low speed, this will result in a breadcrumb like mixture. Then mix the eggs, brewed tea and milk together in a jug by hand. Squeeze the teabags out fully. You will then need to keep the teabags for the frosting.

Finally, add three quarters of the egg/milk mixture to the dry ingredients and combine on a low speed, before turning up to medium to give a smooth batter. Then add the remaining milk and beat thoroughly. Divide between the cases, filling to about two thirds full. These should then be baked for 18-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Whilst the cakes are baking, place the reserved tea bags from earlier into the milk and leave for another 30 minutes before removing and squeezing out the teabags. To make the frosting beat the butter and icing sugar together, so the butter disperses but the icing sugar is still powdery. Add the tea infused milk and whisk until nice and fluffy. Finally, pip the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. Alternatively, the frosting can be swirled on with a knife.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Three Tier Multi-Colour Macaroon Cake

If you have a friend or family member who likes cake but who also likes macaroons and you can't decide which to make them...why not give them both in this three tier multi-colour macaroon cake. You can choose any colour of macaroon you like, I quite fancy making another one with a rainbow of macaroons and it looks quite impressive without being too difficult!
This cake is based on a design by the cake decorator Zoe Clark, she made hers with 4 tiers and with a slightly different shade of yellowy/peach on the extra tier.
To make the macaroons I used the Italian meringue method, which I have been reliably informed is the best method. The first batch I made were the pink ones, I think the egg whites may have been slightly overbeaten in this batch as the mixture was very stiff and I couldn't get rid of the peaks. However, with a bit of practice the peach and yellow macaroons came out a lot better. You can find recipes for macaroons on the internet and in many recipe books but here are my top tips for macaroon making.

Top tips for making macaroons:
  1. When heating your sugar and water make sure you use a heavy based saucepan and have a thermometre on hand as the temperatures need to be very precise.
  2. Mark out circles on your greaseproof paper using a circular cutter as a guide to give your macaroons a uniform size. Don't forget to turn your paper over to use it, otherwise the pencil will come off on the macaroons!
  3. To pipe, don't try to go round in a circle. Just hold the nozzle still and pipe, the shape will form on it's own. When you reach the edges of your circle template, stop putting pressure on the piping bag and quickly swirl the nozzle to avoid a peak. This can be achieved with a flick of the wrist.
  4. When you have finished piping your macaroons, tap the tray on the counter top to get rid of any ridges or peaks.
  5. Once piped, leave your macaroons for around 30 minutes before putting them in the oven. They should form a skin over the top.
  6. Finally, whilst cooking your macaroon should grow in size and a little foot should develop around the base of each macaroon as you can see above.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Rachel Khoo's Madeleines with Lemon Curd

Has anyone been watching Rachel Khoo's Little Paris makes me want to give up my job, move to Paris and immediately start baking in a tiny kitchen!! For those of you who haven't seen it, it's currently on BBC 2 on Mondays at 8.30pm. Rachel has been whipping up some fabulous recipes and this is one I just had to try!
I've had a madeleine pan for a while but I've never used it, so this was the perfect opportunity. And I have to say what's not to like about these madeleines...a soft moist sponge with a touch of honey and a baked raspberry centre, oozing with homemade lemon curd...serve them warm...heaven! 
I would highly recommend these madeleines they were truly delicious...I say that about a lot of things but I gave these to a friend who receives quite a few of my culinary creations and she said that these were quite possibly her favourite! The only thing I forgot to do was take a picture of the scalloped side of the madeleines...oh well...I guess I'll just have to make them again!

If you fancy giving them a go the recipe is below or you can get Rachel's new book on amazon...described as French recipes with a fun and fresh approach. It includes both sweet and savoury classics with a twist!


3 eggs
130g sugar
200g plain flour
10g baking powder
zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
20g honey
4 tbsp milk
200g butter, melted
Icing sugar

Lemon curd

1 unwaxed lemon, juice and zest
Pinch of salt
40g sugar
45g butter
2 egg yolks

You need to start the batter either the day before or a few hours before you want to bake these madeleines...I've never heard of this before but it seemed to work!

To start you need to melt the butter and leave it to cool. Whilst the butter is cooling beat the eggs and sugar together until light and frothy. Then in a seperate bowl sift the flour and baking powder together and then add the lemon zest. Mix the honey and milk with the cooled butter and add to the egg mixture. You can then fold in the flour to this mixture, it is best to do this in two batches. You can then leave this madeleine batter covered in the fridge overnight until you are ready to use it. Alternatively, if you wish to use it the same day it must be left for at least a few hours.

Next up is the lemon curd, which should also be left in the fridge overnight. Put the sugar, butter, salt and lemon zest and juice into a saucepan. Put it over a low heat until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. At this stage take it off the heat. It is best to pre-prepare your egg yolks and beat them lightly, so that at this stage you can just add them straight to the saucepan. When you add the egg yolks you need to whisk vigorously, then return the saucepan to the low heat and whisk constantly to prevent curdling. Your lemon curd should start to thicken up and once you start to see a bubble or two, it's ready. Take it off the heat and pass it through a sieve into a bowl, place clingfilm over the top in direct contact with the curd and refridgerate overnight.
This recipe makes about 24 madeleines so if you have a 12 hole pan, you will need to make them in two batches. To bake, preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/gas 5 and butter and flour the madeleine pan. Also put the lemon curd into a piping bag with a small nozzle. The recipe call for a heaped tablespoon to be placed in each madeleine shell...I found this to be too much, just below the top of the shell worked for me. You can then push a raspberry into the centre of each madeleine.

To bake, put the madeleines in the oven for 5 minutes, then turn the oven off altogether for 1 minute...this gives the madeleines their domed shpae. Finally, turn the oven back on to 160c/140c fan/gas 3 for a further 5 minutes. When done transfer to a wire rack to cool...or serve them warm from the oven.

The finishing touch is to insert the piping nozzle with the lemon curd into the mound of each madeleine and pipe about a teaspoons worth of lemon curd into the centre whilst they are still warm, this will also melt the lemon curd a bit! Et voila...a delicious teatime treat! :-)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Brioche French Toast with Warm Blueberry Compote

This is my second entry for this month's AlphaBakes...and it's a double whammy. This month's letter is 'B', so I give you homemade brioche French Toast and warm blueberry compote.
This was my first foray into bread making and I have to say the resulting loaf was a monster! I used this Brioche recipe and ended up with not one but two enormous loaves! The recipe said that it makes one large plaited loaf...however it suggest to plait it you should have 3 sausages of dough, each at 50cm each!! My oven isn't big enough for a half metre loaf, so I therefore decided to make two slightly smaller ones and baked them for around 35 minutes...they were still however humdingers!
Making the French toast and compote was rather easier and the result was a gorgeous combination of brioche, warm blueberries and a little Hagen Daz vanilla ice cream for good measure. This would be a perfect Sunday brunch! :-)
AlphaBakes is hosted by The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes. I'm already looking forward to next month...but lets hope it's not 'Z'!

2 eggs
4 tbsp milk
1 tbsp caster sugar
Drop of vanilla extract
4 slices of brioche
Butter for frying
Vanilla ice cream to serve

Blueberry Compote

100g blueberries
1 tbsp caster sugar
Squeeze of lemon juice

The French toast and compote is easy to make. Start with the compote, just pop the blueberries, sugar and lemon in a saucepan and heat gently. The blueberries will start to pop and release their juices, at this point you just need to simmer for 2-3 minutes to get a gorgeous compote.

For the toast, whisk up the eggs, milk, caster sugar and vanilla and pour into a shallow dish. Soak each slice of brioche in the eggy mixture. Warm the frying pan and melt the butter before adding the brioche. Cook until golden brown on each side. Serve warm, with the warm compote and a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have yourself a rather decadent brunch! :-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Baklava for AlphaBakes

This month the magic AlphaBakes letter is 'B''s randomly generated and then to participate in the challenge you can make anything beginning with B or which has an ingredient beginning with B. This is quite handy really as Baklava has been on my 'to make' list for quite a while now but has never quite made it to the here it is my Baklava for April's AlphaBakes! The challenge is hosted by The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes.
Baklava always looks so tempting...and what's not to like...pastry and nuts soaked in butter and sugar...heaven! Not so good for anyone on a diet though...but if we don't mention it, it can't be true! This version also has cardamom and orange blossom water in, giving it a nice aromatic flavour and a light delicate flavour with the orange blossom.

I used the following recipe adapted from BBC recipe but Nigella also has a good one here. The only other thing is I would have liked to have chopped the nuts a bit finer but I didn't have a food processor handy at the time. I also only had a top and a bottom layer of filo...if I were to make it again I think I'd add some more layers inbetween. I would also consider using a disposable tray as this might help to get the first few out as it can be quite difficult, with a disposable tray you could cut down the side!

Why not give AlphaBakes a go...I've got my second B in the oven as we speak!


18 sheets Filo pastry
225g unsalted butter
225g pistachios and walnuts, mixed and roughly chopped
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom


350g granulated sugar
300ml water
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp orange blossom water

Butter a 17cm x 28 cm baking tray, I didn't have this size so I just used the closest thing. Then preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas 4. Put the butter over a low heat until it is melted. Lay 10 sheets of the filo into the baking tray, each one should be brushed with melted butter before adding the next.

The nuts should already be roughly chopped, they can then be mixed in a bowl with the sugar and cardamom. This mixture is then spread over the pastry in the baking tray. Finally, layer on the remaining sheets of filo, again buttering between each sheet. Once complete, take a sharp knife and cut in the diamond pattern through the top layers. To bake, put in the preheated oven for 20 minutes before reducing the temperature to 150c/130c fan/gas 2 and baking for another 30-40 minutes. The top should be a bit puffy and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.

The final step which gives Baklava it's wonderful sugary taste is to make the syrup. Heat the sugar, water, lemon juice and orange blossom water in a saucepan, preferably heavy-based. It should be over a medium heat for around 20 minutes until it forms a syrup. When ready, allow to cool slightly before pouring into the slits you cut earlier. Leave to cool completely and then cut into individual diamond shaped pieces. I also served mine with a squeeze of honey over the top!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Weekly Bake Off: Simnel Cake

Happy Easter everyone!

I hope you are enjoying the Easter weekend and have received a suitable amount of chocolate today!
This simnel cake is the last of my Easter bakes...after simnel muffins, hot cross buns, Easter biscuits and egg box mini cupcakes! Along with hot cross buns, I've never made simnel cake before so this was a good challenge. The cake itself was lovely and moist and looked rather pretty! There was also a layer of marzipan baked into the cake as you can see below.
This is also my entry into the Weekly Bake-Off where a different Mary Berry recipe is set each week which budding bakers make and submit for judging. You can check out the simnel cake round up here, once it's posted! If you want to make your own simnel cake you can find the recipe at My Kitchen Table.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hot Cross Buns & Traditional Easter Biscuits

I'm on holiday this week and I seem to have embarked on some sort of bakeathon! With regard to Easter baking I started with egg box mini cupcakes and have now moved on to hot cross buns and traditional Easter biscuits...but this seems to be just the tip of the iceberg...
This is the first time I've made Hot Cross Buns and I have to say I was rather pleased with the results! I used Paul Hollywood's recipe from the BBC GoodFood website. This recipe was quite time consuming as it involved leaving the dough for an hour, then adding the sultanas, leaving for another hour and finally shaping the buns and then leaving for a further hour to you really need an afternoon to make these. Strangely one of the main ingredients is also finely chopped apple, I guess to keep them moist and add a little more flavour.

The crosses are just a mixture of flour and water with the recipe specifying that a small nozzle should be used to pipe them...on my first batch I used a 2A which is massive, so some of the buns were more cross than anything else. For the ones above I used a much smaller nozzle and hence they look a lot better.
Next up I made some lovely traditional Easter biscuits with currants, mixed peel and spices. Apparently they are often given to guests on Easter Sunday, secured in bundles of three to symbolise the Holy Trinity. Most often, they are also slightly larger than normal biscuits, at up to 10 cm in diameter, however, I kept mine to about 7cm. They taste great with a cup of tea. You can find the recipe below.
The bakeathon continues tomorrow... :-)

Traditional Easter Biscuits

225g unsalted butter
140g caster sugar
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
280g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
pinch of salt
1 tbsp mixed peel
55g currants
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Beat together the sugar and butter until it is light and fluffy, then beat in the egg yolk. Sift in the flour, mixed spice and salt, add the currants and mixed peel and bring together into a dough. Half the dough and wrap each ball in clingfilm before chilling in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.

Whilst the dough is in the fridge heat the oven to 190c/170c fan/gas 5. You should also prepare two baking trays by covering them in baking paper. After the allotted time take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out, if it starts to stick you could roll it out between sheets of baking paper or I know some people like to use clingfilm.

The biscuits should then be cut out using a 6cm fluted cutter...I think I used a 7cm as 6cm seemed a bit small! Place on the baking sheet and make sure they are well spaced. Place in the oven for 7 minutes, then take them out and brush them with egg white and sprinkle with sugar and then bake for an additional 5-8 minutes. The biscuits should be golden when they come out. Leave them on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before moving to a wire rack.

* Adapted from Baking Heaven Magazine (Spring 2012)