Wednesday, 25 August 2010

sweet treats

It's tipping with raining today, it's still the summer holidays, we've just got back from an epic trip (more of that to follow) and naturally one's mind turns to... CAKE.

So, here as promised are my recipes for two fail-safe, easy and delicious cakes that I make quite regularly, easy enough to make with small children helping as well.

Plum Cake

This is taken from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries

butter - 150g
unrefined golden caster sugar - 150g
plums - 16
eggs - 3 large
plain flour - 75g
baking powder - 1 1/2 teaspoons
ground almonds - 100g
vanilla essence - 1 teaspoon (original recipe didn't call for this but I always add vanilla to my cakes no matter what).

How to

Set the oven at 180C/gas 4. Line a 20cm square cake tin (nb I made this in a large round tin and it was fine).

Beat the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. NS recommends the use of a food mixer here, but I beg to differ. Yeah so maybe it's convenient, but I only ever make cakes by hand, I mean if you're gonna bake, you might as well do it properly and not in a hurry, eh? And it tastes better too. Aaaanyway, halve the plums and remove the stones.

Break the eggs, lightly beat them with a fork, then add them bit by bit to the butter and sugar. Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold them gently into the mixture using a large metal spoon.Fold in the ground almonds.

Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin. Place the halved plums on the cake mixture. Again NS says not to do this with any real precision as they will sink into the cake as they cook. But I found that they stayed toppermost and the whole cake looked quite frangipane-y (you could super-amp this by adding a couple of drops of good almond essence instead of vanilla). Bake for 40-45 minutes. Test for doneness with a skewer. If it comes out clean with no wet cake mixture then it's ready. Take it out of the oven, leave in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out. Delicious with some thick cream as a pudding.

Banana Bread

To make one loaf - the template ingredients.

sultanas - 75g
butter (recipes always seem to call for unsalted, but I never buy unsalted so use what you have)- 100g very soft
caster sugar - 125g
organic free range eggs - 2 large
bananas - 3 large ripe ones
vanilla essence - one capful
self raising flour - 200g (I sometimes use white spelt or a mixture of white and wholemeal flour)

So you could make the above cake and it'll be really yumso, but here are some other things I like to add.

ground almonds
Green and Blacks cocoa
shredded coconut

Quantities of the above extras should be around 100g, maybe a bit less. That's not very exact is it?

How to

Preheat the oven to 160 or gas mark 3. Grease or line the tin.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until well softened and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract. Break in an egg and beat it into the mixture completely then beat in the other egg. Add the sultanas, and the coconut if using.

Mash the bananas to a lumpy pulp, you don't have to be exact here. Add them to the bowl and stir well.

Sift the flour (and cocoa and/or almonds if using) into the bowl and carefully fold throughly into the mixture with a large metal spoon.

Scrape the mixture into the tin and gently level the top with the back of the spoon (at this point I sometimes sprinkle sugar over the top and some flaked almonds for a sugary nutty crust). Into the oven! Bake for about an hour. Test with skewer for doneness. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then you can turn it out and tuck in!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Summer Snaps (At My Heels)

Some sights and delights from my two week absence..

Speaking of delights, Hannah, I will post the recipe for the cake in the previous post, (it was a banana and almond cake fyi), and I have just, this very evening, pulled a rather splendid-looking plum cake out of the oven, so perhaps I'll include that recipe as well (a modified version of a Nigel Slater recipe).

We're heading off for a few days tomorrow, a mini holiday if you will, so I'll be back next week to talk cake and other fripperies.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

bACK from the BRink!

I am so excited, I can hardly type straight! The macbook pro is back! It's mended! A mere two whole weeks later!

Now, all I have to do is play catch-up, with my blogging, my 365-ing, and e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g else and then all will be tickety boo! I have missed blogging. So hello! and I hope your summer has been going well with no technical mishaps. Tell me something new that I might've missed!

Back soonest with more, more, more!!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Recent Acquisitions...

It has been ages since I last posted about my finds, not to mention ages since my last post. Argh. Apologies.

Along with it being summer, I am being beset by various technical difficulties, the latest being the motherboard on our primary computer giving up. So here I am on our ancient and slooooow coal-fired mac, ho hum, until our other one is mended. Honestly, it'd be quicker to write to you all individually, but look, I am valiantly soldiering on in the face of modern adversity (I know, such bravery and selflessness).

And now moaning over (for the time being at least), here are some treasures recently unearthed.

Lovely vintage Spanish tea towel, I think (or rather *hope*) this will end up framed.

A small piece of beautiful hand-stitched quilting.

A useful and beautiful pair of pinking shears.

This funny bossy doll for Iris, she is striking a very Iris-like pose...

A doll's house, for me, er, I mean Iris. Well, I actually bought this on a morning of a flea I was doing and fully intended to sell it. But then, Iris saw it, I looked at it a bit more closely and suddenly before I knew it, it seemed impossible to part with. In my defense, I do think it'd be fun to maybe make some tiny curtains and generally spruce it up a bit. It came with some really sweet bits of furniture, I'll take some better photographs and post them, ooh, in a hundred years or so.

What has been your most recent or favourite acquisition?