Saturday, 30 June 2012

Two Lemon Drizzle Cakes

 I am sat here typing this with a bag of thinking fudge sat next to me. Thinking fudge is like revision chocolate in that it is supposed to help you to think of brilliant ideas and get on with what you are suppose to be doing but in the end it just makes you eat it before you have done much work at all. So you have to go get more of said fudge/chocolate/biscuits/cake and the cycle begins. Oh, and you get your keyboard or writing implement of choice in a very sticky state. But it is ok because it tastes good and you are getting on with things. Sort of. I can hardly eat thinking fudge while standing in the kitchen watching Mum make a fruit cake to a recipe on the side of a sugar packet that I think sounds interesting and want to try. I would be told that I am either crowding up the kitchen or am blocking the light. The least hindrance I cause, the quicker I get to try this cake and I really want to try it.

Thinking fudge is really easy to make. Basically you take any fudge recipe and do it wrong. For example, I used the fudge recipe from The Pink Whisk after I randomly said to Mum while I was washing up 'I really want to try making fudge'. Mum said well make some then. That is one of the great things about my mum - she will always let me have a go at something. I was a little disappointed when it didn't work but one of the other great things about my mother is that she immediately said I could try it again - once I'd eaten the current lot. Now, the devil side of my brain was all for eating the lot in one go but the angel side said shut it - this might be an oxymoron but my angel side has a very loud voice.

Anyhoo, seeing as my thinking fudge bag is now empty I suppose I should start writing about what I am supposed to be. After I have cleaned my keyboard.

Right, so lemon drizzle cake one. 

This is one of Dad's favourite cakes that I make. I won't start gloating and say it is his absolute favourite because I think that is cut-and-come-again cake which is undoubtedly Mum's area. I hadn't made a lemon drizzle cake for ages and what with Father's Day coming up I thought it would be nice for Dad to have it for a surprise. I wanted to make it perfect for him but while mixing it all I could think about was the stereochemistry of the molecule that causes lemons to taste of lemons i.e. limonene. That is being a chemistry stuent for you.

The recipe is pretty much universal so I think it's ok to put it on here. You need:-
175g tub maragrine e.g. Stork
175g caster sugar
175g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
2tbsp milk
finely grated rind of two lemons
For the drizzle bit:
Juice of 2 lemons, strained
115g/4oz caster sugar (or 3oz if you like it a bit sharper like me)

  1. Take the ingredients that are in the fridge out of the fridge so they can come to room temperature - this reduces the risk of curdling and is good practice for nearly all baking.
  2. Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking paper and switch the oven on and heat to 180C or 160C fan.
  3. Place all the ingredients in a big bowl and mix using an electic mixer on the lowest speed until all combined then scrape down the bowl and mix on high until the mixture is paler in colour. Without being there to show you it is a bit difficult to describe when to stop mixing because if you over whisk the cake will rise and then drop. Oh how many times that has caused my frustration.
  4. Pour the mixute into the prepared tin and bake for 45mins to 1 hour. Remember all ovens are different so yours might take less or more. Just don't open the door within the first 20 minutes or your cake will most likely sink. I think I turned mine around after 30 minutes then gave it another 15 minutes. Once done, place on a wire rack for a few minutes, then turn out of the tin and peel off the lining paper.
  5. When the cake is almost cooked, put the sugar and lemon juice for the drizzle into a bowl and pop in the microwave for 10-20 second intervals, stirring in between each - you want all the sugar to be dissolved. Once ready and the cake is out, poke the cake all over the top with a skewer or a cake tester like me and brush on the drizzle. Your can repeat the brushing periodically and stop when you think no more will absorb or you have had enough. Let the cake cool fully before enjoying. You can get 8 generous or 10 normal slices out of this and it keep well because of the drizzle.
So now I've spent half the day talking about one cake, here is the other.

I was tempted to put it in a square tin instead but thought that I'd make an attampt at following the whole of the recipe for a change. It came about when Mum and I were trying to think up ideas to use bits up in the fridge. There was some cream that we weren't sure if it was turning or not. Mum thought it smelled odd and refused to taste it to find out for sure and seeing as I have no sense of smell to speak of, I was no help (Seriously, I had to all but shove the cut in half lemon up my nose to get the tiniest bit of a scent. Not very helpful for the profession I'm going into, or for baking!) I remembered the lemon drizzle recipe from the new book Mum bought when we went to Meadowhall (Gorgeous Cakes from Marks and Spencer's) called for soured cream so I made sure it was sour by stirring a sprinkling of lemon juice into it. No really, that is ok to do, just like if you can't get hold of buttermilk, just use milk instead. I thought the recipe sounded interesting and Mum didn't feel like baking so I did it and although the verdict was that lemon drizzle one was more lemony this was a fun change for the mixing and baking part. Some people when they find a recipe that they know works will refuse to even contemplate a different one. I agree that is the more sensible thing to do but there is something ingrained in me that I have to a) mess with a recipe to give it my own twist and b) collect dozens of variations of the same recipe just in case I can find one which improves on the last. Stupid Virgo perfectionism.

Seeing as this isn't my own recipe I'm not sure I should post it but here are a few pointers in case anyone buys the book, which I think was £6. It's got some lovely sounding recipes in, including a triple layered Rich Chocolate Rum Torte. Yum.
  • The recipe uses oil instead of a solid fat so you must measure it by volume (150ml/10tbsp) not by weight (5fl oz). If you measure out 5oz of oil you will actually get more than you need because oil is less dense than water, the same reason why it floats.
  • I'd suggest using the zest of two large lemons instead of the one to get a stronger flavour and maybe a bit more juice, say 6tbsp instead of 4.
  • Muffin recipes use oil and you aren't supposed to mix those for long unless you want a tough, heavy muffin. I wasn't sure if the same would apply to this cake so I compromised and mixed for a little longer than I would muffins but less than for an all-in-one sponge. It seemed to work fine.
  • Where the recipe says 'stir over a low heat until just beginning to bubble and turn syrupy' for the drizzle bit, I'd suggest ignoring the 'turn syrupy' bit and take it off the heat as soon sa it starts to bubble. I carried on heating because mine bubbled long before it started to thicken but once it cools, it thickens a lot so mine ended up more as a glaze than a drizzle. I reduced the sugar a bit too for a sharper taste. 
I'm really pleased I tried a different version of the lemon drizzle not only for the fun but because I got to Christen Mum's new recipe book, and the pre-cut baking paper discs to line tin bases with. It is always an honour to be the first to use something new. And I'd highly recommend the paper discs. It isn't lazy, it's conservation of energy!
Oh god, Mum has just came upstairs and said the cake will take a couple of hours. Plus cooling time.

Thursday, 7 June 2012


I'm sure that most people reading this will remember some point of their childhood when they had to pester their parents to let them do something and then feeling an immeasurable amount of happiness when said parents relented. This funny shaped loaf is the product of my incessant pestering of my mum until she said "Yes, I want you to make that". Well I wasn't getting a straight answer so I had to keep trying didn't I? I should explain. Both my parents are very supportive and will for the most part try anything I make as long as it hasn't got tomatoes in (for Mum) or spaghetti (for Dad). However, my dearest mother is what I shall term a traditionalist. She is a very mummyish mum who favours farmhouse cooking and shuns anything that is not staring-you-in-the-face British. For a long, long time Mum refused to even contemplate a recipe if it wasn't in pounds and ounces and more than once I have had to sit with a calculator and translate an ingredients list (1 ounce = 28.375g to be most accurate). I have been trying to get her to buy some didgital scales for months so when I came home from university for the weekend  one time and saw some on the kitchen table I nearly fainted from shock. It is only now that Mum may possibly consider using them to follow a recipe in 'foreign lingo' without my conversions and only if it is one she really wants to do. The trusty and very old Salter balance scales in the cupboard need not fear that they will be retired in the near future.

Brioche is something I've wanted to try for ages, mostly because I didn't have much of a clue what it was, so when I saw a free mould was going to be included with issue 29 of Baked and Delicious I got very excited. It has taken me about two months to persuade my Mum that it wasn't so much as foreign muck as harmless French and when she tried some for supper the night I made it, I think even she was pleased I had. Dad was just pleased I'd baked. 

The enriched bread is very soft and light with a lovely buttery taste and goes really well with strawberry jam.  If you can get hold of it I'd recommend Marks and Spencer's strawberry conserve. It's worth the cost, trust me. (Once I've had chance to play around with the homemade version, I'll post the recipe for that on here too.) It didn't fry out as quickly as I expected either but I still tried it toasted with jam and, well, all these cereals that go on about them being a good way to start the day, I reckon they have it wrong. 

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting the brioche to turn out properly but it seems to have apart from the smaller top half of it being lopsided which I tried to disguise with my minimal photography skills. I haven't had much luck with bread recipes before you see. Fingers crossed that I've passed a turning point when I made hot cross buns at Easter. I ignored the bit in the recipe which says leave to rise for an hour or so until doubled in size. Mum judged the rising then despite my growing impatience, and I'll follow her rules in future because they turned out pretty decently.  I let the brioche go to about four times its original size (about 2 hours in the warmish airing cupboard) until the dough just started to dimple. Of course, everyone will have their own bread rules but now I would follow these even if master baker Mr Paul Hollywood said I was wrong, unless I was pushed for time of course. Just remember that enriched breads (more sugar and fat I think that means) are more difficult to rise so do a such recipe on a day when you can chill and not panic if it doesn't go perfectly to plan. Baking rarely does.

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Weetabix Cake

Occasionally the fancy takes me to make an attempt at being healthy, but only very occasionally. Everyone who knows me is well aware of how much I like cake and chocolate and biscuits. In fact, pretty much the only things I like more than these are strawberries. Thankfully strawberries are extremely healthy so I take advantage and eat as many as I can get my hands on during the few months that I can get hold of British strawberries. You are going to have to trust me when I say I can eat a LOT of strawberries in one sitting because for the time being I am not going to post the picture of my 9 month old self, sitting on our front lawn surrounded by several baskets of strawberries shoving as many as possible into my face. The only thing that has changed in the years since then is that I can now eat my favourite fruit with a little more decorum. Until someone tries to steal one. I would rather give up my monster jar of Nutella. The only reason why I won't be yakking on about many recipes with strawberries in is because the said ingredients would never make it into the bowl with the other ingredients. 

So, back to the recipe. I first heard about Weetabix cake from someone on my course at university, my initial reaction being one of disgust immediately followed by intrigue (which just happens to be the same reaction of both my parents when I said I was making it.) When I found a rather large box of Weetabix on a really good offer in Morrison's and it fell conveniently with my latest foray into limiting how much cake I ate, I decided to save in a little plastic tub all the flaky bits that fall off when you attempt to take out a couple for your breakfast instead of crushing them to start with. By the time I finished uni for the summer I had enough for the cake and had persuaded my mum that it wouldn't be so bad to try it. The result was something that was enjoyable enough to not throw out to the birds and seeing as the cake didn't peak during baking, I was doubly pleased. It might not look over-exciting but after I have added some orange zest and some chocolate (and removed some of the sugar because this version was agreed to be very sweet by both my parents as well as myself) I'm hoping that it will go on 'the list' as my dad puts it to make again. My development ideas are going to have to wait a little while though because there are lots of other cakes I'm dying to try first. It will never win any awards for visual impact but some of the most simple cakes to make can be some of the best. It's also a brilliant way to use up cereal that might have been taking up room in your cupboard for a while if you have phases of eating different ones.

Hope you enjoy!

300g self raising flour
225g caster sugar
200g raisins or other dried fruit (I used a 1:1 mix of raisins and glace cherries)
2 Weetabix, crushed
1 tsp mixed spice
275ml milk
1 medium egg, beaten 

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl then mix in the egg and milk. Pour into a lined 2lb loaf tin and bake in a preheated over at 130 degrees Celsius/110 fan/ gas 3 for 1 hour 15 mins. Once cooked (a cocktail stick or skewer should come out of the centre clean) put on a cooling rack and after 5 or ten minutes take out of the tin and remove the lining paper. Slice and serve once cool.

Notes: The first time I did this I had it on 110 fan for about 1 hour 35 mins. You might need to rotate the cake periodically depending on your oven but it probably isn't a good idea to open the oven door in the initial 30 minutes or the cake could sink if it behaves like spongier recipes. Strictly speaking this isn't my recipe - I got it off the netmums website. I've only put it on here because I've seen the same one on other websites so I wasn't sure which was the original. But yes, you did read right, there is no fat added like most cakes. (Hooray!)

In case you were wondering, my healthy eating lasted for less time than it took me to finish the big box of Weetabix.