Kat’s mum’s apple cake

Apple cake baked in Phnom Penh
The apple cake that I baked living at Simon and Becci’s in Phnom Penh

I recently found out that these apples are really tasty and cheap, compared to the other varieties of imported apples that they sell here.  So, when I woke up, I realised that the one thing that I really wanted to do today was to bake Kat’s mum’s apple cake.

applesapples slices 2
Remember how I confessed to being a baking addict?  Since moving to Cambodia, I’ve limited myself to baking once a week and I think that’s as far as my baking addiction allows me to go before I get my next fix.

That need fuelled my first ever visit to a fruit stall in the Russian market, where I bought 8 pomme for 8400 riel (the equivalent of $3.50).    I may have overpaid for my apples: I haven’t learned yet how to bargain for food in the market.  But, I didn’t mind paying a bit extra if if meant that I could bake.  However, I wasn’t quite prepared to pay $3 for 250g of palm sugar (the only raw sugar they had available), when what I really wanted was demerara sugar.  Let’s bake together at a later date, palm sugar.  I think that you’ll be delightful in a cookie.

This apple cake goes down in my baking history as the third ever cake I made on my own.  I was 21 at the time.  Kat’s mum baked this apple cake for us when Kat invited a few friends to her Devonshire home for a holiday during our final year at university. The cake tasted wholesomely delicious and I found myself asking Kat’s mum for the recipe. I was no baker in those days so what convinced me to attempt making this cake was her reassurance that the recipe was really simple.

And it was.  Once it entered into my baking repertoire, it was then pretty much the only cake that I baked for the next 2 years.

I told you that I came late into this baking thing later than most foodies.

apple peel

The only step that requires a bit of time is peeling, coring and chopping the apples and this time, Simon and Becci did that bit for me this time round.  Hurrah for happy helpers.  But once you’ve done that, you can pretty much throw the ingredients altogether, mix it around with your hands and pop it into the oven.  There’s no faffing with trying to make it look pretty: part of the charm of baking this cake is that is meant to look rustic.  I’ve made it before when I’ve reserved a few choice apple pieces to make it look prettier, but the detail got lost underneath the topping of sugar and ground cinnamon.  You can also use a loaf tin or a round tin, as you can see from my photos.

Since being here and discovering how expensive it is to bake with butter (the cheapest i’ve found is $3.50 for 227g) I reverted back to using margarine.  The cake tastes better, I think, if you make it with margarine rather than butter.

You can also use any apples.  I really like using cooking apples because of their tartness and size, but it doesn’t seem to matter.

Ingredients for Kat’s mum’s apple cake

  • 8oz/225g self-raising flour
  • 4oz/110g margarine
  • 4oz/110g granulated sugar, preferably golden but it can be white
  • 3 or 4 cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1-2cm slices.
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • a splash of milk

Cake topping – adapt the measures according to taste.

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6.  Grease and line either a 2lb loaf tin or a cake tin, that is deepish and anything between 8-10 inches.
2. Prepare the topping first for ease because your hands will be gloopy by step 5.  In a small bowl, mix together the demerara sugar and cinnamon.
3. Peel, core and chop the apples and put them into a large mixing bowl.
4. In a medium sized mixing bowl, rub together the flour, butter and sugar until they resemble crumbs.  Add this crumbly mixture to the apples.

until the mixture resembles crumbsmixing the apple cake 2throw the cake mixture into the tin

5. Add in the eggs and a splash of milk.  Mix it around with your hands so that it all combines into a gloopy mess.
6. Sprinkle the demerara sugar and cinnamon mix on top of the cake.

Trying to make it pretty apple cake
you can prettify it if you want

7. Pop into the middle of the oven and bake for about 1 hour.  Check after 40 minutes.  If the top of the cake is browning too much  then cover the top with foil.  The cake is ready when a tester comes out clean.
8. Let it cool down and rest before taking it out of the tin.

trying to make it pretty baked apple cake
but the cinnamon/sugar topping negates the efforts

Enjoy while it’s still warm if you can.  I think that it’s worth pointing out, that with this cake you get one portion of your fruit and veg allowance, only if you eat a quarter of the cake.

Birmingham New Street Station in a Heatwave

My CELTA course in Birmingham and the summer’s astonishing heatwave have coincided in July 2013. It has meant that I’ve become a rail commuter again and I get to traipse through Birmingham New Street’s revamped station. I rather like its new look.

It’s a shame that they haven’t done anything about the narrow escalators and stairs that connect the platforms and the concourse.

I think that we’d had an input session on teaching writing one morning in which we’d discussed how we could encourage ESL students to write poetry. It reminded me of how I always preferred to write poetry than prose at Korean school when they set their writing competitions: poetry requires minimal words and I was the weakest student in my group. Somehow, I managed to wow someone with my creative outputs and won a few prizes. Ironically, they were dictionaries!

I’ve been reading the Psalms and Norman MacCaig’s poems during my commute. The combination of all these things has culminated in me writing a wee one of my own.

Birmingham New Street Station in a Heatwave
It’s okay,
It’s fine really,
until you’re at the top of the stairs and then –

My nose!
My nose!

Assaulted by these people’s
sticky, sweaty,
familiar smells. Their stale scents
stick at the back of my throat.

Descending the steps into
sultry staleness.
Dim, dingy, dirty.
Pining for fresh air.

Stalemate.
Waiting for my shiny steed to whisk me away.

A pre-intermediate lesson on Panzanella

Panzanella 1

The English language and lesson plans.

I think that those are the best two phrases which sum up my life at present.

During this month of July, I’m training to be an English Language teacher, so that I can take this new skill and (hopefully) qualification with me to Cambodia.  I’m doing the intensive 4-week CELTA course and we’ve just passed the halfway mark.  In our most recent tutorials, my teaching practice group had been encouraged to try out materials in the classroom, outside of our coursebooks.  On Monday we had a lesson on using ‘authentic’ texts.  Texts, which are not created for the sole purpose of teaching.  I felt inspired to try it out in my next lesson… which just happened to be the next day.

Step 1: tear up the bread

Me, being me, wanted to try using a recipe as authentic text.  We teach in pairs.  Each person has 45 mins to do half of the lesson.  On Tuesday, I was teaching with Rachel.  We divvied out the skills and the language.  I had listening and vocabulary, Rachel had writing and grammar.

H (imagine it with lots of enthusiasm): “I was thinking that we could do food as a topic and use a recipe to teach it.”

R: Ooh.  Yes.  There’s lots of imperatives and vocabulary that we could be teaching.  I could get them to write a recipe to follow on.

Tomatoes and Panzanella bread

And as I had the enviable task of teaching the skill of listening, I thought that a short video from someone like Nigella would be good as they’re easily accessible on the BBC Good Food or youtube.

Half an hour into drafting out the two parts of our lesson, our teacher tells us that recipes are notoriously tricky to teach because the extensive vocabulary, and more importantly, she reminds us that it is Ramadan and half of the group are muslims.  Perhaps we are being a bit culturally insensitive to teach on the topic of food?  “But,” she tells us, “it’s too late to change the topic of the lesson.”  So, Rachel and I continue with our plans, with a tinge of apprehension.  Enlightened, I wondered aloud, whether Nigella was really the best fit for our group of learners.  “I wonder whether she’s too flirtatious on screen?”  Rachel points out, “the ingredients in her recipes aren’t always normal ones either.”

And this is how I came to be teaching 14 students, a recipe on how to make a Tuscan Bread Salad called Panzanella – i mean, it’s not even an English dish!  However, importantly for our group of pre-intermerdiate learners, the ingredients are few and commonly available and the method is simple.

I had never heard of Panzanella until I watched Simon Hopkinson’s, A Good Cook, a few years back.  I’ve raved about him before to you, haven’t I.  I love his recipes and they have been really doable to recreate.  Panzanella has become my favourite taste the summer salad: the one that I make when I want to taste a bit of sunshine, regardless of the weather outside.  The difference in flavour imparted by sun-ripened tomatoes and good extra virgin olive oil sets it apart.  It’s also simple to make, healthy, easily adaptable to other ingredients and filling because of the bread.  Have I sold it to you yet?  I’ll continue.  How about, it’s a great way to use up any stale bread and it uses ingredients that you’re likely to have knocking around in your fridge and cupboards?

onions, tomatoes, bread, panzanella

Simon Hopkinson’s Panzanella recipe, as I presented it to the class. (The italicised parts are what I’ve edited in since, for your benefit.)

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 5 handfuls of sourdough bread (think of a slice of thick bread as being a handful)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 7 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red onion
  • 6 vine tomatoes – you want about 200-250g.  Try substituting cherry tomatoes (see step 5)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • handful of basil leaves

Cucumber, tomatoes, onions, bread, panzanella

Method

  1. Tear the bread into small pieces and put it into a bowl.  The best bread to use is sourdough bread, but you can use any stale bread.
  2. Season with salt and pepper.  You can always add more seasoning later on.
  3. Add the olive oil and red wine to the bowl.  You don’t have to add in all the olive oil, if you want to be a bit healthier.
  4. Put the tomatoes into another bowl and pour boiling water over them.  This helps the skin to come off.
  5. Remove the tomatoes from the water.  Peel off the tomato skins and cut the tomatoes before adding it to the bread.  If you want to be simplify this step, then you can get away with not removing the tomato skins or use the equivalent weight in cherry tomatoes.  I like removing the tomato skins, not just for the therapeutic value but also, because it softens the feel of it in your mouth when you eat it.
  6. Peel a cucumber and cut it into small pieces.  Add it to the bread and tomatoes.
  7. Cut the onion into thin slices and add it to the bread. Try using red onions or shallots because they are milder in flavour.
  8. Finely cut or crush the garlic cloves before you add them to the salad.  You could reduce the number of garlic cloves if you don’t want such a strong flavour.
  9. Tear up the basil leaves.  This is essential and you must not miss them out!
  10. Finally, mix up the ingredients.  I’d suggest mixing them up with your hands because it always tastes better when you do.
  11. You could serve this on a hot summer’s day for lunch with friends, or on any day that you want a taste of summer.
  12. Don’t forget to pair it with a fruity red wine.

And how was the lesson? (I don’t normally ask that at the end of a blog post on food!  Told you my life is about the English Language and lessons plans at the moment.)  The panzanella video with Simon Hopkinson went down really well with the learners, they learned some new words but then I got unexpectedly bogged down for 5 minutes trying to explain basil to the group.  I learned that asking, “What is basil?” is relating noise to notion (there’s some TEFL jargon for you!), and that is not the way to do teach new vocabulary!  I ran out of time to do all the planned activities because of my basil moment, so I wasn’t too sure how it had gone when I finished my part.  The group did appear to be enjoying the subject matter, even with it being Ramadan.  Then in Rachel’s part of the lesson, I was delighted when the learners reproduced the vocabulary in the recipes and produced some really detailed, high quality writing in their recipes.  In fact, our observer really praised Rachel and me on our learners’ outputs.

Well done, pre-intermediate class in room 118!

This weekend I have an assignment to write and a lesson to plans, so I’d better get back to it.  I leave you with this one question – how would you describe/define basil to english as a foreign language learners?

Panzanella

Chocolate and Beetroot Cake

beetroot chocolate cake
choc beetroot muffins

My sister and her husband are coming to Warwick next week and their imminent arrival reminds me, amongst other things, of the beetroot they left me with the previous summer.

First of all. Whoever came up with the idea of adding beetroot in chocolate cake deserves a medal. You saved me from letting the vegetable go to waste. Let me take you back to my summer last year (when we had a summer!)

Oh dear…What was I thinking?

Everytime I open the fridge door, I have been glared at by the beetroot that has been discarded in the corner. I can’t believe that after I discovered my dislike of its flavour, I went ahead and bought some more beetroot.

I know that it’s silly, but there’s a wee bit of me that believes that beetroot will eventually taste alright if I eat enough of it. However – I just can’t face another savoury beetroot meal (see the entry on the fuschia beetroot risotto). So, I have decided that for the timebeing the best place for beetroot is in a cake and I’ve been baking this Chocolate and Beetroot cake from Delicious magazine. It’s main attraction is using raw beetroot, as opposed to the cooked stuff.

Top Tip: Use kitchen gloves when handling and grating beetroot to prevent the juices staining your hands. They’ll also protect your nails and fingers from being accidentally grated.

beetroot beetroot

But first, I’ll answer the question: why bother adding beetroot to chocolate cake?

Answer: Mostly for the moistness it adds to chocolate cake, and moistness is an essential quality in a goodchocolate cake. It’s alright. Not everyone tastes the “secret ingredient” in this cake. Nonetheless, I think that the beetroot flavour comes through. Not at all in an overpowering way; I would describe it as a hint of earthiness. Somehow the beetroot marries nicely to the chocolate, in an earthy kind of way. I’m going to stop before I try to make the chocolate-beetroot combination into a sexy one.

chocolate beetroot muffins 1packing up the muffins

The first time I made it, I baked them as 12 muffins for a friend’s picnic and there was enough mixture left over for a small loaf cake for my work colleagues to sample. I made a chocolate buttercream icing to go on top and finished it off with some slivered almonds. That was in the September with the first lot of beetroot given to me. Then with this second lot of beetroot, which I bought (silly me) I recently made three little cakes as a dessert, and a 20cm cake for another friend’s dinner do. This time round, I finished them off with the chocolate sour cream icing detailed in Delicious’s recipe. I’ve never been very interested in making icing (or as the Americans call it, ‘frosting’) as I’m not very fond of it. So, I’m pleased that I pushed myself on to learn something new.

chocolate beetroot muffins

What I like about this recipe is the end result: a scrummy, moist and very indulgently chocolate-y cake. Interestingly, the sponge in the muffins had wee air holes in it, like a wispa bar; the cake was a denser texture. If you like chocolate fudge cake, then I’d recommend you the cake version, especially with the chocolate sour cream icing. There’s no fooling yourself that it’s healthy, however, as there’s an awful lot of chocolate that goes into it. Even on the basis that there is a vegetable in it. (Although surely if you ate enough of it, you could add it as a portion of your daily fruit and veg..?)

So, stock up on your dark chocolate before you bake this because you’ll use a lot.

Ingredients for the Chocolate and Beetroot cake, adapted from Delicious Magazine’s Chocolate and Beetroot Cake.

  • 250g plain chocolate
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 150g light muscovado sugar
  • 100ml sunflower oil
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 250g raw grated beetroot

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4 and grease a 22cm round loose-bottomed cake tin* (see above for variations). Line the bottom of the tin with baking paper.

2. Slowly melt the chocolate in the microwave in short blasts. The second time round, my pyrex bowl was indisposed because of Herman (more about him earlier). So, I carefully melted the chocolate in a saucepan on a low heat and took the pan off the heat, the moment the chocolate at the bottom started melting, so that I didn’t burn it. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool.

3. Peel and grate the beetroot using a normal cheese grater (see top tip about handling beetroot). Put the grated beetroot into a sieve over a sink and squeeze out the excess moisture. Leave it in the sieve whilst you get on with the next steps.

4. Whisk together the eggs, sugar and oil in a large bowl for 3-4 minutes. Add in the vanilla extract.

5. In another bowl, measure out the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and ground almonds. I’d recommend sifting the flour and bicarb of soda because you don’t want to be eating ucky lumps of bicarbonate of soda in the baked cake. Then add them to the wet ingredients and fold it in with a spatula.

6. Now, add in the grated beetroot and pour in the melted chocolate. Mix thoroughly. The mixture should be a dark violet colour.

dark violet beetroot chocolate batterbaked beetroot cake

7. Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 50-60 minutes in the middle of the oven. Mine needed the full hour. Check after 30 minutes and if the top seems to be browning too quickly, then cover the top with baking paper or foil. If you bake them as muffins, you’ll need 14-20 minutes. The cake is done when your cake tester comes out clean inserted in the middle.

8. Let the cake cool in its tin for a few minutes, then take it out of its tin and let it cool on a wire rack.

I made the chocolate sour cream icing the following morning, but you don’t have to wait that long.

Ingredients for chocolate sour cream icing

  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 100g sour cream
  • 100g icing sugar

Method

Melt the dark chocolate gently in a pan, or in the microwave. Allow to cool, then add to the melted chocolate, the icing sugar and the sour cream and beat until you have a thick, spreadable chocolate gooey icing.

Spread it over the cake, et voila!

icing on beetroot chocolate cakechocolate beetroot cake

iced chocolate beetroot cakechocolate beetroot cake 2

I can smell summer BBQs: here’s easy, peasy, juicy Beef Burgers

I do love how summer smells.

What does summer smell like in your part of the world?

These are my current summer notes from my part of the world:

Freshly cut grass,

Pimms and lemonade,

Honeydew melons,

Lancome Midnight Rose,

salty sweat and soltan sunscreen (let’s keep it real!)

and

The charcoal smoke of barbeques!

bbqjuicy beef burger

I like spotting faces in places, can you spot the faces?

This beef burger recipe originated from Meagan (my Canadian friend from Oreo Cheesecake fame!). Meagan said that she didn’t know how to cook, but produced great cheesecake and these juicy homemade beef burgers. Maybe they have a much higher standard of home-cooking in Canada compared to the UK?!

She never told me the recipe when she lived in the UK. Was it because she was stunned that none of her UK friends had ever thought to make their own burgers and was worried that our brains would get fried by the complexity of it?

I’m joking. I think it was just me, at that point, who couldn’t getthat home-made burgers could be so easy to make. When I visited Meagan and Darren a few years ago, in Canada, I watched Meagan make them in less than 10 minutes: that’s how she convinced me of the utter ease of this recipe. Oh winter BBQs! That’s another great thing about Canadians. It was the beginning of March, there had been lots of snowfall, temperatures had plummeted to -25C during the day, and Meagan and Darren decided to put on the BBQ. A gas one that sits out on their porch, naturally. Why not?

But back to the subject. These home-made beef burgers are really easy and quick to make, cheaper and much tastier than any you’ll buy in a shop. I think that there are three reasons why these burgers are so simple to make:

  1. They use ingredients that most of us have in our cupboards.
  2. I use porridge oats which eliminates the step of making bread crumbs or crushing cream crackers.
  3. I use spring onions instead of onions, because no matter how finely I chop white or red onions, the onions always cause my burgers to fall apart in the cooking process. Spring onions provide the flavour and the burger holds together.

Please feel special because I have especially measured out the ingredients for you in order to give you this recipe. When I make these burgers I normally do a few squirts of tomato ketchup, mustard, a handful or so of oats, a bit of salt and pepper, as many chopped herbs as I fancy etc. So, if you’d like to, you can use my ingredients as a guide, and flavour it as your tastebuds lead you. On the other hand, I do get irritated with recipes that say things like, a bunch of dill or coriander etc., it’s just not helpful when you’re starting out. Oh I remember, back in the day, when I first came across Jamie Oliver’s Naked Chef recipes. His personality and style of cooking appealed to me. However, when he wrote things like ‘a glug of olive oil’ it was utterly meaningless and put me off making his recipes. Please! I don’t know what you mean by a glug or a bunch!

This recipe makes 8 medium sized burgers (approx 75g each). I pretty much double the recipe if I want to make more and modify the seasoning (by that I mean everything apart from the beef, spring onions and egg) depending on how it tastes. You can eat raw beef so it’s possible to taste as you go, only if you want to! I don’t mind it.

burger ingredients

Ingredients for Easy, Peasy, Juicy Beef Burgers

  • 1lb/454g minced beef aka ground beef in the US
  • (Highly recommended, but optional) 2 spring onions, finely chopped – I use all of the spring onion including the green bits on the top. I know that some people only use the white bits.
  • 50g porridge oats, or rolled oats
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 3 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1½ tbsp barbeque sauce (woodsmoke flavour preferably)
  • 1½ tbsp french mustard
  • a shake of worcester sauce – difficult to measure that one, sorry.
  • ½ tsp salt (add more if needed)
  • ½ tsp ground pepper (add more if needed)
  • Optional herb flavourings. Add these according to how you want them to taste, but here’s a guideline: 10 stalks of parsley with leaves – finely chopped, including the stalks and 6 stalks of dill, finely chopped.

Method

1. Get a plate/tupperware box to place the burgers that you’re about to make before cooking them.

pre-mushing the burger

2. Put all the ingredients into a large bowl and mush [mix thoroughly] them together with your hands.

hand sized burgerssarah

3. Wet your hands so that the mixture doesn’t stick to your hands. Pick up a handful of the beef mixture. I weighed this out specially for you guys, and I think that anything between 70-80g is a good size. Gently roll it into a ball, then press it down firmly into the thickness that you want it, so that it forms flat-ish, round-ish disc shape. If you’d like to freeze them at this stage, spread them out on a baking sheet in one layer and place the sheet flat in the freezer. Once the burgers have frozen, you can store them into a bigger freezer bag. Take them out the day or morning that you want to eat them and let them defrost completely before cooking.

4. Barbeque them or grill them – the choice is yours, or if you live in the UK, depends on the weather. Serve as you like. My current favourite is to eat them with fresh bread with some guacamole, freshly cut tomatoes, and salad.

I’ve since taught this recipe a couple of times. Always with a bellyful of laughs and burgers.

yummy beef burgers

Figgy, Lemon Shortbread (and my longing for the summer to begin)


figgy lemon shortbread 1

I am ready for the summer to begin… or at least the spring! What’s with the hail and icy winds in Coventry… in May?!? Waaah! Where’s the sun?

So here I’ve baked a little something to try and remind myself of the summer: figgy, lemon shortbread.

Figs and lemons remind me of the mediterranean and the sun. I ate an abundance of both when I was in Turkey. It must have been the right season or something. And last summer, my friends and I picked sun-ripened figs on the sea-side town of Baynuls-sur-Mer, and snacked on the delicious fruits the entire week that we were there. To be honest, I think that Jenny tired of them towards the end, but Sarah and I couldn’t get enough of them. Unless you grow the figs yourself, I’ve yet to buy fresh figs in the UK that taste remotely like the sun-ripened variety.

figs in baynulsfigs in baynuls 1

There’s a couple of lemon and fig cookie recipes out there, but I’ve yet to come across any recipes that combine the two together in a shortbread. When I was thinking up with this recipe, I toyed with the idea of adding another flavour to it, like cardoman or black pepper. I didn’t add any this time round, but I rather like the idea of experimenting with some finely-chopped fresh rosemary or dried lavender. Having baked and tested them out on my students and colleagues, I think that the two flavours work rather well together in a shortbread. The flavours aren’t overpowering and the end result is a bit more of a delicate, crumble/melt-in-your-mouth experience. It’s really interesting asking my colleagues for their feedback on what flavour hits them first, the lemon or the fig. The consensus is that it’s a rather subjective experience.

So, let’s get on with this recipe. It’s a really easy one to make. Two things to prep the night before. 1. Take out the butter so that it’s soft. 2. Put the figs in a bowl and cover with some water so that they’re plumped up. I adapted Fiona’s shortbread recipe, to come up with my own figgy, lemon shortbread. This time I substituted some of the cornflour for semolina. I was improvising, to be honest, because I ran out of cornflour in the middle of measuring out the ingredients. But why semolina? A friend of mine had mentioned the use of semolina in a shortbread before, so it wasn’t an entirely new idea. I thought that it would add a bit of bite and crunch to the shortbread and I think, I think, I think that it does. Give it a go and tell me what you think.

Top tip: When it comes to making shortbread, use real butter and always take it out the fridge the night before to soften. If you try and cheat to soften the butter by zapping it in the microwave and causing it to melt, you’ll affect the baking process. The end result is a biscuit that splays out all over the place when it’s baking in the oven giving it a harder, brittle texture.

Ingredients for my Figgy, Lemon Shortbread. I used 5cm cutters and produced about 55 pieces of shortbread.

  • 250g salted butter, softened and cubed
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 100-115g chopped dried figs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 75g cornflour
  • 50g fine semolina (if you don’t have semolina then use cornflour, so in total you’re using 125g cornflour)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F/ gas mark 3. Line a few metal baking sheet with baking paper. Put the dried figs in a bowl and cover them with boiling water for at least 15 minutes to plump them up. I left them overnight and then chopped them up really finely with my pampered chef food chopper. I think that you could experiment with how finely (or not) you’d like your figs to be.

2. In a big bowl, cream together the sugar and the butter, then add the lemon zest. Finally add in the chopped, dried figs. I use an electric mixer, but if you don’t have one, then beat it together with a wooden spoon.

figgy lemon shortbread 2figgy lemon shortbread 3

3. Measure out the flour, cornflour and semolina in another bowl. Then sift the dry ingredients into the sugar and butter in 4 batches. I add it in batches to make sure that the flour doesn’t fly out the bowl. Combine well until it’s a sticky mixture.

4. At this point, it’s best to flour your hands before gently kneading the mixture until it is combined into a smooth texture. I forgot this bit and ended up with sticky fingers. It’s important not to overwork the mixture because it will make it a tougher, less crumbly biscuit. Once it has reached that just smooth texture, then wrap it up in a piece of clingfilm and pop it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This will make it easier to roll out later.

5. Roll out the shortbread mixture on a floured worktop so that it’s about 0.5-1cm thick. I like to use a glass chopping board and have a large piece of clingfilm between my rolling pin and the mixture. I think that it makes it an altogether cleaner operation. No bits of dough sticking to the rolling pin, and less flour flying everywhere.

6. I then used 5cm round and daisy-shaped cutters to create my cookies. Maximise the space on the dough. Roll up what’s left and start again. I may be wrong, but I found that the biscuit is a bit tougher when I roll out the dough a second and third time. I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve baked them in the oven for a bit longer accidentally or what… so I’ll keep comparing.

One of my colleagues asked me to bake a larger piece of shortbread next time… like you get on the pettitcoat tails. I’ll try another time and let you know how that turns out.

shortbread doughflower shortbreadfiggy lemon shortbread 3

7. Place them on sheets of greaseproof or baking paper and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, turning them round half-way through baking. They will be a light golden colour when they’re done, like the colour of golden caster sugar, rather than a darker brown, like the colour of demerara sugar. Take them out the oven and immediately sprinke some granulated or demerara sugar on them. Leave them to cool for a few minutes on the tray before transferring the shortbread onto a wire rack to cool completely. Put them in an airtight container and they’ll probably last 3-4 days. Monica assures me that they’ll keep for a month.

These ones that I baked have pretty much all gone within 24 hours. I took some freshly baked shortbread to my students to test it out on their discerning tastebuds. I don’t know whether they were just being nice, but here are their thoughts on the recipe:

“Perfect!”

“It’s like shortbread.” (10/10!)

“I wouldn’t change a thing.”

“They just melt in your mouth.”

“Maybe a bit more lemon and fig, but I like my biscuits to be really fruity.” – if you think that this would be you, then add a bit more lemon zest and try chopping the figs into bigger chunks to see whether that helps.

I await to hear your verdict.

figgy lemon shortbread 4

Martha Stewart’s Strawberry Cupcakes with the fabulous Strawberry Meringue Buttercream Frosting!!!

To be honest, I would never have made the strawberry meringue buttercream that makes this cupcake if it wasn’t for the beautiful photo in Martha Stewart’s cupcake’s book. I mean, the very name, Strawberry Meringue Buttercream sounds pretentious, preposterous and… p,p,p… what other word am I looking for that starts with ‘p’?. Come on, be honest. How many of you had heard of meringue in a buttercream before?

martha stewart cupcakesmartha stewart strawberry cupcake
Having said all that, I did make them, meringue buttercream frosting and all! Do you remember that last year I listed a fair number of things that stop me from trying new recipes... Well, dear reader, I tackled three just here:

  • a new/complicated technique
  • not being put off by a bit of baking equipment that I don’t have
  • and getting over my dislike of frosting

Having made the recipe and tasted it (so delicious!), please don’t get put off making both parts of this recipe. Particularly the pretentiously, preposterous (I’m joking now) strawberry meringue buttercream. This buttercream is YUM!

There were four noteworthy moments that I’d like to share:

I borrowed a Kenwood Mixer, which we nicknamed “Kenny”, and duly fell in love with it. I must confess that after the first time that I used the Kenwood, I sent a text message to Sarah, his owner, which stated “Kenny is a dream!” Kenny definitely made the experience a much easier and better one. But, as I have to remind myself now, if you don’t have an equivalent, then use the electric mixer.

You’ll want to use a big bowl to make the cake mixture. A glance of some of the ingredients list gives it away: 2¾ cups of flour. 2 sticks of butter.

Martha says that this makes 36 american sized cupcakes. I read in the Hummingbird bakery book that UK muffin tins are the same size as US cupcake tins. More cross-pond confusion. So, I duly baked these in a UK muffin tin, and excitedly found some pretty pink muffin cases to bake them in. In the end I made 42, but it could be that I underfilled the cases a little bit.

I still don’t quite get what the UK substitute is for US all-purpose flour. The baking forums are ambivalent on this. Martha’s recipe explicitly states that the ¼ cup of cake flour shouldn’t be self-raising flour. By that instruction, I deduced (rightly or wrongly) that I shouldn’t use self raising flour for the all-purpose flour bit. Unfortunately, at that point in my 6 hour cupcake bake-athon, I realised that I didn’t have enough plain flour. And then my kitchen scales started playing up. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I used mix of plain and self-raising flour (ratio unknown), and substituted the cake flour for cornflour. Martha – I deduced by cakeflour that you wanted a flour that would create a lighter texture to it.

So, Martha. My question to you: did I commit a great baking sin?

strawberry cupcake mix 2strawberry cupcake mixstrawberry cupcake mix 3
Looking at these photos now, I’m thinking that the strawberries have a very similar appearance to pomegranates. Hmm…. I wonder whether… Next time I bake this, I’m going to try it with pomegranates. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Anyway, back to Martha Stewart’s Strawberry Cupcakes, adapted by moi. And I converted the recipe into grams for my UK readers.

Ingredients for the Strawberry Cupcakes

  • 340g self-raising flour
  • 35g cornflour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 225g butter, softened and cubed
  • 375g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs + 1 egg white
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely chopped strawberries – about 20 strawberries.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180C/350F. Line the muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Measure out the dry ingredients and sift together into a medium sized bowl. That’s the self raising flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt. You don’t have to sift, but the sifting helps it to be a lighter cake.

3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light in colour and fluffy in texture. This normally takes between 5-7 minutes with an electric whisk. If you’re using a mixer then use the beater attachment.

I think this is the moment I fell in love (again!) with the Kenwood mixer because I could just leave it to work its magic whilst I read the instructions again and got the eggs, vanilla, measured out the flour…

4. Add the vanilla extract at this point (one of my variations to Martha Stewart. I think that it helps to mix the flavour in evenly into the mixture). Then add in the eggs on a slow speed, one egg at a time with a tablespoon of the flour mixture, to prevent the mixture from curdling.

5. Now mix in the remainder of the flour mixture into the wet batter. Then pour in the milk and continue to mix well.

6. Finally add the chopped strawberries and mix the cake batter with a spatula or a wooden spoon.

Using a tablespoon, dollop out the cake mix into the prepared muffin cases. For each of the muffin cases, I estimated 2 dollops of the tablespoon worked well.

Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, turning the baking tins once in the baking, so that the cupakes have an even bake. Test them with a tester/sharp knife and if it comes out clean, they are ready. Let the baked cakes cool in the muffin tray for 5 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack.

uniced cakesiced cakes
So, by the time I got to make the Strawberry Meringue Buttercream, half of the strawberry cupcakes had been used up at the cupcake workshop. As I read Martha Stewart’s recipe on the meringue buttercream frosting, I just couldn’t quite convince myself to use her method. She pretty much mixes all the ingredients together, heats it and mixes it, and somehow that didn’t suit the perfectionist in me. So, I searched through Ruth Clemens’ Pink Whisk blog and found a meringue buttercream recipe that I could adapt. I think there’s also an element of me believing Ruth’s blog to be more honest over Martha’s book.

Besides, Ruth sold it to me, “This post also includes the recipe for the absolute best cupcake topping in the world – meringue buttercream frosting – I can eat this straight off the spoon! It’s definitely worth the effort and once you’ve tried it you’ll never go back to ‘normal’ buttercream!”

Okay, Ruth. Let’s give it a go and see whether it’s worth the effort.

It is. I don’t normally like buttercream frosting because it’s too rich and sweet, but I make an exception for this one. The addition of the meringue means that it feels much lighter and airier to eat. Also on the decorating front – it holds it’s shape really well. Once again, probably because of the meringue.

So, here’s my version of delicious Strawberry Meringue Buttercream, adapted from the Pink Whisk. From another of Ruth’s posts, I’d seen that she’d used Two Chicks liquid egg whites and approved. So, I decided to save myself the worry of wondering what to do with leftover egg yolks, and searched the aisles in Sainsburys to purchase some liquid egg whites.

Oh, and I also bought myself a sugar thermometer especially for the task too. That’s one way of tackling the issue of not having a piece of baking equipment.

Ingredients for Strawberry Meringue Buttercream

  • 5 large egg whites (I did indeed find and use Two Chicks liquid egg whites)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 100ml water
  • 500g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp strawberry jam
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

Method

Top tip: This is much easier to do with a stand mixer. K-mix, Kitchenaid’s were made for these jobs. As a non-owner, I borrowed my friend’s Kenwood, I have much K-envy. So, if you have one, please make this just so that I know that they are being utilised for what they were created for!

1. Whisk the egg whites in a big bowl until they are soft peaks (foamy but don’t hold their shape). Keep whisking, this time adding in 50g of sugar, a spoonful at a time. Continue whisking until they form firm peaks (they don’t lost their shape when you take the whisk out).

2. Leave to one side. In a small saucepan, gently heat up the water and the 250g caster sugar so that the caster sugar melts into a syrup. Once the sugar has melted, put the heat up to full and boil it up th 121C.

Ruth said that it would take 10 minutes. I took about 20 minutes, but wondering whether I either have a faulty thermometer or did something wrong. Anyway, 20 minutes later, it had almost reached 118C and I decided that was good enough for me. Didn’t seem to affect it too much this time.

3. Start whisking the egg whites again at a low speed. Slowly, slowly pour in the sugar syrup into the egg whites. Keep whisking for another 8-10 minutes, until the meringue mixture cools. I had a break at this point to allow the bowl to cool down a bit.

4. When the bowl is cool to touch, it’s time to add the butter. This is a slow process and be patient with it. Basically you have to add the butter to the egg whites in small pieces. If you have a mixer – keep it on the whisk attachment. I didn’t weigh this out, but I estimate that I pretty much added between 10-20g each time. Let one piece of butter be incorporated fully, before adding the next. The mixture does look like it’s going a bit wrong because it becomes liquidy. But don’t worry, that’s normal.

5. Finally(!), when all the butter is added, (if you want/need to, use the paddle attachment on a slow speed to ensure that the butter is all fully mixed in). Then swap in the whisk attachment to whisk the mixture so that it has the consistency and appearance of whipped cream.

meringue buttercreambuttercream piping bag remnants
6. Add the flavouring at this point. I separated my meringue buttercream frosting into two batches and added 1tsp vanilla extract into one and 1tbsp of strawberry (and the tiniest smidgen of red gel food colouring) to the other.

7. Fill those piping bags and away we go 🙂

strawberry cupcakes and meringue buttercream frosting 2strawberry cupcakes and meringue buttercream frosting

IPHONE FALLS HEADLONG INTO FROSTING

UM! So yes, as I was taking photos, my Iphone slipped out of it’s case and crashed into the decorated cakes. Naturally(!), I ran to grab my camera, so that I could capture a shot of that moment.

when the iphone fell into the buttercream

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to interview the said IPhone at the time, and take a shot at what it had to say about all of this because some cupcake had got in the way.

picking iphone up

🙂 The salvaged cupcakes!

rescued cakes

 

Sicilian Caponata (Sicilian Aubergine Relish)

Sicilian_Caponata

I fell in love with antipasti when I holidayed in the north-western tip of Sicily last September. In the past, I’d completely avoided antipasti: the magazine diet pages advise against eating antipasti for their hidden calories. I’m not entirely sure what changed my mind, but I had definitely ditched that notion of avoiding antipasti by the time I went on holiday. And I’m glad I did, because it certainly made for a glorious gastronomical adventure.

menu del diaantipasti

breadsicilian restaurant

On our final night we stopped by the beautiful seaside town of Castellammare del Golfo, which was dressing itself up for a feria. Sarah and I both love good food so we wanted to finish our holiday with a delicious italian meal. We chanced upon this newly-opened restaurant and entered on the recommendation of an italian man (who was also a chef!) we bumped into at the corner of the street. He spoke english, having worked in England for a few years, and he was holidaying with his family in the area. I do love those serendipitous moments. I think of them as God showing me favour. Others might call them fortune or chance. I absolutely recommend this restaurant to you, but I’m not sure where it is. Maybe the photo will help you find it. We were served a delicious menu del dia. However, truth be told, I was full after the antipasti. I was ever so apologetic to the chef for leaving food on my subsequent platas.

Before we left the beautiful island, with the aquamarine shoreline, I began to dream up an time when we could eat sunny, sicilian food in the backdrop of a wet, grumpy, english winter. The occasion presented itself when I arranged a sicilian evening with my friends Helen and John, who had been to Sicily earlier in the year. Helen and I decided that we’d only serve antipasti, bread and dessert. We didn’t plan a main course. The benefit of hindsight from our holidays.

Helen made tasty parma ham rolls stuffed with cream cheese and mango and a flavourful french bean, sundried tomato and feta cheese salad. My contribution to the evening: homemade caponata and sicilian bread. (I’ll write about my tentative endeavours into bread making another day.)

sicilian evening

Caponata isn’t much to look at; it tastes spectacular. How do I describe the flavour? Sweet, tangy, a bit crunchy, moreish. Perhaps, one would bluntly call it an aubergine chutney, but that doesn’t sound very appealing to me. The juices from the vegetables makes a beautiful sauce and the aubergines soak it up. Yum. It was one of the antipasti that was constantly served to us when I was out there.

When I found this Antonio Carluccio recipe(which is in his Italia cookbook), one of the things that almost put me off making this dishis the looooong list of ingredients. But then I remembered my resolution to push my culinary self. Besides, I realised that I had most of the ingredients and I only needed to buy capers and olives… and celery and aubergines and tomatoes.. It really does taste pretty special and it is a very simple dish to make. Admittedly the list of ingredients is on the long side. There’s just quite a bit of prepping and chopping at the start.

The recipe recommended you want the pale violet aubergine that is native to Italy. I found it tricky to source in Coventry so I satisfied myself with the deep violet variety.

Oh, and something else to note. Use a really large, deep frying pan, or a large wok. I started out with a frying pan, then swapped it for a stock pan because of the quantity of the ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 600g aubergines (about 3 medium sized aubergines), cut into 1 inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 6-8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or just olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 celery hearts, cut into little chunks
  • 500g ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 100g pitted green olives
  • 60g salted capers, rinsed
  • 100g slivered almonds
  • 2 ripe but firm pears, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50ml white wine vinegar

Method

1. In a large bowl, immerse the cubed aubergine in salted water for 1 hour. Then drain and press down firmly on the aubergines in order to squeeze as much water out. Transfer the aubergine onto a clean tea towel and pat the aubergine cubes dry. Prepare a plate with a few sheets of kitchen paper.

2. Heat most of the extra virgin olive oil in the frying pan, or stock pan and fry the aubergine cubes until it’s a golden colour, rather than a bit burnt like mine. Transfer the fried aubergine onto the plate with the kitchen paper, so that as much oil is absorbed. Leave to one side.

fried aubergine caponataadding everything else caponata

simmering caponataadding aubergine, sugar and vinegar

3. Add more oil, if necessary, and fry the onion until soft. Add in all the other ingredients, except the caster sugar and white wine vinegar (really important you leave these out for now). So, that’s the celery, tomatoes, olives, capers, almonds, pears, cinnamon and cloves. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

4. Add the aubergines to the pan, with the sugar and white wine vinegar. Season with salt, if required. Cook for another 10-15 minutes. Take it off the heat and let it cool down.

Caponata can be eaten warm, and believe me, I couldn’t resist a wee taste of it. But it is, oh so delicious, when served cold.

sicilian caponata

This made A LOT. I had loads leftover from the sicilian evening. I took it to a friend’s birthday party later that week, by which time the flavours had matured and we kept going back for some more. I gave some to a sicilian student, I stirred it through pasta to make packed lunches, and finally finished it off with a friend of mine with some bread and salad. It’s really handy to have a few jars of this in the fridge for a delicious lunch, or a contribution to a dinner.

Baked Oreo Cheesecake

oreo_cheesecake

This is the first ever cheesecake that I made solo.

I’d never made a cheesecake before until I was sous-chef for my friend Meagan when she made this dessert. Since she isn’t into baking yet made it look so easy, I thought that I’d have a go. Two years later, I finally got round to it and by then I’d forgotten the recipe and so had Meagan. Told you she isn’t much into baking. I made it again the other night to remind myself of what recipe I’d chosen.

Funny moment related to this, the first time I made this, I bought so many oreos and cartons of cream cheese that the lady in the checkout told me off. She said that to watch out because I’d get fat! She’s right, you know. If I ate it all tonight then I’m sure I’d have to be rolled out of bed in the morning because I’d have grown 3 spare tires, given the amount of cream and sugar in this.

So, this Oreo Cheesecake… It tastes pretty special. If you like oreos and you like baked cheesecake, then I can guarantee that you’ll like this dessert. I’ve adapted the recipe from the Krafts website.

Ingredients

  • 38 (or 3 packets of) Oreo biscuits, 1 packet roughly broken to add into the cream cheese mixture.
  • 900g soft cheese
  • 60g melted butter
  • 180g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 150ml sour cream (original recipe said 100ml, but as sour cream is sold in 150ml cartons in the UK, I added in the remaining 50ml as I didn’t have anything better to do with it.)

Method

1. You’ll need to preheat the oven to 325F/160C/Gas Mark 3. The first time I made it, I used two 20cm deep loose-bottomed cake tins and then I experimented with a 23cm stoneware square baker. The stone works brilliantly, but I’m pretty biased with stoneware. This time, I used the traditional 23cm springform cake tin and made 6 mini cheesecakes as tasters, naturally, as well. They all work well.

2. In a bowl, set aside the packet of Oreos that you’ve roughly broken by hand.

3. Take 22 biscuits (2 packets minus 6) for the biscuit base. Finely crush the biscuits in a food processor. Or if you prefer it a bit rough, then do what I did and bash them in a plastic bag with a rolling pin. Make sure that all the air is let out first, otherwise there’ll be a mini oreo explosion.

4. Add in the melted butter and mix well before emptying the crushed biscuits into the springform cake tin. Spread the biscuits out somewhat evenly, then press the biscuits down firmly to the bottom. I found that the end of the lid stopper of my food processor doubled up conveniently for the task. For the mini cheesecakes then my mini tart shaper works beautifully.

5. In a BIG mixing bowl, as there is rather a lot of cream cheese involved, beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer. Add in the vanilla extract and the sour cream. Make sure that it is well combined and the mixture doesn’t have any lumps. The first time I did this, I didn’t have an electric mixer so I remember using a pampered chef mix ‘n’ scraper. What doesn’t work, and I share this from experience, is a whisk. I don’t know what possessed me to try that one out…

6. Add the eggs in one by one. Gently beating them into the mixture until they are just about combined before adding the next one…

Top Tip: I read somewhere that in order to stop the top from cracking, you have to treat the mixture much more gently once you start adding in the eggs. Something about coagulating and air bubbles.

ps. It didn’t stop mine from cracking. Then again, I could have done a number of things wrong to make that happen.

7. Add the oreos that you set aside in 1. into the cream cheese mixture and stir gently.

oreos in cheesecake mixture

8. Pour the mixture into the biscuit base. Crush the remaining oreo biscuits and scatter them on top. I had a thought, too late, that I could have arrange oreo biscuits so that it looked prettier. It doesn’t matter really.

9. Pop it in the oven for about 45 minutes with an oven proof bowl of water. The bowlful of water helps to keep the cheesecake moist whilst baking. I chose to do that, rather than double wrap the cake tin with foil and pop it in a deep baking dish filled with water, for the sake of ease really. I think that it is also supposed to help the top from not cracking too. Given that my last one did, maybe I should have used a water bath.

10. You’ll know it’s done when the top wibbles a bit when you touch it. It’ll set more whilst cooling. Run a knife round the edges to immediately so that the edges don’t cling to the sides whilst cooling. It also makes getting the cheesecake out of the cake tin much cleaner later on. Leave it to cool completely in the oven, with the oven door ajar.

11. Then wrapped in clingfilm or foil, refridgerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours. This is really important for allowing the flavours to mature. Serve it up and enjoy.

The verdict? A smashing dessert and as it is a cheesecake, perhaps a good one for the summer. The eggs give it a slightly yellowy appearance and I might experiment with using one less egg in future. It’s not as elegant as the lemon and ginger cheesecake, but it’s not meant to be. Who minds if it has a few cracks on the top; my tasters certainly didn’t.

Raspberry and Buttermilk Cake

 

raspberrybuttermilkcake
I really like discovering delicious new recipes, especially when you weren’t looking for them. It feels like stumbling across some hidden treasure. This cake is exactly that. I found this one in Smitten Kitchen as I was googling for a recipe that I could use up the buttermilk that I had leftover from a banana cake baking session. Fortuitously, I happened to have all the ingredients at hand. Winner! So, I just got up and started baking the cake 🙂

raspberries
If you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute it with natural yoghurt but it doesn’t quite taste the same. Better yet, I have since learned how to make my own buttermilk, the cheat’s way. The proper way requires either churning butter and using the leftover milk (hence the name, buttermilk) or shaking a pot of double cream for a l.o.n.g time for the same effect.

The raspberries all sank to the bottom the first time I made this (the cake still tasted scrumptious). I had a hypothesis that the fruit wouldn’t sink if I first lightly powdered them with flour before I added them to the cake batter. So, I tested this out the second time I made this cake. I poured the batter into two cake tins and scattered in one, lightly floured raspberries, and the other with bright, red raspberries. When both cakes turned out beautifully with raspberries floating dreamily on top, I was flummoxed as to why the first time round had been a disaster. However, now I’m remembering that I forgot to preheat the oven and so the batter was left out for a while, so maybe the raspberries sunk then… *sigh* Basic common sense, Miss Cha – remember to switch on the oven and turn on the cooker at the mains so that the oven can actually preheat.

 

raspberrybuttermilkcake2twotypesofraspberriesoncaketwotypesofraspberrycake1
 

Raspberry and Buttermilk Cake, adapted by yours truly from Smitten Kitchenand Gourmet Magazine

List of Ingredients

  • 55g/2oz unsalted butter
  • 135g/5oz caster sugar (for the cake) + 1 tbsp of caster sugar (to sprinkle on top of the raspberries)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated zest of half a lemon
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 130g/4.5oz plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 125ml/4fl oz buttermilk, stirred
  • 140g/5oz of raspberries

Top Tip: you can substitute the raspberries with other berries. I imagine that blueberries would taste heavenly, or cherries with almond flakes on top…

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F or Gas Mark 5 and line a 18-20cm cake tin, or alternatively dust it lightly with flour.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together for about 2-3 minutes with an electric mixer (I finally got one!) or 5-7 minutes by hand.
3. Mix in the vanilla extract, the lemon zest, and then finally the egg.
4. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
5. Slowly add 4. and the buttermilk to the wet mixture. I’d recommend adding the flour in three batches, alternating each time with the buttermilk. This way, it will be easier to mix and the mixture won’t curdle. If you’re doing this with an electric mixer, do it at a low speed.
6. Spoon the mixture into the tin, smooth the top, then scatter the raspberries evenly on top of the mixture. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of caster sugar over the raspberries.

raspberrybuttermilkcake2scatterraspberries
7. Pop it into the centre of the oven and let it bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the tester/knife comes out clean.
8. Let it rest in the tin for about 10 minutes, and then cool on a wire rack.

The verdict? Well, this cake is a winner in my eyes. Its simple to bake and you can make this cake and eat it within an hour. It is wonderfully moist from the buttermilk and the raspberries lend a lovely freshness to it. Also, the cake tastes delicious, even when the berries have sunk to the bottom. If that happens to you (and I don’t think it should as long as you remember to preheat the oven) here’s how I remedied it – by serving the cake, turned upside down. You could also sprinkle lots of icing sugar on it.

remedyraspberrybuttermilkcake
p.s. The cake freezes well too. Wrap it up twice with foil and a plastic bag to freeze it. Just take it out the freezer the night before and leave it on the side to defrost it – simple.