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Archive for the ‘Cakes etc.’ Category

Kindles and Rocky Road

This week I have been thinking a lot about Kindles. Mostly I have been thinking why would a person buy a Kindle? I do understand the allure of thin gadgets. When I first came into contact with an iPhone I immediately started surreptitiously posing with it, making pretend calls and whizzing through the contacts list for no reason. It wasn’t even my phone.

Whilst the iPhone is the natural and sexy successor to bulky Nokias from days of yore, the Kindle is not sexier than books. Hear me out. Is there really anything more amazing looking than a pile of books all higgledy-piggledy? I keep piles of books round my flat as part of my interior design scheme. If I break an ornament I just stick a pile of books in its place.

Books are things of beauty. If someone offered to remove all the art and posters from your home and replace them with a single gadget containing all your pieces in digital form, you would probably say ‘no thank you crazy person’. If the Kindle takes off then what will happen to all the books? Homes will look dry and sterile and you won’t be able to impress guests with your complete set of Muriel Spark novels or a random book on German limewood sculpture that you never even read.

I am not such a superficial person that I only value a book for its cover (and its new book smell, and the ribbon page-marker things, and the joy of cracking the spine for the first time). I also think they are quite practical. Proponents of the Kindle claim that it is less cumbersome, lighter and more ‘user-friendly’ than a book. Well, I’m sorry but we’re not all reading The Count of Monte Cristo in the dark. I tend to take normal-sized books on my commute. That’s why I still haven’t finished Wolf Hall. If you really are the type of person who is going to droop under the weight of a 400 page book then might I suggest a novella? Simonetta Perkins by L P Hartley is both a delightful read and, at 134 grams, is lighter than a Kindle (yes, I weighed it).

A few weeks ago I was randomly looking through some books and when I flicked through Gulliver’s Travels out fell a book review I’d written when I was about 12 (judging from the hand-writing). Wow, I thought, I was a super cool 12-year-old. And also, what will happen when Kindles take over the world? Where will all the embarrassing notes and love letters and chocolate digestive crumbs be stashed?

Clearly this post isn’t about food at all. I just wanted to share my thoughts on Kindles. Here is a picture of a rocky road I made to make up for it. It has stem ginger in it. It’s a bit of a Nigella recipe in that you just melt down chocolate and throw other confectionary in before putting it in the fridge. It’s still delicious.

Melt dark chocolate with some butter and syrup from a jar of stem ginger. Stir in crushed maltesers, mini marshmallows, chopped stem ginger and anything else you fancy (kit kats, dried fruit etc). Pour the mix into a suitable container and refrigerate until set.

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Cranberry Blondies

I made blondies once before. They were a gift for a stranger who was kindly giving me two 3kg dumbbells in order to assist me in the delusion that I was about to embark on an exercise regimen to rival that of the Olympic swimming team. I expected to emerge with a quite breath-taking physique.

Using my local online forum I discovered that someone was hoping to give away these weights to a loving home. Not only that, she would deliver them to my door. With the prospect of toned upper arms so tantalisingly close I felt that some sort of gift was needed as a thank you. I decided, rather bizarrely considering the nature of my benefactor’s donation, to make cake.

I made a ginger blondie that had tasted delicious when made by Lara of Sheen Suppers but in my hands the result was a golden-coloured slab of lard. For some reason I decided to persevere in wrapping my calorific gift despite the fact that it was really quite unpleasant to eat. They were also alarmingly heavy once wrapped up in a little package and tied with lilac ribbons (yes, I collect ribbons for just this sort of occasion).

Anyway, I never heard back about the blondies and I think they are probably the reason I didn’t make a friend for life in dumbbell lady. 

I have since made successful blondies with cranberries and macadamia nuts. They are more cakey than brownie in texture which I prefer; I’ve never really liked dense slabs of chocolate. I used a Sainsbury’s Magazine recipe and whilst we’re on the subject how great is the Sainsbury’s Magazine? If Sainsbury’s would like to send me some free copies I would be totally ok with that. The recipe for the blondies can be found here.

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Mini rose cakes

Little rose-scented cakes with a peachy pink cream cheese icing. Not much more I can say really. I wouldn’t ever recommend more than two in one sitting. Drink with black coffee to offset the tooth-sucking sweetness.

Make a pound cake mix (that’s 125g soft butter, 125g self-raising flour, 125g sugar and two eggs mixed together according to Jane Grigson) with a half teaspoon of rose water added. As you are about to pour the mix into a loaf tin remember that, oh dear, you don’t actually have a loaf tin. Decant the mix into mini cake-thing tin instead and hope for the best. Cook for just 15-20 minutes or so instead of the usual 1 hour at about 180. Make a cream cheese icing with some soft butter, cream cheese and icing sugar. Add rose water and a drop of red food colouring which should give you a light pink colour. In for a penny, in for a pound and all that.

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I have never liked chocolate cake much which, as a woman, is like saying that I’m not keen on kittens, Brad Pitt or Cheryl Cole (for the record I think kittens are delightful but I’m totally indifferent to Brad and Cheryl). I either find chocolate cake too plain or too rich and I have yet to find a middle ground. Usually, when confronted with this information people want to force-feed me their own version in the hope of changing my mind but trust me it will not. From Sacher Torte to Cadbury’s Flake Cake my universal reaction has always been ‘meh’.

People who like chocolate (I refuse to apply the word ‘chocoholic’ unless you have actually mugged an old lady in order to buy a half-chewed Yorkie) sometimes make moaning noises when they see, say, Chocolate Fudge Cake on a menu. As someone who isn’t sexually attracted to chocolate I can’t tell you how annoying this is. I understand that our tongues taste things differently but there is something of a herd element when it comes to the modern, usually female preoccupation with chocolate. Chocolate has been around for a long time but the claims of addiction and preference over sex/your children/all other food is a new thing. I wonder if there are any other women out there who are willing to put their hands up and admit that whilst chocolate is nice it isn’t worth getting hysterical over.

My friends are all spies.

It was my friend’s birthday party at the weekend and I was in charge of cake-making. When you have a food blog you can’t really avoid these responsibilities. I settled on a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting despite being advised to make ‘something chocolaty’. I refused to do so. If Dolly Parton was made of cake I like to think she would look like this.

I made the cake late at night so my decision to make four tiers was not an entirely sober one. I chose a recipe from the Epicurious website but used smaller cake tins to make the four tiers instead of two. I used just blueberries between the layers of cake and raspberries on top as I thought it was more visually striking. I also dusted the frosted cake with desiccated coconut in order to cover up my not entirely smooth frosting.

The cake was yummy but I would say the sponge was a bit too dry. I think next time I’ll try more butter and buttermilk. Dry sponge aside this cake was good and it survived the car ride from Clapham to Belsize Park I think purely because of the sheer weight and solidity of it. As they say at Epicurious, definitely a keeper.

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Those of you who enjoy the odd chocolate cookie may like to know that I re-attempted the chocolate caramel cookies from an earlier post. These were vastly improved by using an entire square of Cadbury’s caramel per cookie. Last time I tried to be frugal but this cookie is only worth making with an entire square.

 

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I find that with the size of the square of chocolate this recipe actually makes about 20 cookies, not 30 as the recipe states. These cookies need to be eaten on the day they are made, ideally warm from the oven. They are delicious and I speak as someone who doesn’t really like chocolate that much.

 

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Cuisine garden 22 May 2009 013

 

With the bank holiday over I am feeling rather glum, especially as God decided to unleash London’s entire rain quota for May this morning.  So I am fed-up and inappropriately dressed.

 

I shouldn’t complain as I have had a lovely weekend with gorgeous weather and much feasting.  I have consumed an awful lot in three days.  I recall pizza, Canelé, ice cream, tapas, asparagus, greek meze, lasagne and cake.  There is more but it’s all a bit hazy.  By Monday I was suffering from a food-induced stupor.

 

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I will be posting about Tapas Brindisa and Borough Market tomorrow but for now I wanted to share some pictures of a delicious Jamie Oliver cake which my aunt Sylvie made. 

 

Apparently you can find this recipe in the April 2009 edition of the Sainsbury’s magazine. Alternatively, if you have the Ottolenghi cookbook the cake looks almost identical to their orange and polenta cake, they could be one and the same. It looks like a perfect summer cake as the oranges are so sunny looking.  Plus they keep the cake beautifully moist and even if the weather is bad this cake would cheer you up.

 

I just noticed an unholy amount of bling going on in the top-right corner, that is not my hand...

 

This has all got me thinking about upside-down cakes in general. I adore pineapple upside-down cake and I can’t understand why it is considered retro or even, whisper it, naff.  It is completely delicious and the perfect way to use up that three year old packet of glace cherries at the back of the cupboard.

 

I suspect there is a world of upside-down cake recipes that I don’t even know about. I have this crazy idea for a stuffed Rambutans upside-down cake and since I am now in possession of a tin of said-Rambutans there is nothing to stop me…watch this space.

 

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My father’s beloved lupins.  You can’t eat these so they don’t really have any place on this blog but they are so beautiful and we were admiring them whilst we ate the cake.

My father’s beloved lupins. You can’t eat these so they don’t really have any place on this blog but they are so beautiful and we were admiring them whilst we ate the cake.

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