Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Autumn part 2 and 2 cakes

This year I have made huge steps towards Stepford-ism: my house retains its bohemian appeal (it could do with a spring clean) but I have discovered baking. You can blame it on Dan, I have mentioned him before: Saint Dan, Patron Saint of Elasticated Waists. So for the first time I decided to bake a Christmas cake, the only problem was which one. Naturally, the answer was to cook two!

Beware, mind, the ingredients are not cheap - my halo is shining bright as I got mine from Truefood Coop, made more affordable with my active member vouchers, natch. Incidentally I was chatting to a customer at Truefood and she smugly said that as the dried fruit was so sweet she did not add any sugar, I nodded saying that it can be sweet so I am not planning to ice mine just home made marzipan and a riotous display of colourful dried fruit and nuts (and some marzipan holly) and she looked at me her halo ebbing away saying that she had to double ice hers.

Cake 1: Caramel Christmas Cake

200g caster sugar
50ml water
150ml double cream
50g both honey and black treacle
Grated zest of an orange and a lemon
4 teaspoons of mixed spice (I bodged by using a random combination of ginger, clover, nutmeg, cinnamon and little all spice)
100g butter
3 medium eggs (or any your chickens lay :)
250g strong white flour
1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
250g each currants, raisins and chopped prunes or figs (I used prunes)
400g natural glacé cherries (not the lurid red ones - but I only had 150g so I made up to a similar weight using some dried sour cherries and candied ginger)
200g walnut halves (or chopped walnuts as they are cheaper, but I still almost forgot them)
Boil up the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan until a rich, dark, reddish caramel - it should take 5-6 mins; I did something wrong and it kept on going granular so I had to add more water, but it came good in the end. When is goes a brown as you dare (it will burn if you let it go too far) add the cream, taking care as it spits like a camel. Stir in the cream then add the honey, treacle and spice. Next add the butter and beat it in cruelly until it melts.
Turn on the oven to 170'C/150' Fan and line the bar and sides of a round tin 18cm diameter (I only had a 20cm) with a few layers of non-stick baking paper.
transfer to a mixing bowl (unless you are a domestic slut like me) and beat in the eggs one by one, stir in the flour and bicarb until smooth. Add the fruit and nuts and spoon / pour into the lined tin and pop into the oven. The overall mixture was quite stiff so I could make it slightly lower in the middle so that one it rose it was fairly flat and ready to decorate.
Bake for two hours or until a skewer only collects a few crumbs when stuck in.

Cake 2: Black Christmas Cake

375g mixed dried fruit
150g quartered prunes
1teaspoon orange extract - I substituted orange zest, a little vanilla and some pomegranate molasses that I use in stews.
200g chopped ginger glacé
500ml stout
200g butter
1 teaspoon of each cinnamon, mace, ground cloves, nutmeg
200g muscovado sugar (mine was a random mix of brown sugars from dark muscovado to my newly discovered rapadura sugar and reduced the quantity overall quantity to around 180g)
175g black treacle
3 medium eggs
250g spelt or whole meal flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
Add the first batch of dried ingredients and extract (or alternative) to a bowl. Meanwhile go through the faff of reducing the stout down to about 100ml, it should take 15min simmering if you don't boil it over or loose the will to live. Add the butter to melt then stir in the spices (you should wait until it cools, but by now I am aware that DB will awake at around 4.30am and want some sleep first).
Line your 20cm cake tin (I have the right size this time) with non-stick baking paper and heat the oven to 170'c /150' C fan.
Beat the eggs (and your dish washer - how many pans and bowls I wonder?) then stir in. Sift the flour and baking powder together, adding back the health bits of the flour that stay in the sieve and beat this into the mixture with the fruit.
Transfer the mixture to your lovingly lined tin and cook for 2 1/2 hours until it passes the skewer test and the top of the cake feels firm.

Can you see the lengths that I go to in order to advise you on your cake? Well neither require the fruit to be soaked unusually. Cake number 2 is cakier, with more crumb and the first cake is more loaded with fruit. I find cake 2 more of a fiddle (could you tell?) and the taste of the black treacle a little overpowering. the Hubster said that it tasted of Christmas, so he is sold on it.

Now can I hear the entrance of the Queen of Sheba, angelic trumpets? No, the baby monitor is on and the Hubster is snoring. I think it is late, so I shall press publish before I see too many typos or grammatical howlers.
Goodnight xx

one week

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