Gastronomically Terrific

June 6, 2015

Mothering Sunday Sweets

Filed under: gift, Sweets — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 9:14 pm

Marzipan sweets CUOnce again, it’s not that I haven’t been baking recently – just that I haven’t got around to writing about all the things that I have been baking. I’ll try and catch up over the next week or so, so expect another plethora of blog posts from me in the next few days.

The first thing on the list is these Mothering Sunday Sweets. I actually made them for my mum’s birthday because Mothering Sunday itself was a bit busy (baby no. 2 was born about a week before Mothering Sunday – not a time when you get a lot of baking done…).

These sweets were quite fun and easy to make, especially as I took the cheats route and bought the marzipan instead of eating it. The only effort I really had to put in was melting some chocolate. The hardest part of the whole thing was finding a box to put the sweets in.

I made three different types of sweets in total – one was just marzipan balls with half glace cherries on top, one was strips of marzipan spread with melted chocolate and then rolled up (these looked great and tasted pretty good too), and the final sweet was marzipan, cherries, sultanas and brandy mixed together and rolled into a sausage. The sausage shape was then dipped in melted chocolate and the chocolate left to set before being cut into slices.

I would say I have no idea how these tasted because I made them as a present, but I may have made some extra sweets which I then, umm, tried? They were, on the whole, pretty tasty! The marzipan chocolate strips and marzipan mixed with cherries etc. sweets both looked and tasted really rather good.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Hallelujah! Easter, Wendy Dyer, Honor Harris, Judith Merrell, pg. 14-15

January 5, 2015

Victorian Christmas Cake

Filed under: Cake, Christmas — Tags: , , , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 8:52 am

45 Christmas CakeAs with all traditional Christmas cakes, I started making this at the end of October, two months before it was due to get eaten. Well how else do you achieve that amazing boozy taste?!

This is a fairly traditional Christmas cake (there’s a clue in the name), where you soak the fruits the night before, then mix them in with the sugars, flours and treacle etc, then bake the whole heavy thing in the oven for about 4 hours. It really does make the house smell amazing though. You then spend the next 6-8 weeks feeding the cake with sherry/ brandy/ rum/ whatever you prefer (you can use orange juice, but I don’t see why). My drink of choice this year was sherry.

A couple of weeks before Christmas I then covered the cake with marzipan. I have to admit that I didn’t do a fantastic job (the sides in particular looked somewhat patchy), but I wasn’t too worried as I knew a week later the cake would also get covered in icing. And so it did.

I put off covering the cake with icing because I knew I was being fairly ambitious in what I wanted to do, so it took me a couple of days to build up the courage (especially as I had messed up the marzipan so effectively). In the end I didn’t do a bad job, although I do think a little less may have looked better. I added snowflakes (using my shiny new snowflake cutters) to the sides of the cake, separating them with smaller snowflakes and silver balls.

I then used green icing to add a Christmas tree and holly leaves to the top of the cake. I decorated the tree with a white icing star covered in gold edible glitter, added silver sprinkles for tinsel and silver balls for baubles. Finally, I used pomegranate seeds for the holly berries – although it turns out that whatever you use for holly berries, it needs to be bright red; and therefore the colour runs. Bright red pomegranate juice covered my kitchen for a while…

Overall the whole thing looked OK, but perhaps it didn’t need the Christmas tree. Just snow flakes and holly would probably have looked more professional, and a bit more classy. However it looked, it tasted pretty good – nobody who likes Christmas cake complained anyway!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry Christmas, pg. 198

December 21, 2014

Mini Christmas Fairy Cakes

Mini Xmas fairy cakes in box x4Along with another batch of my eggnog cupcakes, I decided to make some mini Christmas Fairy Cakes as a gift for a family member at Christmas (I can post this now because I gave him his gift yesterday, and from the size and decor on the box he knew damn well what it was – he gets a similar gift every year).

I’ve made this before and they tend to look good, but I have to say that I was especially pleased with them this year. I know they tasted good because I may have made 12 when only 6 fitted in the box… 😉

The cakes themselves are basically a gentle version of a Christmas cake. They contain flour, eggs and butter. But the sugar is light muscovado sugar, and you add mixed fruit and almond extract. You can also add mixed nuts, but to me that just ruins the taste. They smelt amazing in the oven, and taste like Christmas, but a bit lighter.

To decorate the cakes firstly I drizzled them with brandy and added some apricot jam. Then I cut out a circle of marzipan, then placed a circle of royal icing on top. The recipe actually states to make runny icing and coat it with that, but I think ready-made royal icing looks better. I then cut two holly leaves per cake out of green ready-to-roll icing, and coloured some marzipan red to make holly berries. These are then all placed on top of the white icing (I say ‘I’, actually my 2-year-old son helped with the rolling and cutting and, I have to say, did a damn good job!).

I was pretty pleased with the end result, both on terms of the way the cakes looked and tasted. I hope they are enjoyed as much by the receiver of the gift!

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Fairy Cakes, Joanna Farrow, pg. 30

November 30, 2014

Christmas cake bites

Filed under: Cake, Christmas, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 8:01 pm

Whilst this is a Christmas recipe, I didn’t make it for Christmas itself. I wanted to use it as a test run for a bake that I would potentially make somebody as a Christmas present. As it happened, it worked out well because my family decided to visit right over the weekend in November that I made these bite-sized cakes, meaning they had somebody to eat them!

The bites themselves taste OK; you make them in a similar way to normal Christmas cake, by soaking apricots in alcohol for a day or so, then adding lots more fruit, sugar and flour to the recipe. You then bake the traybake for an hour or so before covering it with marzipan and icing. What you don’t do is leave the cake for weeks soaking up the additional alcohol you add to it – which, it turns out, is exactly what makes Christmas cake taste so good. These little bites are serviceable enough, but somehow lack that excess that ‘real’ Christmas cake provides. I decided they weren’t quite special enough to get upgraded to present status.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Christmas Collection, pg. 197

December 30, 2010

Classic Rich Christmas Cake

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , — thinkingdan @ 10:59 am

Every year Anna makes a tasty Christmas cake, in a variety of styles.  This year we had the classic christmas fruit cake.

Christmas cake just like your Granny makes it.

This style of Christmas Cake is a bit bonkers to make.  You start it in September, and feed it Brandy once a week like some strange creature under the stairs.  This gets it good and moist and delicate, and probably keeping it sloshed stops it escaping in the middle of the night after tearing up the soft furnishings in the living room.  Anyway, when its time you cover the whole thing in marzipan and then again in royal icing as the British have done since time immemorial.

The main problem with this cake is that store bought ones are actually pretty good.  There is a slight juiciness (and a real brandy hit) present here that you wouldn’t otherwise get, and for those of us who don’t want nuts in the cake its good to make one without.  Of course, this cake tastes great if you like fruit cake, and it keeps forever so I can be merrily stealing slithers well into March if it’s not gone by then.  A foresighted sort of chap like myself sees this as a great reason to make your own Christmas cake, preferably two sizes too large.

Who made it: Anna did all the work, Dan helped with the decorations.

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book, page 91.

February 14, 2010

Love Heart Fairy Cakes

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 4:54 pm

For Valentines Day Anna surprised me with

Love Hearts

Which are fairy cakes coated in icing and decorated with, well, hearts!  We all know how yummy fairy cakes are when fresh, and the presentation here adds something a little special.

The Marks and Spencers Chocolate Hearts on top are really tasty!

Anna actually made two types: the chocolate heart and silver ball design above, and a red marzipan heart:

Anna had to keep me out of the kitchen whilst making them, so she couldn't wait for the red food colouring to dry...

We’re never that successful at using food colourings to make things look professional – here the problem was that the red colouring in the marzipan wasn’t dry.  To get it right it needs to have a couple of hours in the fridge but of course Anna couldn’t keep me out of the kitchen that long 🙂

These are tasty as you’d expect, and extremely moreish. For “research” purposes we had shop bought cakes at lunchtime, and they weren’t a patch on these!  Fresh fairy cakes are a magical thing.

Side note: I figured out how to use manual focus on our camera, producing better results I think (top picture).  This is my first food photography that I’ve been happy with.

Who made it: Anna.

Recipe: “Fairy Cakes” by Joanna Farrow, page 31.  Though really you don’t need a recipe because google knows how to make fairy cakes and the decoration has to use whatever you have!

January 22, 2010

Christmas flavoured fairy cakes

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , , — thinkingdan @ 11:47 pm

Fairy cakes come in all shapes and sizes.  So next Christmas why not try:

Mini Christmas Cakes

A “Fruit and nut” variation on the standard fairy cake, when coated in royal icing and decorated accordingly these cakes have all the good bits of Christmas Cake with the best of fairy cakes.  Not as heavy or stodgy as their bigger, jolly cousin, they are still more substantial than an ordinary fairy cake and keep a lot better.

Christmas Fairy Cakes

Left: Icing sugar inverse holly leaf. Top and Right: Mini Christmas Cakes coated with marzipan, royal icing and sugar decorations.

These were boxed up attractively and given as a Christmas gift to a family member (Hi Tony!), along with some standard fairy cakes in a variety of decoration schemes.  I can’t speak for his opinion, but we’ve made these before and they are really tasty.  The nuts help create a more complex flavour, but it is important not put in too many bitter varieties to keep the taste sweet.

These obviously belong in with the December posts but these were delayed due to bad weather… there was the wrong type of snow on the internet wires or something.  Oh yes – I was worried the snowmen in the field would come and get me if they saw their poor doomed friend above.

Who made it: Anna made the cake, and insists Dan helped by cleaning up the leftovers. That is not true, of course, but I better not tell her that..

Recipe: “Fairy Cakes”, by Joanna Farrow, page 30.

December 21, 2009

Yum, its Christmas…

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , , , , — thinkingdan @ 9:01 pm

I’m starting this blog at Christmas, so no surprises that the first thing we see is:

Christmas Cake

This a “fast Christmas Cake” recipe, and doesn’t need to be made months in advance.  Basically you throw “mincemeat” (the mixed fruit you get in mince pies) in with flour and other basic ingredients, bake, then put some marzipan on (shop bought).  It then gets left for a week (I don’t know why…) before getting covered in the amazing looking “Royal Icing”, which is icing sugar, egg and water in a really thick solution.  You ooze that onto the cake, then as it dries create the little “peaks” for decoration.

Christmas Cake.  Whoops, I ate some already!

Fast Christmas Cake

As for taste, its pretty good.  Soft and moist compared to traditional Christmas Cake, but with a fairly standard taste that doesn’t scream originality.  This makes it better than most shop bought cakes, but you might beat it with a luxury buy.  Well, I suppose Christmas Cake is eaten everywhere the Empire has been for a reason – it is hard to improve on!

All in all, quite a success.

Who made it: a joint effort between Anna and Dan, with Anna doing the bulk of the planning.

Recipe: Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book, page 99.

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