Tag Archives: Aga baking

Intensely lemon cake

Intensely lemon cake

This cake is an adaptation of Claudia Roden’s Orange and almond cake. I was asked if I could bake a lemon drizzle cake that was lemony and not too sweet for an upcoming course.   I have been meaning to try Roden’s recipe with lemons instead of the oranges ever since I first made the orange version years ago. This was my opportunity.

It certainly lives up to its intensely lemon moniker.  It is like eating a bit of (tart!) sunshine. The colour of this cake is also intensely yellow, although I think that is due to the eggs being laid by our own chickens who generally roam free and eat a diet of maize, oats, sunflower seeds, anything they might find on the ground and vegetable kitchen scraps (and bread, lots of bread – they now look at me in disgust “What, bread again?”).

It is gluten-free if you make sure you get the GF baking powder. I suggest that you buy the whole, blanched almonds and grind them up in a food processor if you have one. This means that you get some superfine crumbs of almond, like flour in texture, along with some knobbly bits. This adds a wonderful texture to the cake that is more interesting to eat. The almonds also taste fresher when freshly ground.

I added a drizzle to the cake as soon as it came out of the oven to add another level of zinginess but if you want a more toned down lemonyness then feel free to  ignore this last step.

The top of this cake is a tad overcooked, I wasn’t being diligent enough and had gone off to so something else whilst it baked, but actually the contrast is rather stunning both visually and in taste.

If you like your lemon cakes to have a punch to them then I urge you to try this recipe, with the drizzle. Let me know what you think.

2 lemons
6 eggs
200g caster sugar
250g ground almonds (grind whole blanched almonds yourself if you can)
1 tsp baking powder

For the drizzle
Juice of 1 lemon (you can add the zest too if you like)
50g caster sugar

Method
Place the lemons in a small pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender and soft (can take two hours). I pop mine in the simmering oven of the Aga. Drain and leave the lemons until cool enough to handle.

Preheat your oven to 180°c, gas mark 4 or use the lowest shelf in the baking oven of the four-oven Aga. Line a 23cm round spring-form cake tin.

Take off any green end bits off the lemons (no idea what they are called), cut in half and take out any seeds. Place in a food processor and whizz until finely pureed. If you don’t have a food processor then chop away until the lemon is finely minced, catching any juices.

Whisk the eggs until slightly thickened and then add the sugar gradually whisking all the time and continue to whisk until the mixture is light and mousse-like. Fold in the almonds, baking powder and lemons. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until it starts to shrink slightly away from the sides.

Just before the cake is cooked mix the sugar with the lemon juice. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven make holes all over the cake with a skewer and spoon the sugar and lemon mixture all over the surface of the cake. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 20 minutes and then finish cooling on a wire rack.

This cake keeps for several days,  if it isn’t eaten in one sitting.

Simnel cupcakes

simnel cupcakes

This is another post that sees me preparing for my Easter baking course. Veg Patch Kitchen keeps me busy and I rarely get the time to bake for pleasure these days. If I am making cakes they are very likely to be for a course and are being made along with lunch items and I don’t have the time to experiment with a new recipe or post it here.  Recipe development for the courses are a different matter though. They are researched and tested ahead of time so I know that we will be able to recreate them with success during the class and they give me an opportunity to still post here.  This blog has given me pleasure, inspiration and returned my lost confidence to me many times over the last nine years and I don’t want to stop posting here when I get the opportunity. So apologies again for thinking of Easter when we haven’t left January yet.

These little morsels of deliciousness will be made by students on my Easter baking course, along with Greek Tsoureki, hot cross buns and, if we get time, Easter biscuits (aka poorly biscuits in this house).

I adore marzipan, and so do my girls. They make it just to eat, and if they can be bothered with the tiny extra effort they will cut them into animal shapes or make them into marzipan chocolates, but most likely they will just eat it in lump form. It is easy to make and so much more delicious than the bought variety.  But by all means buy some if you want to miss out the step of making the marzipan.

These little cakes are very good, moist with the rum soaked fruit and streak of marzipan and just the right amount of sweetness with the marzipan top. Don’t wait until Easter, make them now.

You don’t need to soak your dried fruit in rum but it does make these cakes extra special.  I keep a jar topped up all year so it’s always there if I need it. But, if you haven’t got a jar of  rum soaked fruit sitting on the side (and really who, apart from me, has?) All they really need is an hour or so sitting in a few tablespoonfuls of rum.

For the marzipan: (to make about 325g)
150g ground almonds
75g icing sugar
75g caster sugar
1 small egg
1 tsp lemon juice
a few drops of almond extract (optional)

Method
Place all of the ingredients (you may not need all of the egg so put half in to begin with) in a food processor and whizz until it comes together. If you don’t have a food processor then just mix the ingredients together with your hands until they come together in a smooth ball.

Cut out 24 small circles (12 for popping in the middle of the batter and 12  for the top). Make some balls for the top.  Traditionally you would have 11 balls on the top of your simnel cake to represent the apostles.

Apricot jam or something similar ( I used my crabapple jelly) to brush on the top of the cooked cakes to help the marzipan disc and balls stick.

For the cakes:
150g softened unsalted butter
150g soft light brown sugar
2 eggs
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g mixed  dried fruit (optionally soaked in a few tablespoonfuls of rum for at least an hour)
zest of 1 lemon and juice of ½ lemon

You will need 12 cake cases and a 12 hole patty tin. Preheat the oven to 180°c, gas mark 4 or use the middle of the baking oven of the Aga.

Method
Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well between additions. Sieve the flour and baking powder into the mixture and fold these with the lemon juice and fruit gently into the mixture until well combined.

Place a heaped teaspoon of the mixture into each of the cases. Top with a disc of marzipan and then top each with another heaped teaspoon of mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until springy to the touch.

Brush the warm jam over each cake and top with a disc of marzipan and decorate with the balls. Place under a preheated grill or at the top of the roasting oven of the Aga for a few minutes until the marzipan is lightly browned. Place on a wire tray to cool completely.

Coconut and cardamom cake

Cardamom and coconut cake

17th March – It’s another clothes swap with the book club tonight so I am making cakes to take along as my contribution. I have made a ginger cake, a firm favourite, and I was thinking about what else I could make that is a bit different. I have some coconut flour in the cupboard and I was thinking about how good coconut and cardamom work together in a curry. It seemed to me that it might work in cake. The scent of cardamom as this cake is baking is phenomenal, it promises to be a great cake.

18th March- The cake was a big success. I found the cardamom a little overpowering and might reduce the number of seeds used next time, but I was outvoted on this point by my friends. They all sang the cake’s praises. They might have been being kind to me of course, but they assured me they weren’t.

I iced the cake before I took it along to the clothes swap. I mixed icing sugar with the juice of a lime and a couple of tablespoonfuls of desiccated coconut, until I got a fairly stiff icing. The lime was a good call, emphasising the citrus notes of the cardamom, but if you don’t have a lime in the house using lemon juice or water would work equally well.

175g butter, soft
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
100g greek yoghurt
25g coconut flour
125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
15-20 green cardamom pods, shelled and the seeds crushed finely in a pestle and mortar (this makes a very scant teaspoon of ground cardamom)

Method
Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light. Add one egg at a time, beating well between each addition. Fold in the yoghurt and then the coconut flour, plain flour, baking powder and cardamom.

Once combined, spoon the batter into an 18cm cake tin that has been lined with parchment. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the centre of the Aga’s baking oven for 35-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for ten minutes in the tin, before turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

It will be a good cake without icing, but if you want to make it look a bit more fancy then mix together icing sugar, lime juice (or lemon juice or water) with a couple of tablespoonfuls of desiccated coconut until it makes a fairly stiff icing and spread over the top of the cake.

Parsnip and honey cake

Parsnip and honey cake

I belong to a book club. Well, when I say book club… It started a couple of years ago with the intention of us reading a book and meeting to discuss it every month. After a couple of months the book club turned into what it is now; we gave up on the books and just enjoy meeting to have a proper catch up. A few times a year we have a clothes swap evening. Which is a brilliant idea for everyone but me. I don’t buy many new clothes and those that I do I tend to wear until holes appear. So, I never have anything to contribute to the clothes swap. For this reason I always take food instead. Last week I took this cake. It was a big success.

The cake in the photo above is only half the mixture. Because I hadn’t made it before I wanted to do a taste test to make sure it was good before I took it along. So I split the mixture into two loaf tins and me and Mr OC polished off the other half a little too easily. Your cake will, therefore, be bigger than the one in the pic.

The cake improves the next day. The first day, the taste is predominantly parsnip. The second day, the parsnip has mellowed and the other flavours are given a chance to shine through. It is a sweet, slightly spicy, moist and delicious cake.

NB: I added 25g of coconut flour in place of 50g of the plain flour, (you need less coconut flour) but I have not specified this in the recipe as you do not need it and I don’t want you to go out and buy it just to make this cake.

250g grated parsnip (from about 350 -400g of unprepared parsnip)
175ml olive oil (not extra virgin) or rapeseed oil or sunflower oil (whatever you have in the cupboard)
150g light brown sugar
100ml honey
3 eggs
100g wholemeal flour or spelt flour
150g plain flour
5g (1tsp) baking powder
1 tsp mixed spice
50g walnuts (optional)

Method

Grease and line a 20cm square or round tin or a 2lb loaf tin. Preheat the oven to 180°c, gas mark 4 or use the centre of the baking oven of the Aga.

Mix together the oil, sugar, honey and eggs in a large bowl until well combined. Add the grated parsnip and mix well.

In another bowl mix together the flours, baking powder, mixed spice and walnuts and then add them to the wet ingredients. Mix well.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 45-60 minutes until the top is golden and a skewer comes out clean when pierced through the centre of the cake. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

UPDATE* 7th October 2015

I made the cake again with a few more adaptations (well I can’t help myself) for our evening bread making  class last night. Here is a full sized version of the cake and how yours will look of you don’t split it between two pans.

parsnip and honey cake

The adaptations included using half grated parsnip and half grated carrot and adding 100g currants which I had warmed in a pan with the juice of ½ an orange to plump them up. I frosted the cake before serving with a cream cheese frosting, combining 250g icing sugar with 50g softened butter and 125g cream cheese and the grated zest of an orange. It was a big hit with the ladies on the course.

Lemon, poppy seed and almond cake

Lemon and poppy seed cake

I am baking this for tomorrow’s bread making evening class. I have been meaning to make a poppy-seed cake for ages and just not got round to it. I love the way the tiny black dots glisten amongst the soft cake. Poppy seeds always make me smile to myself. The first time I put a bread roll  adorned with poppy seeds in front of my eldest, she just stared at it for a long time. I wondered what she was thinking so I asked her if she was ok. “What are these mummy?” she asked pointing to the top of the roll. “Poppy seeds, darling”, “Oh, I thought they were beetles”.  I promise that no beetles were harmed in the making of this cake.

If you don’t want to use ground almonds then just use 175g of flour instead. You need four lemons for this cake. Don’t be fooled by it saying three lemons  in the first section. But if you only have three lemons in the house then no harm will come to the cake if you just use the zest of 2 lemons in the cake itself.

For the cake

175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
Zest of 3 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
125g self-raising flour
50g ground almonds
2 tbsp poppy seeds

For the syrup

Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
50g granulated sugar
50g icing sugar
1 generous teaspoon poppy seeds

Method
Grease or line a 2lb loaf tin. Preheat the oven to 180°c, gas mark 4 or bake in the middle of the baking oven of the Aga.

Beat together the butter and the caster sugar until fluffy and lighter in colour. I find that if I use an electric whisk to get things started and then go in with my hand like a claw I get a much fluffier mixture. The heat of your hands makes the difference. Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly between additions. Add the lemon zest, juice, flour, ground almonds and poppy seeds and fold in with a large spoon until evenly combined. Spoon the mixture evenly into the tin and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out clean.

Whilst the cake is baking, mix together the ingredients for the syrup.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven use a skewer to pierce all over and deeply into the cake. Spoon the syrup evenly over the cake. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Butter Buns

Butter buns

These are the buns that I dream of. I do actually dream about them. When I was young you could buy these from an Italian family bakery that had shops in Shrewsbury and other local towns. They were my all time favourite cake and one that I would choose every time I saw them on their stainless steel platter. The memory of the taste has stayed with me and when the café doors were closed for the final time, it remained just that, a memory. Many times in recent years I have thought about how I might go about making them, but I couldn’t get my head around how you might layer the bun and enclose all that buttery goodness.

A few weeks ago a lady contacted me asking if I had the recipe for the Shrewsbury Butter Bun. Before she contacted me it never occurred to me that  the butter bun was a local phenomenon. Of course, now I realise it is.  A few weeks prior to this I found out that a friend’s husband had family connections with the café and I was considering whether she might think I was mad if I asked her if he knew the secret to the butter bun. The two things happening so close together felt like fate and I knew that it was time I got my act together and found out how I could go about making the butter bun.

I haven’t asked my friend’s husband. I thought it best not to ask him to reveal family secrets. But I did find an entry for butter buns on the internet which revealed the folding technique. At last, the answer to all my dreams. I can’t find the link again, which is frustrating, but if I do I will post it here. I have used the recipe that I teach for all my enriched dough recipes on the bread making course. It’s a recipe that can be adapted for a fruit bun, chelsea bun, iced finger etc.

I have trialled these twice now, with success each time. I was frustrated with the first batch that all the sugary butteriness oozed out during the baking. With the second batch I tried sealing the bun with a little milk to prevent the leakage. I now realise that you just can’t seal them, and this is the point. All that sugary, butteriness gathers in the tray and encrusts the bottom of the butter bun. May it ooze for all its worth, enough of the filling manages to stay in to create the delicious buttery layers.

These little beauties are now going to be one of the choices for students to make during the enriched dough part of the bread making course so that I can share the butter bun love with as many people as possible. I urge you to get out your flour and make some as soon as you possibly can.

Makes 10 buns

Lightly grease two baking trays. Oven temperature, 220°c, gas mark 7 or the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga.

For the buns
300g strong white flour (bread flour)
250g plain white flour
10g fine salt
7g easy bake yeast (instant yeast) or 10g fresh yeast (the fresh yeast can be dissolved in a little of the warm water that you will be using for the recipe)
50g caster sugar
150ml warm milk
150ml warm water ( I add boiling water to cold milk and that way both get warm, just make sure that the liquid is only hand hot or you will kill the yeast)
50g butter
1 egg

For the filling
100g softened butter
150g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla paste or extract

For the glaze
50 ml milk
50g caster sugar

Method

In a large bowl mix together the flours, salt, yeast and sugar. Pour in the water, milk, egg and add the cubed butter. Mix together well ( I use my hands like a claw) and then tip out onto a work surface (no extra flour needed) and knead for about 10 minutes until feeling smooth and elastic. You can of course use a free standing mixer to do all of this for you. The dough will be sticky during the kneading process, which is fine. Better sticky than dry.

Form the dough into a ball, and place into a bowl and leave to rise until double the original size, covered with a large bag or lightly oiled clingfilm. With all of the sugar, milk, egg and butter this dough will take longer to rise than a bread dough. In a cool kitchen expect this to be about two hours, less in a warm kitchen.

In a bowl mix together the softened butter, caster sugar and vanilla paste for the filling.

Place the sugar and milk for the glaze in a small pan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat to medium and bring to the boil. Set aside.

Once the dough has doubled in volume, take it carefully out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into a sausage shape and cut into ten equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Take one ball and roll out thinly into a circle. Place a teaspoon of the filling mixture in the middle of the circle. Fold over the circle to create a semi-circle. Flatten the dough over the butter and press the seam down well. Place a second teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the semi-circle. Fold the dough over to create a triangle. Flatten again and press the seam well (See pics below). Place onto a lightly greased tray and repeat with the other balls of dough. Leave to rise for 20 -30 minutes. Place on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga, or onto the middle shelf of an oven preheated to 220°c, gas mark 7 for 15 minutes until golden.  Glaze the buns whilst hot with the sugar and milk using a pastry brush. Leave to settle on the tray for ten minutes, in this time they will have sucked back up some of the sugary butteriness that has oozed out, and then lift onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Butter bun fold, stage 1

Butter bun fold, stage 1

Butter bun fold, stage 2

Butter bun fold, stage 2

Butter bun fold, stage 3

Butter bun fold, stage 3

Hazelnut cookies

hazelnut cookies

These cookies came about because I love peanut butter. I eat it off a spoon straight out of the jar. I felt like making peanut butter cookies, but because I like it so much there is not enough left in the jar to make biscuits. I did have a bag of hazelnuts in the cupboard though.

I am pleased that I didn’t have enough peanut butter as these are really, really very good, chewy and dense biscuits.

Makes about 16

200g hazelnuts
50g butter, softened
100g soft light brown sugar
1 small egg (mine weighed 45g)
50g white spelt flour (or you can use plain flour)

Method
Spread the hazelnuts on a baking tray and place into a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 7, or on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga for about 3 minutes until toasted. Turn the oven down to 180°c, gas mark 4. Place a clean tea towel into a bowl, spread out to catch the nuts (this keeps the nuts from escaping onto the floor). Gather the nuts in the towel and rub them vigorously. Most of the skins will rub off. Pick out the nuts from their skins. Place 150g of the nuts into a food processor and blitz until really fine. Add the butter, sugar and egg and whizz until combined. Add the flour and whizz again until combined. Add the remaining 50g of hazelnuts and whizz until the hazelnuts are broken up but still chunky. Take a chunk of the dough that’s about the same size as a walnut. Roll into a ball and flatten slightly. You can use the tines of a fork to mark a pattern if you like.  Place onto a greased baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4, or the centre of the baking oven for 12-15 minutes until golden. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Make a cup of tea and have a biscuit.