Monday, 12 February 2018

Chocolate Cake for my Valentine

We all love Chocolate cake for Valentine’s Day so it’s a great opportunity to bake a special one for your Valentine. I made this one to raise funds for a local charity event – and it proved to be a fantastic draw. Fill with butter cream or fresh cream and decorate with melted chocolate or butter cream as you wish.  It’s an easy recipe from Grandma. Piece of cake really!
What you need

6 oz/175g sugar
6 oz/175g butter
6 oz/175g self-raising flour
2 tbsps cocoa
3 eggs
2 tbsps black treacle (warmed)
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup milk
How to bake
Cream the butter and sugar together. Mix the cocoa and flour together. Beat the eggs. Add alternately to the mixture with the flour and mix gently. Add the warmed treacle and vanilla. Add enough milk to give a soft consistency. Bake in a moderate oven for approximately 45 minutes. (350F, Mark 4, 180 C).
 P.S. Don’t forget the card!

Monday, 22 January 2018

Search for a lost recipe is over

Coffee and Walnut Sandwich
Norma wrote to me last week to say how delighted she was to find the recipe for Chantilly Cake which was a favourite in her family but which she had lost in a house move. She said the ‘cake turned out just like old times - delicious!’ She now was on the hunt for a Coffee and Walnut cake, also lost, so I’m posting this recipe from Grandma’s baking book.

Meryl’s tip : If you use coffee granules, make sure you grind them first to a powder, for example, in a pestle and mortar.

 Coffee and Walnut Sandwich
4oz /110g sugar
6oz/175g self raising flour
4oz/110g butter
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 dessertspoonful coffee extract or powder 

 Preheat the oven to 350F, Mark 4, 180C.  Cream the butter and sugar, add the coffee essence or powder. Mix well. Add the flour and eggs alternately. Lastly, add the baking powder. Divide into 2 x 8 inch (20 cms) sandwich tins and bake in a moderate oven for approximately 30 minutes. 

Cream 3oz/75g butter and 5oz/150g icing sugar. Add a little milk, beat well and then mix in 1 teaspoonful of coffee extract/powder. Spread half of one cake and place the other cake on top. Or reduce the amount of the mixture by half and decorate with glace icing flavoured with coffee extract or powder. Decorate the top with the remaining butter icing and the walnuts.

Meryl says : This is a delectable coffee cake which is easy to bake. I’ve not found out why we put walnuts on coffee cake but they do give it an elegant touch. One of my favourite reviews of Grandma’s recipe book came from Ana Cecilia, a fashion blogger who rates Grandma’s book as 'her personal cooking bible’. She’s posted a mean Coffee Cake picture too from my favourite city, Paris.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Banana Loaf makes the grade

Banana Loaf
I’m quite a fan of bananas and was delighted when Kay from Gawber sent me a recipe for a Banana Loaf from her friend, Joan. Kay had tried out the recipe a couple of times and reduced the sugar as first cake she made was too sweet for her taste.  As to cooking time, the friends had a lot of chat about it and said it could be ready between 35 minutes and an hour. Joan had found that the size and ripeness of bananas affect the sweetness and batter consistency. When I baked the cake, I left it for an hour. This seemed to work out well :
Banana Loaf
125g butter
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg - beaten
2 bananas - ripe
190g self raising flour
60ml milk
1 tablespoon demerara sugar for the topping
Pre heat the oven to 170C/Gas 3/325F. Grease or line a 1kg/2lb loaf tin. Melt the butter with the sugar and vanilla extract in a pan over a medium heat. Remove and cool slightly. Mash the bananas and mix with the melted mixture. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in the flour and milk. Pour into the cake tin and sprinkle the demerara sugar on top. Bake for 1 hour until a cake skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool. 
Meryl says : The trick with baking with bananas in cake is not to mash them up too much, so using ripe ones is a good thing - otherwise the cake may become too heavy. Hope you enjoy Joan’s recipe.
And if you are a banana fan, try this teabread recipe for 
Banana Nut Bread from Grandma’s Recipes page. 

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Start the day with Cranberry & Orange Muffins

December brings fresh cranberries to the market and a chance to make one of my favourite muffin recipes for Cranberry and Orange Muffins. Spice them up as you wish but a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg will make them Christmassy. Breakfast, lunch or supper, you can’t go wrong with these healthy beauties. 

Cranberry & orange muffins
250g/8oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
2 tbsps caster sugar
1 egg
 75 ml milk
75 ml vegetable oil
Juice and zest of 1 orange
125g/5oz cranberries (chopped)
3 tbsps demerera sugar 

Pre heat the oven to 200 C/Mark 6. Place 12 muffin cases in a baking tin. Mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. In another bowl, mix the egg, milk, oil, orange zest and juice, then add this to the dry ingredients and fold in the cranberries. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and sprinkle a little Demerara sugar on the top. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the muffins from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Meryl’s tips :  Don’t overmix otherwise the muffins will be heavy. You can use dried cranberries if fresh ones are not available. 

These muffins make a perfect start to Christmas morning. Happy Christmas!
Try Cranberry and Pistachio Loaf  for a lighter alternative to 
traditional Christmas Cake.  
And check the Recipes page for a host of Grandma's favourite Christmas bakes!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Waiting for Twelfth Night Cake

Christmas celebrations in Georgian times featured this rich fruit cake which was eaten on the feast of the Epiphany on 6 January. But visitors to the Georgian Christmas at Cusworth Hall Doncaster didn’t seem too keen to wait till January to taste this scrumptious cake, so we had an early taste in the Great Kitchen, along with other Georgian Christmas Baking treats. I’d adapted a recipe from John Mollard’s 1803 edition of ‘The Art of Cookery’ .
Twelfth Night Cake

225g/8oz butter
225g/8oz dark muscovado sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle
4 eggs
225g/8oz plain flour
1 teaspoon each of mixed spice, cinnamon and ground nutmeg
225g/8oz each of raisins, currants and sultanas
50g/2oz chopped mixed peel
50g/2oz glacé cherries
50g/2oz ground almonds

Preheat the oven to 160/325F/Gas 3. Line a 20 cm/8 inch round cake tin. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy and mix in the treacle. Whisk the eggs lightly and then add them gently to the creamed mixture, followed by the flour and spices. Stir in the dried fruit, mixed peel, cherries and ground almonds and mix well. Then place the mixture into the cake tin. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 1½ hours until the cake is firm and a cake skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave the cake in the tin until cool then turn out and cover with foil until ready to decorate. The cake can be decorated with marzipan and royal icing or left plain as desired.
It looks and tastes a lot like Christmas Cake but there’s an important difference. It was the custom to bake a dried bean and pea in each side of the cake and serve the cake in two halves one for ladies and the other for the gentlemen. Whoever found the bean and the pea became King and Queen for the night. 
We had some visitors from Spain who told us they had the same tradition with the bean in their splendid ‘Roscon de Reyes’.
I’ve tasted the magnificent ‘Galette des Rois’ which is an almond cake made with puff pastry which also has a (ceramic) bean baked inside. 

It was thumbs up all round for the Georgian Twelfth Night Cake. I think the Georgians had the right idea just like our Spanish and French friends to round off the Christmas celebrations with this great tradition. Once the wrapping is recycled, the decorations taken down, and the Christmas lights switched off, throw off the gloom of January with a piece of Twelfth Night Cake. Good luck -you could be a King or Queen for the day! 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Rock on, Tommy with Emma’s Rock Buns

Rock Buns or Cakes are that curious relative of scones, similar in appearance and sharing the key ingredient of dried fruit. Originally designed as a teatime treat, they proved popular because the ingredients were fairly cheap to buy. The ‘rock’ refers to their rough surface rather than the texture.
They were loved by soldiers in World War 1  amongst other recipes from the Home Front  and promoted by the Ministry of Food in World War 2 days of rationing, as they could be made with reduced sugar and fewer eggs than other bakes. 

Many families had their own Rock Buns or Rock Cakes recipe and ours was no exception. It was my Grandma’s sister, Emma who provided the trusted family recipe for Rock Buns. It was her signature bake!
Emma, Jim, cousin baby Elaine and me
My great aunt Emma, seen here with her husband, Jim in their garden had a recipe for Coconut Rock Buns where 4oz/110g desiccated coconut replaced the dried fruit. I remember eating these and Rock Buns during the 1950s when we stayed with at her home in Manchester every summer holiday.

Rock Buns
12oz/340g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
4oz/110g butter or lard
Pinch of salt
4oz/110g sugar
4oz/110g currants or raisins
2 eggs
1 teacupful of milk

Sieve the baking powder with the flour. Rub the fat into flour and salt then add the sugar and the fruit. Beat the eggs and add these to the mixture with the milk. Mix well. Put on a greased tin or on greased baking sheets and shape into small rocky heaps with two forks. Bake for 20 minutes in a fairly hot oven.  (400F, Mark 6, 200C)

Rock Buns been around since at least Victorian times. They feature in Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery and Housekeeping book 1861 and The Best Way cookery book 1907, not forgetting their starring role in the station tearoom in the 1945 film 'Brief Encounter''. 
Back in World War 1, Rock on, Tommy - but is it a bun or a cake? 

Monday, 30 October 2017

Grandmother Gingerbread does it for me

Grandmother Gingerbread
This recipe came from one of those cherished family handwritten folders. Peggy Burton lived in Mansfield and her ‘Grandmother Gingerbread’ was a popular treat for family, neighbours and friends dropping by. I did wonder how the recipe would turn out with so much black treacle but it proved a trusted formula for Gingerbread Cake. I used half the sugar and omitted the salt in Peggy's original version.
 Peggy Burton’s Grandmother Gingerbread
10oz/275g self-raising flour
3 level tsps ground ginger
1 level tsp cinnamon
40z/110g soft brown sugar
6oz/175g black treacle
6 tbsps vegetable oil
2 eggs
150ml/¼ pint milk
2oz/50g chopped walnuts
2oz/50g raisins
Pre heat the oven to 180C/ Mark 4/350C. Mix all the ingredients together (Peggy says for not less than 2 minutes!). Bake in a greased or lined cake tin (I used a cake tin measuring 8 inch x 10 inch (21cms x 25 cms ) for between 1 and half to 2 hours.
 Meryl says : This is a lovely traditional recipe which ticks all the boxes for me – easy to bake, keeps well and full of taste. The heat of the ginger is perfect to warm up those autumn days which herald the approach of the darker winter months ahead. Thanks, Peggy for a fabulous recipe!

What's your favourite autumn recipe? 

Monday, 2 October 2017

Orange Cake says ‘We still do’

We were invited to a Renewal of wedding vows ceremony recently. The venue was the in a room I know well, The Great Kitchen in The Mansion House Doncaster  which now serves as Doncaster's Registry Office.  
I did some filming with a group of university students studying for their media degrees so I was pleased to see the Kitchen Range still proudly in place alongside display cabinets in its reconfiguration as a wedding venue.
Renewing your vows has been around in Italy for some time and is a way to celebrate marriage after any length of time 2, 5, 10, 25 or 50 years together. You want the world to know you’d do it all over again. So, it called for a suitable cake at the ‘We still do’ party afterwards. C and J left it to me to choose so I baked one of my favourites, Grandma’s Orange Cake. It’s such a versatile cake and fits any occasion. 
Orange Cake
12 oz (175g) butter
12 oz (175g) caster sugar
6 eggs
12 oz (175g) self raising flour (sieved)
Grated zest of 2 oranges
Strained juice of 2 orange 
To decorate
Orange Slices
Icing Sugar 

Preheat the oven to 180°C, Mark 4, 350F. Line the base of 2 x 25 cms /10 inch cake tins with non-stick baking paper. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Beat the eggs and add a little at a time, adding a dessertspoonful of flour with each egg. Fold in the remaining flour, orange zest and orange juice. Divide the mixture between the cake tins and bake for about 25-30 minutes until it starts to shrink from the sides and a cake skewer inserted into the centre comes away clean. Place on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the rack and leave until cool. Spread butter cream on the top of one cake and place the other cake on top. Decorate the top with orange slices or sprinkle with icing sugar. I made initials of their names cut out from stiff card to use as templates for the icing for a simple but effective decoration.

It was brilliant to see The Great Kitchen being put into use once again for such a lovely occasion. And everyone likes a piece of cake to celebrate!

Monday, 4 September 2017

Whisk away Georgian Macaroons and Syllabub

Georgian Macaroons
This is the 4th Georgian baking recipe to mark 300 years following the birth of James Paine, architect of The Mansion House in Doncaster. Macaroons or Ratafia Drops were a popular form of sweet in 18th century households. They would be served with tea or a glass of ratafia. 
Here’s the recipe from The Cook and Housewife’s Manual: A practical System of Modern Domestic Cookery and Family Management by Mistress Margaret Dods

Macaroons or Ratafia Drops
Blanch and beat, with an ounce of fine sugar and a little water, four ounces of bitter, and two ounces of sweet almonds. Add to the paste a pound of sugar, the whites of two eggs, and a little noyeau. Beat the whole well, and when light drop the batter from a biscuit funnel on paper, of the size of pigeons’ eggs, and bake the drops on tins.

There is a reference to bitter and sweet almonds. Sweet almonds are frequently used in cooking. Bitter almonds should not be eaten raw as they contain a toxic chemical which is dangerous to humans and animals. It is quite safe to use Almond extract or Almond essence, other than for anyone who has a nut allergy. I’ve used ground almonds and almond extract to bring this recipe up to date.

Macaroons or Ratafia biscuits
2 medium egg whites
175g /¾ cup caster sugar
175g /¾ cup ground almonds
½ teaspoon of almond extract
A few drops of rosewater

Pre-heat the oven to 325F / 170C / 150C fan. Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. In a separate bowl mix together the ground almonds and sugar, then fold into the egg whites, together with the almond essence. The mixture needs to firm enough to roll into small balls (about the size of a walnut). If it’s too wet, add more ground almonds. Place the balls onto a baking parchment, and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden-brown. You can top with a sliver of almond. They should be crisp and crunchy on the outside, and soft and chewy in the middle.
To accompany the Macaroons, Hannah Glasse’s recipe for Syllabub from The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy 1747 may prove interesting to make at home …first milk your cow!
To make a fine syllabub from the cow: Make your syllabub of either Cyder or Wine, sweeten it pretty sweet, and grate nutmeg in, then milk the Milk into the Liquor; when this is done, pour over the Top half a pint or pint of Cream, according to the Quantity of Syllabub you make.  You may make this syllabub at Home, only have new milk; make it as hot as milk from the Cow, and out of a tea pot or any such thing, pour it in, holding your Hand very high.
Here’s my updated version. It’s one of the easiest desserts to serve.

½ pint/10fl oz/300ml double cream
finely grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
¼ pint/5fl oz/150ml white wine or a mixture of sherry and white wine
2 oz. caster sugar
Slices of lemon peel

Place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl.  Whisk until light but not too thick.  Place the mixture into small glasses and refrigerate until required. Decorate with slices of lemon peel before serving.
The visitors lapped it all up at the Georgian celebrations at Cusworth Hall in Doncaster!

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Shrewsbury Biscuits are a 21st century hit

This is the 3rd recipe in the series of Georgian baking to mark 300 years following the birth of James Paine, architect of The Mansion House in Doncaster. Shrewsbury Biscuits or Cakes which are named after the town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire UK are very familiar today. In Shrewsbury Castle Foregate there is a plaque referring to Mr Palin’s unique recipe in 1760, although some early recipes date back to the 1500s and throughout its history, nutmeg, caraway and coriander seeds have featured amongst the ingredients. These spices and others, such as cardamom, cloves and ginger were used extensively in traditional baking to enhance the flavour of cakes and biscuits (and reduce the need for sugar!).

I’ve adapted a recipe for these biscuits from the 1826 The Cook and Housewife’s Manual: A practical System of Modern Domestic Cookery and Family Management by Mistress Margaret Dods. 

She writes : Beat half a of cold butter to a cream, and mix with it six ounces of sifted sugar, eight ounces of flour, some pounded cinnamon, two eggs beat, add a little rose water. Roll out the paste a quarter of an inch in thickness, adding a little more flour if necessary, and stamp out the cakes of any shape or size that is liked.

Here’s my updated version for a modern oven :
110g/ 4oz butter
75g/3oz sugar
200g/7oz flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg beaten 1 tsp rosewater
50g/2oz currants

Pre heat the oven to 180C or 160C fan. Rub the flour and butter together to resemble fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, rosewater and the beaten egg. (Add the currants to the mixture at this point). Mix to a dough, and leave to chill for half an hour. Roll out to ¼ inch thick, and cut out the biscuits. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden-brown.

I find it fascinating that we still enjoy these recipes from the past. Shrewsbury Biscuits certainly proved to be a 21st century hit with the visitors!