Monday 30 September 2013

Be sweet without the sugar

Mixing a cake with less sugar
Grandma Abson lived though the hard grind of life in service in 1900s. Then she lived through the depression of the 1930s, when she became a widow with two teenagers, followed by rationing in World War 2. So she learnt to be very resourceful in times of shortage. 
Part of her baking philosophy was about turning out something tasty from limited resources. The weekly ration of sugar for an adult from 1940 was 8oz, the equivalent of 225 grams. This sounds quite a lot if, like me, you don’t have a sweet tooth. Sugar was rationed till 1953, so it’s not hard to see why many of Grandma’s recipes use less sugar. In 1953 when the coronation took place, sugar and butter rations were doubled for a short while so people could enjoy a Coronation bake. All food rationing ended in July 1954.
However, Grandma cut down the amount of sugar in her cake, pudding and biscuit recipes and used between one third and one half of the quantity of sugar you might see in modern recipes. She would flavour her baking with cinnamon, ginger, mixed spice and later used honey or golden syrup as an alternative.  
Ginger Cake
I'm following her example and don't overload my baking with sugar and enhance the flavour with spices and natural products. Stay healthy by reducing the sugar. Enjoy your baking and let me know what you’ve baked this week.

Wednesday 11 September 2013

A wedding cake with substance and style

A flurry of butterflies gave the final touches to Becca and Rob’s wedding cake on their special day. Most wedding cakes are traditional fruit cakes but the couple wanted a simple 3 tiered sponge wedding cake. There’s always the question of how to create a stunning masterpiece from sponge cakes and stack without an elaborate structures of dowels. ? Well, our secret’s out! I used ultra light polystyrene moulds for the top 2 tiers. These rested securely on the large bottom tier of chocolate cake. And, ready to serve for the guests, I made 3 more large cakes, decorated in the same way for the evening ‘celebration’.  They just had to remember to cut into the bottom tier for the photos!

Countdown to the Big Day
In the weeks before the wedding day, I made test cakes with various fillings for Becca and Rob to try. In the end, they chose :
Victoria Sandwich with Chocolate Butter Cream filling
Toffee Cake  with Butterscotch Cream filling
Chocolate Cake with Butter Cream filling

Wednesday (3 days to go)
I made the 4 large 10 inch/25cms cakes : Victoria Sandwich, Toffee ( x 2) and Chocolate Cakes. 
Meryl’s Tip : I used Grandma’s basic recipe for each one and baked them in 10 inch/25cm cake tins for each cake with the 3 eggs and their weight in sugar, butter and flour for each layer of individual cake so each cake was made with 6 eggs. I used soft brown sugar for the Toffee Cake and Toffee Butter Cream filling instead of caster sugar.

Thursday (2 days to go)
I made Butter Cream in the various flavours to go with the cakes. I covered each cake with Butter Cream to form a base for the Ready to roll Icing. I rolled out the Icing and iced the cakes.
Friday (1 day to go)
I delivered the cakes to the venue, tied the themed green ribbon round each cake, and stacked them. Becca placed the butterfly decorations as she wanted. Hey presto!
Cake cutting (the bottom tier!) and lots of fantastic feedback from the newlyweds and their guests about the stylish look and most importantly the taste of all the cakes! It all worked perfectly so it was both substance and style. It was fantastic to be part of such a wonderful day! Becca and Rob even took it in the car to the airport for their honeymoon - what a great start to their life together!

Thursday 5 September 2013

Plenty of Plums

It's the season for Plums. They are an amazingly versatile fruit packed with Vitamin C so what's to lose.
Plum and Almond Flan
Flan base  Shortcrust Pastry Use 8oz /225g flour
Meryl’s tip Use 7oz/200g flour and 1oz/25g of ground almonds and 4oz/110g butter
3oz/75g butter
3oz/75g sugar
½oz/10g  flour
2 eggs beaten
3 oz/75g ground almonds
1 lb/450g plums

Roll out the pastry to a 9 inch/23cm flan dish and allow it to ‘relax’ for around 30 minutes. Cream the butter and sugar. Then add the beaten eggs. Fold in the flour and ground almonds into the mixture. Pour the mixture into the pastry case. Cut the plums into halves and remove the stones. Arrange the plums on top of the almond filling. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 190C, 375F Mark 5 for about 25-30 minutes until the top has browned.
Glaze the top by boiling 2 tablespoons of any dark jam or jelly such as redcurrant, raspberry, bilberry or plum with 1 tbsp of hot water. Brush this on top of the flan. 
Try Clafoutis or the famous Yorkshire Drop
Make a Plum Crumble with the same mixture as Rhubarb Crumble.
Make the most while they are at their best! Have you a favourite recipe with Plums?