Saturday, 4 June 2022

Queen Cakes fit for a Queen

Platinum Jubilee Queen Cakes 

 ‘What are you baking for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee?’ Maybe the  Platinum Jubilee Pudding if you fancy a trifle? Queen Victoria obviously loved the Victoria Sandwich and in 1953 Coronation Chicken was created to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. It hardly seems 2 minutes since we were ringing out the bells for the  Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012!

I’ve always been intrigued by Queen Cakes which are small fairly dense small cakes or buns (as we call them in Yorkshire), which have currants and a citrus flavour. They are said to originate from the time of the Stuarts, Queen Mary (1689 to 1694) or Queen Anne (1702-1714) and could be considered the forerunner of the ubiquitous cupcakes we enjoy today.

Early versions of Queen Cakes

The earliest known recipe is said to feature in ‘Court Cookery’ by Robert Smith, published in 1725. This recipe isn’t too dissimilar to Yorkshire cook, Elizabeth Moxon’s Portugal Cakes with butter, sugar, flour, sugar, eggs and currants as common ingredients. For her ‘Queen Cakes’ recipe, she suggests in English Housewifry (1764) that “…you may ice them if you please, but do not let the iceing be thicker than you may lie on with a little brush.” 

 

Over the centuries other creative cooks added other flavours to these little cakes with rose water, mace, orange water and nutmeg being popular additions. Early Queen Cakes were probably made in small tin or stoneware patty pans like those we use for mince pies, but by the mid-18th century, specific Queen Cake pans were available in a variety of shapes such as hearts or diamonds.

 

Eliza Acton in her book ‘Modern Cookery for private families (1845) suggests making a mixture as for a pound cake then putting it into small well buttered tins and baking in a brisk oven. Mrs Beeton in her widely reproduced ‘Book of Household Management’ (1861) gives a recipe for 2 or 3 dozen cakes with the addition of cream and essence of almonds or lemon to give us a richer version.

 

Here's my Grandma’s recipe which she made from time to time as a weekend treat. Her preference was for a lemon flavour.

 

Grandma Abson’s recipe for Queen Cakes

4 oz (110g) butter

4 oz (110g) sugar

2 eggs

6 oz (175g) self-raising flour

Pinch of salt

4 oz (110g) currants

a few drops of lemon extract

2 tbsps milk

Arrange 16-20 baking cases on a baking tray. Beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and cream together until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the eggs (well beaten) gradually. Fold in the flour and salt. Then, stir in the fruit and lemon extract. Add the milk. Put the mixture into the baking cases and half fill them. Bake for 15-20 minutes in a fairly hot oven. (375F, Mark 5, 190C) You can brush over the top with egg and place a small piece of lump sugar over each one.

After 70 years of her historic reign, Queen Elizabeth II is the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee. Enjoy the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend from 2 to 5 June. I’ll be baking a batch of Queen Cakes for our Jubilee Street Party and following Elizabeth Moxon’s suggestion for icing so I can top them with a rice paper Jubilee Crown – a 21th century version. 



Thursday, 5 May 2022

Take a break and go Dutch

 

Dutch Almond Biscuits 

Looking for an interesting little biscuit for that mid-morning coffee break? Well, look no further as these Dutch Almond Biscuits are the perfect answer. My Dutch friend Cobi gave me the recipe and I couldn’t wait to try them out. It’s an easy and quick recipe and they were gone in an instant!

What you need …

110g/4 oz butter

50g/2 oz sugar

¼ tsp almond extract

1 egg (separated)

175g/6oz plain flour

Blanched almonds

How to bake …

Preheat the oven to 180C, Mark 4, 350F. Mix the butter, sugar and almond extract until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk and stir in the flour. Work the mixture to a dough. Roll into small balls and place on a baking sheet. Top each one with a blanched almond and lightly brush over the biscuits with white of egg.  Bake for around 20 minutes until lightly browned. 

Meryl says : I even made them for a 1920s party and they were a perfect complement to a glass of fizz!

Saturday, 2 April 2022

North or South, ‘mini’ is good for Easter

 

There’s something about doing a ‘mini’ version of a cake which is fun, especially when baking with children. There’s more scope for them to get mixing and creative decorating. Whether you call them 'buns' or 'small cakes', these mini versions of Easter cakes call for attention. This is Grandma Abson’s foolproof recipe for ‘buns’ which are always a winner.

 What you need

110g butter

110g sugar

2 eggs

2 tsps vanilla extract

175g self raising flour

2 tsps baking powder

A little milk

For Chocolate cakes: 1 tbsp cocoa powder

How to bake 

Cream the butter and sugar and add the vanilla extract and beaten egg. Sift the flour and baking powder and add to the creamed mixture using a little milk if necessary. For half of mixture add cocoa powder to make chocolate buns. Half fill bun cases and bake in a moderate oven for 15 minutes. (350 F, Mark 4, 180 C). Allow to cool.

Scoop out the top of each bun and fill the hole with butter cream or decorate with glace icing. Add mini eggs to decorate.


Have a very Happy Easter and check out more of Grandma Abson’s Easter recipes.

Easter Biscuits

Easter Chocolate Orange Biscuits

Cobi’s Easter Stick

Hot Cross Buns

Simnel Cake for Easter

Tuesday, 1 March 2022

Laskiaispulla bring Finnish fun at Shrovetide

 
Laskiaispulla

Shrovetide is a wonderful time to visit Finland, when you can delight in scrumptious cream sleigh buns called Laskiaispulla. Laskiainen is the season associated with Shrove Tuesday which heralds the beginning of Lent. In Finland it’s often described as a ‘sledging or sliding’ festival when families enjoy the snow and sun after a hard winter. After spending time sledging outside, it’s customary to serve pea soup with ham and cheese with sleigh buns or pancakes to follow as a dessert.


What are Laskiaispulla?

These mouth-watering soft cinnamon buns have a sweet filling of whipped cream with strawberry or raspberry jam or almond paste. They became popular from the 19th century onwards.


What you need
For the dough:
250ml milk

1 sachet/10g yeast

(or 25g fresh yeast)

100g granulated white sugar

(infused with vanilla extract)

½ tsp salt
1 tbsp ground cardamom

420g plain flour
100g butter

For the topping

1 egg

Flaked almonds (optional)
Granulated sugar (or pearl sugar if available)

For the filling
500ml double or whipping cream
150g icing sugar
Jam (Strawberry or Raspberry)

or Almond Paste

(Makes about 20 buns)

 

How to bake

Warm the milk to 37C. Place in a large bowl and mix well.  Whisk in the vanilla sugar, salt, and cardamom. Stir in the flour gradually to make a dough and knead it until it becomes elastic. Add the butter and continue to knead for about five minutes. When the dough has formed a smooth ball, place it in another greased/oiled bowl, cover with a towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes. The dough should double in size. Put the dough onto a well-floured surface. Cut pieces of the dough and shape into round balls. Place them onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover the buns with a towel and let them rise again for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Whisk the egg and brush it on the tops of the buns. Sprinkle granulated (or pearl) sugar or chopped almond on top if desired. Then bake the buns for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool.

To decorate

Whip the cream with the icing sugar (reserving a little to sprinkle on the buns later). Slice the buns and fill with cream and strawberry or raspberry jam or almond paste. Sprinkle icing sugar on top if desired.

And if you enjoyed these, here's another Finnish recipe for Runeberg Cakes which are a favourite of ours.  

Sunday, 6 February 2022

Runeberg cakes - a Finnish birthday party treat!

 

Towards the end of January, small cakes appear in shops and cafes across Finland.  Runeberg cakes (Runebergin Tortu in Finnish) are baked to celebrate the birthday of Finland’s national Poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877) on the 5th February. Every year around the date of his birthday, these exquisite little cakes are sold all over Finland and are hugely popular. Runeberg actually wrote his poetry in Swedish, as this was said to be the language of educated people in 19th century Finland. The well-loved poet spent most of his life in Porvoo, which is situated about 50 kilometres to the east of Helinski. It’s one of the six medieval cities in Finland and a beautiful place to visit.

Photo https://commons.wikimedia.org/

Who created the recipe?

In Porvoo, a local pastry baker named Lars Astenious is reputed to have developed the recipe for Runeberg cakes in the 1840s. There is another story that the cakes were created by the poet's wife Fredrika, as the recipe was written out in her cook book from the 1850s. She made the cakes from flour, breadcrumbs, biscuit crumbs and almonds, decorated with jam and icing but it was most likely she adapted her recipe from the one by the Porvoo baker. Runeberg is said to have eaten the cakes for breakfast with a glass of punch.


What are Runeberg cakes?

Runeberg cakes are small and cylindrical shaped, with a moist, almond flavoured sponge, topped with a circle of white icing with raspberry jam. The topping gives them their distinctive look.

 How to bake

There are numerous versions of the recipe for Runeberg's cakes but this one comes from Finnish friends. You will need a small cake or muffin tin (approximately 5cms diameter for each individual mould).

 125g butter

85g caster sugar

1 egg (beaten)

110g (plain) flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g ground almonds

50g breadcrumbs

1 tsp cardamom (husks removed and ground)

Pinch of salt

100ml double or whipping cream

50 ml water, lemon or orange juice

Amaretto (optional) 

 Preheat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar and add the egg gradually. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, ground almonds, breadcrumbs, cardamon and salt) and add these to the creamed mixture.  Pour in the cream and the water or juice to make a thick batter. Grease the individual moulds and pour the batter into each one until they are about half filled. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or so until done. Remove and brush the top of the cakes with Amaretto (if used). Allow to cool.

 To decorate

Icing sugar

Water

Raspberry jam 

 Cut a hole in the top of the cakes and insert a teaspoonful of raspberry jam into each hole. Make a thick paste from the water and icing sugar. Roll out the paste and cut strips for the top of the cakes or pipe the paste around the top with a piping bag.

 Fly the flag with our Finnish friends and try out these lovely little cakes. They certainly brighten up a dull February day. Happy birthday to Johan Ludvig Runeberg!

Friday, 14 January 2022

What’s the difference?

 
Granola Fruit Bars

I’ve always wondered what the difference is between flapjack and granola fruit bars. They seem quite similar though it’s typically the texture that stands them apart. Flapjack tends to be softer whereas a Granola fruit bar has a crunchier bite. I’ve made lots of versions of flapjack with my grandchildren, where you bind the oat mixture with butter and golden syrup to give that chewy texture. Marmalade Flapjack  is a definite favourite.

So, when we were found a recipe for Granola, we were keen to try it out. This time, it’s honey which binds the mixture alongside the melted butter. There are lots of options with the dried fruit and nuts to suit your taste in this recipe so it’s good to choose what you like best.

Granola Fruit Bars

150g butter

100ml runny honey

75g soft brown sugar

250g rolled oats

150g dried apricots, cherries, cranberries or dates or a combination

100g desiccated coconut

60g chopped nuts e.g. pecans, pistachios or hazelnuts (optional)

1 tbsp chia or sesame seeds 

Preheat the oven to 180C/360F/Gas 4. Melt the butter, sugar and honey in a pan over a medium heat. Add the rolled oats, dried fruit, coconut, nuts and seeds. Stir well so that the mixture is well combined. Put the mixture into a greased 20cm square baking tin and press it well into the corners. Smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden-brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Turn out of the tin and cut into equal-sized bars.

We liked the fruitiness in these bars which were perfect to take on a walk or cycle or a snack on a day out. Quite an energy boost too!  Why not try out several versions with variations of fruit, nuts and seeds or even be daring with some chocolate chips? Enjoy!