Saturday, April 16, 2011

April 16th, 2011 My first Simnel cake

I have never tasted one of these cakes, or rather I didn't think I had ever tasted one before. And not being a religious sort of person, it wasn't a tradition in my cooking. The 11 marzipan balls on the top of this cake are supposed to represent the 11 apostles of Jesus, minus Judas. This cake is normally served around Easter time and traditionally on Mothering Sunday according to my cookbook. I used the recipe from the Best-Kept Secrets of the Women's Institute Cakes and Biscuits by Jill Brand. Before making the cake my friend Linda dropped by and we had a bit of a discussion about the marzipan in the middle of the cake. Linda said that it is baked in the middle and I said no it isn't. Well she is right and it is, but!!! I wish I had gone with my instincts and not. The middle layer of Marzipan, ends up being a rather gooey sticky toffee type of mess. I think I would have rather baked two layers and then stuck an unbaked layer of Marzipan in the middle. So I will give the recipe as to how I will be making it next time rather than this time.
Prepare two round cake tins with baking parchment. Or you could do it in a deep tin and then slice in half after it has cooled.
  There is a recipe along with this one for making your own marzipan..... Well I cheated.  I bought my marzipan already made. Much easier and quicker than faffing about making it and it tastes lovely anyway,well I thought so(Linda hates Marzipan).
  For the cake
175 g Raisins and  175 g Sultanas (to me they are almost the same so I used 350 grams sultanas)
80 g chopped glace cherries
80 g chopped walnut pieces
115 ml Guinness (stout) Brian enjoyed the rest after I made a cheese dip with some.
175g softened butter
175g soft dark brown sugar
3 eggs
Sieve this next bit all together 225 g. plain flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1 tsp ground mixed spice (I added a bit more spice)
To finish the cake you will also need some marzipan and some apricot jam(the recipe says sieved but I didn't do this)
First add the fruit and nuts and stout to a saucepan and gently heat till steaming with a cover on. Turn off the heat and let sit for an hour, so the fruit and nuts can soak up the stout.
  Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the eggs and beat well. Stir in the flour mixture and then stir in the fruit stout mixture.
  Here is where I will differ with the recipe. It says to grease and line an 18cm(7inch) round cake tin and place only 1/2 the mix in and smooth the top. If you want the marzipan baked in the middle, then roll out a circle of marzipan and place on top, otherwise just fill the tin with the cake mix if you plan to slice and add marzipan or you could have without. Or you could use two cake tins.
  Bake at Gas mark 3/ electric oven 160C/ Fan oven 140C for 2 -2 1/2 hours. (I have never ever baked a cake for this amount of time!!!) You will need to test the cake to see if it is done, by inserting a wooden skewer into it and if it comes out clean it is done. By using the two cake tins your baking time will need to be slightly adjusted. So I would test after an hour or hour and 1/2 baking and then afterwards.
  Leave your cake or cakes to cool for 15minutes in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.
When the cake is cold, you can remove the paper lining and if two then assemble using some apricot jam brushed on the bottom and then a layer of marzipan and then more jam to sandwich between the cake layers. One whole cake then slice in half and then assemble. Or just leave as is and only layer the marzipan on the top.
  On the top of the cake brush with the Sieved Jam and then add a circle of marzipan. Score the top making a diamond pattern and brush with egg white. Take the rest of the marzipan and make eleven even sized balls and press around the rim of the top of the cake. Brush again with egg white.  Next place the cake under a preheated grill and toast gently until the marzipan is a light golden brown. They sprinkled powder sugar on their cake afterwards, but I preferred mine without. I also didn't use the egg white, instead I used more apricot jam to hold the balls on top of the cake. Like I said I am not a religious type of person, so I arranged my balls differently, though I did stick to the traditional 11.
  And as for being my first Simnel cake. I faintly remember this cake or one very very similar to it from my childhood.... My dad and step moms wedding cake. It had marzipan and the cake flavour was very much similar to this one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22nd, 2011

Sorry for not blogging. My excuses are Hedgehogs, Cardmaking and writers block. And Brian will tell you it has also been Facebook. LOL I do like playing Country Life and Zoo.

  I don't know if you all have heard of Amazon's Kindle. I thought since I was starting to get back into reading again, that one for us would be a good idea...... Needless to say, one wasn't a good idea..... But Two were!!! You really can't be borrowing the same book that someone else is reading at the same time. Now you are probably wondering why on earth is she going on about a Kindle on a cooking blog...... I have found a great use for my Kindle. Cookbooks and recipes!!!! There aren't alot of cookbooks available yet for it, but they are coming and I have a few of them already. I like finding the freebies and when they are found are immediately downloaded to my kindle. But recently I have been thinking of all the recipes I have saved on my computer..... I usually print the recipe off and then take it down stairs to try cooking..... Not anymore! I download them to my Kindle now and use it as a cookbook. I am in the new stages of testing this new way of keeping recipes so I will let you all know how I get on. If you do get a kindle or other e reader as they are called I can recommend you download a program called Calibre to help convert your files to the mobi format that kindle uses.
  Also Calibre gives access to a few free magazines and newspapers one of which is Epicurious. There is another one too that I like called Big Oven, but for some reason it isn't downloading now. I will need to figure that one out later. I did try one of the recipes from the Big Oven download that I did have and it turned out really nice. They also have a web site that you can get recipes from.....  
This is the recipe I tried and it turned out really yummy!!! We also had fresh homemade rolls to go with it and a grating of parmesan cheese. :)
White Bean, Spinach and Pasta Soup .

  Not only can you use the Kindle to keep cookbooks on, and your recipes, but the ones we have can access the internet too...... So I can also read blogs and google other recipes on it. And it is alot smaller than most cookbooks. I haven't found the limit yet of how many books I can store on it yet. And you can always keep them backed up on your computer too. But I can see loads of possibilities for this little machine in the kitchen. The only draw back to the Kindle is that it doesn't do colour..... but they are working on that!