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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Here we are at my thirtieth blog post on Victoria Sponge Pease Pudding. Almost two thousand views and a lot of caster sugar later, I feel like I am starting to get a hold on this blogging malarkey. I lie in bed dreaming of new things to bake, photograph and write about. I write baking lists on a regular basis. I’m always in the sugar aisle in Tesco. And yet, I still haven’t got round to showing you the eponymous cake in my blog title. The classic and irresistible Victoria Sponge.

It is the staple for any cake baker really. Filled with jam and cream, it is the essence of afternoon tea. It’s the basis for great butterfly cakes and the now ridiculously-fashionable cupcakes. Covered with fondant and decorated accordingly, it can be a wedding, birthday or christening cake. And for me, my tried and tested favourite is from Kitchen Magic, my go-to cookbook by one of my food-writing idols, Gizzi Erskine.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the classics. I was an avid reader of the Be-Ro book from the age of 8. That little paper booklet has seen me try my hand at cookies, scones, and gingerbread men. It was my starting point for the Pease-family-favourite, Lemon Meringue Pie. But the Victoria Sponge recipe was a bit of a challenge. Sometimes it would be glorious. Other times it would be overwhelmingly eggy, too thin and pretty dry. Personally, I find the 4, 4, 2 ratio method slightly outdated, and love punctuating my sponge with vanilla paste, a drizzle of milk and a smidgen of baking powder to lift the sandwiches to (literally) new heights of culinary wonder.

As for the filling, creativity is key. I’ve drizzled this cake with home-made rosemary syrup. I’ve filled it with jam and served with a glass of Pimms on Kate and Wills big day in homage to his great-great-great-great-granny (and my namesake). And now I’ve cooked down some deliciously pink British rhubarb, folded in some double cream and used it as fuchsia-cake cement to add a modern take on the classic cream filling. Slice it up and share with a gin and tonic. I bet it’s what Queen Vicky would have wanted.

 

Victoria Sponge recipe adapted from Kitchen Magic by Gizzi Erskine

Rhubarb Cream recipe adapted from Rachel Allen

 

You Will Need

170g softened butter

170g caster sugar

3 large eggs

170g self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

 

For the Rhubarb Cream

100g rhubarb, trimmed and sliced

50g sugar

4 tbsp water

75ml double cream

 

Icing sugar, to decorate

 

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 170oc/190oc fan/ Gas Mark 4. Grease and line two sandwich tins with baking parchment and set aside. Cream the sugar and the butter together with a hand mixer for 5 minutes until pale and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs a little at a time and mix until fully incorporated. The mixture may split at this point, but will come together again with the dry ingredients.

Sift in the flour and the baking powder, and fold in carefully with a metal spoon. Once incorporated, add the vanilla and milk to create a batter that falls off the spoon easily. Divide between the two sandwich tins and bake for 25 minutes until golden, and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Carefully remove the baking parchment. Leave to cool completely.

To make the rhubarb cream, add the rhubarb to a saucepan and sprinkle over the sugar. Coat each piece of rhubarb well, then pour in the water. Cover the pan and place over a medium heat, cooking for about 10 minutes until the rhubarb is soft. Remove the lid and boil the mixture whilst stirring, until thick and jammy. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool completely. Whip the cream to form soft peaks and gradually fold in the rhubarb. Place one cake on a serving plate and dollop the rhubarb cream in the middle. Spread evenly with a palate knife and top with the second sponge. Sift over some icing sugar to decorate, then slice and serve.

I have the mother of all to-do lists. By this, I mean my Mam made me sit down the other night and write down all the things I needed to do in the next week and plan them day by day. When you start to have a crisis in the middle of the day (like I did) because your dissertation project is stressing you to the hills, I’d advise the same thing. Phone your Mammy. Get her to tell you it like it is. Make a to-do list and stick to it.

It’s the same with these cookies. Ok, they aren’t exactly an integral item on the list, and yet in some ways, they are. I had bought the chocolate weeks ago. The brown sugar was looking wistfully at me from the baking shelf. It was on every to-do list I wrote, and yet these cuties were never made. Which is a damn shame, because these cookies are like little fluffy clouds of cappuccino in biscuit form. Filled with flecks of pick-me-up coffee, smooth creamy chocolate and caramel-like brown sugar, these cookies are just the thing for an afternoon slump. Crazy to-do lists that are filled with emails, interview questions and tweeting need peppered with these cookies. I promise.

I’d advise making these after you’ve crossed five things off your to-do list. Then, whilst that fluffy cookie dough chills out for a while, go cross off another thing. Bake the cookies and leave to cool. Do the dishes. Make a coffee and eat the cookies. It’s like a sugary reward for supreme productivity. Take control of the little things. Then make cookies.

 

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes 24 cookies

You Will Need

250g butter

130g caster sugar

130g brown sugar

1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

338g plain flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons instant coffee

150g good quality white chocolate, finely chopped

Whisk the butter and two sugars together in a large bowl with a hand mixer for 3-5 minutes until thick and creamy. Add the egg and the yolk and whisk again. Pour in the vanilla paste and whisk until fully incorporated. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and coffee powder together. Add to the creamed mix and whisk until fully incorporated and fluffy. Stir in the finely chopped white chocolate, then cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.

Once chilled, preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan/Gas Mark 4. Line two baking trays with baking parchment and set aside. Remove the cookie dough from the fridge and place heaping tablespoons spaced widely apart onto the baking sheets. Place in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden round the edges. Cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy with a cappuccino and cross ‘making cookies’ off your to-do list.

For a while now, I have been threatening to make a spinach smoothie, which has been met with disgust by my flatmates. Wilted spinach pasta is tasty. Spinach salads are fine. Home-made Saag Aloo is positively divine. But the idea of spinach blended down into an Incredible Hulk shade-of-green smoothie is a thought that is positively terrifying for them. And honestly, I was a little sceptical too.

But just one sip of this breakfast smoothie and you will feel invincible. Its 10am. You’ve just had two portions of greens before even thinking about work. You could write a novel, you could whizz through the housework. You could go jogging. Or in my case, you could go to work when the sun is pouring through the sky and you’re stuck indoors in an ice rink. No big deal, the sun will be there when you finish work. It’s summertime after all. And it’s time for getting into those bikinis.

Ok, so maybe this smoothie won’t make you Heidi Klum beach-ready, but it will make you feel like you can take on the world. Packed full of iron-rich spinach, cooling cucumber, a twist of zesty lime and thickened up with some natural yoghurt, this breakfast smoothie is definitely on the good-food list. And if you’re feeling a tad sweet, blend in some honey for a natural sugar high. Its ok, the spinach cancels it out. And remember to add the ice cubes, because this baby is at its best chilled right down. And of course, because its summer, ice cubes are a necessity in all drinks. Natürlich.

So bring it on summer, that bikini hidden away in my cupboard will be making an outing.

 

Makes 1 Smoothie

You Will Need

A large handful of spinach leaves, washed

¼ cucumber, washed and sliced

1 heaped tablespoon natural yoghurt

A squeeze of lime

A teaspoon of honey (optional)

2-3 ice cubes

 

Place the spinach, cucumber and yoghurt in a blender and whizz until smooth. Alternatively place ingredients in a jug and whizz with a hand blender. Stir through the lime juice and taste. Add honey for a sweeter taste if desired, then blitz again. Pour into a glass or jar and add the ice cubes. Leave for 5-10 minutes to allow the ice cubes to chill the smoothie before drinking.