Rose and Cardamom Almond Cake

Rose and almond cakeRoses first became associated with romance when the Victorian’s developed the art of floriography to communicate through flowers that which could not be said openly.  Red roses signified passionate love whilst yellow ones represented friendship and devotion.  Since then roses have become firmly embedded in the language of love through poetry, love songs and perfume.

Whilst I have no real desire to add to the vast commercialisation of romance (a £1bn industry in the uk) I do think Valentine’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to stop work, put down the phone and reconnect with the one we love.

This year, I thought it might be interesting to incorporate roses into a cake.

Persian Love Cake

 

I was inspired by beautiful images of Persian Love Cakes and it was originally my plan to bake one.  After a little research (ok a couple of hours on Google) I realised two things:  Firstly, there are lots of food blogs reproducing two recipes, both which are called Persian love cakes.  One of these is almond based (with the addition of rose water and spices) and the other is a chiffon cake draped in rose scented cream.  They can’t both be authentic can they?  Secondly, they all mention that the origin of the cake is said to be that a woman fell in love with a prince and baked him a cake.

What?  Why?  That’s not a story.  I want to know who the woman was and who the prince was and whether or not she was succesful.  I want to know if they overcame obstacles and triumphed over adversity and most of all I want to know if they lived happily ever after.

So here is my cake.  Yes it is made with almonds and rose water and cardamom, yes it is topped with pistachio nuts and rose petals and yes they may be deemed to be vaguely Persian flavours but I resolutely refuse to call it a Persian Love Cake until I know the rest of the story.

If you know it please, please help to put me out of my agony.

In the meantime, have some cake.  It’s got roses in it so share it with your Valentine.

 

Rose. cardamom and almond cake

Ingredients

5 oz / 140g Ground Almonds

5 oz / 140g Softened Butter

5oz / 140g Golden Caster Sugar

5oz / 140g Self-Raising Flour

2 eggs

2 tsp Rose Water

The seeds from 12 Cardomom Pods (discard the pods)

For the Syrup

2 tbsp Golden Caster Sugar

Juice of 1/2 a Lemon

1 tsp Rose Water

The seeds from 4 Cardamom Pods (discard the pods)

To Top

A handful of Pistachio Nuts

1 tbsp Icing Sugar

Crystallised Rose Petals (see below)

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4

Grease and base line a deep 8” / 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin.

Put all the cake ingredients into a bowl and mix well using an electric hand mixer.  Make sure that the butter is well softened and go easy with the rose water and cardamom; they both have a tendency to taste soapy if you overdo it.

Pour into the cake tin and level.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until springy.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then remove and place on a cooling rack.

Put the syrup ingredients into a small pan over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Increase the heat slightly until you have a syrup.  If the syrup is a little too thick add a tablespoon of hot water and stir well.  Prick the cake with a skewer and drizzle the syrup over the top of the still warm cake.

When the cake has completely cooled dust with icing sugar and decorate with the pistachio nuts and rose petals.

Serve to your loved one with a glass of sweet wine and the lights turned down low.  The rest is up to you.

Crystallised Rose Petals

You can buy crystallised rose petals but it is so easy to make your own that I definitely recommend it.

Buy (or pick) a rose, make sure it is organic (unless you like eating pesticides) and try to choose one with pretty petals.

Whisk an egg white until light and frothy.  Put two tablespoons of caster sugar in a bowl.

Carefully separate the petals from the rose and brush each one sparingly with egg white.  Spoon sugar over the petal and shake very gently to remove any excess.

Place the coated petals on a sheet of baking parchment and leave to dry for 2 hours or more (overnight is good).  Use to decorate your cake.

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Low-FODMAP Chocolate Cake

low FODMAP cake recipe

One of our regular customers (let’s call him C) has a hard time when he visits the café because he loves cake but has multiple food sensitivities which prevent him from enjoying our baking as it should be enjoyed. He stands and looks at the counter with a slightly folorn expression and then, reluctantly, buys a flapjack. Not, I hasten to add, that there is anything wrong with our flapjacks but when you really fancy a big slice of carrot cake or a lemon layer cake it is just not the same.

A few weeks back, C’s wife brought in a loooong list of all the things C can’t eat and asked us if we could come up with a birthday cake idea for him. At first the list didn’t make sense – it seemed so extensive but the items seemed unrelated – wheat, onions, asparagus, milk… and so it went on. Then I realised that C was on a low FODMAP diet.

FODMAP? What on earth is FODMAP? I hear you ask. Well, that was my response when I first heard of it. I groaned inwardly at the idea of yet another faddy diet but actually that couldn’t be further from the truth. This diet is NOT about weight loss, it is about helping to alleviate the debilitating symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other, functional bowel conditions.

FODMAP is an acronym for “Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols”. Phew! You can understand why they abbreviated it! Essentially this is a group of carbohydrates which are poorly absorbed by the small intestine; resulting in fermentation and a build up of gasses. In some people this becomes extreme, leading to IBS.

Now, we run a café; this is not the place to have an in-depth conversation with a customer about his bowels! But we did want to make him a good cake so I started to do some research. Basically I needed a recipe which was gluten, wheat and dairy free. Then I hit my first barrier – if I was making a gluten free cake the first thing I would normally do is to try a cake using ground almonds or polenta instead of flour – but they are both also on the FODMAP hit list. Back to the drawing board…

I looked next on some dedicated FODMAP sites on-line, they have clearly done the research for us so I took a chocolate cake recipe from one of these sites and made it. It was a big old cake – a 9” sandwich – and it used a proprietary gluten-free flour with the addition of Xanthan Gum to help bind it. I made it and it was awful. No, I mean truly, terribly awful. The cake had the texture of sawdust, was completely lacking in flavour and disintegrated when I took it out of the tin, I couldn’t even stick it back together with the non-dairy “butter” cream. Basically, the problem was that I had to leave out all the things that make cake taste good!

I subsequently tried 3 other recipes, none of which were as bad as the first but none of which were good enough. To my mind it is bad enough having digestive difficulties without having to eat second rate cakes too. At this point I gave up on the gluten free flour and looked at flourless cake recipes which didn’t use ground nuts as a substitute.

Finally, yesterday, the day before Cs birthday, I made a cake which was low-FODMAP and which tasted great. It’s not a deep rise cake, in fact it is quite flat, but it is rich and chocolaty and indulgent; in other words, it is worthy of a birthday celebration.

Before I give you the recipe I just want to make a small note about butter. Most dairy products are off-limits if you are following a low-FODMAP diet because of sensitivity to Lactose (a di-saccharide apparently). However, butter is a low-FODMAP food because it is low in lactose. So, many people who are lactose intolerant can manage butter but some cannot. C finds that he can manage butter if it has been cooked (which is why he can eat our flapjacks). For that reason I made this cake using half butter and half Pure sunflower spread. If you find butter is ok try using all butter. If you are sensitive to butter try using all Pure sunflower (or similar) – it should work equally well.

I haven’t heard back from C yet but I hope he liked it as much as we did. Let me know how you get on with it too.

Ingredients

120g Dark Chocolate (75% Cocoa Solids or higher).

120g/4oz Butter / Pure Sunflower Spread or a mixture of the two

150g/5oz Golden Caster Sugar

50g/2oz Cocoa Powder

3 Eggs, beaten

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Method

Preheat the oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas Mark2. Grease and base line a 20cm round cake tin and dust the sides with cocoa powder.

Break up the chocolate and put it in a heatproof bowl with the butter /Pure sunflower spread. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water) until the chocolate and butter/spread are melted.

Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Sift in the cocoa powder and stir. Finally stir in the beaten eggs and vanilla until well combined.

Pour into the prepared cake tin.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. The cake is done when there is no discernible wobble and a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin.

Raspberry Bakewell Cake

Raspberry Bakewell Cake

We bake lots of cakes in the café and try to ring the changes as much as we can so we are always on the lookout for new recipes. This particular cake was found in an old BBC Good Food Magazine where it was originally an 8” (20 cm) cake but I find it works much better as a slightly deeper 7” (18cm) even though it takes a few minutes longer to cook.

On the counter you will see it labelled as Raspberry Bakewell Cake but in the kitchen it is known, affectionately, as Keith cake.

Keith lives not far from the café and is well known in the village. When we go to collect the café newspapers he can be found behind the counter telling jokes and making up rhymes. By the time we go to buy our meat he may well be working behind the counter in the local butchers. He gets about does Keith!

slice raspberry bakewell cake

The other thing that you need to know about Keith is that he is a little obsessive about this cake. The first question he asks, every day, is “Is it on today?”  His face lights up whenever the answer is “yes” and we are instructed to save him a slice – or sometimes two.  He writes thank you notes and cryptic clues on our newspapers (BKITW turned out to mean Best Cake in the West). Some of our other customers like it too but perhaps not quite as much as Keith who takes it home and eats it smothered in cream.

It might seem odd to post the recipe on here; we could lose our best customer if he starts to bake it himself but, as Keith’s wife isn’t keen on raspberries, I suspect he will keep coming into the café for his cake.

If you decide to bake it you won’t be disappointed.  It is a very simple cake to make – the most difficult part is spreading the slightly stiff, very sticky mixture on top of the raspberries – and it tastes just like bakewell tart without the pastry and with the added sharpness that the raspberries add.  If raspberries are not in season you can make this with frozen raspberries or even peaches instead.

However you make it I have to admit that Keith has a point about the cream: A little scoop of clotted cream turns this everyday cake into an elegant desert.  But don’t take my word for it…

Ingredients

5 oz / 140g Ground Almonds
5 oz / 140g Softened Butter
5oz / 140g Golden Caster Sugar
5oz / 140g Self-Raising Flour
2 eggs
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
9 oz / 250g Raspberries
2 tbsp Flaked Almonds
1 tbsp Icing Sugar

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4

Grease and base line a deep 7” / 18cm loose-bottomed cake tin.

Blitz the ground almonds, butter, sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla extract in a food processor until well combined. If you don’t have a food processor you can just mix the ingredients together in a bowl using an electric hand mixer or even a wooden spoon.

Spread half the mix over the base of the cake tin and level.

Scatter the raspberries evenly over the cake mixture and then top with the remaining cake mixture. You might find this easier to do with your fingers.

Sprinkle with flaked almonds and bake for 55 mins until golden.

Cool, remove from the tin and dust with icing sugar to serve.

 

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas…

Epiphany Cake

So today is the sixth of January. The decorations are down, most people are back at work and Christmas officially ends today. I always feel a little bit sad at the way Christmas in the UK just kind of drifts off into oblivion whereas, in many other countries, the twelfth day is celebrated in style.

The 6th of January is the feast of the epiphany – this is the day when the Three Wise Men finally made it to the stable to see the baby Jesus. OK, I suspect that if it had been Three Wise Women they would have asked for directions and arrived 2 days earlier but, nevertheless, Christmas is a twelve day festival and the last day deserves some recognition.

In France and Spain and parts of South America the day is marked with a King cake or epiphany cake. This consists of a puff pastry case filled with an almond mixture which is somewhere between a frangipane and marzipan. The cake is decorated with leaves and a little icon is hidden inside. The person who finds the icon gets to be king (or queen) for the day and can rule over the household. (Children beware – everything returns to normal tomorrow and parents have long memories!)

In place of the icon I included a whole almond. I am not a fan of potentially tooth breaking foreign bodies in my food and an almond seemed appropriate given the flavour of the cake.

So, what now? I have made the cake and written the blog but everyone else is at work. Should I eat it all myself and be queen of the silent lands? Or should I wait until they come home and someone can reign over the last few hours before bedtime? I didn’t really think this through did I?

6th January is also my sister’s birthday but, as she is 300 miles away, I won’t be sharing this cake with her – I think I’ll just nominate her as Queen for the day anyway. Happy Birthday Maura x

Ingredients

2 x 500g Packs Puff Pastry

125g Butter

100g Caster Sugar

2 eggs + 1 Yolk

125g Ground Almonds

25g Plain Flour

4 Tablespoons Amaretto

Method

Beat the butter and sugar together in a medium sized mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and egg yolks and beat until combined.

Add the flour and ground almonds, beat again and then stir in the amaretto.

Line a 7”/ 18cm cake tin with cling film leaving a few inches of overlap. Pour in the almond mixture and level to form a disk about 2cm deep then cover the top with the excess cling film. Place the tin in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.

Roll out one pack of the puff pastry to a thickness of about 5mm. Cut out a disk about 10” / 25cm in diameter (using a plate or tart tin as a guide). Repeat with the other pack (see note below).

Line a baking tray with parchment. Put one of the pastry disks onto the tray.

Remove the almond mixture from the freezer and take off the cling film. Place it in the centre of the pastry on the tray. Brush the exposed edge with cold water and top the whole thing with the other disk of pastry.

Smooth the pastry over the top and sides of the almond mixture and press down firmly. Trim the edges of the pastry to make a neat border – I used an 8” / 20cm spring form cake tin (without the base) as a guide.

Seal the pastry by crimping it in a style to suit you. It is really important to get a good seal or the almond mixture will escape during baking.

Cut a pattern into the top of the cake by scoring it with a sharp knife (don’t go all the way through) then brush with an egg wash (beat an egg with a tablespoon of milk). A leaf design is traditional.

Bake for an hour on the middle shelf then rest for a further hour before cutting.

NB – Puff pastry “puffs” because the dough is carefully layered with butter. When using bought puff pastry do not be tempted ball it up before rolling as this will ruin the layers. The same applies to any trimmings. There will be quite a lot of excess pastry from this recipe – try sprinkling it with grated parmesan and cutting into strips. Bake for 10 minutes or so to make cheese straws.

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Winner’s Chocolate Cake

Winner's Chocolate CakeIf you Google “chocolate cake recipe” you get nearly 68 million results, so why on earth did I feel the need to add to that count? What did I possibly think I could show you that all those millions of people hadn’t already?

Well, if you have a tried and tested recipe that you love, probably not much. But if, like many people, you feel overwhelmed by the choice and just want a simple, cheap, tasty recipe that works, then this is it.

Let’s be clear, there are more indulgent, more complicated and definitely more expensive recipes out there and they all have their place. A special occasion torte just can’t be beaten and a black forest gateaux provides a wonderfully nostalgic treat but if you want a simple weekend cake for the family then this might just be it.

There are no clever techniques involved either, just put everything into a bowl and mix it, which cuts down on the washing up too.  Using cocoa powder instead of real chocolate helps to keep the cost down and the addition of the coffee really enhances the chocolateyness of the cake.  Is “chocolateyness a real word?  If it’s not it should be – I’m just going to keep on using it until it appears in the dictionary.

I have had a very happy time trying to perfect this cake over recent weeks and I think that this final version is the dogs doodahs. But that is not why this is called “Winner’s” chocolate cake – the name is a whole different story.

Martin plays hockey for a very lovely team called Duchy Hockey Club here in the Duchy of Cornwall and most weeks I can be found on the side-line, come rain or shine or blizzard, cheering the boys on. (You will of course realise that, as my husband plays for this team I use the word ”boys” very loosely).

So far this season they have been winning games but not necessarily in style. They started the day 3rd in the league and I thought a little extra motivation might be called for, especially as they were playing against Truro; a club that many of them used to play for when Duchy was just a twinkle in ex-manager Kevin’s eye.

So yesterday I got up super early (for a Saturday) and baked this cake before getting on with the rest of the mornings tasks. At the pre-match briefing Chris (team captain, mate and all round lovely bloke) called me over and I broke the news to them. I had made an awesome chocolate cake for the match winners and I really, really, really didn’t want to give it away to the Truro players. As Chris pointed out – it’s cake, not humble pie!

The game started and within 12 minutes Duchy were 2-0 up, both goals scored by my lovely husband. Things were looking good for the cake. Then it all got a bit wobbly, the polo formation wasn’t working (big hole in the centre) and Truro were beginning to get more of the play as was evidenced by their first goal of the match.

A half time pep talk seem to do the trick for Duchy for about ten minutes and then it all got a bit messy again.

Neil Bradford clearly had his sights firmly on the cake and scored a storming 3rd goal for Duchy but then Truro pulled another one back and I was holding my breath all the way to the final whistle.

Phew, Duchy had won 3-2, they had moved up to 2nd place in the league and the cake was safe. We travelled back to the home pub, The Countryman at Piece, for curry, cake and post match beers (not the best combination I’ll grant you but no one seemed to mind).

The cake I made for the Duchy boys was filled and iced with dark chocolate ganache. I only finished icing it 2 minutes before we ran out the door and there was none left for a photo after the match so I had to make it all again this morning. I only had 50g chocolate left so this time I filled it with whipped cream, marbled with ganache and, if anything, I think it is even better.

Please let me know what you do with yours.

Ingredients

50 g /2 oz sifted Cocoa Powder

1 heaped tsp Instant Coffee Granules

90 ml Boiling Water

3 large eggs

50 ml /2 fl oz Milk

175 g / 6 oz Self-Raising Flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

100 g / 4 oz Soft Butter

275 g /10 oz Golden Caster Sugar

Filling Ideas

See Below

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.

Grease and line two 20 cm / 8 inch sandwich tins (deep ones).

Sift the cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl and add the coffee granules. Pour on the boiling water and mix thoroughly until smooth and well blended. Leave to cool for a minute or two.

Add the rest of the ingredients and use an electric hand mixer to mix to a smooth batter making sure that all the butter and cocoa mixture have been incorporated.

Divide the cake mix equally between the sandwich tins and level the surface.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes or until well risen. Press the cakes lightly with a finger, if it springs back it is done. Alternatively stick the point of a knife into the sponge and it should come out clean.

Leave to cool in the tins for a minute or two then remove from the tin, peel off the baking parchment and cool completely on a wire rack.

You now have 2 perfect chocolate sandwich sponges to fill and ice as you choose.

Suggested fillings:

Simply sandwich together with a good quality, dark jam. Cherry works well with chocolate.

For more indulgence add whipped cream to the jam.

Chocolate butter cream:

These quantities will make enough to fill and top your cake, halve them if you only want to use it as a filling.

50g Plain Chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

100g soft Unsalted Butter

200g Icing Sugar.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of just simmering water. Do not allow the bowl to touch the water.

Beat the icing sugar and the butter together until smooth. Stir in the melted chocolate until evenly incorporated. If the icing is still a little stiff add a tablespoon or two of milk until you have a good spreading consistency.

Chocolate Ganache

A ganache is made by melting together chocolate and cream. To ice or fill a cake use equal quantities of each. These quantities will make enough to fill and ice the top and sides of the cake.

150 g Dark Chocolate (at least 70% Cocoa Solids)

150 ml Double Cream.

Break the chocolate into a heat proof bowl.

Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost, but not quite, boiling.

Pour the cream over the chocolate. Leave it to sit for a minute or two until the chocolate has melted and then stir gently. If you over stir it you will add air and lose some of the glossy texture.

Use to sandwich the two sponges and then spread the rest over the top and sides of the cake.

Whipped Cream and Ganache

250 ml Double Cream

50g Plain Dark Chocolate (at least 70% Cocoa Solids)

Make a ganache as above but using only 50g chocolate and 50 ml double cream. Set aside to cool.

Whip the remaining cream in a bowl.

Spread the cut side of each sponge with a thin layer of ganache. Marble the rest of the ganache through the whipped cream and use to sandwich the two cakes together.

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