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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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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Courgette and Apple Cake

Courgette and Apple CakeOk, so it’s that time of year again and we have the usual glut of courgettes (or more accurately marrows as we dared to turn our backs on them for 5 minutes) and I am casting around for new recipes.  I have already worked my way through all of last year’s courgette dishes twice over and wanted something fresh to try.  As a neighbour also gave us a huge bag of Bramley apples to eat I thought it might be nice to combine the two.

I had seen a recipe on Pinterest for courgette and apple bread so I started there.  This was an American recipe and all measures were in cups so I had to play around a bit with the weights to get it right.  Having finally got the combination I wanted, with a few other tweaks along the way, I decided that this is not a “bread” at all – it’s a cake.  I concede that I made it in a loaf tin so it could be called a loaf but it is definitely not a bread.  I just called it cake – because I like cake.

So here it is – courgette and apple cake, moist, sweet and the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

Ingredients

140g grated (well squeezed) Courgette

1 Medium to large Apple

250g Plain Flour

1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

150g Caster sugar

2 Eggs

100 ml Vegetable Oil (I use Groundnut Oil)

100g Walnut Halves

Juice of Half a Lemon

1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg

1 tbsp Honey

Method

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

Grease and line a loaf tin.  NB Loaf tins used to come in 1lb, 2lb and 3lb sizes but these days they seem to vary considerably.  Mine was approximately a 2lb loaf tin which is around 8″ (20 cm) x 4″ (10cm) x 3″ (3.5 cm).  If yours is a different size you may have to adjust the cooking time.

Make sure that you have weighed the courgette AfTER you have grated it and squeezed out the excess moisture. Put the courgette into a large bowl.

Put the lemon juice into a bowl.  Peel and core the apple and grate it straight into the lemon juice.  Mix through to coat and then mix into the grated courgette.

Lightly whisk the eggs, sugar and vegetable oil and then into the courgette mix.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices onto the courgette mix and fold in gently.  Once combined pour into your loaf tin and level the top.

Arrange the walnut halves on top and place on the middle shelf of the oven.  Bake for around 40-45 minutes.  Check after 30 minutes to make sure that the walnuts are not burning – if they are getting a bit dark cover the top of the cake with a piece of foil.

Test with a skewer which should come out clean when the cake is done.

Warm the honey and brush over the top of the cake to glaze the walnuts.  Cool on a wire rack.

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Beetroot and Chocolate Brownies

Beetroot & Chocolate BrowniesThis recipe is part of a series of recipes featuring beetroot.

So, round about now you are thinking that I have really lost my marbles; beetroot in brownies? How ridiculous! But before you dismiss the idea completely just think for a moment: Is it ridiculous to eat carrot cake? Is it ridiculous to eat one of your five a day in cake form? I think not and the addition of beetroot does make these brownies ridiculously tasty.

Adding beetroot helps the brownies to stay moist and sticky and also means that you don’t need to add quite so much butter as usual. Now I would never claim that they are a health food but they are starting to sound a bit more appealing aren’t they? It’s not a new idea either; beetroot has been used in chocolate cakes for years.

So how do they taste?

Well, unlike the carrots in carrot cake, you can actually taste the beetroot but, as long as you like beetroot, that’s a good thing. Chocolate and beetroot are both slightly muted flavours so they don’t compete with each other at all but simply combine to create a real density of flavour.

Whenever I cook beetroot for a savoury dish I like to liven it up with the addition of some acidity and a dessert is no different so consider serving these with some raspberries and a little natural yoghurt – delicious.

Beetroot and Chocolate Brownies

Ingredients

450g Pre-Roasted (and peeled) Beetroot

100g Butter

200g Plain Chocolate (at least 70% Cocoa solids)

250g Unrefined Golden Caster Sugar

3 Large Eggs

100g Plain Flour

25g Cocoa Powder

1 tbsp Icing Sugar (for dusting)

Method

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

Grease and line a 23cm x 23cm cake tin (or a 20 x 30 cm rectangular tin).

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water – making sure that the bowl does not touch the water.

Blitz the beetroot in a food processor (or blend with a stick blender) until you have a smooth puree. Continue blitzing as you pour in the melted butter and chocolate.

Put the sugar and eggs into a large bowl and whisk until pale and creamy and increased in volume. Fold in the beetroot and chocolate mix.

Sift the flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and fold in gently. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth into the corners. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes. The brownies should be well risen with a lightly crusted surface and a very slight wobble under the crust.

Leave to cool in the tin and then turn out and cut into squares – sift over the icing sugar and enjoy.

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