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Christmas Cake – no excuses, you can make your own

24 Oct

A really good Christmas cake is within your grasp. This is a really easy recipe that is quite forgiving if you don’t have exactly the right ingredients. If you have to substitute anything, just ensure it weighs the same. First of all you gather all the ingredients and let them seep in alcohol for a week. You make an easy cake mix and combine the two and cook – simple. Do make this as soon as you can, to allow it to mature.

You’ll need a square cake tin about 20cm across and baking parchment or greaseproof paper.

For the soak

500 grams of raisins
200 grams of currants
100 grams of chopped dates
50 grams of dried cherries (not glace) if you can’t find these, use dried cranberries
3 tablespoons of each of the following: brandy, kirsch, whisky, port and water. You can use rum, Cointreau, grand marnier or sherry instead. Or, if use the 12 tablespoons of one alcohol and 3 of water)
1 teaspoon each of ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence (the pure sort)
1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar (or demerara)

Method

In a saucepan, put all the ingredients and warm through until the sugar is dissolved. Take off the heat and let it cool.
Scrape all of the ingredients into a box with a lid and put into the fridge. Try to remember to shake the box each day.
A week later, you are ready to make the cake. You’ll notice that the dried fruit has plumped up and smells wonderful!

Cake ingredients

250 grams self-raising flour (or plain plus 2 tsp baking powder)
250 grams soft brown sugar (or Demerara)
250 grams of butter
5 large eggs beaten
50 grams of mixed nuts

Method

Mixing the fruit and cake mixture together

Mixing the fruit and cake mixture together

Before you start making the cake, grease your tin and line it with greaseproof paper or parchment. Turn the over on to Gas mark 3, 170 degrees.

For ease, make the cake in a food processor or use a hand-held whisk.

Whisk the butter and sugar together until well mixed, Add a little flour. Add the eggs little by little until all used up. Spoon in the flour and mixed nuts. Put this mixture into a large mixing bowl with the fruit that’s been soaking and mix well.

The cake mixture in the lined tin

The cake mixture in the lined tin

Carefully spoon the mixture into the tin, making sure that your lining stays stuck to the edges of the tin.

Cook for approximately 2 1/2 hours. PLEASE CHECK REGULARLY. The cooking time seems to vary greatly – particularly if you have a fan oven. Use a skewer to test if it is ready – it should come out clean.

When it is done, leave it in the tin until cold. Turn out and store in silver foil until needed.

Store the cake in foil until needed

Store the cake in foil until needed

Edinburgh’s best French cheese and macarons?

18 Sep

I’ve known Cedric Minel for 6 or 7 years since he set up the curiously named Cheesee Peasee. I think he is one of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets. Those in the know make regular pilgrimages to his authentic French cheese van parked on Meadow Place on Saturdays to purchase his produce and practice their French.

Cedric once worked for another cheesemonger in Edinburgh, but was not satisfied with the quality of the cheese they were importing from France, so he set up his business. Focussing on cheese with an appellation controllee mark of quality, he imports cheeses from all over France. He once explained to me that the appellation controllee ensured that the quality is good year round rather than dipping when the cows have different fodder to feed on.  The cheeses are simply delicious. A favourite of ours in Reblochon, but there is something for everyone, from harder Comte to soft, soft goats cheese. Don’t wait to seek him out.

Reblochon Cheese

Reblochon Cheese

So where do the macarons come in? Some months ago, Cedric suggested I try one of the first experimental batches  he had made. The macaron was lovely, but he was not totally happy with the results. He spent  time refining the quality, taste and appearance. Today’s macarons are simply gorgeous – as you can see I couldn’t wait to taste before taking the photograph. You can purchase them by the half-dozen in pistachio, lemon, vanilla or chocolate and passion fruit.

Macarons

Macarons

If you can’t get along on a Saturday morning, visit Cuthbert’s cafe Monday to Friday and you can enjoy one with a great coffee.

www.cheesee-peasee.com – a little out of date unfortunately

@cuthberts

Celebrating cupcake week 2010

9 Sep

What a lovely week to celebrate, I hope that you discovered Kelly’s red velvet cupcakes?

Alice Rose Cakes and Cookies

Alice Rose Cakes and Cookies

I am always curious as to why people start up a business and how they found their passion, so  I asked some cupcakers (is there such a word) to share their experiences. In this post, Alice Rose who is starting up a new business distributing cupcakes across the UK (yum!)

Like many great people, Alice’s inspiration came to her in the bath. Three years ago, she’d left university with a business degree but wasn’t sure what she really wanted to do. Her Ah Ha moment was to become a cake decorator. The first cake she made was for her own birthday whilst she was doing up her own house. She had to contend with a really old cooker the previous tenant had left behind and the only work surface available on top of the fridge! She wishes she had taken a photo of that first effort, to see just how far she has come. Night classes at college followed to learning basic royal icing skills then more modern sugar paste techniques.

Tennis theme cake and cupcakes

Tennis theme cake and cupcakes

Cupcakes have become increasingly popular amongst her customers but she also makes an equal amount of large celebration cakes combined with cupcakes as well.

Cupcake Canapes

Cupcake Canapés

Alice explains “Cupcakes are so flexible, you can add them to a children’s party bag or customise them with a company logo. The range of flavours are also endless – traditional puddings are now lending their flavours to cupcakes including black forest gateaux and banoffee pie. I have also  just started creating cupcake canapés which are bite size and are in an edible case for easy eating”. Not surprisingly, her favourite pastime is creating new flavours and of course, sampling them!

An alternative wedding cake?

An alternative wedding cake?

I was keen to hear more about the cupcake delivery system. Alice explains “My partner and I are setting up a delivery system working with a team of independent cupcake makers and decorators across the country. Once we receive an order on our Direct Cupcakes website, we commission the bakers to create the order for us and deliver. We are planning to launch it in the next couple of weeks.

If you are interested in getting involved, visit the website, or send Alice a tweet @arcakescookies