Tag Archives: nuts

Wedding Cake Ideas

May 4th is my cousin’s wedding day. It’s been in the diary for ages and is suddenly on the horizon. Luckily I’ve almost finished making my dress, so my next challenge is the cake. No, I don’t have to make the actual wedding cake, thank god! The pressure of making someone a wedding cake or dress would kill me. I will never do it.

Instead, inspired by the popular BBC TV show with a very similar name, Jo is hosting The Great Wedding Bake Off. The invite requests that everyone who wants to enter brings a baked pudding or cake, then everyone can try them and vote for their favourite. It’s an awesome idea and one that suggests we shouldn’t be expecting too traditional a wedding day next week!

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I’ve been through pretty much all of my baking books, I’ve trawled my Pinterest boards, various blogs I follow and Googled every type of ‘celebration cake’ I could think of and here is my short list. I’m off to Band of Bakers 1st birthday party next Thursday and the theme is celebration cake, so I will get a chance to practice it before the wedding competition on the Saturday!

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Top row (l-r):
1. Dobos Torte from Smitten Kitchen or Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book.
2. Torta Alla Gianduia from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.
3. French Fraisier Cake from Food Lover’s Odyssey.

Middle row (l-r):
4. Butterscotch Nut Gateau from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book.
5. Swedish Prinsesstårta Cake from Donal Skehan or Signe Johansen’s Scandilicious Baking.
6. Bitter Chocolate Orange Cake from Lily Vanilli’s Sweet Tooth.

Bottom row (l-r):
7. Pistachio Angel Cake from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book.
8. Gateau Moka aux Amandes from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book.
9. Baumtorte/Baumkuchen German Tree Cake from Global Table Adventure.

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Dark Chocolate & Pistachio Coco Meringues

I never make meringues. My grandma makes the best meringues and every time I visit her I come home with a tin full, so I never feel the need to make my own. But no-one said I have to make plain meringues, & this is where Lily Vanilli comes in.

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Last Sunday morning I decided to try her Coco Meringues dipped in Chocolate & Crushed Pistachios. They’re super easy to make, just plenty of egg whipping and then a good couple of hours in the oven. Sadly I didn’t really think about the fact that we had a friend coming over for a roast dinner, so meringues occupying the oven for 2 hours wasn’t ideal. I took them out after an hour and a half and put them in the airing cupboard to keep drying out instead! It’s not a technique I’ve seen recommended in any books but it didn’t seem to do them too much damage. The inside was a little more mousse-like than chewy, but oh god that was not a bad thing…

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Christmas Baking : Christmas Pudding

I’ve never made a Christmas pudding before. I don’t even eat Christmas pudding, but it feels like a baking challenge that I should tackle. As always the initial challenge is choosing which recipe to follow. The two in contention were Dan Lepard‘s Simple Christmas Pudding & Nigel Slater‘s Christmas Pudding. I made Nigel’s Christmas cake last year and it was delicious, but Dan’s pudding did seem like an easier option, so I’m afraid that’s why I went for it.

So I started with a mix of raisins, cranberries, prunes & dates. When I made my Christmas cake last year I ended up with loads of dates in it, by accident really as the fruit mix I bought just had a lot of dates in. Having thought about it since I think that’s why it was so light compared to just using prunes/currants etc, so I decided to follow that idea here & use dates for 1/4 of the fruit.

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Then I added suet. I’ve never used suet before & to be honest I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with it, so I just mixed it in. Then I added light brown sugar, you can use dark brown for a richer pudding if you so wish.

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Next is plain flour, baking powder & breadcrumbs.

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Then I added mixed spice & nutmeg. Then almonds.

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A grated carrot followed by the zest & juice of an orange.

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Some golden syrup, but again, you can use treacle for a richer pud. Followed by 2 beaten eggs.

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Last ingredient is some dark ale, I used a little from a bottle of London Porter which The Boy was only too happy to finish off. And just mix them all together.

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I prepped a pudding basin by greasing with butter & lining the base with a small circle of greaseproof. I realised as I filled it that I had too much mixture/had bought too small pudding basins so I quickly prepped another one so I could make two puddings instead!

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After covering them with greaseproof paper & foil and fixing in place with an elastic band, I placed one in a large pan with water, with one of the basin lids at the bottom to lift it off the bottom of the pan a little. The pan was then filled with water to about half way up the basin & I left it to boil for 3 hours. I then lifted it out & left it to cool and put the other pudding in for 3 hours!

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Of course, I would love to show you the finished result (I’d like to see it myself) but we’ll have to wait until Christmas Day! Fingers crossed they’ve worked!

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Christmas Baking : Florentines : Version 1

Last year was the first year I really baked for Christmas. As gifts for my extended family I baked around a hundred coconut macaroons, ginger snaps, linzer biscuits and caramel-hazelnut & seasalt chocolate bark & packaged them all up into little jars. To say they went down well is an understatement, most of them got eaten within about 10 minutes of being received and I was told in no uncertain terms that the same again next year would be great.

But I don’t want to make the exact same biscuits obviously, so I’ve been trying to think about some alternatives. First up, Florentines. I gave some bought ones as gifts a few years ago and they are a delicious, delicate biscuit. My first problem was choosing who’s recipe to follow, I’ve got one from Mary Berry, one from Nigella, there’s one in my Good Housekeeping cookbook & then I found Nigel Slater‘s on The Guardian‘s website. A lot of them made them sound quite difficult, which put me off immediately, so I went with Nigel’s, he always keeps everything simple.

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The biscuits are mainly comprised of flaked almonds, dried cranberries (as suggested in Nigel’s recipe), mixed peel (pre-chopped in a tub, I couldn’t find any full pieces), glace cherries, crystallised ginger & dark chocolate. The ginger was a bit of an experiment, everything should have ginger in at Christmas. They’re really easy to make, you melt butter & sugar and bring them to the boil. Add the cream & the fruit & the nuts and mix well. Then take them off the heat & leave for 5 mins.

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Once a little cooler spoon them out onto a piece of greaseproof paper (I don’t trust butter & flour for preventing them sticking even though it’s what Nigel recommends) and bake for about 8 minutes at about 160C fan. When they come out of the oven they have spread a lot but are very soft so you can use this time to scoop the spread mixture back into the body of the biscuit. I then left them for a minute or two before carefully lifting them off the tray to cool on a rack.

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Once they’re cool then I melted some dark chocolate & spread it across the bottom of each biscuit & left it to solidify. As well as adding another flavour I think this really helps with the look of the biscuits, it gives them some depth somehow.

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And the result is these beautiful biscuits! I made a lot more than Nigel’s recipe (18 to his suggested 12) & I think I’d like them to be smaller still, so I’m thinking 24 will be perfect. I love the ginger, but it doesn’t quite work with the mixed peel in the current quantities. I think I’m going to drop the cherries, up the ginger & cranberries & reduce the mixed peel in the next batch & see how that goes. I also love Nigella’s idea of dipping half in dark chocolate & half in white.

Looks like I’m going to need to make another batch this week.