Thursday 28 October 2010

Battenberg Cake

I received the book 'Bake and Decorate' by Fiona Cairns from a dear friend. It is a gorgeous book. Full of beautiful recipes and pictures with wonderful relatively simple but stunning ideas for decorating her cakes. It makes you want to rush off and create a masterpiece. Well want is one thing and do is another but when I opened the book the page fell open at the Battenberg cake. Oh what a rush of memories. Such a retro little cake. I remembered buying them in Marks and Spencers in the sixties. It was begging to be made. The recipe states it serves eight. Well in this case it served one.

Here is a little useless information for you.
The 4 squares in each slice represent the four German Battenberg princes (Louis, Alexander, Henry and Francis Joseph) at the time of the marriage on 30 April 1884 of Queen Victoria's granddaughter Princess Victoria to Prince Louis of Battenberg (1854 to 1921), who would become the grandfather of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. In 1917 Louis changed his surname from Battenberg to Mountbatten.

Battenberg  Cake     
Serves 8
175g/6oz unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the tin
175g /6oz self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
175g /6oz white caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 or 2 tbsp milk, if needed
A little pink (or red) food colour
4 tbsp apricot jam
Icing sugar, to dust
250g /9oz yellow marzipan (or natural if you prefer)


Preheat the oven to 170ºC/fan 160ºC/340ºF/gas mark 31/2.

Lightly butter a 20cm square tin and line the base with baking parchment. Also cut out a rectangle of baking parchment, as long and deep as the tin, to act as a divider lengthways between the 2 colours of sponge.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, or in a large bowl with a handheld whisk, first sift together the flour and baking powder. Add the butter, cut into knobs, then the sugar, eggs and vanilla. Beat until smooth, adding a little milk to loosen the mixture if it seems too stiff. Weigh out half the batter and place the divider down the centre of the tin.

Carefully place half the batter into 1 side of the tin. Tint the remaining mixture pink - it's much better to do this not too exuberantly, so take care - and stir until blended. As neatly as possible, spoon the pink mixture into the other side of the tin.

Bake for about 30–35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the cake springs back to the touch. Remove from the oven, leave in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack. When completely cold, slice each colour lengthways into 2 equal blocks, then trim off all the rough edges.

Warm the jam in a small pan, push it through a sieve, then use it to glue the strips of cake together lengthways, so the natural and pink colours form opposite quarters.

On a work surface dusted with icing sugar, roll out the marzipan into a rectangle the length of the cake and wide enough to wrap around all 4 sides. Trim it to size. Brush the remaining jam all over the cake and wrap the marzipan around the cake. Seal the join by gently pressing it together, then turn so this seam is hidden on the bottom. Trim the ends with a sharp knife, then score a criss-cross on the top surface.
© Fiona Cairns

This is Fiona Cairns recipe. The only change I would make is the tin. I think it would be much simpler if the mixture was baked in two separate loaf tins and cut in two. Using the divider is very faffy and requires a lot of trimming. I haven't tried the loaf tin but if you do before me let me know.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Baked Coconut Custard

I love Grannymar's Blog. She does not have a food Blog but Monday is 'Food Monday' and she always has an interesting recipe. Good old fashioned uncomplicated food of which I am so fond. I love baked custard and when I saw this some time ago I just had to make it. The use of coconut milk instead of cream is lovely. It makes it a very light dessert. It looks pretty and so quickly prepared it would be perfect for a dinner party. I think the addition of a crispy thin shortbread biscuit would set it off perfectly.

Coconut Custard Serves 4

Preheat your oven to 150.C/300F/Gas 1-2


4 eggs
3 ozs light brown sugar
8 fluid ozs coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence


Place all the ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth or mix together with a whisk in a bowl by hand. 
Transfer to individual lightly buttered ramekin dishes
Place the ramekin dishes in a deep sided tin and place in the oven.
Pour water into the tin to come approximately half way up the side of the dishes.
 Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the custard has just set but has a little wobble.
Present as your imagination takes you.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Veda Bread

There is a little malt loaf particular to Northern Ireland called Veda.

My hubby loves it. I have tried for years but have been unable to replicate it in the kitchen. Why? because I could not get the necessary dark malt flours. Well I could have but they only sold in bulk to the bakeries. Even at my most enthusiastic I don't think I could get through 50 kilos of flour. The other day I finally found my flour courtesy of Bakery Bits. A very good website selling flour and all sorts of bread making equipment. All I had was the ingredients on the loaf sleeve and my fiercest critic (Hubby) and the knowledge that hundreds of ex pat. ulster people have been searching for a recipe but with little success (Google told me this) Previous attempts with just malt extract and treacle failed to give the definitive flavour particular to Veda.
I explained to Rhyley what I was doing. The tension in the kitchen was immense as I took the loaf out of the oven and waited for it to cool. Enter Hubby who had a slice slathered in butter while four female eyes watched in apprehension as he chewed. He then uttered the words 'That's it' and watched in amazement as Rhyley and I danced round the kitchen. Success is heady stuff. I haven't had to buy a Veda since.

You can just make this with the malt extract and treacle and it will give a nice malt loaf but if you are a fan it takes the malted flours.

I make my loaf in a covered mermaid pan as it gives the bread a lovely soft sandwich texture. It can of course be baked in an ordinary loaf pan.

Makes one small loaf.
Oven temperature
200.C/180.C Fan/400.F/Gas 6


450gms/1lb White Bread Flour
1 teasp Roasted barley Malt Flour
2 teasp Nut Brown Malt Flour
1 teasp instant yeast
1 teasp salt
1 tablespoon oil
1 large teaspoon malt extract
1 large teaspoon treacle or molasses
200-250 mls warm water

Glaze (If desired)

A teaspoon of warmed treacle/molasses


Mix all the ingredients together using 200mls of the water. If it seems a little dry add a little more water just a drop at a time. It should be a softish slightly sticky dough
Knead for 10 minutes by hand or five in a stand mixer with a dough hook.
Form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl covered with cling film 
Leave somewhere warm to rise for about an hour until doubled in volume.
Gently pull the dough out of the bowl onto an oiled work top and dimple out with your fingers to disperse the gas.

Fold the dough over towards yourself bit by bit firming each roll with your thumbs as you go..

When you have a sausage fold it into thirds like a busines letter.
Turn it over and tease the sides down and under until you get a cob shape.
Place this into a greased 2 lb loaf pan and squash it down until it fills the base.
Place the tin inside a plastic bag and leave for 30-40 mins until it has risen again. You will know when it is ready if you very gently shake the end of it trembles a bit like a jelly.
Brush gently with the glaze and bake for approx thirty minutes.
The loaf will sound hollow when tapped on the underside when it is done. If not pop it back in the tin and bake for a further five minutes and check again.

Oil your hands and the work top when working with the dough. It stops it sticking to you and everything else

Thursday 14 October 2010


This was just an unpretentious supper of ragu pasta of which we all enjoy from time to time.So easy to prepare. I serve it with a little salad and garlic bread and love its simplicity of flavour. This uncomplicated dish however, was  pushed into a different dimension using a wonderful  three year old Parmigiana from Tuscany. A very dear friend had the big heart to send it to me. If you are used to the supermarket variety of this cheese nothing will prepare you for the real flavour of Italy. My tongue is still tingling two hours later. Heaven on a plate. The rather nice Chianti helped too. Perfect to wash it down with. If you ever have the good fortune to visit Italy please leave room in your case to take home a big chunk of this. You won't regret it.