Sticky ginger cake with ginger fudge icing

Sticky ginger cake with ginger fudge icing
News: I left my job on Friday. I decided to say goodbye to my much-loved colleagues at Axonn by bringing in a bake a day in my last week. Because, you know, I like to keep busy. My week of baking culminated in this magnificent sticky ginger cake with ginger fudge icing, which is probably my all-time favourite ginger cake.

I don’t have any other pictures for you other than the above as blogging was the last thing on my mind last week, but hopefully you can get an idea of the lusciousness of this cake from that single photo. The cake is a beautifully moist sponge studded with pieces of stem ginger (I also threw in some crystallised ginger as I didn’t have quite enough stem ginger) topped with a decadent icing flavoured with syrup from the stem ginger jar. The cake is also soaked in the syrup for extra gingery-ness!

I actually didn’t get to have a piece as I wanted to save as much as possible for everyone at work, but I was very reliably informed that the cake was ace. Which definitely matches up with my memories of the two other times I’ve made this cake!

The recipe is from BBC Good Food 101 Cakes & Bakes – someone kindly posted it on Mumsnet if you fancy having a go. You can use dark muscovado or dark brown sugar instead of molasses sugar, if you can’t find it in the shops. I also make half the icing as you do end up with A LOT.

As for the other bakes from last week, here’s the line-up:

Mince pies (Monday)

Mince pies (Monday)

Porter cake (Thursday)

Porter cake (Thursday)

I’m going from working in an office of 30-odd people to precisely 3 (including myself) when I start my new job tomorrow, so we’ll see whether I can keep up my baking efforts with so few guinea pigs to test my bakes on! I think I’ve managed to fulfill my new year’s resolution of baking more this year, so I’m probably entitled to slow down a little come 2015… but we’ll see whether that actually happens!

Raisin spice cake

Raisin spice cake
I’m hell-bent on going about my life as if it was proper autumn, rather than this strange sort-of-autumn-but-actually-still-a-bit-summer we’ve been having. This includes baking, and this raisin spice cake really is a rather lovely autumnal bake perfect for a chilly evening with a nice cup of tea.

I’ve made this cake once before, but I didn’t have a ring tin at the time, so I just made it in a standard round tin. I think it looks much nicer as a ring cake, even if it is a bit more of a faff to get out of the tin!

The recipe is very straightforward – make the topping and place it at the bottom of the tin (I used a bundt tin), then put the cake mix on top and bake.

Raisin spice cake topping

Raisin spice cake topping, pre-baking

The topping is a rather lovely combination of chopped hazelnuts, spices and demerara sugar, and there’s a good amount of it, so you’ll definitely appreciate it when the cake is out of the oven and ready to eat.

The cake itself has yet more spices and raisins plumped up with a bit of orange juice, which makes for a lovely flavour that propels the bake above your average fruit cake.

Raisin spice cake
Oddly for me and my temperamental oven, the cake was perfectly cooked in the time stated in the recipe, which was nice as I had to miss 10 seconds of the Great British Bake Off quarter-final to take it out of the oven!

As mentioned, it didn’t come out of the tin without bits of it coming away with the tin, which was disappointing. I did, however, make sure those bits didn’t go to waste *ahem*.

The cake seemed massive when it was baked, but my boyfriend and I managed to polish it off alarmingly quickly. It really is a wonderful cake and just the thing for autumn, if it ever gets here!

Raisin spice cake
The recipe

This is in BBC Good Food 101 Cakes and Bakes, but it isn’t on the website. It seems to be accessible via Google Books, though.

Re-bake: Devonshire honey cake

Devonshire honey cake

Honey is a wonderful ingredient – you can spread on toast or crumpets, or mix it with some Greek yogurt, or stir it into lemon and ginger tea for the perfect pick-me-up when you’re ill… the list goes on. I’d never really come across it in cakes until a few years ago, when I saw this recipe for Devonshire honey cake in my trusty little BBC Good Food book. I’ve baked this and other honey cakes since, and nothing else comes close to this recipe in terms of the sheer loveliness of the honey flavour.

The first time I made this cake, it initially seemed to be a bit of a disaster – it took far longer to bake than the recipe said, and when I cut into it the middle wasn’t completely cooked. It was still well and truly edible and delicious for all the honey in it, but I didn’t even think about attempting it again until my boyfriend suggested it while looking at me pleadingly.

So, I tried it again last week, determined to make the recipe work. I followed it to the letter and thought I’d cracked it when the mix looked perfect (and tasted amazing too – baker’s prerogative!).

Devonshire honey cake mix

Devonshire honey cake mix

However, alarm bells rang once again when I checked on the cake at the end of the cooking time and it was still very wobbly. I left it in for another good half hour or so and it seemed fine. I brushed the honey glaze on top as required (although you can barely see it in the pics) and left it in a tin until my boyfriend was next round to sample it.

Devonshire honey cake

Once I finally got round to slicing it up, I found the cake seemed very dense in texture. Luckily, it didn’t taste at all dry, presumably because of all the honey in it. In fact, it tasted delicious, but I’m still rather perplexed by the texture as, the last time I made it, it had a much softer and larger crumb!

Devonshire honey cake

I can only assume this is down to the type of honey I’m using – I may invest in something beyond Asda’s own squeezy honey if I try to bake this cake again. I’m sure I’ll nail it one day!

The recipe

Can be found on the BBC Good Food website here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1840/devonshire-honey-cake

First bake: lemon and raisin cookies

Lemon and raisin cookiesI was looking for something fairly easy to bake a few days ago – something that didn’t involve me having to schlep to the shops for half the ingredients and that could be knocked up and cooled pretty quickly. I came across this recipe for lemon and raisin (or sultana, as it was in the book) cookies in my trusty BBC Good Food book and it seemed pretty perfect!

Unlike most of the lemon-based baking recipes I’ve tried in the past, the lemon flavour for these cookies comes from lemon curd rather than zest. I was a little dubious about how strong the lemon flavour would therefore be, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised!

Lemon and raisin cookies

Lemon and raisin cookies, pre-bakng

The cookies were pretty simple to make – create a breadcrumb-type mix with flour and butter then stir in the rest of the ingredients, shape into balls and bake. The recipe says it makes 30 cookies, but I got 48 (!) out of my mix. To be fair, they were pretty small! I used raisins rather than sultanas as that’s all I had, but I can imagine the recipe would work nicely with the more subtle flavour associated with sultanas.

After baking the cookies and leaving them to cool, I made a simple icing using icing sugar and lemon juice, which I drizzled over the cookies rather haphazardly. The icing definitely helps the lemoniness of the cookies and lends a bit of extra sweetness.

All in all, this is a recipe worth making if you’re a fan of all things lemony. I have to say they seemed to be more like biscuits than cookies at first, but they’ve softened a bit since I baked them and are probably more cookie-like now. They’re very more-ish, so be warned if, like me, you’re trying to shed some pounds…!

Lemon and raisin cookiesThe recipe

From BBC Good Food’s 101 Cakes & Bakes and also available online here.

First bake: citrus poppy seed cake

Citrus poppy seed cakeCitrus and cake is, in my eyes, one of those world-beating combinations that absolutely cannot fail to please. I’ve made a fair few citrus-flavoured cakes in the past, but I think this has to be my new favourite!

What sets this apart from my previous citrus-themed baking efforts is the fact it combines both lemons (three of them!) and oranges (two) for a truly full-on flavour. I also very rarely bake with poppy seeds, but I can fully understand why lemons and poppy seeds are often paired together.

Citrus poppy seed cake mix

Citrus poppy seed cake mix

The cake is really easy to make once you’ve got the tedious zesting out of the way. The recipe includes natural yogurt in the mix, which does seem to make a big difference to the texture of the cake – I don’t think I’ve made many cakes with a fluffier, lighter crumb!

Citrus poppy seed cakeThe cake topping is supposed to be mascarpone, but I couldn’t get hold of any, so I used full-fat cream cheese instead. I also mixed in a little icing sugar along with the lemon curd and orange juice called for in the recipe. Believe me when I say the icing is bloody amazing.

Citrus poppy seed cakeCitrus poppy seed cake

The balance of flavours in this cake is absolutely spot on. The citrus is strong, but not overly so, and is nicely complemented by the earthy poppy seeds and the decadent icing. I honestly can’t praise this cake enough – I think it’s zoomed straight into my top ten cakes of all time!

The best thing is that there’s still some left…

The recipe

Can be found in BBC Good Food’s 101 Cakes & Bakes.

Re-bake: mango and coconut cake

Mango and coconut cakeYes, mango. And coconut. AGAIN. I do love both of these ingredients a lot, so any excuse to throw them together is most welcome. The excuse this time was that my mum recently went to India for a cousin’s wedding, and brought back some mangoes in various states of ripeness. I immediately ate the really ripe ones, and saved a not quite ripe one to use in a cake when ready.

I’ve made a variation on this before – mango, banana and coconut cake. This went well, but I didn’t have any banana this time round and so I used a different recipe for the coconut sponge layers. I stuck to the cream cheese and mango filling, though, as it was so delicious last time.

Coconut sponge layersThe sponges came out perfectly, even though (especially because?) I added just a little extra dessicated coconut. Because I didn’t put any mango pulp in the cake itself, I used the whole mango to make the filling.

This meant I ended up with a LOT of it, and it was also a little runnier than I remember it being last time! However, this didn’t really matter – it just meant I could ladle some filling over the cake for a particularly luscious pudding.

Mango and coconut cakeThe finished cake was, quite simply, AWESOME. It was very, very coconutty and yet the mango was strong enough to hold up against it, creating a somewhat orgasmic flavour. I think this is probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever made!

Mango and coconut cakeI would heartily recommend making this if you can get hold of some proper Indian/Pakistani mangoes this summer. It’s probably best to just use half of the mango in the filling to prevent it from becoming too runny, but it’s no bad thing if you throw the whole lot in like I did!

The recipe

Adapted from two recipes in BBC Good Food’s 101 Cakes & Bakes:

For the sponge layers:

  • 175g/6oz softened butter
  • 175g/6oz caster sugar
  • 175g/6oz self raising flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 75g/2oz dessicated coconut
  • 2 tbsp coconut cream or single cream (I used Patak’s coconut cream, which comes in sachets)

For the filling:

  • 200g soft cheese
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 25g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 0.5 to 1 medium, ripe mango
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and line the base of two 20 cm/8 inch sandwich tins with greaseproof paper.
  2. Mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and eggs for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Gently stir in the coconut and cream.
  3. Divide the mixture between the two tins and smooth the tops. Bake for 20-25 minutes until evenly golden and firm.
  4. Loosen the edges and leave the tins to cool for 5 minutes and then transfer on to a wire rack to cool. Peel off the lining paper.
  5. Peel the mango, slice it away from the stone and chop into smaller chunks. Mash it to a pulp (you can use a food processor for a fine texture or a potato masher/fork for a chunkier one).
  6. Beat together the other filling ingredients and then stir in the mango. You can either stir it all in (but you’ll probably end up with lots/a runnier filling) or stir half of it in and use the rest of the pulp as another layer in the cake/on top or in another recipe!
  7. Spread one of the sponge layers with the filling and place the other on top. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

First bake: banana and walnut teabread

Banana and walnut teabreadA few days ago, I found myself in the same situation as the other week, where I had some rapidly ripening bananas to finish off one way or another. So, I had a flick through my trusty BBC Good Food book and found this recipe for banana and walnut teabread – not exactly a traditional Easter bake, but as my family doesn’t really ‘do’ Easter, that didn’t really matter!

Banana and walnut teabread mix

Banana and walnut teabread mix

As always, I had to slightly adapt the recipe according to what I actually had in. I didn’t have enough walnuts so only put two-thirds of what was required in the mix, and topped the teabread with chopped shelled pistachios instead of the remaining walnuts. I think it looks rather good this way, don’t you?

Banana and walnut teabread

There are walnuts in there, honest!

The mix was easy enough to knock up, but it seemed to take far longer to bake in the oven than the recipe suggests – around an hour and a half as opposed to 55 minutes. Still, it wasn’t burnt when I finally took it out, which was a very good sign!

Banana and walnut teabread
All in all, this is a delicious, moist teabread with the right balance of flavours – the savoury walnut threatens to overwhelm at first, but then the sweet banana and sugar kick in at *just* the right moment to provide a rather agreeable treat to have with your afternoon cup of tea.

The recipe

From BBC Good Food’s 101 Cakes & Bakes.