Brandied cherry snacking cake

(Brandied cherry snacking cake)

Yesterday I visited a good friend whom I hadn’t seen in awhile. Her mother wanted to know when I was going to start having children. I could almost hear my biological clock ticking while she eyeballed me.

Over Christmas, everyone wanted to know what I was planning to do for work in 2012, as though my answer of ‘being on holiday’ was not an option.

Last week I received a belated Christmas card from a relative, addressed to us as Mr. and Mrs. It reminded me of various aunts who had long ago launched themselves on a now abandoned quest to get me into a white gown and a church.

Undeniably, everyone means well, but a part of me can’t help the exasperation from bubbling up. Why in this day and age, are we still made to feel as though we’re failing in the game of life if we haven’t advanced to the next expected stage. Don’t pity me the unfulfilled potential of my child bearing hips or my barren ring fingers. I just want to make cake and be happy.

To call this a snacking cake almost gives anyone license to attack it at any given time of the day. Even breakfast. Or that curious hour just before bedtime when it seems too late to have something substantial but not that late that you can’t conceivably fit in a quick bite and one last cup of tea. As it happens, true to its name, I found myself coming back continuously to trim little slivers off this cake a day after I’d made it. If you can’t please your relatives, let them eat cake.

Brandied cherry snacking cake :
(adapted from a recipe in Flour by Joanne Chang)

170g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g (1 1/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
230g (1 3/4 cup) plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
220g (1 1/2 cups) small brandied cherries (or 2 cups large pitted cherries)

Preheat the oven to 175’C (350F).

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition, then the vanilla extract. Sift the dry ingredients together. Fold it into the butter mixture, followed by the brandied cherries. Spread the batter into a greased and lined 10-inch round cake pan. Bake for around 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

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Christmas cues : Chocolate teff puddings

(Gluten-free chocolate teff puddings)

Dear Santa,

As usual, my request for Christmas this year boils down to five simple words. Less spam, more world peace.

But if the elves happen to have time, I would also love it if your reindeers could deliver more butter to Norway. It doesn’t seem like a huge ask because no one deserves to suffer from a butter crisis during the festive season. Also if possible, I’d love to have chocolate declared a health food, the way frozen pizza is now a vegetable.

Oh, and wouldn’t it be great to have Happy Valenbirthaversary declared as an officially celebrated holiday? Promise me you’ll think about it.

Thanks and Merry Christmas,

Chocolate teff Xmas puddings :
(makes 12 mini puddings)

125g 55% dark chocolate buttons
90g unsalted butter
55g teff flour
20g brown rice flour
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
60g brown sugar
60g dried sour cherries or cranberries
20g whiskey or brandy
105g egg whites (from 3 eggs)

Preheat the oven to 150’C (300F). Grease your popover pan (or mini muffin tin) and set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. In another bowl, place the rest of the dry ingredients, stirring well to combine, then mix in the wet ingredients, followed by the chocolate butter mixture.

Divide the mixture between the holes of the popover pan. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into a pudding comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack before removing the puddings from the pan.

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Behold, gingerbread.

(Gingerbread cake)

There are many occasions in my baking life when I’ve pulled from the oven, a cake only a baker could love. It is usually something dull and unrelentingly brown all over. Something that makes me feel slightly crestfallen because only brownies and celebrities on private yachts are permitted to be this brown.

When faced with such a cake, it is hard to resist the temptation to add a bit of glamour to it. Enter three tiers of chocolate ganache and artfully scattered silver nonpareils or that classic dribble of lemon icing.

But in the case of this gingerbread, simple is beautiful and even the tiniest dusting of icing sugar over its dimpled crust should be rejected. For all those times when a cup of tea and nothing overly sugary is called for, this cake is just the ticket with its gentle warmth and spices that form a slow release flavour dance on your tongue.

Brown it seems, may just be the new black.

Gingerbread cake :
(based on a recipe from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce)

1 1/4 cups wholemeal flour
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
56g (2 ounces or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce (or pumpkin puree)
1/4 cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses (or treacle)
1 egg
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

Preheat the oven to 175’C (350F).

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, stirring gently with a whisk to ensure the spices are well mixed.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, yogurt, brown sugar, apple sauce, molasses, egg and grated ginger. Add this to the dry ingredients and fold to combine. Pour the batter into a greased and lined 9-inch round cake pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

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