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The “C” Word

Christmas.

Wait!

Before you run off screaming into the hinterlands of the internet just bear with me.

It’s harvest season for blackberries NOW. These little bubbles of jet are hanging from thorny bushes as we speak and they are not only taste GREAT, but they’re FREE! FREE!

ALL FREE!

These bushes tend to grow (or rather not have been cut down) near railway lines, rivers or woodlands. I found this lovely harvest in a local green space but I have already had quite a good crop from the bushes which grow right next to the office that I work in. Ree-sult.

If you can’t be arsed to go blackberry picking then you can buy punnetts from your local supermarket. Don’t do this.

NOT FREE. In fact very expensive.

I would estimate that my haul would have cost about £30.00. Here it is:

COR!

I expect you’re wondering what all of this has to do with Christmas? Well the answer lies in the kilner jar.

Oh yes, we’re about to make some blackberry schnapps. Using fresh, wild blackberries. Aren’t I the annoying food wanker?

This is such a simple recipe, but it will need at least 3 months to develop, and as the blackberry season is upon us it seems like some sort of madness not to listen to mother nature as she croons “make some serious booze for Christmas”. I’m a listener.

So, once you’ve picked your blackberries – and ignored any jeering or pointing that may occur – they are going to need a VERY good wash.

I bung them in a colander under gently running cold water and GENTLY pick up a handful at a time and give them a jolly good swish. This fruit is crazy delicate so you must treat them as you would an elderly relative. (Make sure the water is warm in their case though, please.)

Er, a bit more gently than this.

Once you’ve washed, and discarded any berries that are a bit iffy, then you need to dry them out a little bit. Just place the washed berries onto some kitchen roll and leave them for half an hour.

Their fate awaits.

Once the berries have dried off, tumble them into a clean kilner jar. I have filled mine 3/4 of the way full of fruit. Then pour on vodka (as you can see I’m still using the old cheap version – honestly it’s a waste of money to use more expensive brands), secure the lid and leave in a cool dark place, shaking occasionally.

A thing of beauty

I haven’t added anything else. I am thinking that  a vanilla pod would be nice and maybe some sugar, but I’m just going to let it be for a month before adding anything further.

Why not join with me. Become. Become like me and make some booze for Christmas even though it’s only August. DO IT.

do it.

Chocolate Honey Cake. It’s out to take over the World.

After I had made the Ruby Wedding cake I decided to use up some of the left over marzipan.

I read a lovely recipe which used honey and little tiny marzipan bees! As I still had some almond flakes left over as wings I was all over this recipe.

I didn’t have the patience to allow my butter to come to room temperature in it’s own time so I chopped it into little squares to cut down the warming time. (This might have BEEn a factor in the disaster to come – yeah, it’s another disaster.)

I’m not ENTIRELY convinced this method works

I followed the recipe and beat the eggs and sugar followed by melted chocolate

Gently folding the chocolate. (GIVE UP AT THIS POINT)

I then sieved cocoa powder into the mix before adding boiling water – I’m fully committed at this point. Fully Fucked Up.

Enthusiastic sieving

The batter seemed a bit runny. I remember commenting on it’s consistency at the time. Oh GOD for a time travelling delorian.

This don’t look right – excuse the blurry

And then I had a cake ready for the oven.

Ah, it looks benign.

So into the oven it went.

And then…

!

I’m not sure whats going on here, but it continued in this weird bubbling over fashion for AGES until the top of the cake turned into charcoal while the underbelly of the cake carried on, lava-like, bubbling over.

Dear God.

The cake had actually coated the tin in cake. I love cake as much as the next fat person, but a cake that turns the cake tin into a cake is verging on the ridiculous.

You’ve got to admire it’s balls.

So. I do not have a happy ending to this cake. It was awful and there was no going back.

Cake of awfulness

See the bubbles? That’s honeycombe

It was weirdly delicious. It tasted like a crunchie bar but without all the Friday Feeling.

The biggest, scariest cake I have ever made.

I went to a hen night back in January and got fairly spectacularly drunk.

I’m going to gloss over the worse of my behaviour, but let’s just say that it included sambucca. And a waiter

I offered to make a cake for a friend’s joint 40th wedding anniversary and her husband’s 60th birthday party. I was full of my own ability and puffed up with the dizzying confidence of someone who’s downed a bottle of Rose wine and 3 shots of sambucca. Expansive arm gestures waved away the “Cake for 60 people”, and I just kept showing people my leopard skin shoes while claiming that cake making of that level is “no problem *hic*, I love you, I’d de- Be- de-DELIGHTED to make your cake…LOOK! There’s the wai *hic* ter! Less have anover shot yeah?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve offered to do something drunk that I would usually shy away from, but it is the first time it included baking.

So. A cake to feed 60 people. Clearly, I couldn’t make something like my Baby Shower Cake, this one is going to have to be a bleugh fruitcake and fairly traditional. Thanks so much Drunk me. I owe you one.

The cake murdered my sleep for a couple of months, I KNEW I was going to have to make this thing and I knew it was ambitious. I mucked about on the internet for a while looking for a recipe and struggling to know how big a cake I should be baking when a friendly baker told me that I needed a 12 by 12 inch square tin.

So I RENTED a tin. Yup that’s right, I live in a world where I can rent cake tins from my local cakeporn shop.

Suddenly the big day of cake bakery was almost upon me. The night before I prepared the dried fruit.

I weighed out a ridiculous amount of ingredients,

That’s just the raisins.

And soaked the ton of fruit in a mixture of brandy (Christ knows how old this shit is, I found it in the back of the liquor cabinet) and ameretto.

Soaking it for 24 hours in cheap booze will do the trick.

After allowing the fruit to soak overnight I got on with baking the cake.

I actually had to buy a washing up bowl to mix the batter.

Yes. That’s right I was actually making a cake that was too enormous to be mixed in a bowl. I would do a shocked face here, but I’m still too shocked to even type it out.

I started by mixing a daft amount of butter with an equally weird amount of sugar and black treacle in my mixer

Hmmmm, treacly

and mixing it until it formed a light fluffy weirdly split looking goo. I then added 12 eggs. Yes. TWELVE EGGS! Madness had overtaken me by this point and I vacillated between terrible fear and hysterical laughter as I cracked each egg into the, frankly disgusting, mixture.

The time had come for me to mix the wet ingredients with the dry and thus, it was time to move to the washing up bowl.

Yeah. This looks kind of vile…

Once the batter was mixed I poured it into a greased and lined, rented cake tin.

Cor! Note the newspaper and clips – I got rid of those in a moment of lucidity

I then baked the cake for about 3 weeks (5 hours actually) until I was reasonably sure it was cooked through and then I had to turn it out of the tin. This was nerve wrackingly AWFUL! Honestly, I cannot describe the terror of tipping this huge tin upside down and hoping for the best – I also didn’t even have a wire tray large enough to cope and had to use a clean oven tray. I managed it though.

God, it’s utterly gorgeous

This cake is quite “blonde” because it hasn’t had time to mature.

I then went away and got drunk thought about the cake for a couple of days before icing the beast.

Before I could start icing I needed to wrap this behemoth with marzipan.

I did not make my own marzipan (what IS marzipan made from?)

I heated some apricot jam and brushed over the cake before rolling out the marzipan

Amazingly huge ball of marzipan

I managed, in a moment of non-spannery – to roll out the marzipan AND place it onto the cake without anything interesting terrible happening and then I had an enormo cake which needed to sit for 24 hour hours before icing.

The lumps are fruit and nuts – a bit like me.

The day of the party loomed at me.

To the icing.

Have you any idea how stressful it is to roll out a massive ball of icing into a thin layer which will fit a square cake? No? LUCKY YOU!

It’s OVAL!

I managed it. The SKY engineer arrived around this time to change one of our Sky boxes over. I had to hold a conversation about the weather, the government and the price of i-phones while I iced the cake. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Oh! Ain’t she beeeeee-yoooutiful?

The icing needed to set for a day before decorations were added.

I finished the icing on Friday night, the party was on Sunday but the cake was being collected on Saturday afternoon. This was going to be tight, and annoying and MUCH harder than I had imagined.

I’d bought some red shades of pre made icing from the cake porn shop and a gerbera daisy flower cutter in two sizes. I felt that it was flowery enough for a cake, manly enough and it would hide a multiple of sins.

So I rolled out some of the red icing and pressed out the daisy.

GRRRRR!

And I did that for about two hours. It was exciting stuff. I alternated between a cherry red and a deeper, darker shade of icing. I then started by building up the sides of the cake.

Dear GOD this looks awful

I somehow managed to fruit up decorate the terrible brilliant icing and ended up with a cake that looked like this

So close to preferct (<- I KNOW)

Another shot

*polishes nails* (Ignore that slightly skewiff flower on the corner)

I boxed the cake and got it ready for collection

Boxed cake

And then I went to the party.

And watched my friends make arses of themselves

And looked at the cake it’s in glorious setting

Indeed

And then we had a laugh and that, before we got attacked in the car park by a crazy BNP type fella and we all ended up terrified and it was awful.

I have no idea how the cake tasted as it wasn’t cut during the party and I’ve been too pissed off to ask considering the dreadful end to the evening.

That was kind of a downer – on the upside? I finally wrote a new blog post?

Chocolate Eclair Cheesecake. No, I’m not joking.

My friend Vicky is pregnant (Yay! Babies!) and sent me an email telling me that she had just pigged out on Cadbury’s Chocolate Eclairs.

As I slurped on my green tea, and eyed my snack of a fresh fruit salad mournfully, it came to me in a blinding flash! A chocolate eclair flavoured cheesecake would be utterly brilliant and so, my strange and short lived obsession began.

I flirted with the idea of a digestive base with fudge pieces, a cheesecake topping with fudge pieces and a chocolate sauce with toffee shards, but then I remembered that I had a tin of Carnation Dulce de Leche in the cupboard just aching to be used.

So my plans changed and became…a chocolate biscuit base, a caramel flavoured cheesecake filling with a butterscotch sauce for the top.

NOW WITH EVEN MORE CHOC CHIPS. Yeah. Take that.

I dropped my food processor on the floor a few weeks ago and it has broken in the most annoying manner possible – the tiny little piece of plastic that locks the “bowl” thingy into the “motor” thingy snapped off and now it won’t cut or grate or blend or anything. *technical*

So for the chocolate biscuit base I used a whole pack of Maryland Double Chocolate Cookies and smashed them into smithereens with a rolling pin and a freezer bag. *Old Skool*

I do so love a bit of violent cooking

I melted 90g of butter in a saucepan and stirred in the crumbly biscuit crumbs.

I sprayed a 23cm springform cake tin with Cake Release spray and pressed the biscuit and butter mixture into the bottom of the tin.

Biscuit base

At this point I went a bit mad and couldn’t decide whether to bake the base or refrigerate it. So I baked it for ten minutes and it went all squishy and peculiar so don’t do that – instead just pop the base into the fridge while you get on with making the filling.

I used 750g of philadelphia cream cheese and beat it gently in the mixer to soften. Once soft I added 100g caster sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla essence and a tin of dulce de leche and mixed until well combined.

Seriously.

I then added three large eggs one by one, ensuring each egg was throughly incorporated before cracking the next one in.

I transferred the mixture into the cake tin and there was bloody LOADS of it – honestly it was like the magic porridge pot, and it just about fitted into the tin. *phew*

*blinks*

I didn’t want to use a bain marie to bake the cheesecake, so instead I placed a roasting tray on the bottom shelf of the oven and the cheesecake on the shelf above it. Steam should prevent the cheesecake from cracking. Should. That’s an important word.

Steamy

I baked the cheesecake for one hour on Gas Mark 3. When the topping has firmed up, but still has a slight wobble in the centre it is ready to come out of the oven.

Almost perfect!

I allowed the cake to cool in it’s tin and after 20 minutes I returned to see how it was getting on.

Crack is Wack

So, I don’t know why this happened – maybe I should have gone for the full on bain marie…or maybe there was just too much filling and it just starting collapsing under it’s own weight. Whatever it is isn’t a major big deal as there is still a sauce to go on the top. I did want to pour a thin layer of butterscotch onto the top of the whole cake and then refrigerate which would have been pretty hardcore, but that gaping chasm scared me a bit and I decided to make the sauce and just pour it over individual slices as I served them.

The cheesecake needs refrigerating for a couple of hours, but remove from the fridge about half an hour before serving.

So, a basic butterscotch/toffee sauce to top the cheesecake and give that lovely toffee flavour:

45g dark muscovado sugar

2 x tablespoons golden caster sugar

150g golden syrup

30g unsalted butter

125ml thick cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

I melted the sugar, butter and syrup in a pan.

You can get a toothache just looking at this.

I didn’t stir as I’m pretty sure stirring does something weird to sugar so just sort of swilled it all around a bit and then boiled ferociously for five minutes.

Foamy

Stir in the cream and vanilla and take off the heat. I then allowed this to cool right down to room temperature before serving.

I sliced the cheesecake and drizzled a little sauce over the top, you don’t need to be too heavy handed and the sauce is really, very sweet.

Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

It was pretty tasty and did evoke the flavour of a Cadbury’s Chocolate Eclair, BUT, not quite chocolatey enough. I think I can improve this by making a toffee base, chocolate filling and toffee on the top…the experiment will continue.

Oh, I invented this recipe so please do use it – and let me know how you get on. You won’t regret it.