May 14th, 2013 | | permalink
Dig out your favourite apron, dust off those scales and raid your store cupboard. World Baking Day is almost here (19 May) and encourages people to step out of their comfort zone, by choosing to bake one of the 100 cakes on the event’s website, which have been submitted by cooks from all over the globe. At no. 1 on the list, Banana Muffins are for the kitchen novices, while the show-stopping Cream Puff Cake at no. 100 is for those very brave bakers.
The Vanilla, Strawberry & Rose Victoria Sponge took my fancy (level 66), but I decided to add my own take on it. Yes, I have baked many sponge cakes in my time. However, I must confess that recently I’ve been suffering from the curse of the dreaded soggy bottom! That’s why I wanted to go back to basics. For ease, I did an all-in-one recipe and my unique twist on the cake involves a blueberry jam filling and drizzle.
I’m proud to say my Blueberry Jam & Drizzle Victoria Sponge was a resounding success (next stop Cream Puff Cake?). Here’s how to make it…
4 eggs (weighed in their shells)
Soft margarine (same weight as the eggs)
Caster sugar (same weight as the eggs)
Self-raising (same weight as the eggs)
Drizzle and filling
Half a jar of Crabtree & Evelyn Blueberry Preserve
1 tbs margarine
2 tbs Belvoir Blueberry & Blackcurrant Cordial
50g icing sugar
A handful of rose petals (or you could use fresh blueberries)
1. Set the oven to Gas Mark 4, 160C (fan oven), 180C or 360F. Grease and line 2 x 8inch sandwich tins.
2. All the cake ingredients need to weigh the same amount. First weigh the eggs in their shells. I used duck eggs fresh from the farm and they weighed 8oz, so I made sure the margarine, sugar and flower weighed 8oz, too. The beauty of using duck eggs is that they have bigger yolks and make for a delicious golden sponge.
3. Make life easy for yourself by doing an all-in-one cake mixture. Crack the first egg in to a small bowl to make sure it’s a good egg, and add it to a food processor, KitchenAid, or a large bowl (you’ll need an electric whisk to beat the ingredients together). Repeat until all four eggs are cracked, then add the margarine, the sugar and sieve in the flour.
4. Mix all the ingredients together until they are pale, light and fluffy as a day old chick!
5. Using a large spoon dollop the cake mixture into the tins so it’s equally distributed. Smooth over with a spatula.
6. Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes until they are golden and spring back to touch.
7. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins and then press them out onto a wire rack for further cooling.
8. Once the cakes have reached room temperature, put one half on a lovely large plate and spread half a jar of C&E Blueberry Preserve on to it (use more if you’re feeling lavish). Place the other half of the sponge on top.
9. Now for the really fun part, the drizzle! Pop the margarine, icing sugar and cordial into a bowl and whisk until all of the ingredients are combined. Pour onto the center of the cake and let the drizzle work its magic. To make the Victoria sponge look super-pretty and fit for a queen, scatter rose petals on top and dust with icing sugar.
Will you be taking part in World Baking Day? If so, tell us all about your cakey creations in the comments box below or on Crabtree & Evelyn’s Facebook page.
May 9th, 2012 | | permalink
Welcome to the first Life, Lather and Luxuries alphabet blog post. My friends at Crabtree & Evelyn have given me a new challenge: To go through the alphabet, pick a letter at random and do a recipe using an ingredient that begins with that letter. It’s a bit like Ready, Steady, Cook but with words!
The letter I’ve randomly picked this time is L, and my ingredient is lavender. The fragrant flower is not only a fabulous beauty ingredient (I’m very partial to Crabtree & Evelyn’s Lavender range) – but it’s also fantastic to cook with. So I thought I’d share my lavender scone recipe, which I’ve adapted from BBC Good Food…
Katy’s Lush Lavender Scones
350g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 tbs caster sugar
A squeeze of lemon juice
1 egg (beaten)
2 tsp dried lavender (You can buy the buds in supermarkets, health food stores or pick them fresh from the garden. Lavender season in the UK is from June to August)
- Switch on the oven and set to 220 C. Sift the flour into a large bowl and add a pinch of salt and the sugar. Now add the margarine and rub it into the dry ingredients so the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Heat the milk so it’s lukewarm, either in a pan or microwave. Add the lemon juice – this helps to sour the milk and gives the raising agents a boost. After all we’re aiming for light, risen scones, not rock cakes!
- Next, make a well in the centre of the dry mixture and pour in the milk and lemon juice. Mix with a spatula and add the dried lavender. The consistency is sticky but combined. Lightly flour a work surface or a pastry board and kneed the dough so it’s smooth. Three folds should be enough – don’t overwork the dough or you’ll knock the air out and it’ll become tough.
- Pat the dough out with your hands so it’s in the size of a dinner plate, and using a medium biscuit cutter, press out the scones. Pat the dough together again and cut out some more scones from the remaining dough. Place the discs onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment and brush the tops with with the beaten egg. Cook for 10 minutes until golden and risen.
- Serve these fragrant afternoon scones with a dollop of clotted cream, a drizzle of honey and a pot of Crabtree & Evelyn’s Earl Grey tea. Delicious!
Be warned, lavender is well known for its sleep-inducing properties. So don’t eat these babies if you need to stay alert, as they’ll make you feel super-relaxed!
March 7th, 2012 | | permalink
Are you daydreaming of your first picnic of 2012? The heating is on in my flat and I’m wearing a big wooly cardigan – but in my head, I’m sat on a picnic rug on a sunny spring day, digging into a feast of delicious nibbles with my loved one. It won’t be long now…
My first picnic of the year will be for my dad’s 60th next month. We’ll be venturing to his favourite country pub, where the landlord lets his punters take their own food. So we’ll be taking along a special birthday picnic – yum! And if it rains, we can take shelter in the pub!
Variety is the key to a good picnic. In preparation for alfresco eating, check out these scrumptious recipes, which offer something for all tastes…
Sausage rolls are usually a crowd-pleaser for carnivores, and BBC Good Food’s recipe Summer Sausage Rolls has received some rave reviews.
These Mediterranean Vegetable and Ricotta Pasties from Delicious magazine look yummy and can be made in about half an hour. They’re definitely on my picnic hit list.
Rachel Allen’s recipe for Smoked Salmon Pate is super-tasty in mini finger rolls – why not add sliced gherkins or cucumber as well? While Rachel suggests adding fennel, I prefer to use dill. Each to their own!
For the kids
Make sandwiches look extra pretty by shaping them with cookie cutters – little ones will love them. For a healthy snack, pop fresh fruit on cocktail sticks to make mini fruit skewers. They’re also great for those who are watching their waistlines.
Cupcakes can be a pain to cart around, so instead give carrot cake a whirl. You can pre-slice it and even carry it in the tin you baked it in with a little greaseproof paper over the top. I’ve tried this BBC Good Food recipe for Carrot Cake and have received lots of compliments.
For the young at heart
Add some fizz to your picnic with lashings of homemade ginger beer. I’m eager to try out this Ginger Beer Recipe from www.redonline.co.uk – although it does warn that the results can be ‘mildly alcoholic’.
Pushed for time?
If you’re time poor and cash rich, then splash out on a made-to-order picnic hamper from Waitrose. Or you could just keep your eats simple – a selection of breads, cold meats and cheese makes for lovely picnic fare.
Oh, and a top tip for outdoor dining: remember to pack your Crabtree & Evelyn Anti Bacterial Hand Gel Wash! (Yes, I’m obsessed with it, if you hadn’t noticed already!)
So which picnic treats are your ultimate favourites? Go on – share them in the comments box below…