Cherry Bakewell Sponge

If you can’t be bothered to make frangipane (but enjoy cherry Bakewells), then you may be interested in what I have to offer.

Makes approx. 20 small (but fat) slices:

  • 210g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 210g golden caster sugar
  • 210g self-raising flour
  • 210g ground almonds
  • 3 medium-sized eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Flaked almonds to decorate

For the jam:

  • 200g pitted cherries (fresh or frozen)
  • 150g raspberries (also fresh or frozen)
  • 125g caster sugar

First and foremost, pre-heat your oven to 160°C if it’s fan-assisted, or 170°C if you’re stuck in the dark ages. Line a square/rectangular tray with baking parchment in preparation (the one I used was roughly 13 x 9 inches).

You’ll ideally need to have your jam made before you start mixing the cake batter, so I’ll list this in incredible detail as it’s basically rocket science. Weigh out your fruit and caster sugar (not the golden stuff), stick it in a saucepan and place it on a medium-high heat. You’ll need to boil this until it thickens up slightly (about 10 minutes). Be sure to taste the jam before you proceed with the next step – you may need to add some extra sugar if the fruit is particularly bitter.

When it reaches this stage, I would recommend straining this through a sieve (unless you like having raspberry seeds in your jam, in which case I won’t judge you too hard for skipping this step).

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This tastes better than it looks

Set this aside for the moment, as it’s time to either wash-up or make the cake. If you have a mixer, you can add all of the cake ingredients in at once and stir it a bit until everything’s nicely incorporated. If you’re like me and you don’t have access to this next-gen equipment, cream together the butter and golden caster sugar. Add in your eggs and mix the monstrosity until it looks slightly less monstrous.

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This is what butter and sugar looks like in its least natural form

Next, add everything else (except for the flaked almonds) and mix until it’s all incorporated.

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Almonds were harmed in the making of this blog post

Measure out half of your cake mix (roughly 500g) and spread this out evenly into your cake tin – using a metal spoon or your fingers is best. This will have an effect on how ‘normal’ your cakes will look when they’re cooked, as this will affect the ‘jam line’ (excuse the scientific term). You’ll then need to take your jam and spoon it over the sponge as evenly as you can – don’t worry if you missed some spots, you won’t notice this when you’re eating it as this will spread out somewhat while baking.

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I didn’t kill anyone, I promise

Now comes the horrible part if you’re a self-confessed perfectionist. Distribute the rest of the batter on top of this as evenly as you can. It will be very difficult to even the sponge out without mixing some of the jam in with the cake mix – this however won’t really matter once it’s baked. Sprinkle as many flaked almonds as you like onto the surface – it’s up to you how crazy you go.

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Place your soon-to-be cake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes. It should come away from the sides of the pan, but you may need to test it with a skewer to be certain if you’re not confident.

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Mr Kipling would be furious

Allow your cake to cool before slicing – I decorated mine with a touch of icing sugar, but this isn’t completely necessary. If you would like to have your cakes be more uniform, you can turn it upside-down while cooling to flatten the top a little. I wasn’t feeling it, so mine are uneven – sometimes rustic is best.

Lemon Sponge (With Icing)

This recipe is pretty simple, but it does take time to make. You won’t need to stand in the kitchen for extended periods of time though, as you’ll mostly be waiting for cakes/icing to cool down before you can proceed with the rest of the recipe.

(Makes 8-10 slices)

For The Sponge:                                            

225g Unsalted Butter

225g Caster Sugar

225g Self-Raising Flour

4 Medium-Sized Eggs

1 Lemon’s Finely Grated Zest

 

For The Icing:

300g Icing Sugar

3 tbsp Boiling Water

1 Lemon, Juiced

 

Preheat your oven to 180°c before you start anything else. Now you’ve got the hard part out of the way, make sure your butter is at room temperature, or at least soft enough to be workable (the microwave is a viable option). Measure out the sugar and the butter into a mixing bowl, and cream together until it thoroughly combines. This step is a lot simpler if you have a mixer of some description. I don’t as I’m living in the stone ages. To combat this, there is a cheat you can do if you don’t want to cream sugar and butter together for ages.

 

If you combine the sugar and butter and add in your eggs and whisk, you can simulate what you’d be doing if you had decent cooking equipment. It turns out it’s a lot easier to whisk a loose liquid than it is to mix two thick substances with a spoon. Who knew?

Note: If you have a mixer, you can add in everything all at once and mix to save time and effort. The ‘all-in-one’ method is completely viable.

Once you’ve creamed the sugar, butter, and eggs, you can now sift in your flour. Before you mix, add in your finely grated lemon zest and save yourself some time.

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*Whisk sold separately*

Mix this just enough to incorporate, and stop when you think it looks like cake batter. This is what cake batter looks like:

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– Cake batter

You’ll need to line the bottom of your cake tin with parchment paper so it doesn’t stick. The best way to do this is to keep hold of the butter wrapper and use the remnants to lightly grease the tin – this will allow your parchment to sit nicely in place.

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Snug

When you’re confident that everything looks as it should, pour the batter into your cake tin. You’ll need to smooth the mix out to achieve even cooking – the best way to do this is with a tablespoon.

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Close enough

Once you’re happy with your newly acquired qualification as a plasterer, you can get cooking. Put your sponge into the centre of the oven, cooking at 180°c for 18 minutes. Make sure you don’t open the oven door for any reason, unless you’re feeling a little sadistic and enjoy wasting your time ruining cakes.

When the 18 minutes are up, you’ll need to turn the oven down to 150°c and continue to cook for 8 minutes. This helps to cook the inside of the cake without browning the outside more than what is necessary. When the time comes to remove your sponge from the oven, you’ll need to leave it in the tin for 10 extra minutes. You can tell when a cake is cooked because it comes away from the sides. However if you’re unsure and you don’t trust this recipe, you can always poke it with a skewer in the centre to see if your cake is adequately cooked.

 

Prepare a sheet of parchment paper that is big enough to comfortably cover your sponge. Once the 10 minutes of tin resting is over, place this additional parchment over the top and flip the tin over (as pictured) onto a baking tray or whatever you have that is flat and will comfortably fit in the fridge. The reason for flipping is to flatten the top as much as possible to give a consistent shape to your sponge when you portion it later on. Place in the fridge for at least an hour.

It isn’t completely necessary to do this next step, but feel free to join my wasteful habits in order to create the Mr Kipling effect. Now your sponge is cold enough to work with, trim the top to create a flat surface. You’ll be pouring the icing on top of what was the bottom of the cake in this instance – trimming the top as best as you can will result in a better-presented sponge.

The icing is the easiest part of this recipe – you don’t even have to sieve the icing sugar (I learnt this because I’m lazy). Simply combine your weighed out icing sugar with the hot water and lemon juice. It will be difficult to whisk at first, but should all come together nicely once the liquid is incorporated. Add extra water if needed, but bear in mind that you will need to have the icing thick so it sets nicely at room temperature.

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*Not Meringue*
Once you’re happy with the consistency, pour it over your sponge. Make sure it covers the sides (obviously) and that it’s coated as evenly as possible. You can tip the tray while holding onto the parchment underneath the sponge to manipulate the icing. Refrigerate again for another hour or so.

Now comes the fun part where you get to eat the trimmings. Using a serrated blade, square off your cake. You can then portion your slices in whichever shape/size you like – I went with 8 rectangles.

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Just like the ones my school used to make
You can stop here if you can’t be bothered to wait any longer. However, I felt the need to pipe some chocolate onto the top of mine to make them look slightly more edible. I did this by taking 50g of milk chocolate and microwaving it in the piping bag. I zigzagged the chocolate, but you don’t have to commit to such a crazy act if you don’t feel like it.

As a side note, I made the cakes pictured in support of the Alzheimer’s Society. It’s a worthy cause, and it’s a great way of raising money while eating cake. It’s a win-win really.

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I felt like cutting the chocolate ones differently ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (sue me)

Creamy Pasta with Chicken and Bacon

Do you like bacon? Cool.

You will need to buy or scavenge (Serves 4):

  • 250g Chicken Breast
  • 150g Smoked Bacon (back or streaky, your preference)
  • 375g Fusilli Pasta
  • 300g Double Cream
  • 1 Small White Onion
  • 200g Chestnut Mushrooms
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 60ml White Wine
  • 1 tsp Parsley (preferably fresh)

 

First things first, I should say that the above recipe is to only be used as a guide. This is a somewhat obvious statement, but I should let you know that most (all) chefs don’t weigh out ingredients for recipes like this one. You’ll see from the pictures below that I used slightly different ingredient amounts because I only need to cook for 2 people – you may need to adjust to suit your household.

Prepped Onions
Start by preparing all of the ingredients before you start cooking. As with most pasta dishes, you can get everything cooked in less time than it would take most people to chop vegetables.

Stick a pan of salted water on a high heat (you’ll need it at boiling point, so start this early on). You’ll then need to finely dice the onions, mushrooms, and garlic. If you can’t be bothered to chop the garlic, you can instead use a cheese grater to achieve a similar size. Stack the rashers of bacon on top of each other, cut into long, thin strips and finely dice this too. Back bacon would be better to use as there’s less fat to trim (I used leftover streaky bacon, so don’t judge). I’m not going to describe how to cut chicken, I hope you can figure this out on your own.

Place a large saucepan on a high heat, drizzle a little oil in the pan and wait. Once it starts to ‘smoke’, add your bacon in and cook until the fat renders down. Add in your chopped veg and meat then continue cooking until everything is adequately cooked through.

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Normally you would need to brown off your chicken, but as it’s cut small there’s no need to waste time on this step.

Once you’ve brought the pan of water up to boiling point, add in the dried pasta and cook per instruction on the pack, minus 2 minutes. Once the pasta is ready to come off the heat, run cold water over it to stop it from overcooking. Drain the pasta through a colander and reserve until you need it later on.

The next step is to deglaze the pan with the white wine. I went with a cheap Pinot Grigio that I bought from Sainsbury’s about 5 months ago – you wouldn’t be able to tell. Don’t get roped into buying expensive wines to cook with, the difference in quality is negligible after the alcohol is cooked out. Once the liquor has reduced, you’ll need to add in most of your cream. It’s worth reserving some in the event that your sauce ends up too thick, just add in extra if this is the case – it’s a lot easier to add than it is to take away.

Add in your parsley, and season with salt and a touch of black pepper if you wish. I used dried parsley for convenience’ sake, although fresh is always better. It’s worth noting that your cream sauce will become thicker once you add in the pasta because of the starch content, so keep it looser than you think you’ll need it at this stage.

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Note: If I find you sprinkling chopped parsley around the plate for decorative purposes, I will hunt you down.

To finish off, you’ll need to add your (now cooled) pasta into your sauce. Remember that it’s currently al dente, so you’ll need to reheat it for a couple of minutes to finish off the cooking process. Check your seasoning and make sure the pasta is cooked, then serve.

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Congratulations, you made a thing.