Friday, June 4, 2010

Our baker’s dozen

I have to admit that with my slight autistic leanings I love writing lists. I do it all the time, for work, for home, for grocery shopping, for what I’d like to buy, plants, spices, cookie cutters. Oh dear! But one I’ve recently started is a baking recipe list to keep track of ones we do cook and how we rate them. There are over 200 cakes I’d like to try from our cook books, and we’ve barely cooked any of them. I admit we had a large bias towards one particular cook, and although we are moving on from our love affair with the domestic goddess in most cases, there are a few of her cakes that we do cook over and over. Last week it was my turn to bake a cake for the work morning tea roster. I tried to pick some new cakes to try. I ended up baking David Herbert’s lemon syrup cake (wasn’t on our list as it was in his book I’m borrowing from the library) and Nigella’s store cupboard chocolate orange cake. So my list writing wasn’t entirely successful: I didn’t pick a new recipe! What are our favourites, the ones we cook again and again? In no particular order here is our baker’s dozen of cakes:

1. Christmas cake- combination of Stephanie Alexander’s, Maggie Beer’s and Nigella’s recipes. We bake on average 5 Christmas cakes a year as we give most of them away. I love the spicy, fruity smell of the cake mixture pervading the house as they bake. They’re not difficult to prepare but do take some patience, as they take several hours to cook. If you rush the cake will be dry and overly browned. Whilst I mix up the batter, Rob carefully lines the tins with baking paper and wraps them in brown paper to help insulate them; also Maggie’s tip is to put a tray full of water in the oven to create a nice moist environment. As neither of us is overly fond of mixed peel we add a few tablespoons of our cumquat marmalade to the mix. We usually decorate them with plain white fondant icing- they look pretty but I actually peel it off to eat. Come to think of it, there’s a nicely maturing cake at home, only 6 months old, might have to try it soon!

2. Chocolate Guinness Cake – Nigella. A recent addition but a great textured chocolate cake, and any cake with cream cheese frosting has got to be a winner.

3. Upside down pear and almond cake- Ian Parmenter's recipe, we made a few of these recently with the Comice pear season.

4. Banana Bread- Nigella. A quick mix cake for those bananas that are looking a bit sad in the fruit bowl. Bananas walk a fine line in our house- I like them slightly under ripe, once they taste too much like a banana I can’t eat them (silly I know). Can also add choc chunks or brandy soaked sultanas.
5. Orange and almond cake- Claudia Roden. A classic - Rob’s trick is to pierce the oranges a few times with a skewer and then microwave them for a few minutes instead of boiling them for 2 hours. Perfect with Greek yoghurt.

6. Chocolate Cloud Cake-Nigella. A cake lightened by whipped egg whites. Rises impressively in the oven but sadly sinks once out. But then that’s what cream is for. A lovely combination of textures, crisp outer shell and mousse like interior.

7. Lemon syrup cake- David Herbert’s recipe is straight to the list. This cake has a serious lemon kick. Not only does it have lemon juice & rind in the mix, it is soaked once cooked with lemon syrup then topped with a covering of lemon icing. Sounds simple: it is.

8. Nutella cake-Nigella. One of those cakes moist with ground nuts- hazels in this case. With the chocolate and Nutella, this cake is for when you need chocolate.

9. Date and chocolate cake- Stephanie Alexander’s short recipe hides in her comprehensive tome, The Cook’s Companion. As she says- simple and very easy to make. With only 4 ingredients, it’s one to keep in mind as a dessert.

10. Store cupboard Chocolate Orange Cake-Nigella. A cake where the first step is melting chocolate and butter. Then mix in a jar of marmalade (cumquat of course), or raspberry, cherry (below) or apricot jam, or Armagnac soaked prunes. Topped with ganache another special chocolate cake.

11. Persian Love Cake- A cake featured in Gourmet Traveller – a reader request for a recipe from Qöm. After combining almond meal, raw and brown sugar and butter, half of the mix is pressed into the base of the pan. To the remaining mix add a few eggs, Greek yoghurt and a serious amount of freshly ground nutmeg. Pour this over the base top with some chopped pistachios and bake. Heaven.

12. Gingerbread-Nigella, I know yet another Nigella recipe. Her gingerbread is a favourite topped with lemon icing. Fudgy and dark, very addictive. It doesn’t last long in our house.

13. Apple and almond cake-Nigella. You may have realised by now, we quite like almond meal cakes. Another moist cake, and as it has fruit in it, Rob considers it a health food!

What is your favourite cake recipe?


steve said...

Lovely post Hazel & thanks for the links.
Thanks you also for your kind words on my blog. I'm just going fallow for a while!

Hazel said...

Hi Steve, glad to know you're still out there! Totally understand a need to have a break for a bit. Rob and I will hopefully come visit RVL soon. Goodluck with the big Country Style lunch this week!

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