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Swedish Almond Cake

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So we’ve neglected our blogging duties for a bit (a rather long bit) but we’re back now. Baking loud and baking proud. And to start off the new years baking proceedings I present to you the Swedish Almond cake. Now essentially this is a vanilla sponge with sugary sweet almonds on top. But its not a sponge like we know it. This version is rather eggy and low on butter. It doesn’t taste much different to the normal sponge, maybe slightly heavier? I think its just as good though. But it’s the topping that really makes it. Sweet, crunchy, delicious almonds. I’m a sucker for almonds in a cake.

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I got this recipe from my ‘Rachel Allen’s Cake Diaries’ and followed the recipe exactly. See below:

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggs
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 150 g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 75 g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

For the topping

  • 50g butter
  • 100g flaked almonds
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp plain flour
  • 3 tbsp double or regular cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease the base and sides of a 23 x 6cm springform or loose-bottomed cake tin with butter and dust with flour – if you’re using a spring-form tin, make sure the base is upside down, so there’s no lip and the cake can slide off easily when cooked.
  2. Using a handheld electric beater or an electric food mixer, whisk together the eggs and the sugar for 5-7 minutes, or until thick and mousse-like.
  3. Sift in the flour and baking powder and pour in the vanilla extract, milk and melted butter, then fold everything in until combined. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out moist but not totally clean, as the mixture will still need another 10 minutes of cooking. Increase the heat to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  4. For the topping: Just before the 30-35 minutes are up, make the topping. Place the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. When it has melted, add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil, allowing the mixture to bubble away for 1 minute.
  5. After the cake has been cooking for the first 30-35 minutes, remove it from the oven and spoon the almond mixture evenly over the top. Place it back in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the topping is golden.
  6. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Using a small, sharp knife, loosen around the edges and carefully remove the sides of the tin before placing the cake (still on the base of the tin) on a wire rack to cool down fully.

This cake is seriously tasty. Even my brother loved it and he’s no cake fan. If you like almonds and love cake, this is the one for you.

Sarah x

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Luxury mince pies

Mince pies

Seasons greetings all! The festive period is approaching. Some may say it’s already here. If you’re a home baker then it’s definitely time  to be thinking about what you are going to bake this Christmas. Hurray! Maybe you’ve already started.

Mince pies are a traditional choice, dating back hundreds of years, and there are many possibilities to try for the pastry, the filling and the topping. They haven’t always been sweet though and were once filled with meat and suet along with fruits, spices and alcohol. Here’s a few traditions, apparently, which I read about on the internet so they must be true:

  • Only stir the mincemeat mixture clockwise because stirring it counterclockwise is bad luck for the upcoming year.
  • While eating the first mince pie of the season, it’s traditional to make a wish.
  • Always eat mince pies in silence.
  • Eating a mince pie each day of the 12 days of Christmas is good luck for the upcoming year.

Not sure about eating them in silence, but that last one sounds pretty good to me.

The internet also provided me with many options for mince pie recipes and I’ve mixed a couple together for these particular pies.

This isn’t the quickest recipe, but it doesn’t take too long and the results are definitely worth it. The cranberries and brandy in the mincemeat, the orange zest in the pastry, and the sweet and creamy vanilla almond topping make these mince pies extra special. Here’s how to bake them (approx 24):

Ingredients for the pastry (Yes, I did make my own pastry. Smug. I did use a food processor though. Is that cheating?)

  • 200g very cold butter, cubed
  • 400g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • zest 2 small oranges
  • 2 tbsp milk

Ingredients for the filling

  • Approximately 400g mincemeat
  • Approximately 85g cranberries (I used frozen ones)
  • 100ml brandy

Ingredients for the vanilla almond topping

  • 125g salted butter, slightly softened
  • 125g icing sugar plus extra for dusting
  • 25g plain flour
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 1/2 vanilla pod, split down the centre and seeds scraped out
  • 2 eggs

Method

  • Pastry – Whizz the butter, flour and ground almonds in a food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs. Pulse in the sugar and half the orange zest. Add the milk and keep whizzing until a rough dough comes together. (Mine sort of came together, but I had to take it out of the processor and knead it for a bit.) To make by hand – rub the butter and flour together with your fingertips until they look like breadcrumbs; stir in the almonds, sugar and orange zest; then stir in the milk and bring it all together in a dough.
  • Tip onto the work surface, press together and shape into a smooth disc, kneading once or twice if you need to. Chill for 15 minutes. This can be made up to 3 days ahead and chilled, or frozen for up to 1 month.

Mince pies pastry

  • Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.
  • Prepare the filling – While the pastry is chilling, mix the mincemeat, cranberries and brandy together to soak.
  • Make the topping – Use an electric beater to whisk the butter and icing sugar together for a few minutes. Stir in the flour, ground almonds and vanilla seeds. Beat in the eggs gently, then continue to whisk for 4 or 5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy again. (Mine didn’t go light and fluffy again and was a bit runny, but it still worked.)
  • Prepare the cases – On a lightly floured work surface roll out the dough to about the thickness of a £1 coin, (some of mine were a little thicker as I didn’t want to keep rolling the pastry in case it broke apart!). Using an 8cm cutter (I used a glass), stamp out 24 circles and use to line the holes of a bun tray. (To avoid the pastry breaking push it down gently into the tin.)
  • Assemble the pies – Spoon the filling into the cases (I poured the filling through a sieve first to drain off the excess juice to avoid a soggy bottom!). Then place a dollop of almond topping on each one. Not too much as it spreads when cooking, but try to cover the top of the mincemeat.

Mince pies filled cases

  • Bake the pies for 18 to 20 minutes until golden.

Make a wish (if it’s your first mince pie of the season) and enjoy. For extra decadence, serve with ice-cream, double cream or vanilla custard. Maybe even all three. Well, it is Christmas.

Claire

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Blueberry upside down cake

The upside down cake has to be one of the easiest and tastiest cakes to bake. Having decided to indulge in a bit of baking I found a great recipe for a blueberry version in one of my cook books ‘Step-by-step baking’ by Caroline Bretherton (highly recommended by the way, it has everything in it with yummy photos). I managed to convince myself, again, that it was healthy. What? *looks shifty* It contains fruit! Plus it’s purple. Hurrah! If you would like to know how I baked this cake then read on…

Blueberry upside down cake

Ingredients

  • 150g (5.5oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 150g (5.5oz) caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla extract (not essence. Never essence)
  • 100g (3.5oz) self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 50g (1.75oz) ground almonds
  • 250g (9oz) fresh blueberries

I used an 8 inch loose bottom cake tin.

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F/Gas 4) and place a baking sheet inside. Grease the cake tin and line the base with baking paper.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (use an electric whisk to save time!)
  • Gradually beat in the eggs and vanilla extract, whisking well between each addition, until well combined.
  • Sift together the flour and baking powder, then add the ground almonds, and fold into the batter.
  • Tip the blueberries into the tin so that they cover the whole base and spread the batter gently over them.
  • Bake the cake on the baking sheet in the centre of the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch. A skewer should come out clean.
  • Leave to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tin. Now for the fun bit…place a plate on top of the tin, turn everything upside down and then carefully lift off the tin. Ta-dah! Blueberry upside down cake.
  • Eat immediately.

Claire x