This is a short and sweet blog post. Short because I’ve got a tonne of design and magazine work on my desk craving for my attention and sweet because there’s a cake recipe involved.
Like a lot of kids who grew up in 1970’s Britain I’m not a huge fan of rhubarb. My Bajan Mum didn’t cook traditional English puddings so when I experienced my first school pud covered in lashings of creamy custard I was instantly smitten…that is of course until the day we had rhubarb and custard. And my first impressions?….What?… Why?!…. What the heck is this?! I made a mental note to self and learned to pass on pudding the next time it reared it’s sour although deceptively pretty pink head.
Fast forward more years than I care to mention and apart from the rare occasion when I dipped back into my childhood with the odd (sugar encrusted) rhubarb and custard sweet from the local pick ‘n mix I haven’t gone near rhubarb again. That is until a couple of years ago when Sam & I were at the Brighton Foodies Festival and came across a stall selling a rhubarb gin liquer. It may be that my palette has matured or perhaps that now as an adult I’m a regular gin drinker but even I was a convert. So this week when I was visiting a friend who’d been given a handful of homegrown rhubarb but no idea what to do with it the greedy cow in me thought, ‘well I hate the stuff but I’m not seeing that lot go to waste’. I did think of going the rhubarb gin liquer route but to be honest I didn’t have the patience to wait for the results so instead, with the memory of that morning’s hardcore 500-calorie-burning spin class still in my head, of course I decided cake was the way to go.
I decided on Sarah Cook’s Rhubarb Crumble Cake on the BBC Good Food website. Ths was mainly because I already had every ingredient in my store cupboard but having made it I’d probably tweak it by adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the main cake mix rather than just to the crumble topping. I also thought, as I was munching my way through my second slice, that given my normal disdain for rhubarb that I’d like to try it with other fruit like raspberries or even pears.
So here my lovelies is the original recipe. As Sam remarked when he tasted it, it’s more of a grown up cake as it’s not overly sweet which counters the sour of the rhubarb perfectly.
That said next time I get offered fresh rhubarb I think I’ll be making the gin liquer…
Rhubarb crumble cake by Sarah Cook (the link to the original recipe is here)
Prep time :25 MINS
Cooking time :1 HR, 15 MINS (Mine took an extra 10 mins so check after an hour and cover if necessary)
Number of portions: Cuts into 8 slices (to be honest this depends on how greedy you are)
250g pack of butter, softened
250g golden caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs
300g plain flour, plus 7 tbsp
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
300g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and finely sliced
Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3 and grease and line the base and sides of a deep 20cm round cake tin with a little of the butter and baking parchment. Put the butter, 250g sugar and vanilla into a big mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy with an electric whisk.
Beat in the eggs, one by one, then fold in the 300g flour and baking powder. Spoon out 85g of the batter, and stir the extra 7 tbsp flour and cinnamon into this with a cutlery knife so it becomes crumbly.
Fold the rhubarb into the rest of the cake batter and scrape into the prepared tin. Scatter over the crumble mix followed by 1 tbsp sugar. Bake for 1 hr 15 mins, until a skewer poked in comes out clean – you’ll need to lay a sheet of foil on top after an hour if the cake is browning too much. Cool for 15 mins in the tin, then finish on a wire rack.
In yesterday’s Skinny parsnips post I promised that if it wasn’t a complete disaster and tasted ok that I’d give you the dauphinoise recipe from our Sunday dinner. Well thankfully it tasted pretty good with enough leftover to serve another meal so for those of you who’d like to try it here’s what I did;
150g sweet potato
160ml full fat creme fraiche
260m semi skimmed milk
2 – 3 cloves of garlic depending on how strong you like it
fresh or dried thyme
50g Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper (optional)
First of all peel and thinly slice the vegetables (around 3mm if poss). Now I mentioned trying to do this with a mandolin to start with but if, like me, you value your fingertips take your time and use a knife. It may seem brutal but this is my weapon of choice in the kitchen.
Crush the garlic, grate the cheese and set to one side. Put the milk and creme fraiche into pan large enough to add all the veg (if not you’ll have to do it in two batches). Gently bring the liquid up to the boil – now at this point I have to admit that I had a bit of a wobble as mine started to curdle. Given that I didn’t have enough to start over I decided to strain it over a bowl thinking that I’d use the liquid and throw away the solids but as it then seemed to come back together and more importantly didn’t taste like it was going to kill anyone I thought ‘sod it’, put it back in the saucepan and carried on. Add the garlic and the veg and simmer for about 5 mins. Taste the liquid (which is creamy and garlicky by now) then season with salt to taste and black pepper if you like. Next layer the veg in an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the thyme in between. Lastly pour over the leftover liquid and sprinkle with the cheese, and if you like a crusty top just add more!
Bake in the over for around 1 – 1 and a half hours but just check after the first hour that the top doesn’t burn or that it doesn’t dry out.
I feel a bit of a cheat calling this post ‘That Sunday feeling’ given that I’m writing in on dreary Monday morning but I’m sure you’ll forgive me. Yesterday I awoke in the same foodie mood as on Saturday when I made the baharat spice blend. I had planned to spend the morning prepping lunch so I wasn’t running around when our guests arrived or doing too much last minute cooking in our horrendously laid out kitchen. (Don’t get me started on THAT kitchen). However that didn’t happen of course, my plans went completely out the window and although she doesn’t know, it’s all Helen Graves’ fault.
Helen is a food blogger and writer based in South London and I came across her Food Stories blog when I was looking for some last minute tips on cooking the lamb for yesterday’s lunch. (As it was I ‘winged it’ when it came to the lamb and you know what? It was absolutely delicious and went down a storm see below*). I was however running around at the last minute because I spent 2 hours, cup of coffee in hand, reading Helen’s brilliant blog which is funny. Not, slightly, wry smile at the side of the mouth, faintly humourous funny. I mean laugh out loud, ‘I know exactly what you mean’ funny (particularly the Craft Beer Pub Rant which you can read here ).
So I know it’s now Monday but if, like me, you love cooking and unpretentious food writing with a wicked sense of humour then it’s well worth a read.
See you later
*After rubbing the lamb with the baharat blend and leaving it overnight I added around 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses, loads of onions (or as Helen would say ‘shit loads’), half a cup of water and a lamb stock cube to a roasting pan, then covered in foil and slow roasted it for 4 hours. Get in contact if you’d like more details
As it’s a Saturday, like many other people, whose stomachs rule their heads I’m thinking of food. I’ve pretty much given up on my longtime favourite viewing Saturday Kitchen as it still hasn’t recovered from the loss of James Martin and continues to be hosted by an array of (albeit) brilliant chefs none of whom can quite lose that ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look when reading from an autocue. (Mind you I’m not saying I could do any better).
Having feasted on a brunch of bacon & pancakes with maple syrup and blueberries (yes it does work) my mind is turning to the next meal, well actually it’s tomorrow’s lunch. We’re having a couple of close friends over and I thought I’d add some Middle Eastern flavour. So after flicking through my collection of cookery books I’m making baharat, an Arabic spice blend which I’ll rub on a shoulder of lamb that will be slow roasted and served with…well I haven’t quite got that far.
Whilst I was preparing the various ingredients I reflected on who it was that first came up with this mixture of flavours and how long it must have taken to get it just right. There’s black pepper for punch, paprika for sweet smokiness plus cumin, coriander, cardamon, cloves and nutmeg, a spice that always reminds me of my Mum’s Bajan cooking. It may not be the perfect blend but it’s a perfect blend – one of many mixes of balanced elements that hits just the right note. As well as cooking I’ll be knitting a few more rows of Sam’s hat, watching TV (not Tom Hardy’s brilliant Taboo we plan to record them all and binge watch it when it’s finished) and perhaps even indulge in a glass of red wine.
So, like me and my baharat I hope you’ve got a variety of indulgent enjoyable and/or delicious things planned this weekend.
Right, now the baharat’s done I’m off to shop for laminate flooring….
Now just so you know from the outset I’m not claiming this recipe as my own. In fact I found it whilst trawling Pinterest for cake recipes to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary and whilst I’m more than happy to stuff my face with cake of almost any description Mr Sloan is definitely more picky. 10 years is a pretty good milestone for any marriage but ours has gone through LOTS of ups & downs and the part of the ceremony that mentioned ‘in sickness and in health’ has sadly kept rearing it’s ugly head. (No craniotomy pun intended). So when planning a little get together I wanted a surprise centrepiece that would sort of sum us up in cake form and, as any of our friends know how we love a good G&T, this cake ticked a number of boxes;
G&T is our favourite tipple
it’s definitely an adult cake
it’s not overly sweet
it lent itself to being pimped up
(You may also be pleased to know that it’s made with rice flour which makes it gluten free which is an added bonus if you’re gluten intolerant).
Now despite being a greedy cow and watching every episode of the Great British Bake Off I didn’t feel confident scaling this cake up by myself (blame it on the still wonky brain) and I also knew that if I was going to surprise Mr Sloan there’s no way I could bake it at home. So, I turned to my close friend Lucy (a trained chef) to give me some tips, give me a lend of her oven and stash the cake until needed. The original recipe by Victoria Glass can be found on the Great British Chefs website here and whilst I’m not going to re-publish all the ingredients here I will let you know what we did differently.
The original recipe calls for a 22cm diameter savarin tin but as ours was for a centrepiece we made two cakes – each 3 times the quantity of cake batter – and baked in a 30 cm diameter tin. Neither Lucy or I had worked with rice flour before and whilst the recipe called for an ‘all in one’ method which made it easier the texture of the finished sponge was a little weird and completely unlike a sponge made with regular wheat flour. When the cakes were still warm we drizzled them with the syrup then allowed them to cool completely. If your sponge isn’t that deep just watch how much you use, you don’t want to make the cake too soggy. Now at this point I should say that we put the sponges in the freezer for a week because we were making in advance, it freezes really well by the way.
Around a week later we were ready to make the cake up so we sliced each of the cakes through the centre to make 4 layers then lavished 3 of them with lemon curd and Chantilly cream and topped them off with the 4th layer. We did find that the recipe for the icing produced a really runny consistency that wasn’t gin enough for our tastes so feel free to up the icing sugar and the gin to suit your own tastes. Just be careful that the icing isn’t too runny, you want it to sit on top – Lucy made me an icing bag so that I could pipe rather than drizzle the icing over it. You can leave the decoration at that or, as I did go all ‘cheffy’ and pimp your cake up. I decided I wanted to sink a bottle of 10 year old Tanqureray into the cake and decorate it with the fondant icing flowers to echo the dress I wore on our big day 10 years ago. So, at our last stitch and bitch we set about making. Now when I say ‘we’ I actually mean Lucy, Lucy, Katie, Clare and Wendy. I had a sudden attack of ‘diva’ and kept saying ‘that’s not what I want’ whilst unable to make any useful flowers of my own. (I blame the brain but someone had the cheek to mention post-marriage bridezilla, what a bloody cheek).
I love how the cake turned out, and more importantly so did Sam. Having sneaked around for 2 weeks (and after telling a few porkies about where I was going) it looked & tasted fantastic thanks to my wonderful friends.