Apple and elderflower cake

I can’t get enough of elderflower in the warm weather and this juicy apple cake is yet another delightful way to enjoy what has become a rather British taste of summertime. I would suggest enjoying a slice of this cake with a cup of black Earl Grey. Too delicious for words!

Ingredients:

8oz butter

8oz sugar

4 eggs

8oz self-raising flour

3 apples, roughly chopped

Icing sugar

Elderflower cordial

Dried elderflower petals

Method:

As with most of my cake recipes, soften the butter and cream in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, and then mix in the flour (make sure you don’t overmix, it’s important to keep as much air in as possible). Fold in the chopped apples. I like to keep the skin on for texture. Bake in a greased and lined loaf tin on 150 for around 40 minutes or until golden brown. Don’t forget to do the skewer test to make sure it’s cooked all the way though!

To make the drizzle add a couple of capfuls of elderflower cordial to half a mug of icing sugar and stir vigorously. You may need to add a tea spoon or two of boiled water to help it on its way – I would advise you to add a tiny amount at a time or you might find you need to add more icing sugar. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake and lightly sprinkle the dried elderflower petals on the top. This pretty loaf cake deserves to be served on your finest china!

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Cheers to cake!

I love working with fruits and flowers all year round but there’s something about summer that makes me want to make and bake with them all the more. My birthday seems so far back now (although it was only in May) but I’m still thinking about the beautifully rustic Pimms-inspired sandwich cake I made for my party. Yes, I still have a party, even at my age! Although at my age the cake is allowed to include my favourite tipple…

I wanted a summery cake, something that summed up British summertime, so I reached for the Pimm’s. Now I have to admit that I was originally thinking of the original – Pimm’s No 1 – but in my haste I hadn’t realised that I’d run out of this at home. However, what I did have was Pimm’s Special Edition Blackberry and Elderflower, which is super summery and just delicious! And recently I’ve been doing a lot of baking with blackberries and, in particular, elderflower, and it seemed perfect to combine these two delicious flavours. And the final magic ingredient, which I love to add to so many of my recipes, alcohol, made this the perfect summer birthday cake!

Ingredients

12oz butter

120z sugar

6 eggs

12 oz self-raising flour

One punnet of blackberries (seven put aside for decoration)

For the buttercream:

A generous knob of butter

Pimm’s Special Edition Blackberry and Elderflower

Icing sugar

For the drizzle:

Pimm’s Special Edition Blackberry and Elderflower

Icing sugar

 

Method

Cream the butter (I always find this easiest if the butter is at room temperature when you begin) and then add the sugar, followed by the eggs one at a time. Then add the blackberries to the mix before sifting in the flour. Share the mix equally across two 8” cake tins (I use the ones with the removable bottoms). Bake the cake for around 40 minutes or until golden. As always, I’d suggest you do the skewer test to make sure the cake is cooked all the way through.

To make the buttercream icing cream the knob of butter, adding icing sugar a spoon at a time. Add a dash of Pimm’s. Keep adding and mixing until you have a beautiful purple buttercream. Spoon the buttercream onto the bottom cake and sandwich the top half on it. I usually squish it down a bit; don’t worry if it oozes out a bit, I always think it adds to the homemade look and makes it appear all the more tempting!

To make the drizzle mix a few large spoonfuls of icing sugar and a capful or two of the Pimm’s and mix until you have a nice drizzle. Pour this over the whole cake, letting it dribble down the edges. Finish the cake with a small handful of blackberries in the centre of the cake. I also dusted the cake with some dried elderflower to finish it off. Now, do you enjoy this with a pot of tea or with a refreshing glass of Pimm’s? Cheers!

Chocolate orange Battenberg cake

This cake is for my Dad. He’s always loved Battenberg cake and the smell of an orange being peeled doesn’t remind me of him for no reason! So I decided to bring the two together for this delicious chocolate orange Battenberg cake.

Ingredients
Chocolate cake
6oz butter
6oz sugar
3 eggs
4oz self raising flour
2oz cocoa powder

Orange cake
6oz butter
6oz sugar
3 eggs
6oz self raising flour
The zest of one orange
Orange food colouring

Thin cut marmalade or marmalade
Marzipan
Icing sugar for dusting

Method
To make the chocolate cake:
Cream the butter and then add the sugar. Add the three eggs, one at a time, and mix well to give the mixture airy volume. Sift in the flour and cocoa and mix, but not for long (I usually mix for no more than 10 seconds building from a slow setting to the highest within that time). Put in a greased and lined tray bake tin and bake on 150 for around 30 minutes or until it passes the skewer test.

To make the orange cake:
Cream the butter and then add the sugar. Add the three eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Sift in the flour and then fold in the orange zest and orange food colouring. If you want to give it a bit of extra oomph add a capful of orange essence. Put into a greased and lined tray bake tin and bake on 150 for around 30 minutes or until it passes the skewer test.

Once the cakes are cooked and cooled, cut them both into four long strips. Build your Battenberg cake by placing an orange strip on top of a chocolate strip that you’ve already painted with the marmalade. Place next to another chocolate and orange ‘bunkbed’ cake, with marmalade between both – you need to make sure you’ve created a checkerboard effect rather than stripes! Roll out the marzipan on a dusting of icing sugar making sure you’ve rolled the icing into a size that will fully wrap around your stacked cakes. Paint the marzipan with the marmalade (I find it helps to warm the marmalade in the microwave first to get it to spread a bit thinner) and place the stacked cakes in the middle. Fold the marzipan up, overlapping slightly. You can seal the marzipan with either some marmalade or for something a little bit boozy – you know me, I just can’t resist! – run some Cointreau along the edge before sealing. Finally, roll your Battenberg in the icing sugar, making sure each side is lightly coated. Slice and enjoy!

A fine and dandy candy Christmas cake

If you’re not a fan of fruit cake or winter spices, this is a great Christmas cake alternative…

Ingredients

12oz butter

12 oz sugar

6 eggs

12oz self-raising flour or 9oz self-raising flour and 3oz cocoa powder

For the icing:

6oz butter at room temperature

12oz icing sugar

Peppermint essence

Milk (a dash)

Candy canes to decorate

 

Method

Cream the butter until soft and then add the sugar. Add the eggs, one by one, and mix until the wet mixture is even. Sift in the flour and mix again but not for long as you don’t want to beat the air out of it. Put the mixture into two 8” tins that you’ve greased and lined and pop in the oven on 150 for around 30 minutes or until golden. Remember to make sure the cakes pass the skewer test!

To make the icing cream the butter and add the icing sugar and peppermint essence. Add the milk a little bit at a time until you’re happy with the consistency. Mix and then mix some more! You’re your icing is light and fluffy spread a layer on top of the first cake and place the second cake on top. Cover the whole cake with the remaining icing and decorate with the candy canes – I chose to crush the candy canes and sprinkle on the top and around the edge but you can be as creative as you want with. Cut a slice and make a Christmas wish and you never know, it may come true…

Fairytale fantastic

And so it happened – last month I turned… well, let’s just say I had a ‘significant birthday’. And as per any significant birthday I thought I’d see it in with a stylish midlife crisis!

Bunny and fairy queen in the enchanted forest

Being an eternal child, Fairy tale fantastic seemed like the perfect theme. A few months ago I went to the bluebell woods where Palmer Photography London had photographed me and turned me into a fairy. I used this as inspiration for the whole party – setting up a Fairy tale Fantastic room with floral garlands, a lit-up cherry tree with life-like birds, an enchanted forest photo booth with fairy wings, flower crowns and rabbit ears, and a buffet that was fit for a midsummer night’s dream.

I’d spent the previous day making olive and parmesan dragonflies and butterflies – these proved to be so delicious that not all of them made it to the party! Continuing the enchanted forest theme I made bunny shape brie and red onion tarts, apple and goats cheese scones, love-heart marshmallow kebabs with brownies and strawberries, and cupcakes – both gluten-free – rose and pistachio (using real rose petals, of course) and chocolate and Bailey’s cupcakes with magic star dust. The centrepiece cake, which was fit for a fairy princess, was one of my two-tiered cakes (Pimms and gin & tonic) decorated with natural flowers.

I really love working with a theme, it brings so many opportunities to be creative and have fun with food, decoration and the dress code. The only thing that was missing was Prince Charming… for now!

A special cake for a special friend; chocolate and lavender cake

Me, with Helen, aged 18

Helen and I have been friends since our first year of secondary school. We first met when, after our last class of our first day (music), I asked her if she was getting the bus home. She was, and being bus buddies, it was a question that cemented our friendship. Twenty-eight years later and we’re still good friends and I am proud Godmother to her beautiful nine-year-old daughter.

This year Helen reached a landmark age and I was devastated that I couldn’t go to the surprise birthday dinner her husband had lovingly organised (I was off at the O2 dancing to all things country!). However, there was one thing I could do for her – make her a beautiful birthday cake to remember.

Chocolate and lavender cake

As you may know by now, I love to work with fruits and flowers and my initial plan had been to make Helen my delicious pistachio and rose cake (that’s a recipe I fully intend to share one of these days!). But I’m afraid that foolish me didn’t check the cupboard for rose water and so I had to improvise (sorry Helen!). For me, it’s when I have to improvise that I come up with my finest recipes. I had lavender but wanted to do something a bit more indulgent for Helen’s special birthday, especially as I wasn’t going to be there. So I decided to put lavender with rich chocolate. And thankfully it worked a treat! I’ve since made the cake a couple of times in the shop and at home and the noises that come from people when they taste it – well, what can I say? Simply tastetastic!

Happy birthday Helen, here’s to another 28 years of friendship and more x

 

Chocolate and lavender cake

Ingredients

12oz butter

120z sugar

6 eggs

9oz self-raising flour

3oz cocoa powder

100g dark chocolate, chopped

For the icing

3oz butter

1lb icing sugar

100ml milk

Lavender essence

Culinary lavender for decoration

Method

Cream the butter and add the sugar. Mix in the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder and stir in the chopped chocolate. Transfer into two 8” tins and bake in the oven (I bake mine at 150 for 30 minutes) until they pass the skewer test.

For the icing, cream the butter and add the icing sugar a bit at a time. Add the milk, again, a bit at a time until you get the consistency you want. Mix in the lavender essence – I use six drops but it’s personal taste, so add two drops at a time until you’re happy with the flavour.

Once the cakes are cooked and cooled off, sandwich together with the lavender icing and ice the top of the cake. Decorate with the dried lavender to make it look as pretty as it is tasty!

Roses and raspberries: a December wedding cake

One Friday in December my friend Mary sprung some surprise news on me: “I’m getting married on Monday!”

This was a surprise to me because, despite having known Mary for over 15 years I had no clue that she and her partner weren’t already married. What came next was an even bigger shock: “Can you make me a wedding cake please?”

What an honour to be asked to make such a special cake – the centrepiece of any wedding breakfast – but only having a couple of days’ notice, combined with having new staff to train in the tea rooms and already having other commitments that week did make this a bit of a challenge, but as I’ve said before, I do like rising to a challenge!

marys-wedding-5Mary loves anything chocolatey so we decided on a large chocolate and raspberry sandwich. It’s always a good idea to choose a contrasting flavour for your second cake, rather than something similar, so that you’re catering for wider tastes, so we chose a lemon buttercream sandwich for the top tier. Mary’s colour scheme was burgundy, perfect for a December wedding, so we decorated the cake with fresh flowers in white and dark red, and also used some lovely dark foliage and sparkly pine cones. And sitting on the very top of the cake was some miniature ‘Just Married’ bunting.

marys-wedding-2To accompany the main cake I also made some matching cupcakes – chocolate with vanilla buttercream icing topped with raspberries and lemon buttercream topped with red rose petals. The guests really enjoyed the cakes and the bride was thrilled with what I’d made for her. It really was a lovely cake for a lovely couple!

Going bananas for cake!

Banana loaves are, as we all know, a great way to use up squishy brown bananas that have maybe seen better days. But I find they can be a great way to use up other fruits or other sweet foods.

The secret ingredient I use in my banana loaves is clotted cream. It adds richness to the cake and prevents the loaf from becoming too dry. With such a wet mix it does mean that you may have to bake it for a bit longer (top tip – cover the cake with foil for the second half of the bake to prevent the top from becoming too dark) but it’s worth it – and the extra calories!

Today I’m going to share not one but two of my favourites with you. Banana and pear is a particular favourite of mine; I love cooking with pears, whether savoury or sweet. I stumbled upon using pears in a banana loaf when I had some that were on the turn and I just didn’t fancy making a plain pear cake and I had bananas that needed to be used up so why not put them in the same cake? And it worked really well! So it’s now my go-to recipe when I want to make a banana loaf with a fresh twist.

In winter though, don’t we just want a bit of chocolate in almost everything we eat?! So today’s banana loaf included a good measure of roughly chopped dark chocolate. This makes the cake feel that bit more indulgent, especially if served with a generous blob of cream!

 

Banana loaf with pear

Ingredients

4oz butter

4oz sugar

2 eggs

1 banana, mushed

1 pear, finely chopped

1 tspn vanilla extract

4 dessert spoons of clotted cream

8oz self-raising flour

 

Method

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, followed by the vanilla extract, clotted cream and banana. Stir in the chopped pear before sifting in the flour and mixing on a high setting very quickly. Transfer into a greased and lined loaf tin and bake on 150c for 40 minutes. You may need to cover the cake with foil and bake further (I check at 10 minute intervals) until the cake passes the skewer test.

 

Banana loaf with chocolate

Ingredients

4oz butter

4oz sugar

2 eggs

2 bananas, mushed

100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

1 tspn vanilla extract

4 dessert spoons of clotted cream

8oz self-raising flour

 

Method

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, followed by the vanilla extract, clotted cream and bananas. Stir in the chocolate before sifting in the flour and mixing on a high setting very quickly. Transfer into a greased and lined loaf tin and bake on 150c for 40 minutes. You may need to cover the cake with foil and bake further (I check at 10 minute intervals) until the cake passes the skewer test.

 

A fond taste of summer

This week the cold weather has well and truly arrived and at Willow Bough Tea Rooms we’ve been missing the summer. So we were inspired to make this delicious lemon and coconut cake which takes us back to the sunny days of summer not too long ago! And our customers agreed that it was a much-needed slice of sunshine served with a nice cup of tea!

Lemon and coconut cake

Ingredients

12oz butter

12oz sugar

6 eggs

12oz self-raising flour

One lemon (zest and juice)

3 desert spoons of desiccated coconut

Icing sugar

Method

Cream together the butter and sugar, adding the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and then add the lemon zest and 2 desert spoons of desiccated coconut. My top tip for keeping a cake light and fluffy is to not over-mix at this stage, a quick blast on a high setting should do the job just fine! Bake in greased and lined cake tins (I use 8” tins) on 150 for around 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure you do the skewer test (insert a skewer in the cake, if it comes out clean the cake is ready) before cooling the cake!

Once the cake is cooled sandwich together with the lemon curd. Make the icing with the lemon juice and icing sugar and drizzle over the cake, topping with the remaining coconut. Enjoy with a fruit tea or a traditional cuppa!

Anyone for tennis?!

It’s that time of year… if you listen carefully enough you can hear the tap of the ball and the polite clapping, you can smell the grass in the air and taste the strawberries. Yes, it’s Wimbledon fortnight, the two weeks of the year when the London borough of Merton covers every last inch of itself in purple and green bunting, tennis attire appears in almost every shop window and tennis fever overcomes the borough’s residents – both permanent and those here just for the tournament.

As the final approaches many of us locals will be heading off to Henman Hill/Murray Mount with picnics to watch the finals. And we’ll need something refreshing to take with us… We’re now doing picnics and takeaway cream teas at the Willow Bough Tea Rooms (Wimbledon’s traditional tea room) but you can also do your own. Here are some of my tips for enjoying a Wimbledon picnic with a twist…

As we all know, the Wimbledon weather can be unpredictable – it’ll either be a total downpour or a scorcher, so it’s good to be prepared for both. If it’s a scorcher it’ll be important to drink plenty of fluids. There are lots of delicious bottled and canned drinks out there – at Willow Bough we especially like the San Pellegrino and Fentimans drinks. If you’re looking for something healthier and cheaper I really like to jazz up plain water with fruit. Just pop a couple of pieces of fruit, such as strawberries, or slices of lemon or orange, or some mint leaves into a bottle of water. It makes keeping hydrated taste so much better!

Strawberries and cream are a Wimbledon tradition, and for the adults I like to give this a twist by soaking the strawberries in vodka first. Strawberries are porous and absorb liquid like a sponge, so you won’t need to soak them for too long to enjoy strawberries with a kick!

Scones are so easy to make, and I like to add a twist by adding strawberries to them. You can either used fresh strawberries that you dry yourself in the oven or you can use already-dried strawberries. Please note that using already dried strawberries IS NOT CHEATING! Enjoy your strawberry scones with strawberry jam (I highly recommend Jam Packed Preserves strawberry extra jam, available to buy in Willow Bough) and clotted cream. I would say that you need to make sure you eat your picnic quickly before the clotted cream goes off in the sunshine, but I’m sure your scones will be so delicious this won’t be a problem!

Strawberry scones (makes 9)

Ingredients

350g self-raising flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

80g cold butter

175ml milk

3 tablespoons sugar

A generous handful of dried strawberries

Egg to glaze

Method

Sieve together the flour, salt and baking powder.

Using your fingertips, rub the cold butter into the flour until you have what looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and stir in the milk. Add the dried strawberries and use your hands to bring the mixture together into a dough.

Roll the dough out onto a floured surface and use a scone cutter to cut into rounds. Glaze the scones with beaten egg before baking at 150c for around 20 minutes or until golden.