Sunday, 26 January 2014

Blood Orange and Almond Upside Down Cake

Is it still January? Still? Sheesh. 

As it drags its weary, broke, drizzly self to a close, you can see why most holidays are sold during this most dismal of long, long months. Warm seas, golden beaches, temperatures in the twenties... Pass me last year's sunscreen, a few Euros and my passport; I've a flight to catch. 

Even my standard tried-n-tested January defence (hibernating under the duvet with a family sized bag of Maltesers and a good book) stands absolutely no chance against a glossy travel agent's brochure advertising "...sparkling blue seas, never ending sunshine and a staggeringly beautiful coastline" (genuine quote!). 

I needed to make a cake equivalent. And my sugarcraft skills are most certainly not up to a direct replica of the latest Thomas Cook publication. 

That's where these blood oranges come in. This tart orange with its distinctive, bright, crimson flesh brings a little of the Mediterranean to the kitchen at the sharp end of winter.  Piercing the thick skin is a delight as the hidden vibrant, fiery flesh is revealed. And when presented in an Upside Down Cake each caramelised slice of orange practically resembles a golden sun. I just need a glass of sangria and my sunglasses.

Blood Orange Upside Down Cake 

For the Oranges:
2 medium blood oranges, sliced thinly
200g castor sugar
100ml water
1 vanilla pod 

For the cake:
225g butter
200g caster sugar
4 beaten eggs
100g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
150g plain flour
Tbsp or two of milk, if needed

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/360F/Gas Mark 4. Thoroughly grease a 23cm round springform cake tin. 
2. Prepare the oranges: place the orange slices, sugar, water and the vanilla pod in a large saucepan  and simmer for ten-fifteen minutes until the oranges softened. Place at the bottom of the cake tin, overlapping the slices
3. For the cake: Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs mixture. Fold in the ground almonds, baking powder and flour, adding a tbsp or two of milk to loosen the mixture if needed. 
4. Spread the cake mixture over the oranges and bake for 40 minutes or until a cakes skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes in the tin before carefully inverting the cake onto a plate.

Baker's notes...

  • Not the season for blood oranges? Any orange will do! 
  • It is worth placing the cake tin on a baking tray when placing in the oven to avoid any juices spilling onto the floor of the oven and an entire afternoon clearing it up
  • With thanks to OXO UK who sent me a very clever angled measuring jug and oven thermometer way back at the very beginning of the winter to try out,  both of which have proven invaluable to my baking ever since. Afterall, baking is a science requiring accurate measurements and temperatures as much as it is a scrumptious treat to banish the winter blues

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Spiced Parsnip, Apple and Walnut Muffins

If I was ever to own a food shop it would have to be a greengrocer. I'd eat all the profits of a bakery. Ditto a sweet shop. In truth, I will own up to the latter probably happening. A short spell as a teenager in the early '90s working each Saturday at "The Bon Bon" came to abrupt ending when the shop suddenly closed, citing what credit crunch commentators would now refer to as 'difficult trading conditions'. If my relatively recent weight gain was noted as we sold the very last of the Lemon Sherbets and the shutters closed for the final time, I'd planned to explain it away as teenage late-onset puppy fat and definitely not an addiction to Cinder Toffee. 

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Seriously Rich Winter Chocolate Cake

I do rather like the energy and promise, admittedly utterly unfounded, that a new year ushers in. 

Not just the promise of another 365 days of cake. Nor the making of optimistic resolutions which, deep down, you really know are overwhelming, overrated (and over by the second week of January).

But the idea of a blank slate. New beginning. An entire year of the unknown. It's all quite exciting really. I promise this isn't the bit where I leap up, book a one-way rickshaw ticket to Timbuktu, dynamic, go-getting YOLO style while leaving spatulas and sieves in my wake. 

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Baking Trends 2014

Happy New Year!

It's time for the Annual What Kate Baked Baking Trends Forecast. It's a little like the New Year weather forecast: murky, rough and not a terribly precise science. 

2013 had Cronuts, burgers, all thing Peruvian, the Duffin debate, horse meat, the biggest ever Bake Off viewing figures and, erm, more burgers. Prepare to whet the appetite and sharpen the sweet tooth, this is what 2014 has in store: 

  • Desserts will be all about layering. Think dressing for the ski slope but as a pud.
  • Europain (the baker's version of Eurovision but without as much warbling) predicts lighter desserts with fruit and spices being used instead of sugar and sweetness. In which case, Lorraine Pascale's latest book should expect bumper sales figures.
  • 2014 also looks to be the year of pastry. According to John Whaite, 2012's Bake Off champion, flavoured puff pastry will be flying off the shelves. Edd Kimber, first ever winner of The Great British Bake Off agrees, having spotted 'intricate and elegant' choux buns making their mark in the patisseries of Paris. 
  • Despite traditional sales falling, tea will be found in desserts, cakes and cocktails in 2014. Move away from the teacup and embrace the jasmine martini. Top tea tips include adding tea to melted butter to enhance the flavour of the bake.
  • Cake decorating will see a return to simplicity with easy, straightforward piping and rough iced buttercream creations. Hurrah! My rustic icing, primitive icing style will be in fashion! 
  • Super seeds: After being christened the new superfood, expect to see chia seeds topping pretty much every baked item in 2014.  
  • Savoury Chocolate. Salted caramel chocolate was so 2012. This next year will see herbs, cheese and olive oil used in chocolatey creations reckons chocolatier Paul A Young 
  • As we all tucked into fancy, gourmet varieties in 2013, popcorn became more than just the traditional sticky cinema snack. The popcorn trend doesn't look to be disappearing into the history books just yet with 2014 seeing healthy whole grains as the key ingredients, including quinoa, bulgerwheat and sorghum. Yes, I too mistakenly thought 'sorghum' was the latest, darkest, best selling Scandinavian crime thriller box set.
  • Forget the individual cupcake and macaroon, 2014 is the year of sharing: Simon Rimmer, Sunday Brunch presenter envisages that 'big family sized cakes' will be the tea time treat of choice this year. Great. Plenty of seconds! 
  • Finally, keep an eye out for the following ingredients making their mark in 2014:  egg yolks, lemons, candied vegetables, beets and buckwheat.  

Happy Baking!