I’ve been sitting on this recipe for a while, since my enthusiasm for festive food got the best of me far before it was acceptable, but the tightness of my jeans indicates it is time.
These little darlings are based on traditional Croatian Christmas biscuits – the inclusion of black pepper sounds a little odd but it gives a subtle warmth to the biscuits, which are similar to gingerbread and have a comforting softness to them.
As I inherited a slight walnut allergy from my mother, along with sturdy thighs and a love of food, I switched out the traditional walnuts in favour of pecans. I also used a tiny squirrel cutter instead of the wooden moulds they’d be made with in Croatia, because the tiny squirrel was too cute to resist.
This cake is perfect for autumn. It’s just slightly adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe for carrot cake and you probably wouldn’t know it was sweet potato if I didn’t tell you but it’s the maple frosting that makes it. I had a glut of sweet potatoes lying around and I figured there was no reason why I couldn’t use them in the same way as carrots. This frosting is much sweeter than your basic cream cheese frosting so you don’t need a big slice when it comes to eating, but who am I to tell you how to eat your cake?!
It is crumbly without being dry and has the right balance of sweet and spice. As with all cakes, I recommend a strong coffee. Read More
I didn’t get nervous about the Swiss meringue until I saw the polyester sleeve of my mother’s dressing gown dangling perilously close to the flame flying out of the blowtorch.
Let me start at the beginning. When we decided to make cakes for my mother’s birthday, I went with my usual method of imagining something and deciding to leap in without being fully sure of my method. It sounds like a reckless process when I write it down like that, but “Eh, I’ll learn by trying” has served me pretty well so far.
What I didn’t realise when I pictured a cake topped with fluffy meringue, piped tips torched golden, is that Swiss meringue is notoriously finicky. Thanks to reactions between proteins that I don’t completely understand and definitely can’t pronounce, Swiss meringue can be both unstable and less fluffy than you’d hope. It can weep. It can collapse. If I’d known this, I might have been nervous earlier than when I had visions of my hand flying off to the left and setting the kitchen on fire.
Thankfully, using this method, the meringue – and I – did not weep or collapse. Instead, it came out glossier than a show horse, and once I’d moved that pesky sleeve out of the way, turned the most glorious golden colour after being kissed by a blowtorch.
It’s a blessing and a curse, being with someone who loves food as much as you do. A curse because of the inevitable weight gain that results from eating a lot of cheese; a blessing…for so many reasons. You know — brie, camembert, weird Wensleydale varieties.
Our story is a long path studded with pubs and restaurants, coffee shops and stores filled with local produce and good beer. It took a while, with months of not talking, then hours-long phonecalls, both of us too idiotic to know the other’s feelings. It featured a lot of chai teas, and these days a lot of scones. We got there in the end.
I’m not sure why I expected making chai scones with our story in mind to be a smoother process.
Two recipes, both alike in dignity, in fine Norwich, where we lay our scene… Read More
I’ve baked many many simple vanilla cakes over the years but I think this might be my favourite. For a good strong vanilla cake you really do need to use a vanilla extract with the seeds in, vanilla bean paste or powder…or even an actual vanilla pod. Any of those will give the best flavour to your cake and I love seeing the little vanilla seeds dotted throughout. I’m a really big fan of vanilla powder, I’ve only used the Ndali brand so I can’t comment on any others but it gives such a wonderful vanilla flavour to everything I’ve used it in.
Of all the things I bake, layer cakes are the most fun to make and I haven’t made nearly enough recently so I’m throwing myself back into frosting. Plus I finally restocked up on piping bags so I need to practice my piping.