Browsing Tag:

cake

Baking/ My Favourites

MY MOTHER’S IRISH TEA LOAF

Easy, good tempered, keeps well (so I'm told). What more do we need from an everyday cake?

In the spare room that also doubles up as my study/office/hideyhole, I have a box of family photographs. Not that many for rather a sad reason, but that’s another story. I was rummaging through them the other day and rediscovered one of my mother, nearly knee deep in the River Severn, fly fishing for trout. She was an excellent fisherwoman, much to the chagrin of my father who had introduced her to the sport. 

My mum, the ace fly fisher. This on the River Severn at a tiny village called From, just south of Welshpool in what was then Montgomeryshire.

My mum, the ace fly fisher. This on the River Severn at a tiny village called Fron, just south of Welshpool in what was then Montgomeryshire. About 1958, I think.

Scaling, gutting and preparing the fish she caught was all part of the sport as far as she was concerned and although I was never as good at the catching part as she, I learned how to prepare fish at a very young age. I used to think it was fun, as my mother (a theatre sister) turned them into anatomy lessons. Yes, I know, I was a weird child…

Mindful of my father’s chagrin and being bested by his wife in “his” sport, my mother spent a fair amount of time researching and practicing his favourite foods, many of which came from Ireland, home of his grandparents (and thus my great grand parents, which means I miss out by one generation on much coveted Irish citizenship…not annoyed at all…much). 

Brexit anguish aside, this pursuit of Irish food on my mother’s part led to us having some great food. Not necessarily fine dining (which I’m not sure existed in 1960’s Britain) but good, wholesome sustaining food. I still love her Soda Bread recipe above all others, but my father’s favourite was Irish Tea Loaf. He used to carry buttered slices in his fishing jacket pocket, with a flask of strong black tea, sometimes enriched with a few drops of Jameson’s. 

I hadn’t made it for so long but about three years ago, I came across my mother’s handwritten notes (you couldn’t call it a recipe)  crammed into the back of her trusty 1954 Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium. She never used scales, did everything by eye with tablespoons and teaspoons so the first time I tried it was not a resounding success. The birds enjoyed it though. Gradually, I arrived at a satisfactory recipe and I will admit I took hints from other writer’s recipes for weights and measures, but the ingredients are as she made it. The birds were very well fed that winter. 

Anyway, what I give you here is a cake (loaf?) dear to my heart and which is quick (once you remember to soak the fruit), easy, good tempered and freezes really well. It can be buttered, toasted (although better under the grill than in a toaster) and is fab with cheese. Also, not too costly so what more can we want from an everyday cake?

A word about the fruit mix: I use whatever I have and frequently use proprietary mixed dried fruit, but for example, if you only like sultanas, just use those and so on. I have tried it with dried apricots and it wasn’t that good, but perhaps I needed to chop them much smaller. I am not a fan of glacé cherries here; seems a bit high falutin’ in what is essentially a rustic, unsophisticated cake – but then maybe I’m investing too many of my country childhood memories in it.

My Mother's Irish Tea Loaf

Print Recipe
Serves: 8 - 10 slices Cooking Time: 1.5 hours

Ingredients

  • 250ml strong black tea (Barry’s for preference)
  • 50ml whiskey (or whisky or increase tea to 300ml if you prefer a temperance cake)
  • 450g mixed dried fruit (see note above)
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 0.5 tsp mixed spice
  • 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon (or all mixed spice if you don’t like a pronounced cinnamon taste)
  • 0.25 tsp nutmeg
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 175g soft brown sugar (or in truth, any sugar but flavour will differ)
  • 1 large egg, well beaten
  • melted butter for greasing

Instructions

1

The day before you want to bake the cake, make the tea/whiskey mixture and soak the fruit for up to 24 hours in a cool but not cold place

2

If you forget and need to make the cake in a hurry, pour tea mixture over the fruit while the liquid is very hot, stir well and leave for an hour. It’s not the same but will still make a decent cake.

3

Preheat the oven to 160C, 140C fan and butter and line a 900g loaf tin

4

Sieve the flour, spices and salt into a large mixing bowl

5

Add the sugar and break up any lumps there are in the sugar

6

Add the soaked fruit with any residual liquid

7

Add the well beaten egg and stir until everything is well mixed with no areas of cake mix unpopulated by fruit

8

Put everything into the tin, smoothing off the top and giving it a thump on the worktop to rid the mixture of any air pockets

9

Bake for 1.5 hours and don’t open the door in that time. Once it’s baked, this is a good tempered cake but is a bit of a diva whilst baking

10

When time is up, do the skewer test, giving it another 5 minutes if any mixture clings to the skewer

11

Remove from the oven and leave to rest in the tin for about 5 minutes

12

After that, remove from the tin allow to completely cool on a wire rack

Notes

It is quite crumbly when fresh and keeps well for up to about five days. It freezes well, too.

 

Autumn/ Breakfasts & Brunches/ Desserts & Savouries/ Spring/ Summer/ Winter

BANANA EMERGENCY

I had a bit of a challenge to my Watchful principles last weekend, as I discovered three elderly bananas that were quite beyond eating “as is”, and for some reason I had neglected to eat most of the Discovery apples that had been delivered by Farmdrop.com. I can’t really explain that latter event, as I adore those apples and they have such a short season. It might have had something to do with my stuffing myself with a friend’s homegrown raspberries and the delivery, direct from Italy, of the most fragrant melon, another gift from a friend – lucky me!

Anyway, these poor apples had become a tad on the wizened side, so I made Spiced Apples (elsewhere on this site), not thinking they’d also come to the rescue in a banana emergency.

I have a fairly large collection of cookery and food books, together with favourite websites and years and years worth of good, old-fashioned clippings from magazines and newspapers. I wish I could tell you that the latter are in apple pie order and that I can lay my hands on exactly what I want in a trice. Nope. Not a hope. This lamentable lack of organisation came back to haunt me when I wanted to save these poor bananas from the bin and had a vague recollection of a good recipe from some years ago. I will cut a long and frustrating story short, by saying it took me nearly an hour to find what I wanted. Yes, there were other recipes more readily available, but stubbornly, I wanted that particular recipe that turned out to be snipped out of an American newspaper eleven years ago. It probably wouldn’t have taken me an hour if I had remained on task, but I kept discovering long forgotten gems, some of which revealed just how rusty my once fairly fluent French has become. Anyway, back to bananas.

The recipe is straightforward enough, in fact it is so simple it barely counts as cooking. Assuming, of course, one has all the ingredients…..now, I am an incurable recipe tweaker, except when it comes to cakes and baking generally. I don’t seem to have to same instinct for baking as I do for other areas of cookery, so tend to tweak only minor ingredients. I am not sure, however, it counts as minor when I discover I only have slightly more than half the required peeled weight of bananas. At this point I had greased the tin, was heating the oven and had weighed out all the other ingredients so opting out wasn’t an option. And Edoardo was expecting cake…….I sympathise, I get a bit like that when I’m expecting cheese…..

Anyway, for once I decided to tweak on a more major scale and made up the weight by using Spiced Apples that were drained of the juice that is inevitable with them. I did wonder if they would make it a bit too damp but decided to keep a close eye on the cake in the oven. For me, it is a minor miracle that it turned out perfectly: moist, light and full of flavour. I might even make this more often (cue for E’s eyes to light up – he complains he is cake-deprived normally).

I have written up what I did, but I suspect you could tinker around with the proportions, so long as it added up to 225g. And it wouldn’t have to be the Spiced Apple recipe; I might try it with raw grated apple and increase the spice content a bit. If you do try that, please let me know how it works out.

One last note; in the picture I was worried to see what looks like a lump of uncooked cake mixture but was relieved when it turned out to be a piece of apple!

I hope you enjoy this – we now call it “Leftovers Cake” but it’s not a very appetising title!

Spiced Banana and Apple Cake

Print Recipe
Serves: 10 Cooking Time: 45 - 60 minutes

Ingredients

  • butter for greasing the tin
  • 85g unsalted butter
  • 225g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 0.25 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 0.25 tsp salt
  • 0.25 tsp grated nutmeg (or cinnamon, or a mixture of both)
  • 120g peeled weight ripe bananas
  • 105g drained Spiced Apples
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten in a cup
  • 100g roughly chopped walnuts
  • 1kg/2lb loaf tin, base and long sides lined and greased with butter

Instructions

1

Pre heat the oven to 190 degrees/170 degrees fan

2

Melt the 85g butter in a small saucepan over a gentle heat (it mustn’t colour) and allow to cool

3

Mash the bananas thoroughly and stir together with the apple

4

Stir in the sugar, eggs and melted butter

5

Sift in the flour, baking powder and bicarb, folding in carefully

6

Fold in the chopped walnuts

7

Turn the mixture into the prepared tin, giving it a smart tap on the work surface to eradicate any air pockets and smooth off the top

8

Bake in the oven for 45 - 60 minutes, testing with a skewer after 45 minutes.

9

This one was done after 50 minutes but I suspect the banana/apple proportion will influence the time

10

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove form the tin and cool on a wire rack

Desserts & Savouries

HAVING YOUR CAKE……

Cake and I have a troubled relationship. I don’t buy shop cakes (unless as a dessert for entertaining as you will see elsewhere here) because I have done a deal with myself that if I want it badly enough I have to go to the bother of making it. By and large, I don’t have a sweet tooth and if you were to say to me that I have to live the rest of my life with only either cheese or chocolate or cake, it would be cheese all day long. So I am not one of life’s great cake bakers, consequently this site might be a bit light on cake stuff for those of you for whom a cup of tea or coffee is too wet without cake.

You certainly won’t find complicated recipes for whipped cream-laden gateaux, with chocolate curlicues and more fruit than an orchard. I admire the skill and craftsmanship that goes into making them, but speaking as someone who has to watch her weight, I am grateful that I can stroll past a patisserie without feeling any temptation……

Actually, that isn’t quite true: the pasticcerie of Turin and Naples exercise a pull on me, but for elegant, light pastries, not creamy, chocolatey extravaganzas. And when I am there, I will have one with a good espresso and thoroughly enjoy it. Interestingly, they are also significantly more petite than pastries we find in this country not to mention generally speaking, better quality. I have a feeling that the pasticcerie of Italy might be a whole other post, so here I shall pull myself back to the trusty lemon cake.

Given that I am not a great cake fan, this is my absolutely favourite cake, because it is a single clear note of flavour, i.e.  lemon and it has an elegant refinement that appeals to me. It stands up for itself, saying OK, I’m just a simple lemon cake but I am the best lemon cake I can possibly be. Which is where ingredients come in. Please don’t be tempted to make this with any form of margarine or “spread” (yuck) or even salted butter, which will overwhelm the clean fragrance and flavour of the lemon. And do try to use free-range organic eggs, because their yolks will give a better colour to the finished cake. As we are using the zest, I also use unwaxed lemons, but even these I wash before we start. Please don’t scrub them as you risk scrubbing out the precious lemon oil in the zest. Oh and don’t let the simple method and short ingredient list fool you: this is sumptuous in its simplicity.

Tipsy Lemon Drizzle Cake

Print Recipe
Serves: 8 Cooking Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 120g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 170g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp gin
  • zest of two lemons
  • 2 medium free range eggs, beaten up in a cup
  • For finishing the cake:
  • 100g icing sugar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsp gin
  • 1 x 0.5kg/1lb loaf tin, base & long side lined and then greased with butter

Instructions

1

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/170C fan

2

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy

3

Add the beaten egg, a little at a time, beating well after each addition

4

Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and fold in ensuring you preserve the air as you go

5

Add the lemon zest, milk, juice and gin; if you'r not using the gin, replace it with another tablespoon of lemon juice

6

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, ensuring you haven't created air pockets by giving it a sharp tap on the work top

7

Put in the centre of the oven for about an hour and then test with a metal skewer which should emerge clean, if not repeat at five minute intervals until you have a clean skewer

8

Once cooked, leave it in the tin for five minutes then turn on the a rack to cool

9

While it's still warm I love to feed it with either lemon juice or gin or a mixture of both (you know the drill: holes with a skewer and the liquid dribbled in)

10

As it cools, mix the icing sugar with the juice of half a lemon and 1 tablespoon of gin, or you can use all lemon

11

I have tried all gin but it wasn't popular!

12

You're aiming here for the consistency of thick double cream so adjust appropriately

13

Spoon the icing over the cake - I quite like the icing to drip down the sides - and leave to set

14

Don't under any circumstances refrigerate this as something happens which prevents the icing from setting

Notes

This works as a dessert cake, served with berries, baked apricots or baked rhubarb and creme fruit, so it is a useful cake to have around. I have also tried this with orange and whisky and although I don't care for it that much, it did find a fan base.