Possibly the best cake I have ever made and I think my dedication to cake is well established.
For a few weeks I’ve had a hankering for a honey-scented cake, similar to my quest for a decent honey ice-cream, even though ice-cream and my stomach don’t see eye-to-eye.
Food52’s Baking book delivered. Honey AND pecans, we were onto a winner.
There are steps, there are bowls, just work with it.
Food52 uses a 23cm round springform pan with baking paper that comes up above the join but this sounded like a doomed plan to me so I used a 20cm square tin, which I lined with one piece of baking paper with no joins in it whatsoever (so the caramel can’t escape)
I have just finished my (paid) work and am bracing for school home time. It’s been a mixed bag of a week which saw me in tears last night at the thought of making dinner AGAIN (#everyfuckingnight, I swear to God people, every.fucking.night). Sure, there may have been some hormones involved but let’s just put that day to bed.
These are on the front cover of Food52’s baking book from which I want to bake every single recipe. Hey, maybe that’s a challenge I can set myself? And are so very good.
You need a big baking pan – 33 x 45cm, 13 x 18 inch – so get onto that. You could of course just split the mixture between two smaller ones but as to what size they’d be don’t ask me because, well, numeral.
It makes a lot – 24 large brownies, 36 smaller ones. It uses eight eggs. EIGHT EGGS! When I started cooking as a kid and then with a fair amount of gusto as a teenager I’d show mum a recipe and without fail there’d be an exclamation about how many eggs were in it. Were eggs expensive back then? Was there some sort of price collusion in the 80s I was unaware of? Anyway, it uses eight eggs.
Now, even though in the recipe’s intro it talks about how this is the 35th version of these brownies the recipe creator June Jacobs has created, I still didn’t follow it exactly. Just follow it exactly OK?
School’s back today. We’re on the homestretch to Christmas people. We’re in for a scorching couple of days which somehow seems appropriate.
But let’s take a moment to talk about lunchboxes. There are parts of the world where you don’t need to pack your kids a lunch. CAN YOU IMAGINE!? I hate it with the heat of a thousand suns.
The worst part is trying to not become pray to food brand marketing but once you say no to the snack packs, back off to the muesli bars and no way jose to anything with sugar you’re basically sending your kids to school with twigs and bark.
I know more virtuous people than I who make up batches of things on the weekend, freeze them then pop them in lunchboxes but whenever I’ve done that the kids never eat it. WHAT IS WITH THAT?
Anyway, I made this Smitten Kitchen recipe the other day and three of the four of them ate them. Into high rotation they go!
I have a go to flourless orange cake which I adore, but the other day had some divine paesanella ricotta hanging around that needed to be used. Seeing as I’m doing the whole no carbs with fat/protein and no refined carbs a nifty little batch of ricotta gnocchi was out of the question (quietly sobs) and I was at a bit of a loss when I came across this Ben O’Donoghue and thought BINGO! It has a smidge of (semolina) flour in it but I was willing to overlook it. I love Ben’s recipes and he was always my favourite in Surfing the Menu. Curtis Stone is just a little to much of a show-pony-pretty-boy for my cooking likes.
‘My’ custard powder pastry recipe and the associated free-form apple pie is his Nan’s and I reckon that’s pretty cool.
So let’s get on with it.
Lemon ricotta cake (in which I used oranges)
Recipe from: At home with Ben, Ben O’Donoghue
6 eggs, separated
250g ground almonds
65g semolina flour
Juice of 3 lemons
Rind of 6 lemons
1/2 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 160C and grease and line a 26cm springform cake tin
Beat the butter and sugar until very pale then add the egg yolks one at a time
Combine the almond meal, semolina, half the lemon zest and half the juice (although when I made it with oranges I added all the zest because I didn’t read the recipe properly. Rookie mistake) and fold into the butter and sugar mixture
Crumble in the ricotta and fold through (Ben appears to leave it in little chunks whereas my ricotta was wetter so was more incorporated)
Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks and then fold through the mixture
Pour into the tin and bake for 40mins or until a skewer comes out clean (I find with flourless cakes the time can vary massively – just persevere and cover with foil if you’re worried the top is getting too dark)
Make a syrup with the remaining juice, zest, 1/2 cup of sugar and a cup of water by bringing it to the boil then reducing by half (I sort of forgot to read this bit and just made a syrup of equal parts sugar and juice)
Pour over the cake and eat until you can eat no more.
So I cook and cook well. I bake awesome desserts, slices, cakes, biscuits. I make bloody good jam. I have mastered most breads and forms of pastry.
But this cooking Superwoman has her kryponite. Behold:
Yeah, me and themed cakes never end well.
For Grover’s actual birthday on Monday I was making a simple delicious buttercake with lemon icing. But I was tired (remember, an epic weekend which I’ve just realised I haven’t told you about) and when my beautiful, simple, buttercake came out of the oven Grover collapsed on the floor wailing he’d wanted a lego cake. I too my eye off the prize people, making the rookie mistake of not distracting, reminding, reassuring that there’d be a poorly constructeduglyode to food colouring themed cake* at his party this Sunday. No. Instead I did this:
But look, that cake creation may be so far below par but the cake, the cake is awesome.
This is a simple, plain, delicious buttercake. It’s perfect for birthday cakes you just want to eat or need to turn into a dinosaur, fairy, clocktower or, God help me, the Tardis. I’ve made this the traditional way – beat the butter and sugar, add the eggs etc – and the throw caution to the wind way – put it all in a food processor and blend until all combined and pale. I know, every time I do it like that I feel like cackling and shouting FRAUD but it works. Goddammit it works.
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups SR flour
1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 24cm springform cake tin
Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy
Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each one
Fold in the flour, milk and vanilla
Pour into the cake tin and bake 40-45 minutes or when cake bounces back to gentle touch and has pulled away from the cake tin
Now, you can either top it with melted butter and lashings of cinnamon sugar (I KNOW) or ice it with your choice of icing. That debacle up there was iced with my bog standard lemon icing – icing sugar (2 1/2 cups?), softened butter (about a dessert spoon) and lemon juice until it’s at a good consistency.