Honey cake

Honey cakes are supposed to be some of the oldest cakes in history. It's not something I've ever made, so wanted to try this recipe, from an old cookery book called 'The complete book of baking' inherited from Mum. The recipe says that it's best made a week before you need it! It also uses rye flour, which I couldn't find in my local supermarket, but did find in Waitrose. No fat or sugar in the cake so it must be good for you!!

175ml honey - acacia if possible
3 eggs, beaten
300g rye flour
1 tspn cinnamon
120g ground almonds or hazelnuts
2 tbspn dark run [opt]
1/2 tspn bicarb. of soda
1 tbspn milk
almond halves to decorate

Preheat oven 175C/gas 4
Grease a deep 30x20 tin [12x8"]

Warm the honey in the jar in a pan of hot water then pour into a bowl and whisk till frothy and thick.
Beat in the eggs and gradually add the flour.
Mix the spices and nuts together and stir in the rum [if using] and add to the honey and egg mixture.
Dissolve the bicarb. into the milk and beat into the mixture.
Leave bowl covered overnight - it makes a lighter cake [?].
Spoon into the tin and arrange the almonds on the top.
Bake for 30 - 35 mins - cover top if it's getting too brown as it will taste bitter.
Cool in the tin and cut into pieces. Store for a week in an airtight tin before eating!

I made this cake last week, and we tried a piece with our cuppa as soon as it cooled. Lovely honey flavour but not really any taste of the rum. Tried a piece again yesterday, a week later as the recipe suggested, and the flavour has really changed and the rum flavour is pleasant but not strong. Perhaps you could use juice instead of the rum - will try it out. The cake has a nice texture, moist, and the nuts add another dimension to the flavour. A good cake and one I'll make again, with some slight changes.


Blueberry streusel cake

There seem to be a lot of blueberries on offer in the supermarkets, so decided to buy some to try out a recipe given to me by my friend. She says it's a cross between a blueberry muffin and an old fashioned cheesecake with a cream cheese filling. Sounds interesting. I think the original recipe must be American, as it's called a coffeecake.

120g butter, softened
150g sugar
30g brown sugar
60g chopped nuts
11/2 tspn cinnamon
1/2tspn nutmeg

Cream cheese filling:
375g cream cheese
90g sugar
1 egg
grated rind of a lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tspn almond essence

500g plain flour
4 tspn baking powder
1 tspn salt
120g butter, softened
300g sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tspn almond essence
300ml milk
750g fresh blueberries

Preheat oven 375F/190C/gas 5

Generously butter a 32x22cm [13x9"] glass baking dish

Topping - rub all the ingredients together till large crumbs.
Filling- soften cheese and beat with the sugar using an electric mixer till creamy. Beat in the egg, lemon rind and juice and almond essence till smooth.
Cake - Put flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In another bowl put the butter and sugar and beat with an electric mixer till light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs and then the almond essence.
Beat in rhe flour mixture gently, alternating with some milk, till it's well mixed; if it's too stiff, add a little more milk, then fold in the blueberries.
Spread about half of the mixture on the bottom of the dish, smoothing the top and making sure it's right in the corners. Spread the cheese filling over and sprinkle with about a quarter of the topping. Drop the remaining cake mixture on top by spoonfuls, but try not to mix up the layers! Sprinkle the rest of the topping evenly over the surface.
Bake till the topping is crisp and golden - about 50 mins to 1 hour.
When cool, cut into squares.

The recipe sounds complicated but it isn't. It's a bit of a faff making the topping, but I added the spices to the flour, then rubbed in the butter and sugar and finally the nuts.
I love the cheese filling and the streusel topping which give the cake different textures.
 The reason a glass dish is suggested for cooking is because the blueberries 'could react with metal'. Not sure I agree with this, as I've cooked blueberry cakes many times in a springform tin with no problems. Anyway, I used my glass shepherd's pie dish, which was about the right size.
It's not an every day cake, well not for us anyway, too many calories, but it's a nice cake to make to share with friends, or as a dessert maybe, with some creme fraiche.


Cranberry and apple cake

Another recipe to use up some fruit. The original recipe used blueberries with the apples, but I love cranberries and wanted to try this combination.
The method used to make the cake is a bit unusual, whizzing the flour and butter first. The dough is quite firm; more like a cookie dough. You can bake it, as I did, in a 20cm cake tin, or as a loaf in a 900g loaf tin.

125g butter
225g sr flour
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 large eating apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
125g cranberries [or blueberries]
2 tsbpn apricot jam

Preheat oven 190C/gas 5
Grease and line a 20cm cake tin or a 900g loaf tin.

Sieve flour into a food processor and add the butter. Whizz till it becomes like breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar and eggs and whizz again to make a smooth mixture.
Spoon half of the mixture into the tin, then scatter over half the apple and cranberries. Spoon over the rest of the mixture then scatter the rest of the fruit on top.
Bake for about 45 mins till risen and firm.
Put the jam in a small bowl and microwave on high for 20 seconds so that the jam is melted.
Brush the cake with the jam as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Cool in the tin for 10 mins then finish cooking on a wire rack.

So .......I didn't put any fruit on top as I only had 2 small apples and not the required amount of cranberries! You can't see it, but there is apple in the middle of the cake! It's quite a firm texture, and I think it's better as a dessert with some creme fraiche, than as a stand alone cake. I think I've chosen the piece with all the cranberries in it!


Orange and cinnamon thins

My younger daughter is coming today, so I thought I'd make her some biscuits with her favourite flavour, orange. I love cinnamon, so this seemed the perfect one to try.
The recipe comes from a free booklet in a 'Woman's Weekly' magazine a few years back, but I've changed it slightly to give the thins a more orange flavour.

Makes about 30 thins

225g butter
140g caster sugar
grated zest of an orange
1 egg yolk
4 tspns orange juice
280g plain flour
2 tspn cinnamon
pinch salt

Put the butter, sugar and orange rind in a bowl and beat till creamy. Beat in the egg yolk and 2 tspns of the orange juice. Add the salt to the flour and then stir into the mixture till it's all nicely blended.
Make into a ball, wrap in film and chill for about an hour.
Take it out, unwrap and roll dough out between 2 sheets of baking parchment  into a 30 cm square.
Take off top sheet and brush the dough with the rest of the orange juice and sprinkle over the cinnamon. Lightly roll it, then roll it up like a swiss roll.
Wrap in film and chill for 30 mins.

Preheat oven 190C/gas 5 and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.

Unwrap the dough and cut into thin slices with a sharp knife.
Space put well on the baking trays and bake for 10-12 mins.
Cool on the trays for 5 mins or so, then put onto a wire rack using a palette knife.

So you can see that I didn't manage to roll them up like a swiss roll! The dough was very hard to handle, even with baking parchment, and when I rolled it up, it stayed rather flat. I'd left it in the fridge for 30 mins, maybe I should have left it longer.You can just about see a swiss roll-ish shape in the biscuit on the left. They taste very good.
I added a tspn of orange extract to the dough instead of 1 of the 2 tspns of orange juice, and I used a large orange, giving more zest.This gave the thins a good orange flavour.
Would I make them again - I don't think so.


Lime fingers

Limes were on offer today in the supermarket, so I decided to try this recipe which comes from one of my cookery books I bought in France called 'Patisserie'. I had no difficulty finding 'fromage blanc'. Another recipe using oil instead of butter.

200g plain flour
4 tspns baking powder
100g fromage blanc
1 tbspn milk
4 tbspns oil - I used rapeseed
60g demerara sugar
7.5g vanilla sugar [or 1 sachet - I found mine in Lidl]
50g icing sugar
2 tspns lime juice and the zest of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 180C/ gas 4
Grease and line a cake tin 30 x 20 cm.

Mix the flour and the baking powder together in a bowl.
In another bowl mix the fromage blanc, milk, oil and sugar together to get a creamy mixture.
Add the flour to this a bit at a time.
Spread the mixture into the tin and bake for about 15 mins till golden.
Cool on a wire rack.
Mix the lime juice and icing sugar and spread over the cooled cake and cut into 16 pieces. Decorate each piece with a little lime zest.

The icing gave the cake a nice lime flavour, but I think if I did it again, I'd add some lime zest to the cake mixture to enhance this flavour - give it a lime kick. The fromage blanc makes it moist. A nice every day cake.


Thumb biscuits

Apparently today is National Nutella day. I love any combination of chocolate and hazelnuts, so I decided to make a really easy biscuit that I've made many times for my children and grandchildren. Don't know where the original recipe came from - it's in my handwritten notebook. I've made them with jam and with lemon curd, as well as with Nutella.

It makes about 18 biscuits.

175g butter
175g caster sugar
1 egg
175g plain flour
125g plain flour

Line a baking sheet with some parchment paper.
Preheat oven 180C/gas 4

Beat the butter and sugar together using a mixer till nice and fluffy.
Beat in the egg then add the flours, a bit at a time.
Leave the dough for about an hour to rest.
Take out tbspns of the mixture, roll into a ball then flatten on the baking sheet. Press your thumb in the top to make a hole. Fill the hole with Nutella.
Make sure you space the biscuits out on the baking sheet, because they spread.
Bake for about 12 mins.
Cool on a wire rack.

I can think of a few variations I must try - adding cocoa to make chocolate thumbs, or coffee essence, lemon juice etc. It's a good basic biscuit recipe.


Chocolate and cinnamon muffins

I'm sure that everyone has their own tried and tested muffin recipe. I like recipes which use oil instead of butter. I found this one in a French food magazine and it looked interesting, having yoghurt and coffee as two of the ingredients, plus one of my favourite spices- cinnamon. Muffins are quick and easy to make, and these are no exception.

For 12 muffins:

250g plain flour
2 tspns cinnamon
21/2 tspns baking powder
1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda
130g caster sugar
1 egg
80ml oil - I used rapeseed
250g yoghurt
75ml cold strong coffee
12 squares of dark chocolate
Chocolate coated coffee beans to decorate

Preheat oven 180C/gas 4

Grease a 12 hole muffin tin, or use muffin cases.
In a bowl, mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, bicarb.and sugar.
In another bowl beat the egg and add the oil, yoghurt and coffee. Mix these together.
Fold in the flour mixture carefully - don't overmix, a few lumps are fine.
Put the muffin cases, if using, into the muffin tin.
Fill the cases half full with batter, then put a square of chocolate on the batter and fill the cases up with the remainder.
Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25 mins.
Cool on a wire rack.
Decorate the muffins with a chocolate bean before serving.

I love the melted chocolate in the centre of these muffins. The texture is quite different from my usual recipe - coarser but still soft. The cinnamon and coffee add another layer to the flavour. I'll certainly make these again.


Banana and raisin loaf

Yet another of our favourite loaf cakes. There were some very ripe bananas in the fruit bowl just asking to be used up. The recipe comes from 'Cakes, Breads and Gateaux', a book published in 1979 by 'Living' magazine - anyone remember it?
This one is made by the 'rubbing in' method, and is supposed to keep well, for up to a week, if wrapped in foil. The recipe says that it cuts into 12 slices - depends on your appetite!

175g sr flour
50g wholemeal flour
1/2 level tspn baking powder
1 tspn cinnamon
125g butter of margarine
75g demerara sugar
175g raisins
450g bananas, peeled and mashed
2 eggs, beaten
finely grated rind of a lemon

Preheat oven 180C/gas 4.
Grease and line a 900g loaf tin.

Sift the flours, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl. Rub in the fat till the mixture is like breadcrumbs.
Mix in the rest of the ingredients - the sugar, bananas, eggs and lemon rind. Beat it together lightly then spoon into the tin.
Bake for 45-55 mins till it's firm to touch.
Turn the loaf out onto a wire rack.
Theloaf is nice on its own, or served with butter.

The banana in theloaf keeps it nice and moist, and the raisins didn't all sink to the bottom. A good sign!

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