Scrapiana’s Carrot Cake

Lovely Eirlys (aka Scrapiana) generously shared her Carrot Cake recipe with me, and said she didn’t mind if I gave it to you too. This is one of those great cut-and-come-again cakes that keeps well, can be made in advance, and can be tweaked to fit what you’ve got in the fridge.  I also like the fact that it has less oil that some recipes I’ve seen, but it’s still spongy, spicy and lovely. The cake in the photograph is a doubling of the recipe below – heartily recommended.

Ingredients

  • Carrots 6oz/150g
  • 2 eggs
  • 4oz/100g brown sugar
  • 3 fl oz/75ml sunflower oil
  • 4 oz/100g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 oz/50g desiccated coconut or ground almonds
  • 2 oz/50g dried fruit as preferred
  • Icing: 125g/4oz butter
  • 225g/8 oz cream cheese (full fat)
  • 250g/1 lb icing sugar
  • Zest of 1 lime, and half the juice

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 190C/350F/Mark 5. Grease & line the base of a 7″ square cake tin, or a small (1 lb) loaf tin.
  2. Finely grate carrots.
  3. Whisk eggs and sugar together till thick and creamy. Add oil gradually, whisking well after each addition. Then add remaining ingredients & mix to combine evenly.
  4. Spoon resulting sloppy mixture into prepared tin. Level surface and bake for 20-25 minutes (though the loaf version will take longer: various wayward ovens through the years have taken an hour) till firm to the touch and golden brown. Cool and spread with icing (optional) or just scoff warm from the tin (my preference).To make the icing: cream the butter and cheese together, then add the sugar, lime juice and zest. Spread over the top, then perhaps decorate with some chopped nuts.

Pumpkin and Ginger Swiss Roll

Pumpkin is a bit of a novelty in the UK. We’re just about getting used to carving Jack-O’-Lanterns at the end of October – or rather actually being able to readily find pumpkins at all. I grabbed a few tins of canned pumpkin this year when I saw them, they’re usually around because of American expats who are hankering after Thanksgiving concoctions and then thought – what the hell do I do with these?

A friend came for lunch yesterday, she wanted to bake while her boyfriend and the husband slunk off to play computer games. We were like regular 50s housewives. She specifically wanted to make Swiss Roll. This was supposed to be a posh ‘roulade’. I only had a small tin though so rather than it being an elegant cylinder, it was a rather more rustic concoction. It all disappeared though, which is the real test?

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1/2 cup soft brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • Filling: 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 30g stem ginger in syrup, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F
  2. Grease and line your baking tray – ours was 13×7 inches
  3. Cream the eggs and sugar together until thickened and lighter in colour and then add the pumpkin while mixing slowly.
  4. Sift the rest of the dry ingredients together and add to the bowl until just incorporated.
  5. Pour into the pan and spread out as evenly as possible.
  6. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until the top springs back when you gently touch it. Let it cool in the tray for 2-3 minutes then move to a wire rack.
  7. Prepare the filling while it’s cooking.  Cream the butter and sugar, then add the chopped and ground ginger and the vanilla and just mix them through. Don’t overbeat.
  8. When the sponge is cooled, place cling film on top followed by a large chopping board, and flip the sponge over on to the other side. 
  9. Peel off the parchment paper and spread out the filling.
  10. Grab the cling film from underneath and roll the sponge widthways, evenly yet firmly from the shorter side of the sponge to the end.  “Fasten” it with the cling film and let it sit for a while.
  11. Unwrap the cling film to serve and it should stay in a neat sausage!

Get baking for Movember

If you’re not able to “donate your face” to Movember this year but you know someone who is and you want to help them with some fundraising, there are lots of brilliant moustache related goodies out there.

I spotted these in Oliver Bonas the other other day – Munchstache Cookie cutters from Fred & Friends. The cutter has an indented pattern on the top so you can flip it over and stamp some beautiful texture on to your Wolford, Baron, or Bristle Brush shaped mo amongst others.

They look super fun, my only reservation might be whether the cut dough comes out easily from the cutter but the stamper means less decorating work to make them look fab.

You could also try  the Fuzzy Inc ones which are available via the Movember website – looks like they ship from the US.

Wilton make these rather fab Mustache Molds (note the US spelling if you’re looking for them online!) which could be used with chocolate as well as their candy melts.  Not so widely available here with paying a hefty shipping charge, but could be used again and again.

[Edit – it seems that the Munchstaches might be sold out online at Oliver Bonas. Try in the stores or also available here.]

In the UK, all the ‘Mo Bros’ who participate in Movember help to stimulate conversation about men’s health and raise awareness of the most prevalent male cancers, testicular and prostate. 

Golden Biscuiteer Bunnies


I had an idea to make some biscuits to welcome in the Year of the Rabbit – well, mostly I just wanted to make biscuits.  Bake something. Partially because I find baking particularly conducive to ‘thinking time’ where my mind wanders off and it’s a great stress-busting exercise as well as being productive.  Not forgetting the fact I also have a ridiculously sweet tooth. However, baking generally tends to be easier, and less stressful, when you haven’t forgotten to buy eggs.

The Biscuiteers book came to the rescue with an eggless recipe for Treacle Spice Cookies which I tinkered with to make these golden bunnies.  I was so excited when I bought this book – not for the gloriously embellished slices of sugar themselves, more for the comprehensive range of base biscuit recipes (10 in total) because many doughs simply don’t hold up to rolling and cutting. The book itself is more of an artist’s primer in some ways with lots of technique and decoration ideas, and you’ll have to like sugar. Or pretty food. But as usual with Kyle Cathie, it’s beautifully photographed and designed.  It probably wouldn’t be the most used cook book on your shelf but hey, just take it down occasionally and look at the pictures.

Ingredients

  • 200g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 25g Golden caster sugar
  • 25g light brown sugar
  • 100g butter, unsalted (not softened)
  • hefty pinch of sea salt
  • 50g Golden Syrup

Method

  1. Sift flour, baking powder and spices together and then mix in the sugars.
  2. Rub the butter in with your fingers as if you were making scone, until it’s like breadcrumbs.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the incorporated mixture and add in the Golden Syrup and combine to an evenly-coloured dough.
  4. Divide into two pieces, shape as discs and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 170c/350F/Gas Mark 4 when the dough is chilling, then cook for 14-18 minutes.

These keep remarkably well. I was going to make a lemon cream filling – but none of them survived long enough to be sandwiched.

The Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits by Harriet Hastings and Sarah Moore is published by Kyle Cathie, ISBN 978 1 85626 941 4.

Chocolate Banana Pantry Cake

I have a problem with bananas. The problem is that I buy them, forget about them and then I’m compelled to bake with them. Yeah, I know, the epitome of firstworldproblems.

This started off as a banana loaf cake idea and then the Green & Black’s cocoa fell out of the cupboard (I really should tidy up more) and it seemed worth trying.  Then it turned into pantry cake when I started pulling more things out of the press, including cherries and walnuts. The cherries melt a little like dates and led to the tasters asking if there was booze in there. Not this time….

Makes a 1lb loaf. Preheat oven to Gas Mark 4, 180c.

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 35g of slightly salted, very soft butter
  • 50g demerera sugar
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 50g walnuts, chopped
  • 50g cherries, chopped (the natural ones)
  • 50g chopped dark 70% chocolate
  • ½ tsp good vanilla extract
  • 75g wholemeal flour
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ¼ tsp salt

Method

  1. Mash the bananas and butter together
  2. Add in the egg, vanilla, sugar, cherries, chopped chocolate and walnuts and mix together
  3. Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt together and add into wet ingredients
  4. Cook in a lined loaf tin for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean

Improves over a day or two too.

Boo Biscuits

Time might be short for Halloween this year, although I’m still determined to get my hands on some tinned pumpkin…

I made these ghostie cookies using a Martha recipe – chocolate ginger biscuits.  It needs some refinements – the fresh ginger needs to be exceptionally finely minced, I’d reduce the amount of baking powder, and roll them out more finely to get a crisper biscuit.

The other problem I had with them was that the dough was insanely soft and sticky. I ended up chilling it for two days (ok, I forgot about it) and then had to use lots of flour and roll using clingfilm and parchment!  The smiles came from a mini aspic cutter. Knew that they would prove to be a crucial purchase.  Eventually.

So far they’ve had good reports. I sent about 95% of them away out of the house (without taking photos). If the baking is going to start in earnest around here again, we might have to resurrect the Baked Goods Taster Panel.

New York eats

We spent a week in New York last month and naturally went armed with a list of foodie must-do places.  Some of the places exceeded the hype and others were grave disappointments (suggesting we possibly place too much value on eating).  More to come later from the boy, but here are my top finds from this trip.

Part of the trip was spent exploring Brooklyn with our lovely friend Sarah, who’s been there all summer. We ordered a trio of meals to swap and share at Rosewater in Brooklyn – lamb burger, pancakes with peaches, pistachios and cardamom, and the best sandwich I’ve ever had.

Lightly griddled bread, packed with layers of tender brisket, aioli-dressed salad and the ultimate punch came from slices of juicy marinated pepper. Even though the pancakes were great (and lord knows I’m a huge fan of the fluffy American breakfast treat) I was remarkably reticent about handing over the second half of the sandwich when the time came to trade. Rosewater does a great prix-fixe brunch – $14 including a drink. When is this magical institution of proper weekend leisurely lunching going to establish itself in London?

787 Union Street, (Sixth Avenue), Brooklyn, N.Y. 11215 USA
(718) 783-3800

After very disappointing cupcakes from- oh, just about everywhere we tried, I was starting to despair a little. And contemplating about ordering some Bittersweet Bakers or Ella’s Bakehouse goodies for our return (they’re my favourite London bakers by far) to make up.

Then we made the pedestrian pilgrimage to Baked. Deep in Red Hook, it’s the artisan bakery established by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. We shared three cupcakes: Peanut Butter, Red Hook Red Hot and their signature Sweet Salty, beloved by Martha. God, they were good. I’d have to say that the chocolate chip cookies and homemade marshmallows were even better. When I saw them serving the marshmallows in their hot chocolate, I even started to wonder if we could stay long enough til I could fit a cup in.  Amazon just delivered both their books too. Will be thoroughly road-testing them soon.

359 Van Brunt Street, Brooklyn, New York 11231
(718) 222-0345

We stumbled across the Mac Bar and despite a planned trip to Lombardi’s later, we couldn’t resist it. We also couldn’t resist the regular size, $9.50, because… oh yes. Yes, it does. It comes in an undoubtedly environmentally unsound bright yellow plastic container in the shape of a macaroni elbow. The “Cheeseburger” option comes with ground beef, American cheese, and cheddar.  The weather had shifted that day into squally showers and this was perfect comfort food.

54 Prince St, (between Mulberry St & Lafayette St), New York, NY 10012
(212) 226-8877

Yes. I am on a diet post-holiday. Thanks to lovely Sarah for schlepping us around, she’s an excellent tour guide.

Ultimate Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

It was all in the name of clearing the pantry, I swear it. Also in response to a plantive request to resurrect baking, which has been sadly lacking in this household of late. This is an adaptation of an adaptation of an Elinor Klivan’s recipe.

Ultimate Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

Indulgent and very intensely chocolately. I used higher cocoa-solids chocolate to balance out the fat in the peanut butter. They’re crumbly on the outside and a little fudgy in the middle.  Get a very large glass of milk ready.

Ingredients

  • 125g high cocoa chocolate (Green & Black’s 85%*)
  • 4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter (I used Skippy)
  • 150g flour
  • 30g cocoa
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 125g soft unsalted butter
  • 70g soft brown sugar
  • 40g unrefined caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, cold from fridge
  • 100g 70% chocolate, chopped

Method:

  1. Set the oven to Gas Mark 3 and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave, and then stir in the peanut butter once cooled.
  3. Sieve the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt into a big bowl.
  4. Cream together the butter and sugar and then add the chocolate peanut butter mix.
  5. Beat in the vanilla and egg and the dried ingredients until everything is incorporated. Fold in the chopped chocolate.
  6. Divide into 12 portions (an ice-scoop is useful here)
  7. Cook for 18 minutes, cool on the tray.

One thing that would improve these even more would be throwing in a handful of chopped jumbo salted peanuts. Next time.

*Disclaimer – you can use any high cocoa chocolate, I do work for Green & Black’s and I’m lucky to have quite the supply in the house at the moment.

Banana Date Loaf

This was kind of an experiment.  I had spotty bananas lurking malevolently in the fruit bowl, gassing the other residents, and a recipe that a friend had recommended.  All good so far. I started off with the first steps of the method and then realised that the butter in the ingredients list was missing from the method. Um… I’d had long conversations this week with (professional and could-be-professional bakers about how baking is a science and you can’t fudge quantities and methods. Then set about fudging the recipe*.

Banana Date Loaf

This makes for a pleasantly squidgy loaf with a slight nuttiness from the spelt flour.  I used a four pans on a six mini-loaf tray – substantial small cakes that are good to slice and eat in squares.

Ingredients:

  • 115g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 medium bananas
  • 30g honey
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 110g muscovado sugar
  • 170g wholegrain spelt flour
  • 10g baking powder
  • 50g any dried fruit – I used chopped apricots

Method:

  1. Cream together the sugar and eggs to light ribbon stage
  2. Wonder what to do with the butter
  3. Think “Sod it”, chop the butter up really small and add in, and blitz again
  4. Think “This will never work”
  5. Stick the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds so it becomes more of a batter, and the butter relents
  6. Put the chopped dates in a small saucepan with a few tablespoons of water and heat gently til the dates ‘melt’
  7. In another bowl, mash the honey and banana and add in any dried fruit
  8. Sift the flour and baking powder into the egg/sugar mixtures, then add the banana mix and the date mush.  Incorporate without overmixing.
  9. Put in lined tins, somewhat sceptically, bake for 20-25 mins or until a cake tester comes out clean
  10. Taste with some trepidation… they say “Woo-hoo! ‘Tis good!”

It should be fine to keep in an airtight tin for a few days, but there’s none left to test that theory. But next time I make it I’m going to try slicing and freezing a couple of the loaves, as well as working out when the butter should go in.  Assuming the cakes are around long enough to be frozen.  I think it would also be good lightly toasted, once defrosted.

*apart from the hit-and-miss method, I did largely substitute ingredients so it wasn’t that fudgy I guess

Here are the instructions I started with:

Preheat oven to 180C/Gas mark 4. Place eggs and brown sugar in electric mixer and whisk to light ribbon stage. Sift flour/baking pwdr into separate bowl. Mash bananas with honey. Combine all, but don’t overmix. Spoon into
tins and bake for 30-35 mins.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Dime Bar Cookies

These cookies – essentially from the Canteen book – are perfect for when you haven’t got much time but want to bake.  But like we always say, there are few dishes which can’t be improved by the addition of bacon, cheese or chocolate.  I went for the latter here, along with some more sugar. Yes, even more, in the form of Dime Bar. To the point that the normally impervious boyfriend actually had a bit of a sugar crash later that afternoon. I’m not proud. But he said they were worth it.

They only take 8 mins to cook (a little more more in the demon oven) and are very moreish. As fan of the maple syrup and bacon with pancakes – i.e. the sweet+salty combo, I love these.  There’s a batch with just chocolate added in the oven at the moment – I have high hopes.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Dime Bar Cookies

Makes 15-20

  • 75g butter
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 110g muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 120g peanut butter (I used smooth)
  • 75g porridge oats
  • 80g roasted salted peanuts, chopped
  • 60g plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g chopped chocolate (I used Montezuma chocolate buttons)
  • 50g mini Dime Bars, chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3, 165
  2. Cream the sugars and butter until pale and fluffy
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well
  4. Add in all the other ingredients
  5. Spoon out walnut sized balls onto a baking sheet, flatten slightly
  6. Bake for 8 mins or until golden brown
  7. Leave to cool and set on the sheet for 15 mins before moving to a wire rack to cool completely

The Canteen Cookbook is published by Ebury