Wednesday, 21 April 2010


I had to buy it...


Cherry and coconut cake:

225g butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs beaten
225g self-raising flour
200g glace cherries, halved
100g dessicated coconut

Cream the butter and sugar, then gradually add the eggs. Sift the flour and gently fold in, then fold in the cherries and coconut. I'm sure there's a technique for getting the cherries to stay evenly distributed in the cake during baking, but I'm afraid I don't know it! Bake in a lined loaf tin for an hour at 180 degrees celcius. If the cake starts to brown on top, just cover with tinfoil. Leave in the tin for 15 minutes to cool. Delicious with a cold glass of milk.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

read this book...

The last few months I've mostly been reading children's books, especially E Nesbit. I particularly like The House of Arden and The Treasure Seekers. I hadn't realised quite how many books she's written, sadly many are out of print or hard to get hold of now. I really recommend reading them if you haven't already. A really well-written book will always be a really well-written book.

I've also read Flora Thompson's Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy. I'd just discovered the television programme, and caught up with all three series through youtube and BBC iplayer in a series of very late nights. I know it's not perfect, and I had my doubts when I saw the trailers, but in the end I loved it. The book on the otherhand is very very different. It's a documentary in a book really, with characters who rarely make an appearance and almost never 'speak' in the narrative, just occasionally illustrating a particular incident or anecdote. The main character in the tv series, dorcas lane, only appears in the final book, and thomas is a (brilliant) invention of the screen-writers. But then a great deal of the episodes draw on the book for plot. The book tells more of Flora Thompson's childhood, but the bulk of the text focuses on the country customs, traditions, seasons, and (what I enjoyed the most) the details of day-to-day life of the hamlet folk. I found this the most fascinating, such as what the weekly wage was spent on, what the main componants of the diet were, the sleeping arrangements of a large family with two bedrooms, etc. The tone is different too, it's sleepy and serene in comparison with the tv series, which then seems lively and buzzing. It works wonderfully. I really recommend it.

And I just discovered The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgeson Burnett. Part 1 is a fairytale quite unlike anything I've ever read before, Part 2 is an equally curious melodrama. You will love the heroine, who can help it? I'm so glad I accidentally came across it, it's a little bit like reading elizabeth gaskell with a touch of nancy mitford. Read it, read it!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Thanks for all your kind comments, on wednesday I'll post my recipe for my favourite cake, cherry and coconut. It's my mum's really, this is one of her staples, another being flapjack dark brown with treacle and rich with fruit.

In the meantime....

We had friends over for lunch, and did greek food, so naturally we had to serve a greek dessert. I tried GoodFood's honey cake, recipe here.

It's quite a plain, unprepossessing cake, which you finish with a glaze of warm honey. It's dense and moist, and very heavily scented of honey. I did it with a fruit salad and natural yoghurt, and it was quite popular. Our guests finished half of it, and took another quarter home with them. Which is great, because as it turns out I don't really like it. But you might!

Monday, 12 April 2010

cake club

Once upon a time, I entered a cake competition at No.1 The Royal Crescent, judged by Mary Berry, and although I didn't win, I took the cake into work that day for my fellow booksellers to finish up. Then I was asked to bake a cake for the staff-room table, and promised tips to contribute towards the cost. The victoria sponge with strawberries and cream was a success, and I got so many tips I had enough to bake another cake. And so began Cake Club.

The rules are simple, you can have as much cake as you want, for free. But should you appreciate the cake, and want to leave a tip in the cake club box, and if enough people tip enough money, then there'll be another cake. So far this has worked really well, I get enough anonymous tips to cover the cost of another cake, and a few pounds left over. And of course I'm being funded to bake to my heart's content.

So far the favourites have included carrot and orange cake with orange icing, and galaxy chocolate cake with pink icing. I have 6 or 7 requested cakes in the queue, a facebook group, 'the rules' written up (a rip-off of fight club and monty python), and totally inappropriate and pretentious but very funny reviews of each cake.

I don't know how long this will all last, surely at some point they will all get sick and tired of 'that dratted cake', but in the meantime I've decided to create a database of desserts tried & tested, or on my 'must bake' list. Lets get some bureaucracy going here! And here are my top 3, most used, dessert cookbooks, though I also use recipes from some other great general cookbooks, including 'At My French Table', 'the vegetarian student cookbook', and the indispensable 'The Cook's Scrapbook'.

And my wishlist: