Monday, 20 May 2013

Birthday cake revenge

Jane Asher and I make cakes. She does it for money, I do it for love.

Noddy birthday cake
One of mine: Noddy with acne

Elaborate cake by Jane Asher - Street Party
One of Jane's

When my 9 year old requested that I go to a shop and buy a 'proper' cake for her birthday this year, I had mixed feelings - and decided to get my own back on her.

I arranged a very last minute Mad Hatter's Tea Party with heart-shaped sandwiches, layered jellies, dormice and cakes. Just as things were starting to get messy, we announced the arrival of The Cake with a great fanfare. The lights were turned off, blinds lowered, eyes covered, and I placed it in front of her: a cake that was an inch in diameter, covered with pink buttercream bearing a single pink heart-shaped candle. As she teetered on the precipice of tears and laughter, I explained that it had shrunk, as things are wont to do in Wonderland. (Luckily, there was a large pink shop-bought cake waiting in the wings.)

Here are some of my past creations:

Teddy bear child's birthday cake
Nice face, shame about the arms

Birthday cake decorated with sweets, pink icing, and a cake frill
Decorated by a 5 year old (Christmas decorations in May!)
Cake frills cover a multitude of sins - and mean you don't have to bother icing the sides

Plate of cupcakes decorated with fairies in garden setting
Hummingbird Bakery's dulce de leche cupcakes which provoked the following outburst:
"I don't like cakes, I don't like icing, and I certainly don't like fairies"!

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Be careful what you wish for!

I was brought up by a very superstitious grandmother and a very Catholic mother. This combination of dogma and irrational belief meant that my childhood was spent not just trying to remember the difference between a mortal and a venial sin, but terrified of what might happen if I looked at a new moon through glass, put new shoes on a table, or didn't say hello to a solitary magpie. It might explain why I spent a lot of time sitting on the floor in the small space behind my bedroom door reading books.

On the up-side, my grandmother was very insistent that we made a wish every time we ate a food for the first time in its season. So lately I've been wishing up a storm, what with asparagus, strawberries, new potatoes and - today - rhubarb. I love rhubarb, and although I lack the commitment to be a good gardener, I have inherited a flourishing rhubarb patch which thrives on utter neglect at the bottom of the garden amongst a tangle of brambles.

So with great excitement (and a bowlful of the stuff in front of me as I write), I bring you my favourite sweet thing - a moist and fragrant rhubarb & orange cake - and the chance to make a wish.

Chunks of poached rhubarb in juice on a plate with a gold rim
Rhubarb, rhubarb

Rhubarb and Orange cake

350g rhubarb, cut into chunks
200g golden caster sugar
grated zest and juice of half an orange
140g butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon baking powder
85g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds
25g butter
25g light muscovado sugar
grated zest of half an orange
50g slivered almonds (I often leave them out)

Mix the rhubarb with 50g of the caster sugar and the orange zest, then set it aside for an hour, giving it a stir or two. Pre-heat the oven to 190/gas 5 and grease and line a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin. Cream the butter and remaining 150g sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, baking powder, flour, ground almonds and orange juice and beat gently until smooth. Turn into the tin and level with a spoon. Drain the rhubarb and spoon the chunks over the cake. Bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, make the topping by melting the butter and stirring in the sugar, zest and almonds. Take the cake out of the oven, reduce the temperature to 180/gas 4, sprinkle the topping over it and quickly replace it in the oven for another 15-20 minutes until firm in the centre. Cool in the tin for 20 minutes or so before transferring to a rack. Dust with icing sugar and serve warm or cool with thick cream.

The recipe was snipped out of a Good Food magazine some years ago.