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I have pretty much given up sugar in the past couple of months, I’d like to share more of my experience of cutting it out, but for now I wanted to share my first attempt at a sugar free sweet treat.
I found this nice sounding recipe for lemon bars and liked that it was simple and didn’t use a list of weird and wonderful ingredients. Mr Rigg loves lemon drizzle cake and this sounded like it might make something pretty similar. I’ve make cakes before with ground almonds and they usually come out moist – this lemon cake was no exception.
Because there’s no raising ingredients, it’s pretty much the thickness of the batter you pour into your tin, but what it might not give in depth it provides in flavour and texture.
It’s sticky and moist and sweet, but with a lovely tangy lemon taste. I even made a ‘drizzle’ to go over it, using raw yoghurt and maple syrup (as suggested in the original recipe) – however, the original looks more like whipped cream (I think this is because Greek yoghurt is very thick), whereas the raw yoghurt I used is much runnier.
If you’ve never experimented with natural sweeteners (like me!) then I would really recommend giving this recipe a try – you might be surprised how delicious it is. It would make an excellent pudding served warm.
To begin with I preheated my oven to 180°C.
Firstly I placed my butter (1/2 cup) into a little saucepan on a low heat to melt it. Once it was melted, I mixed in 1/4 cup of local honey and 1/4 cup of organic maple syrup, and a 1/4 tsp salt.
In a separate mixing bowl I beat together 2 eggs, 2 additional egg yolks, and the juice and zest from 1 lemon (our lemon was a jumbo one which made for a very lemony cake).
Then I added the melted butter and syrup into the egg mixture and gave it a good whisk. Finally, I added 1/2 cup of organic whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup of ground almonds. Mix that together and pour it into a baking tin I’d lined with greaseproof paper. Bake it for about 30 minutes.
Finally, I made a yoghurt drizzle by mixing in a bit of maple syrup. I found that you don’t want this yoghurt to be really sweet as the tartness of the yoghurt is perfect against the lemony cake. We ate ours warm with a tiny bit of lemon zest to make it look pretty.
I wanted to add that just because I’ve given up sugar (as in the white stuff, and its counterparts) I’ve not gone made on the natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, fruit juices etc. I have been cutting it all out as far as possible, just having a tiny amount in dark chocolate, honey, and watered down apple juice. This lemon cake was primarily to satiate Mr Rigg’s love of sweet treats and I have only eaten the tiniest of pieces.
I am so happy to be back in my little blog home – it has been far too long and I have missed sharing my food adventures.
Since getting engaged back in September 2009, we have been steadily planning and preparing for our wedding. As the date drew nearer – 21st May 2011 – I have just had little time to do much else (whilst juggling it along with my job and my website).
Here’s a picture of some of the cakes our family and friends made for our wedding – the big white one in the middle so beautiful decorated was made by my Granny!
To save me rambling on for too long, I’m going to do some bullets of what’s been going on in our lives for the past few months I’ve been missing from here, and then aim to follow with a nice post and recipe for a fab barbecue we had over the weekend:
- Most importantly – we got married! On 21st May 2011, I married Mr Rigg in my home village in Gloucestershire – we had a beautiful, rustic country wedding, with a party in my parent’s garden, lots of local cider and perry, AMAZING food (lots of it local) and just an all round fab day. If you’re at all interested, photos and details will follow on my website.
- We honeymooned in an incredible Canopy & Star’s hideaway for a week and took Buddy with us (more details and hopefully a couple of foodie posts on this to follow).
- Sadly, Mr Rigg’s lovely Granny who was always so interested in what we were doing passed away.
- After spending an exorbitant amount of time and effort getting our allotment covered in manure and getting rid of all the weeds over the winter…we have neglected it and it is now overrun with weeds – we are totally and utterly the worst looking allotment – gutted.
- Although we haven’t got a lot growing (and the radishes all matured as we headed south for our wedding), we have got a couple of healthy pea plants, some small beetroot seedlings, potatoes growing (only just!) and quite a few courgette, squash and pumpkin plants.
I am just so happy to ‘be back’ and can’t wait to get growing and cooking some decent food – and to share it all! I’ll leave you with a picture of my overgrown garden…
Today I drove the many miles southward to Hanbury Hall – a National Trust property near Droitwich, just south of Birmingham. I went to interview the Head Gardener for the sustainable food bulletin I edit as part of my volunteer role for the National Trust.
Hanbury Hall is possibly one of the prettiest Trust properties I’ve ever visited. The formal gardens are immaculate and full of colour – lots of orange and purple.
The house is very similar to my local Dunham Massey, but a little bit fancier and with more detail.
They have an Orangery and a Mushroom House (where mushrooms were grown for the Vernon family back in the 1860’s), and a large orchard full of ancient apple varieties.
But I was there to see the Walled Vegetable Garden. Down the end of long walkway, surrounded by high Yew hedges (very Alice in Wonderland!) are two old wooden gates set into a high red-bricked wall.
Inside was an idyllic scene of a beautiful working kitchen garden. There were chickens picking happily at the grass, neat row of vegetables – cabbages, Rainbow chard and lettuces to name but a few, bee hives and polytunnels (one bursting with a stunning display of colourful pumpkins and squashes). Sorry – I didn’t take any pictures inside the garden!
Hanbury Hall’s vegetable garden not only supplies the tea rooms with a bounty of fresh produce, eggs and honey throughout the year, but visitors can buy vegetables direct from the garden – simply ask a gardener for a celeriac, and they will go and pull one up for you right before your eyes, or maybe you’re after ruby red forced rhubarb – they can pick that for you while you watch.
How cool is that?!
After having a tour of the kitchen garden and doing my interview, I said goodbye to Neil, the Head Gardener and went for lunch in the tearoom.
In the tearoom you are greeted by a counter full of cakes (like most National Trust tearooms), but here at Hanbury they are quite different – perhaps you are tempted by a slice of their rich and moist Chocolate Beetroot Cake (I certainly was!), or their Parsnip and Caraway Seed Cake, maybe it’s their Honey Cake or my favourite a Victoria Sponge?
What’s special about these cakes is they feature vegetables and ingredients from the Walled Garden – beetroot, parsnip, caraway seeds, honey, eggs, and homemade jam (made with their own fruits, of course). I was also told their made courgette cake and even potato cake! All sweet.
In addition to my slice of Chocolate Beetroot Cake (which I didn’t eat first, I promise!), I had a bowl of vegetable soup with vegetables from the kitchen garden, and an apple and blackcurrant juice from a local producer in Worcestershire. The cake defeated me – I couldn’t manage the last mouthful – shameful, I know!
What a lovely visit and a delicious lunch, and a big thanks to the friendly staff at Hanbury Hall.
If you’d like to visit Hanbury Hall you can find more details here: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-hanburyhall.
*Photos taken with camera phone – not looking too bad!
As I mentioned previously last weekend we headed down south to Hereford for a friend’s wedding. On our journey home we decided to take a leisurely trip stopping off at food place along the way. We didn’t really have a plan, just to see what we found.
The first place we came across we whizzed past, which is funny because it’s such a huge blot on the landscape it’s hard to miss! In the midst of countryside as you head out of Hereford you come across a HUGE ‘barn’, if it can be called that, which reads ‘Oakchurch – farm shop’.
We entered this building with some apprehension and were greeted by what I would describe a confused food-cum-home-cum-DIY-mega….something-or-other! It’s identity to me was unclear, it was utterly bewildering. Imagine a farm shop supermarket and that’s part of the way there.
There was a huge meat section, cheeses and produce – all local the labels told us; there were wines, beers and a selection of local cider and perry; there was a whole section dedicated to homewares (china plates and mugs, jam jars, bread boards, baskets, and every baking item under the sun).
We came away with a small bottle of local perry and a couple of packets of greaseproof bags (ideal for wrapping up edible Christmas goodies). After visiting a friend of mine we crossed the River Wyre at a toll where the lady collecting money looked like she should have sold us some eggs and home produced honey as well as our crossing!
From there we travelled via Eardisley and pulled in at the last minute to a natural cider and perry producer called The Orgasmic Cider Company – who couldn’t resist but stop at somewhere with a name like that?! A friendly man told us about their different types of cider’s and perry’s and we tried some before buying a bottle to take home.
Our next foodie stop was Monkland Cheese Dairy – here we found a small shop and cafe selling homemade cheese, and a selection of preserves, chutney, bread and other local goodies. We tried some of their different cheese and settled on their Oak Smoked for Mr Rigg and their Garlic & Chive for me.
The last place we visited was the Ludlow Food Centre, the one place I had planned to visit in advance. The food centre is a large red brick and black timber clad new build that is light and airy inside. It was bustling with people and on entering we were greeted by buckets of gorgeous locally grown bouquets, and local fruits including Victoria plums.
There was lots of local produce to choose from with pumpkins and squashes, purple beans, and sweetcorn. There were modest meat, cheese and deli counters. There were some delicious looking breads (even bread shaped like a tiny teddy bear!) and all the normal store cupboard items.
We bought some sourdough bread sprinkled with poppy seeds, sweetcorn, Victoria plums, a bunch of local flowers, the first of the Hereford apples, two types of sausage and streaky bacon (at least that’s all I can remember!).
For lunch we ate in their Conservatory Barn Cafe – cheese and chutney sandwiches and a sausage roll for Mr Rigg, and for me roasted red pepper soup. It was nice if slightly uninspiring food, but it tasted good. I was very tempted by their ‘award winning’ Victoria sponge cake, but I resisted knowing that we had a tupperware of homemade chocolate cake in the car.
Girl Interrupted Eating is a fantastic food blog and one of my favourites. On discovery it a month ago, I spent all evening reading back through the blog. It’s written by Becky who lives in the East Midlands and she posts some delicious recipes. She’s also often out foraging for wild food – horseradish is her latest find beside the canal!
With summer starting to peak and thoughts of Autumn looming on the horizon, I have been inspired by Becky’s recipe for Blackberry yoghurt cake.
Image: Girl Interrupted Eating
That’s what I’m asking myself this morning. And no, that’s not a typo, I really do have a kilo of clotted cream. Why, you ask? Well, last night the company I work for held a stakeholder meeting in a local community and as part of dinner we served them delicious mini chocolate cakes with strawberries and a dollop of clotted cream.
With open community meetings you never know how many people are going to turn up, even if you tell people they must RSVP. So we usually end up with some leftovers which are divided up amongst the team. I came home with two ice cream tubs full of fresh strawberries…and a kilo of clotted cream.
I’ve truly never seen so much clotted cream in one tub – it makes your heart stop just to look at it! Sadly it’s not the deep golden yellow coloured cream of my childhood holidays in Devon, with that gorgeous crust that forms (my favourite part). But none-the-less it’s clotted cream and I need to dream up how to use it.
Ice cream is my leading idea at the moment. Primarily because it means Mr Rigg and I don’t have to get through a kilo of clotted cream before it goes off! And also because I’d like a new challenge and haven’t made ice cream before.
Perhaps I might make raspberry and clotted cream ice cream – billed as a ‘sophisticated version of raspberry ripple’. Or maybe I’ll just make a simple clotted cream ice cream to go with lemon and saffron cake which evokes childhood memories of saffron buns eaten in Devon on my granny’s terrace.
I could even save a little clotted cream to eat as it is, with strawberries and rose petals in a dainty sandwich.
Tuesday was my birthday. Mr Rigg and I took a day off work and had a lovely relaxing day pottering in Knutsford, drinking thick hot chocolate with a spoon at an Italian cafe, and eating cake for supper.
We also had a delicious lunch at The Victoria pub in Altrincham – but I’m going to save that for a separate post as it was so good!
Mr Rigg made my birthday cake – a Victoria sponge with raspberry jam and butter cream icing. Yum. It was our first attempt, we bought new sandwich cake tins in Knutsford and set about making Hugh’s recipe from his Everyday book. It turned out pretty good. We certainly aren’t complaining!
Today we have been busy at the allotment enjoying this fabulous heatwave. Covered in suncream we got about moving the ‘shed’ (it’s more storage than shed) forward about a foot so that we can get to the raspberries more easily.
Then we built a compost bin from old gates and a pallet. We feel like proper allotment owners now.
Here’s the before…
And the after…
We stopped lots to eat delicious chunks of frosting coated chocolate brownie cake.
At lunch we sat on the grass in the shade of the car and devoured hunks of bread smeared with gooey camembert.
We cleared a sizeable patch of the allotment which I’m planning on turning into a herb garden with a small patch of grass where we can sit and picnic during the summer.
Then we filled out new compost bin with bits we had dug up and a well-rotted heap of rabbit droppings.
Our day finished with the first barbeque of the year and dinner outside.
Sausages (from Little Heath Farm), lettuce, cherry tomatoes with basil and Parmesan, and bread.
It’s been one of the nicest, most relaxing and productive days we’ve had in a long time. Rosy cheeks all round.
Wishing everyone a happy start to the Easter weekend! I am about to head off to get some eggs so that I can start baking a beautiful lemon pound cake for my granny’s 80th birthday tomorrow.
It needs to feed 20 family members – wish me luck! If it works out I’ll post the recipe…