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Victoria Sponge

I love having morning and afternoon teas. It’s a great way to catch up with friends and I like the fact that I can prepare everything in advance, from cakes to scones to sandwiches.

A big favourite is my Victoria Sponge. It’s a delicious cake, and filled with jam or cream, it’s so more-ish. The recipe is based on one from James and Tom Morton’s “Shetland, Cooking on the Edge of the World”.

James describes in vivid detail his grandmother’s recipe. It really is a tribute to her baking skills and to recipes handed down through the family.

Now Queen Victoria would not be at all amused, as I fill my sponge with cream. Sacrilege I know, but I love the ooze of softly whipped cream on top of jam in between those delicious sponge layers!

Ingredients 

150g salted butter

150g caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 medium free-range eggs

150g self raising flour 

1/2 tsp baking powder

Full fat milk, to loosen mixture

To fill and decorate

Strawberry or raspberry or mixed berry jam, homemade or store bought, 

200 mls cream, whipped 

Icing sugar or caster sugar, for the top of the cake

Fresh and crystallised rose petals 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, 160 degrees C fan-forced. Grease 2 18cm (7 inch cake tins with butter, really really well.

Take a large piece baking or parchment paper, fold in half, and draw a circle around one of the tins. With the drawing as a guide, cut out 2 circles.  Line the base of each cake tin with the paper circles. 

Heat the butter in a microwave or in a saucepan on the stove top, to the point where half the butter is just melted, and the rest is soft. Put the butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs into a mixing bowl, or stand mixer with a whisk attachment, and whisk on medium speed until the mixture is very pale and thick, almost mousse like.

Sieve the flour and baking powder, and fold these in gently using a metal spoon, being careful not to overmix. When the mixture is nearly smooth, add a little milk, a dash at a time, to loosen the mixture “until it falls from the spoon in a swift wave”.

Spoon the mixture into the tins, gently smoothing flat. Put the cakes into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown on top and the cakes bounce back when gently pressed.

Take out of the oven, and cool in the tins for 10 minutes. Run a butter or palette knife around the edge of the tins to free the sides. Carefully turn the cakes onto a wire cooling rack. Peel off the baking/parchment paper. Leave to completely cool.

Place one cake, upside down on the plate or cake stand you intend to serve the cake on. Spread with the jam, and then spoon or pipe on the whipped cream. Place the other cake on top. 

Dust with icing or caster sugar, sieved over the cake. I like to serve the cake with fresh and crystallised rose petals.

For the crystallised rose petals:

Take one lovely rose, hopefully growing in your garden, and gently wash and dry each petal. Lightly beat an egg white, with a few drops of rosewater, in a small shallow bowl. Dip each petal in the beaten egg white, shaking off any excess. Put 75g caster sugar on a large plate. Dip each petal in the caster sugar, again shaking off the excess. Place the petals on baking paper on a tray, to dry, in a warm place. 

The petals are quite fragile, but will last a couple of days. They are very useful for decorating cakes, biscuits and tarts. And adding the rosewater intensifies the rose flavour!


Blueberry and Marmalade Tea Cakes

With spring very much in the air in September in Sydney, the produce that is available in fruit and vegetables is amazing. We are seeing in particular lots of early summer berries, and at great prices too. The markets are full of big juicy strawberries and punnets of oversized blueberries, with both kinds of berries going for a song. So delicious, so tempting!

September is the also the season for blood oranges, and I have been buying these to cook with, or just to eat, as I love their ruby red fresh and intensely sweet juice.

With so much lovely produce on hand, I have been jam making madly! My current favourite jam I call “Ruby Sunrise”. It’s a marmalade made from blood orange, ruby grapefruit and mandarin. It’s got a great colour and that blood orange tang. Recipe to be posted soon!

These little tea cakes were just an excuse to use my Ruby Sunrise marmalade and to make a rich sticky blueberry compote, to adorn those little cakes.

The tea cakes are made from my go-to easy cake recipe featured in the last post – Yoghurt Cakes with Middle Eastern Flavours. This is such a great recipe as its easy to make in the food processor, the cakes turn out really well and they are light and moist.

I halved the quantities from the original recipe this time. I got 5 good sized tea cakes baked in my popover moulds. I could have got 6, if I’d gone a little smaller. If you used ordinary muffin moulds, I think you could get 6-8 little cakes from the mixture. Or you can use the original recipe quantities if you are cake making for a crowd.

Ingredients
125mls canola or vegetable oil
165g caster sugar
1 free-range eggs
140g Greek yoghurt
150g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (or vanilla extract or almond essence if you prefer)
1 quantity blueberry compote
2 tablespoons any good marmalade

Method
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Grease and flour whatever moulds you are using – popover or conventional muffin tin.

Place the oil, caster sugar and egg in the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined. Pulse in the yoghurt, followed by the flour. Stir in the orange blossom water to the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the popover or muffin moulds.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. If you’re cooking in muffin moulds, you might like to check after 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and cool for 10 minutes then turn out the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Spoon over some blueberry compote and some marmalade onto each cake while they are still warm. The quantities are up to you, but a good teaspoonful over each little tea cake seemed about right to me.

To make the blueberry compote:
Place a punnet of blueberries (125g) in saucepan with 3 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Stir gently till the sugar dissolves. Simmer for a few minutes only until the some of the blueberries have broken down, the compote is slightly reduced and is thick and syrupy.

Serve the little tea cakes more Greek yoghurt, or cream, with a spoonful more of the compote or marmalade if desired.

Yoghurt Cakes with Middle Eastern Flavours

This recipe has become my go-to recipe for an easy, full proof flavoursome cake. I make it as one cake or lots of little ones, in different tins and moulds. As someone who has problems with cakes sticking to tins, I’m very impressed that the cakes turn out every time!

The recipe comes originally from the taste website. I have tweaked and made variations many times. The link to the original recipe is here.

I posted the rosewater version a while back. I have also made an orange blossom cake using the same basic recipe. Here is the recipe for both versions.

I really suggest that you try your own variations using different flavours, such as coffee or mocha, or folding in a handful of fresh berries such as blueberries or raspberries. It’s such a great recipe, it’s worth trying the possibilities!

Ingredients
250ml canola or vegetable oil
330g caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
280g Greek yoghurt
300g self-raising flour, sifted
150g icing sugar, sifted
For the Rosewater Cake:
2 tablespoons rosewater and 1-2 drops pink food colouring
For the Orange Blossom Cake:
1 tablespoon orange blossom water, 1-2 drops yellow food colouring and the juice of half an orange

Method
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C fan forced. Grease and flour a large Bundt mould or a 22cm cake tin.

Place the oil, caster sugar and eggs in the bowl of a food processor. Process until well combined. Pulse in the yoghurt, followed by the flour. Stir in half the rosewater for the rosewater cake. Stir in all the orange blossom water for the orange blossom cake.

Pour the mixture into the bundt mould or the regular cake tin.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Just make sure you keep checking with a skewer for “doneness” after 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and cool for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For icing the rosewater cake: place the icing sugar in a bowl with remaining rosewater and pink food colouring. Gradually stir in enough warm water to make a smooth icing, slightly runny.

For icing the orange blossom cake, place the icing sugar in a bowl with the yellow food colouring and enough of the orange juice to make a smooth icing, slightly runny.

Drizzle the icing over the cake, letting the icing drop down the sides. Decorate with edible flowers, crystallised rose petals and candied orange.

Blood Orange Tea Cakes

I love looking over my posts from previous years, in the equivalent month. This post is originally from July 2017. I note that it was a balmy 21 degrees C. Today in Sydney has been a chilly 16 degrees C. Winter in Sydney can really vary!

This is a recipe for friands, very similar to the French financiers. I have called them tea cakes in this post, just as Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, in their wonderful book Sweet, describe little cakes that go well with a cup of tea.

This version features wonderful blood oranges, which have just become available in Sydney.

The recipe is really so versatile, you could add lots of different fruit to the basic recipe. Cherries, pears, raspberries and blueberries work well.

Ingredients

6 egg whites, beaten lightly

75g plain flour

240g icing sugar, sifted

125g almond meal

150g melted butter, cooled

Grated zest and juice of a blood orange

10 tablespoons icing sugar or enough to make a thick glaze.

Optional – some salted pistachio praline to decorate*

Slices of blood orange

Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Lightly grease 12 friand molds.

Beat the egg whites until frothy with fork in a large mixing bowl.

Sift the flour and icing sugar into the bowl, stir in almond meal and then add the melted butter. Stir in the zest of the blood orange, and the juice of one half of the blood orange.

Spoon the mixture (approximately ¼ cup) into each of the molds.

Bake in preheated oven for 20  minutes until cooked through and golden brown or until a skewer is inserted into centre comes out clean. Sometimes the friands need a few more minutes in the oven to be nice and brown.

To make the glaze, mix the juice of the other half of the blood orange with the icing sugar. You may need to add more or less juice or more or less icing sugar to get the glaze to the right consistency to ice the friands.

Ice the friands with just enough glaze to coat the tops and perhaps to run down the sides a little.

*To make the salted pistachio praline, dissolve a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar in a small frying pan over a medium heat. Don’t stir, or the sugar will crystallize. Once the dissolved sugar has turned to a deep toffee colour, pour the praline over a handful of salted pistachios on some baking paper. Once hard, bash the praline into fragments.

The Banana Chelsea

As the title implies, this is a recipe for a Chelsea style bun. But the thing that makes it different is that mashed banana is incorporated through the dough, giving the bun a real banana hit!

They look and taste great, but I got a bit worried that you can’t see any banana, so I did do some decoration with a few banana slices and some toffee. I think this was “gilding the lily”. They’re fine on their own!

Ingredients

350g strong flour
1 teaspoon salt
100g tepid water
10g dry yeast
20g sugar
50g buttermilk
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Filling
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup hazelnut praline paste (This paste is sometimes hard to source, so you could substitute Nutella)

Icing
200g icing sugar
Enough water to make a smooth paste

Method

Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Put the tepid water, yeast and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook. Leave it to sit for a few minutes, to allow the yeast to start to activate.

When the mixture is frothy, add the buttermilk and the mashed bananas. Mix well using the dough hook.

Add the flour and salt mixture to the bowl and continue to mix with the dough hook on low speed the dough is smooth and starts to become elastic. Add the vegetable oil and mix until the dough becomes soft and silky.

Form the dough into a ball and place it into a clean bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film, or my favourite, a disposable plastic shower cap. I always use shower caps to rise dough, as they neatly fit over the top of the bowl! Allow to dough to rise for 60-90 minutes, until roughly doubled in size.

Towards the end of rise, get your filling ready. Melt the butter gently in a microwave on low, and have your brown sugar and praline paste/Nutella on hand.

Flour a work surface. Turn out the dough and knead gently for a few minutes until the dough is soft and pliable.

Roll out the dough into a big, long rectangle. The rectangle should be about 20cm wide. It’s hard to say how long the rectangle is, at least 50 cms, but it could be longer. I judge by the thickness of the dough, rolling out to get a decent length, but you do want dough that’s not too thin, just thick enough to encase the filling.

Spread the melted butter over the dough rectangle, then sprinkle over the brown sugar. Dot the dough with the praline paste or Nutella, as you can’t really spread the paste.

Roll up the dough along its long edge into as tight a cylinder you can get, being careful as the dough is quite hard to manage. Slice the cylinder into roughly equal pieces using a sharp knife. I usually get about 12 buns per cylinder, but the number of buns will vary depending on how large you want the finished product.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper and arrange the buns cut end down. Cover the tray with cling film or put inside a large plastic bag. I have several of these that I have rescued after I’ve had something delivered. Leave to rise for another 60-90 minutes at room temperature, until the buns are noticeable bigger, but not necessarily doubled in size.

15 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 180 degrees C fan forced.

Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until the buns are a deep golden brown colour. You can check after 15 minutes to make sure the buns are not browning too quickly – if so, cover the top with foil for the last part of the baking.

Remove from the oven, and cool to room temperature. Once the buns are cooled, drizzle with water icing.

For the icing, mix the icing sugar with enough water until the icing is thick but of dropping consistency. Drizzle the icing over the buns using a fork or spoon.

The Banana Chelsea is now ready to eat! But if you want to prove the bun is actually a banana Chelsea, by all means top with a slice or two of banana and even a few toffee shards. I did do this, but really, the buns taste like banana, so there’s really no need for additional advertising!

Bread and Butter Pudding Traybake

I love bread, in particular sourdough. I also love traybakes, or slices as we know them in the Antipodes. I make a lot of bread, so it’s inevitable that I will have some leftover sourdough slices. What to do with leftover bread? I freeze it of course, but you can end up with too much bread in the freezer.

So I got to thinking about bread and butter pudding which uses leftover bread. And then I thought of making a traybake based on bread and butter pudding. Using sourdough, I thought the bread would absorb the liquid well, and make a traybake that you could cut into pieces. I also cooked it long and slow, to ensure that the custard set firm enough to slice. The sourdough worked well, the slightly tougher bread giving texture and firmness to the slice.

You serve this, like any traybake, at room temperature. But you could also warm through and serve more like a traditional bread and butter pudding. Either way, it’s nice with custard and caramel sauce!

Ingredients
250g sourdough bread
200ml full fat milk
150ml cream
2 free-range eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
70g raw sugar
Zest of a lemon (optional)
300g dried fruit – any fruit will do. I used sultanas, raisins and sour cherries.
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
50g butter, melted
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

Method
Tear the bread into a large bowl and add the milk and cream. Mix with a spoon, and then scrunch through your fingers to completely break up the bread. Add the eggs, vanilla extract and sugar and lemon zest if using. Stir in the fruit and spices. Mix well, then set aside for at least 15 mins in order for the bread to soak up the liquid.

Heat oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Butter and line the base of a 18cm non-stick square cake tin. Stir the melted butter into the mixture, then pour into the tin. Scatter the flaked almonds over the mixture, and then top with demerara sugar.

Bake for 1 hour until set and golden. Cover with foil if the bake is browning too quickly. Cool in the tin, and when quite cold, turn out of the tin and remove the baking paper. Slice into squares. Serve at room temperature, or you could warm gently in a microwave.

They’re nice on their own or with the aforementioned custard or caramel sauce.

Oven Bannocks, Shetland Style

I’ll bake anything that involves flour. If it’s yeast based, all the better. And baking with your very own sourdough starter is the ultimate in satisfaction.

So I sometimes forget those lovely bakes that just involve self raising flour or plain flour and baking powder. They can be just as satisfying as yeast baking and are a lot quicker.

I recently acquired Shetland: Baking on the Edge of the World, by James Morton and his father Tom Morton. James is my favourite bread baker and I’ve been cooking his recipes since he first rose to prominence on The Great British Bake-off in 2012.

I was fascinated by his discussion of bannocks, both girdle cooked and oven baked. I’ve made both, but opted for the latter as they were easier to manage and produced a lighter product. I have served them up to friends who seemed to think they were scones… I kind of agree, although this might be an heretical thing to say!

Here’s James’ recipe for oven bannocks as I have made them. I’ve included the original quantities, which makes 16. I have actually made a half quantity each time I’ve produced them. This gives me at least 8 decent sized bannocks, more than enough for a morning or afternoon tea.

Ingredients

550g self-raising flour, plus extra for shaping
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon table salt
25g caster sugar
50g butter salted or unsalted (I prefer salted)
280ml buttermilk
150ml natural yoghurt
150ml full fat milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees C fan-forced. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Very lightly sprinkle them with flour.

Into a large bowl put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar. Mix these roughly together with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles floury breadcrumbs.

Add the buttermilk, yoghurt and milk and mix together, then add to the flour using a wooden spoon, doing this quickly so as not to over mix. The mixture will be lumpy and quite wet and will need flour to handle it.

To make the bannocks, heavily flour a work surface, and scrape all the mixture out on top. Add more flour, and pat down the pile of mixture with your hands, into a rough square, about 2cm or ¾ inch thick.

Use a round cutter to cut out bannocks, or cut into rough squares with a knife, and then place the bannocks onto the prepared trays.

Bake the bannocks for about 12-15 minutes, or until light golden all over. You will need to watch them carefully, as there is a point at which they are golden and cooked, but still soft in the middle, and ready to come out of the oven.

Remove from the oven, and leave to cool a little before serving with lashings of butter or cream, and a good jam or conserve.

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