I Think I have My First Product!

This week has been odd, I guess because of the bank holiday weekend. I have managed to do some Cakes & Cardies work but have been distracted by keeping the house and generally having very little time. Not sure how I fitted everything in when I was working full time!

One of the things that I have started is the search for ingredients. This, of course, brings up lots of questions. Do I want to go organic? In fact, that is the only question really, well the only one that matters. Reading a how to start your own business book earlier this week one of the things that I got from it was differentiation, USP if you will. How to make Cakes & Cardies stand out from the crowd (apart from making delicious cakes, that goes without saying!)? One of those ways is to choose ingredients that stand out too, organic, local, handmade, ethical etc. Of course that way lies the expensive, i.e. expensive ingredients mean an expensive cake. Then the question arises are people willing to pay for that quality of ingredient? In the end I am faced with many questions coming from that one question, do I go organic? But more on ingredients later, the name of this post is not Ingredients is it?

While I am coming up with answers to all the above questions I am still baking and thinking about products. Some of the cakes will come from the customer, they may want a specific cake but if I am to tout myself around I will need products. A list of cakes that Cakes & Cardies produces. And as the blog post suggests, I think I have my first one.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog I went around to a friends house last Saturday for lunch. As I like to take every opportunity to bake I offered make something for afters, always selfless! My offer was accepted with the proviso that my friend paid for it (mates rates, natch). A sponge of some sort was requested.

As I know that a lemon cake is my friends favourite I remembered a sponge sandwich I had made a while ago using lemon curd as the flavouring so I decided to use that as a base and tinker with the flavours. I used a basic sponge mix (equal weight butter, sugar, flour and eggs) but to add lemon flavour I added the zest of a lemon when I was creaming the butter and sugar. Adding it at this stage rather than later helps release the lemonyness. As well as getting lemon into the sponge I wanted to get it into the filling too and what better way than adding lemon curd to the cream.

The last time I made this I used shop bought lemon curd but in my new guise as Cakes & Cardies that wasn’t acceptable, I had to make the lemon curd too. I used a Rachel Allen recipe from Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home that I have used before. The scary thing about making lemon curd is to heat it just enough to thicken it but not enough that you get scrambled egg, eggs being the thickening agent here! A lot of stirring and vigilance goes into it but it is worth it in the end, it tastes just like lemon curd should taste! But better because you have made it from scratch.

When the lemon curd had cooled and set I added about four tablespoons to some whipped double cream, tasting all the time to make sure the lemon came through enough. Into a piping bag with a star nozzle and I was ready to assemble. Once the cake had cooled completely I set the bottom layer on a cake board and spread it with a layer of the lemon curd, piped two thirds of the lemon curd cream on top and set the second sponge atop it. I piped lemon creamy swirls on top and dusted it with icing sugar. But there was something missing…..as it was Easter Saturday I thought I would Easter it up, pimp it, if you will. I happened to have some mini eggs in the cupboard (don’t ask!) so each swirl was topped with a mini egg. Last time I made it I used blueberries but you could also use candied lemon peel or anything else that suits the occasion.

I know that this isn’t innovative but it is a classic and the addition of homemade lemon curd adds that extra dimension of flavour. It went down well at the lunch, people even went back for seconds! I think I will use the zest of two lemons in the sponge the next time as the flavour was a bit too subtle. But I think that’s product number one, barring the odd tweak or two.



[read more]
Posted in Recipe

No Judas Simnel Cake

SAMSUNG CSCI was in two minds about whether to make a Simnel cake as well as the Hot Cross buns, too much Easter baking? But I woke up on Easter Sunday morning and decided why not?! Simnel cake, historically, was made for Mothering Sunday but over the years has become an Easter cake. I love the look of this Easter treat with it’s marzipan icing and marzipan disciples. There should be 11 marzipan balls, Judas doesn’t get to have one for obvious reasons!

I used Nigella’s recipe for this cake and sized it down to a 6 inch tin, only the two of us eating it so best to go small! I use the Cakeometer online tool for this, it is great for sizing up and down. This is a light fruit cake with a layer of marzipan baked in the centre of the cake. I used the creaming method, creaming the butter and sugar and adding the beaten eggs slowly before folding in the flour (and spices) and the mixed fruit. Half of the mixture goes into the prepared tin and then a layer of marzipan is added and the rest of the mixture tops this. The 8 inch cake cooks for 2 hours in a low oven and the 6 inch one was done in about one and a half hours.

It is left to cool down completely before taking it out of the tin. Mine sunk a bit in the middle, I think it may have needed a little longer in the oven. Once it is cooled I took it out of the tin and prepared it for it’s disciple topping. The marzipan is supposed to be stuck to the cake with apricot jam, I didn’t have any but I had some homemade lemon curd (more on that later). Once the marzipan was in place I rolled out the 11 balls for the disciples and stuck them on with the lemon curd too. I brushed it with an egg white and put it under the grill to brown which gives it a lovely nutty brown colour. I had to use the grill as I don’t have a blowtorch, I may have to get one they seem like good fun!

The finished cake was so pretty and being small it looked quite cute too! We had a slice for afternoon tea and my husband made lots of approving noises. To be fair he usually makes lots of approving noises when he eats my cakes but he seemed to enjoy the Simnel cake more than usual. Maybe it was the lapsed Catholic in him, eating a disciple!


(In this picture you can see Nigella’s Simnel cake in the background, I think the blowtorch makes a better finish!)

[read more]
Posted in Cakes

Good Friday Hot Cross Buns

As many of you will know I am a big fan of baking cakes that are baked at a certain time of the year and there are many countries that have wonderful Easter cake traditions. English hot cross buns and simnel cake, Italian dove shaped Colomba (I love making this one, it is such a crowd pleaser), Croatian Pinca, Finnish cardamom flavoured Pulla and many many more. Most of these are a version of an enriched sweet bread dough with each country’s twist.

I have decided to go for an English Easter bake this year and am making hot cross buns and a simnel cake and both are from Nigella’s Feast (one of my favourites for cake recipes). Hot Cross Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday (although I could eat them any day of the year) and who am I to mess with tradition.

Nigella’s recipe calls for the dough to be made the night before and left in the fridge overnight for a slow rise. The dough is an enriched one with milk, butter and eggs, the Easter bun spices, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and mixed fruit (sultanas, currants, raisins and mixed peel). I have recently discovered the wonder of the dough hook on my KicthenAid, in fairness I knew it was there but I was a bit weary of using it. I felt that it couldn’t really work as well as hand kneading, but I was wrong. I used it for an enriched dough in March (a dough for the Swedeish lenten Semlor) just because the recipe called for it, I figured I would give it a go and it worked really well. I think it works well with the stickier doughs, they are always a little trickier to knead. As this was an enriched dough I went for the dough hook. Having said that this dough was quite a dry one and the next time I would knead it by hand. But hindsight is a great thing!

Next morning I took it out and left it to warm up before knocking it back and dividing into buns. I upped the ingredients by a third as I wanted a good few buns for Easter presents, even given that I was pushed to get 16 buns out of the dough, the recipe was for 16-18 with a third less ingredients! Once rested I “crossed” them and into the oven they went. Here they are just before going in.


They bake for about 15 minutes in a hot oven, 220 C. Mine were not the most pretty of buns, a bit misshapen truth be told but once they were glazed with sugar and water they looked pretty good.



I went around to a friends house on Saturday for lunch and bought these as Easter gifts, my friend texted me yesterday saying that the toasted bun was very nice indeed. We had ours on Good Friday evening with lashings of butter. As my father used to say, a great pastime!


[read more]
Posted in Cakes