Archive | October, 2012

Eye Popping

29 Oct

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It’s close to midnight, and something evil is lurking in the dark…

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Oh, it’s only some Halloween cake pops, inspired by these by Bakerella

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Too scary to scoff?

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For more info on cake pop creation, have a look at my I ♥ Cake Pops post. This time I used a basic Victoria Sponge recipe, with buttercream icing. FYI, 3x Victoia sponge cakes will make 100 cake pops.

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Apple of my Pie

25 Oct

Apple Cinnamon Frangipane Tart

It’s Autumn, and Autumn = Apple & Cinnamon. This could be the basis of so many bakes. Here is one of my favourites – lightly poached apples surrounded by marzipanny frangipane held together in sweet sweet pastry. Yum!

Making Apple Cinnamon Frangipane Tart

Apple, cinnamon & frangipane tart
Pastry ingredients
220g plain flour
100g butter
80g icing sugar
1 large egg

Pie ingredients
3 dessert apples
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 eggs
100g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
100g butter
1tbsp flour

Method
To make the pastry; soften the butter in the food processor, then add the icing sugar & whizz until combined and pale in colour. Then whizz in the egg, and finally the flour. This is a nice soft dough, and will benefit from a bit of chilling in the fridge before you use it!

Roll out and line a large pie tin with the pastry and chill again in the fridge, for a couple of hours. Don’t worry if the pastry falls apart as you work with it. It’s quite hardy and will stick back together well!

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4, and when hot line the pastry with greaseproof paper & fill with baking beans. Bake for 7 minutes. Then remove the beans & paper and bake again for another 7 minutes. Allow the case to cool slightly.

Peel and core the apples and cut each into 8 wedges. Place in a saucepan with the cinnamon sticks & 2 tbsp caster sugar and cover with water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to very low and simmer for 10 minutes. You want the fruit to be just tender, but not mushy in any way. Choose a robust apple for this!

To make the frangipane whizz the remaining eggs, butter, sugar, flour & almonds in the food processor for a couple of minutes until light & fluffy.

Pour the frangipane into the pie case, and arrange the apple slices on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden on top.

You could then glaze the apple slices with some melted apricot jam. I didn’t do this, but it would give the apples a lovely sheen. You are also left with your appley, cinnamoney, sweet water that the apples were poached in. I’ll think of something we can do with that…

Frosty The Snowman

18 Oct

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Last weekend saw the final race of the year for me & Mr Cakes – the inaugural Snowman Triathlon run by Always Aim High Events. Brrr, sounds chilly, no? Gingerly stepping into Lake Mymbyr for the swim it certainly was, but we weren’t given much time to get in and worry about it before the starting hooter honked. The water was 11 degrees, they said, chilliest swim yet this year.

Big sis and Big-bro-in-law were our support team for the weekend. Dave, of the wonderful Dave Johnson’s Photography documented the weekend, all the photos here are his. Good, yes?

Swim over, and I couldn’t feel my feet. I shouted as much to Big sis as I ran tried to run into transition. The longest transition of the year followed; socks on, tights on, jacket on, drink, eat, gloves on, sunglasses, helmet, race belt, don’t forget your bike, and try to squeeze out of transition and onto the road.

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Naturally, it didn’t take long for Mr Cakes to overtake me on the bike leg, with a shout of “Come on 42!” We’ll meet again, I thought. And we did, just before he almost disappeared down a bog halfway up Moel Siabod. Yep, a fell run on this tri. It had been billed as probably the hardest run route on any triathlon in the UK. Ouch! This was not to be our most successful outing.

It was , however, the prettiest. The glassy lake, the picturesque cycle through Betws-y-Coed and past the Llanwrst tea room, covered in autumnal ivy, and the view from the top of Moel Siabod. My favourite part of the race? Stopping to pat the little husky at the top of the mountain. The marshalls, spectators, and other competitors cheering us on really made the race a good ‘un.

And thank goodness for Big sis who’d made suitably themed Tri-fle cupcakes for afterwards. We needed them, and they were ruddy good too.

Fellow blogger Rosemary over at Planet Byde did rather well, coming 3rd in the ladies race. Read all about it here!

And now, time to plan next year. I’m already gagging to perfect fell running. Slateman Triathlon anyone?

Mister Bakes

12 Oct

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Mr Cakes is a savory chap, preferring a salty snack over anything sweet. So when he decided it was his turn to bake there wasn’t a chocolate chip or an ounce of sugar in sight, not even a raisin crept into the kitchen.

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Biscuits for cheese, good old water biscuits were Mr Cakes fancy. Thin, crispy and sprinkled with the lightest dusting of sea salt. Perfect for cheese, or the delectable smoked salmon pâté from H.Foreman & Son.

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Mr Cakes Water Biscuits
Ingredients
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g unsalted butter
1 tsp sea salt
120ml chilled water

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4 and line two baking sheet with grease proof paper.

Put the flour, baking powder and butter (chopped into cubes) in a food processor & whizz quickly until sandy. Then, with the mixer running, add the water 1 tbsp at a time until your dough is soft. This could be anywhere between 4-8 tbsp. Try not to add too much to make the dough sticky.

Flour your work top and roll the dough out, it should make a thin 35cm by 35cm square. Brush with a scant amount of water and sprinkle all over with the salt. Prick the dough with a fork and cut into squares, you should get around 25. Transfer the biscuits to the lined baking trays.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until very lightly golden & place on a wire rack until totally cool…if you can wait that long. Once cool they’ll keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight container.

Swimming or Flying?

9 Oct

Thames Hampton Court

Another weekend, another postponed race catch up. This time, the Speedo Open Water Swim Series Hampton Court Swim. Mr Cakes and I were reluctant to leave the cosy taxi that took us to the chilly, misty riverbank by Hampton Court Palace. The sun that warmed our skin pre-Dart seemed far, far away. We were told the water was a frosty 12 degrees, and we watched as the elite wave took to the water with gasps and many a sharp intake of breath.

“Better do some star jumps to warm up”, I said to Mr. Cakes. Still, we needn’t have worried – we weren’t going to be in the water for that long. We’d both put down an estimated finish time of 80 minutes, putting us slap bang in the middle of the field in wave 6. Pah! 80 minutes? Try half that!

Hampton Court Swim 2012

The current, thanks to more rain, was fast and strong. We entered the murky water and could feel it pulling us towards Kingston – the race finish. After the usual bunching at the start I found myself a clear bit of water to swim in, as close to the centre of the river as I could get away with, just shy of the kayaks and buoys lining the route. I quickly gave up trying to work out how far I’d swum – the first large orange buoy said 800m, then the second 3200m, the third nothing. Instead I got on with enjoying the fresh chill of the water on my face, and the rush of swimming as fast as an olympian. Just under 40 minutes after the start klaxon, I sailed through the finish gantry, hotly pursued by Mr Cakes.

A PB to be proud of, perhaps. A PB that’s going to be hard to beat? Absolutely! Thanks Human Race, another great event.

ps – check out these videos on youtube, they really show how fast the water was flowing!

Oh! What a Lovely Jam

5 Oct

Victoria Plum Jam

Whoever invented jam was a very clever person. Plum season is coming to a close, but if you make this jam now then you can be eating plums for weeks to come. Lovely indeed!

Stewing Plums for Jam

Plum Jam Recipe

Ingredients
350g victoria plums, halved and stones removed
350g granulated sugar
50ml water
Juice of half a lemon

Method
Place the plums and water into a saucepan and simmer on a low heat for about 30 mins until the fruit has collapsed. Add the sugar and continue to cook slowly for a further 10 mins until all the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the lemon juice, then turn up the heat to high and rapidly boil the sugar and fruit for about another 10 minutes, maybe less. At this point, test if your jam has set.

To test for a setting point have a chilled plate ready. Spoon a little jam onto the chilled plate, push the jam with a spoon or finger and if the skin wrinkles then its set. If not boil for a further 5 minutes.

Leave to sit for 10 minutes, then decant into sterilised jam jars. This quantity made 1x 450g/1lb jar, and a mini jar (a perfect gift for your Dart 10k hosts…) and can easily be scaled to the amount of fruit you have.

Shoreditch-on-Sea

2 Oct

field cycling

Cycling means many things to many people. Usually, to me it means getting to work or racing as fast as I can. But this weekend it meant a leisurely jaunt through countryside and along coast in lovely, sunny Kent. Off came my usual racing slicks, on with the knobbly jobs. Perfect for the off-road adventure ahead for me and Mog.

cake, huts, art & paddling

The adventure began at St. Pancras station, with the pair of us trying to navigate the escalator with our heavy, baggage laden bicycles with one hand, and hot coffee with the other – possibly the most difficult part of the trip. It took both of us, the chap who got on the escalator behind us and the train conductor to get us, our bikes, and our coffees on to the train safely.

Once in Canterbury, we made our way to Whitstable on the wonderfully named Crab and Winkle Way, or at least we did once we found the blue signs that would mark our route. Without Mr Cakes and his magic bicycle sat nav, this proved difficult! Then Mog got a puncture after only a few miles. Helpful passer-by #3 told us that Herbert’s Cycles in Whitstable was the place to go for help, a small but perfectly formed bike shop that sorted us out in half an hour. Of course, we both do know how to fix a puncture, but why DIY when you can sit and drink coffee while someone else DIFY (does it for you)? From there the journey was easy – just follow the coast until we get tired, or the sun sets. Day 1 was the latter, day 2 the former.

condor, brompton, herberts bike shop

We only had 2 days away, and just 90km of cycling, but we certainly packed in plenty of stuff. Firstly, lets talk cake. There were Mog’s lemon drizzle buns on the train; Granny Ann’s bread pudding bought from a bake sale on the High Street in Whitstable; plum tart from Age & Sons in Ramsgate; and chocolate & beetroot brownies, strawberry muffins and tablet in Deal. Add in a few local ales and now you’re talking.

We saw castles and beach huts a plenty, a wind farm that followed us for miles, something that resembled Britain’s Got Talent in Herne Bay, heard the Noel McCalla trio, avoided about a million dogs and children, cycled on gravel and through muddy fields, failed to see any artwork at the new Turner Gallery in Margate (closed for exhibition changeover), played in the interactive (childrens?) exhibition in the new Turner Gallery in Margate, drank Gadd’s Ale in the Charles Dickens Pub in Broadstairs, drank café au lait at a French cafe in Sandwich, and generally had a ball.

St Margaret's bay swimming

Oh, and there was swimming. We were by the coast, of course there was swimming. I was consumed by the thought of it. We tried on day 1, but the sun was setting and we feared getting too cold. So, instead we settled for a quick paddle in one of Margate’s tidal pools (yes, Margate has two! Lucky Margate!)

We spent the night in Ramsgate, and a chap to whom we got chatting gave us his tip for the best local swimming spot. We got up early and walked along the cliff top to said spot. The tide was out, and there seemed to be some kind of dog/vagrant party going on right in front of the water. We chickened out, again.

But the best was yet to come. According to Wikipedia, channel swimmers and submarine telephone cables start from St Margaret’s Bay, and it was on the route for day two. Finally, salty swimming salvation. Mog watched and snapped and I stripped to my cossie and ran in for a brief breaststroke in the chop. I thought about what it must be like to embark on 22 miles of swimming from right here. Not today, I thought, and out I ran to warm clothing and the rest of the journey to Dover!

I can’t leave you without a recipe. Mog made us lemon buns – why not try Nigel Slater’s Demerara lemon cake, split into 12 muffin cases and baked for about 20 minutes.