The All-in-one – Victoria Sandwich

Have you ever wondered why it’s called a ‘Victoria Sandwich’? Apparently, it’s named after Queen Victoria, who favoured a slice of this sponge cake with her afternoon tea.  As for the sandwich bit – well I guess that part’s pretty obvious!

Now that my family have finally accepted that baked goods are to be a permanent feature in their lives – they’ve started to get quite demanding.  Any dinner parties that take place are now required to have one of my cakes as dessert – regardless of whether I am attending or not.

In the same way, I am now expected to bring dessert to any dinner parties I am invited to.  I’ve argued that, as it is someone else’s dinner party, surely they should get a chance to bake but – apparently – this form of logic is completely lost on them. And as there is absolutely no argument that I can ever win with my family, I tend to go with the flow (it also gives me an excuse to get some baking done for the blog so I shouldn’t complain!)

This particular time I was baking a cake to take to a dinner party. I actually wasn’t asked to bake until a few hours before we had to leave so I panicked and went for the trusty Victoria Sandwich. The ‘large’ and ‘all-in-one’ parts of the title bode well so I went with it.

 Once again Mary Berry went for the ‘throw it all together’ method of baking but I didn’t follow the exact instructions and went for something different.  I whisked together the butter and sugar (as always) and then added the eggs.  Instead of whisking in the flour and baking powder, I decided to go old-school and fold it in.  Why? I have no idea – maybe with a 2 hour time limit (which included getting myself ready) I decided I had way too much time on my hands. I don’t know.

Once the batter was ready, I split it between the two cake tins, attempted to make it even, gave up and put it in the oven for 25 minutes. They came out golden, even and springy to the touch – perfect! If only all my cakes would come out this way.

After a few minutes cooling time, I took them out of the cake tins and peeled off the baking parchment.  I kept the nicest looking cake the right way round but turned the other one (which was also nice – just not as flat on the top) upside down.  This would become the bottom layer so I figured this technique would make it as flat as possible.

Once cooled. I spread strawberry jam on the top of the flattened cake before placing (i.e. accidentally dropping) the second layer on top.  Thankfully it didn’t break! Just before leaving I sprinkled caster sugar on top – et voila!

I had packed the Victoria Sandwich into my trusty cake tin and got in the car ready to leave.  Somehow (and I blame this completely on my father’s driving skills), between us leaving the house and getting to the dinner party, the top layer of the cake slid half off the bottom … AARGH!

OK, so it was fixed really easily (I, quite literally, slid it back into place and cleaned off the excess jam) but it’s one of those things that only ever manage to happen to me.

Thankfully there were no other mishaps and the cake went down a treat – two guests even tried to ‘judge’ it in the same way as Paul Hollywood and Marry Berry from The Great British Bake Off – thankfully that feedback was positive (although they did say ‘no soggy bottoms’ which I believe refers to pastry and not sponge cake!).

There’s not much to say for the taste of this cake, everyone knows what a good Victoria Sandwich should taste like – and this is definitely a recipe that will create that perfect sponge!

Jane’s Fruit Cake

Why is it Jane’s? Well I can’t answer that, but it was the fruit cake that my mum has been asking me to bake for a while. So I finally gave in and decided to give it a try.

I can’t help but love Mary Berry’s instructions – they generally consist of mixing everything together in no particular order and bunging it all in the oven! Great for everyone else but unfortunately not for a perfectionist like me.

So instead of throwing everything in, I started by mixing the butter and the muscovado sugar, then added the eggs and buttermilk and finally the wholemeal flour.  I did question what the wholemeal flour would add (or detract) to the recipe, but I have full faith in Mary Berry and will do (almost) anything she says – or writes.

Finally, I stirred in the currents and sultanas and began to pour the batter into my cake dish.  This was when I realised that my 23cm-diameter cake tin was definitely too short for all the batter I had.  Cue the very speedy preparation of another, smaller, cake tin – and hey presto we have a mama cake and a baby cake.

I managed to fit the cakes into the oven and put the timer on for … 3hours?!?!?! Of course this is always the last thing I read and I managed to pick the cake with longest cooking time ever. * Sigh *

I took one last quick look at the recipe as I sat on the sofa with a cup of tea when I realised that I had to sprinkle the almonds on top of the cake before I put it in the oven.  Oops.

I ran back to the kitchen (I’m not joking, I actually skidded around two corners!), ripped open the packet of flaked almonds, and held my breath while I opened the oven door, quickly sprinkled almonds on the batter, and slammed it shut again.  I strolled back into the living room, sat down looking thoroughly pleased with myself, and found two parents with their mouths hanging open. I told them I forgot to sprinkle the almonds, which, apparently, wasn’t enough explanation for my dramatics.  I then explained that cakes sink if you open the oven door too much and even with this perfectly rational argument, I got nothing. So I gave up and settled down with my tea and my book.

Jane’s Fruit Cake

About 3 hours and a good few chapters later, I checked on the cakes to make sure they were dark enough, springy to the touch, and that they passed the skewer test.  Thankfully the cakes passed all three and I got the bigger one out for the taste test with the family.

Now I’m not the biggest fan of fruit cakes – I just don’t understand the concept of dried fruit, in general, and specifically in cake. Despite this, the cake was actually OK – definitely not my favourite – but the muscovado sugar added a really nice flavour and the wholemeal flour gives a nice texture. The parents, who happen love fruit cakes, devoured it so I guess that’s a good sign. I did plan to ask them to describe it to me but they went straight to bed claiming exhaustion for having to wait so long for my baked goods.

Easy Breezy Lemon Squeezy Cheesecake

This is my first Mary Berry Cheesecake, and in true Diary of a Bake-A-Holic style I looked for the easiest one possible. The name of this recipe therefore made the choice ridiculously easy for me.

 I went out specifically to buy some condensed milk and got a tiny bit carried away with all the recipes on the tins. About 20 minutes later I realised what I was doing and grabbed the first tin of condensed milk I saw and dashed home to start baking.

The base of the cheesecake consisted of digestive biscuits, melted butter and a bit of Demerera sugar.  I was determined not to have any big lumpy bits of biscuit so whipped out the pestle and mortar and ground my way through the pack. Naturally one or two had to be eaten along the way – for quality assurance, of course.

I finally managed to get all the biscuits crushed and mixed with the butter and sugar, squished the somewhat dry mixture into the bottom of the cake tin and got it into the fridge to cool while I worked on the next layer. Mary Berry, I hope you know what you’re doing with these crumbly bases!

Then came the hard part – grating lemon zests! Over the course of this blog, I have realised that it is impossible for me to grate anything without injuring myself. I have therefore come up with a fool-proof plan to get it done without any type of injury … bribe someone else to do it. This time, three lemons were grated by a loving father, who received tea and a digestive biscuit for his troubles (thanks dad!).

With the hardest job out of the way, I set about measuring out the cheese, single cream and condensed milk ready to be mixed.  This is where I encountered a slight hitch … my condensed milk was actually ‘caramelised’ condensed milk.  Oops. I had been so engrossed in the recipes on the sides of the tin I didn’t bother to look at what I was buying! I rushed to the shops again while I fogged off a ‘digestive biscuit covered with caramelised condensed milk’ snack onto my family (which, I’d like to point out, is very tasty!).

Once back, I whisked everything together and attempted to spread the mixture evenly on top of the biscuit base.  This went in the fridge overnight and the bowl was taken away by the family to be ‘taste tested’ – a term I wish I didn’t teach them!

After a hectic day the next day I came home to a family sitting expectantly and waiting for me to get the cheesecake out; when I say ‘sitting expectantly’, I actually mean they were glaring at me and pointing at the kitchen as soon as I walked through the door (charming aren’t they?!).

 In my rush to get home I managed to buy double cream instead of whipping cream but I figured it was all relative and started to whisk it anyway. It didn’t help that I didn’t whisk it as much as I probably should have – but I put this down to pressure from the evil glares I was getting for taking so long. A few slice strawberries later and ‘et voila’, we have an Easy Lemon Cheesecake ready to be served.

Once everyone had had their first piece and stopped glaring at me, I could tuck into my own slice of cheesecake. Oh my, Mary Berry, you have done it again! The biscuit base was delectable – the Demerera sugar adds a lovely sweet crunch to it all.  If that wasn’t enough the actual cheesy part – I dribble just thinking about it.  It was very sweet, which may not be to all tastes, but is definitely to mine.  It wasn’t sickly sweet however, but was light and creamy, with the lemon cutting through the sweetness perfectly.

 

Basically this is a delight of a cheesecake.  The only downside was that the double cream made the cake look a little runny, but this is only an aesthetic hitch and thus shouldn’t count in any way. OK, so looks count a bit but it tastes so good that frankly, no one cared.

A Carrot Cake … With Lots of Banana?

I’m an office feeder. Yes, I know it’s shameful.  I make lots of treats and I take them to work for everyone to eat; it’s gotten worse since my family decided to become healthy and reject my baking. However, I eat as much baked goods as everyone else so I could say I’m not as bad?!

Anyway, my colleague requested a carrot cake for his birthday and I just couldn’t say no. I’ve already tried my hand at the carrot cake from the Hummingbird Bakery recipe books, so I thought I’d give Mary Berry’s Baking Bible a go, as it’s on a great running streak.

So I prepared my cake tin the Mary Berry way, (lining it with greaseproof paper) and turned my oven on. To save time I bought chopped walnuts from the supermarket, I admit it’s ridiculously lazy but it was definitely worth it.

What confused me most in this recipe was the amount of banana used, there was actually more banana than carrot! I used the tiniest two carrots I could find and I still had to eat half of one; but I used 2 large bananas. I was starting to question Mary Berry’s methods but I kept going – I figured at worst it would be a nice twist on a carrot cake.

Once all the ingredients were grated, mashed and whisked I poured the batter into the prepared dish and cooked it for the recommended time.  The cake had risen beautifully when I took it out too cool. The smell managed to send my entire family into the kitchen, scavenging for a slither of cake.  I had to hit hands with the spatula and bribed them with berries and cream cheese icing to keep them away!

It was pretty late the time I had finished baking and preparing the icing and I was still waiting for the cake to cool completely.  My need for sleep increased drastically and I resorted to spreading the icing on a semi-warm cake and quickly put it in the fridge to stop the icing melting/dripping etc.  Now I know this is blasphemous in terms of baking but sleep comes first for me!

I woke in the morning to find that it didn’t run as much as I thought it would. I wacked on a few walnuts, and whisked it off to work, where it was demolished before I could take any proper photos – damn.

  The cake tasted great – which was insinuated by the speed at which it disappeared. I’m generally not the biggest fan of using oil in cakes as I can always taste it but version of the carrot cake managed to hide it well and the banana added a lovely moistness to the sponge.

All in all a great recipe, Mary Berry hits the nail on the head again. I promise I will not doubt her ever again!

Limes … in Cookies … Hmm …

I was looking for something really quick and easy to bake this weekend and came across this recipe for Lime Lattice Cookies in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.  To be honest I was quite sceptical about it all; now I’ve had a really good run so far with Mary Berry’s recipe’s but lime and cookies? … Really?

There were so few ingredients involved and the recipe seemed really easy so I couldn’t help myself; I decided to give it a go. All I had to do was cream some butter and sugar (easy enough) and mix in self-raising flour (can’t mess that up right?!) and lime zest (dammit!).

I hate grating – well, pretty much anything – but limes are by far the worst! They just don’t want to be grated! After much huffing and puffing – and the odd five injuries – I managed to get two limes grated and ready to put in the mix.

Here is where I have to make a confession – the recipe is enough to make 16 cookies; so … I measured the dough exactly and separated it into 16 exacts parts (that’s 17grams each). I realise the sheer geekiness and perfectionist nature of this and all I have to say is – I’m a geek, and I like to have cookies that are all the same shape. And What?!

Now this is where the recipe stumped me a bit; Mary Berry says to create a lattice pattern using a skewer – great, I have the skewer … now what in the heck is a lattice pattern?! (I do admit that this is another confession that I probably really shouldn’t reveal to the world via a food blog!) But Google, as always, provided me with an answer and I set to work.

 

The now lattice-patterned cookies went into the oven for about 15minutes, and came out just as they were turning golden.  This is the worst part about baking cookies.  You’d think it would be simple to know when the cookies are ‘almost golden’ but I’ll have you know that there are many different shades that fall under that category.

Once the cookies were out, I managed to wait twenty minutes before I had to give one a taste test; I was just too intrigued to wait!

And the verdict is … yum! The cookies have quite a crumbly texture and the lime adds a really nice sharpness to it, which isn’t overwhelming at all.  Altogether, they’re a great, quick and easy recipe for pretty much any occasion – did I mention that they look really good too?

Why Is It Called Madeira?

This is the first question that came to mind when I made this cake.  At first I figured it must come from the Madeira Islands … apparently not! According to the internet (i.e. Wikipedia), the recipe originated in England in the 18th/19th century and was named after Madeira wine, which was served with the cake and popular at the time. Huh … You learn a new thing every day.

History lesson over, I chose the recipe because I was intrigued by the amount of ground almonds it used … OK, you got me, I actually picked it because I had nothing else in my cupboard and this cake doesn’t need anything random!

So I turned on my oven and prepared my cake tin with greaseproof paper (the typical Mary Berry way).  The recipe said to bung it all in and mix it – which I’m very wary of – so I used my standard method.  I firstly beat together the butter, sugar and lemon and added in the eggs.  Then I added the almonds and sifted the flour before mixing for a bit longer till it all came together.

This went into the tin and in the oven for around 30 minutes.  The recipe then says to take the cake out and put some citron peel on top before putting it back in for another 10-15minutes. Naturally I didn’t have any, in fact, I didn’t know what it was and guessed it to be any citrus type fruit. So…  I used some orange peel … Ah well!

Once the cake was ready and the kitchen smelt like roasted almonds, I took the cake out to cool and served it up with tea (obviously I didn’t know you had to serve it with wine at the time).

 

The cake is actually really delicious, it’s quite dense and could potentially be mistaken for dry; it actually reminded me of a few Iranian desserts, which are meant to be accompanied with a drink – normally tea. The almond wasn’t overwhelming but complimented the cake really well. Mary Berry does it again, she’s fast becoming my favourite cookbook.

Carrot and Orange Loaf … The Mary Berry Way

I’m still addicted to Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, and wanted to try out another recipe from the book. I decided on the Carrot and Orange Loaf for two reasons: 1. I wanted to see what a crazy combination like carrot and orange would taste like, 2. I’ve never made a carrot cake with butter instead of oil.

The biggest problem I have with the recipe book is that not all the recipes have a photo of the finished product. I normally use the photo most to see what it’s meant to turn out like so had a bit of a freak out when I didn’t have one to use.  However, I turned to my trusty friend, Rising To the Berry, who is going through all the recipes in the book and, thankfully, she had already done this one.

Now, being the geek that I am, I’ve read all the baking tips at the front of the book and decided to try out her way of preparing a loaf tin.  It was essentially greasing the tin all up and cutting a piece of greaseproof paper that is the same size as the length of the of the longest side and leaves an overlap (see photo below).

 

After that was done I set about grating the carrots and boy, were there a lot of carrots to get through. I’m generally rubbish at grating things; normally I end up having about 10 cuts on my fingers from where I got excited but this time I did quite well, I only had three.  I consider that huge progress.

Once the carrots were done I grated the orange rind and cut away the pith (which is the white part of the skin – yes, I actually had to Google it!) before slicing it.

Finally I set about making the batter; the recipe says to bung it all into a bowl and mix it up. I tend to find that I over mix the batter quite when I do it this way so I started by mixing the butter, sugar, rind and carrots; before mixing in the eggs and finally the flower baking powder and spices.  I also added a tablespoon of milk, as the batter was quite thick.

The mixture went into the cake tin and into the oven for about 45minutes.  I took it out when it was just firm and put the slices of orange on the top and drizzled some honey on top of that. This went into the oven for a further 15minutes.

I have to say, when I took the loaf out of the oven I was insanely proud of it, and therefore of Mary Berry.  The loaf came out perfectly.  Furthermore, the new way of lining the loaf tin made it so much easier to take the cake out. You literally just lift it out and hey presto… perfect loaf!

I managed to hold my family off eating the loaf until after dinner and I tell you, it was definitely worth the wait! It was beautifully moist and the carrot and orange flavour actually worked really well.  Also, I find a lot of carrot cakes are quite oily so it was really nice to not have that. All in all, a definite great recipe; Mary Berry is on a good streak!

Little Bites of Yumminess

I finally got my Baking Bible in the post (mini yay required) and was so excited about baking from it that I made biscuits the same day for friends who were coming round for dinner.

I decided on the Lavender biscuits purely because it was the first recipe I saw in the book.  I also have fresh lavender growing in the garden and really wanted an excuse to use it.

So we were already off to a good start … Till I realised that bees really like lavender! I’m slightly scared of them and it was a terrifying experience trying to get enough lavender without them coming near me.  There was a lot of shrieking and running involved – definitely not a pretty sight.

I did manage it however and got enough to start on the biscuits. I whisked together the lavender and the butter and added the sugar.  The flour was stirred in and kneaded together with my hands.

I then split the mixture in half and rolled out a sausage type shape that was roughly 15cm long (I know because I actually used a ruler!). Each of these were rolled around in the Demerara sugar and wrapped in foil and put in the fridge to harden.

After about an hour, and two cups of tea later, I turned on the oven and brought out the biscuits.  As I unwrapped the foil I could already get a hint of lavender smell, which for some reason got me extremely excited, easily pleased person that I am!

I had to cut the sausage-shaped mixture into small slices and placed them on the baking tray and wacked them into the oven for 15 minutes.

 

45 minutes later the biscuits were cooked.  Now I don’t blame Mary Berry for this, but actually I think my oven door wasn’t working very well and was letting out a lot of heat.

It was definitely worth the wait though.  I couldn’t wait much longer so sneakily ‘taste tested’ a biscuit while it was still hot, as in literally straight from the oven. So I had a burnt mouth too, but it was so worth it.  The biscuit is beautiful; there is no other word.  The hint of lavender works really well against the crispness and sweetness of the sugar.

 

This will definitely be a staple part of my diet in the future. I don’t think I can live long without these in my life. A great start to the book.  Well done Mary Berry!