Archive for May, 2011

London Baking Battenberg cake recipe

Posted in Baking, Cakes, English food, Recipes with tags , , , , on 31/05/2011 by libbyplummer

London Baking BattenbergI first made my own version of Battenberg cake for the royal wedding back in April, but I didn’t post a recipe as I hadn’t quite perfected it – until now. This classic, British almond-flavoured cake was supposedly invented in 1884 for a royal wedding (for more info, see my previous Battenberg post).

Again, I haven’t opted for the classic pink and yellow colours, instead going for the pink and green from the London Baking logo (if you hadn’t already worked it out, this is inspired by The Clash’s London Calling album cover which was based on Elvis Presley’s first LP). Without further ado – here’s my recipe for London Baking Battenberg cake.

What you’ll need:
110g/4oz self-raising flour (sieved)
110g/4oz caster sugar (sieved)
110g/4oz unsalted butter (softened) or margerine
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
Paste food colouring
Apricot jam
Pack of marzipan

If you use all of the sponge, then this should make a cake that’s roughly the same size as the Battenberg that you buy in the shops. If, like me, you don’t have a tin that’s the correct shape and size then you’ll probably end up trimming alot of the sponge away to get straight edges so your cake will end up being about two thirds of the size.

What to do:
Preheat the oven to 160°C/140°C (fan oven)/325°F/gas mark 3. Line two tins with baking parchment. Unless you have two tins that are exactly the right shape, you might need to use some ingenuity here. I used one brownie tin with a makeshift divider made from foil running down the middle to make two seperate baking areas, one for each colour sponge. What you need to end up with is two rectangular pieces of sponge that are deep enough to form the cake when sandwiched together. Two loaf tins would also work well. As you can see from the picture, the layers are slightly wonky, but it doesn’t really matter. If you want it to look perfect then you’ll either need to get your ruler out or invest in some pans that are exactly the right size (or ones that come with adjustable dividers).

Once you’ve finished horsing around with cake tins and foil, it’s time to make the cake. Plonk the sifted flour, sugar, butter/margarine and baking powder into a bowl and cream together with a fork. Next add the two eggs, mixing after adding each one, then add the vanilla extract and almond extract. One it’s all combined, give it a quick go with a whisk to make the mix light and fluffy. Divide the mixture between two bowls and add your chosen food colouring. I use Sugarflair paste colouring, adding a tiny amount at a time with a cocktail stick and mixing in with a fork until the shade is right.

Dollop each colour mixture into a separate tin (or separate area of the same tin) and bung in the oven for 20 minutes (or until very slightly golden brown and firm but springy to touch). After taking out of the oven, let the two layers cool in the baking tray for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.

Battenberg close-up

Now, the tricky bit. You need two rectangles of sponge, so if your pans weren’t exactly the right size to start with, grab a sharp knife and carefully level the top of the pink cake so that it’s flat and and is twice as wide as it is high. Do the same for the green cake. Spread a thin layer of apricot jam onto the top of the pink cake and stick the green layer on top. Cut lengthways down the middle so that you end up with two strips. Lay one on it’s side so that you have a line of pink and a line of green. Spread a thin layer of apricot jam on the top. Take the other strip and lay it on top the other way round so that the pink lays on top of the green underneath and vice versa.

Next, lightly dust a chopping board/worksurface with icing sugar, take a pack of marzipan and roll out until it’s about 3mm thick. You need enough to cover the four long sides of the cake, so try to roll it into a roughly rectangular shape (you can trim the excess afterwards). Rather than the usual yellow marzipan, I used white, which is much paler than the yellow, but not really pure white.

Next, heat a couple of tablespoons of apricot jam in a saucepan until it’s warm and slightly more liquid-like (being careful not to burn it). Using a pastry brush, cover the top and two long sides of the cake. Using the rolling pin for support, carefully lift up the marzipan and place on top of  the cake so that both sides are covered and there’s enough left on one side to cover the bottom. Smooth each side down and trims the ends of necessary. Once attached, paint the remaining melted jam onto the underside and fold the rest of the marzipan over so that all four sides of the cake and now wrapped in marzipan and trim the excess. Don’t worry –  it’s a lot easier than it sounds. Slice and serve with a nice brew (Americans – that means tea, not beer, unless you fancy an ale with your cake, of course).

Bakery County Hall

Posted in Baking, Biscuits, Cakes, Out and about with tags , , , , , , , on 30/05/2011 by libbyplummer

Bakery County Hall

On Saturday I finally got round to visiting the Ray Harryhausen exhibition at the London Film Museum in County Hall on the South Bank (which I can highly recommend). After a couple of hours buggering about with film props, followed by a pizza and wine-based lunch, I suggested a visit to the Bakery Country Hall. I first heard about this place when it appeared on the I Heart Cupcakes blog, complete with some cool pics of the macaroon and cupcake-adorned cafe interior.

There was a large range of goods on offer including tarts, brownies and various layer cakes and cupcakes. I opted for the Victoria sponge, which was fantastic, while my tea party buddy went for the carrot cake which I’m reliably informed was also very tasty but could have done with a bit less of the rich icing.

Victoria sponge
A word of warning – the prices are a tad steep. In fact, they’re extremely bloody high (£5.50 for a slice of cake!). Luckily for the bakery, I’m both stupid and greedy, so I paid it anyway. However, the service was very good, the tea was nice, the cakes were lovely and it was all served on vintage china. Plus, being on the South Bank, just round the corner from the London Eye, it is a bit of tourist hotspot, so prices will inevitably be slightly marked up.

For a more detailed write-up of the bakery and some nice pictures of the decor, check out the post by @annecupcake over at I Heart Cupcakes.

SugarSlam 2011 – Whisks of Fury

Posted in American food, Baking, Events with tags , , , , on 27/05/2011 by libbyplummer

Sugar Slam 2011

Being a huge fan of any kind of non-twee baking, I was pleased to see that my favourite US blogger, Natalie at Bake & Destroy, is once again running the SugarSlam wrestling-themed bake-off.

Having grown up in 1980s England – the era of rather non-glam contenders like Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks – my knowledge of wrestling from the other side of the pond doesn’t go far beyond Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker and Rowdy Roddy Piper.  I’m still tempted to enter the competition though. Kendo Nagasaki cakes, perhaps?

There are two titles up for grabs – SugarSlam 2011 Champion and People’s Choice – and there’s a massive stash of prizes on offer. The contest is open now and runs until 11 July 2011, so there’s plenty of time to get your bone-crunching baked goods in order. For more info, check out the official rules over at Bake & Destroy.

Via: Bake & Destroy
Artwork: Betty Turbo

Lomography LC-Wide cupcakes

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Out and about with tags , , , , , , , on 21/05/2011 by libbyplummer

Lomography LC-Wide cupcakesCouldn’t resist posting a pic of these cool cupcakes adorned with images of the new LC-Wide analogue snapper from Lomography. Served up at the launch party for the new camera at the Lomo Gallery Store in central London, these kitsch cakes were very tasty as well as being a handy way of soaking up the numerous Moscow Mules.

If you want to know more about the camera, check out my hands-on write-up over at

Retro Cakes: South African Prinsevlag

Posted in Baking, Cakes, Retro Cakes, South African food with tags , , , , , on 19/05/2011 by libbyplummer

Prinsevlag cakeI haven’t posted anything under the Retro Cakes banner for a while, so I thought it was about time I sorted it out. Making my Rooibos tea cupcakes last week reminded me of a cake that my mum made in the 80s when the relatives came over to visit from South Africa. It features the Prinsevlag (Afrikaans for ‘Prince’s Flag’) – coloured in orange, white and blue (I know it looks a little green in the photo, but that’s just the result of pesky analogue photography and dodgy lighting). If you know your history, then you’ll be aware that this flag was replaced in 1994 when Nelson Mandela was voted in as president and the legal system of racial segregation, known as apartheid, was abolished.

Understandably, the Prinsevlag is somewhat controversial nowadays as many see it as an emblem of apartheid (although it actually pre-dates the regime by 20 years). However, in the mid-eighties in leafy Surrey, it was simply the flag of our visiting rellies. In tasty cake form. Frankly, I think the most shocking thing about the picture above is the bright purple wallpaper with which my parents chose to decorate the dining room. What the hell were they thinking?

Rooibos tea cupcakes

Posted in Baking, Cakes, South African food with tags , , , , , , , , on 17/05/2011 by libbyplummer

Rooibos cupcakes 2We all like a decent brew, but PG Tips cupcakes didn’t sound particularly exotic, so I decided to make some Rooibos tea cupcakes instead. Rooibos is a type of tea that only grows in South Africa. It’s pronounced ‘roy-bosh’ (although I believe this varies slightly between dialects) and is Afrikaans for ‘red bush’. As the name suggests, it’s a reddish-brown in colour and has a slightly nutty taste. You can drink it with milk (if you’re a pleb), but it’s much more commonly drunk without. It’s available in most supermarkets nowadays, but I usually get mine from the The Savannah – a London-based South African food shop that also sells online.

Rooibos teabags
For the ingrediants lineup, I used the Earl Grey tea cupcake recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery‘s Cake Days book (substituting Rooibos for the Earl Grey, obviously).

Rooibos cupcakes
I used Dr Oetker Polka Dots for decoration, painstakingly removing the orange ones to leave just red, blue, yellow and green. This wasn’t some sort of OCD-related cry for help or merely down to the fact that I had a hour to kill before the FA cup final kicked off. It was actually so that the decorations would match the South African flag (along with the white icing and black cases). Worth the effort? I reckon so.

South African flag

Penguin launches Great Food book series

Posted in Baking, Books, Gifts with tags , , , , , , , , on 02/05/2011 by libbyplummer

Penguin Great Food booksLiterature and food are two of my favourite things so I was very pleased to hear that Penguin has launched a new series of books called Great Food. As well as being a masterclass in book cover design (if you’re interested, check out Penguin By Design), the Great Food range harks back to the days when food writing was less about Angry Birds cake-based blog posts and more about culinary creativity combined with literary prowess.

Penguin Great Food books spines
The series includes excerpts from well-known volumes such as Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management and Alexandre Dumas’ Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine along with collections of bite-sized essays.

Damn you, Penguin, I’m still trying to work my way through the millions of titles (approximately) in the Great Ideas series! *shakes fist*

Via: The Guardian