So as the weeks go by the blogging is getting sparser and sparser 🙁 Early mornings and late nights have left me with very little time to type away. But for those keeping up to date with my Instagram posts and stories (@hopscoff) you will have noticed that my weeks have still been filled with baking, drinking tea and eating cake – hoorah! I have so many tea rooms to tell you about, new cake flavours to try, new recipe combinations I’m working on and of course I still have to reveal all my travel tips from Australia – there has been a lot of scoffing recently and not much hopping! But stay tuned and get the cuppas at the ready as from now the posts will come pouring in 🙂
For the next few posts I want to focus on some of my recent cakes I have been baking and I suppose the thought process behind them. I have definitely come to realise that my passion is baking. I don’t have an inkling of a doubt about it. Why not? Because it is starting to take over my life! To fulfil my obsession I have recently had to bake late in the evening after a day’s work or early in the morning at the weekend before meeting for family affairs.
Standing by my KitchenAid with my eyes half shut my Mum normally squeals ‘What are you baking NOW!?’ ‘Do you HAVE to bake!?’ My answer? In a calm and collective manner is ‘I don’t have to, I want to’. I am always looking for an excuse to bake and family occasions and birthdays are the perfect opportunity.
The Oreo or caramel chocolate drip cake is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and is a go-to cake for any gathering. But, there are sometimes special occasions that require a bit more thought and care into the flavour selection.
A few weeks ago was my Nouna’s (Godmother’s) four year memorial. To mark the occasion we traditionally go to the Greek church service, visit the cemetery and then back to my Aunty Donna’s for a souvla (BBQ). I of course wanted to bake for the occasion but this definitely was not a drip cake affair. My cake had to mean more than your bog standard pudding fix. But I found myself struggling for inspiration. I spent days doodling in my notebook, scribbling memories and stories that I could try to pull through in a cake.
One of my fondest memories is drinking my very first cup of coffee, that she made me. My Nouna was a fond coffee drinker and I must have been about 6 when she handed me a coffee in a diddly kiddies cup. ‘I have made it without sugar. With sugar it tastes like caramel and you will be hooked on it forever!’ Till this day I have never had sugar in my coffee. Yet she did! I thought about baking a Coffee Caramel cake. But for some reason after recipe drafting and sketch making this didn’t seem good enough. I could picture her taking one bite and not liking it so I decided to go back to basics – what was her favourite cake? …Carrot Cake! So Carrot Cake I baked…
But… this cake kept me up all night. It was an extremely warm weekend and I had nightmares about the cream cheese frosting melting away from the sides by the time it got to pudding time. I mean get a grip! Who has nightmares about cakes?! So, I was up at 6am the next morning baking again.
My Nouna was quite a no nonsense get straight to the point kind of woman and she was never afraid to tell you what she thought. She also had the biggest heart known to man and would do anything for anyone.
I therefore thought that a Jammy Dodger Cake would sum her up perfectly. The bottom layer made of shortbread giving the cake that crunchy bite, representing her fiery personality. Topped with a layer of vanilla buttercream and fresh strawberries resembling her summer fresh glow that she always had in her perfectly structured cheekbones and voluptuous lips. Topped with a layer of vanilla sponge sandwiched in between a layer of jam for her cheeky jammy side, for when she got away with her loose tongue. Finished with another layer of shortbread with a big heart for the love that will never fade. Overall making four layers – one for every year since she passed away.
So that weekend a lot of icing sugar, butter and flour was flung around the kitchen, but I got there in the end. Sometimes baking from the heart can be a long process, other times quite blissfully spontaneous! But, be warned, if you dare to breathe the expression ‘It’s just a cake’ you will probably end up with butter up your nostrils. Cakes can and do mean a lot more than what first meets the eye…
Happy heartfelt baking all,
Recipe adapted from Jaime Oliver
For the cake
50g light soft brown sugar
3 large eggs
350ml sunflower oil
350g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
3tsp ground cinnamon
2tsp ground ginger
2tsp vanilla essence
350g peeled and grated carrots
90g finely chopped walnuts
For the icing
350g icing sugar
50g soft butter
2tsp vanilla bean paste
150g cold cream cheese
Walnut halves to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 170C/Fan 150C/325F/Gas Mark 3. Prepare 3 x 20cm/8in sandwich tins and lining with baking paper.
- Place the sugar, oil, and eggs in a large bowl and beat together. Sift over the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger then fold in until well mixed. Fold in the carrots and walnuts (you can optionally add in raisins as well if you wish)
- Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins. Bake for 30-35mins or until golden. Leave to cool.
- For the cream cheese icing sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, add the soft butter and vanilla essence. Whisk until well combined. Add the cream cheese and briefly beat together again until well mixed in.
- When the cakes are cold, pipe the icing between the three cakes. Stack the cakes one on top of the other. Top with the walnut halves and store in a cool place.
- Enjoy with a cuppa!
Jammy Dodger Cake
Adapted from the BBC
For the shortbread
400g slightly salted butter softened
200g golden caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
600g plain flour
For the cake
140g slightly salted butter
140g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
140g self-raising flour
For the buttercream
140g slightly salted butter
300g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 Punnet of strawberries, washed and halved
1 jar of seedless strawberry jam
- Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. To make the shortbread, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract together until smooth. Add the flour and stir until the mixture starts to form a dough. Use your hands to bring it together and shape into a ball. Cut off approx 100g of the dough, wrap in cling film and chill. Weigh the remaining dough and divide into 2 equal pieces.
- Using your hands press one two equal pieces of shortbread mixture into the base of a 8in/20cm loose-bottomed tin Smooth the surface with the back of the spoon to create an even layer, then chill for 15 mins.
- Remove the tins from the fridge and prick the bases of the shortbread all over with a fork, place on a baking tray and bake for roughly 25 mins or until lightly golden and firm. Remove from the oven and, while the shortbread is still hot, cut a heart into the centre of one of the tins. Leave to cool in the tins.
- For the cake, line a 20cm/8in cake tin. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla a little at a time, beating well after each addition, then fold in the flour. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 20-25 mins until lightly golden. Leave to cool.
- Meanwhile, roll out the 100g piece of reserved shortbread dough on a lightly floured surface to the thickness of a £1 coin. Using a heart shape cutter cut out mini hearts onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment and chill for 15 mins. While the cake is cooling, bake the hearts 5-10 mins until lightly golden. Leave to cool.
- To make the buttercream, beat the butter in a large bowl until soft and pale. Sift over half the icing sugar and beat until combined. Sift over the remaining icing sugar, add the vanilla extract, then beat until smooth and creamy.
- To start assembling the shortcake place the shortbread biscuit without the heart cut-out on a plate or cake stand. Spread a thin layer of jam over the shortbread followed by a layer of buttercream. Place the strawberries on top and then spread some more buttercream over them to lock them in place. Lay the cake on top of the buttercream, then spoon the jam on top of the cake and carefully spread out over the surface.
- Remove the heart from the second shortbread biscuit and set aside. Slide the shortbread on top of the jam layer and sprinkle sugar allover the biscuit. Fill in the heart with more jam. Place the little hearts around the edge, fixing them with buttercream.
- Enjoy with a cuppa!