Autumn baking

I am always on the lookout for new cake recipes and when I saw this one, I thought it looked good.

It is an apple sponge made with dark soft brown sugar, grated apple and apple juice, topped with a toffee sauce and baked apple slices. I haven’t tasted it yet but have already been asked to make another two for The Earl Grey Tearoom so it must have been popular with the customers!

When I make cakes, I try to make as much as possible myself including the strawberry jam for the Victoria sponge and the parsnip crisps on the honeyed roast parsnip cake. So when the toffee apple cake called for apple crisps, I decided to make my own. This is when a Rayburn comes into its own, drying fruit at a low temperature. This works fine if you remember you have left them in the oven – unfortunately, one batch were left in overnight and ended up rather dark and a second batch went the same way this morning when I was trying to hurry! Luckily a third batch were fine and the cake was safely delivered this morning.

I hope I won’t be making that mistake again!

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A change of emphasis

About a year ago, I started making cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough. To begin with, I made just Victoria sponges, then we added carrot cake, coffee and walnut and lemon drizzle cakes. Numbers have increased as their business goes from strength to strength and most weeks I am baking at least eight cakes plus some flapjacks or butterscotch brownies.

New favourites include lemon and blueberry, white chocolate and raspberry and a cherry Bakewell cake. I love trying out new recipes so it is always fun being set a new challenge by Roz and the team. Some recipes need tweaking so they produce a three layer cake, some are adapted after tasting to produce something that the customers will enjoy. Some have to be translated from American cups to metric but with my trusty balance scales, electronic scales, measuring spoons and calculator, anything can be done. I just have to remember to write everything down so I only have to calculate it once.

Since mid-March, I have also been making some cakes for the Riverhill Himalayan Garden. They mainly order gluten free chocolate fudge cakes, gluten free cocoa, courgette and pistachio cakes, Rocky Road and traybakes in a variety of flavours including white chocolate & raspberry, blueberry & Demerara, pear & hazelnut and plum & almond.

In addition, I occasionally make other cakes for special orders such as birthdays.

This increase in cake production has kept me busy but I am still trying to find time to keep up with preserve making, building up stocks of marmalade, chutney, jam and jelly to see me through to Christmas and making the most of seasonal produce like elderflowers, by making cordial. The delicious soft fruit season is starting so I will be making the most of as many different fruits as I can, including them in my baking as well as preserving them for the months and years ahead.

Pumpkin time again

Yesterday I gathered these pumpkins from the field at Four Winds Farm near Bidborough. I will be spending the next few days making them into chutney, soup, cake and other meals – they work well in savoury and sweet recipes.

I know there are pumpkins in the supermarkets but why not support a local farmer and gather them yourselves. It’s a fun half term activity and you can carve a pumpkin for Halloween while enjoying the flesh in your favourite recipes.

Four Winds Farm have pumpkins ready to pick on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 October, from 10:00 until 16:00 both days. 

Even more cake baking

When I started making cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough, they were asking me mainly for Victoria sponges with the occasional carrot and mascarpone or coffee and walnut cake for a change.

This week, I have delivered eight cakes, some flapjacks, rocky road and cookies. New cakes include the Dundee cake, which always used to be my favourite (I love fruit cakes!) and a gingerbread cake made with fresh grated ginger and treacle (which I forgot to photograph so I’ll have to make another!). I think I am getting quicker at making some of these cakes but others take time, such as the gluten free chocolate fudge cake which needs chocolate to be melted and cooled for both the cake and the buttercream icing. However, the smell is divine so I’m happy to make it regularly.

If the supermarkets are analysing my recent shopping habits, they will notice a huge increase in my consumption of eggs, flour, sugar, butter and olive spread. I have also been getting through the baking parchment circles very quickly – a pack of 100 will only last a month now! 

I’m hoping to try out a few new recipes over the next few weeks including some different gluten free cakes. The Great British Bake Off caramel week has inspired me to try that as a flavour although I’m sure mine won’t look as spectacular as some of their creations!

Summer days ……


This year, the summer holidays started very early in our household. We collected our youngest from university in mid-June and our eldest arrived home from working in Spain at the beginning of July. As no one had any holiday plans, I hastily arranged a family break in Portugal (warm, sunny and very relaxing) but this has meant we were back home at the end of July, having already had our break, with most other people still with their holidays to look forward to. Never mind, we thought. August at home can be lovely – warm, sunny, places to go. However, this has not been the case. 

After the deluge on Wednesday, Thursday had a distinctly autumnal feel to it. The plants in the garden look washed out and battered, as they tend to look in October just before the end of the season. The tomatoes on the plant on my patio are just not ripening. 

I have had a busy time baking cakes for The Earl Grey Tearoom – eight cakes and some flapjacks since our return from holiday. As these are freshly baked to order, there is no problem with having leftover cakes to sell. I have also started making more chutney as I delivered another order to Southborough Butchers last week which used up my stock. The autumn fruits are ripening much earlier than the last few years so I ordered two more huge boxes of jam jars ready to be filled with various chutneys – rhubarb & coriander made this week, plum apple & chilli, pear & apple, apricot apple & hazelnut and other flavours to follow over the next couple of weeks and spiced redcurrant jelly, apple & chilli and apple & mint jelly to follow. I have seen cobnuts, rosehips, elderberries, sloes and blackberries already waiting to be picked on my walks in the area. This must be at least 3 weeks earlier than the last few years. I even made a blackberry and apple crumble at the weekend with fruit picked that morning.

When I started ‘Too busy to make’, I hoped it would give me a chance to make foods that I enjoyed making and to sell them to people who would enjoy eating them. Since I have had the regular outlets, this has certainly proved to be the case. I am looking forward to a busy late summer and autumn, making foods to sell at Penshurst, at the Country Fair and Christmas Market at Chiddingstone, at Southborough Butchers and other local outlets.

And more cakes ….

It is always reassuring when you get positive feedback and I have been delighted with the comments I have been getting about the cakes I have made recently for The Earl Grey Tearoom in Southborough. 

This week, I have delivered ten more cakes – Victoria sponges, carrot cakes, a coffee and walnut cake and lemon drizzle cakes. After a short break, I will be back baking, hoping to try out some different recipes as well as these popular ones. 

Baking cakes

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In an exciting new venture, I am now baking some cakes for a local business The Earl Grey Tearoom, in Southborough.

So far, I have made them a carrot cake with mascarpone icing (left) and two Victoria sponges with butter cream icing and jam. I have also supplied them with some spiced almond and pistachio biscotti – great for dunking in your coffee or tea!

I hope this venture will continue for a long time – it is great for Southborough to have an independent tearoom and I love the fact I can make a cake and deliver it on foot! I must also admit, I have missed not baking cakes regularly. There is something I find relaxing about mixing together ingredients to produce a (hopefully!) light sponge cake and then decorating it. The very hot weather has made the mixing quite problematic but hopefully by the end of the week, as temperatures return to near normal, cake mixes will go back to the right consistency. Since my youngest went off to University, I can’t justify baking anything for just me. My neighbours have become my testing ground so if you see me crossing Prospect Road with plates of cake or biscuit, you know I am experimenting again.

 

And finally, savoury muffins

Finally, I have made three flavours of my savoury muffins – pancetta and olive, goats cheese and sundried tomato and onion and pepper. These freeze excellently and can be added to packed lunches. They also go well with soup in the winter.

These muffins have been made for selling at the Penshurst Farmers’ Market on 3 June. If you are in the area, come along and taste before you buy!

Other uses for marmalade


The Seville orange season is short, so in January or February when they make their brief appearance in our shops, I buy some to make marmalade and a couple of family favourite puddings.

However, like many, I don’t usually eat toast in the mornings so jars of marmalade accumulate! This year, I decided to try using marmalade in other recipes to see whether they would taste good.

First, I made a bread and butter pudding by spreading marmalade on panettone that was left over from Christmas, and baking with a mixture of eggs and cream. It was so delicious that it was eaten before I could photograph it! I made a second and the same thing happened. The fruit in the panettone meant I didn’t add any extra but I chopped the strips of orange peel in the marmalade into small pieces before adding them to the pudding.

Second, I tried a marmalade drizzle cake, using my normal lemon drizzle cake recipe and replacing the lemon zest in the sponge with Seville orange zest and spreading a mixture of marmalade and Seville orange juice over the top of the cake as soon as it came out of the oven. I think the cake works very well – the bitter orange tang comes through the sponge making a delicious variation on drizzle cakes.

I usually freeze the zest and juice of Seville oranges to use later in the year and will report back on future experiments with marmalade and the zest and juice.