Cakes

When I was a child every house had not one but several ‘cake tins’, usually Jacobs or Huntley & Palmer Christmas biscuit tins, carefully saved long after the original biscuits had been eaten.

There was always ‘something’ in the tin to share with either expected or unexpected guests who dropped in for tea – I still love that tradition and feel uneasy if ‘there’s nothing in the tin’. I adore baking – cakes, biscuits, pastries, buns – I love them all and feel so saddened that so many people have stopped baking simply because they can’t resist the temptation if there’s ‘something in the tin’.

Well look how gorgeous the domestic goddess Nigella Lawson is – voluptuous, curvy and a wizard in the kitchen, she’s made it so cool to make cup cakes again!

Speaking of which, its ages since there has been a book on cakes, but a really serious tome of regional and traditional cakes has just been published by Grub Street Publishing. The author Julie Duff has been baking since she was a child. She became hooked in her grandmother’s kitchen where she spent many happy hours mixing, stirring and no doubt licking the wooden spoon as we did when we were children.

Julie now runs an award winning cake business from her farmhouse in the Vale of Belvoir. She supplies cakes to some of the poshest addresses in the UK – Fortnum and Mason, St Paul’s Cathedral, Selfridges, as well as Henrietta Green’s Food Lovers Fairs. Even though the business has greatly expanded, all her cakes are still made in small batches and ‘stirred with a wooden spoon’. Julie truly knows the importance of using the best ingredients so she uses butter, free range eggs, plump vine fruits and organic stoneground flour from the local mill.

Many of the cakes are made with the recipes her grandmother gave her. So if your Gran or Mum have a super recipe make sure to record it, so many people live with regrets that they left it too late to ask. For those who are guarding secret recipes remember ‘sharing is fun’. Here are a few of the more than 200 tempting and intriguing recipes from Julie Duff’s ‘Cakes’ published by Grub Street Publishing at £25.00.

So if you hanker for the cakes of your childhood and many more, this could be just the book to get you baking again.

LEMON CAKE

Serves 6-8
Julie says this cake has its origin in Ireland and was associated with weekend shooting, fishing or hunting parties.

175 g/6 oz butter
175 g/6 oz caster sugar
3 large eggs 
175 g/6 oz self raising flour 
Grated zest of one large lemon
2 extra tablespoons caster sugar
Juice of one large lemon
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 

Cream the butter and sugar together and add the eggs and flour alternately, a tablespoon at a time, beating in gently. Finally add the lemon zest (reserving the remainder of the lemon) and pour the cake mixture into a greased and lined 900 g/ 2 Ib loaf tin. 
Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown and firm to touch. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean. 

Meanwhile strain the juice of the lemon and add it to the 2 tablespoons of caster sugar in a small saucepan. Boil the mixture together for 2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. 
Remove the cake from the oven and leaving it in the tin, prick the surface lightly with a fine skewer. 
Pour the lemon syrup over the cake, leaving it to become cold before turning onto a plate to serve. 

HARVEST CAKE (Teisen y Cynhaeaf)

Serves 8
The Welsh variation of a Harvest Cake is made with apples, sultanas and cinnamon and closely resembles the Irish Apple Cake which is baked with a layer of fruit through the centre. 

175 g/6 oz butter 
175 g/6 oz soft brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
225g/8 oz self raising flour
½ teaspoon mixed spice 
½ teaspoon cinnamon
450 g/1 Ib cooking apples 
50 g/2 oz sultanas
50 g/2 oz currants
50 g/2 oz flaked almonds 
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 

In a small saucepan melt the butter and soft brown sugar. Allow to cool slightly before beating in the eggs. 
Sift the flour and spices into a bowl. Finally adding the melted ingredients. beat gently together. 
Peel. core and chop the apples into small pieces and mix together with the fruit and almonds. 
Spoon half the cake mixture into a greased and lined 18 cm/7 inch cake tin and top with the fruits and nut mix, finally spooning the remaining cake mix over the top. 
Smooth the cake gently and place in the centre of the oven for about an hour or until firm to touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly. 
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to become completely cold. 

IRISH APPLE CAKE

Serves 6-8
This cake is absolutely delicious and a great way to use up windfalls.
Baked with apple slices sandwiched in the centre, it also makes an excellent pudding served with cream. This would originally have been baked in a bastable.

225 g/8 oz self raising flour 
115 g/4 oz butter
1 egg, lightly beaten 
115 g/4 oz caster sugar 
75 ml/3 fl oz milk 
Filling
2 cooking apples, peeled and sliced
½ teaspoon cinnamon 
50 g/2 oz soft brown sugar
Topping
A little beaten egg
1 level tablespoon caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 
Place the flour and butter in a large bowl and rub in to form a breadcrumb texture. Add the beaten egg, sugar and milk and mix with a pallet knife to form a soft dough. 
Turn onto a floured board and cut the dough in half. Place one half into a deep flan dish, pressing down with floured fingers to cover the surface of the dish. 

Spread the apple slices evenly over the base and sprinkle with cinnamon and the soft brown sugar. 
Carefully roll the second half of the dough into a circle roughly the same size as the dish, place on top of the apples, pressing the edges together and cutting several slits in the top of the cake. 
Brush with a little of the beaten egg and sprinkle with the tablespoon of caster sugar. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes until well risen and golden brown. 

SEED CAKE

Serves 8
Now that I am ‘a little older’ I absolutely adore Caraway Seed Cake. I hated it with a passion as a child, so maybe its an adult flavour as Julie suggests in her book, for many people it’s a forgotten flavour which they might like to try again.

175 g/6 oz butter
175 g/6 oz soft pale brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten 
225 g /8 oz self raising flour 
50 g/2 oz ground almonds
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
50 g/2 oz sultanas
Preheat the oven to 160°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, folding in the eggs and flour a little at a time until well mixed together. 

Stir in the ground almonds, caraway seeds and the sultanas and spoon the mixture into an 18 cm/7 inch round cake tin. 
Place the cake in the centre of the oven and bake for about I hour or until the cake is golden brown and feels firm when pressed lightly. A skewer inserted into the centre will come out cleanly when the cake is cooked. 
Turn onto a wire rack to cool before serving. 
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Irish Whiskey Cake
Serves 10 
You might like to try this as an alternative Christmas Cake.

225 g/8 oz sultanas 
3 tablespoons Irish whiskey (see Top Tips) 
Grated rind of I large lemon 175 g/6 oz butter 
175 g/6 oz pale brown sugar
225 g/8 oz self raising flour
3 eggs. lightly beaten 
Topping:
Juice of large lemon
225 g/8 oz icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. 

Put the sultanas into a small bowl, add finely grated rind of the lemon stirring well and reserving the lemon for juicing. Spoon over the whiskey and stir again. Cover and leave to stand overnight. 
Next day cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs and flour alternately, beating thoroughly between each addition. Fold the whiskey fruit into the mixture gently, using a metal spoon. 
Spoon the cake mixture into a 18 cm/7 inch greased and lined round cake tin and bake in the oven for approximately I hour or until the cake is well-risen, golden brown and firm to the touch. 
Cool in the tin for 20 minutes before turning onto a wire rack. 
When cold, juice the lemon and mix the lemon juice with enough icing sugar to form a thick pouring consistency and drizzle it gently over the top of the cake. Leave to set before serving. 
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Foolproof Food

Lana Pringle’s Barm Brack

Lana Pringle’s delicious tea brack keeps wonderfully well in a tin and is traditionally served sliced and buttered. Try it for Hallowe’en.
14 ozs (400g) dried fruit, raisins and sultanas
2 ozs (55g) cherries
2 ozs (55g) chopped candied peel 
4 ozs (110g) soft brown sugar
4 ozs (110g) granulated sugar
15 fl. ozs (450ml) tea
14 ozs (400g) plain white flour
one-eighth teaspoon of baking powder 
1 egg
3 tins 4 x 63 x 3 inches deep (10 x 15 x 7.5cm deep)
or 2 tins 5 x 8 x 2½ inches deep ((25.5 x 38 x 6.5cm deep)

Put raisins and sultanas into a bowl, cover with tea (Lana occasionally uses a mixture of Indian and Lapsang Souchong, but any good strong tea will do) and leave overnight to allow the fruit to plump up. Next day add the halved cherries, chopped candied peel, sugar and egg and mix well. Sieve the flour and baking powder and stir in thoroughly. The mixture should be softish, add a little more tea if necessary (2 fl.ozs/50ml). 
Grease the tins with melted butter (Lana uses old tins, heavier gauge than are available nowadays, light modern tins may need to be lined with silicone paper for extra protection.)
Divide the mixture between the three tins and bake in a moderate oven 180C/350F/regulo 4 for 40 minutes approx.
Lana bakes her barmbracks in the Aga, after 40 minutes she turns the tins around and gives them a further 10 minutes approx.* Leave in the tins for about 10 minutes and then remove and cool on a wire rack. 
*If you are using two tins the barmbracks will take 1 hour approx.

Hot Tips

Free Choice Consumer Group – next meeting will be held on Thursday 30th October at the Crawford Gallery Café in Cork at 7.30pm and the topic will be ‘Wild Food’ - €5 including tea, coffee and tastings.
Whiskey lovers all over the world are being given the opportunity to learn more about the fascinating history, heritage and tradition of whiskey distilling in Ireland through a new website www.premiumwhiskeys.com  and are invited to join the Premium Whiskeys of Ireland Club.

The Apple Club at the Traas Apple Farm, Moorstown, Clonmel, Co Tipperary has its own Newsletter and website www.theapplefarm.com  -they will have new seasons Irish Cox’s Orange Pippins for sale shortly.