Friday 22 March 2019

The Cake Slice Bakers - March

I’m two days late... assuming I finish writing this on Friday, but I have been baking once again with The Cake Slice Bakers. Exchange of contracts is imminent and despite weeks of sorting out, the house looks as though we have barely started clearing so the last thing I should be doing is baking cakes and writing about it... but I never was one for getting my priorities right, especially when there’s cake involved!

We are baking this year from The European Cake Cookbook by Tatyana Nesteruk and the choices this month were

1. Creme Brulee cheesecake
2. Triple-Citrus Mousse Cake
3. Austrian Pound Cake
4. Toscakaka Torte

As ever it was hard to choose and the cheesecake was very tempting given that if ever we eat desserts out, which isn't often, Stewart will always choose cheesecake and I will have Creme Brulee. However I wanted to make this for dinner guests and didn't want to risk something completely new so I chose the Toscakaka cake, a Swedish caramel almond torte. I own up, I have made this before from a different book with a slightly different recipe where it was just called a Tosca cake, so I knew I would be on to a winner. The combination of light caramel soaked sponge with a topping of caramel and crunchy almonds is delicious.

The cake itself is easy but the tricky part is making the caramel sauce which starts with boiled sugar. I let my first batch get too dark and it tasted burnt so I had to start again.

But second time around it worked and the resulting cake didn't disappoint. 

It went down well with our dinner guests as dessert but it made a good cake for afternoon tea too!

Ingredients for the cake
  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 118 ml dulce de leche (thick caramel sauce)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 118 ml full fat milk
  • 188g plain flour, sifted
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 3 tsp baking powder
Ingredients for the topping
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 60ml water
  • 118ml double cream
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 110g toasted flaked almonds                  

1. Preheat the oven to 170 deg C (150 fan) and line a 23cm spring form tin with baking parchment

2. In a large bowl beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and dulce de leche until light and fluffy Add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of flour with each addition, beating until smooth. Combine the flour, almonds and baking powder and gently add in two additions alternating with the milk until everything is just combined.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes. The sides should be set but the centre just under baked.

4. While the cake is baking prepare the caramel sauce. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar melts. Bring to the boil and let it cook until it turns a golden amber colour (not dark brown like my first attempt!) Remove from the heat and whisk in the cram, butter and vanilla. Be careful as it will splutter. Continue to whisk until it is smooth and the butter has melted.

5. After the cake has baked for 35 minutes remove from the oven, pierce the top with a skewer and pour the caramel sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and return the cake to the oven for a further 15 mins.

6. Remove from the oven and let it stand for 15 minutes before releasing the spring form. Eat warm or cold!

I served ours warm with a dollop of creme fraiche and a compote of honeyed figs.


Saturday 9 March 2019


About three years ago I picked up three old kitchen chairs in a charity shop. The intention at the time was to do wonderful things with them but then three years went past... and I didn't do anything with them!

So, last week in the midst of sorting out and packing (even though we still don't have an actual moving date) I decided it was time to tackle my little upcycling project and the chairs were given a couple of coats of chalk paint, waxed and then rubbed down to give a distressed look. You've got to love paint that doesn't require any rubbing down or preparation first.

While I was about it I also got the first coat on an old pine blanket box. There is method in my madness as the intention is that this will hold my stash of knitting yarn in our new living room so it does almost come into my sorting out regime. And I couldn't live with that aged yellow varnish.

I then recovered the seat with some appliqued and embroidered fabric...

And hey presto... my new upcycled chair (other two still to finish!)
I was wondering whether to make a set of six but at the rate I'm going it will be another fifteen years before I finish them all!

I was spurred on to get at least one finished though as I am away teaching at Misssenden Abbey this weekend where we are making collaged fabric to turn into bags.

And I thought it would be fun to show how the fabric can be used in different ways

Almost too nice to sit on!

Sorry I haven't been replying to comments again... for some reason Google lets me type out a comment, I hit publish and then nothing appears... so frustrating! But I do read them all and enjoy hearing from you.

Friday 1 March 2019

Since Last Time...

Yet again it seems a long time between blog posts but I'm not sure it matters much anymore... is anyone really interested in the minutae of my life? But should you be the least bit curious a summary of what has been happening in these parts...

  • More decluttering - despite the divided opinions on the Konmarie method of decluttering I am continuing bit by bit. I don't see it as a ruthless throwing away reducing myself to a minimalist lifestyle but more of an honest appraisal of what really is necessary or "brings joy", which let's face it is not a million miles away from the William Morris adage of "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful nor believe to be beautiful". William Morris was there way before Marie Kondo! The plastic shoebox contains my boys' first shoes... and little red wellies. Not in the least bit necessary or useful but they bring me joy when I see them so they are staying. However, the piles of card making supplies that hadn't been touched in years were re homed. The tidy cupboards bring me great joy!

  • Listing things on Ebay - I was going to throw out my old Blue Peter annuals discovered lurking at the back of a cupboard - why on earth have they been kept?  But when I put a picture on Facebook there was an outcry of " don't throw them, sell them". So I have listed three of them on Ebay to see what happens... so far nothing... not so much as a starting bid! So they will no doubt be thrown away after all!
  • I've been Pantomiming - if there is such a word! I wasn't acting in our local AmDram Pantomime, Beauty and the Beast this year but I have done a supporting role as producer/business manager as well as helping out with costume. It has been very time consuming but lots of fun... friendships are always made and cemented!
  • Painting - Those grey brick walls were my doing!
  • Reminiscing - the young girl playing Principle Boy (centre of the photo) was wearing an outfit I made for me to wear about 23 years ago when I was playing a Principle Boy! The outfit was actually older than her! Talk about making me feel ancient *sigh* where do the years go?
  • Editing - our village newsletter. Just one more edition to go before we move and I no longer live in the village so no longer will be an editor!
  • Baking - Coconut Dream bars from a Hummingbird Bakery recipe. I have made them at the cafe before but never at home until this week. I now know why they are called dream bars... boy are they good! Chewy, sweet, coconutty and hard to stop at one!
  • Teaching - rag rugging to two large groups of adult learners in Luton. There were language difficulties to be overcome but we crossed those cultural barriers and had lots of fun as the learners made rag rug corsages. It was a wonderful example of how creativity can be such a great boost to self esteem and mental well being.
  • Visiting - I've had a twenty four hour trip to Dorset with my Mum to visit her sister who is very poorly, but despite the underlying sadness there has been much laughter too and as a bonus we got to visit the beautiful Wimbourne Minster. The ceiling of the central transept was stunning.
  • Sewing... on buttons. I finished knitting this cardigan (yarn and pattern from Eden Cottage Yarns) ages ago but couldn't face sewing on fourteen buttons... I know lazy! But I thought I might like to wear it tomorrow so I have finally put the buttons on. I was going to use the mother of pearl but ended up putting on the glittery black ones. I like the contrast.
So that's what I've been up to... have you done anything interesting?