I had a very enjoyable evening last night with the Band of Bakers at the wonderful Hills and Parkes deli. The Band of Bakers, for those who don’t know, are a South East London bake club. The first rule of bake club is… bake something, and you can definitely talk about it. I really enjoyed having a reason to bake a cake for an event and it has helped to get my baking rhythm back.
The Band of Bakers are a lovely bunch and the people who take part are a good variety of bakers and personalities it seems.
The theme last night was ‘Winter Warmers’, ginger and strong spices seemed to feature quite heavily and there were some lovely hearty savoury bakes too. Despite not eating meat I was certainly tempted by the amazing looking sausage roles and bacon pie.
I decided to bake a pear and ginger cake with a ganache icing. It was a bit of an experiment so I had no idea how it would taste on the night. It seemed to go down well though. I cleverly (!) disguised a typical baking error by adding another layer of pear to fill in the slight dip in the centre of the cake – oops. I think perhaps it needed a little longer in the oven, our oven is another inherited mediocre thing from the previous owner. You can’t turn the fan off which I find deeply frustrating. I can’t wait to choose my own oven one day soon!
2 large firm but ripe pears (conference in this instance, and they were massive)
2 x star anise
(it’s not a metric cake, sorry)
8oz self raising flour
6oz butter/cooking marg
1 tsp baking powder
5 pieces of preserved ginger, chopped as roughly/finely as you fancy
100g good quality dark chocolate
100g double cream
First poach the pears – peel, core and quarter them and place them in a pan with the star anise, cover with water and add a few tablespoons of sugar (not actually sure how much I added!) Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, until soft. Then drain and set aside.
For the sponge, beat the sugar and butter together until smooth and little fluffy then add the eggs one and a time. Add the sifted flour and bp and mix well, then add the chopped ginger and a tablespoon or so of the liquid. Mix well again.
Spoon half the mixture into a spring-form cake tin (I lined and greased mine to avoid disasters). Then slice the poached pear and lay on top, I reserved a quarter of a pear or so. Spoon the remaining mixture on top and smooth down. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees (fan assisted) for about 40 minutes. Mine was browning too quickly so I cut a circle of baking paper with a hole in the middle and placed it on top of the cake for the last half of the baking time.
Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or longer before turning out onto a wire rack.
So, as the dip in the cake became apparent I was grateful for the reserved pears, there seemed too much to add to the cake so I’d kept some back. The ganache is simple – heat the cream in a saucepan until hot, try not to boil and pour over the evenly chopped chocolate and stir gently until the cream has melted the chocolate and you have a lovely glossy spreadable topping. If you can get good quality dark chocolate drops they are best for ganache as they are all the same size and melt at the same rate.
I spread a little of the ganache in the dip and lay slices of the remaining pear to create a level(ish) top and then coated the top of the cake with the ganache. You could make more and do the sides too but I didn’t feel it needed it.
I indulged with some expensive edible glitter and but you could just create little chocolate rolls by scraping along a slab of chocolate with a sharp knife.
Delicious! And I think the extra layer of pear on top worked well even if it was unintentional.
I’ve been rather quiet on here lately but I’m determined to get back behind the mixing bowl and the computer and reinvigorate my side of the blog!
Hardy turned one last month and Ivy and I made him a plateful of appropriately named ‘Happy Birthday Muffins’. You can see by the expression on his face how overjoyed he was to have a cake all to himself – he looks rather in awe.
These are easy to make and really tasty, we happened to have raspberry jam but I reckon any jam will do. I changed the icing, rather than icing sugar and lemon juice (as we had none) I simply mixed a couple of tablespoons of cream cheese with icing sugar into a thickish, spreadable consistency . You could also use lemon curd or chocolate spread to sandwich together if you prefer.
Ingredients (makes 10)
(recipe from ‘Muffins Galore’)
250g sf flour
1 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt
finely grated zest of 1 lemon (didn’t actually have any – think we put some vanilla in instead)
1 egg lightly beaten
150 ml milk
75g butter, melted
100g seedless raspberry jam
Oven at 190 degrees (I don’t use fan assisted for muffins and cupcakes – they raise unevenly, well in my oven anyway) and grease 10 cups of non-stick muffin tray.
Mix the flour, bp, sugar, salt and lemon zest (if using) in a large bowl. In a separate jug mix the egg, milk and melted butter and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for about 20 minutes or until well risen and golden. cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
Split them in half horizontally (would you believe!) and sandwich with the jam then top with your chosen icing.
Ivy helped with the decoration – her favourite bit, hundreds and thousands and sugary balls.
They were very tasty and moreish.