My Nan bakes her fruit cake in a shoebox

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My Nan has mentioned that she sometimes bakes her Christmas cake in a shoe box. I’ve never seen this infamous ‘shoe box cake tin’ but, as luck would have it, when I visited yesterday, she was busy wrapping her Christmas cake. I walked into the kitchen to make tea and low and behold, there was a shoe box sitting on her stove! I looked inside to find no shoes — only cake crumbs.

Just goes to show that there’s no excuse for not baking if you don’t have a tin. On that note, my Nan often bakes in a biscuit tin. She uses about seven layers of greaseproof paper, cut to fit and sometimes adds a couple of layers of tin foil (see photo below). She secures the paper to the box with clothes pegs before pouring the batter into the box. Once the batter has settled, she removes the pegs and bakes her cake.

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You can find her marvelous traditional Christmas cake recipe here, together with photos of the process.

Click here for my Snowman Christmas cake — where I take my Nan’s cake and decorate it step-by-step with ‘plastic icing’ snowmen.

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If you’re keen to give small personal Christmas cakes as gifts, click here for an idea. This post tells you how to lay the marzipan and shows how to create someone’s name with royal icing.

Have fun!

How to make coconut ice (according to my Mom and Olivia)

Olivia and I decided to make some coconut ice.  We used the Nestle condensed milk recipe that was posted in my Mom’s Royal recipe book (the one we grew up with as kids).  Olivia re-wrote the ingredients in her cookbook diary and measured up everything herself. 

I drew some pics of the method to make it easier.

Everything went well…

But when it came to the colouring, it turned out that pink was out.   ‘I want my coconut ice PURPLE!’  declared my niece.   I thought that was a fantastic idea and gave Olivia carte blanche.  There was much to-ing and fro-ing with the red and blue food colouring until the colour was ‘just right’. 

Olivia’s final touch was to add her collection of  edible pink hearts and glitter to the mix.  

A brand new recipe was born: Never-Set Coconut Ice.  

If you’re keen to make coconut ice the traditional way, here are two recipes that my Mom sent to my sister, Gnats.  The first uses  condensed milk and no colouring and the second uses milk and sugar instead of condensed milk. 

Dear Gnats

I had a tin of condensed milk, some coconut in the deep freeze and a packet of icing sugar so I went rummaging around in my recipe books looking for old condensed milk recipes to see what the measurements are for coconut ice:

INGREDIENTS

  • 200 g desiccated coconut
  • 500 g icing sugar
  • 397 g condensed milk  (take out 2 tablespoons)

METHOD

  • Mix all ingredients together
  • Place in a greased dish
  • Cut into squares when set
  • Place in an airtight container
  • Leave in the fridge

Then I had a look in my Royal Cookery Book for a different recipe for coconut ice  (I personally prefer the above recipe):

METHOD

  • 1 lb sugar (aprox 500g sugar)
  • Half a cup of milk
  • 1 cup coconut
  • Cochineal (or pink food colouring)

METHOD

  • Boil the sugar and milk together for 10 minutes
  • Cool for a few minutes, then stir in the coconut and mix well
  • Divide the mixture in two, pressing the one half into a buttered dish
  • Colour the remaining half with cochineal to a delicate pink
  • Press it on top of the white coconut ice
  • Cut into bars when almost cold

Have fun
Lots of love Mom

Note: if you want to add colour to the first recipe, follow the colouring procedure in the second recipe.

If your kids are keen to join in the fun, there’s always Olivia’s method…

 

Nestle Condensed Milk Vanilla Fudge (with Chocolate Fudge Heart)

DK and I took a long slow walk down to the local village this afternoon to buy the ingredients for fudge.  We got back and I realized I didn’t have my special fudge recipe (from my Mom!) so I bopped off to the Nestle web site at http://www.carnation.co.uk/pudcasts/ultimate-fudge and wallah, there was a recipe very similar to the one we grew up with: 

Ingredients

500 ml (2 cups) sugar
75 ml (5 Tbsp) water
30 ml (2 Tbsp) golden syrup
60 g (4 Tbsp) butter
1 cans (385 g) NESTLÉ Condensed Milk
5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla essence

Instructions

Place sugar and water into a heavy saucepan. Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Add syrup and butter, stir till butter has melted.
Add the Condensed Milk and stir until mixture comes to the boil.
Boil slowly, stirring all the time, until the soft ball stage is reached ± 25 minutes. (Place a drop of the mixture into a glass of water and it should form a soft ball when rolled between your fingers).

Then

Remove from the heat, add vanilla and beat mixture with a wooden spoon until it begins to thicken. Pour into a greased 18 x 28 cm pan and leave to cool.
Cut into squares when almost cold.

I ended up making a huge mess in DK’s kitchen, when I decided to experiment with all kinds of different flavours.  The vanilla pod version was my favourite  though – I let the pod boil away and the flavour quickly seeped into the gooey delight. 

As for infusing the fudge with a red chilli, I don’t think one was enough (sans pips) to give enough bite. Rum worked a treat but sherry didn’t taste too great.  Mixing in cocoa powder worked wonders.

I used the cocoa fudge to make a chocolate fudge heart which I layered on top of a coffee flavoured heart.  This tiny little detail was the highlight of the ‘ dish’ in the end… a multi-leveled heart centrepiece on what was left of the vanilla fudge.  Besides looking cute, it was delish!

Chef Snowman Christmas Cake

I thought I’d make a friendly dinasaur cake for my showpiece (part of the requirements for the Patisserie exam) but my grandmother suggested I work on a Christmas theme instead (we’d just made a Christmas cake together).  The idea of a snowman cake popped into my head, based on the fact that plastic icing is as ‘white as snow’ as it is. 

Having no particular detail in mind and no references at hand,  it sure turned out to be a bit of an adventure!  I started with a couple of blobs of plastic icing and one thing led to another so that the snowman evolved into snowmen with snow cake & snow candle on snow blanket on snow cake (ENOUGH!!) … 

If you’d like to make a similar cake, start with a Christmas https://whippingitup.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/my-grandmothers-traditional-christmas-cake/(or other) cake base and cover it with marzipan https://whippingitup.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/how-to-make-marzipan/

Cover your cake with marzipan

 

Roll out your plastic icing (no need to colour) and place over the cake (mine turned out to look like an ice table cloth)

 

Handwork your plastic icing into bodies and heads (I coloured my icing with a touch of blue to create an ice effect) - it doesn't matter what size as long as it is to scale or works for you!

 

Colour some plastic icing for your scarves, eyes, buttons, hats and carrot noses

 

Mould your ice cake (3 rounded layers one on top of the other) and your candle (add a touch of orange on the tip) and then mark the faces to position eyes/noses etc

 

Position the various elements - if moist, the plastic icing pieces will naturally glue together, otherwise use royal icing or edible glue from a baking supplier

 

Colour some more plastic icing, roll and place freely on top of the cake so that it resembles a blanket before placing the rest of the pieces in position

 

Place noses (it's easier if the plastic icing is hard) and whatever else you may think of... don't forget the snowballs!

 

Merry Christmas!

Stollen Bread

Stollen is a most satisfying Christmas bread made of  sweet dough, marzipan and mixed fruit and nuts.   It makes a fabulous Christmas gift.

The bread will last for a good few months if wrapped in a sealed plastic bag (not cling-wrap) so you can make it ahead of time.  Adding rum or whiskey will give extra flavour as well as extend the shelf life.

The dough is rolled into a rectangular shape.  The marzipan is rolled out and placed on top of the dough (cut to the same size).  It is then sprinkled with mixed fruit and nuts etc.  The bread is then rolled into the traditional Stollen shape and left to prove before it is baked and sprinkled with a generous amount of icing sugar. 

PREPARE SWEET DOUGH

Ingredients:

  • 250 grams warm milk
  • 15 grams live yeast
  • 500 grams sifted bread flour
  • 60 grams butter at room temperature
  • 40 grams castor sugar
  • 10 grams salt
  • 2 eggs

Method:

  • Work the yeast into the flour with your fingertips
  • Add the rest of the dry ingredients and make a well in the centre
  • Add the butter into the well and work into the dry ingredients
  • Add the eggs and milk into the centre of the well and work into the mix
  • Knead and bang away until the dough becomes silky smooth
  • Place the dough in a bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in size

PREPARE MARZIPAN

Search ‘how to make marzipan’ on my blog

PREPARE FRUIT AND NUT MIX

Combine the following ingredients in a bowl:

  • 2 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 2 tablespoons flaked almonds (feel free to include other nuts like cashews if you wish to)
  • 4 tablespoons orange peel (or according to taste)
  • 4 tablespoons currents
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cardamon (don’t over grind as the flavour will be too strong)
  • 1 teaspoon of fine orange and lemon rind
  • A drop of vanilla paste/extract

PREPARE STOLLEN

  • Pre-heat oven to 50 degrees Celsius (to prove your bread once you have prepared the stollen)
  • Prep the bread dough and roll into a rectangular shape (once it has doubled in size)
  • Roll the marzipan into a thin sheet and cut to same size as bread dough
  • Place the marzipan on top of the bread dough
  • Cover the marzipan with the fruit and nut mix
  • Roll the ends of the dough towards the centre of the dough, allowing for a gap (the same size as the roll on each side of it) in the centre or two thirds of the way across
  • Extend the one roll over the gap and place it directly on top of the other roll (use the rolling pin to create an indentation on the underlying roll first)
  • Press down on the outside edges of the dough (about 5 to 10 mm from the outer edge)
  • Place in the oven until the dough has expanded in size (around double in size – look out for a ‘puffiness’)
  • Remove carefully, place in a warm place and set oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  • When the oven is ready, spray the Stollen with water as well as the base of the oven
  • Place on a baking sheet on a baking tray in the centre of the oven
  • Bake until golden brown
  • Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter
  • Sprinkle liberally with icing sugar over the melted butter
  • Repeat – give the bread another coating of butter and sprinkle with more icing sugar

Wrap in transparent plastic (once cool) and seal with sticky tape before placing in another transparent bag (or whatever packaging you prefer)…  finish with ribbons and a home-made card for a personal Christmas gift that looks, smells and tastes a treat!

My Nan’s (Easy-to-Make) Traditional Christmas Cake

With six children and goodness knows how many grand-children and great-grandchildren, my grand-mother has had over sixty years of experience with Christmas cakes! I asked her to show me how she makes her favourite boiled fruit cake – the one she presents to the family every Christmas.

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We recently spent a morning together catching up on all the news whilst chopping cherries and measuring whiskey et al… And then we went through my Mom’s recipes together while the cake was baking in the oven (what blissful smells!) … and that’s another story!

Onto the Christmas cake ingredients:

• 1 kg cake fruit mix • 250 grams butter • 6 eggs • 750 ml cake flour • 10 ml mixed spice • 10 ml bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 60 ml milk • 250 g sliced cherries • 250 g sugar • 375 ml orange juice • 125 ml brandy or whiskey • 100 grams of pecan nuts (or whatever nuts you prefer) • Pinch of salt

Step by Step Method:

• Prepare your cake tin: Cut out greaseproof paper to fit the inside of the tin – layer about 3 to 4 pieces on top of each other. Secure with pegs. Cut tin foil to fit the inside of the tin and place it on top of the wax paper. Shift the pegs to hold the foil and paper in place. Butter the foil

• Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius

• Place the fruit mix into a large pot (1 kg of currents/raisins/saltanas/dried fruit)

• Add the butter/sugar/orange juice and bring to the boil SLOWLY – allow to simmer for 15 minutes on a low heat to allow the fruit to soften. Stir occasionally… this is the time consuming part… but who cares when every second smells WONDERFUL?!

• Wash the cherries (to get the syrup off), dry them and cut each cherry in half

• Roughly chop the nuts

• Once the fruit has softened in the pot, place the pot in a sink with cold water until the mixture is luke warm or cool (this will prevent the eggs from cooking immediately in the next step!)

• Dissolve 10 ml of bicarbonate of soda in 60 ml of milk

• Beat eggs – WHISK WELL!

• Gather the flour/mixed spice and a pinch of salt and sift into a mixing bowl

• Add eggs to the fruit mix once it has cooled

• Use a spoon to work the flour mix & other dry ingredients into the fruit mix – ADD TWO TABLESPOONS AT A TIME and mix well before adding the next lot

• Add the bicarb mixture (you’ll notice how the bicarb fizzes the mixture up!)

• Add the whiskey

• Lastly, add the cherries and nuts and mix

• Pour into the tin (it’s a wet mixture so don’t worry if it is ‘sloppy’) and remove the pegs

• NOW COVER WITH TIN FOIL and cook for about 2 ½ hours – remove the top foil covering about half an hour before the end of the cooking time. (Add another 125 ml of alcohol to the cake when it comes out of the oven if you want to keep the cake for some time).

• Allow to cool before decorating with a layer of marzipan (go to https://whippingitup.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/how-to-make-marzipan/) followed by a layer of white plastic icing (go to https://whippingitup.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/small-christmas-cake-gift-as-decorated-by-le-riche/ for a detailed description of how to layer marzipan and plastic icing on a fruit cake. Plastic icing is bought ready made).

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This Christmas cake can be left for some time as long as it is well sealed. Otherwise use as soon as you wish to.

Thank you Grandmamah!!

POST SCRIPT: To see how I iced it, check out https://whippingitup.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/snowman-christmas-cake/

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How to make Marzipan

My dad used to get marzipan every Christmas from his aunt (she gave it to nobody else but him).  He didn’t bother unwrapping it… but would say ‘Thank you Hennie!’ with a sparkle in his eye.  This is not the same recipe but I am sure he would approve!

MARZIPAN INGREDIENTS (yields aproximately 1 990 grams)

  • 910 grams almond paste (see seperate recipe below which is the correct amount for this marzipan recipe)
  • 120 ml glucose/sugar syrup or corn syrup
  • 910 grams sieved icing sugar

MARZIPAN METHOD

  • Mix almond paste with the glucose/sugar syrup at a LOW speed until combined (in a mixing bowl with a hook attachment)
  • Add the icing sugar (add until you have a firm yet malleable dough – don’t overmix or use a high speed as the heat will soften it and you’ll end up adding too much icing sugar)
  • Scrape down the bowl every now and then
  • Wrap in plastic and store in an airtight container in a cool place

ALMOND PASTE INGREDIENTS (yields 855 grams)

  • 285 grams dry blanched almonds
  • 285 grams sieved icing sugar
  • 300 ml stock syrup/simple syrup

ALMOND PASTE METHOD

  • Place almonds in a high speed food processer and process to a powder
  • Sieve through a metal sieve (scrape through the holes with a metal spoon) to achieve an even finer powder
  • Add icing sugar
  • Gradually add the simple syrup while the machine is running until it forms a paste (add more or less depending on how dry the almonds are – freshly blanched almonds require less syrup)
  • Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature (it will last for a week) or in the fridge (for a longer period) 

NOTE: A paste versus a powder is okay as long as you achieve a smooth consistency!

Christmas cake decor – adding a personal touch

We worked with small Christmas cakes today.  Le Riche, who was in a sad state after hearing of the death of  two of his friends in a car accident, found the sun within and decorated a small cake for me (see above) and another with a heart motif (see below).

 

It felt like there was a lot of love and care going around at Chef School.  I’m not sure if it was because of the sad news or because our time together is coming to an end… or because we were all quietly pondering on what life is really about… and wondering what we can learn from the death of two young people. 

Life is Soooooooooooooooooooooooo short, it’s over in a flash… and yet, our brains just don’t seem to GET IT… if we knew we were going to be gone tomorrow, how would we behave today?  Would we express our love unashamedly?  Smell the roses more deeply, feel the breeze on our skins, watch the clouds floating by above us, stand in awe of a snail with it’s little feelers and compact home on its back? 

Sorry if I’m getting a bit emotional but I wish we’d all realize this … including myself!

Anyway… BACK TO CHRISTMAS CAKE DECOR!

HOW TO PREPARE THE CAKE & ICING (see seperate recipes for each individual item, except plastic icing which is bought ready made):

  • Bake fruit cake in a rectangular tin
  • Cut into same-size small blocks

  • Roll out marzipan and plastic icing (and sides if required) and cut to correct size.  Place a thin layer of warm apricot jam on top of the cake and lay down the marzipan.  Place a thin layer of sugar syrup on top of the marzipan and glue the plastic icing on top of the marzipan

  • Prepare royal icing (to pipe your decoration) and place inside a piping bag
  • Decorate & sprinkle with edible coloured powder

We finished our cakes by wrapping them with tin foil (and placing them on a foil covered cardboard base) but one could work magic with all kinds of materials.

Here’s to those we love and… the rising of another day.

x