December is pretty stressful for all of us, so when I can simplify things I try to do just that. I write my Christmas cards in advance, do most my Christmas gift shopping online etc.
The same applied when I after a party weekend away for my dear colleague wanted to bake some cakes for her actual birthday in the office. In my head I wanted to do this lovely chocolate Pavlova, but when I came home tired after a great party and having had to deal with snow (!) in London, I lowered the bar somewhat.
And I’m so glad I did. Sometimes less really is more and all my colleagues loved this cake. I topped it with Maltesters but throw on whatever chocolate, fruit or berries you like.
Pavlova, serves 8
4 egg whites
220 g caster sugar
450 ml whipping cream
1 bag of Maltesers
cocoa for dusting
Pre-heat the oven to 150C.
Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the sugar a little at the time while beating. Once added beat until stiff peaks form and you have a glossy firm meringue (you should be able to hold the bowl upside down wihout the meringue moving).
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Using a spatula, pour the meringue out onto the parchment paper and shape it into an even circle.
Bake for 60 minutes. Then turn off the oven and leave the oven door ajar until the oven has cooled down. Leave to cool completely.
Turn the cake upside down onto a cake plate and remove the parchment paper. Lightly whip the cream and spread on top of the meringue. Top with Maltesers and dust with cocoa. Serve immediately.
This is more of an assembly job than actual cooking, but a really nice simple dessert to pull out when you crave something sweet after dinner or throwing a last minute dinner party. Make a sponge at the weekend, cut into slices and freeze and you can make this any time with just a few minutes notice.
Sponge with elderflower liqueur, ice cream, whipped cream and blueberries, served 3
3 slices sponge cake
3 tbsp St Germain elderflower liqueur
3 scoops vanilla ice cream
3 spoonfuls lightly whipped cream
150 g fresh blueberries
Place the sponge slices in bowls. Pour the liqueur over the cake. Top with ice cream, whipped cream and blueberries.
I made this lovely caramel tart ages ago for the office and although the pastry case looks a bit dark (I was so worried it would taste burnt, but it didn’t) everybody loved it. Phew! it’s very easy to make, just keep an eye on the pastry in the oven.
The original recipe calls for two chocolate truffles (one white, one brown) to be piped on top, but I just decorated it with whipped cream and it worked well too.
Caramel tart, serves 8
Adapted from Erik Lallerstedt’s recipe.
300 ml plain flour (180 g)
100 g butter
1-2 tbsp caster sugar
1 egg yolk
100 ml double cream
45 g caster sugar
50 ml golden syrup
1/2 vanilla pod
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp orange blossom honey
100 g unsalted butter
Dark chocolate truffle:
100 g dark chocolate
150 g unsalted butter
White chocolate truffle:
100 g white chocolate
150 g unsalted butter
Make the pastry and cover a pie dish with it. Bake in 200C for 20 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool. Place all the ingredients for the caramel, apart from the butter, in a saucepan and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod, add the pod as well and remove it later. Add the butter. Leave to cool and pour into the pastry case. Place somewhere cold.
Truffle: Break up the chocolate and melt in a bain marie with knobs of softened butter. Stir continuously until smooth. Leave to cool until good piping consistency, then pipe onto the set caramel.
Some people, like my wonderful mother, love apple pies and cakes. I actually think she could live on it alone. I, on the other hand, am a little harder to please. Raw apples – delicious. Mushy cooked ones – not so much. I want set cakes, that provide a nice contrast to the soft apples.
This cake has the Hanna seal of approval; it’s cake-y, has a nice crunchy top but is still apple-y enough for the likes of my mother. Happy days!
Crunchy apple cake, serves 8-10
3-6 apples, peeled and slices
1 tbsp caster sugar
a little (1/2 – 1 tsp) cinnamon
190 g caster sugar
70 g plain flour
Place the apple slices in a lined springform. Scatter with sugar and cinnamon. Beat eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy and mix in the flour. Pour into the tin. Bake for 60 minutes in 175C. Serve with lightly whipped cream.
In Britain Eton Mess is a real classic and I thought it would be fun to introduce it to some of my Swedish friends. Strawberry season was over in August though so I used raspberries from my parents’ garden and passion fruit to flavour my mess. Homemade chewy meringues further added the va-va-voom. This went down such a treat among my Swedish friends that I was surprised. I thought the amount of whipped cream would put them off!
Raspberry and passionfruit mess, serves 4-5
300 ml whipping or double cream
100 ml raspberries
melissa or apple mint (regular mint will of course do too) to decorate
Whip the cream. Break up the meringues and add them to the cream. Add the passionfruit pulp and the raspberries, mix carefully. Divide between four bowls. Decorate with melissa or mint and serve.
If you like me, really dislike wasting food, but stand there one evening with a big dollop of homemade lovely lemoncurd but is also feeling a bit too lazy to use it in baking, well then this is the perfect recipe for you.
All you need is lemoncurd (homemade or storebought doesn’t matter), whipping cream and fresh raspberries. Just whip the cream lightly, fold in the yellow goodness (aka the curd) and scatter with raspberries. It is almost like a lemony mousse but only takes minutes to prepare. It is also fresh and extremely satisfying.
Lemoncurd whip with raspberries, serves 2
300 ml whipping cream
1 dl lemoncurd
2 handfuls fresh raspberries
Whip the cream lightly and fold in the lemoncurd. Divide between two bowls and top with raspberries.
As you might know by now, I bake the birthday cakes for my office once a month. We haven’t got a budget big enough to get patisserie cakes and we were all so bored of the supermarket varieties. So the company pays for the ingredients and I bake away one night a month. I really enjoy it as I get to choose what to make and I have always loved to bake.
This month people had requested a traditional Victoria sponge so I made this classic with only one little addition – fresh strawberries. It went down a treat and it really is a wonderful summer cake.
I hade made this before, but this time I made the cake slightly higher and below is that recipe. The cake is incredibly easy to make, just don’t open the oven door until 30 minutes have passed (to avoid it sinking in the middle), then you’ll be fine. I prefer to make one sponge and cut it in half with a serrated knife, but feel free to use two cake tins (same size) if you wish.
Victoria sponge, serves 10
260 g plain flour
260 g caster sugar
260 g softened butter
1,5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
200 g strawberry jam
200 ml whipped cream
150 g sliced strawberries
Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat together with an electric whisk. Pour into a buttered and lined cake tin (or two of the same size). Place in a 175C oven for 35-40 minutes. Do not open the oven door until 30 minutes have passed.Cut the cake in half with a serrated knife and let it cool completely.
Place the bottom sponge on a cake plate and spread the jam onto it. Add the sliced strawberries and on top the whipped cream. Place the other sponge on top. Decorate with a few strawberries and dust with icing sugar.