River Cottage Cakes Handbook
About Me: In the eighth of the River Cottage Handbook series, Pam Corbin offers an appealing guide to baking perfect cakes. With the reassuring voice of experience, Pam sets out basic techniques and recipes that will guarantee success.
The Dundee cake proudly bears a wreath of golden almonds, like an insignia, denoting its authority in the fruit cake world. Its origins are linked with the early Scottish marmalade industry. The Keiller family – pioneering and resourceful marmalade-makers – used factory downtime to make this legend of the Scottish tea table. The original recipe used only sultanas and lots of orange peel. These days, commercial recipes seem to favour a rich mix of vine fruits and cherries.
This traditional sweet German Christmas bread is much simpler to make than it looks, so please don’t be alarmed by the length of the recipe. The richness of the dough means you need to allow more time for proving than normal bread; the recipe should take about 4 hours from start to finish. You will find this stollen much nicer than the shop-bought alternatives and it doesn’t need to be made at the last minute. In fact, it is best made well ahead to allow the marzipan time to relax into the fruit-packed dough.
This fragrant, gently spiced tea bread is a true pick-me-up – perfect for ravenous children returning from school, or anyone in need of cheering up. Bananas become much sweeter and more deliciously scented as they mature, so make sure the ones you use are well ripened. They will be much easier to mash too. Serve this tea bread thickly sliced – just as it is or with butter. After a few days, it’s best lightly toasted and buttered.
My garden is crowded with herbs and in early summer, when they are abundant and most fragrant, I instil their uplifting essence into my baking whenever I can. Often these self-effacing plants shy away from attention by producing insignificant flowers. But crush their shapely leaves and they release the most exquisite of perfumes. A few sprigs of an intensely aromatic herb can absolutely transform an otherwise simple cake. Lightly infuse the herb in water and the resulting liquor can be added to drizzles, icings and – in the case of this recipe – the cake itself.
These little Easter cakes are inspired by Kerri Spong, an outstanding cake-maker from Axminster who supplies the River Cottage Canteen and stores with them at Easter. They make a lovely change from the classic marzipan-topped Simnel cake, and they’re quick to bake, fun to decorate and scrumptious to eat. You can use ready-mixed dried fruit or mix up a medley of your choice. Don’t just make these little sweet treats for Easter; they adapt brilliantly to other festive occasions. And of course you can soak the fruit in something a little stronger than orange juice if you like!
This cake is a nod to the pagan ritual of burning a Yule log at the winter solstice, a ceremony intended to drive away the short dark days of winter. The tradition of making a chocolate log for the festive season originates from the practice. I can assure you I’m not in the habit of burning hedgehogs but, for fun, I have traded in the customary Yule log for this bright-eyed chocolatey ‘Hedgelog’.
This recipe makes for a jolly good rich fruit cake. Ideal as a classic Christmas cake, it can also be used to make a traditional Simnel cake or a superb wedding cake. The list of ingredients is not set in stone. For instance, if you don’t care for glacé cherries, you can replace them with dried cranberries. Dried pears can be swapped for dried apricots or dried pineapple and if, for some reason, you prefer a boozefree cake, you can use fresh orange or apple juice instead of liqueur. Don’t fret if you haven’t managed to make the cake ahead of time either – it’s still lovely when freshly baked. More recipes can be found in the River Cottage Cakes Handbook http://astore.amazon.co.uk/rivecott-21/detail/1408808595
For me, one of the highlights in the lead-up to Christmas is a happy few hours spent at my friend Henriette’s house, making biscuits for the festive season. It’s an afternoon of free choice, when tree-shaped biscuits sometimes turn pink and sugared sheep can end up with multi-coloured fleeces. This is the recipe I always use – it produces lovely, crunchy, warmly spiced biscuits. They are by no means exclusively for Christmas, by the way. You can use the recipe to make ‘run, run, as fast as you can’ gingerbread men too. More great recipes available from Pam 'the jams' River Cottage Cakes Handbook available here> http://astore.amazon.co.uk/rivecott-21/detail/1408808595
The old Irish custom of making vegetable lanterns to ward off evil spirits has long been associated with Hallowe’en. Irish immigrants in America found pumpkins much easier to carve than the turnips and swedes of their homeland, and so the pumpkin lantern has become an enduring symbol of modern-day Hallowe’en. The carved-out pumpkin flesh is often used to make soup or sweet pies. This cake is another alternative: sweetly perfumed, light and crispy in texture, it’s a wicked way to make sure nothing goes to waste.