Although carrot cake came to popularity in England during the second world war, its origins stretch back several hundred years to the carrot puddings eaten in the middle ages. Carrot cake is a bit of a marmite food with people either loving or hating it; I have never met anyone who was ambivalent about it.
The emergence of carrot cake in the second world war came about because of sugar rationing. This led to people looking for an easy alternative and carrots were perfect as people could grow them in their back gardens. Luckily, you can’t taste the carrot in carrot cake but it gives a lovely colour and along with the use of oil instead of butter, helps the cake remain moist for a long time. I actually made the mistake of leaving the cakes on top of an Aga for about two hours as I took them out of the oven in a hurry and when I got back the cakes had not dried out at all!
Of course, you can’t have carrot cake without cream cheese frosting. Here in England the only readily available cream cheese is the spreadable version in tubs not the block cream cheese that you really need to make a good frosting. Spreadable cream cheese has a far higher water content and this water can cause the icing to turn into a runny soup. The best way to avoid this is to use butter as a base for the icing. This gives a rich flavour and also causes the icing to firm up in the fridge leaving it nice and smooth. The frankly obscene amount of icing sugar also helps prevent the collapse of the frosting.
I hope you enjoy the recipe.
For the cake:
450ml vegetable oil
450g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
530g grated carrot
150g chopped walnuts
Cream Cheese Frosting:
150g unsalted butter
240g cream cheese
840g sifted icing sugar
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C).
Oil and line four eight inch baking tins and place a circle of parchment on the base of each one.
In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and sugar.
Add the eggs one at a time and whisk together after each addition.
Mix in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon in three batches.
Gently whisk in the carrot – you don’t want it to get shredded in the mixer so use the lowest speed setting.
Divide the cake mix between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Leave to cool for ten minutes and then remove the cakes from the tins and leave on a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the icing, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy.
Add the cream cheese and beat again.
Mix in the icing sugar in three batches and start your mixer on slow each time to avoid the icing sugar going everywhere!
The moment the icing has come together, stop mixing it.
Place the base of the cake onto a serving plate and spread a layer of cream cheese frosting over this.
Add another layer of cake and frosting and continue until all the layers have been used up.
Spread a thick layer of frosting on the top of the cake. You can decorate this with little sugar carrots (normally available in the supermarket baking aisle) or sprinkles. Just bear in mind that cream cheese frosting is very soft and won’t hold its shape well.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe and your cream cheese frosting doesn’t turn to liquid. If you fancy a Mexican treat, check out how to make some spicy Enchiladas or if you are looking a different dessert, why not treat yourself to the bestapple crumble you will eat.
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious risotto recipe.
For those of you who have been following me for a few months, you may remember that during my introduction to my apple tart recipe, I briefly mentioned my love of apple crumble and how good the one my mum makes is. It’s taken some time but I have finally found out the secret ingredient and have been given permission to share it with you. Be warned though, it is stunningly good and will most likely ruin all other apple crumble for you forever (but it’s totally worth it).
Everyone knows that the optimum ratio of filling to topping in an apple crumble is 1:1 (if not more crumble than fruit). To be honest, sometimes it seems like the fruit is only there to provide the dish with a modicum of healthiness but that is beside the point. The main problem I find with crumble is that it is always too floury and dry or there is far too much moisture from the fat and the crumble sets like concrete, however I have finally found out haow to counter these problems. The secret ingredient is ground almonds. Sugar, oats, flour and butter are all well and good but the added depth of flavour and texture from the almonds is just wonderful. By increasing the amount of dry ingredients, you can use more butter without turning your crumble into cement. Luckily, the ground almonds are relatively moist for a dry ingredient and so don’t turn the topping into a powdery mess like meaning a more buttery topping which is still the perfect texture.
Crumbles have been around for a very long time and became particularly popular in the second world war. This stemmed from the shortage in pastry ingredients so people would replace pies with crumble. Savoury crumbles can also be made and these use cheese instead of sugar. They contain a meaty or vegetable filling but are less popular than their fruit counterparts. In America, crumble is referred to as “crisp” owing to its texture.
The crumble topping falls under an umbrella of similar toppings known as streusel. Streusel is comprised of flour, butter and sugar and is commonly sprinkled over cakes and other desserts. There is a particularly nice cake which my mum has made in the past where the cake batter is poured over chopped and sliced apple and chunky cinnamon streusel is sprinkled on before baking. The streusel partially dissolves leaving pockets of sweetness running throughout the cake.
My mum’s version of apple crumble is based on the recipe by Evelyn Rose – a cook whose recipes are often cooked in my house.
I hope you enjoy the recipe
Prep time: 20 minutes
Rest time: 1 hour
Cook time: 20 minutes
6 tart apples (like granny smiths)
¼ tsp. cinnamon (optional)
3 oz. (85g) plain flour
1 oz. (28g) oats
1 oz. (28g) ground almonds
4 oz. (112g) brown sugar
3 oz. (85g) cold cubed butter or margarine
(For an extra thick layer of crumble, multiply the recipe by 4/3)
Peel and core the apples.
Chop them into a saucepan and add two tablespoons of water.
If you are using it, add the cinnamon.
Simmer on a low heat stirring regularly until the apple has stewed and is very soft.
Once the stewed apple is cooked, pour it into the dish you wish to make the dessert in and leave it to cool.
To make the crumble:
Place all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix.
Add the fat and rub the crumble together. Don’t make it completely homogenous, you want there to be a few little clumps in it to give it texture!
Sprinkle the crumble over the apple in an even layer.
This can be prepared in advance and then just placed in the oven when you want to eat it.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C) and bake the crumble for 15-20 minutes or until it is golden on top.
This can be eaten hot or cold and is perfect with custard, whipped cream or ice cream.
To make the crumble look posh, you can always make individual portions with baking rings or in miniature ramekins.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you like apples, you should definitely check out my apple tart recipe or if you are looking for something a little bit cakier, why not make a lemon drizzle cake?
Have a good one and I will see you next week with a set of delicious recipes for several types of enchiladas.
For a long time, I was unaware that brandy snaps could be eaten on their own as opposed to being used a decorations for bigger, grander desserts. While this discovery hasn’t exactly rocked my world, it has given me another recipe in my biscuit arsenal, one that is particularly quick and easy to make! Whilst containing almost identical ingredients to gingerbread, the difference in ratios is what gives brandy snaps their distinctive appearance.
While in the oven, the butter and golden syrup melt, as does the sugar. This makes the brandy snaps spread out from teaspoon sized blobs to several inches across. The bubbling in the butter causes little holes giving rise to the lacy appearance. As the sugar caramelises in the oven and the butters flows out of the biscuits, they darken. Once removed from the oven, the brandy snaps are far to soft to handle but as they cool, the sugar begins to harden. This is when they should be shaped. Cigars are shaped using an oiled wooden spoon but more exciting shapes can also be made. Laying the soft biscuit over an oiled cup or orange can give a beautiful bowl which can hold a dessert or cutting into triangles or long rectangles and curling can give an ornate garnish to a pudding.
Dating back to the early 1800s, brandy snaps have been around for a long time and haven’t really changed at all! They are traditionally filled with whipped cream however they can also be dipped in chocolate and rolled in nuts to give another dimension. The origin of the name is actually thought to have been derived from the word ‘branded’ referring to the fact that they can appear burnt. Having said that, I can appreciate that you may wish to drink a couple of brandys whilst baking these as they are some of the fiddliest things I have ever created.
One thing to note is that while you want to shape them while they are still hot, they have to cool enough not to break when you handle them (and also not to burn your fingers). Another thing that makes them so useful is if you only want a few to jazz up your dessert, the lack of eggs in the recipe means you can reduce the quantities as much as you want – providing you stick to equal ratios of all ingredients other than the ginger.
I hope you enjoy the recipe and have a chance to try these at home!
Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 40
Makes: 30 medium sized brandy snaps
100g unsalted butter
100g brown sugar
100g golden syrup
100g plain flour
1tsp ground ginger
(optional: 1tbsp brandy or lemon juice)
Vegetable oil and wooden spoons
300ml whipping cream to fill
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C).
Sift the flour and ginger into a bowl and make a well in the middle.
Gently heat the butter, sugar and syrup in a pan until it has all mixed together and the butter is fully melted. DON’T LET THIS BOIL!
Pour the butter and sugar mixture into the well in the flour and mix together.
Add the lemon juice or brandy and mix into the batter – it should be thick and flow very slowly.
Using a half tablespoon (or a heaped teaspoon), dollop four blobs of batter onto each baking sheet – they will spread out a lot so do not put more than 4 on the first couple of sheets. Once you know if you can fit an extra brandy snap on the sheet then you can add one to the next batch.
Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown – but not too dark as no one wants burnt brandy snaps.
I tend to use three sheets on a rotation as the lower one doesn’t cook as fast so once I remove the first sheet, I move up the lower one and add the third sheet on the bottom of the oven and work in four or five minute intervals from there.
Lightly brush the handles of some wooden spoons with the vegetable oil.
Let the brandy snaps rest for a minute until they are cool enough to handle and won’t rip when lifted but are still soft and malleable.
Wrap each one around the handle of the wooden spoon and place (seam side down so they don’t unwrap) onto a surface to cool.
The brandy snaps should have cooled enough to remove from the wooden spoons without losing their shape when the next batch comes out of the oven.
Keep this rotation going until you have cooked all of the brandy snaps.
To fill them, whip the cream and pipe into the brandy snaps from both ends. You can also dip ends of brandy snap into melted chocolate (before filling with cream of course) and roll it in chopped nuts.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. Let me know how these turn out for you, drop me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing as I love seeing what you guys create at home. If you fancy something more cakey – check out my recipe for a Yule Log (they don’t have to just be for Christmas)! Alternatively, if you are looking for something a little more savoury, why not make yourself some delicious Curried Parsnip Soup?
Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a base recipe for one pot pasta which can be adapted to make masses of dishes!
Last week I promised I would return with a Christmassy treat. I hope that with this recipe I will have delivered!
Gingerbread has been eaten for centuries and has wormed its way into the traditions of many countries. In England we have gingerbread men and houses, in Germany, they eat Lebkuchen and in Sweden gingerbread has been used to help with indigestion since the 1400s.
Gingerbread is thought to have originated just before 1000CE however it wasn’t recorded in trade until some time in the 17th century as production had been controlled by the Gingerbread Guild for the previous 200 years. The biscuits would be served in monasteries and sold in apothecaries and were popular owing to the belief that the ginger had health giving properties. Since then, it has been proven that ginger is good at soothing the stomach and reducing nausea as well as having anti-inflammatory properties.
The first documented case of gingerbread men was from Tudor England when Elizabeth I would present her guests with a likeness of themselves made out of gingerbread. About 250 years later, gingerbread houses started appearing in Germany after the publication of Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm. These were made out of something closer to a ginger biscuit or gingernut than the traditional Lebkuchen as it was too soft to hold the weight – though the decorated gingerbreads are still called Lebkuchen to this day. The gingerbread houses are sometimes made with pepper instead of ginger to create Pfefferkuchenhaus.
Gingerbread houses can take any form from a traditional cottage to a castle. They are normally stuck together with royal icing or caramel though in some cases you can use chocolate. However this is risky as chocolate is very temperature limited and will soften and melt if it gets too hot. Royal icing is very similar to a meringue as it is primarily made from egg whites and sugar however instead of being baked in the oven, it dries in the open air to form a hard surface that can then be decorated upon. Combined with the hard biscuit forming the walls and ceiling, gingerbread houses can be very, very sturdy constructions.
My recipe for a gingerbread house gives enough dough so that the offcuts can be kneaded together and rolled out into other shapes. I had a go at making myself some gingerbread Christmas trees and also iced the cut-outs from the windows so none of it would go to waste. If you are using royal icing, I recommend decorating the sides of the house before you stick it together and let them dry for an hour so you can touch them without smudging the decoration. This is simply because if you decorate them when flat, you don’t have to fight against gravity!
Decorating the house can be a great thing to do with friends and family and the outcome is delicious! You can even use chocolate and sweeties on the outside for added effect. The house makes a stunning centre piece to a table and is a complete showstopper.
Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time: 25 minutes
Decoration time: Anything from 20 minutes upwards
3 tbsp ground ginger – this is quite a fiery recipe, for a slightly less intense hit, use 2 tbsp
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
300g dark brown sugar (muscovado)
325g Unsalted butter
¾ cup golden syrup
3 egg whites
450g icing sugar (sifted)
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp glycerine
Make your templates. The ones I used for this were: 8×5 inches for the sides, 8×4 inches for the roof and the front and back were a 5×6 rectangle with a triangle on top 5 inches long and 2 inches tall. You can either make your own or cut out the ones from my template below.
Mix the flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl – make sure the bowl is big enough to hold the other ingredients too as they will be added later.
Put the butter, syrup and sugar into a heavy based saucepan and melt it together.
Once the butter mixture has all come together (the sugar doesn’t need to have completely dissolved), pour it into a well in the centre of the flour mix and stir until it starts coming together.
Once the dough has mostly come together in the bowl, use your hands to knead it into a ball and mix in the last bits of flour round the outside.
Divide the mix into thirds and roll out to about 6/7mm thick.
Cut out two shapes of each template but do not remove the outside gingerbread. This means that the edges of the biscuit will burn but this is then removed leaving the gingerbread for the house perfectly cooked! You can remove any dough which is more than a centimetre from the edge of the house.
Cut out windows and doors as you see fit – again, leave them in, just cut the shape into the house.
Bake each one for 11-12 minutes until golden (its fine if the edges start to catch as these will be removed)! I would offset the baking of each tray by six minutes. As explained in the next step.
Once the gingerbread is removed from the oven, it will be very soft. Remove the baking sheet from the tray it is on and lie it on a table. The gingerbread will have spread a little in the oven and filled in all the cuts however they will still be visible.
Working quickly before the gingerbread hardens, cut along the lines with a sharp knife and separate the different pieces. Recut out the windows and door and remove these pieces.
Once it has hardened a little more on the sheet, transfer the gingerbread to a cooling tray to completely harden and cool down – this will take about an hour to make sure it is ready to be used in the house.
For the icing, place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk with electric beaters for around 8 minutes until the icing is thick and glossy and holds its shape when the beaters are removed – it can sag a little bit but shouldn’t return to a flat layer, you should still be able to see detail.
Use your pieces of gingerbread to make sure your house will fit together properly and work out which pieces overlap with each other.
Once you know where everything is going, pip a thick line of royal icing down the edges of one of the walls. Use this to stick it together with the two pieces it touches. Hold them in place for 30 seconds of so and if you can, place something up against the wall to keep it in place. Wipe off the excess icing on the outside
Pipe lines of icing down the remaining wall and stick it to the rest of the house. Wipe of the excess and add another line on the inside the strengthen the connections
Let the house sit for five minutes to give the icing a chance to dry a little before you add the roof.
Use a thick line of icing around the top of the house and add one of the roof pieces.
Pipe along the last exposed edge before you add the final piece of gingerbread (its ok if they overlap a little, we can cover this with icing)!
Pipe designs on the sides and the roof and let set for at least an hour if not more before serving. I left mine overnight as it lets the icing harden and the gingerbread soften just a little.
You can even use an electric light to illuminate it from the inside to make the house glow.
Wasting food is something which I try to avoid doing as much as possible and as a result, lots of the food I eat is made up of odds and ends lying around. Bread and butter pudding is a perfect example of this – it’s a very good way of using up the remains of a loaf of bread that’s starting to go stale. It’s also very easy to personalise as you can swap flavours in and out incredibly easily.
Traditionally, bread and butter pudding was made without the orange and chocolate I use in this recipe. Instead, the bread was buttered before being put in the tin and was then sprinkled with large quantities of raisins (which were often soaked in booze). The custard was also flavoured with nutmeg and vanilla along with other spices. Bread and butter pudding is the modern version of a dish known as whitepot which dates back from the 1500s. This was made with bone marrow instead of butter and sometimes the bread would be substituted out for rice which is what gave rise to rice pudding. This diverged from bread and butter pudding back in the early 1600s when recipe books started listing whitepot and rice pudding as different desserts. The first written recipe for bread and butter pudding didn’t appear until almost 100 years later!
Bread and butter pudding should not be confused with bread pudding although the two do have many similarities. They are both ways of using up stale bread and also both contain cream, eggs and dried fruit. Bread pudding starts to differ as instead of layering up the bread and pouring custard over it, small lumps of bread are mashed into the custard mix before adding brown sugar, lots of spices,dried fruit and peel. This gives rise to a much more homogeneous dessert which is denser than bread and butter pudding would be.
One of the best things about this dessert is its versatility. I have made it on several occasions for people who are lactose free and you can simply replace the cream and milk with dairy free alternatives (of course you also have to check that the chocolate spread doesn’t contain milk either)! If you don’t like chocolate and orange, you can just replace them with other flavours for example, swap the marmalade for strawberry jam and sprinkle fresh strawberries between the layers instead of chocolate. If you feel like splashing out, this can also be made with brioche or croissants instead of plain bread for a super rich, buttery dessert.
Chocolate and Orange Bread and Butter Pudding
Prep time: 20 mins – Rest time: 10 mins – Cooking time – 45 mins
1 large loaf thinly sliced white bread – crusts removed
Dark chocolate spread
150g dark chocolate chips (or finely chopped dark chocolate)
1 pint full fat milk
150ml double cream
150g sugar + more for sprinkling
Optional – orange zest
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (1900C).
Butter a large baking dish.
Cut the bread along the diagonal to get large triangles.
Spread a generous portion of marmalade onto some of the triangles – however many it takes to cover the bottom of the dish.
Sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of chocolate.
Add another layer of bread, this time with the chocolate spread.
Sprinkle over some more of the chocolate.
Repeat the above steps until the tin is full remembering to place the top layer in spread side down – do not overfill it as the pudding will over flow in the oven. Try to avoid squishing the bread down too much as the air pockets around will all be filled with the custard.
Put the eggs, milk, cream, sugar and orange zest into a jug and whisk them together.
Pour this over the bread slowly making sure none of the bread on the top is left dry! Try to leave a little room at the top of the tin as the pudding will puff up when baking.
Sprinkle over a small amount of sugar which will caramelise on the top.
Leave to sit for 10 minutes so the custard can soak into the bread – you can add more if it is all absorbed!
Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the pudding is puffed up – check it at halfway through and if the pudding is browning too fast, cover the top with some silver foil and return it to the oven.
This can be eaten warm of cold and heats up wonderfully in the microwave. Serve with cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce.
Let me know if you try this at home as I love to see what you guys cook! Drop me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you are looking for a warming savoury dish to precede this in a meal, look no further than my delicious mushroom risotto or if you fancy having a go at baking some other sweet treats, why not try your hand at my millionaire’s shortbread? Its bound to impress your friends!
Have a good one and see you next week with a recipe for a lovely salmon dinner!