It feels right to get blogging again with a classic and as far as I’m concerned, the carrot cake completes the holy trinity of cake baking grande dames – flanked either side by the Victoria sponge and the chocolate cake. I know that a classic shouldn’t really need messing about with but I have to insist on pecans over walnuts here. You get all the texture without any of the bitterness and, when candied and dipped in bronze, you also get an ostentatious flourish that no diva worth her salt would turn down.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of collapsing with a coffee and a slice of cake at Lily Vanilli’s bakery, chances are you’ll already know the wonders of this cake. If not, let me share the love, and the recipe, from her brilliant book Sweet Tooth. This isn’t a cake to call on when you need a slab of something sweet and familiar, it’s something altogether more thoughtful; for those days when chic trumps comfort.
For those of you that have followed this blog for a while, you’ll know me and pistachios, we’re involved. There’s something delicate yet striking about them, all jade green and flecked with pink, so it was to my favourite nut I turned, when creating a birthday cake for my mum last week. The result was a light, moist, pistachio sponge laced with rose water, filled and covered with a pistachio French buttercream. I’ve never attempted a tiered cake before either but I was chuffed with how it turned out; chic, a little extravagant and completely delicious.
Grey January days, the kind when the rain’s making a racket on the windows and the sky has been bleached of its blue, are the days that demand cake. Something simple yet vibrant, something reminiscent of the colours and tastes of the last couple of weeks – and here she is. This sweet, syrupy loaf cake is a riot of orange and pink, with a satisfying pop of sharpness thanks to the generous smattering of pomegranate seeds. Sliced thick and served with a pot of tea, it’s the perfect start to the year.
Apologies for the radio silence these past few weeks, I was deep in revision mode for my final exams at Le Cordon Bleu which I’m pleased to say all went well. I am now the proud owner of an Intermediate Patisserie certificate and could not be happier. Graduation is in a few days time so I thought I would share with you all my final LCB bake, the Charlie Brown Christmas cake. We made the cakes at the start of term back in September, and the chefs have fed them with rum each week, so, hello drunk! Our last couple of classes were then dedicated to decorating the cakes and voila, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Woodstock on a glitter-strewn, snowy cake. Hooray!
So, in the run up to Christmas I’ll be posting festive recipes with added oh la la, starting with some sublime ginger moose biscuits on Friday (moose are cooler than reindeer, there I said it), and then the New Year will see me heading out on my own, making and selling my baked goodies, writing recipes, applying for pastry jobs, and generally surrounding myself with cake. The blog won’t miss a single step of this crazy ass journey so please do keep checking back, commenting and being brilliant.
Last time we spoke about my pâtisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu I was saying goodbye. The basic course was over and I really did think that I was done. Fast forward a couple of months and I’m midway through the intermediate level – what can I say, it was just too soon to leave. The learning curve has been steep but I’m loving my new set of skills and the creative challenges that the term is throwing at me. So I thought I’d show you guys what I’ve been up to back at school with a gallery of goodies. Special mention must go to my step palette knife who has become my best friend of late, he’s called Walter and he rules.
Click on the images below for a larger view and to launch the gallery
If Nigella is the Queen B of baking, then Nigel Slater is most definitely my king. Not only are his recipes a dream to follow and delicious to eat, it’s the way he writes them, gently coaxing you to the kitchen full of excitement at what you are about to create. His books are beautiful and tend to live on my bedside table, never quite making it to the book shelf, that’s how often I dip into them for inspiration. This week I was determined to face a fruity foe and turned to Nigel for back up. Bananas have been the bane of my baking life for as long as I can remember, fundamentally it’s a texture thing I think, mushy and stringy don’t really do it for me, and I’ve failed to find one recipe to change my mind – until now. Banana-phobes prepare to be converted, this cake has superpowers of persuasion.