Egg Free Cakes – Part 1: Honey Cake

Lockdown. It could have been worse; though, I daresay for many of us It coud have been better. Still, plenty of time for baking right? IF you can get the ingredients of course. A combination of panic buying, and people having nothing better to do than make banana bread, has left the shelves a little bare. I mean, I’m all for people discovering the joys of homebaking, though there is a slight feeling of “hey, I liked baking before it was cool!”

Supposing you have managed to grab the last bag of flour, but what’s this? No eggs! Who is panic buying eggs anyway? If you look online there are various suggestions, often on vegan sites, for alternatives to eggs. Try them if you want, but I always find that recipes that never used ‘X’ ingredient in the first place always turn out (and taste) much better than adapting an existing recipe with alternatives.

So I’m going to share my two favourite egg-free cake recipes: Victorian Honey Cake – also low fat (but not low sugar, you can’t have everything) – and Vinegar Fruit Cake, which is a lot nicer than it sounds, the vinegar just adds a pleasant maltiness.

The honey cake is an adaptation of a recipe found in the first edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management. We like to have it for breakfast. The original recipe calls for cream rather than buttermilk, I have tried it this way, but it’s very dry. Milk also works, if you can’t get hold of buttermilk, both give a nice chewy texture. Use any kind of honey; I like to use a mild honey for the cake, then while it’s still warm from the oven, brush liberally with a stronger tasting honey (Greek, for example). Cut the cake into squares, fingers, or use a cutter to stamp out fancy shapes (keep those lovely trimmings to eat sneakily while no one’s looking).

Victorian Honey cake

  • 4oz (120g) caster sugar
  • 8floz (230ml) buttermilk
  • 10oz (300g) plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbinate of soda
  • 4tbsp honey
  • More honey for glazing

Grease and line a square 9″ cake tin. Preheat oven to 190/ 170 fan/ gas mark 4.

Mix the sugar and cream together in a large bowl. Sift in the flour and soda and fold into the mixture.

Mix in the honey, and scrape the mixture into the tin.

Bake for around 30 mins (but check after 20), or until the top is a light golden brown and a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Spread the top generously with more honey while still warm.

Honey bees typically produce 2-3 times more honey than they actually need.

Yorkshire Mint Pasty

Most of us are familiar with Eccles cakes – dried fruit (mainly currants) encased in circles of pastry. If you’re interested in regional cookery you may have heard of the similar Chorley cake and Coventry God cakes. I had never heard of the Yorkshire pasty before, though a quick Google shows that many from the Yorkshire area remember their mothers and grandmothers making these treats from carefully handed down family recipes.

What stood out and made me want to try them was the addition of fresh mint to the usual currant and spice combo. The recipe isn’t terribly helpful, so I had to improvise a bit. Also I’m not keen on currants, so I used raisins and sultanas. Candied peel from supermarkets can be hard and bitter, if you can make your own that would be best, otherwise the best you can afford. If you hate the stuff, use grated orange zest instead.

As for the shape, there doesn’t seem to be any strict rules; you could go for any of these:

Quite honestly, although I could happily have eaten several, each bite was such a taste surprise it was hard to say if I actually liked them. I guess I must have!

Yorkshire Mint Pasty

  • 1 sheet of shortcrust pastry or homemade pastry made with 120g plain flour and 60g fat ( this could be butter, vegetable fat, margarine or lard)
  • 7 tbsp Mixed dried fruit, or your own blend of raisins, currants, sultanas and candied peel (I used 3 tbsp raisins, 3 tbsp sultanas and 1 tbsp candied peel
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 30g butter
  • 1/4 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1 or 2 tbsp Chopped fresh mint leaves

1. Mix the fruit, peel, sugar, mint and spice in a bowl.

2. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface. Cut into shapes if you want, though you can just sprinkle the filling over half of the pastry, fold it over, and cut into rectangles (a bit like a Garibaldi biscuit).

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3. Divide the mixture between the pastry shapes. Dot with little blobs of butter. Seal the pasties with a little water. If you like they can be glazed with egg and sprinkled with sugar.

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4. Bake at 180/160 fan/gas mark 4 until golden brown around the edges. Cool on a wire rack.

Coventry God cakes were traditionally given to Godchildren by their Godparents at the start of the new year.

The Good Life

This book review has been a long time coming because I’ve been busy doing studenty things at university; now it’s lockdown/holiday, let’s see if we can catch up a bit. Actually lockdown has been a good opportunity to catch up on the recipes in this book, because there are like, a lot…

In the early 1930’s Florence White was concerned that the English way of life was going down the drain; people couldn’t cook properly anymore and were eating too much fancy foreign muck. I wonder if she read the Daily Mail too?

Before our precious traditions were “crushed out of existence” she endeavoured to compile a book of traditional and regional recipes. Some came from older books, others were sent in by the man (or woman) on the street. Strangely enough these traditional recipes include various curry and pillau dishes, and lump in Stotch, Irish and Welsh dishes under the general banner of “England” but we’ll gloss over that.

The methods aren’t always clear, some ingredients are nigh on impossible to find, some recipes are just gross; but it was interesting to see how, and indeed how little, English food has changed over the centuries. So here goes..

Good Things in England by Florence White. First published 1932

Why did you buy the book?

I think it’s mentioned as one of the all time classic cookbooks in Nicola Humble’s marvellous book Culinary Pleasures, an excellent reference for beginner collectors.

Judge a book by it’s cover…

It’s naff, but it was the seventies so we’ll let them off. You’ve never seen a less appetizing salmon roll in your life.

Do you use it?

Not necessarily to cook from, but as a useful reference when researching vintage recipes.

What did you make?

A bunch of stuff. There are a lot of sections, so I tried to cover a bit of everything, which is probably why it’s taken me six months. Ok, we tried mock turtle soup (but without the calf’s head) which was nice, could be used a an interesting starter for a themed dinner party; baked fish with bacon and peas, mock hare – basically a fillet of beef seasoned like game – then ‘Hindle Wakes’ a slow cooked chicken flavoured with lemon and prunes, then coated with streaky bacon and finished in the oven, I recall that one being pretty good. For pudding we had apple pie scented with rosewater, Ripon ginger cake, Shrewsbury cakes (actually biscuits), Gypsy bread and Yorkshire mint pasties (more on those later). I wanted to make the older version of Bath buns but you just can’t get caraway comfits anymore!

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Hindle Wakes

Is it still in print?

Surprisingly, yes. It must really be a classic then.

Is it worth buying?

That’s a tough question. You won’t find it much good for everyday cooking. Modern tastes and reliable supplies of food mean we’re unlikely to be making brain sauce or rook pie anytime soon; we don’t need seven ways to cure meat or sixteen varieties of gingerbread. However, it is interesting from a historical or research point of view, or if you like collecting vintage books.

Henry I died from a “surfeit of lampreys”, a gross slimey fish.

Sir Watkin Wynn’s Vintage Pudding

Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn (1692-1749) 3rd Baronet of Grey’s Inn Middlesex, was, through his mother’s family, decended from Welsh King Owain Gwynedd. The Wynn part of surname was adopted to honour the connection. Since then there have been many Watkin Wynns, so it’s hard to say which one was lucky enough to have a pudding named after him! I suppose it’s most likely the one who also had a Welsh folk song (which I can’t find) written about him. Apparently, according to The Daily Mail – well known Middle England tabloid scaremonger, the family have “spectacularly fallen from grace”. However, with this particular newspaper it is always wise to take their stories with a very large “pinch of salt”

My book, “Complete Illustrated Cookery Book” dates from 1935, but the recipe dates back to at least the mid 1800’s, and was popular on resturant menu’s. By the 30’s it had lost some of it’s richness and become a much easier pudding to make (and digest!). It’s also one of the few recipes in the book not to have a poncey French translation in brackets, merely saying “(British)”, even though equally Welsh “Snowdon Pudding” becomes “Pouding à la Snowdon” ?!

Sir Watkin Wynn’s Pudding

  • 6oz (180g) white breadcrumbs
  • 4oz (120g) suet
  • 3oz (90g) sugar
  • 3 heaped tbsp marmalade
  • 3 beaten eggs

You will need a mould or pudding basin that holds at least a pint. Vintage moulds are still fairly easy to get hold of cheaply. Check out your local charity shops and flea markets.

Mix all of the ingredients together and spoon into a mould or pudding basin. Boil or steam for 1½ – 2 hours. You can do this in a very large saucepan or slow cooker with around 2 pints of water in it, keep an eye on the water level – it will need topping up now and then. Don’t let it boil dry or you risk cracking your mould and burning the top of the pudding. Use a trivet, if you have one, to raise the mould away from direct contact with the bottom of the pan.

makeshift trivet
makeshift trivet

ready to boil
ready to boil

 

When cooked, remove from the pan and allow to cool for 10 mins. Run a knife around the edge of the pudding and turn out onto a serving plate. Serve hot, suet puddings always go a little weird when cold!

To serve:

Earlier versions recommend a wine sauce, my book suggests a tangy lemon sauce made from boiling the rind of a lemon cut into small strips (much as you would make the shreds for marmalade) with the juice and half a pint of water. When the shreds are soft,add sugar to taste and reduce to a thin syrupy consisitency.

I would suggest heating half a jar of lemon marmalade until runny and drizzling that on the pudding instead. Much easier.

lemon-peelwat-wynn-close

 

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A Proper Seed Cake

Sometimes I already know which cake to feature as cake of the month, sometimes it’s a recipe that I have just made up, which happened to turn out well or an old favourite. Other times it’s quite a journey from initial idea to perfect cakiness.

So dear Crumbies, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…It all started one afternoon, Buttered Crumbs was taking a well earned tea break in front of the telly, watching “At Bertram’s Hotel” a 1987 BBC adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel, starring Joan Hickson as Miss Marple. For me she is the definitive Miss Marple, none of the others can quite match up to her performance.

Anyway, Bertram’s Hotel, as well as being a hotbed of crime and intrigue, is known for it’s excellent afternoon teas and traditional cakes. When one of Miss Marple’s cronies is offered seed cake, she asks “Is it proper seed cake?” Hmmm. So what constitutes a “proper” seed cake? Miss Marple is pretty old by this point, the book was first published in 1965 and she was described as a “white haired old lady” in 1930! We can assume that a “proper” cake would be one that they remembered from childhood or the recipe that they used as young women in their own homes. You’re looking at Victorian times then.

The oldest seed cake recipe I have is from the well known Mrs Beeton, not that it was her recipe of course, she merely collected recipes for publication. Her seed cake is flavoured with (caraway seeds, obviously) nutmeg and copious amounts of brandy. Recipies from my 1930’s and 1950’s collections are flavoured with lemon and mixed peel. A modern “traditional” recipe from Darina Allen, is flavoured with vanilla.

Adapting the Mrs Beeton recipe to contain less brandy and so on, gave a moist buttery cake with a lovely flavour of caraway seeds. I decided to try a lemon flavoured one too to see how it compared. Alas, I was trying to be clever, I don’t liked the mixed peel you buy in shops, which is nasty, tough and bitter. So I used lemon marmalade instead, though the only one I had was actually lemon and lavender marmalade, a treat we picked up at the Ludlow festival. The cake was pretty good, as a marmalade cake, the caraway seeds detracted from it’s deliciousness somewhat. But it did give me the final idea for cake of the month.

In the meantime, here is the recipe for a good old fashioned seed cake:

“A very good seed cake”

  • 7oz (210g) Self raising flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1oz (30g) ground almonds
  • 5oz (150g) caster sugar
  • 5oz (150g) butter
  • 2tbsp caraway seeds
  • ½ tsp ground mace or nutmeg (mace is nicer)
  • 2 tbsp brandy (if you don’t have any and don’t want to buy a big bottle, just get a minature)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2floz milk

Grease and line an 8″ round springform or loose bottom cake tin. Pre heat the oven to 170ºc (150 fan, gas mark 3).

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Sift over the flour, bicarb and mace and mix well.

Beat in the milk, brandy and caraway seeds. Scrape the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 30 to 40 mins. If the cake is browning too much before it’s cooked in the middle, cover with a piece of baking paper.

Cool on a wire rack and invite your Maiden Great Aunt to tea.

Miss Marple first appeared in a short story in 1927 and her first full length novel was “The Murder at the Vicarage” 1930.

British Food

British food fortnight is sadly ending. British food is traditionally mocked by pretty much everyone, including us. The French sneer, the Italians joke (in Italy trifle is known as zuppa Inglese, literally “English soup”), others may dismiss English food as bland and badly cooked and the English as having poor taste and undiscerning palates. Sadly, thanks to the industrial revoloution and two world wars we were sadly out of touch with quality foods, where to get them and how to bring out the best of the simple ingredients available to us. The writer W. Somerset Maugham famously said “To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day” and John Betjeman ridiculed resturant food in his poem “The Town Clerks View”

” Already our hotels are pretty good

For those who’re fond of very simple food-

Cod and two veg., free pepper, salt and mustard,

Followed by nice hard plums and lumpy custard”

In truth British cuisine has always been a melting pot of different influences thanks to the various invaders, settlers and colonialization. Sadly our cool, damp climate isn’t suited to the production of the fruit, veg and herbs and spices grown by our European cousins. What we grow best is meat, hence the traditional meat and two veg, anything more exciting tends to be imported. We do love fancy food though, always have done, from the outlandish sauces of the Middle Ages to today’s national dish – curry. Today thankfully the stereotype no longer fits, we are a nation of foodies (mostly) expecting good food in our resturants, schools, supermarkets etc and with an insatiable appetite for T.V’s food porn. So, you may not like British food but that does not make it intrinsically bad, anymore than me not liking sushi means there is something wrong with it.

Personally I love my nations food, after a cold, wet day of stiff-upper-lipping and drinking tea, there is nothing better than a hearty roast dinner with plenty of meaty gravy, followed by pudding and custard.

One of the nicest things we ate this week was kedgeree. Based on an Indian rice and lentil curry – khichri, and adapted to English tastes and ingredients. It can be as simple as rice with flaked haddock and chopped boiled eggs, dressed with butter and parsley though I prefer this souped up version:

Souped up Kedgeree

  • two small to medium sized fillets of smoked haddock
  • 4 eggs
  • 7½ oz (210g) long grain rice
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • half a bag of baby salad leaves
  • half a small bunch of fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp mango chutney
  • butter and oil for cooking
  • milk for poaching
  • salt and pepper

Cook the rice till “al dente”, drain off any remaing water and put to one side. Poach the haddock fillets in milk till just done, around 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. Boil the eggs for 5 mins then leave in a pan of cold water to cool down.

Shred the salad leaves, finely chop the coriander and put to one side.

Thinly slice the onion and garlic. Fry them gently in about 2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of butter till golden. Stir in the spices and cook for 1 minute. Add the flaked fish and rice, a generous pinch of salt and a good grinding of black pepper and stir till everything is lightly coated in spice.

Add the salad leaves, coriander and mango chutney. Stir till the leaves have wilted. Remove from the heat.

Quickly shell the eggs and cut them into quarters. Divide the kedgereee between bowls and top with the boiled egg.

Excellent for lunch or supper or for breakfast if you are a crusty old Major.

 

Mystery Tea

Although I normally read weighty intellectual tomes (actually, it’s mainly cookbooks) sometimes there’s nothing like a good/bad/cheesy murder mystery. I particularly enjoy the ones from the 1920′s to 1950′s where many characters indulge in afternoon tea!

Agatha Christie’s ‘The ABC Murders’ has Poirot visiting a small cafe as part of an investigation:

It was the kind of place that specialized in morning coffee, five different kinds of teas (Devonshire, Farmhouse, Fruit, Carlton and Plain), and a few sparing lunch dishes for females….

Hastings later says “that Carlton tea, it was abominable!” Now here is the mystery, what is a Carlton tea??????? I expect that ‘Devonshire’ is a cream tea and I can make an educated guess as to farmhouse, fruit and plain, but Carlton? I’m stumped! Not even the internet has been able to enlighten me. Can you help? Or at least give me a clue…

“c’est abominable”

First posted on ” guide to afternoon tea” May 2012

Novel Gothic

Today dear Crumbies, we celebrate Goth day. Not the East Germanic peoples who enjoyed beating up Romans and who had largely disappeared by the middle ages, nor the decorative style of architecture originating in 12th century France. Yes indeed the goth subculture, a post punk offshoot starting in the late 70’s, characterized by wearing black, dying your hair black, being pale, and listening to The Sisters Of Mercy (do they still do that?) Heavily influenced by the aforesaid Gothic architecture as well as Gothic novels (think Frankenstein, Dracula etc), horror films and Pre-Raphaelite art.

I was something of a goth during my teens and contrary to popular belief it’s not about being miserable but about dressing up and having fun. We did all the things normal teenagers did: going up town, going to see bands, watching scary films and so on, only we did those things while dressed in black and wearing a lot of makeup. And we felt the interest in art and literature made us intellectual.

But what to eat to celebrate goth day? Is there any Gothic food as such? Well, not really unless you want to go down the cheesy recycled Halloween route.We ate normal food like every one else, a few may profess a liking for very rare steak but there was also a large percentage of vegetarians among us. However there was a drink. A drink imbibed by those in goth clubs but scorned by normals as girly and Gothic, I refer of course to (drumroll) cider and black, ordinary cider with a shot of blackcurrant cordial. I never drank it myself as it sounded a bit sickly. But cake should be sweet and sticky so I present you with:

Cider and Black cake

  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 6oz butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 4floz blackcurrant cordial
  • 7oz plain flour
  • 1oz ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 tbsp blackcurrant jam
  • purple food colouring (optional)
  • you will also need some cider, still if you can get it, more butter and jam and icing sugar, read through the recipe to check the quantities.

Pre heat the oven to 180°c. Grease and line two sandwich cake tins.

Beat the sugar and butter till fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the blackcurrant cordial and jam.

Sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the mixture. If you want to, add some purple food colouring. I used a natural colouring which didn’t really work very well. Divide between the cake tins.Bake for around 20 mins or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean.

While the cakes are cooking make a syrup by dissolving 3 tbsp sugar in 3tbsp of cider and boiling until it becomes a thin syrup. Cool the cakes in the tin for 5 mins then turn out onto a wire rack. Poke the cakes allover with a skewer and brush generously with the syrup. Leave to cool completely.

Make some buttercream with 4oz of butter and 8 oz sifted icing sugar and a couple of tablespoons of cider. Heat 3tbsp of blackcurrant jam with 2 tbsp of cider till runny. Leave to cool. Divide the buttercream between the top and middle of the cake and drizzle the blackcurrant glaze on top.

A Brief History of Tea Time

It is generally accepted that the custom of afternoon tea began with Anna Maria 7th Duchess of Bedford (1783-1857). Dinner was being served at the ludicrous but fashionably late time of eight or nine in the evening, which is a long time since lunch.I expect that many posh ladies were sneaking down to the pantry before Anna Maria took the bold stand of saying ” But I’m hungry NOW!!!!!”

Starting with a modest repast of a cup of tea and some bread and butter, this daring social reformer soon progressed to cake and pastries. Celebrity culture being much the same as it is now, soon all fashionable ladies were “taking tea” in the afternoons. It didn’t take long for the custom to filter down the social ladder until it was so popular that tea shops and tea rooms began to open for the benefit of the general public!

In the line of research I came across an article that argued very convincingly that in fact the Duchess was just adding to the popularity of a custom that was already in place. Probably true, but it gave the same feeling you get as a child when you find out that Father Christmas / fairies / whatever, don’t exist.

Doughnuts!

May 9th is the start of doughnut week, though I was surprised to find out the event is in aid of the Children’s Trust for children with brain injury and not just a celebration of one of mankind’s crowning achievements.

http://www.thechildrenstrust.org.uk/page.asp?section=428%C2%A7ionTitle=National+Doughnut+Week  Buy doughnuts or host a doughnut party to help a worthy cause.

Doughnuts did not originate in any one place, most countries will have had a variation on the fried cake, be it specially made or to use up leftover dough. Dutch immigrants introduced the “olykoek” literally “oily cake” to America (though to be fair the Native Americans had their own version) where it became as popular as  something fried and coated in sugar deserves to be. The centre tended to be stuffed with fruit or nuts to prevent it being gooey and uncooked (something my local co-op still haven’t got the hang of), the ring doughnut is credited to one Hansen Gregory, a ships captain circa 1847 and the first automatic doughnut machine was invented in 1920 by Russian born Adolph Levitt. Doughnut giants Krispy Kreme donated a Ring King Jr ( once the most advanced machine) to the Smithsonian Institute on their 60th birthday.

The best doughnuts I have ever eaten were simple sugared ring doughnuts on the Greek island of Corfu, huge, plump, very fresh with the perfect doughy taste. The second best were from a bakery in Oxford during the 90’s, filled with cherry pie filling and thick custard. Now I’m drooling and will have to go out and buy doughnuts…