Coffee Cake

Another cake based on a vintage recipe, I really must get round to telling you all about my pet project. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that in America, coffee cake is cake served with coffee, while in England, coffee cake is cake that is flavored with coffee.

Anyway, the ingredients were very intriguing; treacle, raisins, cinnamon…not your usual additions to coffee. I changed the amount of treacle as I don’t think modern palates can cope with that much, and I had to leave out the raisins because of Eldest Son being a raisin hater. You can always put them back in if you like the idea. Buttermilk was added to keep things moist. The recipe didn’t mention icing, but the coffee flavored glacé icing was a wise addition.

This is quite a rich and sophisticated little number, perfect for a grown up tea party.

Coffee Cake serves 8-10

  • 120ml strong coffee (allowed to go cold)
  • 180g light brown sugar
  • 120g soft butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tbsp treacle
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 150ml buttermilk

Grease and line a 20cm (or thereabouts) cake tin. Preheat the oven to 160⁰c (150⁰ fan/ gas mark 3).

Beat the butter and sugar to a cream. Beat in the eggs and treacle.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and cinnamon. Add half of the flour to the mixture and mix well, then add the coffee.

Beat in the other half of the flour, then the buttermilk.

Scrape the mixture into the cake tin and bake for around 50 minutes, but check after 40 minutes, or until a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean. If the top of the cake is getting too brown before the middle is cooked, then cover with a piece of baking paper (not foil).

Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

If you want to ice the cake, combine 90g of sifted icing sugar with 1tbsp of soft butter and a spoonful or two of cool coffee, enough to make it a spreadable consistency. You can ice the cake while it is still hot, if you want.

Walnut and Maple Syrup Cake

At some point I’ll get round to telling you what I’ve been up to since…(checks notes), December? I’ll give you a clue, it’s something to do with vintage recipes. Also, I’ve been putting stuff on Ko-fi, in the misguided hope that someone might toss a few coins my way. Never mind.

Some flavour combinations are a match made in heaven; orange and chocolate, salt and vinegar, pineapple on pizza…and a particular favourite of mine, walnut (or pecan nut) with maple syrup.

This cake is based on, or perhaps, more accurately, inspired by a recipe from 1909, and definitely influenced by the fact there was a bottle of maple syrup in the fridge that had been open for a while.

Nuts can go a bit soft when cooked, so I like to toast them first to get rid of some of the moisture. You can skip this step if you want, but I do think it improves the flavour too.

Walnut and Maple Syrup Cake serves 8-10

  • 120g walnuts
  • 100g butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • 160g maple syrup

Chop the nuts into small pieces and toast in a dry frying pan, over a medium heat, for 3-5 minutes (optional).

Prepare a 8″/20cm cake tin. Preheat the oven to 160⁰c (140 fan, gas mark 3).

Beat the butter, sugar and eggs together. Add the maple syrup.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and bicarbonate of soda into the mixture and beat well.

Beat in the buttermilk. Stir in the chopped nuts. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about an hour (though it’s best to check at the 40 minute mark).

Check to see if it’s cooked through by poking a skewer into the middle. If it comes out clean the cake is done, if it’s still sticky put it back in for another 5 minutes.

If the cake is getting too brown on top before the middle is cooked then cover the top with baking paper, not foil.

When cooked, cool in the tin for 15 minutes and then put on a wire rack to finish cooling. Ice with 90g of icing sugar mixed with 1tbsp of maple syrup, and enough milk or water to make the icing spreadable. Spread on top of the cake and leave to set before adding walnut halves as decoration. If the icing is still runny then the walnuts will, slowly but surely, slide to the edge of the cake!

Cardiff Pudding

Why is it that some traditional puddings stand the test of time, while others are largely forgotten? Some may be overcomplicated, others may not suit modern tastes. Maybe the ingredients are hard to come by now, maybe they’re just kind of boring?

It’s fun to try puddings and desserts from the past, just for the novelty and nostalgia, so it’s even better to find a pudding which is so amazing you’ll want to make it again and again. I found this gem in a book from 1935.

I really don’t understand why Cardiff Pudding isn’t at the top of the list of well loved traditional puddings. A quick Internet search brought up one result, from another blogger in 2011. But why? It’s no harder to make than Bakewell tart, has a deliciously unctuous texture like treacle tart, AND has meringue on top. To think what we’ve been missing all these years…

I promise you will not regret making this one!

Cardiff Pudding serves 4

Ingredients

  • 60g butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 90g breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Grated zest of half a lemon
  • Half a jar of raspberry jam
  • Shortcrust pastry (if you want to make your own, use 150g flour and 75g fat)
  • Another 2 tbsp of caster sugar for the meringue.

Method

Line one standard tart tin, or four small ones, with the pastry. Spread the jam over the pastry.

Beat the sugar, butter and lemon zest together. Beat in the egg yolks.

Add the breadcrumbs. The mixture will be quite stiff, so you may need to use your hands to knead the ingredients together.

Press the breadcrumb mixture over the jam.

Bake in the oven at 190⁰c/170 fan/gas mark 4, until the mixture is set, and browned on top.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Sprinkle the sugar in and whisk till firm and glossy. Pile the meringue onto the tart (or tarts) and sprinkle with a little more sugar.

Return to the oven. Bake until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Spread the word: there’s a new pudding in town.

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!

Image
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.

A Proper Seed Cake?

I first posted a recipe for seed cake waaay back in 2015. Having been thinking about Agatha Christie recently I thought I’d give it another go. This time I hadn’t got the right ingredients, and couldn’t be bothered to go to the shops. Not to be deterred I made it anyway, and you know what? – It was even better…

“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 of the same name; 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 must be 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 then, 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, so 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.”

Here is the recipe for a good old fashioned seed cake, updated for 2019.

“A Very Good Seed Cake”

  • 7oz (210g) Self raising flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1oz (30g) ground almonds
  • 5oz (150g) caster sugar
  • 6oz (180g) butter
  • 2tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1tbsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground mace or nutmeg (mace is nicer)
  • 100ml Amaretto (almond liqueur)
  • 3 eggs

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, groand almonds, bicarb and mace, and mix well.

Beat in the amaretto and caraway seeds and fennel seeds if using. 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.

Forgotten Puddings

Variety in the ingredients, we think, is held only of secondary consideration with the great body of the people, provided that the whole is agreeable and of sufficient abundance.

Mrs Beeton

Do you know your Batchelor’s Pudding from your Baroness Pudding? Cabinet from College? Or indeed, Empress from Exeter? Me neither. How many puddings have fallen by the culinary wayside, victims of changing tastes and the whims of fashion? Were they too boring, too complex, too expensive or just perceived as “old fashioned”. Were you put off certain puddings as a child because of having to suffer the industrial and institutional school dinner version?

Its easy to stick to our childhood favourites, only trying something new for a dinner party, or at a resturant. Cooking programmes on the telly only expose us to what is currently in fashion. Cookbooks either trot out the same recipes with variations time and time again, or vie with each other to see who can combine the most fancy and unlikely ingredients. All very pretty, but how many of us are going to get round to making such expensive and outlandish creations?

Did you know I collected vintage cookbooks? Guess what my favourite section is? Puddings and Desserts, hurrah! Having grown a little tired of cake of the month, though It will still happen sporadically no doubt, I feel it’s time to delve deeper into these foodie goldmines for second helpings of inspiration. I will be deliberately choosing the weird, obscure and old fashioned puddings that few of us have ever heard of, adapting to modern tastes/ingredients/measures only if absolutely necessary.

Starting with Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (because why not?), I wanted to make the rather bizzarely named “Stone Cream”. Sadly, no two books can decide on what flavouring to use, also Crumb Towers has fallen on hard times recently and I can’t afford to buy a bottle of sherry just to splash it around in a pudding we might not even like! Instead we will begin with “Vanilla Cream”, the ingredients are readily available and it’s not too hard to make. You will need a jelly mould that will hold at least 1 pint (roughly 600ml), or a variety of small moulds. It looks good as a centrepiece, though in retrospect I think it would be better served as an individual portion, with some zingy fruit sauce drizzled around it. The boys adored this pudding, and as puddings go, it’s pretty nutritious. If you worry about sugar, I’m sure you could cut down or use an alternative.

The original recipe calls for isinglass, which I have replaced with leaf gelatine, and eight eggs, which I have reduced to six. Apparently eggs were a lot smaller in those days, so recipes look a lot more extravagant than they actually were!

Vanilla Cream

  • 1 pint (600ml) milk (any kind)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 5oz (150g) caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 sheets of leaf gelatine
  • 1½ tsp cornflour

Beat together the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla extract.

Put the milk in a medium sized saucepan and heat to boiling point.

While the milk is heating, soak the gelatine in cold water for five mins.

Pour the hot milk onto the egg yolks, whisking well the whole time. Pour back into the saucepan. Stir the mixture briskly over a medium heat until thickened. A wooden spoon or spatula with a flat edge is best for stirring, a whisk won’t make enough contact with the bottom of the pan, so the mixture would just go lumpy and burnt!

While you are stirring the mixture waiting for it to thicken, add the sheets of gelatine one at a time, stirring until dissolved. When it is nice and thick, pour into the mould/moulds. Allow to cool, then pop in the fridge to set.

To release from the mould, gently lower the mould into a bowl of hot water (do not allow the water to get inside!) keep it there from 30 to 60 seconds. The pudding should fall out when turned upside down over a plate.

Monte Carlo Potatoes or bust!

Time to share another vintage recipe, this time from the Constance Spry Cookery Book by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume, first published in 1956.

Ms Spry (1886-1960) was a well known society florist before the outbreak of world war II. During the war, drawing on previous experience as a teacher of cookery and sewing she wrote Come Into The Garden, Cook which contained fairly radical advice for the time.

“Here we are in the middle of the war, rationed and restricted as never before, with economy and belt tightening the order of the day, and yet I want to cry out about the food.

It would be safe enough if I meant to paint a dim picture, to accentuate difficulties, to concentrate on leftovers and the best use of roots.But I don’t mean to do that at all; I want to emphasize that we have better ingredients than almost any other country and that we frequently treat them abominably”

It was unashamedly aimed at upper middle class women who were, probably for the first time, going into the kitchen and having to cook. She hoped that cooking would become an enjoyable and fashionable hobby for these women and that the enjoyment of good food would spread down the social classes from there….

After the war, with her friend Rosemary Hume, she opened Winkfield a domestic science school ( where coronation chicken was invented for the coronation of Elizabeth II) Where she was able to return to her love of flowers and spent many years cultivating antique roses.

The Constance Spry Cookery Book is a fantastic collection of recipes and I would put it on the list of essential books for anyone with a passion for good food. It’s still in print but I have an eye catching bright pink copy from 1967.

Monte Carlo potatoes are a deliciously savoury supper dish but they took a lot more work than I expected, make sure it’s not your turn to wash up!

Monte Carlo Potatoes    serves 4

4 large (but not supersized) baking potatoes

2 fillets of white fish (I used river cobbler which was half the price of cod or haddock and isn’t as powerfully “fishy” as pollock can be, it’s very much like a white trout)

2 sweetcorn cobs or a 300g tin of sweetcorn

1 onion or a couple of shallots

200ml milk and extra for poaching

1tsp mustard

1 tbsp plain flour

a slice of bread whizzed into crumbs

hard cheese such as cheddar

lots of butter

olive oil

salt and pepper

Two and a half hours before you want to eat, wash the potatoes and put them in the oven to bake. Wrapping them in foil is unnecessary and please, please don’t microwave them, it makes them tasteless and tough.

After one and a half hours have passed, lightly season the fish with salt and pepper and poach gently in milk until cooked. Set aside.

Chop the onion or shallots finely and fry in about 25g of butter and a tsp of olive oil, until translucent. Slice the kernels off the corn cobs and add to the pan, season with a pinch of salt and fry until everything is lightly browned. Set aside.

Make a white sauce by melting 15g of butter in a saucepan and adding the flour to make a roux. Let it cook for a minute, stirring all the time. Off the heat gradually add the 200ml of milk. Return to the heat and stir continually until the sauce has thickened. Add a tsp of mustard, wholegrain would be best but most other mustards would work just fine. Set aside.

The potatoes should be done by now, take them out of the oven, cut each one in half and scoop the middle into a bowl, leaving the skins intact. Mash the potato in the bowl with a large knob of butter and a splash of milk, until smooth. Set aside.

Put the empty potato skins on a baking tray and divide the sweetcorn mix between them. Flake the fish and divide it up between the skins. Top each filled skin with some mustard sauce. Now divide the mashed potato equally between the skins. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and some grated cheese and return to the oven until the tops have browned. Phew!

Constance designed the flower arrangements for the Queens coronation in 1953

David Austin’s first commercially available rose was named after her.

 

 

 

Vintage is the new modern

Cook books are a weakness of mine. Eldest son rolls his eyes and tells me I have too many and I can’t possibly need them all. What does he know? I NEED THEM! As much as I like new shiny ones with lots of pictures, there’s something about the vintage ones. A step back in time, a glimpse of the real day to day lives of ordinary people and a slice of social history that you can recreate and experience for yourself.

In an attempt to prove that I do use all of the books, week by week a book has been pulled out of the hat (yes, I assigned them all a number and category) and that has been the chosen one to provide family meals. Some are more successful than others, some have to be quietly put back on the shelf because of certain fussy eaters. Husband won’t eat fish, small boy won’t eat white sauces, potatoes or eggs, eldest son won’t eat onions, mushrooms and various other vegetables, so finding something to please everyone with minimal bits to pick out can be a trial!

Anyway, I thought it would be nice to share some of the highs and lows from my vintage collection, sometimes you find something really good that you go back to again and again.

Cookery in Colour, edited by Marguerite Patten (who at the time of going to press is still around at the ripe old age of 99) is a collection of recipes from various food councils, marketing boards and bureau’s, first published in 1960, easily recognizable by its bright blue cover. If you grew up any time between 1960-1980 the chances are that your mum or gran had a copy on the shelf. The pictures are mainly in a glorious technicolor so garish, that reading the book for any length of time is apt to give one a headache!

We tried sausage roly-poly and it was great! Served with veg and gravy one day and heated up with some baked beans the next. It felt like good honest nursery food. I adapted the recipe slightly for modern  households.

Sausage Roly-Poly

8oz (240g) self raising flour

3.5oz (105g) beef suet

a pack of 6 good quality sausages

a pinch of salt

1 slice of bread, crust removed and whizzed into crumbs

milk for brushing

Pre-heat the oven to 180°c. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over a baking tray.

Mix the flour, suet and salt with enough water to make a soft but not sticky dough. Knead briefly then roll out on a floured surface to make a rectangle roughly the size of the baking tray. Brush the upper surface with milk, lift the dough and put it MILK SIDE DOWN onto the crumbs.

Squeeze the filling out of the sausage skins and spread evenly over the dough, Starting at a short end, roll the dough up like a Swiss roll. Bake in the oven for 40 mins. If it looks too brown before the end of the cooking time cover with a piece of baking paper.

Serves 6-8cookcolour1 saus slice