Christmas Craft Fair.

A mini Winter Wonderland full of beautiful craft, delicious hot drinks and scrumptious Christmas bakes and the best bit… it will be raising money for charity too! Continue reading

Christmas Cake.

Its 10 weeks until Christmas and now is the time when I start thinking about my Christmas baking (yum yum yum…). Lots of delicious recipes improve by being left for a couple of months to mature and for the flavours to develop and this deliciously fruity Christmas Cake is the perfect example of that. 

A Christmas Cake is a very flexible cake recipe and can take all sorts of different goodies being added (or removed) to change the flavour to suit your own tastes. I prefer to not to use dried peal and to use dried cherries, marmalade and brandy as some of my chosen goodies so get creative!

If you would rather not have the hassle of making a Christmas Cake yourself then I am taking orders for Christmas Cakes so do get in touch by calling 07971423678 or emailing heather@heather-brown.com

christmas cake

Ingredients. 

  • 10oz currants
  • 12oz sultanas
  • 3oz dried cherries
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 orange
  • 2tbsp brandy
  • 7oz plain flour
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 5oz butter
  • 6oz soft brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1tbsp marmalade

Method. 

Line an 8″ round tin with 2 good layers of baking parchment. You can also wrap the outside of the tin with brown paper too. Also make a ‘hat’ for the cake out of baking parchment to protect the top but cut a hole in the centre to allow the steam to escape. The cake cooks for a long time in the oven and this helps not to scorch the top and side of the cake.

Preheat the oven to 140/gas mark 1.

Add the sugar and butter to a large bowl and beat them together until pale (about 2 minutes with an electric whisk). Add in the eggs gradually (alternating an egg with a spoonful of flour). Then mix in the flour.

Then add all your goodies – juice and rind of the lemon and orange, mixed spice, brandy, marmalade and all the dried fruit and mix well.

Place in the tin and put in the oven and bake for 2.5 hours. Check the cake every 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the tin and once cold, wrap the cake in a layer of baking parchment and a layer of foil and place in an airtight container and leave until about 1 week before Christmas, when you can ice the cake however you fancy. If you would like to – every 2 weeks, poke the cake a number of times with a skewer and spoon over some brandy. This is called ‘feeding’ the cake.

Raspberry Jam.

I use this jam in a lot of my recipes as its brilliant sharpness helps to cut through some of the sweetness and balance the flavours. As a bonus – this jam is really easy to make too! 

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Ingredients

  • 1kg Jam Sugar
  • 1kg fresh raspberries
  • Juice from 1 lemon
Method
Place a small saucer into the freezer (that sounds weird … but trust me). Also – if you are using jars, then make sure you sterilise them first – either by heating them in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes or by running them through a hot dishwasher.
Add all of the ingredients to a large saucepan over a medium heat and stir the ingredients together as the sugar dissolves. When the mixture reaches boiling point, stop stirring and let the mixture boil for 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes – take the saucer from the freezer and drip some of the mixture onto it (this cools the jam very quickly). Push the mixture with your finger and if it wrinkles then it is set. If it is not, boil for a further 2 minutes and re-test.
If you would like a jam without seeds (arguably better for use in cakes), then push the jam through a sieve before putting it into jars.


Makes about 8-10 small jars of jam. 

Cookie Dough Brownies.

These treats combine the oh-so-delicious cookie dough with a dense and chocolatey brownie base. These are super sweet but also super tasty. 

Cookie Dough Brownie by Heather Brown UK

Ingredients. 

For the cookie dough.

  • 180g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 190g plain flour
  • 200g dark chocolate chips
  • a little milk (if needed)

For the brownies.

  • 50g butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 40g golden syrup
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 40g plain flour

Method. 

Line an 8″ square tin and preheat the oven to 180 degres/160 fan/gas 5.

To start, make the brownies by gently melting together the butter, caster sugar, soft brown sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan until the mixture is smooth. Melt into this mixture the chocolate  and then take off the heat. Stir in the eggs and then the flour.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 15-20 minutes. When it is cooked, the cake should start to crack at the edges and the top should change from glossy to a matt finish. Leave the brownies to cool completely in the tin.

Once the brownies have cooled – beat together in a bowl the butter and sugars until well combined. Add in the vanilla and then mix in the flour (adding a tablespoon or two of milk if the mixture is too stiff). Stir in the chocolate chips.

Squash this mixture into the brownie tin and press down onto the brownie base. This then needs to be chilled for about 1 hour until it can be sliced up and scoffed.

A tip for when you slice, heat the knife in hot water and wipe the blade clean between each slice.

Makes 20 small pieces. 

The humble Rock Cake.

This cake is the buttery sister to the fruit scone. Best eaten warm from the oven with a hot cup of tea. This cake is a fond memory from my childhood and thank you to my brilliant Mum for this recipe. 

The humble Rock Cake. by Heather Brown UK

 

Ingredients:

  • 8oz self raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp mixed spice
  • 4 oz butter
  • 1 egg
  • 3oz demerara sugar
  • 5oz dried fruit
  • small amount of milk.

Method: 

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees/180 fan/gas 6. Grease and line a baking tray.

Mix together the flour, salt and spices. Rub in the butter (between your forefingers and thumbs, rub the butter and flour together until you end up with lots of golden crumbs). Stir in the sugar and dried fruit. I used a combination of dried cherries, cranberries, raisins and sultanas but the great things with this recipe is that you can use what ever dried fruit you fancy – apricots, currants, apple, pineapple etc.

Mix in the beaten egg and add tiny amounts of milk to the mix until it has formed a thick paste.

Place onto the baking tray in rocky heaps and sprinkle with a bit more sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden.

Tips: If the mixture is too wet, the cakes will flatten too much and you will end up with pebbles. Rectify this with a little extra flour.

Makes 5 large or 8 small Rock Cakes. 

Gluten-free Blondies.

I have heard so much about the Brownies’ fairer sibling that I decided to give it a whirl today to see what all the fuss was about! A blondie is simply a brownie without the chocolate and the bonus is their flexibility to be also be gluten-free.

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Ingredients

8oz soft brown sugar
4oz melted butter
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4oz plain flour
6oz dried cherries

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 170/160 fan. Grease an 7inch x 7inch pan.

Whisk together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla. Sift together the flour and salt and fold in. Then stir through the cherries.

Add to the pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool in the tin.

Rainbow Cake.

This cake was a joy to make and definitely a joy to cut for the first time. It is also the cake I get asked for help with the most. Whilst it is not technically difficult, it can take time and organising to make – but it is well worth the extra effort!

I thought I would share some tips here to help spread the joy of this great cake! 

rainbow cake

Ingredients. 

  • 12oz butter (I use Stork baking margarine)
  • 12oz caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 12oz self raising flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • food colouring (I use the paste, over the liquid or gel, as it is easier to get a strong colour in the sponges).

Method.

Pre-heat the oven to gas 6/200 degrees/180 fan. Grease and line 2 8-inch round tins.

Measure out 4oz of butter and 4oz of sugar and beat together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Measure out 4oz flour and set aside. Beat in 2 eggs and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. If the mixture curdles at this stage, add in a tablespoon of the flour. Once all combined, stir in the flour (careful not to beat at this stage otherwise you can knock out the air and the cakes may not rise properly).

Split the mixture into 2 bowls and add a different colouring to each bowl and mix through. You want to make sure the colour is bold as it can get lighter as it bakes.

Bake in the oven for 10- 15 minutes, until the top is springy and the cake starts to come away from the sides of the pan. Leave to cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Repeat the above process twice more until you have 6 layers, all in different colours. If you happen to have more than 2 tins and your oven is large enough to fit them in all at once, then you can of course bake more layers at the same time.

This recipe means that the layers are thinner than a usual Victoria Sandwich cake, but this allows for 6 layers rather than 2! It will still be taller than a usual sandwich cake.

Once all the layers have been baked and cooled, mix up some buttercream icing using 8oz icing sugar, 4 oz softened butter (I do use butter at this stage, rather than the Stork margarine) and a little milk. Combine the butter and sugar until you have a stiff mixture. You may need to add more icing sugar if too wet or milk if too stiff but you are looking for icing which holds its shape and doesn’t run off the cake. You can also flavour with a little vanilla extract if you wish.

Wipe a small amount on the serving plate to ‘stick’ the cake to it and stopping it from sliding about. Layer up the cakes using the icing as a ‘glue’ between each layer. To avoid it being too sweet, I kept the icing to a minimum between each layer. Once all the cakes have been stacked, I prefer to ice the whole of the outside so that the inside is kept a surprise until the first slice. You can do this using either the buttercream or fondant icing (coat the cake with a thin layer of buttercream first to give the fondant something to stick to).

You can flavour the cake with whatever flavouring you like or add jam as the ‘glue’ between the layers. I store the cake in the fridge overnight to set the icing and stop the cake from drying out.

This cake would feed 15+ people as it is taller than average so slices would be thinner. 

Cinnamon Chelsea Buns with Lemon Icing

There is a plethora of great baking programmes around at the moment, many of which you can get on iPlayer (or the equivalent). This recipe I spied on one of these programmes and have adapted it so that it would appeal more to my family.

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I started with Paul Hollywood’s Chelsea bun recipe which you can find
here.

I followed the recipe for the dough up to the end of step 6. At this stage I spread about 2 tbsp of demorara sugar and at least 1tsp of ground cinnamon over the rolled dough and spread it over and squashed it into the dough (instead of step 7). I then continued following the steps of the original recipe from step 8.

Once the buns came out if the oven, I mixed lemon juice with icing sugar to make a thick but still runny icing and dribbled it over the hot buns.

Delicious warm for pudding and exceedingly yummy with a pot of fresh coffee for brunch.

Simnel Cake

This is one of my favourite cakes. In my opinion you can’t go wrong with adding marzipan to a cake but this twist on the traditional recipe really accentuates the gooey marzipan centre. The cooking of the fruit also means that you don’t need to leave this cake to mature and you can enjoy it immediately.

What could be better?

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Ingredients

8oz dried sour cherries
8oz sultanas
6oz currants
6oz light soft brown sugar
6oz butter
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1tsp cinnamon
25ml brandy
1tsp honey
3 eggs
7oz plain flour
3oz ground almonds
1tsp baking powder
1lb marzipan

Method

Put the cherries, sultanas, currants, sugar, butter, zest and juice of a lemon and orange, cinnamon, brandy and honey into a large saucepan and place over a low heat. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted and then leave for 10 minutes. Leave to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Whilst your mixture is cooling, preheat the oven to gas 4/160 degrees (140 fan). Line a 8inch diameter, deep, round tin with 2 layers of baking parchment, leaving a couple of inches parchment poking up round the top of the tin to help avoid scorching the top of the cake.

Divide the marzipan into 2 and roll out one portion and cut a circle slightly smaller than the diameter of the tin.

After 30 minutes, add to the mixture the eggs, the flour, ground almonds and baking powder and mix. Place half of the mixture into the tin and smooth out. Place the circle of marzipan into the tin and then pour the rest of the mixture on top and smooth out.

Place into the oven and cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours until springy to the touch. Check after 1 hour and 15 minutes and, if needed, place an extra piece of parchment over the top (to stop the top of the cake being burnt). Leave in the tin to cool completely.

Once cool, turn the cake out of the tin. Roll out the remaining marzipan and cut a circle to the diameter of the top of the cake. Jam can be used to help stick the marzipan to the cake and apricot is traditionally used but cherry jam works equally well here. Usually the cake is finished with 11 balls of marzipan around the perimeter of the cake, one for each of Jesus’ disciples (except Judas).