Baking made simple · cake · It's a piece of cake

Seriously is it December! It’s not too late to feed a fruit cake for Christmas!

I love this time of year. That aromatic, gorgeous smell of fruit cake baking at home, puts you in that Christmas spirit. My husband is not a fan of fruit cake, but the smell of it baking in the oven, he just loves. Those fruity, cinnamon, nutmeg aromas that it releases. And I’m sure you will agree with me, on how delicious and juicy, the Spanish lemons and oranges are!! What better way to make a fruit cake, with such fresh ingredients. I’m just in awe of the stunning trees with the biggest and brightest colours I’ve seen. My favourite place to eat is in Estepona square, or Marbella, Plaza de los Naranjos (oranges). You can sit in the square surrounded by orange trees. What better way to have lunch or coffee with fresh aromas. Mmmmmm…..

Ok let’s get back to fruit cake! As we have just mentioned the fruit here is too good to waste. So grate off the lemon and orange zest. And squeeze those juices and let’s use it to soak your fruit for your cake in.

There are a few watch outs when baking a fruit cake. Especially when we don’t always bake one throughout the year. In the past, where I have got it wrong, I ended up either with a dry fruit cake or a cake with fruit all on the bottom, or the outside being baked more than the inside. Causing a raw middle or the sides to be over baked that the raisins got burnt!

To help prevent these problems, you need to take time not to forget a few vital preparation steps. Such as:

1. To prevent the mixed fruit drying out. Heat to the boil and simmer the mixed fruit with brandy or tea (for a non-alcoholic cake), for about 10 minutes. I add the lemon and orange juices and the zest to this too. Leave over night ideally or till cooled before you mix in with the cake mixture.

2. To help the cake bake at the right temperature throughout. Tie a damp cloth around your baking tin. This helps prevent the outside getting over baked.

3. Put a heating core in the middle of your tin, before adding the mixture. This helps heat your cake mixture evenly, throughout the tin. Preventing the middle of the cake being under baked compared to the outside.

4. Take the time to cut out baking parchment to put on the bottom and sides of your tin. As you will need to cool the cake in the tin later. So makes it a lot easier to take out after.

5. To prevent the fruit sinking to the bottom of the cake. Dust the fruit with flour just before you mix it in with the mixture.

6. That beautiful spice to your cake. If you can’t find mixed spices (I had this problem at the store). So I mixed up some ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon). And added bay leaves to the boiling fruit mixture.

7. Once your cake is cooled. Make a few holes on top with a toothpick. Wrap it in baking parchment and then foil. Feeding the cake with 2 tsp of brandy or strong tea once a week. Keep in an airtight container. Do not feed it for 24 hours before you want to cover with royal icing. This will prevent the icing from getting moist.

I am sure there are many other top tips on baking a fruit cake. Please share with me yours.

Here is the fruit cake recipe I use with apples as well!

INGREDIENTS

200g plain flour

200g butter

200g brown sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp baking powder

1tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

2tsp vanilla extract

1tsp almond extract

1 juice of a lemon juice and grated zest

1 juice of an orange and grated zest

300g mixed fruit (sultanas, raisins)

2 apples grated

100ml tea or brandy

METHOD

1. In a pot add fruit, orange and lemon juice and zest (strain the juices through a sieve, to avoid pips going into the pot). Add the tea or brandy and a couple of bay leaves. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool overnight.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius fan. Prepare your 20cm baking tin with grease proof paper, heating core and wrap the tin in a damp dishcloth or newspaper.

3. Mix the butter and sugar. Once mixed add the eggs one at a time, mixing well in between.

4. Dust the fruit with flour. This is such an important step!!

5. Add the rest of the flour, spices, vanilla and almond extract. Mix well.

6. Spoon in the fruit mixture carefully.

7. Pour into the baking tin. Put in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour. Until the centre of the cake is baked.

8. Leave in the baking tin till cooled. Once cool take out of the tin. Wrap in baking paper and then foil. Prick a few holes on top and feed the cake with 2 tsp of brandy or tea once a week.

Ready to enjoy for Christmas 😍

It's a piece of cake

“Meringues” a Dummies Guide

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Meringues used to always be one of my fears to make. Just because, I’m terrible with being extra careful in splitting the egg whites from the yolk. But my husband loves a good Eton mess. So I had no choice but to give it a go. Between my friend, from University and I, we tested out all the tricks on the internet. And shared the learns on What’sApp. And guess what?? It turned out, it’s not actually hard! You just need to use the little tricks. See the troubleshooting guide below. It should give you a crunchy meringue, soft and chewy in the centre. With beautiful shapes that hold. At the end, you will spend most of your time deciding how you want to eat them. My friend loves hers with cream and a berry sauce. I love a mini bite of Eton mess or a great way to top a cupcake!!

 

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INGREDIENTS
3 egg whites
115g caster sugar
1 tsp Vanilla essence (orange zest/  drop of colouring)
A Lemon
1 tsp Cornflour

Troubleshooting guide to good meringues

1. Preheat the oven to 120 degrees Celsius.
2. Use half a lemon to wipe clean your mixing bowl. The acid breaks down any fat deposits on the bowl.  This step is so important to help the meringue whisk to form peaks.
3. Using fresh eggs, will help the meringues to keep shape. Crack each egg putting the egg white into a separate bowl. This is to ensure no yolk is mixed in. When you are happy with it, pour into your clean mixing bowl.
4. Whisk the egg whites on a slow speed till they form peaks.
5. Take your time with this step. With half the sugar, add a spoon at a time to the egg white. Increasing the speed. Adding too much sugar, too quick will loose your beautiful peaks. Whisk in the rest of the sugar. Then add a little more lemon juice to help stabilise the mixture.
6. Add the cornflour. This helps give that chewy centre. 😋
7. Add a little vanilla essence and of orange zest or a little colouring.
8. On a baking tray put a dab of meringue mix in the corners. Putting baking parchment on top. This prevents the parchment moving when you pipe shapes.
9. Put the mixture into a piping bag with your favourite nozzle. Pipe away all your friends favourite shapes and sizes.
10. Put in the oven for an hour at 120 degrees Celsius and then lower to 90 degrees Celsius for another 30 minutes.
11. Essential step.
Pour a cup of tea and relax.
12. They will be ready when they lift off the baking parchment and you can tap the bottom.

 

Merigues now less stressful to make!