Baking

Mum's the Word

I could wax lyrical all day about motherhood. I love being a Mum, and yes it has also been quite a challenge at times. I have encountered the whole spectrum of emotions in the thirty-two years of being a mother, but the overriding one has always been happiness coated with protective responsibility. The bond I have with my sons is steadfast; the joy that these boys have given me knows no bounds and I feel honoured that I get to be their mother. However, it was only once I became a Mum, did I wholly realise the exalted status that my own mother deserved.

Children have this incredible ability to make you forget your worries and hey presto everything is just fine when you enter their world. A world full of giggles and innocent laughter. I fondly recall every Mother's Day, my young children scrambling up the stairs aided by their Dad with a breakfast tray laden with goodies for me. My oldest son proudly carrying the flowers, the middle one clutching the chocolates and the tiny one trailing behind with the homemade cards. They would clamber into my bed, smothering me with hugs and kisses, with the little one left squealing as he couldn't climb up into the bed! Now in their thirties I'm looking forward to my breakfast tray, but instead of tea, toast and fruit, how about eggs benedict and mimosas boys? 

I absolutely love cooking for my family and they are an incredibly receptive and appreciative audience. There is something very profound in cooking for those you love, something very significant, something very wholesome. Nurturing your family just seems to strengthen the bond, especially when you all sit down to enjoy the fruits of this labour. We all recall special moments in our lives related to food, usually starting at our mother's kitchen table. As adults, we are desperate for our mothers to recreate the nostalgic foods that we crave and as mothers it allows us to connect to a deeper part within us. For me, my cooking is an offering of my love to my family and friends, pure and simple. I'm sharing a cupcake recipe enhanced with pistachios and rose petals. Enjoy this expression of love and indulge your loved ones. Happy Mother's Day to all you incredible Mums out there.

Pistachio & Rose Petal Cupcakes

Makes 5 large cupcakes, or 7 medium cupcakes 

  • 125g Butter, unsalted

  • 100g Caster Sugar

  • 2 free-range Eggs

  • 110g Pistachio Nuts, finely ground

  • 50g Plain Flour, sifted

  • Zest of 1 unwaxed Lemon, finely chopped

Frosting

  • 150g Icing Sugar, sifted

  • 25g Butter, unsalted and softened

  • 75g Cream Cheese, cold from the fridge

  • 4 drops red food colouring

  • Dried Rose petals

  • Few Pistachio Nuts, chopped into slivers

Method

  • Cream the softened butter and sugar together until it is light, pale and fluffy.

  • Beat the eggs lightly and add into the butter and sugar mixture a little at a time, incorporating well after each addition.

  • Add in all the ground pistachio nuts and the zested lemon rind, mixing well into the mixture.

  • Fold in the sifted plain flour.

  • Place 5 large cupcake cases, or 7 medium cupcake cases into a muffin tray.

  • Divide the batter between the cupcake cakes, filling them two-thirds of the way up.

  • Bake for 20-25 minutes at 165 degrees (fan-assisted), or equivalent.

  • Remove from the oven once an inserted skewer comes out clean and allow to cool.

  • For the frosting, beat the icing sugar and the butter together until it is well mixed.

  • Add all the cold cream cheese and the red food colouring and beat until it is light and fluffy for about 5 minutes, but do not overbeat.

  • Spoon the frosting onto each cupcake and smooth with a spatula.

  • Decorate each cupcake with the dried rose petals and pistachio slivers.

Tips

  • Grind the pistachio nuts in a small coffee grinder. I use one exclusively for nuts and spices, used only for desserts.

  • You can substitute the plain flour in the recipe for gluten free plain flour and then the cupcakes are suitable for anyone with a gluten intolerance.

  • When smoothing the frosting onto the cupcakes, use a spatula. In order to get a very smooth finish, dip the spatula into hot water before smoothing it. Alternatively, you can pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes if you wish.

  • Instead of 5 large cupcakes, you can make miniature-sized ones as part of an afternoon tea.

Berry Delightful

Baking cakes is therapeutic. There's even a theory that baking helps with depression. It certainly lifts your mood to be able to use very simple ingredients and create such glorious concoctions. A great sense of self satisfaction takes over. The whole nation is gripped with the cake revolution. Our very own Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood have made baking very 'cool.' So not only do we feel worthy doing it, but we are being trendy in the process. The Women's Institute owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Great British Bake Off. In fact, it's such an addictive amateur baking talent show, that it doesn't matter if you bake or not, you can't help but get drawn in. We can't wait to tune in for the next episode to witness the journey from tears over treacle tarts to satisfaction in strudel mastery. Our cake obsession seems to have been exacerbated by this show and if you didn't before, you probably now suffer from a cupcake OCD! 

There's always been a calling for cake and whether it be times of joy, or times of adversity, cake is always there for us. There's a certain comfort that we derive from baking and despite this previously being reserved for the occasional afternoon tea, cricket tea or Granny's Sunday cake, we are a now an anytime baking nation with astounding skills. There's an abundance of baking clubs, local bake-offs and charity fundraisers hosting coffee and cake mornings. There is this tenacious feel good factor and it's all about the cake. So with all that in mind, delight in my quaint summer berry layer cake with lavender petals. There's no 'soggy bottom' here Mr Hollywood. On your marks, get set, bake!  

Summer Berry Layer Cake with Lavender Petals

Serves 8-10

  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 125g Butter
  • 150ml Single Cream
  • 175g Plain Flour
  • 3 tsp Baking Powder
  • 200ml Double Cream
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla Caster Sugar
  • 800g Berries (Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries)
  • 2 Sprigs Lavender Petals

Method

  • Using 25g of the butter, grease two 22cm shallow cake tins and line with baking parchment.
  • Whisk the eggs with the caster sugar in a bowl, until the mixture is thick and creamy and the whisk leaves a trail.
  • Put the remaining butter with the cream into a pan and bring to the boil.
  • Allow to cool for a couple of minutes and stir into the egg and sugar mixture.
  • Sieve the flour and baking powder and fold it carefully into the egg and sugar mixture making sure that their are no lumps.
  • Divide the mixture between the two cake tins.
  • Bake in the oven (170º celsius fan assisted or equivalent) for 15 minutes or until they are cooked and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  • Remove the cake tins from the oven.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then remove the cakes from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack.
  • While the cakes are cooling, whip the double cream with the vanilla sugar until it is lightly whipped.
  • Prepare and clean the fruit and hull the strawberries.
  • Once cooled, place one cake onto a cake serving plate, or a cake stand.
  • Place half of the whipped cream onto the cake and arrange half of the fruit on top.
  • Put the second cake on top and then place the remaining cream on top. Arrange the fruit and finally sprinkle over the petals from the two sprigs of lavender.

Tips

  • I make the vanilla sugar by placing a vanilla pod into a container of caster sugar. 

  • Instead of whipping the cream with vanilla sugar, it can also be whipped up with a tablespoon of lavender sugar.

  • If you don't have any lavender petals you can omit them, or sprinkle over dried rose petals.

  • Don't overdo it with the lavender, as it will start to taste rather soapy.