strawberries

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.   



Oh I Say

Yay, the heat is on! It's that time of year where I have no qualms of switching the television on during the day, casting aside any work that needs to be done, all in the name of that prestigious lawn tennis tournament that is Wimbledon. This tournament has been a big part of my childhood. From Dan Maskell's velvety voice and his iconic phrase 'Oh I say,' whenever a player produced an outstanding shot, to the traditional eating of strawberries and cream and of course most importantly, the spectacular tennis. Bjorn Borg was my tennis hero and I was lucky enough to witness his dominance of the grass courts at Wimbledon, in his legendary semi-final match against Vitas Gerulitis.

Wimbledon has been basking in the heat over the last few days and Pimm's seems to be the order of the day. There is a Punjabi version of a non-alcoholic cooler which is prepared during the sweltering hot days of the Indian summer. An Indian lemonade called Shikanjvi is made using lemons or limes, sugar, black Himalayan salt, (Kala Namak) and roasted cumin powder. This thirst quencher is an acquired taste and a sweetened version can also be made. It's basically the lemon juice that makes the drink so refreshing. I've concocted a summer cocktail that is cool and reinvigorating. So whether you're at Wimbledon, Henley Royal Regatta, Hampton Court Palace Flower Show or the F1 at Silverstone, revel in in these balmy nights, sip slowly and enjoy this delightfully refreshing cocktail.

Lemonade Cucumber Mimosa

Serves 4

  • 1 Large Lemon
  • 4 cm Piece of Cucumber, grated
  • 3 Sprigs of Mint
  • 3 Sprigs of Lemon Verbena
  • 120 ml Water, chilled
  • 2 tbsp Sugar
  • 2 tbsp Water
  • 35 cl Prosecco
  • 4 Long Pieces of Cucumber

Method

  • In a small pan heat up the sugar and water until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear and not grainy. Allow to cool.
  • Squeeze the juice of the lemon and place into a cocktail shaker.
  • Add the cucumber, mint and lemon verbena. Muddle all the ingredients together in the cocktail shaker.
  • Add the chilled water. Put the top onto the cocktail shaker and shake away.
  • Divide the lemon mixture between the 4 Champagne flutes through a small sieve, filling a third of each glass.
  • Top each glass with Prosecco.
  • Concertina each length of cucumber onto a small cocktail stick and place into the glass.

Tips

  • I am a Champagne purist and I don't like to use it for Mimosas and Bellinis, therefore it is better to use a good quality Prosecco.
  • Obviously adjust your quantities according to your needs.
  • If you don't have any lemon verbena, just use mint, although I grow both in pots in the garden and it's easy enough to grow. It can also be used in Pimm's.
  • This Mimosa also makes a great brunch drink.