Parsnip & Date Cake

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The typical edible antidote to a bad mood is something indulgent, as sweet as possible, inevitably chocolatey. It is a reactive pick-me-up after a long day or a stressful week. But I find, for those days that feel really bleak, perhaps when you are under the weather (but not so unwell to have lost your appetite), baking something gentle, undemanding, and rather more wholesome than the obvious fudge cake, is a better remedy. I go for something that doesn’t even require a mixer – just a bowl and spoon. A near enough one-bowl recipe that comes together quickly with minimal mess, but still it doesn’t really matter if you take your time.

This is based on a carrot cake recipe, but the sugar reduced and replaced with dates allowed to gently plump up in warm milk and a spoonful of treacle. I used unsweetened almond milk, because I had it in the fridge and took the chance to make this dairy-free just because I could, but any milk will work. Parsnips take the place of wetter carrots, so it is slightly denser but still pleasingly moist. It is a less fancy variant of my masala chai parsnip cake recipe.

I used wholemeal flour for nuttiness and the warm hit of cinnamon, ginger and cloves.

Baking this was a soothing exercise in mindfulness and restoration. I toyed with the idea of glazing the top, but it seemed absurd once I took a bite and appreciated the cake’s wholesome simplicity. A large mug of tea is all that is required.

parsnip & date cake

150g dried pitted dates, roughly chopped

150ml milk

1 tbsp black treacle

3 eggs

75ml olive oil

60g soft brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

200g wholemeal flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

pinch salt

220g grated parsnips (equivalent to one large parsnip when I made this).

 

To make

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Lightly grease a 23cm springform cake tin, line the base and flour the sides.

Put the dates, milk and treacle in a saucepan and heat gently until the treacle is dissolved and the dates soften and swell. Take off the heat and leave aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla until foamy.

Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture before adding the date mixture (including all the treacley milk) and the parsnips. Fold together until just combined.

Pour into the tin and bake for around 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before removing onto a cooling rack.

 

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A Wedding Cake

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As a home baker and avid cake-and-all-things-wedding-but-mostly-cake Pinner, the biggest privilege is to be asked to make someone’s wedding cake. I was trusted with this project last summer, when I was asked to make a three-tiered wedding cake. The brief: semi-naked, three different flavours, adorned with fresh fruit and flowers.

HERE WE GO!

I was reaaaaaaally excited. Like really. Excited. Every spare minute was spent sketching and scribbling in a notepad, as well as imagining all the things that could go beautifully right but also spectacularly wrong.

My lovely bride asked for vanilla to feed the masses, with a classic red velvet in the middle and little 6-inch chocolate cake for the top tier. When making any occasion cake, I have to know it is going to be a sock-knocker-offer in both taste and texture, as well as looking super sassy. Dry, heavy sponges that will last for days and stand up to serious carvery just aren’t my thing, despite how epic their elaborate exteriors can look.

Since the vanilla tier was the main weight-bearer, I had to find a happy medium between fluffy Victoria sponge and sturdy, reliable Madeira. I did this by adjusting the flour and raising agent quantities, as well as baking each layer in separate sandwich tins for a briefer oven time, equaling a lighter texture, even top and minimal crusty edges. This resulted in a beautifully even, pale golden sponge that could stand the weight of its two cakey sisters but tasted hella moist.

I am making my own wedding cake in 10 months’ time and it is ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT. I have already changed my mind about flavours and design about 5 billion times and I’m pretty sure I’m not done yet. I’ve come to accept that I’ll be wearing buttercream eyeshadow and flour hairspray. Looooooool. Current favourite design uses my Scrabble cookie cutters which I am obsessed with and would happily use to cut my toast into tiny alphabet bites.

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Hello, 2017

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As much as I love Christmas and feel a little flumpy when it is over and January beckons, there is something about new year that kindles excitement inside me, as well as a kind of comfort. Although I don’t go in for grand resolutions, the organised person inside of me enjoys the prospect of a clean slate, a clear line to step over into something new and fresh. If there is ever a best time to approach something differently, or start something new, January is that time.

The past couple of days for me have been a time for clearing out and cleaning up! I tried to put a positive spin on the dismal ritual of un-trimming the tree, by rearranging the furniture a little to fill the void or clearing space for a new candle or lamp. It kind of worked. Until I saw poor Gentleman Badger tucked away in the Christmas decorations box, heading for the loft. *sob*

But of course I baked a little cake to see in 2017. A cute 6-inch chocolate sponge, sandwiched with coconut buttercream (I ran out of cocoa so went with coconut….YUMM!) and cherry conserve, suited up with some scrabble marzipan letters and rosemary sprigs…that remind me of a Christmas fir…mmm!

2016 was a year to remember and I think 2017 is going to be full of lovely things.

For example, Christmas 2016 was the first time we hosted the big day! Here is our table of nibbles to get the deliciousness started. CJ arranged the charcuterie and cheese boards and salmon canap├ęs while I was elbow deep in that bread wreath and some mahoosive Yorkshire puddings.

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What a joy!

2016 is also the year we got engaged, and 2017 is the year we will tie the knot!

Cheers!

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