Triple Cake Fiesta Friday!

I love baking. I don’t get a lot of time to do it, because of having a full time job and this pesky PhD following me around, plus I’m perpetually on a diet so try to resist baking my own temptation too much!

However, every so often I have a baking splurge, sometimes because the garden has produced a whole heap of fruit that needs using up right now, and sometimes because every so often my cake day at work comes around! We all take turns in providing cakes for our Tuesday morning office round up, and it can get pretty competitive. Waitrose and Tesco get a fair amount of custom from the non-bakers, but amongst those who do bake, the ante just keeps going up and up. Not that we are trying to make it a competition or anything, besides, there’s already a clear winner for that – my friend Justine and her fiance Mike are a daredevil kitchen duo for whom there are no baking boundaries! Everyone looks forward to their weeks. It just seems to bring out the desire for perfection, baking for colleagues, even more so than for friends and family!

Sadly, I rarely make it to perfection, but usually get some pretty happy responses. I work in a very international office, so I like to introduce them to traditional British baking. I once made cream teas, baking scones (mine are a pretty decent cross between Delia and my grandma’s recipe), and bringing some clotted cream up from my parents’ in the West Country, with homemade raspberry jam (because I am allergic to strawberry and very selfish like that – I wanted one too!), which went down extremely well. This week, happily, was also fairly successful!

I made three cakes, an Earl Grey and cardamom loaf, a lemon and raspberry drizzle cake, and a nectarine and pistachio cake with orange glaze. All three were very easy to make, and though I think I had some slight timing issues with the latter two, one too long and one not quite enough, they were pretty acceptable. I’m giving you the recipes, as adapted by me, so that my fellow Fiesta Friday bakers can have a go and make them properly!

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Prep: 20 minutes, plus infusing and cooking

Cook: 45 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 100ml whole milk
  • 1 tbsp loose leaf earl grey (I used Fortnum and Mason Smoky Earl Grey)
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the Icing:

  • pinch loose leaf earl grey
  • 110g icing sugar

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  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/gas 4. Heat the milk and tea in a small pan until steaming. Split open the cardamom pods, and crush the seeds in a pestle and mortar, and add to the milk. Take off the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together (with electric beater) the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Strain the infused milk into the bowl and beat well.
  3. Mix the flour, baking powder and a large pinch of salt together, then fold through the wet ingredients. Add to a lined loaf tin (or this would work nicely as muffins or mini tea loaves, lessen cooking time accordingly (approx 25 mins). Bake until golden on top and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
  4. Once cooled you can ice them, by steeping the tea in 1 1/2 tbsp boiling water for ten minutes. Strain, then mix into the icing sugar until glossy, then drizzle over. I preferred the glazed look, but if you want a more ‘iced’ look (as per my lemon and raspberry drizzle) add less of the tea.

This recipe originally appeared in the Waitrose magazine, courtesy of Pippa Middleton. Having rather been a bit mean-spirited about her first commercial enterprise (her book on entertaining) I feel I may have judged her too harshly. This cake is a delicately scented delight!

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Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • zest (and juice) of 1 orange
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar and 1tbsp extra for glaze
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 50g pistachios, finely chopped
  • 3tbsp semi-skimmed milk
  • 411g tin of apricot halves in fruit juice, drained (reserve juice)

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  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/gas 4. Line 20cm square tin with baking parchment. Mix the flour, baking powder and orange zest in a bowl.
  2. In another bowl, using electric beaters cream together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, gradually adding the eggs. Finally stir in half the pistachios, the flour mix and the milk. Pour into the cake tin.
  3. Arrange the apricot halves (inside up) over the top of the cake, then bake for 35-40 minutes (or until golden/skewer comes out clean).
  4. Heat the reserved apricot juice, orange juice and 1tbsp caster sugar in a pan, simmering gently over a low heat until reduced to a syrupy consistency. When the cake is cooked and still warm use a pastry brush to apply the glaze to the top. Then scatter over the remaining pistachios. A brush with some more glaze will help to hold them on! Leave to cool in the tin.

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Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 60 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 150g unsalted butter, softened
  • 140g light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • zest (and juice) of 1 lemon
  • 100g raspberries

For the Icing:

  • 30 g icing sugar
  • pink food colouring

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  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/gas 4 and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Whisk all ingredients except the lemon zest and juice and raspberries in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in the zest and raspberries, and pour the mixture into the tin. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden and springy.
  3. When cool, mix the lemon juice with the icing sugar and a drop of pink food colouring (I may have rather overdone mine!) into a smooth paste, and drizzle over the top.
  4. Beat your family off with sticks so they don’t eat it before you can take it into the office.

So there you have it! My three cake recipes. I hope you enjoyed reading, and maybe someone might even attempt them (they are all so easy). I did my best with the photos, but sadly there are no pictures of the slices piled high on a plate, or of the beautiful cross section of the raspberry cake with the bright pink of the berries peeking out, because I would have felt a little odd at the office meeting stopping people to photograph them! I was hoping there might be a slice or two left for that purpose, but nope. 

The vintage style photo filter helped my pics look slightly better, but I would so appreciate advice from those of you who come up with such stunning pictures. I only got a few good ones thanks to it being a very sunny day, but without the sunshine I find it really hard to get any decent shots, even with my DSLR (which I am still learning to use) because the lighting is rubbish. Any advice on camera settings, tips and tricks, gratefully received!

Happy Friday everyone, and have a great (and tasty) weekend!

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25 thoughts on “Triple Cake Fiesta Friday!

  1. Your cakes look ace! I am very tempted to go and start making the cardamom and earl grey one right now. I think I’ll give it a go with black cardamom, which is more smoky than its green counterpart, but I love me some smokey flavours.
    With regards to lighting, I also have that trouble, and find myself saving up photography for sunnier days. This is not always possible (especially in NL, where they are infrequent), especially if what I want to blog is my dinner. In these cases, I have 2 sides of a cardboard box wrapped in foil that I use to reflect light back onto the food. I also find that stepping outside for a bit helps, even on the greyest days, though your neighbours might think you are a bit mad!
    I was also recently given ‘From Plate to Pixel’ by Helene Dujardin, who blogs at Tartelette. She has some really informative chapters on both natural and artificial light food photography. I recommend you trying to get hold of a copy of that. I’m only part way through, but have picked up a lot already

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    1. Oooh, the black cardamom sounds amazing! I confess I did not know there were two kinds! Must find me some and try it, I think you’re right, it would work beautifully with the Earl Grey. My next project is getting lapsang souchong tea into a cake without it simply tasting burnt!
      Thanks for the photography tips, the foil sounds like a great idea, and I’ll check out Helene’s book!

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  2. Such a delicious trio of desserts you’re providing today. Oh, where to start? I think I may be busing baking away this weekend 🙂 And no slices left for a photo = successful cake!

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  3. Can you believe that though I’ve eaten my fair share of baked goods and cakes, I’ve never once had any of the three combinations you made here? What great combinations of tea and fruits and spices! Give me a cup of tea and a slice of that earl grey and cardamom cake and I’m good for the week. Thanks to introducing me to British baking, too!

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      1. Oh no, no pressure! I’ve never seen these cakes before and thought they looked great. I don’t really know too much about British food in general, except I know the terms bangers and mash and cottage pie, both of which I’ve never had. Are these traditional? I just always love learning about new and different types of food. 🙂

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    1. Like your blog Laura – how would you go about making these gluten free? I’d be interested to know if there is a rule of thumb you can use to transform flour-based recipes to gluten-free ones. Not sure if you need to change the rest of the ingredients along with the flour?

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  4. Really impressed with all three cakes, but the cardamom and Earl grey grabbed the attention.
    If you have a double-sided mirror it’s handy to have when natural light is duller. Or with strong shadows, like in your shot of the cardamom pods, those could be softened with the mirror positioned bottom right of frame. It’s not as powerful as white board, or like ediblethings suggested, but it can cast quite a lot of light on the main feature. And try and grab photos as close to a window as possible – about 1 metre, closer if light is dull. Further away if light is very strong.

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