Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Yule log...chocolate and cream delight!

By now, our dense and moist Christmas fruit cake is well past half way to drunk. But we need a few  more weeks of bathing in spoon fulls of Sherry, before our cake is ready for icing. So in the meantime...

Photo: Mary Berry "The Good Food Channel"
I feel in the mood for chocolate...erm - ok when am I not in the mood for chocolate?!
But this time round, I want squishy, gooey and creamy chocolate heaven all rolled up in what's known as a yule log!

Mama never had a short supply of chocolate.  After all, a chocolate maker needs plenty of supplies and not even I could make a dent in the mountain of chocolaty slabs stashed away in the pantry.  Mama would make her yule log with a mix of dark and milk chocolate, and we would make decorations out of white chocolate.

In the kitchen, was an enormous wooden table, painted in white enamel and as far as I understood - came all the way with Mama and Bumps when they sailed from England to Rhodesia.  Underneath this same white table, was where my Dad was born.  It was in the middle of a bomb raid and Mama and her Mother could not "nip off to the hospital" - and so that's where my Dad was born!

It was on this table that we would place all our ingredients, and where I was in charge of breaking up the chocolate for the cake.  By the time I was finished snapping bits off a huge chocolate slab, my hands were coated in melted chocolate (nothing like working with chocolate in the middle of summer) and my mouth bore the mark of the much used "one for me" and one for the cake...methodology.

After the yule log was decorated and icing sugar dusted over the top to look like snow, we would invite the neighbouring ladies over for afternoon tea.  Sitting under the flowering Flamboyant tree, sipping on English tea, savoring the intense chocolate festive cake and listening the chattering of Mama's friends is a memory from deep within my heart.

A beautiful cake, one that should always be eaten soon after baking!  So worth the effort!

What you need:
  • 1/2 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 150 mls milk
  • 200 grams dark chocolate, melted
  • 100 grams icing sugar
  • 300 mls cream whipped
  • 250 grams milk chocolate
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 200 mls single cream
  • 100 grams white chocolate

    How to make:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees  and grease a Swiss role tin. Line with waxed paper and grease paper.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Beat together sugar and egg yolks at high speed until light and fluffy.
  • Add the milk, melted dark chocolate and flour mixture into egg mixture.
  • Beat egg whites till soft peaks form. Fold into the batter. 
  • Spread batter in prepared pan; smooth top.
  • Bake until set, about 12 minutes.
  • When still warm, turn cake out onto a clean tea cloth. Remove waxed paper. Trim off any crispy edges and starting with a long side, roll up cake, Swiss roll style and leave to cool.               
  • When cooled, gently unroll the cake and spread the whipped cream over cake - leaving space on the sides as the cream will squish out... place on your chosen serving tray with the "seam" down.
To ice the cake: 
  • Melt the milk chocolate and add the cream and butter and stir until glossy and smooth.  Leave to cool until a "spreadable" consistency. Spread over the cake. Run a fork down the sides of the cake to form wood patterns.
  • Melt the white chocolate and drizzle over the cake.  Dust with icing sugar and adorn with holly - serve and enjoy!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Christmas cake chronicals

The delicious smell of nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and sherry are all beacons for the coming of Christmas. My tummy just grumbles at the thought!

Photo: Good Food BBC
Learning the joy of making Christmas cake, I would stand next to Mama and eagerly watch as the measured out quantities of sultanas, raisins, dates, glace cherries, glace apricots and an assortment of nuts.  She used to place them in individual bowls - ready and prepared for the magic of marrying so many ingredients together.

Just like we carefully choose a gift for someone we love, so would Mama choose only the best ingredients she could find to put into her famous Christmas cake.  I loved how the nuts would clatter against the side of the ceramic mixing bowls.  I loved the smell of the sherry soaked raisins and sultanas, drunk little plump gems bursting with naughtiness. I loved the sharp citrus fresh smell of lemon and orange zest and the deep pungent smell of cloves.

Mama would mix the butter and sugar in her (now) ancient Kenwood, add in the fresh farm eggs that I had collected myself and she would allow me to spoon in the flour with the same silver table spoon that now rests in my kitchen drawer.  I was in charge of rolling the marzipan balls, which added a surprise of delicious sweetness to her cake.

When everything was mixed and poured into a lined baking tin, I would proudly open the oven door for Mama for her to place the iconic symbol of Christmas on the middle shelf. And there it would morph from a sticky and gloopy dough into a dense, moist and sweet bringer of joy!

For the next three hours the house would fill with the heavily spiced scent of baking Christmas cake.  I would peer through the oven door, longingly wanting to get closer to the smell - as of taking a gulp of the scented air would satisfy my tummy rumbles.

At last the time would come and our cake was ready to greet the world!  Once cooled, we would carefully wrap it up in brown paper linings, after dousing it with a good bit of sherry - and tie it with string.  I always got to hold my finger over the knot so Mama would be able to make the bow.  Then in the pantry it would go to rest until a week had gone by and it needed a topping up of sherry. 

Each time we topped up the Sherry, Mama would greet the Christmas cake as if it was something with a heart and a soul. She would murmur how lovely it was and what a beautiful job it was doing at getting tastier each day.  A week before Christmas, we would decorate the cake and then there was no more pantry for it!  The cake was on display under a lace cover - demanding attention from any visitor popping over for a cup of tea.

When I make this recipe for my family now, the familiar smell of the deep earthy spices, citrus zest and cheeky sherry fills me with such warm memories.  I hope these smells bring a smile to your face too.

Mama's Christmas Cake

What you need:
  • 1 cup of:
    • raisins
    • golden sultanas
    • mixed fruit peel
    • halved glace cherries (green and red if you like)
    • chopped glace apricots
    • chopped dates
  • Zest and juice of one lemon and one orange
  • 100 grams roughly chopped walnuts
  • 100 grams roughly chopped brazel nuts
  • 150 grams ground almonds
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 t-spoon each of nutmeg, cinamon and cloves
  • 350 grams butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 150 grams flour
  • 1 t-spoon baking powder
  • 1 t-spoon soda bicarb
  • 1/2 t-spoon salt
  • A little boiling water
  • 150 grams marzipan
  • a few glugs of Sherry or brandy
How to make:
  • Soak the raisins and sultanas in the alcohol over night - use orange juice for an alcohol free version
  • An hour before you beging making your cake chop the dates into a bowl and sprinkle over the soda bicard.  Pour a little hot water over so that it bubbles and fizzes - this will turn the dates in to a sticky goo - which is what you want
  • Mix the butter and sugar together till soft and light
  • Add in 1 egg at a time - adding a little flour to stabilise if needs be
  • Add in all other ingredients (except for the marzipan balls) and mix until well combined
  • Grease and line a deep cake tin, pour in half of the batter
  • Scatter the marzipan balls on top of the batter and the scoop over the remaining batter
  • Tie a pleated sheet of baking paper over the top of the cake tin to prevent it burning and bake in the oven for around 3 hours on 150 degrees
  • When the cake has been in for 2 1/2 hours - remove the baking paper cover and put back into oven for the remainder of the time.
  • Allow to cool before turning out and dosing with sherry.  Only when completely cool, wrap in brown paper or baking paper and store in a cool dark place.
  • Dose once a week.
Next blog.... let's ice it!