Alive and eating…

I know, it’s kinda been a while since my last post – sorry! Things have been pretty hectic recently, and while I have still been baking a bit, time for blogging has been pretty much non-existent.

So, what have I been so busy with? Well among other things, I’ve been back in Romania!

First Dance

I was invited back for a wedding, and wow, what a wedding it was. Romanians clearly don’t do understated, and I think British brides and grooms could take a few tips from their traditions!

The evening reception had more than 300 guests, started at 9pm and continued until 5.30am. The amount of food served was staggering – along with canapes, starter, main and cake for dessert, there was a fruit buffet (below – doesn’t it look amazing!), a cookie buffet, a traditional Romanian buffet with hog roast and sarmale (filled cabbage rolls), and free flowing champagne, wine, whisky and a whole host of other drinks.

Fruit Buffet

The food is served throughout the night (main course was around 3am…) with LOTS of dancing and music the whole time. They have a tradition where the bride is ‘kidnapped’ and the groom has to pay a ransom – in this case a bottle of champagne, bottle of whisky, and a very romantic declaration of love.

There was also a very emotional ritual of removing the bride’s veil and tying her hair with a scarf, which I believe signifies leaving her family to start a new family with her husband – there were lots of tears all round!

Wedding Cake

The cake was then cut, and it was without a doubt the best wedding cake I’ve tasted – layers of chocolate sponge, chocolate mousse, cherries and cream, spiked with some sort of liquor and covered with fondant icing. I forgot to take a picture of the cut cake, but it was seriously delicious!

You’d think that would be enough food to last a week, but I managed to squeeze in one or two other treats…

Mini Macarons

At Paul’s I had mini macarons as a pre-wedding ‘light snack’ – too cute to resist!

At my friend’s hotel in the mountains I ate delicious apple pies, chocolate and almond cake and papanasi – oh how I miss you papanasi!

Mini patisserie

Back in Bucharest, I continued the mini patisserie theme with these – mini apricot and cherry tarts, and a traditional Romanian cake, armandine – chocolate sponge layers soaked in what I think was amaretto, sandwiched with chocolate mousse and coated in chocolate icing. All very, very tasty!

Ice Cream Fondue

I also experienced my first ever ice cream fondue – I’m not sure how this works, but it does, and it’s good. Next time I am in London I’m definitely going to have to visit their parlour in Leicester Square to have it again!

So while I may not have been baking and blogging too much, clearly I have been eating – a bit too much you could say…

I do have a few recipes lined up to post, and a fab cookbook to review, so normal service will hopefully resume shortly!

Although, I do have another wedding this weekend, and a mini-holiday in Wales the weekend after, so bear with me if it takes a little while…


The rest of Romania

Sorry for the lack of updates the past couple of weeks – Romania was hectic but amazing and I hardly had time to think, let alone blog!

I’m back home now, and looking through my photographs from the trip is just about the only thing making me smile – I always get so down after an amazing time away, coming back to reality isn’t easy!

Since my last update, I have eaten LOTS more delicious Romanian food, including cakes, patisserie, and some of the most delicious fresh produce you can imagine. Here is the rest of my food journey in pictures…

This is Orannia, my honourary little sister for week three – together we baked a 12″ chocolate cake which everybody loved!

Tiramisu AND ice cream – they must have known I was coming…

Cozonac – a traditional bread made at Christmas and Easter with swirls of chocolate and nuts

Freshly picked cucumber

Cherry trees are abundant in Romania, but these rose ones were unlike any I’ve tried before

Possibly the sweetest strawberries I’ve ever tasted

There was a fair bit of wine tasting to go with all the food…

Not sure how traditional these cakes are, but they look delicious!

Right, normal blog service will resume shortly – I have plenty lined up including chocolate, vegetables and a cheesecake to die for – it should be a busy month of blogging and baking!

Mini Christmas Cakes – Part 1

This year I have decided to go all out with the Christmas baking, and the first thing on my list was Christmas cake, as it’s possibly the only thing that’s acceptable to start in November.

Being in a household of two people, and not actually liking Christmas cake myself, it seems a bit silly to make a whole large one, so instead I decided to go for mini Christmas cakes – the pony can have one, and the others can be given away as gifts.

I found this great recipe from Butcher, Baker, for mini Chrismas cakes baked in baked bean tins – which also includes an awesome guide to lining the tins.

I halved the recipe to make 6 mini cakes, and although they obviously haven’t been tasted yet I’m happy enough with how they look…

Part 2 (the decorating) will be coming later in December!

Mini Christmas Cakes (adapted from Butcher, Baker)

  • 200g glace cherries
  • 200g mixed dried fruit
  • 250g sultanas
  • zest of 1 orange, juice of half
  • 200ml alcohol of your choice (I used whisky kindly donated by my dad) plus extra for ‘feeding’
  • 115g butter
  • 115g dark brown sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 115g plain flour
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp nutmeg
  • 25g flaked almonds
  • 6 metal tins

Put all the fruit and orange zest in bowl with the whisky and orange juice and leave to soak overnight.

Line the tins (basically any metal food cans will do, mine were a mix of chopped tomatoes and chickpeas I think) using Butcher, Baker’s awesome guide.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Sift in the flour and spices then fold in with the fruit and almonds. Divide the mixture between the 6 tins, then wrap each tin in baking paper before baking for about an hour at 150 degrees. After an hour, open the paper and bake for another 15-20 minutes so the tops can brown. Check ‘doneness’ with a skewer before removing from the oven and leaving to cool.

Once the cakes have cooled, remove from the tins and the paper lining. Poke holes with a skewer all over the tops, then drizzle with a little more alcohol. Wrap tightly in baking paper then foil, and ‘feed’ with a little more alcohol each week until you’re ready to decorate.

Simple fruit loaf

I have a confession to make – I am extremely selfish.

Not generally in life (I hope), but more when it comes to baking. While I love having a reason to bake, like a birthday, what I’m really excited about is having the chance to try baking something new.

My dad’s favourite cake is, and always has been, fruit cake, but every year I bake him something else – because to me, fruitcake is boring. Easy to make, simple looking, no icing, nothing fancy…

But this year, I decided to put my selfishness to one side and bake him an amazing fruit cake. I chose a recipe from the Great British Bake Off – How To Bake book, and got ready to write down my list of ingredients.

It was only when I read through the whole recipe, however, that I noticed the line which said ‘leave to mature for at least a month before finishing’. Oops. This was the day before my dad’s birthday.

As I’d bought the GBBO book especially, I decided to stick with it and go for the ‘quick and simple fruit loaf’, which only needed to be kept for a day before eating.

It was exactly as described – quick, simple, un-fancy – but baked beautifully to a deep golden colour with a huge crack running down the length of it, which in my mind is how a fruit loaf should look.

My dad was happy, as was I – and now I’m really looking forward to baking more recipes from this book as it was so easy to follow with great results.

(PS – In case my gushing about this book is sounding suspicious – I did buy it with my hard earned cash, it wasn’t a freebie for review!)

Simple fruit loaf (from the Great British Bake Off – How To Bake)

  • 175g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 400g plain flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 300g luxury dried fruit mix
  • 125ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tbsp apricot jam

Grease and line a 900g loaf tin (the book helpfully gives the measurements – 26×12.5×7.5cm). Heat the butter and sugar together in a saucepan until the sugar has completely dissolved, then remove from the heat. Sift together the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and stir in the dried fruit.

Beat together the eggs and milk, then pour into the dry ingredients. Add the melted butter and sugar, and mix it all together until well combined. Spread the mixture into the prepared tin, then bake at 180 degrees for about an hour, or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

When cooled remove from the tin. Melt the apricot jam with a tbsp water, then brush over the top to glaze.