#86 Walnut Cake

We all went up to Cumbria to visit Frances and James last weekend. It was also Dean’s birthday, so I thought I’d make a cake. On asking him what cake he’d like, he said ‘anything, as long as it’s not from that bloody book of yours’. Well that’s just lovely, isn’t it? I think he’s expecting brains and gonads in every recipe. After giving many alternative suggestions and turning them down, he eventually went for a walnut cake. Where did I find a recipe? You know! It’s a good cake too, for a walnut cake – the icing is a complete faff though. If you can’t be bothered to do the icing, do butter cream instead.

For the cake:
Cream together 5 ounces of butter with 6 ounces of sugar; beat in 2 beaten eggs, then 8 ounces of sifted self-raising flour, 3 ounces of coarsely chopped walnuts and 4 dessertspoons of milk. Lastly, add half a teaspoon of vanilla essence (or use vanilla sugar instead of normal sugar). Line an 8 inch cake tin, add the mixture and bake for 1 to 1 ¼ hours at 180°C. Test with a skewer, and when ready turn out onto a cake rack and allow to cool.

For the icing:
A bit tricky this bit…Stir a ¼ of a pint of water and a pound of sugar lumps in a pan under a low heat until the sugar gas dissolved. Raise the heat and add a generous pinch of cream of tartar. Boil the syrup until it has reached the soft-ball stage which is 120°C; easy if you have a sugar thermometer, which I don’t. Alternatively, as it boils, carefully remove a teaspoon-full of syrup and drop it into small cold water. Fish out the blob of sugar, and if it is soft but can form a ball between your fingers, you are done. You mustn’t stir the syrup as it boils; this reduces the temperature, causing the sugar to crystallise, resulting in total disaster. It takes a few minutes, so in the meantime, whisk two egg whites until stiff in an electric mixer, and when the syrup is ready pour it into the egg whites with the electric mixer on full-whack. Keep mixing until it has nearly set and then add a teaspoon of vanilla essence. You should have a lovely smooth meringue icing. Spread this over the cooled cake with a palette knife and decorate with some walnut halves.

It is very important to wait until the icing has nearly set – I didn’t and it went everywhere!

Not a wedding hat, but in fact, a cake.

#86 Walnut Cake – 6.5/10. Certainly an above-average cake as far as walnut cakes go. Not normally a big fan really. I think it may have been nicer with some coffee-flavoured butter cream instead of the posh icing, but that’s just me.

Happy New Year!

Well 2008 is here. I need to fill you in on Grigson-related activities over the festive period. There actually wasn’t that much Grigson action to be honest. The Christmas Cake has gone down well with who tasted it (except for those that don’t like Christmas Cake!). I did like the Marzipan as it was less sweet than the shop-bought kind. I liked the royal icing too, but I used (*sharp intake of breath*) Jif lemon! This was because I’d forgot to buy it and didn’t have time to go to the shop. The icing’s consistency was nice, but the slightly fake lemon flavour was noticeable. I still have a massive wedge of cake to eat, so if someone sends me their address I’ll send a slice! My Mum like it too much, though, and it has now become my job to make the Christmas Cake every year.

#15 Christmas Cake, #18 Marzipan, #19 Royal Icing: 9/10. Certainly better than any shop-bought cake. I am knocking marks of for the icing (albeit my own fault)

I have been to Unicorn in Chorlton to buy my Seville oranges so I can make some lovely Oxford Marmalade. I have also ordered jam-making equipment from th’internet. It will be my first forray into the art of preserve-making.

However, dear-reader, do not expect too many Grigson’s over the coming months. There are two reasons for this:

  1. I have put on more than a stone since October with all the rich food and lack of trips to the gym.
  2. I foolishly bought a new kitchen for my house. I paid for it using my debit card because I’d forgotten my credit card. What I didn’t know is that these credit cards charge you 5% of the value to transfer it. What I also didn’t know is that my card had been cancelled as I’d not used it since 2003! This leaves me with about £30 a week until April (my PhD pays me quarterly).

All Grigsons must be now a, cheap, and b, low-calorie. I don’t know how successful I will be at this. I have managed one, and will tell you all about it after I fill you in on the couple I did over Christmas for mine and Greg’s veggie Christmas dinner.

#18 Marzipan, #19 Royal Icing

Finished off the cake yesterday, and it looks as though it is a success. It was all pretty straight-forward really.

First (#18) Marzipan; sieve 8 ounces of icing sugar into a large bowl containing a pound of ground almonds. In a small bowl, beat an egg with 3 or 4 tablespoons of lemon juice. Use a wooden spoon or the beater attachment on a food mixer to form a paste. Use a knife to cut off the top of the Christmas Cake so that it is nice and flat on top. Knead the marzipan a little while and then roll two thirds out using icing sugar instead of flour to form a top circle, gluing it in place with some warmed apricot jam. The Grigson gave a handy hint at this point – roll everything out on a bit of greaseproof paper to prevent it sticking and falling to bits. She is a star! Now roll out an oblong of marzipan to wrap around the cake, again sticking it with apricot jam.

FYI: Marzipan originated in Persia (now Iran/Iraq), but its name originates from the German for ‘March bread’.

(#19) Royal Icing was quite exciting to do; whip two egg whites until foamy but not stiff. Stir in two teaspoons of lemon juice and then, bit by bit, sieved icing sugar until a glossy spreadable icing is formed. Spread it over the marzipan using a palette knife, dipping the knife in water to prevent the icing from sticking. I have no piping bags – nor have I ever used one – so I did a lovely festive snow effect by gently whacking it with a palette knife! It looks very impressive even if I do say so myself. I forgot to buy decorations though! Poo!