Monday, 30 September 2013

Baking with Baby 10 - It's beginning to smell a lot like Christmas??

Mmm! It certainly did smell a lot like Christmas, in our house last week, but no, we haven't baked our Christmas cake... just yet. Last weekend we celebrated my parents golden wedding anniversary. 

They didn't want any fuss, but fifty years of marriage just has to be celebrated in some form or another, so we arranged a family meal. 

Then I got to thinking about cake. Well you've got to have a cake for an anniversary, don't you?? Hmm! That got me thinking!

A few years ago, when we celebrated their seventieth birthdays (their birthdays are very close, so we did it in one) I bought a dairy free celebration cake - you know, one of those that are a bit like a Christmas cake - a rich fruit cake. This one was ready marzipanned and iced with plain icing (I wasn't gluten free at that stage) all I had to do was add some ready made decorations on the top. 

The Parents seemed happy with that (they like fruit cake) - job done!! However, being gluten free presents more of a problem - you don't exactly find gluten free celebration cakes in most shops now, do you? So I knew (big gulp) it was all down to me to produce the goods, because it wouldn't occur to my sisters to sort it out and even if it did, I wasn't sure that they would be able to avoid cross-contamination!

Not having made any cakes of this sort before (I've never needed to, someone else - usually my mum - has always made them for me) I consulted my guru - t'Internet and hey presto! I found this Christmas cake recipe from Delicious Magazine. A recipe that is specifically dairy and gluten free - result!! You can find it HERE by following the link.

It is a great recipe, in that it details everything stage quite well, but there's a few little things I'd like to add:

1. It might sound a bit silly... if you do a lot of baking you probably won't be too bothered, but I didn't want lots of little left-over bits of packets of fruit and nuts - just in case I don't get 'round to using them before they go off. Tesco's packs are all the wrong size for the quantities required for this cake, so, for example, you have to buy more than one pack of pecans and then you have too many. The same with the figs and the glace cherries. I gave up looking for my ingredients there, when I realised that! In Sainsbury's, however, you can buy the ingredients in packets which are all about the right amount.

Oo! Get me! Very 'Saturday Kitchen' - with all my ingredients in little dishes :)

2. When the recipe says you need to beat the sugar and fat until the mixture becomes lighter, it means keep going for some while... and then some!! It may not have helped that I used Stork margarine (the block not the tub version - the block version is the ONLY Stork margarine that isn't made with dairy). Usually I would have used Pure sunflower margarine, which is a lot softer.

It turns out that even though I gave it a good go, I didn't beat mine quite long enough (my hand mixer got rather heavy and my arm started aching). Consequently, the mixture looked like it had split, and I discovered later that this may mean that your cake won't rise as much as it should. Personally, I think this recipe alone is grounds for buying a Kitchen Aid - to take the strain out of it, but The Hub is yet to be convinced on that score ;) Despite all that, I don't think the cake came out too badly.

Fresh from the oven

3. Add more booze! This coming from one who hasn't knowingly touched a drop since she was pregnant (still breastfeeding now). I opted for the port, rather than the rum. Having measured everything carefully and boiled my fruit, it seemed a bit dry, so I chucked in another 30ml, gave it a bit of mix, decided it needed a bit more. At this stage I realised I didn't have enough plain flour. Not wanting the fruit to get all dried out overnight, I sloshed in some more port before I went to bed... and a bit more next morning. I the end I must have used he best part of half a bottle, but to be honest it could, perhaps, have taken more?? Certainly my sister thought so, and I think I would agree.

4. Always use an oven thermometer! Thankfully I trusted mine and NOT the thermostat on our new oven (which came with the house). The thermostatic control was way out!!! This was the position of the knob on the oven, when the oven was at the correct temperature for the cake:

Believe it or not, it's 180 degrees C inside the oven.

5. If, like me, you have a small determined child living in your house... do yourself a favour and do all your baking when they're asleep. Just saying!! Let's just say that trying to bake with the LO around led to a few bottle royals and leave it at that, shall we?

'Baby' added the jam layer - which I 'tidied up' once she'd had her fun!

6. If, like me, you're new to adding a layer of marzipan to your cake, there are online tutorials that can help you out. Such as this one, by BBC Good Food. If you like, you can get Dr Oetker's or Tesco's ready rolled marzipan (I got mine half price because it had a short date). This really took the stress out for me, as I was trying to get it all done as quickly as I could. You just unroll a roll of marzipan over the cake. 

Ready rolled!

However, I thought the layer of marzipan was a bit on the thin side.

See? Went on quite nicely but quite thin!

7. You can, of course make all your own icing - indeed I have all the stuff in my cupboard, BUT, being short of time, I decided to cheat. Here's what we used: 

NOT a promotion for Dr Oetker's - promise!

Please note none of the Dr Oetker products stated that they were specifically gluten free, but there were no gluten containing ingredients, or dairy, for that matter, either :)

As for applying the icing itself,  I watched this tutorial here. However, the vital part (how to iron out the folds around the side) was strangely missing!! I found one of these was the answer (I bought mine from Hobby Craft):

Great for buffing your icing!

Finally, however, the cake was completed and looked like this: 

Not perfect, but could be worse!

Of course the test of any cake, is not how well it looks, but how well it tastes. This cake seemed to go down okay (my Dad particularly loved the dried figs), but not as well as the other layer I made (blog post to follow). Although a little dry (probably my fault 'cos I always worry about my cakes being under baked) I thought it was quite yum too, but I think I might just sub the figs for something else another time (maybe prunes) as I'm not so keen on all the little pips that you get in figs! 

Unlike the gluten free Christmas cake I bought last Christmas, this one didn't cause my gut any unpleasant reactions and now I have decided I am going to make another for Christmas - but this one will get plenty of 'feeding' to see if I can keep it nice and moist :)


By the way, just in case you're wondering, no, I was not paid a sausage for mentioning any products. I bought everything I used myself. However if Kitchen Aid are listening seeing as The Hub's not convinced I need one... ;) 

Oh, who am I kidding?? THAT would be most unlikely. Still, I can but dream :)

Other posts about baking dairy and gluten free can be found by following this link.

If you're looking for ideas to do with Christmas here are some posts from 2012:

Dairy free ways to decorate your tree

Oo! Ah! Christmas Chocolat!

Treating Father Christmas

Dilemmas of the Christmas cake variety

Baking with Baby 8 - Gingerbread

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