March is a truly magnificent month & this year, it has arrived with a dazzling display of serious snow & storms to herald the new season! “In like a lion & out like a lamb”, as the saying goes & whoever said that definitely got it right! Spring is so close you can almost taste it & it’s a well-needed breath of fresh air for us all, as the chilly curtain of Winter is being whisked away, revealing vibrant new life springing up all around us! On my way into town this week, there were bundles of colourful crocuses starting to show through the verges & tiny white snowdrops, proudly peeking out of long grass. It’s almost time to start planting seeds for beans, peas & tomatoes, & I can’t wait to get the garden sorted (there’s something I never thought I’d say!).
If you’ve been following my antics on social media, you’ll know I’ve been working on a few (or rather a lot of) floral creations of my own over the last couple of months (which is why my blogs have been a bit all over the place recently, so apologies). Recently, I’ve been making sugar art surprise gifts, including a pair of sparkly snow white roses for a wedding present & three beautiful birthday blooms for a lovely friend. Now I’m working on bunches of blossoming roses for Mother’s Day gifts & although my kitchen looks like I’ve opened a sugar florists, I am still managing to bake my usual fayre (although my bread has recently developed a subtle sparkle from the edible glitter, because no matter how much you try to clean that stuff up, it gets everywhere!).
What better way to start the season of newy newness, than with a fabulous celebration for Mothers everywhere! Mother’s Day has always been special for me, so I like to go all out & celebrate in elegant, ladylike style. All my friends know that I absolutely love making afternoon tea – dainty, dinky delicacies, miniature gateaux, sumptuous sultanas embedded in fluffy scones, sweet strawberries perched on pastry cups & crustless, slender sandwiches filled with cream cheese & cucumber (not my usual doorsteps of bacon & egg, or meatballs & tomato sauce!). Tea is served in chintzy china cups, with wafer thin lemon slices floating like lilypads on the surface, often accompanied by a glass or two of pink fizz.
Firstly, sort out your sarnies! The simpler the sandwich, the better & you really don’t want to over-complicate things when you’ll have lots of other stuff to do! You can make the sandwiches earlier in the day, then put them in the fridge on a plate covered with a clean, damp tea-towel & wrap the whole thing in cling film (I saw the fabulous Mary Berry do this on the TV once & it really works, but then of course it would). This will keep them fresh & lovely, while you go & make yourself fresh & lovely! Select delicate fillings (& make sure you pick your Mum’s favourites), such as cream cheese, wafer-thin sliced cucumber, breaded ham, maybe some smoked salmon slices. I tend to pick two or three fillings & just do a batch of each. Remember to cut the crusts off & slice your sandwiches into elegant fingers (keep the crusts to make breadcrumbs & pop them in the freezer).
Usually, you need scones for any decent afternoon tea (with soaked, squishy sultanas, of course), but I think it’s about time I did a cake recipe for you all, especially an easy one that you can use for any occasion! There is one thing that I love making & that’s cake! This is quite honestly one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever made & I think you’ll love it too. It is a standard 4oz recipe that I tweaked slightly & makes a dozen cupcakes (or a single layer 7 inch cake), so if you want more just double the recipe. So, hands washed & aprons on!
What you need:
2 large Eggs
4oz softened Butter (you can use Stork or Sunflower Spread if you like)
4oz Caster Sugar (chuck regular sugar in the coffee grinder if you don’t have any caster)
3oz Plain Flour
2 teaspoons of Baking Powder
1oz Cocoa Powder (please do not use drinking chocolate – it’s mostly sugar & will alter your cake)
1 teaspoon instant Coffee
1 tablespoon Milk (either full fat or semi-skimmed)
What to do:
Pre-heat the oven to 190*C.
Get your patty tin prepared by placing muffin sized cake cases in each space (they don’t need to be fancy, because you’ll be discarding them after baking).
Tip all your dry ingredients into a large bowl & mix well with a spoon. Set to one side.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter & sugar together until a lovely, fluffy texture & light colour. You can use the electric mixer for this if you prefer, but it’s just as quick with a wooden spoon.
Add one egg carefully to the bowl, then sift in half of the dry ingredients using a large sieve. Gently blend this together until fully incorporated.
Add the last egg & the remaining dry ingredients using the sieve, then repeat the above step.
Add a splash of milk to the mixture & blend again to a smooth consistency.
Using either a couple of spoons or an ice-cream scoop, splodge into the cake cases equally (or as equally as you can do – even with a scoop, this can sometimes be hit & miss, so don’t worry too much).
Bake in the centre of the oven for 18-20 minutes until risen & small cracks appear on the top.
Remove from the oven & place each cake on a cooling rack (don’t leave them in the tin, otherwise they will become heavy).
Now, that’s your cake done & they just need to be turned into mini gateaux, filled with rich, black cherry jam & lightly whipped cream, then smothered in a silky smooth chocolate sauce.
1 jar Black Cherry Jam (or Sour Cherry Jam – Lidl do a lovely one!)
1 dozen Amareno Cherries, strained
300ml Double Cream, whipped with a little icing sugar (1 teaspoon)
Chocolate Sauce (recipe below)
What to do next:
Whip the double cream with a teaspoon of icing sugar (this allows it to hold it’s shape), or you can use buttercream if you prefer (blend 2oz icing sugar with 4oz softened butter).
Remove the cupcakes from their paper cases & set the cakes on a board.
Get a cookie cutter, just smaller than each cupcake & use it to cut each cake into a round, so they are all the same size. Save the leftover trimmings in a bowl to make cake pops (chocolate cake on a stick – what’s not to love?!).
Slice each cupcake in half & spread a little black cherry jam over the bottom slice, then pipe on a little buttercream or whipped cream & pop the top of the cake on, pressing down lightly to make it stick. Time to make some chocolate sauce!
What you need:
4oz softened Salted Butter
14oz can of Sweetened Condensed Milk
What to do:
Put everything into a saucepan & heat gently to melt, stirring carefully until everything has melted into a dark, delectably dense pan of silky deliciousness, it’s done. Store any leftovers in a sterile jar in the fridge & spread on toast, cake or cookies (don’t get me started on how gorgeous it is on cookies!).
Spoon some of the cooled chocolate sauce on top of each cake, so that it runs down the sides (don’t overdo it though, or you’ll have a chocolate puddle!).
Plop an Amareno cherry on top of each cake & put them in the fridge on a plate lined with greaseproof paper, so they can set for an hour or so before serving (they won’t set completely, so you might want to eat it with a spoon or fork).
If you do have time, you could make some cake pops from the crumbs & get the kids to decorate them as their gift to Mum.
Simply crumble up the cake trimmings into a bowl & add some of the leftover buttercream (I usually mix two parts cake to one part buttercream, so don’t worry about weighing anything). This will make a light, sticky “dough” & you can shape it into little ovals or rounds. Leave them to set in the fridge for a couple of hours on a sheet of greaseproof paper, then you will have a nice solid base for decorating.
Dip the end of a cake stick in some melted chocolate, then gently insert into the base of a cake ball. Gently spoon melted chocolate over the cake ball, removing any excess by lightly tapping the stick (carefully though, you don’t want to lose it!). Leave them to set by standing them in a jar or mug full of dried semolina or rice.
Once set, decorate them with edible glitter, sprinkles, wafer flowers or have a go at making your own flowers with fondant icing or modelling chocolate (you might have to knead the fondant to soften it up for children to use, as it can be quite solid). Don’t worry if you make a mistake – just roll it back up & start again! Flowers are all unique by nature, which makes each one special.
So that’s your Mum’s elegant afternoon tea sorted, just add a pot of tea & a flute of fizz! Here’s wishing a fabulous Mother’s Day to Mum’s everywhere (& the Dad’s who do double-duty as both)! Stay hungry 😉 A x