Showing posts with label Great British Baking Show. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Great British Baking Show. Show all posts

Friday, January 19, 2018

Apple Raisin Cake

I am addicted to The Great British Baking Show, which seems to be on most local PBS stations all the time. I am craving vanilla paste (whatever that is—my market doesn’t have any). I now know what “strong” flour is (higher gluten content). I am particularly enamored of the Slide and Hide ovens from the show—so much so that I’ve installed one in my Irish cottage (but haven’t had a chance to use it yet, sigh).

Don’t we all envy two people who get to eat as many different kinds of baked goods as they choose, and get paid for it? Former hosts Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (a new cast debuted in England last year) certainly look like they’re enjoying their job (and why don't they each weigh 200 pounds?). And while I will probably never make more than ten percent of the baked goods seen on the show, I’m very happy to know how some of those cakes and biscuits and traybakes are made, so I know what to order when I find the right bakery.

I have Mary’s cookbook 100 Cakes and Bakes, and I’ve made a number of the recipes. This one is a modified version of one of them, adapted for American ingredients.

Apple Raisin Cake


7-inch high sided round cake tin with removable base
(Okay, in the real world, how many of you have a 7” pan? I used an 8” one. It worked just fine.)

1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and thickly sliced
(the last of the Bramley apples I brought from Ireland. They last really well!)

4 oz (1 stick) butter, softened
4 oz (by weight) light brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
6 oz (by weight) self-rising flour (note: if you don’t have any, which most of us don’t, you can make your own according to this recipe: sift together 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1-1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. This turned out to be the right amount for this recipe)
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3 oz (by weight) raisins (if they seem dry you can soak them in boiling water for a short time—be sure to drain them well before adding them to the cake)(oops, my husband ate all the raisins without telling me, so I substituted currants)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease the baking tin and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Put the apple slices in a small pan, add a dash of water, and cook util just tender. Mash it up a little with a fork (do not make applesauce!). Set aside and let cool slightly.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until blended. 

In another bowl, mix together the warm apples and the baking soda. The mixture will fizz, but don’t worry about that. Add it to the butter/sugar mixture.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, nutmeg and cinnamon and add to the butter/sugar mixture. (If you’re wondering where the salt it, remember that it’s in the flour!) Add the raisins (or currants) and fold in with a rubber spatula.

Turn out the mixture into the cake tin and level it.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and has begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the pan, peel off the parchment paper, and finish cooling on a wire rack.

To serve, you may dust it with a bit of confectioner’s sugar.

Reviewers have been very kind! Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say:

In Connolly’s smart sixth County Cork mystery (after 2017’s Cruel Winter), John Byrne, one of the new American owners of a high-class hotel at Crann Mor, and his management team meet with American transplant Maura Donovan at Sullivan’s, the pub she owns in the Irish village of Leap, to discuss arranging for hotel guests to visit the pub. Hours later, John is found dead, having fractured his skull after apparently falling down a hill on the hotel grounds. During the subsequent police investigation, Helen Jenkins, the marketing manager of John’s company, asks to speak to Maura. When Helen confesses to Maura that she’s her long-lost mother, Maura can’t sort out her feelings about the woman who abandoned her more than 20 years earlier, but she also can’t ignore the bond. For her mother’s sake, Maura, who’s been involved in solving crimes before, decides to look into the suspicious circumstances of John’s death. Connolly vividly evokes rural Ireland, and her characters seem like real human beings trying their best to navigate their lives.

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ginger Cake

by Sheila Connolly

All right, I’ll confess: I am officially addicted to The Great British Baking Show on PBS. I did my best to resist it—I kept seeing the TV listing go by and telling myself I didn’t need to watch one more contrived cooking show where judges make snotty remarks and some poor non-winner ends up near tears. I tried, really. And then I watched one episode (not even the first of the season!) and I was hooked.

I’m a sucker for anything baked. The problem is, many of the recipes the contestants make on that show are complex, and while I admire them tremendously for even trying, I don’t feel compelled to try to make them myself (but I did once make Spotted Dick!). At least I recognized most of them, and I will happily order them at any restaurant or bakery.

But I felt bad that I didn’t recognize either of the judges. In case you’ve never watched the show (your loss!), there are two official judges: Mary Berry, the doyenne of British cookbooks, and Paul Hollywood (really?), who is defined as a “top artisan baker,” whatever that means. There are also two contestant wranglers, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, who apparently have done a whole lot of successful things together that we on this side of the pond have never heard of.

I was ashamed that I had never heard of Mary Berry, who apparently has been writing cookbooks almost as long as I’ve been around. So of course I ordered one (on baking) immediately. But then I went trolling online for some of her recipes, and found one that she declared that one of her favorites was one that her mother used to make for tea: Ginger and Treacle Spiced Traybake. It sounded tasty (and it has ginger frosting!).

Then I tried to translate the English terms and amounts. Ha. I did add a scale to my kitchen equipment not too long ago, so part of that problem is covered. But the ingredients can be a bit mind-boggling. Muscovado sugar? I think it’s like dark brown sugar. Maybe. Ground mixed spice? Huh? (Don’t panic—I found a recipe! It’s pretty much what you’d expect, but it includes coriander too).

And then there was “stem ginger from a jar.” Right. Had to look that one up! As near as I can tell, it’s crystallized ginger steeped in ginger syrup. Don’t think I’ll find that in my local grocery store! But, miracle of miracles, I had on hand both crystallized ginger and ginger syrup. (Now you know why I buy weird ingredients when I see them.) So I combined them.

Then on to the making of the recipe. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160/Gas 4. Uh, Fahrenheit, anyone? (Would you believe that I have the conversion formula tacked to the corkboard over my desk? And the answer is…350!) Then grease a 12x9 traybake. Okay, I can handle that. It’s a baking tin. Got it.

So here is Mary’s recipe, with a few tweaks for those of us who don’t have all these lovely ingredients lurking in our pantry.

Ginger Spice Cake (inspired by Mary Berry)


1/2 lb (8 oz) butter, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup treacle (this comes in dark and light—the dark stuff is pretty intense, if you can’t find it in your stores, substitute dark molasses) (Note: this is sticky stuff, whichever you use. To measure accurately, Mary suggested measuring your sugar, the placing the container on a scale and adding the treacle until you reach the right weight.)

2-1/2 cups white flour
3 tsp baking powder
Dash of salt
1 tsp mixed spice (I had to make my own—if you can’t find or make any, just add cinnamon, cloves, etc.)
4 large eggs (at room temperature)
4 Tblsp milk
3 finely-chopped bulbs of stem ginger from a jar (see above)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9” X 12” baking tin, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Cream and butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the bowl, and beat until well blended. Pour the batter into the baking pan and level the top with a spatula. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the cake begins to shrink from the sides and is springy when you touch it. (Do not overcook or it will dry out.) Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn it out on a rack to finish cooling.


1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tblsp ginger syrup that the ginger has been steeping in
3 Tblsp chopped stem ginger

To make the icing, sift the sugar into a bowl and add the ginger syrup. Mix until it reaches spreading consistency. Pour it over the cooled cake.

Chopped ginger
Sprinkle with the chopped ginger. Let the icing set for a bit before trying to cut it.

The results? This is more of tea cake than a dessert cake. It probably could have used more chopped ginger, but I was improvising. I may order the real stuff and see what it's like.

Meg and Seth are getting married (in case you haven't heard) in "their" restaurant in Granford. The alpacas were not invited, but just about everyone else in town was. Well, maybe not the ex-con...

A Gala Event is available now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores.