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Lady Aga

A blog dedicated to recipes, cakes, baking, restaurants and booze. .... Yorkshire-born.... London-based ..... Labrador-Greed ..... Lady Aga also bakes custom-made-cakes for all kinds of celebratory events

Primeur Restaurant, Petherton Road, N5

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A restaurant so good, you’re getting a double dining lowdown.  This is a somewhat unprecedented Lady Aga first so brace yourselves for some serious food porn.

Primeur occupies a former greengrocer, former garage site in Highbury - just north of Canonbury, round the corner from Stoke Newington and within walking distance of Finsbury Park. 

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When the weather is fine, the doors slide open, allowing the 40 seater dining room to bask in balmy sunshine, adding to the light, bright, laid back and welcoming ambience.

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The menu changes from lunch to dinner and day to day and you can keep a track of it on their Instagram page.  It’s sort of Franglais/ Spanglish offering that’s based simply on what their quality suppliers have to offer that’s particularly good currently.

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Chef and management have solid London restaurant heritage: Wright Brothers, Bistroteque, Brunswick House, L’Escargot and Great Eastern Dining Rooms amongst others; impressive culinary CV’s abound but, frankly, they had me at Jesus sausage - these guys know a thing or two about salami and how to slice it.

On the first of our two visits, The Blonde and I sat at the bar, looking into the open plan kitchen, and got stuck into a plate of paper thin tranches of this exemplary melty meaty brilliance.  Washed down with a couple of glasses of Vermouth - an ideal alcoholic foil to the son of God’s salami.  Incidentally, Jesus salami’s name hails from the red wine it’s made with rather than any officially confirmed holy properties.

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Aperativo out of the way, next came a starter of deep fried pigs head.  Crunchy breadcrumbs (Panko?) offsetting the meltingly tender braise inside.  In amongst the unctuous filling, there were raisins and marrow (bone not vegetable variety) and spices lending it a sort of Medieval historic taste.   The gribiche sauce base, with its mustard, caper and pickled content, provided a welcome acidity to the meat feast above.

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Immaculately cooked chunky nuggety cod cheeks with lemon aioli and a scattering of breadcrumbs and greenery to offer a nice crunchy contrast.

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Cod with brown shrimp butter sauce.  Cucumber and chives adding a freshness and bite through the richness of the beurre pool beneath.

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The real winner, however, was The Blonde’s beef fillet with snails and toast, swimming in a rich green herby garlic sauce.  So tender we assumed it had been cooked sous vide, but a peer into the kitchen confirmed it was a la plancha.  Primeur’s beef hails from Jorge Thomas at Swaledale Foods in Skipton - it was quite possibly the best beef I have ever tasted; further proof, if needed, that all the best things come from Yorkshire.  We didn’t do much justice to Primeur’s wine offerings on this occasion, sampling only a carafe of the Tempranillo which made for a great companion to the beef.

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Chocolate mousse with peanut caramel - there’s not really a bad word to be said about the combination of chocolate, praline and buttery sugary sauce.  The only fault here being, if the puddings are this goddamn good, why do they only ever put one on the menu?

Whilst we’re on the subject of faults, I may as well break the news now - reservations: you can’t telephone Primeur, nor can you book online.  The only way to get yourself a table is by going to the restaurant and speaking to them directly. 

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The cocky little phone on the wall is just to rub it in.  If you get the number and you call it - they’ll just hang up on you.  That’s right, people, actual human contact, you’re not going to like it.

Thankfully, on our second trip, we recruited The Blonde’s cousin Jeremy - as one of the head honchos of Spymaster, London’s premiere surveillance shop, we figured if anyone could infiltrate the system and crack Primeur’s code Jeremy was our man…

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We were wrong.

But it didn’t matter, because we’re local and we walked.  Sweet baby Jesus sausage, it feels good to be an N4 dweller at times like these. 

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Another reason to give praise is the Picon biere we discovered on the second visit, this drink really takes some beating.

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You’re essentially adding an 18% proof bitter orange aperatif to beer, it’s pure adulterated alcoholic genius.  Several hours later we were desperately phoning local off licenses to source a bottle of the liquid citrus nectar.  Pathetic!

But what of the food?  We did a sort of sharing set up but largely keeping our mains to ourselves.

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Spiced aubergine, tomato and yoghurt with shredded basil. 

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Duck rilettes with cornichon, pickled onions, crunchy sourdough and a scattering of pink peppercorns to cut through the fat.

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Squid with lemon and capers - rather than just using the juice, Primeur add delicate little morsels of fresh lemon flesh into the mix making for a super refreshing flavour packed plate

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My main:  Hake with lemon aioli.  As if to make up for The Blonde’s epic beef last time, this dish was deemed winner; his words, not mine:  ”I hake to say it, but you’ve got the star of the show”.  Groan.

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Spelt risotto with butternut squash chanterelles and sage to share - light Autumnal flavours that were thoroughly in keeping with the balmy Indian Summer’s day on which we dined.

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Tender salt beef with mustard and caper dressing and a light flavoursome broth.

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We shared two chocolate pots with peanut caramel - essentially a richer version of the pudding we had on our first venture.

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We sank enough Picon to keep us in the restaurant until the time that patron Jeremie came to write up the dinner menu.  Probably a cue to get out and let them get on with the next service.

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But this is Primeur, they’re not like that, they do things differently here.  They keep serving you Picon, they don’t judge AND they give you profiteroles. 

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Get a load of those vanilla flecks. 

And the other brilliant thing about this place?

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They

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Allow

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Puggles!

Primeur, you are perfection.

Primeur, 116 Petherton Road, London N5 2RT

Lunch:  Friday to Sunday

Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday

Closed Mondays

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Raspberry and basil sorbet

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This recipe hails from one of my favourite cookbooks of all time - Lucas Hollweg’s Good Things to Eat; a book that does exactly what it says on the tin and then some.  None of the recipes intimidate with epistle-like ingredient lists or methods, and yet every one is a winner that you’ll want to cook over and over again.  The Blonde is a prone to occasionally knocking up Hollweg’s chicken schnitzel with lemon and thyme, aka escalope-o-clock, aka my favourite hour.

But back to this sorbet.  Simple and classic with more flavour than you can shake a stick at.  Get involved with this summery delight whilst the sun is still shining and raspberries are £2 a punnet.  If you’re feeling particularly reckless, make this pud into a boozy float by pouring over chilled Prosecco.

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Serves 4-6, depending on what receptacle you use to serve your sorbet in:

200g caster sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used that thick syrupy variety that has all the pretty vanilla seeds swimming about in it)

40 large basil leaves (half to be used at the beginning of the recipe, the remaining 20 towards the end)

200ml boiling water

500g raspberries

1 lemon, juice of

Tip your sugar, vanilla and half the basil leaves into a large bowl, pour over the boiling water.  Stir to dissolve the sugar and leave to stew for around quarter of an hour.

Meanwhile, blitz-up your raspberries and lemon juice (I used a Bamix stick blender but a Magimix/ Vitamix would also do the job) until you’ve got a smoothie-like liquid.

Sieve your basil syrup to remove the leaves and add to your raspberry mix.  Blitz again.

Sieve your raspberry smoothie and pour the sieved mixture into a lidded Tupperware, freeze for a good few hours (I left mine overnight).

Remove the sorbet from the freezer, leave to warm-up a little (quarter of an hour should do it, depending on the temperature of your kitchen).

Whilst the sorbet is softening, very finely chop your remaining basil leaves.

Add the leaves to the sorbet and blitz until smooth (again, I used the Bamix), return to the tupperware and the freezer and repeat the freeze-defrost-blitz technique a couple more times (this said, I managed only two blitzes total and the texture was still a dream). 

Freeze again until firm, scoop and serve.

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A Naked Cake for a London Wedding

The ice cream naked cake of yester-post was a slightly abstract practice run for my latest wedding cake commission, which was - you’ve guessed it - a naked cake.  Regardez:

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This bad boy stood at a lofty 21 inches tall and required a mere sixty eggs to make.  Admittedly, with a naked cake, there is a lot of trimming involved to even out your sponge layers and ensure a balanced stack so not all of these oeufs made it to final presentation but, even so, we’re still talking a lot of cake batter.

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The roses (which total five in number) were made from sugarpaste icing, ditto the diddy butterflies which are dotted about the cake.

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The nine layers of sponge are sandwiched with a vanilla-flecked buttercream and decorated with a combination of fresh blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and redcurrants.

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The venue for this wedding cake was London’s opulent In & Out Club and it was something of a thrill to see what lies behind those hallowed doors on St James’s square.  I think the cake worked fairly awesomely within the setting and I was pretty proud of how it all turned out in the end.  Although not quite as proud as I was of this lil critter winning the esteemed accolade of Cutest Pup at Dog Factor later on that day!

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And that was in spite of him having a cheeky doggy vomit mid-round.  Who’d have thunk it?  Zissou, an award winner!   Brace yourself, Crufts…

Ice Cream Naked Cake

This cake’s personal philosophy?  Clothing optional. 

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A naked cake is quite simply a cake without any icing on the outside.  You can sandwich your sponge with buttercream but you gotta loose that outer coat.  Traditionally adorned with berries, these delectable creations are sky rocketing in popularity this year - even Poppy Delevingne had one at her London wedding.

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And if it’s good enough for Popdog, well then, goddamn, it’s good enough for Lady Aga!

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Except, with the temperature is in the late twenties, I’ve ditched my longtime lover, buttercream, and replaced him with ice cream.  It’s still a winning scenario.  And for those of you in doubt of the buttercream strip, I’ve added a brief covering of truffley chocolate ganache and some chocolate dipped strawbs.  Just for gratuitous calorific measure.

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Serves 12:

240g soft butter or margarine

240g caster sugar

5 medium eggs

240g self raising flour

1.25 litres ice cream (I used a mixture of chocolate brownie and plain ol’ vanilla)

200g chocolate

12 strawberries

25g butter

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees

Grease and line two 7” cake tins.  If you’re using shallow tins (and I was), line the sides with baking parchment so that the paper stands taller than the cake tin top edge by a good 2”/5cm)

Cream together your butter and sugar until light and fluffy

Gradually add your eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition to keep things airy

Once your eggs are all added to the mix, carefully fold in the flour

Divide the mixture between your two cake tins, smooth over and bake for around 25 minutes, or until well risen and when a skewer inserted comes out completely clean

Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack and peeling away the lining paper. 

Whilst the cakes are cooling, fill your kettle with water, bring to the boil and fill a small saucepan with the boiling water

Take a cereal-style bowl (or one that fits snugly on top of your pan) and tip your chocolate into said bowl.  Position the bowl of chocolate on top of the pan so that it’s well balanced.

Leave for a few minutes until melted and then stir to ensure all the chocolate is fully liquid. Leave for longer if needs be (if you’re making this in a cooler climate, you may need to re-boil the kettle, tip out the old water, refill and repeat)

Line a plate with tin foil or baking parchment.  Dip each of your strawberries into the chocolate, place on the foil lined plate, transfer to the fridge and leave to set.

Stir the butter into your chocolate and leave to melt, stir again to incorporate and set aside.

Return to your cakes - slice each in half horizontally so you have four cakes instead of two.

Beat your ice cream until softened and use this to sandwich and stack your four cakes together

Use a palette knife to scrape and smooth around the edge of the cake to ensure a neat finish (you might need to pop your cake back in the freezer for five minutes or so if the ice cream is melting too much).

Chill your cake in the freezer for ten minutes and then pour over the chocolate ganache.

Return to the freezer until ready to serve.

When it comes to serving, decorate the cake with your chocolate strawberries and slice using a sharp knife dipped in boiling water to get the cleanest cut.

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Chocolate and Salted Caramel Independence Day Cake

Ok, maybe a little bit tenuous seeing as there is zero evidence of the red, white and blue.  However, we do have stars, so let’s just keep with the theme.

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As well as stars,  we also have stripes - albeit forming the cake’s interior which is made up from six alternating layers of fudgy chocolate sponge and salted caramel buttercream.

Yep, salted caramel buttercream.  There is simply nothing better in this world.

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The chocolate cake is made according to the BBC’s recipe for Easy Chocolate Cake which does exactly what it says on the tin and delivers every time;  the salted caramel icing which sandwiches said cake together is just my (/Hummingbird’s) regular buttercream (most recently utilised here in my egg free sponge with strawberries and buttercream ) with a few tablespoons of salted caramel sauce whipped into the mix at the end.

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The exterior icing is rich and chocolatey - take your basic buttercream, add a few tablespoons of cocoa into the mix and towards the end beat in a scoop or two of cream cheese.  The stars are made from rolled sugarpaste icing, cut with three sizes of star cutter, sprayed with edible gold and silver spray paint (incidentally, this might happen to be the best perfume in town), and doused liberally with edible glitter.  Standard.

So there we have it - stars’n’stripes cake. 

Happy Independence Day!

Ottolenghi hummus

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I’d heard a rumour this was the Don Daddy of all hummus recipes and one that any self-respecting home cook should have in their repertoire.  The Puggle, needless to say, was a massive fan.

More tempting to me, however, was the fact that it’s also one of the simplest recipes listed in Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook with an ingredient list mercifully short and easy to come by; because, let’s be honest, as beautiful and as alluring as Yotam’s recipes are, some are just plain intimidating when you look at the lengthy list of items involved in the making.  The only minor faf is the overnight soaking of the chickpeas but you could always substitute for 600g of the tinned version if you feel like taking a shortcut.

Anyway, here are all the ingredients you’ll need for this perfect Summer snacking number; the mega amount of tahini also renders it less carby than most hummus and so especially appealing during these light balmy months.

For a massive vat of hummus, you’ll need:

250g dried chickpeas

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

270g light tahini paste

4 tbsp lemon juice

4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

100ml iced water (I poured mine into a jug and left in the freezer for around 20 minutes until needed)

Sea salt

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Rinse the chickpeas well and leave to soak overnight in plenty of water

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The following day, drain the chickpeas

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Tip into a large pan with 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda.

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Turn up the heat and cook for around 3 minutes, or until things start to look a bit dehydrated.  Remember to keep stirring during this time

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Pour over 1.5 litres water, bring to the boil and simmer until soft but not completely collapsing (mine took 20 minutes but you could wait up to 40 minutes to reach this stage according to Ottolenghi); prepare for your kitchen to smell a bit farmyardy during this time

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Drain the chickpeas

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Transfer to your blender and blitz until you have a rough paste

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Tip your lemon juice and crushed garlic and tahini into the blender

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Continue to blend and when these are incorporated, slowly pour in the iced water. In total you should blitz for around five minutes or until super smooth and creamy.

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Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of half an hour before serving.

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Serve with crudites and crisps and many an aperatif

Bettys Ham and Leek Swiss Rosti Cakes

This recipe hails from Bettys - they of the awesome Northern tea rooms.  Those in the know will already be aware of their fat rascals and fondant fancies but Bettys are also pretty down on their savoury items.  I knew this already, being an owner of the official cookbook, and was reminded of that fact with the arrival of their catalogue which featured a card for this recipe.  The instructions to combine cheese and carbs with wild abandon (good old Swiss heritage), was too much to resist.  Be mine, rosti cakes.

Teamed here with a salad but, with the English Summer being what it is, these rosti cakes would be equally great and twice as comforting with a side of bubbling baked beans should the weather not be playing ball.

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Ingredients to serve 4:

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250g potatoes (Betty’s specify Wilja or Estima, but I went with bog standard King Edward and they turned out great)

25g butter

1/2 onion, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 leek, finely chopped

2 medium eggs

100g cooked ham, torn into pieces

1 tsp fresh horseradish, grated (I failed to track this down so used a generous teaspoon of Dijon mustard instead)

1 tbsp finely chopped parsley

125g cheddar cheese, grated

25ml double cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

100g white breadcrumbs (polenta also works well in their place)

120ml vegetable oil

There is one minor ballache to this recipe: the potatoes- they need to be boiled until tender (10-15 mins), drained, cooled and then left to chill in the fridge overnight, once you’ve done this, however, you’re good to go…

Peel and coarsely grate your cooked and cooled potatoes and tip into a large bowl

Heat your butter in a small pan, add the onion and leek and fry until softened, tip into the potato bowl

Add the onion/ leek mix, one egg (keep the other back for dipping’n’coating’n’frying later on), the ham, horseradish, parsley, cheddar cheese and double cream.

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Mix well and season to taste

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Shape and mould your potato cakes

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Teamwork optional…

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Beat your second egg in a medium bowl.  Dip each potato cake into the egg and then into the breadcrumbs - rolling them about and patting on the crumbs so they adhere nicely.

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At this point you can refrigerate your rosti cakes in the fridge until needed, or turn on your hob and get frying.

Heat the oil in a non stick pan and fry for a few minutes on each side until bronzed and golden.

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Drain on kitchen paper and serve.

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Boozy fruit cake with rich chocolate ganache

Another week, another cake; can you handle it?  I think you’ve got it in you, come on guys, muster the strength, be brave.

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I know some people think that fruit cake ain’t all that (I’m looking at you, Blonde), and the reality is that a lot of the time it can be deeply underwhelming.  However, if you are of the opinion that there are few things in life that can’t be improved with the addition of booze and/ or chocolate, you’re totally going to dig this cake.  I mean, can we just take a closer look at the ganache for a minute…

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Living the dream

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… aaaaand, focus!  Did I mention this cake has been force-fed a combination of cherry and regular brandy over the course of three months?  Yep, this guy is pure gasoline in the best possible way.

Let’s just quickly talk about how this all came to be:  In last week’s post I regaled you with tales of the 37.5kg wedding cake commission.  Thing is, that cake was actually heavier (can you believe?) because there was another separate Christening cake made to accompany and be served at a later date.  Now, fruit cakes (the traditional flavour for said occasion) pack a punch in the lb-stakes and the 6” marzipan and fondant coated cake I sent the bride off with was around the 2.5 kg mark so we’re actually talking about 40kg of wedding cake.  Sacred blue!

I made a spare sample cake, just out of curiosity, since I’d never bothered to sozzle a cake before.  The Christening cake was made to Delia Smith’s classic Rich Fruit Cake recipe and I can’t think of any improvements that could be made - except maybe more glacee cherries.  Ideally, you make the cake a few months in advance (I went for three), wrap in greaseproof paper and every two weeks, spike with a needle and dribble with a tablespoon of brandy.  Keep feeding until you’re ready to serve/ loose patience.

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The ganache is made by slowly melting chocolate and butter, before beating in double cream and leaving to cool until you have a spreadable consistency that’s going to adhere to the cake and not slide right off.  From memory I used a 4:2:1 ratio of chocolate to butter to cream, so 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or more), 100g butter and 50ml cream.  So long as the chocolate and butter are the key players in the mix, it’s going to set alright and you don’t need to be too scientific about it.

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If you haven’t got the inclination to wait three months for your boozy cake, you could always pierce and pour over brandy when it’s fresh from the oven.  Leave to cool, smooth over the ganache with a palette knife and away you go. 

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Serve with a glass of Madeira for added alcoholic opulence.

Red velvet ombre wedding cake with sugarcraft hydrangea petals

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In last week’s post I mentioned that a somewhat major wedding cake commission had kept me occupied throughout April and then pretty much put me off baking for the entirety of May. 

By way of explanation, here are some photos of the cake in question.  She weighed in at 37.5kg (including a spare 12” diameter tier that was sent to the kitchen for slicing) and took up a mere 50 hours of my life.  Phew.  A cake birth and a half and, like any proud parent, I wanted to share it with you. 

This week I’m also making a guest blogger appearance on my good friend Mills’ fab food blog, Clean Real Good Food.  As well as being a goldmine of nutritional information, www.crgf.co.uk is also the perfect antidote to the sugar fest that is this post.

Anyway, back to that cake: Each tier comprises three two inch high layers of red velvet, each fading from dark red to pale pink with a cocoa edge to keep the look and the taste from being too sickly sweet.  Sandwiched and coated with buttercream and covered in fondant icing.

The fondant icing was a definite learning curve - that stuff really takes no prisoners.  I also had to buy a 24 inch rolling pin for the task; at four inches shy of a baseball bat’s length, it was quite an intimidating object to work with.

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The hydrangea petals are fully edible and made from sugarpaste.  I was pretty relieved to have had a head start in the technique after my Jane Asher course in PME flowers at the end of last year, not least because it offered forewarning of just how long these guys take.  Although the edible colour dust application was weirdly therapeutic.

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I went for brighter hues so that the effect wouldn’t just fade into the background when the cake was in situ.  And what a setting - get a load of the table wreath (sadly not my handiwork)!image

As with all my red velvet cakes, I was totally faithful to Martha Stewart and stuck with her recipe.  I did an English measurement conversion a few years back for my first red velvet wedding cake but you can find the original here.

Definitely my proudest baking achievement to date - hope you approve.

Egg free sponge cake with strawberries and buttercream

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Apologies for the awol status, Lady Aga readers.  In vague defense, I have two excuses - one being a gigantic wedding cake, the baking of which nearly killed me.  The other will probably be the death of me in an entirely different way.  Death by cuteness.  It’s possible with a puggle pup.

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Yeah, so The Blonde and I got a dawg, he’s called Zissou and he’s a licker. 

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He’s also a bite-sized bundle of extreme naughtiness - three more words on this guy:  Trouble.  Never.  Sleeps.

Anyway, enough dog bothering, let’s take it back to the blog; thrillingly (or embarrassingly, depending on how you look at it), during this leave of absence, Square Meal appointed me Blogger of the Week; an announcement they made on Twitter last Monday.

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Pretty thrilled with that.  So to celebrate (and return to the point of this post)… I give you cake.

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I’ve got a cake commission on this week and one of the people said cake has to feed is egg intolerant.  As allergies go, this one has got to suck fairly bad.  However, the good news is that recipes for egg-free cakes aren’t that hard to come by, nor are they difficult to bake.  This one is based on a Hairy Bikers number from BBC Food and, despite the relatively heavy quantities of baking powder (which I feared might ruin the taste), it was declared an across-the-board hit when served at afternoon tea this Sunday.image

The resulting sponge cakes are quite thin, hence the bulking out and height-building with the strawberries in between.   Next time I might double the recipe but for now, this is what you’ve got.

I managed to eke this cake out to twelve servings but, if we’re being honest (/realistically greedy), 6-8 might have been a better bet.

For the cakes:

175g/ 6oz plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

70g/ 2.5oz margarine

60g/ 2.1 oz sugar

1 tbsp golden syrup

150ml/ 1/4 pint milk

For the icing:

240g icing sugar

80g butter, softened

25ml milk

1 punnet strawberries (around 400g), sliced

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line two 7” cake tins

Tip the flour and baking powder into a bowl (the Bikers said to sift, I rarely sift, do as you wish)

Cream together the butter, sugar and golden syrup until light and fluffy

Add a third of the flour and gently beat until well mixed, follow with a third of the milk and do the same.

Repeat until you have used up both milk and flour mix

Divide the cake batter between the two tins and bake for around 20 minutes or until risen and golden and when a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and turn out onto a cake rack to cool.  Whilst the cakes are cooling, make your icing

In either a free standing mixer or using an electric whisk, or, indeed, a bowl and wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease, beat together your icing sugar and butter until it comes together like fine crumbs.

Pour in the milk and turn up the speed on the mixer, beat for five minutes until light and fluffy.

Place one of the cakes onto a plate or cake stand.  Spread a third of the buttercream on top of the cake and scatter over half your strawberries.

Apply the second third of the buttercream to the other cake and place the buttercreamed side on top of the strawberry-topped cake (this will act as a brief barrier to prevent your cake getting soggy - but not for long so be sure to eat asap).

Spoon and spread the remaining third of the buttercream on top of the cake and top with the second half of your strawbs.

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Slice and serve.

Ok, just one more word on the pooch, this is how he watches me when I’m baking.  Get a load of that head tilt - too adorable, can’t take it!

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