Baked: French Almond Cake


The last few days have been gloriously sunny in Paris. It's been so nice and uplifting to throw open the shutters in the morning to a bright blue sky and rays of sunlight hitting the building. And the evenings have been so warm and balmy, I feel like I'm on holiday. So I haven't really felt like baking, let alone spending time in a warm kitchen, so to ease myself in I thought I'd try out something simple. While I Skyped with a friend in London last night, I made a French Almond Cake (also know as 'Financiers' in finger form - the name comes from the traditional rectangular mould that looks like a bar of gold or according to Wiki, these little almond fingers became very popular in the financial district near the Paris stock exchange - a bit of trivia for you), which is about as simple as they come - staple cake batter, but with added almond powder. So here goes:

Ingredients:
110g butter
120g caster sugar
40g flour
1/2 packet of backing powder (the French sachets here) or 1tsp
90g ground almonds or almond powder
x3 eggs
x1 tbsp milk
x1 tsp vanilla essence
x1 packet flaked almonds 


Instructions: 

Preheat the oven to 180g, grease a cake tin with butter and then line it with greaseproof paper. Mix the butter and sugar together (I didn't have to wait long for the butter to soften in this weather), then beat in the eggs. Sift in flour, almond powder, milk and vanilla essence. Empty the mixture into the cake tin and finally sprinkle with flaked almonds. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Et voila! 
 If you want to be particularly fancy, you can dust icing sugar over the cake.

Baked: Chocolate Chip Cookies


I'm a day late as I was hauled up at a friend's place yesterday waiting for removal men to collect her stuff and take it off to Dubai, and if I'm honest I was just too tired to bake. I was still recovering from the weekend - I went to London for a hen-do, which involved far too much booze and a very late night.

Anyway, back to the cookies, I used to make batches and batches of these when I was little, but big ones that would run into each other as they baked, creating almost one giant cookie. Admittedly the first half I baked did just this, as I made the portions too big, so tried again and they seemed to work out. These ones (an adapted Martha Stewart recipe) are meant to be soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside, and having eaten one or two (or three) they are just that and brought back nostalgic memories, of climbing onto a chair to check the oven door, which was a little too high for me to reach.

Ingredients: 
250g butter
280g flour
128g granulated sugar
64g brown sugar
x2 eggs
x2 teaspoons vanilla essence
x1 teaspoon salt
x1 pack chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF and then grease the tray before lining it with greaseproof paper. Then   mix the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar together in a bowl until fluffy (pop the butter in the briefly to help it melt) then slowly add the eggs in one by one, beating each one into the mixture before the next and vanilla essence. Then sift in the flour, add the baking soda, and finally spinkle in the chocolate chips. Dollop heaped teaspoons of mixture onto the tray about 2 inches apart and pop in the over for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Et voila! 

Baked: Victoria Sponge Cake


I'm starting a new series here - I'm going to try my hand at baking. I love collecting images on Pinterest of beautifully-styled foods, so thought I'd give it a go. Once a week I'm going to bake something new - probably something British with a French twist. For my first attempt I've baked a Victoria Sponge cake - adapted from Jamie Oliver's recipe. I used to make these when I was little, from the 'We Can Cook' Ladybird book, which I still have, along with old recipes stuffed inside that I used to cook at school. I made this one with salted butter icing (the French twist). I used to be a margarine girl, until I tasted the butter in France. I've never looked back and thought it'd make a great icing. I made so much I smothered a layer on top of the cake too. Forget death by chocolate cake, this is death by Victoria Sponge. 

Ingredients:
4 eggs
225g flour
225g caster sugar
225g unsalted butter
1 packet baking powder (I can't for the life of me find self-raising flour, but add a sachet of this magic
stuff seems to do the trick)
rind of half a lemon
a splash of milk 
punnet of strawberries
strawberry jam

For the icing:
250g icing sugar
100g salted butter 
splash of water

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF and then grease the sandwich tins before lining them with greaseproof paper. When they're done, mix the butter and sugar together in a bowl until they're soft and creamy (try to wait until the butter is at room temperature, it'll make it easier to blend) then slowly add the eggs in one by one, beating each one into the mixture before the next. Then sift in the flour, add the packet of baking powder, and finally grate in some lemon rind - I would only grate half a lemon, otherwise you'll end up with sponge that tastes a little more like lemon cake, now there's an idea. Separate into the two sandwich tins and pop in the oven for around 20 minutes or until they are golden brown. 

For the icing, mix the butter and the icing sugar together and add in a splash of water to soften. 

When the cakes are done, let them cool and then cover the base in icing followed by a layer of strawberry jam. Then add a layer of thinly sliced strawberries. Don't put two much on or the jam will slide down the sides and end up in a big mess on the plate (I learnt the hard way). Then add the second sponge layer and either dust with some icing sugar, or if like me you made a little too much icing, you could add to the top. Et voila! 
[photography: Marissa Cox]