Cake Time: Persimmon and Cardamom Cake

CU61DsmWIAA_bO2Up at my local greengrocer the other day, I noticed a tray of strange, orange-red fruits. They were about the size of a small aubergine, and looked so ripe, that they were almost glowing. Now, since I’m an absolute fruit fiend, I get unduly excited when confronted with a fruit I don’t know anything about. The local grocer is usually great at getting in seasonal produce, so whatever this mystery fruit was, it had to be the right time of year for it, too. I was baffled.

“It’s a kaki fruit,” explained the grocer, “a type of persimmon. And they’re not overripe, that’s how they’re supposed to be.”

I was dubious; they looked so ripe they were almost bursting, and even paying for my haul, I managed to stick my thumb through the skin, nearly causing a fruit explosion. But, I discovered after a bit of internet research, that is when they’re at their best. They ripen on the trees well into autumn, after all the leaves have fallen, so that they look like bright orange paper lanterns on the bare branches.

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I hardly needed to peel the one I bought; the skin just came away and I scooped out the coral-coloured flesh like jam. It has a subtle taste, gently perfumed and very sweet without being at all sharp. Of course, I started thinking about how I could bake it into a cake.

Another quick internet scan (where, as usual Rachel Eats came to the timely rescue) revealed the people usually bake persimmon cakes in bundt rings. I guess this makes sense, since the fruit with naturally make a cake heavier, so a bundt ring will distribute the heat more evenly and stop any sinking in the middle nonsense.

I have some mini-bundt tins that I’ve never had the opportunity to use, so we were alright there. After a quick raid of the spice rack, I changed my mind from nutmeg to cardamom and presto. Cake time.

If you do see any kaki fruit on your travels, grab them quick! You won’t be disappointed.

L x

(p.s. sorry about the low-fi picture, didn’t have the camera this weekend!)

Persimmon & Cardamom Cake 

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 20-25 minutes 

For the cake:
  • 180g butter, softened
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 180g self-raising flour
  • 1 very ripe persimmon, flesh scooped out
  • 1 vanilla pod or 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 5 or 6 cardamon pods
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar, to finish

Allons-y!
The cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4. Grease 4 mini-bundt or mini-loaf tins
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and very fluffy.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time, along with a tablespoon of the flour to stop the mixture from splitting. Beat well in between.
  4. Sift in the rest of the flour and stir until just combined.
  5. In a pestle and mortar, bash open the cardamom pods to get at the seeds. Fish out any husk and then pound the seeds into as fine a powder as you can manage.
  6. Tip the ground cardamoms seeds, vanilla and persimmon flesh into the batter and stir gently to incorporate.
  7. Spoon into the tins, filling them 3/4 full.
  8. Bake for around 25 minutes (depending on your oven!) until set and a skewer or toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool slightly.
  10. Turn out onto a plate, dust with icing sugar and enjoy!

The Confectioner’s Tale… en français!

Oh my giddy aunt it’s been so long since I updated on here. Mea culpa! My only excuse is that I’ve been hard at work on a brand new novel, which is tentatively scheduled for publication June 2016. More as that develops… exciting! (The team at Transworld have been dropping tantalising hints about cover designs).

If you’d like to have a guess about when and where the new book is set, feel free to go and take a look at the Pinterest board I’ve been building to keep track of my visual research. (I do this for all of my books)

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In the meantime, I’m delighted to announce that The Confectioner’s Tale has been published in French by City Editions as Le Portrait de l’oubli. I’m especially impressed by their undeniably sassy cover design. Thank you City! There have been some lovely reviews already, so I’m relieved and very pleased that French readers are enjoying it.

One French reviewer recently commented that reading the book allowed them to escape the terrible events of 13th November for a few hours, and also reminded them why they loved Paris so much as a city, despite everything that has happened. Needless to say I was incredibly humbled and touched to hear this. I was also reminded of how important fiction can be; not just to entertain, but to sustain us, to feed our imaginations, to let us inside another person’s head for a few hours… to empathise with what we find there. If I’ve been able to give comfort to just one person with my writing – the way I’ve taken comfort in books in the past – I’ll be more than happy, I’ll be honoured.

L x

Cake Time: Raspberry Ripple Cake

raspberry ripple cake © L Madeleine

It’s a truth universally acknowledged amongst my friends and family that I am what is known as  a berry fiend. Raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, cherries, blackberries, blackcurrants… any berry or red fruit and I am the happiest person in the world. Raspberries are my absolute favourite though. I can disappear a punnet of them in under a minute.

Food-wise, I think this is the best time of year, purely because berries and cherries are ripe in the UK, and they’re beautiful: fragrant and perfumed, tasting of the sun and summer, rather than watery, tasteless versions force-grown and imported in winter. They’re so delicious, you really don’t need to do anything with them, but if you are overwhelmed by one particular variety, here’s a recipe for you.

You can substitute the raspberries for another fruit – blackcurrants work well – and mess around with the jam and nut combo, if you like. Blackberry and hazelnut would work nicely, later on in the season. Anyway, enjoy!

L x

Raspberry Ripple Cake
Ingredients:
For the cake
  • 175g butter, softened
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 1 vanilla pod or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (do try to use real vanilla if you can, though)
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1-2 tbsp milk
  • 3 tbsp raspberries
For the topping
  • 2 large tbsp raspberry jam
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
Allons-y!
The cake:
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Grease and line a 900g / 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat the eggs, then add to the mixture gradually, with 2 teaspoons of the flour to stop the mixture from separating. Mix well.
  4. Using the point of a sharp knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and stir into the mixture (Or add the vanilla extract, if using).
  5. Sift in the remaining flour in batches, folding in gently using a metal spoon. Add the almonds, along with enough milk to make a smooth batter and stir gently to combine.
  6. Place the raspberries in a separate bowl and mash into a puree.
  7. Take 2 tbsp of the batter and add to the raspberries, stirring well.
  8. Using a separate spoon for each mixture, dollop the batters into the tin alternately, making sure the bottom and sides of the tin are evenly covered.
  9. Smooth over the top. Use a skewer to drag through the mixture in swirls to create a ripple effect.
  10. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top is set and a skewer comes out clean. (If  the top is browning too quickly, cover in foil until the rest catches up. Fan ovens are notorious for this!) Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and remove the greaseproof paper.
The topping:
  1. Melt the raspberry jam in a saucepan, adding a quick splash of water if it looks too thick. Set aside.
  2. In a dry frying pan gently toast the almonds, tossing frequently until golden brown. (Careful, they’ll burn the moment you’ve got your back turned…)
  3. Spoon the raspberry syrup evenly over the cooled cake and scatter with toasted almonds to decorate.

This recipe first appeared on the much-loved, much-missed Domestic Sluttery

Monday Recipe: Pimms Cake

Pimms Cake © Laura MadeleineIt is no secret that I’ll put booze into cakes at the slightest provocation. One day, I found myself staring at the liquor shelf and getting desperate. Gin? DONE. Multiple times. Rum? DONE. Brandy? I put it in everything. Hmm, Pimms… strange, brown, herby liqueur, what can I do with you?

 

Pimms was brought into being by James Pimm in 1823. He was a farmer’s son who’d studied Theology in Edinburgh, but luckily for us, he decided to open an oyster bar opposite Buckingham Palace instead. It was a roaring success, and he went on to invent a gin-based cocktail to accompany the oysters; hey presto, No.1 Pimms.

Since it’s that time of year again when we drag the ol’ Pimms out from the back of the cupboard and spend a glorious(ish) few weeks drinking it in alarming quantities while watching the best tennis players in the world sweat it out in a court, I thought I might bring this recipe out of retirement too. It’s a loaf cake, combining orange, lemon, mint, strawberries and a generous helping of Pimms itself. It was a favourite with the lovely readers of Domestic Sluttery last year, so hopefully, you’ll like it too.

L x

Pimms Cake 

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 45-50 minutes 

For the cake:
  • 225g butter, softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • Zest of 1 lemon, plus a generous squeeze of juice
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • Handful mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp Pimms

For the syrup:

  • 50ml Pimms
  • Juice of half an orange
  • Generous squeeze lemon juice
  • 2 inches cucumber, chopped
  • 1 heaped tbsp icing sugar
To decorate:
  • Icing sugar
  • Chopped mint leaves
  • Strawberries

Allons-y!
The cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 900g / 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and very fluffy.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time, along with a tablespoon of the flour to stop the mixture from splitting. Beat well in between.
  4. Sift in the rest of the flour and stir gently until just combined.
  5. Add in the lemon and orange zest, the squeeze of juice, the mint leaves and the Pimms and stir gently into the cake mixture.
  6. Tip into the loaf tin and smooth the over the top
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until golden brown and a skewer or toothpick comes out clean. If the top is browning too fast, cover with foil until the centre catches up.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool slightly.
The syrup:
  1. While the cake is cooking, make yourself a Pimms.
  2. Then, place all the ingredients for the syrup in a jug. Stir together well and add a little more sugar to your taste, if necessary.
  3. Tip into a small saucepan over a medium heat and warm gently for a few minutes, to allow the flavours to come together.
  4. While the cake is still warm, poke holes all over the top with a fork or a skewer.
  5. Spoon over the liquid of the syrup (not the cucumber) so that it soaks in. You might need to wait and do a second round. (You’ll probably have syrup left over).
  6. Quickly dust with a generous helping of icing sugar.
  7. Decorate with a sprinkling of chopped mint, fresh sliced strawberries, and of course, a jug of Pimms…

This recipe first appeared on the much-loved, much-missed Domestic Sluttery. 

Event: Winstone’s Sidmouth

On Saturday 30th May, I’ll be doing a joint event at Winstone’s Bookshop, Sidmouth, with my sister, fantasy author Lucy Hounsom!

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That’s her there. She’s actually my older sister, and wasn’t very pleased when I was born. Later, she had a history of making me wear reindeer antlers and riding me around the house while pretending to be Santa, but now she’s a fantasy author, and has recently released the brilliant Starbornthe first in a trilogy for Tor. (Oh, and even weirder, it was, by complete coincidence published on the same day as The Confectioner’s Tale).

21416669 The confectioners tale front only

 

 

 

Although we grew up in Maidenhead (Berks) Sidmouth is our family home these days, so I’m delighted to have such a good excuse to go back for a visit. If you don’t know it, it’s a lovely seaside town in Devon, about 12 miles along the coast from Lyme Regis.

Lucy and I will be hanging out in the bookshop from 1pm, so if you happen to be in the area (or know someone who like books, fantasy and cake – isn’t that everybody?) then do come along.

The Confectioner’s Tale Launch Party

The Confectioner’s Tale is officially out in the world, which can only mean that it’s time for a CELEBRATORY BOOK LAUNCH.

The Confectioner's Tale Invite

I’m absolutely thrilled that Hart’s Bakery have agreed to play host to the evening’s shenanigans. If you don’t know Hart’s, it’s a gorgeous little working bakery under the railway arches next to Temple Meads station. With its open kitchen, railway connections and reputation for making some of the best baked goods in Bristol, it seems like the perfect place to officially toast The Confectioner’s Tale into the world.

There will be cake,  books, wine and maybe a reading, so do come along and enjoy; all are welcome! There’s a handy RSVP form here.

Hope to see some of you there!

(Thanks go to Becky for her invitation design wizardry)

Book Release Cake Time: St Germain Cake

St Germain CakeToday I’m sharing a recipe that I created specially for the launch of The Confectioner’s Tale. It involves some of my favourite things: raspberries, almonds and a more than generous helping of St Germain: a beautiful elderflower liqueur made from blossom hand-picked in the Alps (with a bottle that’s pure Belle Époque).

Named after the area on the Parisian Left Bank that – in its heyday – harboured artists, philosophers, bakers, jazz musicians, writers and the oldest food market in the city, it hopefully conjures up just a little of heady sweetness and decadence that were to be found there.

St Germain Cake

For the cake:

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 3 tbsp St Germain (elderflower liqueur: you can use cordial if you prefer)
  • zest of ½ a lemon
  • 100g fresh raspberries
  • 1 tbsp flour

For the elderflower syrup:

  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 50ml St Germain
  • Zest and juice of ½ a lemon
  • Handful of flaked almonds
  • Icing sugar and lemon zest, to decorate

Allons-y!

The cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm, 9 inch deep cake tin.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.
  4. Add a quarter of the eggs, along with a tablespoon of the flour and beat well. Repeat with rest of the eggs, beating well in between.
  5. Add the rest of the flour in thirds, folding in lightly in between until it is just incorporated and no streaks are showing.
  6. Gently stir in the ground almonds, St Germain and lemon zest.
  7. Lightly toss the raspberries in flour (this’ll stop them all sinking to the bottom) and carefully stir them into the mixture. Add a splash of milk if the mixture needs loosening.
  8. Dollop into the tin, smooth over the top and bake for around 40-45 minutes, or until it’s golden and risen, and a skewer inserted (and held there for a few seconds) comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly in its tin on a wire rack.

The syrup:

  1. Place the sugar, St Germain, lemon juice and zest in a small saucepan.
  2. Bring to a simmer and reduce over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes until the consistency thickens. Be careful of the hot sugar.
  3. When the cake is out of the oven, prick holes all over the surface with a skewer and spoon over the syrup so that it soaks in.
  4. Lightly toast the flaked almonds in a dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes. Keep your eye on them, because they’ll catch quickly.
  5. Decorate with the almonds, a dusting of icing sugar, lemon zest and eat warm, with a café, a glass of pastis or if you’re feeling decadent, champagne.

Publication Day!

IT’S PUBLICATION DAY!

Yes, it’s finally here: the official publication day of The Confectioner’s Tale! It’s been a long journey, filled with many, many drafts, plot changes, character chopping and chapter juggling, but TCT (as it’s affectionately known) is now a real book, and out in the world for anyone to pick up – and hopefully enjoy – which is the most exciting thing of all.

I’ve been lucky to have landed in the middle of such a warm team at Transworld, who have been nothing but enthusiastic from the beginning. (Anyone who turns up to a first meeting with a tote bag of free books gets a head start, in my opinion). My editor Harriet’s editorial notes were a god-send, and cut through the snow-blindness which can occur after spending too much time with your own writing. Naomi and everyone on the PR wagon have been equally brilliant; as a new author it can be a fight to get your voice heard, and they’ve thrown their energy behind getting The Confectioner’s Tale out there and talked about, so that it reaches as many potential readers as possible. The act of writing and the necessity of publicity are not the easiest of companions, I find, which makes the job of the team at Transworld all the more important (and challenging!). Bravo.

But first and foremost, I have to thank my agent, Ed, who fished me out of the slush pile aged 20 and has stuck with me ever since. It’s been a longish road here, via one very odd novel that (thankfully, in hindsight) no one wanted to publish, but I’m eternally grateful that I sent off a  submission of a weird, raw, half-finished manuscript to Ed that day in 2008. Buy him a double G&T, if you happen to see him about. THANKS ED.

There are a few more bits and pieces of exciting news re: TCT, but they’ll have to wait until I’m sure I’m allowed to talk about them! In the meantime, there’s a launch party in the offing (watch this space), and I’m currently hacking away at another novel…  For now though, thank you to past, present and future readers: I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did writing it.