Cake Time: Hazelnut Cake with a Blackberry Sloe Gin Glaze

It’s officially September! Although I’m always sad to see the evenings get darker and cooler, to see the high, summer grass start to wilt and the leaves to brown, there’s so much I love about autumn. I love the scent of woodsmoke that starts to creep through the chill air in the evenings. I love the high, blue skies and brisk clouds. I love the old-gold colour of the sun, the saffron-yellow leaves, jumpers and boots and long walks that end in pubs with open fires…

And of course, then there’s the food. After weeks of salads and tarts and “light” summer dishes (in my book “light” still means immoral quantities of cheese), it’s exciting to be able to indulge in some heartier, cosier meals. And for me, autumn means one unmissable thing.

BLACKBERRIES.

I love blackberries. In crumbles, in cakes, eaten straight from the hedgerows… Not the flavourless, seedless plump shop-bought ones. You can keep them. I love tramping through meadows and straddling ditches, half-falling into hedgerows to pick small, deep, purple-black berries, so ripe they burst on your hands until you’re covered in juice. Wild blackberries have a flavour that’s impossible to replicate: sweet but mellow, perfumed and somehow darker than other berries. I like to think it’s because blackberries ripen as the nights grow shorter: they come along hand-in-hand with these plummeting late-summer twilights.

So without further ado, here’s one of my favourite recipes for them, which I hope captures the flavours of coming autumn. I’ll be posting more blackberry recipes over the next few weeks, so get out there and get berrying!

Hazelnut Cake with a Blackberry Sloe Gin Glaze

Ingredients:
For the cake:

  • 175g butter, very soft
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 40g ground almonds
  • Handful of hazelnuts, chopped
For the glaze
  • 100g fresh blackberries
  • 7 tbsp sloe gin
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean extract or 1/2 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped out (if you can afford it, this stuff is so much better than standard vanilla extract)

Allons-y!
The cake:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Grease and line a 450g / 1lb loaf tin.
  2. Place the chopped hazelnuts in a dry pan and toast over a low heat for around 2 minutes. (Watch out, they catch and burn very easily). Tip onto a plate to cool.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Stir together the flour and almonds in a bowl.
  5. Beat the eggs, then add a third of them to the butter mixture, along with a third of the flour and almonds and stir gently to combine. Repeat with the remaining thirds, being careful not to over-mix.
  6. Stir in the cooled hazelnuts.
  7. Tip into your prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top.
  8. Bake for around 40-45 minutes or until risen and golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. (A few crumbs are fine).
The glaze:
  1. Place 100g blackberries into a saucepan, along with 4 tbsp sloe gin, the sugar and the vanilla extract. (Save a few whole berries for decoration and surreptitious eating).
  2. Stir together and cook over a low heat until the blackberries can be crushed with the back of a spoon and the liquid has reduced, about 10 minutes.
  3. Place a mesh sieve over a bowl and strain the liquid, smooshing the berry-pulp with a spoon to get all the gorgeous, purple juice out.
  4. Return the liquid to the pan and reduce over a low heat again until thickened, another 4-5 minutes or so.
  5. Set aside and stir regularly: you’ll need to use this quite quickly before it sets, so have that cake ready.
  6. Prick holes in the top of the cake whilst still warm and drizzle over the remaining 2 tbsps of sloe gin.
  7. Remove from the paper and place on a wire rack. (You might want something underneath – this bit gets messy).
  8. Spoon the glaze over the cake whilst still warm, pushing to the edges with the back of a spoon. Decorate with the remaining blackberries and bask in the ruby, sticky deliciousness that has now stained your entire kitchen.

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

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Die Tochter des Patissiers

So, earlier this week I received yet another exciting book package; to my delight this one contained copies of the German translation of The Confectioner’s Tale,  Die Tochter des Patissiers.

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This one is SUCH a lovely edition, so I have to thank Bastei Lübbe for doing an absolutely brilliant job on the design work. There are thoughtful touches all the way through the presentation, including fold out recipes pages (for my St Germain Cake) and colourful page numbers!

So very happy. Thank you Germany!

The Confectioner’s Tale Abroad

I always love receiving book-post, and last week brought two very exciting book-post packages. Both were to do with the arrival of The Confectioner’s Tale in different countries, this time Italy and the USA!

First up is the the Italian version, a lovely hardback edition released last week by Piemme as:

Una deliziosa pasticceria a Parigi

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This is actually my first ever hardback to be published so it holds a special place in my heart. Also, they’ve done a brilliant job on the print quality, with the cover boards printed beneath the dust jacket. At the end of last month, there was a blog tour for the book, so if you speak or read Italian, or are just interested, then details are below. Thanks Piemme!

blogtour deliziosa pasticceria ok

Next, but certainly no less exciting was the arrival of proof copies of the US edition of The Confectioner’s Tale from St Martin’s Press! It’s also due to be published in hardback in September 2016 and I can’t wait to see the finished copies. In the meantime, I’ll have to be content with these exclusive proofs:

The Confectioner's Tale US

TCT is also included in the free sampler Macmillan have produced for their autumn releases, which you can download from NetGalley or Edelweiss. I’ll also be holding a giveaway of some proof copies over the next week or two, so keep an eye out for that.

Next up, the German edition of TCT, entitled Die Tochter des Patissiers, which is due to be released by Bastei Luebbe in, oh, a week’s time! Exciting! More on that then.

Friday Cake Time: Tiramisu Cake

tiramisu cake
I LOVE tiramisu. Love, love love it. What’s not to love? Booze, coffee, mascarpone… But, it’s hard to stick birthday candles in tiramisu. So, a few years ago I came up with this hybrid: tiramisu cake! All the flavours of tiramisu, masquerading as a cake. I made it again recently for a very important birthday, so thought I’d share it with everyone here.

Tiramisu Cake

Overall preparation time: 35-40 minutes
Baking time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients:
For the cake:

  • 175g butter, very soft (but not melted)
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free-range eggs, beaten
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp strong coffee
  • 1 tbsp brandy
For the filling and topping*:
  • 4 tbsp strong, cold coffee
  • 6 tbsp brandy (or amaretto, if you prefer)
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • A couple of squares of good quality dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • A handful coffee beans (to decorate)
Allons-y!
The cake:
  1. Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.
  2. Grease and line the bottoms of two 20cm cake tins.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, along with a tablespoon of flour to stop the mixture from splitting.
  5. Sift in the remaining flour and baking powder, and fold in gently.
  6. Carefully stir in the vanilla, coffee and brandy.
  7. Spoon into the cake tins and bake for 30-35 minutes, until risen and golden and the sponge springs back when pressed.
  8. Leave to cool in the tins for a minute or two, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
The filling:
  1. Whilst the cakes are still just warm, turn them over and drizzle the undersides alternately with the coffee and 4 tbsp of the brandy.
  2. Place the mascarpone in a bowl, along with the icing sugar and remaining 2 tbsp brandy and beat together.
  3. When the cakes are cool, smooth half the mascarpone over the bottom cake.
  4. Finely grate the dark chocolate over the mascarpone, then sandwich the other cake on top.
  5. Smooth mascarpone over the top layer.
  6. When you’re ready to serve the cake, dust the top liberally with cocoa powder, decorate with coffee beans and stand back, to survey your masterpiece.

 

* If you’re a fan of lots of topping and filling, you can always double up the quantities here; in my experience it results in slightly too much to be feasible for one cake, but hey, you can always eat the rest of it on its own…

 

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

The Confectioner’s Tale… The Audiobook!

With the rush towards Christmas, page-proofing, new writing and an overload of mulled things, it completely slipped my mind to say that a few weeks ago, The Confectioner’s Tale was released as an audiobook!

the confectioner's tale audiobook

Very exciting of course; but also more than a little strange to hear my words read aloud by someone else for the first time! It’s read by Julie Teal (who has also narrated The Saffron Trail and The Honours, amongst many other things).

If you’re so inclined, you can get your hands on a copy – and hear a sample – at Audible, iTunes, Amazon or, wherever you usually get your audiobooks from.

More news soon on new book releases, foreign versions and general cakery.

L x

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.