Madeleines have got to be one of my favourite things to bake (and no, of course I’m not biased!) They’re sweet, petite, take only a few ingredients, a fraction of the baking time of a larger cake, and bring so much happiness. The last batch I baked disappeared alongside a pot of tea in around ten minutes. These cakes might be simple, but they’re fiendishly moreish.
The scallop-shape of the madeleine apparently dates – according to baking mythology at least – from the 18th century. One story relates how Madeleine Paulmier, a cook for Stanislaus I, duke of Lorraine and exiled King of Poland, was forced to improvise a dessert, and on the spur of the moment baked the little cakes in scallop shells. Of course, the scallop shell is also inextricably linked to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, another place where these cakes may have originated…
Whatever the history, madeleines continue to charm whoever eats them. They’re especially magnificent when dipped in tea – a la Proust – or in my case, coffee.
With this recipe, I’ve tried to bring together the simple elegance of a classic French madeleine, with the spices and flavours that, for me, signify winter and the festive season. I’ve replaced classic lemon zest with orange, and added saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon and a dash of clove to call to mind those intoxicating scents and flavours that make you feel as if you’re being wrapped in homely, kitchen warmth having come in from the cold.
P.s. I infused my caster sugar with a cinnamon stick, a handful of cloves and a fresh nutmeg for a week or two before using it. It smells amazing, and is a useful thing to have around in the festive season!
- small pinch of saffron strands
- 1 tbsp milk
- 4-5 whole cloves
- 2 free-range eggs
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 100g butter, plus extra for greasing
- zest of 1/2 orange
- 100g self-raising flour (or 100g of plain flour and 3/4 tsp baking powder)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- fresh nutmeg
For the spiced sugar:
- 1 1/2 tbsp golden caster sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- fresh nutmeg
- Pre-heat your oven to 200C / 400F / Gas mark 6. Brush your madeleine tin with melted butter and dust with a little flour.
- Place the saffron strands into a bowl or pan with the milk and cloves and warm gently, either in the microwave for a few seconds, or over the hob. Set aside to cool and infuse.
- Whisk together the eggs and caster sugar until light and frothy.
- Melt the butter and leave to cool slightly, then stir in along with the orange zest.
- Remove the cloves from the milk. Add the milk and saffron to the cake mixture.
- Sift in the flour and cinnamon and a good grating of fresh nutmeg. Stir gently to combine.
- Leave to rest for a few minutes, then spoon into the prepared tins, so that they are 3/4 full.
- Bake for around 8-10 minutes, or until risen and pale golden. Place the tray on a wire rack to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, grind the caster sugar in a pestle and mortar (or with a spice grinder) until it has a finer texture – somewhere between caster and icing sugar.
- Place it on a plate with the cinnamon and another good grating of nutmeg and stir together.
- Quickly, while the cakes are still warm, roll them around in the sugar.
- Serve fresh, with a cup of tea, coffee or even mulled wine…
You can find my recipe for blackberry madeleines in today’s edition of Domestic Sluttery!
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So today marks publication day for the US edition of The Confectioner’s Tale! I’m thrilled that this little book – which I feel like I started so many years ago – will now be available across the pond; not only in paperback, but in gorgeous, petite-sized hardback as well!
I’m beyond delighted to be published by St Martin’s Press; the team there have been fantastic and supportive, and I can’t wait to work with them on future books.
To celebrate the launch, I’m running a giveaway of TWO signed (and personalized, if you like) hardback copies of The Confectioner’s Tale. If you’d like to enter, just leave me a comment below before 1st October 2016 at 23:59 (GMT), and I’ll pick the winners at random.
In case you missed it the first time (and because, of course, a celebration means cake) here’s a link to the St Germain Cake I created to mark the book’s original release.
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.
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
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)
- Pre-heat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Grease and line a 450g / 1lb loaf tin.
- 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.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Stir together the flour and almonds in a bowl.
- 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.
- Stir in the cooled hazelnuts.
- Tip into your prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top.
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Return the liquid to the pan and reduce over a low heat again until thickened, another 4-5 minutes or so.
- Set aside and stir regularly: you’ll need to use this quite quickly before it sets, so have that cake ready.
- Prick holes in the top of the cake whilst still warm and drizzle over the remaining 2 tbsps of sloe gin.
- Remove from the paper and place on a wire rack. (You might want something underneath – this bit gets messy).
- 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.
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.
Overall preparation time: 35-40 minutes
Baking time: 30-35 minutes
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)
- Preheat your oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3.
- Grease and line the bottoms of two 20cm cake tins.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time, along with a tablespoon of flour to stop the mixture from splitting.
- Sift in the remaining flour and baking powder, and fold in gently.
- Carefully stir in the vanilla, coffee and brandy.
- Spoon into the cake tins and bake for 30-35 minutes, until risen and golden and the sponge springs back when pressed.
- Leave to cool in the tins for a minute or two, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Whilst the cakes are still just warm, turn them over and drizzle the undersides alternately with the coffee and 4 tbsp of the brandy.
- Place the mascarpone in a bowl, along with the icing sugar and remaining 2 tbsp brandy and beat together.
- When the cakes are cool, smooth half the mascarpone over the bottom cake.
- Finely grate the dark chocolate over the mascarpone, then sandwich the other cake on top.
- Smooth mascarpone over the top layer.
- 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.