Tasty things I've made
Mini cupcakes

First you’ll need a vast amount of mini cupcake cases that your sister keeps buying you because they look cute. If you don’t have a sister, I believe these things are available in the shops.

You’ll also need something to hold the cases. In this case you can buy mini silicone cupcake cases in pastel shades from M&S because they look cute. You don’t need a sister for this bit as they’re useful as well as cute and therefore you’re allowed to buy them yourself. The useful bit is mainly because they stack in a tiny space unlike bun tins or muffin tins, which you will scratch when you try to jam them in to a cupboard because you own more cake tins than is normal (although proportional to the number of recipe books you own, apparently this is also Odd).  If your bun tins are made of aluminium or steel then you will scratch the nice trays that you own.  Best not to dwell on this too much more as it’s painful. Poor lovely Tefal square cake pan.  So, I am now a fan of silicone cases for buns…although of course they are rubbish for pastry. 

Where was I? Mini cupcakes…

OK, 24 mini cupcake cases in some kind of receptacle.  Make up a 1 egg Victoria sponge mix (2 oz sugar and butter, beaten until you’re tired, ett egg as they say in Norway, beaten in, and flour, folded in as gently as you have patience for).

If you’re adding goodies this will fill all the 24 cases comfortably. If you’re not then you will probably not quite fill all of them or will under fill and make up for it with buttercream.  Buttercream makes up for an awful lot in this life and I’m hoping it applies to the next one too.

This is what I did with this batch:

Camp coffee and chopped walnuts. I want to be pure and use freshly brewed espresso for my coffee cakes but in my opinion fresh coffee (a) doesn’t make cakes taste of coffee and (b) makes them taste of ashtrays.  Odd, but there you go (see reference to recipe books, quantity of owned, above). So a big dash of Camp coffee, be generous (as much as a tablespoon, just for this quantity).  Make sure none of the walnuts are horribly dark which they often are in mixed packets. They’ll taste horrid and you’ll be sorry but it’ll be too late.  I used about 1 oz of chopped walnuts for this 1 egg batch which is a big proportion but the texture is so nice I think it’s worth while.

Lemon. Organic because I worry the non-organic ones are more likely to have been sprayed with Pledge or something. Probably not.  Wash them all the same and take the zest off with the small grater using quick movements so you get little crumbs of zest that won’t bother people who don’t like bits. A zester may be used and it is fascinating and addictive but will result in Bits.  Then the juice of about 1/3 of the lemon should do.

Chocolate chip. Add some cocoa to the mix, but not just a dash because it won’t be enough.  I think you want a good 1/2 ounce in this to make it rich and dark.  Add a little liquid such as milk (cream, yoghurt, sour cream all good stuff).  (Probably not gin). (Although…).  Make some chocolate small. If you don’t have a powerful scientific machine for this, preferably wielded by an eccentric boffin, maybe in a cellar or tower, you can use a knife.  Using a sharp knife on dark chocolate lets you shave it which is more efficient than chipping chocolate all over the kitchen.  I put about 5 squares worth in to this batch and it could have had more - allow between 1/2 and 1 and 1/2 ounces. 

Another time I plan to do almond and jam, a favourite of mine, tiny Victoria sponges, and ginger, but I have yet to work out the flavourings.

Put heapedish teaspoons (not quite as much as a heaped teaspoon, more than a…you don’t need this explained, surely) in to the cases, trying to keep them roughly the same, but accepting that one or two of them will be smaller or larger than the rest and that you may have to eat this evidence.  Then bake - this isn’t quite as crucial as people will claim but I did these at 170c in a fan oven for about 12 minutes (set the timer for ten, and then go “ah, they want to be a little darker” when it goes off). 

Cool, and ice.  Make buttercream icing by beating tons of icing sugar in to a little butter. Take a third of the icing and put it in a small bowl. Add flavouring, ice cakes (put a small teaspoon on top of the cake and then smooth it approximately over the cake with the back of the spoon).  This will take some patience and you may have to eat some more mistakes at this stage. 

If you’re me at this stage you can realise you didn’t make enough butter icing, and decide to only do the lemon and coffee ones on the grounds that chocolate isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.  If you are more organised do all three, preferably using melted chocolate to flavour your icing rather than cocoa.  Use lemon juice for the lemon (aha) and Camp coffee for the coffee.  Butter icing is quite forgiving, add more icing sugar if required because you were a bit wobbly with the flavouring quantity - especially in cakes this size you it doesn’t matter if it’s terribly sweet as (most) people will probably only eat a couple.

If you have time the coffee ones are nice with extra chopped walnuts on the top.

Try not to say “oooh cute little tiniest baby cakelets in the whole world” too often, especially at the train station the next morning. Even if you show people the cakes they still think you are strange. You can ignore this rule with the people who are going to eat the cakes as they will forgive you anything providing you eventually shut up and let them at the tin.

Simple eh?  I don’t know what Delia makes such a fuss about. 

Madeleines

Throw some desiccated coconut in to a normal Victoria sponge mix (I did 5oz of coconut to an 8oz sponge mix). Add a little vanilla essence too. Divide in to bun cases - about 2oz of mixture in a fairy cake case should produce a nicely rounded but not too big cake. When the cakes are cool: Heat some seedless jam (I sieved home made raspberry jam) until it’s liquid but not boiling. Tip more desiccated coconut in to a bowl. One by one, brush the whole surface of the cake with the warm jam, not so thick as to have it running down the sides, and then dip and roll it in the bowl of coconut until evenly and prettily covered. Ideally you would also add a glace cherry on top of a blob of buttercream for that complete 1970s cafe look. Stand well back before the crowds arrive.

Banana traybake with walnuts and sultanas
  • 4 oz sunflower spread, softened
  • 4.5 oz white sugar
  • 1.5 oz muscovado sugar
  • 1 and a half large, very ripe (but not brown) bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 10 oz s/r flour with a pinch of salt and a half a teaspoon of baking powder
  • Splash of vanilla essence
  • Cereal bowl half and half full of walnut pieces and sultanas
  1. Beat the sunflower spread and both sugars with a wooden spoon. Harden your ears to its protests. 
  2. Find some space on the worktop and get out the food chopper thingummybob.  Blend the banana until completely liquid and smooth.  You may wish to laugh manically as you do this. 
  3. Beat the eggs and the banana in to the sugar/spread mix. Worry a bit that it looks curdled and…
  4. Swiftly add the flour and beat a bit more until smooth. Nobody will ever know of your near brush with failure.
  5. Splash in the splash of vanilla essence.  You can measure a teaspoon and a half, if you want.  I wouldn’t, but you can. Stir it in.
  6. Throw in the bowl of bits and pieces. Stir through.
  7. Tip the whole lot in to a lined, 9 inch square tin. 
  8. Cook at 150C for about 25 minutes (you can watch Jeeves and Wooster while you wait, like me, if you really want to follow the technique to the end). Check and find that it’s pretty much cooked but not appetisingly golden on top. Turn the heat up to 170C and cook until you like the look and smell of it.  This will probably be about 10 minutes.  I have an electric fan oven - if you use gas, solid fuel, nuclear or the power of positive thinking to cook with, you will need to adapt the time and temp accordingly.
  9. Cool a bit then lift out the lined cake and cool on a rack. Slice in to 12 pieces or more or less depending on how optimistic you are about it. 

My audience assured me it was very good. Personally I don’t like banana cake that much but I think the sultanas helped stop it from going too moist and the nuts add something more interesting to the texture. As banana cakes go it’s all right.