Claire McDonald (from the brilliant Crumbs! blog)
on Royal Wedding cake maker Fiona Cairns…
and a recipe from her latest book, ‘Bake & Decorate’
Despite being very much a cake-eating person, I’m not really a cake-making person. My ability to munch on carrot cake, a macaroon, or slice of Battenburg knows no bounds, but when it comes to baking I’m very much stuck on lemon drizzle….no bad thing as it is delicious, but as mother of a three-and-a-half year-old, and an 18-month-old I can see that I am going to have to broaden my repertoire. The eldest has already lisped his way through a request for rithe crithpy caketh, and who can resist that?
My sis, Lucy, on the other hand, has a five year old and a three year old, so is at least two years ahead of me on the cake-baking front. She can whip up an apple cake or a Victoria sponge in no time. So you’d think that if you put us together, you’d get a good cake (from her) and a clean kitchen (from me, licking the bowl and surrounding surfaces).
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. We’ve baked together twice, and each time it was a disaster. Most recently was last week when we tried to make some fairy cakes. Too much chatting and not enough care was taken, and the end result was an exploding mess which ended up straight in the bin. We’re not quite sure how we did it (OK, it was me) but some of the cakes were volcanic eruptions while others sank almost without trace.
Luckily the recipe was a super-fast one from Bake and Decorate by Fiona Cairns, so we whipped up the ingredients again, properly, and the results were delectable. Fluffy bite-size treats topped with creme fraiche and a drizzle of lemon curd. Which makes me realise, despite my attempts to broaden my cake-baking horizons, I’m back to the lemon drizzle.
Fiona Cairn’s Victoria Sponge Fairy Cakes
Start to finish: 10 minutes making, 15 minutes baking
175g unsalted butter - at room temperature
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, lightly beaten
175g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
400g tub creme fraiche - full or half fat, whichever you prefer
a jar of lemon curd
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C
Put fairy cake cases into fairy cake trays ready to be filled with mixture.
Fiona suggests sifting the flour, but to be honest, I never bother. So put it straight into a basin with the baking powder, the butter in knobs, eggs, sugar and vanilla essence. Then with a handheld whisk, or electric mixer with beater attachment, beat the ingredients together. When thoroughly blended put a tablespoonful of the mixture into each cake case and pop in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean or the top of the cake springs back after you’ve pressed it down.
Place on a wire rack and wait for them to cool. In the meantime put a couple of tablespoons of lemon curd into the creme fraiche and stir in. When cakes are cool, put a dollop of creme fraiche mixture on each cake, and with a small teaspoon add an extra swirl of lemon curd.
We are two sisters with two husbands and four children between us aged between four and nine months. We live in opposite corners of London, but wished we lived next door to each other. Well most days.
We are not cooks, just women who like to eat. Claire likes fish, liver and oysters. Lucy likes tacos, roast chicken and coconut macaroons. We both like chocolate. And red wine. We want our children to love food too, but having said that, we want a life too. We both work, have friends and like gazing into the mid-distance doing nothing. This limits the amount of time we have to make our own pastry, peel potatoes or even, if we’re honest, grate cheese.
Claire – I’m the Queen of Cobble. Because I try to buy all ingredients from local shops, with two young children in tow, the cupboards are frequently bare. Which means, in my world, having garlic and onion in the same meal is a rare luxury. Luckily my personal philosophy towards ingredients lists in recipes is the shorter the better, so I look at an empty cupboard as a challenge.
I’m a journalist, and have worked at The Times for more than ten years. While there I have written, commissioned and edited pieces on everything from plastic surgery to tap dance, but have concentrated on food, children’s food and health.
Lucy – I’m the Queen of Ocado. If I dropped dead tomorrow, they would go bankrupt. Probably. But I buy meat, fish, cheese and seasonal fruit and veg from my local farmer’s market. I try to menu plan but often ruin it all by sneaking in a mid-week Thai takeaway. I have realised that the more organised I am, the better we all eat. That said, all the best laid plans of mice and men….
I’m a journalist too. I freelance for the national press and write about food, parenting and social trends. I am also a broadcast journalist and work regularly for Sky News and the BBC. I am the London correspondent for an Australian news show called “The 7pm Project”.
Claire and Lucy’s regular blog can be found at http://crumbsfeedyourfamily.blogspot.com/