With An A to Z of Love officially released tomorrow (although it is already on sale at certain online retailers) it seems very appropriate that I’m in Wales this week, enjoying some unexpected summer sunshine, and celebrating with my family. I’ll have a proper release post up tomorrow, and from the following Monday I’ll be blog touring all over the place, with posts and extracts from the book for you to enjoy.
But in the meantime, back to the celebrating!
Yesterday, my parents help their (hopefully) annual summer party. Amongst other things, we celebrated my lovely sister-in-law’s thirtieth birthday, my uncle’s birthday, an assortment of wedding anniversaries, my dad’s new job… and my new book! Which makes it a sort of a launch party, right?
While preparing for the party over the last couple of weeks, I asked what I could do or make to help out. My father’s answer was straightforward enough – he wanted a classic Victoria sponge with buttercream and raspberry jam. Mum wanted a cake to use for the birthday cake, so that was both wishes catered for in one simple, scrummy cake.
My brother Mike, however, wanted Grasshopper Pie.
Mike, it seems, has been watching far too many cookery programmes lately. And having watched Nigella Lawson make this pie, he thought it would be perfect for the party. I pointed out that it was bright cream and that the star ingredient was crème de menthe, but he wouldn’t relent. And since it turned out I could make it a week ahead and freeze it, I figured, why not? Nobody would eat it, I reasoned, except Mike, but it would look fun, and there’d be plenty of other puddings.
Turned out, I was wrong.
Bake 27: Grasshopper Pie
I followed Nigella’s recipe from her book Kitchen for this, adapting it only slightly to make up for the shocking lack of crème de cacao in my local supermarkets.
For the base
- 300g bourbon biscuits
- 50g dark chocolate, chopped
- 50g unsalted butter
For the filling
- 150g mini marshmallows
- 125ml whole milk
- 3 squares of white chocolate
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 4 x 15ml tablespoons of crème de menthe
- 375ml double cream
- Green food colouring
- Process all biscuits except one with the chocolate in a food processor until they form a crumb mixture
- Add the butter and process until it all clumps together
- Press into a high sided tart tin with a loose base, smoothing the bottom and pressing up the sides.
- Put in the fridge to chill and harden
- Meanwhile melt the marshmallows and white chocolate with the milk over a gentle heat. When the milk starts to foam, take off the heat and stir until the mixture is smooth
- Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl then whisk in the crème de menthe and the vanilla extract. Leave until cooled
- Whisk the cream until it forms soft peaks then, still whisking, add the cooled mixture. Continue to whisk until the mix is combined, and forms a soft, thick filling
- Add drops of food colouring and mix in, until you reach your perfect green
- Spread the filling evenly into the chilled base, then cover and chill again overnight (or at least 4 hours) until firm. (Or wrap in clingfilm and foil and freeze, as I did, then defrost before serving)
- Crumble the remaining biscuit on top to decorate, then serve
Against all the odds, the Grasshopper Pie was a big hit. Mint and chocolate isn’t really my thing, but those who like it adored this pie.
Once puddings were out of the way, it was time for the birthday cake. For the Victoria Sponge, I followed Dad’s orders and hunted down the WI approved Hairy Biker’s recipe, which can be found on the BBC website here. I stayed faithful to the original recipe, as Dad had been so specific, although since I used slightly smaller tins, I was able to make four mini sponges for pudding the night before, too!
Bake 28: Classic Victoria Sponge
For the cake
- 250g/9oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 250g/9oz golden caster sugar
- 4 free-range eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 250g/9oz self-raising flour
For the butter cream
- 250g/9oz icing sugar
- 125g/4oz unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tsp hot water
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 250g/9oz good raspberry jam
- icing sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 180C/360F/Gas 4.
- For the cake, grease two 23cm/9in spring-form cake tins and line with baking parchment.
- Whisk the butter and the sugar in a bowl, using an electric whisk, until light and creamy for about five minutes(the mixture should be almost white in colour).
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating constantly until completely combined before adding the next egg. If the mixture starts to curdle you can rescue it by sprinkling in a tablespoon or so of the flour.
- Add the vanilla extract and fold in the flour.
- Divide the mixture between the two cake tins and place into the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes, or until completely cooked through. Test the cake is cooked by inserting a metal skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is cooked.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool for five minutes, then remove the cakes from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Meanwhile, for the butter cream, place the icing sugar, softened butter and hot water into a clean bowl. Mix well until completely combined and creamy.
- Add the cinnamon and mix well.
- To serve, trim the top off one of the cakes to make a level surface.
- Spread the raspberry jam over the top of the levelled cake surface, then cover the jam with a layer of the butter cream.
- Sandwich the second cake on the top and press down lightly.
- Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar and serve in generous slices.
Victoria Sponges always go down well, I think, and this one certainly did. Once we finally managed to get the candles to light, sing Happy Birthday, and let the kids blow them out, anyway…