Number 4/5

Today’s post is a tad more medical; I could not let this recent news simply slip away without informing you. Rumour has it that polio (poliomyelitis – a highly contagious potentially permanently paralysing virus transmitted through contaminated food/water) is making a comeback after having been almost eradicated for the past 25 years (with a 99% decrease in case numbers since 1988). Prevention through surveillance and multiple vaccinations (live oral polio vaccine or inactivated poliovirus vaccine) are the only way to fight this virus, as no cure is available, and has proven to be successful in eradicating the disease until recently. With newly reported infections in 10 countries (previously only Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan were classified as endemic), the WHO declared it a public health emergency earlier this week. So, I urge you to check your vaccinations and those of your children (or children in your surroundings)!!!, especially if you are travelling to a known polio-infected country – inform yourself and update your vaccinations as soon as possible, not only for your own protection but also in aid of the global eradication efforts!

Anyways… moving from the serious medical world to the world of baking: I present you with yet another cake baked for the March birthday celebrations. This is also an old family recipe created by none other than Martha, my previously mentioned grandmothers former housekeeper. It is a traditional yeast Gugelhupf with raisins. As a child I used to always pick the raisins out before indulging in this cake…. I could hit myself for that, a Gugelhupf without raisins is only half as good. So if you don’t like raisins in cake, don’t even try baking this one. And the rumour of these yeast cakes being dry is a lie, if you have only had dry Gugelhupf so far, your choice of bakery must be revised ;-).

Martha’s Gugelhupf

IMG_2063

Continue reading

Number 3/5

With spring finally having arrived, spending time outside seems to have won priority over slaving away in the kitchen. But here is a recipe which is definitely a keeper. After having played around with multiple banana loaf recipes resulting in quite a few failures (somehow loaf cakes and myself are not friends, they either don’t rise, don’t have enough banana flavour, or I undercook them with the fear of having dry cake, subsequently breaking them upon removal from the tin), I finally managed to create a loaf which not only rose adequately but was also moist, perfectly bananaey and scrumptious :-). This one was also baked for the previously mentioned birthday festivities. It can be made up to a day in advance and turns out best if one uses overripe bananas for the ultimate banana flavour.

Banana Pecan Loaf

IMG_2057

Continue reading

Number 2/5

Following the previous post, I present you with cake number 2 of 5 baked for the birthday festivities. A true must for both chocolate and amaretti lovers. Amaretti are possibly my favourite biscuits, they should be yours too. And don’t get me started on Amaretto, the tastiest liquor ever created. Those sours are dangerous. Remind me again why I decided to give up alcohol for Lent? At least there are only 22 days left and Fortnum’s Easter sponge pudding (honey, amaretto & almond sponge pudding with a soft chocolate centre….nom) waiting at the end of it. Not to forget the amaretto butter topping, Easter dessert wouldn’t be half as good without it.

Enough about Amaretto. This cake, like the Linzer, is best after having rested in a cool place (e.g. cellar) for a day or two. Perfect if you have a lot of baking or cooking planned!

Chocolate Amaretti Loaf Cake

IMG_2079 - Version 2

adapted from Wildeisen

Continue reading

Martha’s Linzer Torte

Birthdays are funny things. The hype around celebrating them seems to come in two phases. The first one starts with birth and lasts probably until 25. At 25, after having (hopefully) graduated and joined the real working world, every reminder of age is given the evil eye and subconsciously creates internal stress: career-wise, relationships, friendships, financially, where to go in life, aaaahhhh….! Recently I saw a 15 page CV….. how am I ever going to fill so many pages in the next few years? Too much to do and so little time. Also, if you’re female, mid twenties-thirties and single, I’m sure you can relate to this dialogue from When Harry Met Sally:

Sally: AND, I’m gonna be forty.
Harry: When?
Sally: Someday
Harry: In eight years.
Sally: But it’s there. It’s just sitting there, like some big dead end. And it’s not the same for men.

The second phase of celebratory hypes starts round about retirement age, 60 years, and lasts for the rest of your life (YAY some celebrations at the end of the 40 year working tunnel). Last week we celebrated a very special birthday within the family. Planning for the 3 day weekend (apparently the older one gets, the longer one wants to celebrate, one day isn’t enough) had begun months before. The closer we came, the only thing on the birthday boy’s mind was the party. The excitement was comparable to that of a 4 year old eating chocolate cake for the first time. Being 23, I didn’t quite understand how one could be sooooo excited about getting older, but I guess the older one gets the more appreciative one becomes of age and life (oooooo words of wisdom…. :-P). Let me get back to you about that when I turn 60.

With a guest list close to 50 and a Sunday morning plan of coffee, tea and cakes, no more needed to be said. I successfully took on my first cake marathon and baked 5. Luckily some cakes, like the one below, are best baked 2 days in advance. This made life a little easier, however with the additional skiing, small-talking and remaining birthday madness, sleep deprivation was to be expected.

Finally, about this first cake: my mother grew up with a nanny/maid called “Martha”. She joined the family when my mother was born and stayed for 50 years. Martha was like a grandmother to me. She could also bake like a goddess; her cakes were divine. The Linzer Torte (swiss style, not Austrian and overly spiced) is one of her recipes. Deciphering her jumbled handwriting and trying to follow her thoughts wasn’t the easiest, but definitely worth it. Sadly she passed away a few years ago, but she is always remembered when one of us decides to whip up a cake for a special occasion. The Linzer has become somewhat of a family tradition. With its special almond paste filling and generous layer of jam, it’s always a winner.

Martha’s Linzer Torte

IMG_2064

Continue reading

Nutella Cupcakes

In my last post I mentioned baking 72 cupcakes in an extremely hungover state, which is admittedly the second best cure to recover from intoxication. These cupcakes are truly a MUST for Nutella lovers. A Nutella filled center and Nutella based icing…. what more can a Nutella monster ask for?

A small bonus for all Nutella fans amongst you: check this out. It is even shaped like the jar!

Nutella Cupcakes

IMG_1127

Continue reading

Peanut Butter Surprise

After having lived in London for a couple of months, I decided to finally invite a few friends over for a cupcake and prosecco themed housewarming afternoon on a Saturday. My day turned out to be everything but how I’d planned it. Friday nights are unpredictable. Let me give you a quick summary of what not to do the night before you hold a party:

It started with dinner at the cosmopolitan time of 10.45 pm in Mayfair, including pre-dinner drinks and plenty of alcohol to accompany our meal. After having built up a base with chinese food, the night continued with bottles of prosecco in a place called Novikov for birthday nr.1. By this time it was already about 2am and we hadn’t even properly gotten started (truth is , my initial aim was to head home latest at 1.30, wake up at 9am and start baking my 72 cupcakes. Clearly I had missed the moment). One birthday doesn’t seem enough to celebrate on a night, so we crashed another one in some members club on Jermyn Street. As swanky and nice as this party was, the vibe wasn’t working for our group and no one seemed to be ready to head home. What is left at 3.30am on a Friday night? Raffles in Chelsea with lots and lots and lots of vodka. No more details needed.

By 5 or 5.30am, 4 hours after planned, I managed to stumble up my staircase (5 floors, no biggie when in heels and completely drunk), change into my pj’s and pass out on my bed. Sadly, I forgot to charge my dead iPhone before passing out. My alarm, which had been set for 9am, didn’t go off. When I opened my eyes for the first time the next day they were greeted with sunshine and the clearest blue sky. It was already 11:30am. Damnit. My drunken swiss discipline kicked in and within just over 3 hours I had baked and iced 72 cupcakes (3 different flavors). I have never drunken so much water in such a short period of time without having to pee once. Luckily my housewarming offered the perfect evidence-based cure for my hangover: alcohol 🙂

As for these cupcakes: I wanted to try something new and stumbled across Ferrero Rochers opposite the baking section in my supermarket. In my mind the combination with peanut butter seemed amazing, worth a try. I wasn’t sure if they’d survive the heat of the oven in one piece, but they did!

Peanut Butter Surprise Cupcakes

IMG_1918

Continue reading

Hummingbird Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

One of the most beautiful combinations known to the baking world strikes again: take two on the chocolate and orange. Recently having moved to London, as a food lover, one explores all grocery stores, little cafes, restaurants and bakeries in the area. Surprised yet excited, I was happy to note that this combination has been commercialized over here. Who knew chocolate orange kit kats exist? Chocolate orange flavored smarties? Chocolate orange macarons in Fortnum & Mason? Who would think they’d stumble across chocolate orange cupcakes in every cupcake shop? Well done to the English for that, maybe you could spread your wisdom to the mainland europeans by the end of the year!

These cupcakes were inspired by a bag of mini jaffa cakes which had been sitting in the cupboard for quite a while. Initially I wanted to make vanilla cupcakes with an orange marmalade center “jaffa cake style”… but then I gave in. Luckily I changed my minds…the cupcakes were great!

Hummingbird Chocolate Orange Cupcakes 

IMG_1730

Continue reading