Beetroot Cake

This is a lovely variation on a Victoria sponge, and really jazzed up with the addition of beetroot and cocoa powder. A nice way to use up a glut of beetroots, if you’re fortunate enough.

Boil 3 beetroots in water until cooked (can be prodded with a fork), leave to cool in cold water and then take off the skin when cool enough to handle – this should come off easily. Cut into small pieces or coarsely grate.

Cream together 175g/6oz caster sugar and 175g/6oz oz butter, add 4 beaten eggs plus 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence, and gently fold in 175g/6oz sifted self-raising flour (or plain flour plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder) mixed with 3 big dessert spoons of cocoa powder. Fold in the cut and cooked beetroot and then put in lined round 18cm/7 inch sandwich cake tins.

Stick in the oven at 175 degrees for about 20-25 minutes, test for readiness by pressing gently with a finger for springiness. Turn out onto a rack when cooled a bit.

Icing can be made by creaming equal weights of butter and icing sugar, with melted chocolate, some cream and liqueur of your choice. The pieces can be sandwiched together with a filling of rather tart jam, such as raspberry, or blackberry jelly.

Christmas Cake

These ingredients are enough for a 15cm/6” square tin or 18cm/7” round tin.

75g/3oz Caster Sugar
75g/3oz Soft Brown Sugar
175g/6oz Butter/Marg
3 Eggs
225g/8oz Flour
50g/2oz Ground Almonds
¼ tsp Nutmeg
½ tsp Mixed Spice
¼ tsp Salt
50g/2oz Walnuts
175g/6oz Sultanas
135g/5oz Raisins
110g/4oz Currants
60g/2½oz Cherries
30g/1oz Mixed Peel
60g/2½oz Apricots
1 Lemon (grated rind)
Optional several dessert spoons of Brandy/whiskey

Prepare the tin by lining it well with paper and ensuring that the inner layer is well greased. A couple of layers of newspaper and one of greaseproof paper usually works. Make sure that the ends of the paper extend well above the tin sides to help prevent burning.

Make sure that butter/marg  and eggs are at room temperature. You can prepare the fruit, nuts and grated lemon beforehand, by cutting, mixing and placing in a warm oven, covered in foil, for a while to let them plump up. You can also soak the fruit in some brandy or other spirit if you like a moist, boozy cake.

For the cake mixture, firstly put the sugars and butter/marg into a mixing bowl and cream together. Use a wooden spoon (or processor) and keep going until you have a fully blended smooth consistency, and you can’t feel any grittiness from the sugar.

Then break each egg into the mixture, beating well between each egg. If it begins to curdle, add some flour as you beat it.

When this is well beaten, mixed and rather liquid, gently and thoroughly fold in the flour, ground almond, spices and salt. A metal spoon and spatula is best, and DO NOT BEAT as this will result in a hard cake.

When the flour is fully incorporated, begin to gently stir in the fruit and nuts, scraping the spoon as you go to ensure an even distribution. This is a good time to make a wish as you stir the mixture! You can add some spirit at this stage if you wish, and even during cooking.

The principle for cooking is to put it in the middle of a medium oven (175oC/gas3) for 30 mins with a piece of foil on top; reduce the heat to 140oC/gas1 for about 2 hours; remove the foil and keep it in for another couple of hours, checking every so often to see if it is ready. It should be moist but firm, and a knitting needle should come out clean. It may take a lot longer, but that’s OK. Try and avoid the top getting burnt, but a slow, cool bake is best.

Traditionally, you can decorate with almond paste and royal icing, but instead, you could decorate the top with blanched almond slivers by lightly pressing them into the top before cooking. The cake will mature nicely if stored in an airtight container for several weeks. Regular addition of spirit will also ensure it stays moist.

There are plenty of recipes about, but this is a nice moist and fruity cake with which we have had consistent results. This recipe is adapted from one by Theodore Fitzgibbon.