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Ok, so I have an apology and a confession to make; first of all, an apology to H R Moore that this has taken me forever. I promise that I did actually start this on 28th January but shockingly I have only just completed this. So I am sorry, I have no excuses, I'm just useless.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend Monday(27th January) in the company of the wonderful H R Moore, best friend and author of yours truly. It was a wonderful tea and conversation filled day. It would seem that I have an infinite capacity for both. But it wasn't all fun and games. Work was involved as well you know.
Now as you are all aware, I am amateur baker extraordinaire (in my mind at least) and H R Moore is a brilliant author who has written an amazing book, that I urge you all to read, called Legacy of the Mind. The idea of collaborating to create some of the food from Legacy of the Mind was first suggested back in the Autumn of 2013 when I spent a day feeling progressively more hungover as time wore on, on H R Moore's sofa in her Maida Vale flat, discussing the state of my life, pinning on Pinterest (a favourite past time of mine) and of course the book. It was when we were on Pinterest, looking largely at pictures of cake and pointing out whenever we came across something that we thought Cordelia would make or something that would be eaten at one of the lavish parties, that we decided it would be fun for us to cook some of the things from the book.
So there we were on Monday, H R Moore with a day off from her 9-5 (if there is such a thing) job and me in my current status as freelancer, ready to bake like Cordelia. Those of you who haven't read Legacy of the Mind won't have a clue what I'm talking about when I say ready to bake like Cordelia so let me do my best to explain who Cordelia is and what I think it would be like to be in her house. (Obviously you'll have to read the book to see if you agree with me or not!).
Cordelia is the grandmother and guardian of the book's heroine Anita. For me, Cordelia's house is a wonderfully homely place where you instantly feel at ease and welcome. There is always something either baking in the oven or cooling on the side when you are there. It's one of the ways that Cordelia shows that she cares about you, by always producing a pot of tea and a delicious cake right on queue because there aren't many situations that can't be improved with tea and cake.
Now I got thoroughly carried away during the concept phase and H R Moore had to rein me in slightly ("Of course we can bake seven different things in a day!") and the decision was taken to make three different cakes, two of which are specifically mentioned in the book: chocolate and beetroot cake, toasted oat and coconut muffins and pumpkin cake with nutmeg icing. I've always been keen to try a chocolate and beetroot cake and the only pumpkin cake I'd had previously was one made by my mother which was absolutely delicious so I was delighted with the decision.
The great thing about these recipes was that two of them (ok technically all three having never actually put beetroot in a cake before) gave me the opportunity to use two new ingredients - coconut oil and tinned pumpkin puree.
We started by making the chocolate and beetroot cake which is lovely loaf cake. Now we've learned our lesson so that you don't have to; the recipe only actually calls for one good-sized beetroot, no more, no less. It's hard to be sure but there may have been a slight beetroot surplus... It was a really quick and easy recipe from the BBC Good Food website, and much like a carrot cake, it doesn't contain any butter but uses vegetable oil instead. In fact, I would say that it is exactly like making a carrot cake. Ours took quite a lot longer than an hour to cook, probably closer to an hour and 20 minutes and I would recommend that you remove the cake from the oven when a skewer comes out with a little bit of mixture on it (not much though) to ensure that the result is a delicious and moist chocolate cake.
I really enjoyed the flavour of the cake, and you would never know that it contained beetroot but I would definitely remove it from the oven earlier than we did. And what's the best way to serve it? With a nice big spoonful of creme fraiche on the side. Delicious.
So that was one cake down leading us on to oatmeal and coconut muffins. H R Moore found this recipe on a blog called Nothing but Delicious and I liked this recipe because it gave me the opportunity to do some things that I had never done before. I toasted oats without burning them which took a surprisingly long time but if you persevere then you will reach the point where they smell like popcorn. I also used coconut oil which I never used before. I can only really describe it as looking like a jar of candle wax and it is a bit tricky to measure out accurately but we seemed to manage as our muffins were neither wet nor dry. Again, it's a really simple recipe but it is more time consuming from a preparation point of view than the beetroot cake. The oats take quite a long time to toast, maybe 10 minutes or so, and then you have to leave the muffin mix to rest for 20 minutes before it go into the oven and then cook them in batches (depending on how many muffin tins you have) so they can take a little while to make.
The really lovely thing about this recipe is that you can personalise it by choosing your own add-ins. We went for three different add-ins to create three slightly different varieties; pumpkin seed and walnut, dried mango, and shredded coconut. This was I discovered a love of dried mango, it's a miracle that there was any left to go into the muffins! You can also get creative by putting different sprinkles on the top of the muffins although I personally thought pumpkin seeds and chopped walnuts looked really good. I think the following would also work well as additions for these muffins: dried/crystallised pineapple pieces for a really tropical feel, plain chocolate if you're feeling a bit naughty or banana if you've got some slightly overripe bananas lying around that you don't know what to do with.
Chocolate and beetroot cake and toasted oat and coconut muffins
And then third but not least, we made my personal favourite on the day, the pumpkin and walnut cake. As it is my favourite I have included the recipe for it below. It also, as mentioned previously, presented me with the opportunity to use yet another ingredient that I hadn't previously used but had often seen and been intrigued by, a tin of pumpkin puree. It's quite readily available and I was able to pick up a tin from the little Waitrose in Parsons Green and it can only really be described as baby mush but it does make for a wonderful cake.
As with the chocolate and beetroot cake, this is another cake recipe that uses oil instead of butter (although there's plenty of butter in the icing!), and the combination of the vegetables with the oil made for another very more-ish and soft cake. It's quite a sweet sponge but the walnuts keep it grounded by giving it an earthiness and the nutmeg in the icing took the edge off the sweetness of the icing itself. All in all, it was an extremely well balanced cake and I think it might have become my new favourite, not least of all because you can kid yourself that it's healthy!
It was an extremely satisfying day of tea and cake and I think that Cordelia would have been proud of us both. I would definitely want to have tea at her house, especially if she had just made a pumpkin and walnut cake!
Pumpkin cake with nutmeg icing, recipe from: www.thesouthernladycooks.com
3 eggs 1 tin of 100% pumpkin 3/4 cup of vegetable oil 1 1/2 cups of caster sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 cups of plain flour 1/2 tsp salt 2 tsps baking powder 2 tsps ground cinnamon 1 cup walnut pieces
8oz cream cheese (do not use a low fat cream cheese or the icing will be too runny) 1 stick softened butter 2 cups of icing sugar 1 tsp grated nutmeg 1 tsp vanilla extract
Cream eggs, pumpkin, oil, sugar and vanilla together with a mixer.
In a separate bowl, sieve together the flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon and then add to the pumpkin mixture and mix well.
Fold in the walnuts.
Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish and pour in the cake mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the cake is done, springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.
While you wait for the cake to cool, make the icing.
To make the icing, beat together the icing ingredients until smooth and the spread on top of the cooled sponge.
By the way, you can buy Legacy of the Mind here:
You can read more from Philippa on her blog FOIEGRASANDPETTICOATS