December 11, 2006

Cake & conversation

I’ve been baking this weekend. Pretty much all weekend. I have had 2 dozen miniature christmas cakes all baked, marzipaned, iced and ready to be eaten & shared. There are still quite a few left, but I have to tell you they go very well with a good cup of tea, or coffee, or even on their own. There was a lesson in the exercise. Never assume you can use an Australian (or any English) recipe in France. What I discovered in the midst of the baking frenzy is that ‘cream of tartar’ & ‘baking powder’ are like gold dust here in Paris – there are whole websites written by expats on the stuff – definitely articles to be included in any care packages you want to send this way….

In the afternoon yesterday we went along to an ‘expat’ afternoon at the local English bookstore. The afternoon was billed as a discussion on literary Paris with DIANE JOHNSON, author of Into a Paris Quartier, and JOHN BAXTER, author of We’ll Always Have Paris. It was full. Quite civilised. Wine was served, chairs set out, and 50 or 60 anglos, mostly from the US waited patiently to hear some words from these two. It was quite interesting, but also quite depressing. Francophiles (those that don’t live here) generally have such a rose tinted view of Paris, real life can be difficult to live up to.

RECIPE for Mini Christmas Cakes
Makes 28 cakes (although my molds gave me 16)

770g chopped mixed dried fruit (I used dried pineapple, papaw, sultanas, apricots, glace orange peel)
40ml Grand Marnier
160g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch mixed spice
pinch ground nutmeg
140g soft butter, chopped
120g dark brown sugar
40ml treacle (or maple syrup)
3 x 55g eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
150g marzipan (almond paste)

Decoration: edible silver leaf (or glace orange peel or whatever!)

Royal Icing:
2 egg whites
250g icing sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Place dried fruit in a bowl and stir in liqueur. Sift dry ingrediants into another bowl. Preheat oven to 170 degrees celcius. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar and treacle until light and fluffy. Gradually add eggs, vanilla and zest, and beat until combined, adding a little flour mixture to prevent curdling. Stir in remaining flour mixture and fruit mixture, then spoon into 28 x 50ml capacity lightly greased fluted molds. Place on an oven tray and bake for 15 mins until browned (mine took 25 minutes – because the molds were bigger).

For Royal Icing, using an electric mixer, whisk whites until frothy. Gradually add sugar and cream of tartar and whisk until mixture is thick and holds a peak. Cover closely with plastic wrap to prevent drying.

Roll teaspoons of marzipan into balls and flatten. Using wet fingers, place marzipan on top of cakes. Using a palate knife, spread icing over cakes in peaks. Leave to set firmly.

Decorate with silver leaf before serving or packing as gifts. Cakes without silver leaf will keep in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

filles at 2:57 pm

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