Along the top shelf of my special corner, are books by very well known food writers plus a lot of Rosemary Conley books. I don’t think she would approve of Gary Rhodes and his little bit of butter, the amazing croissants and pastries, all using so much butter by Paul Hollywood but she might approve of some of the Jamie Oliver’s recipes. I do think that she would forgive me for my passion of books by Delia Smith and Mary Berry. I am trying very hard to do without diets for keeping trim and try to “keep everything in moderation”. Not working yet but there is hope.
I decided on Delia for the next recipe. My first book by her was my very tatty and well used Compete Cookery Course. Her first edition was published in 1978; my omnibus edition was published in 1983. I have used it for finding out so much; how to cook eggs, the most perfect roast potatoes ever (adapted now to be more healthy although mine were never that bad!), make a wonderful Christmas cake, perfect sauces to make her wonderful lasagne and her many macaroni cheese recipes, enjoying a lovely cottage pie with leek potatoes and not forgetting the leftover chicken curry which was always known in our house as the green curry. Not sure why!
In 1998, Delia was given a new TV series with her new (or maybe updated book for young cooks) and brought out Delia’s How To Cook Book One. Poor Delia come under fire by the likes of Gary Rhodes and my brother because she dedicated a section on cooking eggs. I actually think that this is one of the most important parts and was invaluable to me. I have revisited in the last few months and if you follow the instructions step by step, you will make the most wonderful boiled eggs and as for the scrambled eggs; delicious. Whilst I do my own version of the poached egg and omelette, I do plan to take some time to revisit these pages. I thought I would look through this particular book for the next recipe and found what Delia calls a low-fat moist carrot cake. Carrot cake is a great favourite when going out and I actually thought this would be one that would be one I try for my 50 recipes.
Carrot cake comes in so many different shapes, ingredients and icings so this won’t be the first recipe I try but I thought it was a good start. This recipe called for a cake tin measuring 10 x 6 inches and 1 inch deep (metric sizes 25.5 x 15 cm with depth of 2.5 cm). Now Delia has set 5 rules for cakes and biscuits for beginners:
- It is absolutely crucial to use the correct sized tin
- You must have a reliable recipe
- You need to weigh the ingredients correctly
- Once the cake is in the oven, don’t open the door
- Make sure your oven is functioning correctly
Brought up with Delia’s cooking book, I do try to follow these rules. Over the years, I have collected a lot of tins but did I have a 10 x 6 inch tin; the answer was no. However, I did have an 8 x 8 inch one so I thought this might be perfect.
I carefully did a check of my ingredients in the larder and placed an order for everything I needed. In my larder I had all sorts of sugars; light brown soft sugar, dark and light brown muscovado sugar, demerara sugar, jam sugar, caster sugar, icing sugar and even bulk standard granulated sugar. I needed dark brown soft sugar and I didn’t have this so that was another ingredient put on the order.
Delia said that this was one of the quickest, easiest cakes to do and I would have to say I agree apart from the first hurdle; recipe said dark brown soft sugar, sifted. I gave 5 minutes of attempting and gave up. I do plan to ask if it would have made my cake lighter but thought I could cope with the whatever the results. In no time, my cake was in my incorrect sized tin and in the oven which had already preheated because I had already made a Victoria sandwich. I was working hard this particular morning.
One of the other vital points of cooking in general is to read the recipe fully. This recipe called for the topping to chill for an hour or two in the fridge before using. A syrup glaze also needed to be made to spoon over the cake when it came out of the oven. Important stuff to know before the cake can be completed.
Ingredients used in the cake that were a little bit different were wholemeal self raising flour, quite a lot of mixed spice (smells wonderful) and sultanas. Walnut pieces were not used. The topping used quark. Now I have tried one with mascarpone cheese which is heaven to me and first impressions was I didn’t like the taste of the topping at all. I hoped for a miracle and that once it had been given chance to chill, it would appeal to me.
Cake did bake very well and I quickly spooned over the syrup glaze and left to cool completely. Once it was cold, I took it out of the tin and spread over the topping. What appealed to me about this cake was it was a single layer cake and I cut it into 12 small pieces; perfect size when you are having a cup of tea. One of my pet hates when going out for tea is the enormous slices of cake you get. I know that customers might moan if the slices are too small but, to me, there is nothing worse than feeling sick because you have eaten a cake that is far too big. Some say leave what you don’t want but that seems a bit criminal!
The most important bit of baking is the tasting and now was the time. I was still worried by the topping but I found the best way to eat the cake was with a fork and to make sure you had a piece of cake with the icing. The combination was perfect. This version of the carrot cake tasted Christmassy and was very moist. I will be baking this again but have three others to try:
- Mary Berry’s Carrot Cake with Mascarpone Topping – single layered again but with the addition of walnuts and ripe bananas
- The Great British Book of Baking Carrot Cake – a layered cake with walnuts and a filling and topping made with full fat cream cheese, butter and icing sugar
- Carrot Cake on the back of the self raising wholemeal flour packet – made in a deep 8 inch tin the cut in half and topped and filled with a marcarpone topping
It will be interesting to see if we have a favourite. Delia’s recipe did not disappoint though even without the perfect tin!