Tuesday, 12 August 2014

RUSSIAN SLICE

If you haven’t had Russian slice before then you haven’t live. It’s a dense, boozy cake, usually made with the left over bits of other cakes and squashed together with some rum and jam. It’s hard to find recipes for it anywhere really, I don’t really think there is an exact one, and the existing ones I came across all used stale, bought cake. Not wanting to have any chemicals or preservatives in something I’d like to call homemade, I decided to make it completely from scratch, with a plain vanilla and chocolate sponge (from the same batter) that I leave out for about a day to dry up before reviving with the booze and topping with icing. I’m proud to say that I’ve created and mastered my own recipe for a homemade Russian slice.

250g butter, room temp
250g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
250g self raising flour
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tbsp cocoa powder
A few splashes of milk (if necessary)
5 tbsp dark rum
3 tbsp apricot jam

For the Icing
8 tbsp icing sugar
4 tbsp dark rum
About 2 squares of dark chocolate

Preheat oven to fan160/180c/4. Grease 2 loaf tins with butter then dust with icing sugar.
Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Alternate adding the eggs and flour, whilst mixing, until you have a thick cake batter. Add the vanilla extract and then loosen the batter with some milk if it seems too thick. Pour half of this mixture into one of the tins. Add the cocoa powder to the other half, stir well and then pour this into the other tin. Bake both for about 35-40 minutes, until risen and springy. Turn both of the cakes out onto a wire rack and leave to cool. Leave these here, covered with a little kitchen paper, overnight and longer to dry out.

Line a loaf tin with cling film, going both ways and leaving excess over the edges.
Once the cakes are dry break them up randomly into a large mixing bowl. Pour over the rum and apricot jam and mix well (with your hands) until you have a dense and wet mixture. Press the mixture firmly into the loaf tin, levelling it out and then covering with the excess cling film. Take another loaf tin and fill with weights (or anything heavy-jam jars work) and place on top of the cake to weigh it down. Refrigerate overnight for the cake to set and the flavours develop.


Once the cake is ready, remove the weight but leave in the tin to ice. Mix together the icing sugar and rum until you have a thick icing then pour over the cake and spread out. Melt the chocolate for a minute in the microwave and spoon over in lines (in one direction) over the icing. Take a toothpick or a knife and drag the icing in lines backwards and forwards in the other direction to give you a feathered affect. Pop back in the fridge for the icing to set before removing from the tin with the cling film, slicing and enjoying this boozy, underrated and 100% homemade treat.  


Monday, 4 August 2014

VEGAN BANANA, COCONUT AND LIME CAKE

When I’ve been in cafes lately I’ve noticed that the vegan cake that I’ve been daring to try is loads better than the normal varieties. They have more interesting flavours, are more fudgy and coming with less guilt (especially for me since my brother is a vegan). I wondered how they could possibly achieve this and, without examining existing recipes that much, I did what I do with all the vegan recipes I make: experiment. I put in banana instead of eggs and coconut oil instead of butter, two ingredients which, if you think about it, add a much more distinctive flavour. I weighed the banana like you weigh eggs when concocting a recipe then worked on other ingredients from there, adding lime to zest things up. I expected a massive disaster. What I actually got was one of the finest cakes I’ve ever made. It’s a miracle. Veganism wins.

1 medium-large ripe banana (about 250g with the skin on)
8 tbsp coconut oil
200g golden caster sugar
250g self raising flour
Zest and juice of 2 limes

Heat the oven to fan180/200c/6.
Grease a loaf tine with a little bit of coconut oil and then dust it with a little bit of flour.


Mush the banana into a paste-like consistency in a large bowl. Add the coconut oil and whip together with the banana. Stir in the sugar and then the flour until you have a thick cake batter. Zest in the limes then squeeze in juice to thin out the batter. Stir well then pour into tin and bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack. I’d say serve with coffee but if you want a full-on vegan health experience have it with some boiling water and lemon.