The 4 Cs of Crafting, why Mary Berry is a Legend and a FREE RECIPE

So you may be a little bemused by my post-title.  What's Mary Berry got to do with crafting?  Is she a closet knitter?  Are we going to start reading about celebrity knitter profiles? - Actually, that's not a bad idea....

Crafting and cake go hand in hand.  Like wine and cheese, chocolate and me in general, they're a match made in heaven.  In fact, you could think of them as two of the 4 Cs of crafting:  craft, cake, coffee (or a cuppa?) and chat.

In fact, cake goes so well with crafty times, that one of my lovely local knitting groups has actually launched a monthly outing to try and combat this!  The idea is that we meet, go for a lovely country walk to take in the fresh air and get our blood pumping, before returning ruddy cheeked and sparkly eyed to the warmth of a cafe or pub and then knitting and caking to our hearts' delight.  Come on now, you didn't seriously expect me to say we'd go without cake entirely, did you?

My most popular posts on my hobby page (Nursery Knits UK) have been ones like the cover image on this post:  knitting, something lovely to drink and, of course, cake!  It speaks of comfort and cosiness and relaxation.  It's all a little bit hygge now I come to think of it - but more on that later.  The star of the show?  Not the yarn, although that got a lot of attention, but Mary Berry's lemon drizzle cake, displayed on a pretty Sainsbury's cake plate, with a Sophie Conran cake fork, with a glass of pink lemonade by Tesco all set out on a gorgeous duck-egg throw from M&S.  More people commented on how scrummy the cake looked than anything else!
Rainbow Acrylic from Hop Stitch and Jumper
So today I'm sharing some of my favourite cake tips and tricks and linking to where you can find some of the most popular recipes I've made online.

First up, let's address the legend that is Mary Berry herself.  She's a no-nonsense home cook, who enjoys good food and feeding her family and friends.  One of the things I love about her is her total disregard for the technical instructions for mixing a sponge favoured by lots of other TV chefs.

If you've made a sponge, you'll probably be familiar with the laborious process of creaming the butter and sugar together, adding the eggs slowly, one at a time, whisking continually, adding a teaspoonful of the flour each time to prevent curdling, before adding the remainder of the flour and whisking until your feet no longer feel attached to your legs but oh - be careful not to overwork it!

I am here to tell you, that Mary Berry tells you, that you never have to faff about with that nonsense again.  Do you know what this absolute angel of a home-cook does?  Bungs it all in at once and whisks for two minutes.  Have I ever had a dud sponge from her recipes?  Nope!  It's a revolution!
Don't just take my word for it - the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating.  My husband Alan is often sent in to work with Mary's lemon drizzle traybake and it goes well before lunchtime.  If he turns up with a cake box he's inevitably asked immediately: is it Gemma's lemon drizzle??

Mary Berry
Mary Berry's Lemon Drizzle is always a big hit!  Credit: Woman and Home.  Find the recipe here.

I made a Victoria sponge and a lemon drizzle for my birthday and took them into my workplace back at Easter.  It tied in with a visit from my friend and colleague with her twin babies and the sixth formers were allowed the privilege of visiting her in the staffroom and giving the babies a cuddle.  One of my sixth formers (we shared a class) cheekily helped himself to a slice of the drizzle and told me in class later what he'd done but that it was the best cake he'd ever eaten! In fact, it took me a good two minutes to get him to stop raving about it to the class so we could crack on.  As an end-of-half-term treat, I made the class their own lemon drizzle to share and I enjoyed that wonderful warm feeling of satisfaction when your food is well received.

More recently, I tried Mary's Spiced Ginger and Treacle Traybake for the charity Christmas Crafternoon I hosted on the last weekend of November and that was one big, glorious, sticky hit!
treacle and ginger traybake Mary Berry's Spiced Ginger and Treacle Traybake is a great winter alternative to rich fruit cakes.  Find the recipe here.

The best thing is, you can apply Mary's method to any cake.  Take my Black Forest yule log recipe, for example.  No faffing required for the sponge: just bung it in, whisk it, pour it into the tin, bake for 10m and voila!

Gemma's Black Forest Yule Log 
Ingredients:
1 jar Tiptree Black Cherry Jam
300ml Double cream (suitable for whipping)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon Whittard and Chelsea Black Forest Hot Chocolate (this is an optional extra but really makes the difference.  You can use any brand of black-forest hot chocolate or simply substitute another tablespoon cocoa powder if you prefer)
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
80g golden caster sugar (golden is great but if you only have brown or regular that's no problem)
80g plain flour (although it's a sponge, you need this one to be fairly flat so you can roll it and get that gorgeous trademark swiss-roll swirl)
1 tub of chocolate fudge icing - why make it when you can buy it?!
Dusting of icing sugar
Holly from the garden, or plastic holly from a cake decorating shop / supermarket.

For the Sponge:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180degrees
  2. Bung the eggs, caster sugar, flour, baking powder, and cocoa powder/hot chocolate into a bowl and whisk for two minutes on a medium setting.
  3. Base-line a swiss-roll tin with baking parchment and pour the swiss-roll mixture in.  You may find it helpful to use a palette knife or a silicone spatula to encourage the mixture gently across the whole tin.  Don't worry if the mixture looks a little pale - the richness comes from the icing and the filling, you don't want a dark chocolate swiss roll at this stage.
  4. Give the tin a few sharp taps onto the work surface to encourage any bubbles up from the base of the mixture.
  5. Pop it in the oven and bake for 10m.  The sponge should spring back when pressed lightly with your finger tip.  Bear in mind that all ovens vary.
  6. Pop a piece of baking parchment larger than the tin onto your work-surface and dust lightly with icing sugar.  Tip the sponge straight onto this new piece of parchment.  Gently roll the sponge, while still warm, so that the baking parchment lines the swirls.  Don't be tempted to swirl too tightly or it will crack when you try to fill it and re-roll it later.  Wrap your roll in a tea-towel and leave to cool.

For the filling:

  1. Whip up the double cream to a nice thick spreadable consistency, then add half the jar of black cherry jam and stir in well.  The gorgeousness about the Tiptree jam is that it has nice chunks of black cherry in - very decadent!
  2. Once the cake is cool, carefully unroll it and use a spatula or palette knife to spread the filling over the sponge.   Do not go right to the end of the roll as it will just squidge out when you roll it up again.  Also don't be tempted to go too thick or you won't manage to get a nice neat swirl.  Having spread the filling, gently roll the swiss-roll up again and place it onto a cake board or serving plate of your choice, making sure that the end of the roll is on the plate or board so it can't unravel itself.
  3. Take a knife and generously spread the chocolate fudge frosting over the cake, making sure to cover the ends well.  Take a fork and run it through the frosting to create a bark-like texture.
  4. Finish with a dusting of snow (icing sugar) and a sprig of holly (be sure to remove this before serving!).

Enjoy!

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