White Currant Cake

White currant recipes
White Currant Cake

White Currant Cake

I came up with the idea for this cake after searching for  “white currant recipes” on Google and finding….not very many!   In my garden, I have a number of long-established currant bushes in my garden.   I always find lots of uses for the red currants and the black currants but always struggle to find recipes that make the most of the white currants.

Advice from the internet is that you can use white currants as a substitute for red currants.  However, I wanted a recipe that would make the most of their pale, understated, opalescent beauty.    My feeling was that a pale, minimal cake, simply decorated with fresh white currants, was what was needed in visual terms.    To balance the creamy mascarpone icing, I made a sharp-sweet white currant compote to sandwich the layers of cake.

White Currant Cake

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White currant recipes

White Currant Cake

  • Author: Tastebotanical
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 30
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 1 cake serving 10-12 1x
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: English

Description

This cake is a pale and understated beauty with creamy mascarpone icing, a tangy white currant compote filling, and minimal decoration of beautiful opalescent white currants.


Scale

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 450 g butter (softened)
  • 450 g caster sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • 450 g self-raising flour
  • 7 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence

For the white currant compote:

  • 300 g white currants
  • 180 g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of water

For the filling and  topping

  • 500 g mascarpone
  • 200 ml double cream
  • 3 tablespoons of  icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 3 or four sprigs of white currants

Instructions

Method:  Cake

  1. Set your oven to 180 degrees centigrade or Gas Mark 4.
  2. Cream the butter with the sugar.  (I usually soften the butter for about 30 seconds in the microwave first as it makes it much easier!)
  3. Gradually add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture.  If it looks as if it is going to curdle, add some of the self-raising flour.
  4. Once the eggs have been incorporated add the rest of the self-raising flour.
  5. Add the milk and vanilla extract.
  6. Grease three 19 cm Victoria Sandwich tins and then add the cake mixture.
  7. Bake your cakes in the oven for around 30 minutes.  They are done when they are golden brown, springy to the touch and have shrunk away from the edge of the tin.  You can test this by inserting a skewer in the middle of the cake – if it comes out cleanly with no mixture attached, your cake is done.
  8. Allow your cakes to cool on a rack before removing them from the tins or containers.

Method:  White currant compote

  1. Wash the white currants and remove them from their stalks.
  2. Put the white currants, sugar and water into a saucepan. Gently heat to simmering point and then cook for one minute.
  3. Remove the currants from the sugar liquid and set aside.
  4. Bring the sugar liquid to boiling point and boil rapidly for 5 minutes.
  5. Return the currants to the sugar liquid and allow to cool.

Method:  Filling and topping

  1. Whip the mascarpone, cream and vanilla essence with the icing sugar until the mixture is combined and forms soft peaks.
  2. Spread a quarter of the mascarpone mixture on top of one of the cakes which will form the bottom tier.   Spread a half of the white currant compote on top of it.
  3. Place the second cake on top of the first one.   Spread a quarter of the mascarpone mixture on top of this cake which will form the middle tier.   Spread a half of the white currant compote on top of it.
  4. Place the third cake on top of the second one.   Use the remaining half of the mascarpone mixture to coat the top and sides of the assembled cake.
  5. Decorate with the sprigs of fresh white currants.
  6. In the (unlikely) event that there is any cake left over, this needs to be stored in the fridge due to the cream icing.  It will keep for a couple of days but, like all sponge cakes, it tastes better when it is freshly made.

Keywords: white currants, cake, victoria sandwich cake

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Cold Tomato Soup

Tomato tart, tomato quiche,

Cold Tomato Soup

This Cold Tomato Soup is perfect for a summer lunch or supper.   It is really easy to make and perfectly showcases the taste of those beautiful sun-ripened tomatoes that are currently in season.  My method of only thinning the soup down with water, stock or milk once it has been blended means that you have control of how thick it is and avoids you ending up with watery soup if the tomatoes that you use are particularly juicy!

Not everyone likes cold soups but I love them.  They are a great way of cooling down in hot weather, are not too heavy and also they are a great way of showcasing the flavours of summer vegetables.  Cold Tomato Soup is one of my favourites.    The quality of the tomatoes that you use will affect the flavour of the soup so try and use good quality, flavourful tomatoes.  If you have home-grown tomatoes, so much the better!

It is also fantastic as a hot soup in winter.  The method is just the same.  Just heat gently and eat with some crusty bread!

Cold Tomato Soup

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Cold Tomato Soup; tomatoes

Cold Tomato Soup

  • Author: Tastebotanical
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 35
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: for 6 people 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Cuisine: English

Description

Cool down with this Cold Tomato Soup which highlights the sweet taste of lovely seasonal tomatoes.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 25 g butter and a tablespoon of oil
  • 2 red onions (peeled)
  • 2 carrots (peeled)
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 1 bulb of fennel
  • 2 medium potatoes (peeled)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 14 tomatoes (approximately 1 kilo)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Liquid to thin the soup (milk, cream, vegetable or meat stock , water as preferred)

Instructions

  1. Roughly chop the onions, carrots, celery and fennel.
  2. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy pan or casserole.  Add the chopped vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook gently for approximately 15 minutes until they have softened.  This is the base for your soup and seasoning the vegetables and slow cooking to ensure they are soft and sweet  will greatly enhance its flavour.
  3. Roughly chop the potatoes and add them to the saucepan along with the crushed garlic cloves.  Cook gently for a further five minutes.
  4. Skin the tomatoes.  The easiest way to do this is to put them in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and leave for two minutes.   Then remove from the saucepan, run under cold water so that they are cool enough to handle.  The skins should be easy to remove.
  5. Chop the skinned tomatoes.  If you are using bigger tomatoes, when you slice them in half you may see green tougher bit of flesh where the stalk end of the tomato.  It is worth cutting this bit off to avoid any fibrous lumpy bits in your soup!
  6. Add the tomatoes to the saucepan with the rest of the vegetables.
  7. Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes with the lid on.   Do not add any extra liquid as the tomatoes will release their juice during cooking.
  8. After 15 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and allow the soup mixture to cool.
  9. Liquidise the soup in a liquidiser or using a hand blender.   Once you have done this, you can thin your soup down by adding some extra liquid.   How much you need depends on how much juice came out of your tomatoes and how thick you like your soup.   You can use milk, cream, vegetable or meat stock or water or a combination of liquids depending on your preference.  I generally add a mixture of vegetable stock and milk.
  10. Chill before serving.

Notes

This is a lovely cold summer soup and aims to make the most of seasonal tomatoes in July and August.  However, it is also good as a hot soup in winter.

Keywords: tomato, soup

Cold Tomato Soup
Cold Tomato Soup

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Lavender Shortbread

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Lavender Shortbread

I love lavender!  I grow several varieties in my garden and look forward to the first hot day of the year when you get a waft of lavender scent on the air and know that summer is truly here.   Lavender Shortbread is an excellent way of capturing the essence of this beautiful, fragrant plant.

Lavender has many culinary uses and its fragrance works well in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes.   However, you do have to be a bit careful though as lavender is a very strongly scented plant and, if you use too much, it can overwhelm other flavours.  For this reason, I think it is best used on its own rather than in combination with other aromatics.

Plain shortbread is  delicious – it should have a fairly soft, crumbly texture –   but it also makes great vehicle to showcase a range of flavours,  including lavender, rose geranium, thyme, rosemary and lemon verbena.   It is a great accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee and is also a good partner with ice-cream or sorbet.

About Lavender

The English word lavender is thought to be derived either from Old French lavandre which is taken from the Latin lavare “to wash” which refers to the practice of using it in infusions or from the Latin livere “blueish” in reference to its colour.   Lavender (“nard” in Hebrew) is mentioned in the Song of Solomon. 

It was introduced into England in the 1600s.  At that time, it was used to make herb tea which was appreciated for its taste and for its medicinal properties.   It was also used to make a conserve which was prized by members of the aristocracy including, allegedly, Queen Elizabeth 1.    Although lavender is often now associated with southern French cuisine, it was not widely used until the turn of the 20th century and its use was popularised only later  by its inclusion in the 1970s in herbes de Provence, a blend of herbs invented by spice wholesalers.

Lavender Shortbread

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Lavender shortbread, lavender cookies, lavender biscuits, lavender hearts

Lavender Shortbread

  • Author: Tastebotanical
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 15 biscuits 1x
  • Category: Biscuits
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: English

Description

These crumbly shortbread biscuits, delicately flavoured with lavender, are fantastic as an accompaniment to ice-cream or sorbet – or just with a cup of tea!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 125 g butter
  • 55 g sugar
  • 100 g plain flour
  • 20 g cornflour
  • 60 g ground almonds
  • 4 fresh lavender buds (or 2 tablespoons culinary lavender)
Lavender shortbread, lavender cookies, lavender hearts, lavender biscuits
Lavender shortbread

Instructions

  1. Set your oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas Mark 6.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together.
  3. Add the flour, cornflour and ground almonds and combine.
  4. Detach the small lavender flowers from their stalks and add them to the mixture.
  5. Roll out the shortbread dough to a thickness of approximately 0.5 cm.
  6. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes from the dough.
  7. Put the dough shapes onto a greased baking tray.
  8. Bake the shortbread dough shapes for 15 minutes.  They will be done when they are firm to the touch and light golden in colour.
  9. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.
Lavender shortbread, lavender cookies, lavender hearts, lavender biscuits
Lavender shortbread

Notes

If you are using fresh lavender buds, make sure that they have not been treated with any chemicals.  Do not use shop-bought flowers unless they are specifically designated as “culinary lavender”.

Keywords: lavender, shortbread, lavender shortbread, lavender biscuits, lavender hearts, lavender cookies

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Tomato Tart

Tomato Tart

Tomato tart, tomato quiche,
Beautiful tomatoes

Due to the fantastic sunny weather that we are enjoying at the moment, my tomato plants are producing a bumper crop of tasty tomatoes.  This Tomato Tart showcases both the look and taste of sweet, seasonal tomatoes.   I make a lot of tomato-based dishes but in many of them the tomatoes are reduced to a sauce.  The taste is great but it doesn’t look so pretty!  My aim was to create a tart where their beauty and variety could be seen as well as their taste enjoyed!

There are so many different varieties now available in stores, or to grow in your garden, in such a range of sizes and colours from yellow to orange to deep red.   They look beautiful and are great eaten  just as they are in salads or as an accompaniment to cold dishes.  However,  I came up with the idea for my Tomato Tart  because I wanted a cooked dish which retained their beautiful colours and shapes as well as highlighting their taste.

Tomato Tart

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Tomato tart

Tomato Tart

  • Author: Tastebotanical
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 25
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 1 tart serving 8 people 1x
  • Category: Tart
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: English

Scale

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 275 g plain flour
  • 125 g fat (I use a mix of half butter and half Trex as I think this makes the lightest pastry)
  • Salt
  • A little water

For the filling:

  • 150 ml double cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 150 g strong cheddar cheese (grated)
  • Salt and pepper
  • A large bunch of fresh chives (around 15 stems)
  • 67 assorted tomatoes – I use various sizes and colours as I think it looks nice!

Instructions

Tomato tart, tomato quiche
Tart case filled with egg and cheese mixture and chopped chives
  1. Set your oven to 180 C, 350 F or Gas Mark 4.
  2. Make the pastry. Put the flour in a bowl.  Add the fat and combine –  either by “rubbing in” by hand or processing – until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add a little cold water (2-3 tbsp) and shape the mixture into a dough.
  3. Roll out your pastry and use it to line your quiche or flan dish.   Bake for 5  minutes in the oven to allow the pastry to “set”.  This will stop the filling making it soggy!
  4. Remove the skins from your tomatoes.  I find the easiest way to do this is to immersing them in boiling water for around 1 minute and then immersing in cold water to cool them down (so that they are not too hot to handle and do not continue to “cook”).  The skins should then be easy to  peel off the tomatoes.
  5. When you have skinned the tomatoes, slice them into thin discs.
  6. Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, add the cream, and beat until combined.  Finely grate the cheddar cheese and add to the mixture.
  7. Chop your fresh chives and add them to the egg, cream and cheese mixture and season with salt and pepper.   Pour the mixture into your pastry case.
  8. Place the tomato discs on top of the mixture in the pastry case.
  9. Place your quiche or flan dish in the oven and cook for 25 minutes.
  10. The tart can be eaten hot, room temperature or cold.
Tomato tart, tomato quiche
Tomato tart

Keywords: tomato, tart

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Rose and Raspberry Pavlova

Rose Pavlova, Raspberry Pavlova, Rose Meringue
Pretty in pink – Rose and Raspberry Pavlova

Rose and Raspberry Pavlova

Get in touch with your girly side with this pretty-in-pink Raspberry Pavlova.   Sometimes, even the least girly of us (and I include myself in that description) feel  a need to embrace pink.  If you feel a girly mood coming on, this Raspberry Pavlova, with delicate pink rose-flavoured meringue could be the answer!

Raspberry and rose is a classic flavour combination.  In this Pavlova, the meringue is flavoured with rosewater and topped with whipped cream and fresh raspberries.   The slightly sharp flavour of the raspberries is an excellent contrast with the sweetly floral meringue.

Pavlova is my go-to dessert for celebrations of all kinds.  It is very easy to make, can be prepared in advance,  looks impressive and is not too heavy so is perfect as a summer dessert.    If you like the recipe for this Raspberry Pavlova, you may also like my classic Pavlova , my Rose Meringues and my classic Meringues.

If you are making any of my meringue-based recipes, you might also check out my ice-cream recipes such as Lavender Ice-creamThyme Ice-cream with Honey and Mascarpone  or  Elderflower Ice-cream. You need four egg whites for this recipe which means you will have four spare egg yolks.  As I hate waste, I pretty much always make some form of ice-cream when I make any type of meringue.  Very conveniently, all my ice-cream recipes require four egg yolks.

Rose and Raspberry Pavlova

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Raspberry Pavlova, Rose Pavlova

Raspberry and Rose Pavlova

  • Author: Tastebotanical
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 60
  • Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Yield: for 6 people 1x
  • Category: Meringues
  • Cuisine: English

Description

Pretty and pink, this Raspberry Pavlova, has a wonderful rose-flavoured meringue base topped with whipped cream and fresh raspberries.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 225 caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornflour
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon culinary rosewater
  • A few drops of red food colouring (optional)
  • 300 ml double cream
  • As many raspberries as you like!
Rose Pavlova
Rose Pavlova – pink meringue base

Instructions

  • Set your oven to 140 C/275 F/Gas Mark 1.
  • Whisk the egg whites with salt until they form stiff peaks.
  • Add two tablespoons of sugar and continue to whisk until combined and the mixture is thick and glossy.
  • Fold the rest of the sugar, the cornflour, the lemon juice, the rosewater and the food colouring (if using) into the whisked egg whites.
  • Cover a baking sheet with baking parchment or silicon paper.
  • Spoon the egg white mixture onto the baking sheet to form a large circle or oval.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour until the exterior of the meringue is hard to the touch.
  • Allow to cool.
  • When ready to serve, whisk the double cream until it forms soft peaks and then spread it on top of the meringue base.   Arrange the raspberries on top.
Rose Pavlova
Rose Pavlova – ready for raspberries!

Notes

  • If you want the Pavlova to be pink, you will need to add a little red food colouring.   This is optional – if it is not pink, it will still taste the same!

Keywords: pavlova, raspberries

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