Birthdays and a new job

Autumn is a busy time for birthdays in my family, starting with my brother’s in September and not really stopping until just before Christmas.  This year for mine, which follows four days after my brother’s, we hired the BBQ area of a country pub, and took music, and games for the kids, and cooked up jerk chicken, burgers with all the toppings, and skewered chorizo and prawns with basil dressing.  Lovely as it all was, cake is always the main event at a birthday party, and I made the White Chocolate & Raspberry Cheesecake below.  White chocolate is always a winner with kids, and I had only ever made baked cheesecake, but what with the late summer sunshine, and great Scottish raspberries still available, I though I’d try my hand at an uncooked one, set with the help of a little gelatine.  Again, this was new territory for me, as I’d never used leaf gelatine, but had heard it was much more reliable than the powdered kind, and indeed it was very easy to use.  I think I slightly overdid it though, as the cheesecake was just a tiny bit too solid for my liking, so I’ve reduced the amount in the recipe below.  The base was really delicious, using shortbread in place of the usual digestives which are sometimes a bit salty.

For the base:

100g melted butter

400g traditional shortbread

The zest of 1 lemon

For the topping:

300g white chocolate

600g cream cheese

100g icing sugar

300ml sour cream

6 leaves of gelatine

500g fresh raspberries

In a food processor, blitz the shortbread biscuits to powder, then add the lemon zest and melted butter and blitz again.  Press this mixture into a 22cm round loose-bottomed cake tin.  No need to line or grease it.  Chill in the fridge while you make the topping.

Soak 5 of the gelatine leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.  Put half the sour cream in a bowl over a pan of hot water with the white chocolate and melt gently.  Put the other half of the sour cream in a pan and add the gelatine leaves, after you’ve squeezed as much water as you can from them.  Melt the gelatine into the sour cream until fully dissolved.  Beat the cream cheese and half of the icing sugar together, then add the white chocolate mixture and the sour cream with the gelatine, and mix again.

Blend about half of the raspberries with the other half of the icing sugar until puréed, then sieve to remove any pips.  Soak the last gelatine leaf in cold water for 5 minutes, then squeeze it out and melt into about of third of the raspberry mixture.  It’s fine to use the same pan as you used for the sour cream. Stir this back into the rest of the raspberry purée.

Spoon about a third of the white chocolate mixture onto the chilled base, followed by half of the remaining whole raspberries and half of the raspberry purée, swirl it a bit if you like, then repeat the layers, finishing with the last third of the white chocolate mixture.  Level the top and leave to set.  I left it overnight, but I should think 8 hours would be fine.

To serve, run a hot knife around the inside of the cake tin before releasing the clip and unmoulding.

My daughter turned one a week later, and I made a simple Victoria Sandwich with raspberries again, and thick cream, and a New Zealand Moist Carrot Cake, which I’m too lazy to type out, but you can find here:

I used half white self-raising and half plain wholemeal flour, and added a teaspoon of baking powder instead of the bicarb.  I also make more of the icing as it’s so good.  I made this in a 2lb loaf tin with one of those handy paper liners, but if you make it in a round tin as the recipe says, I would split it and fill it as well as topping it.  If you do this, I would double the icing recipe.  I topped it with some of those little chocolate carrot decorations you can buy in Sainsbury’s.

It originally appeared in the Food Aid Cookbook in 1986 and is the recipe my mum always uses.  It really is the best, most moist carrot cake recipe ever.  You could add nuts (walnuts or pecans) and sultanas or chopped dates, but it’s really lovely as it is.

And a new job… well, I have been in and out of the cafe-to-be over the last week or so, but the work starts in earnest next week, and it’s very exciting.  We’ve been discussing which soft drinks to offer, and have two wine companies coming in next week to tempt us with their best.  We have a session learning how to use the amazing shiny new coffee machine, and the tea company coming to tell us all about their products.  But more importantly than any of this, we have finally been talking menus.  I think it’s going to be great; just the wonderful bread from the bakery next door, paired with the best ingredients we can find, all very simple, but hopefully a winner.  We’ll be serving breakfast (think freshly baked croissants, a million times better than supermarket ones, or porridge with warm pear compote and clotted cream, with a fine cup of coffee), lunch (freshly made seasonal soups to match the bakery’s daily specials, so something like sweet potato and coconut, with their sun-dried tomato & chilli sourdough) and bar-snacks for the pre-theatre crowd, with a fascinating selection of beer brewed in the room right behind the cafe.   One of these is the best-selling Milk Stout which is used in the café’s chocolate cake, keeping it moist and balancing the sweetness with a mellow bitterness.  If I can purloin the recipe I will certainly pass it on.  In the meantime, you’ll have to visit and try it for yourself!


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