Angel Cake

30 May 2013

In amongst my cookbooks I have a now faded copy of 'The Sainsbury Book of Baking'. How it came to be on my shelf, I can't quite recall, but it had originally belonged to my mum. When I left home at 21, it was my one and only cookbook. I can vaguely remember it was part of a series: there was one that featured recipes made with a blender, which was rather niche. I do remember my mum buying them. It was 1980 and the books cost 99p each.

It was while browsing through this book that I came across a recipe for Angel Cake. I had never made it before and was intrigued by its ingredients list that read more like a meringue than a cake. Curiosity got the better of me and I baked it. The result is a light-as-a-feather vanilla sponge that is oh-so-pretty. On un-moulding the cake, I found the airy mixture hadn't completely filled the cake tin, so my Angel Cake was dotted with a few little craters. But it is homemade rather than shop-made perfection after all.

I made a simple rose and lemon icing to decorate the cake and popped a blousy chrysanthemum on top to detract from those craters. If you don't fancy the icing, just dredge the cooled cake with icing sugar for a pretty finish.

Angel Cake

25g plain flour
25g cornflour
150g caster sugar
5 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the icing:

100g icing sugar
1 tsp rosewater
1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4.

Sift the flours and 25g of the caster sugar together 3 or 4 times.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff, add remaining caster sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue whisking until very thick.

Carefully fold in the sifted mixture with the vanilla essence and turn into a 20cm (8") angel cake tin.

Smooth the surface and bake for 35 to 40 mins, though do check from 25 mins.

It is ready when the cake springs back when lightly pressed.

Turn it upside down on a wire rack and leave in the tin until cold, when the cake will fall easily from the tin.

Dust with icing sugar, or decorate with a rose icing made by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl and mixing in the rosewater and lemon juice. If the icing is a little runny, add more icing sugar. You want it thick but pourable.

The Only Chocolate Mousse Recipe You'll Ever Need

24 May 2013

We have a tradition in our house, where on their birthdays we let the children to choose their birthday dinner menu. Last week, on Arthur's birthday, he requested a chocolate mousse for pudding. I love a good chocolate mousse, but tend not to make them that often, so I set about my cookbook collection to find a suitable recipe. 

From Leon: Baking & Puddings, I decided to try the chocolate mousse recipe which is the creation of Leon co-founder Allegra McEvedy. I often adapt many of the recipes that I take from my cookbooks if the mood takes me, but this was a Lily that needed no gilding. I will never need turn to any other chocolate mousse recipe again. This one ticked all the boxes.

I left out the orange oil, simply as I had non to hand and topped my mousse with some chopped pistachio, because the boy loves a nut and I have a weakness for their vibrant green colour. 

Chocolate Mousse

serves 4

100 g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
30 g unsalted butter
2 free-range egg yolks
1 shot of dark espresso
a drop of orange oil or very finely grated zest of half an orange (optional)
3 free-range egg whites
15 g fructose, or 20g caster sugar

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt with the butter until smooth in a large bowl in the microwave, or over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the surface of the bowl.

Separately whisk the eggs yolks until nearly white and thick in consistency. Gently stir the whisked yolks into the butter and chocolate, then stir in the coffee and orangey bit, if you are adding it.

Use an electric hand whisk to whip the egg whites to soft peaks, then add the fructose or sugar and whisk for another minute just to get that shine.

Beat a third of the egg white into the chocolate mixture until smooth, then add the next third more gently, and the last with the strokes of an angel.

Neither over-mix or leave white streaks, then divide into pretty things and leave in the fridge for an hour.

Images: Buttercup Days

More About That Photography Workshop

22 May 2013

As regular readers will know, I recently undertook some mentoring from Brighton-based photographer Emma Gutteridge of Emma Lucy Photography. For amateur photographers like myself who want to learn either some camera basics or hone in on more specific photography skills, Emma offers bespoke mentoring sessions. I can't recommend her enough. On her blog, Emma has written a short post on our food photography session - check it out here and while you're there be sure to have a look at her stunning wedding photography which is jaw-droppingly beautiful.

All images on this post by Emma Gutteridge, Emma Lucy Photography. Food by Buttercup days. Props by Keep It Vintage.

A Birthday Picnic

21 May 2013

On Saturday we threw a small 'Birthday Picnic' for Arthur and some of his friends and their parents. I still can't believe how lucky we were with the weather. Despite a less than positive forecast it stayed dry and the sun even made a couple of appearances. 

We headed to our 'local woods' at Three Corner Cospe for our picnic. Arthur loves the outdoors and is as happy as a clam when collecting sticks, leaves and pine cones. In fact he has a real stick obsession going on at the moment: every time we go out he returns with a stick or small bundle of twigs gripped tightly in his hands. We have quite a pile of them in our back yard now. He's reckoning on building a house with them apparently. So, with sticks in mind I worked on an outdoor woodland theme for the party.

I made little individual toadstool lunch boxes for the kids and filled them with some lunchtime goodies and made pasties for the adults. After lunch the kids did leaf hunts, rolled down the grassy slopes and collected sticks. I supplied each partygoer with a knapsack containing an i-spy nature book (so timeless!), a magnifying glass, twig pencil, sweets and bubbles. The kids had a great time and the adults all did too, which isn't always the case with kids parties. I expect the pasties played a part in that and the fact that the rain stayed away for the afternoon.


Arthur turned 4 on Friday. He had a lovely day which started with the opening of presents before breakfast. He was as pleased as punch with all his new toys. Four is a good age for boys toys: no longer the toddler toys. He received numerous exciting new additions to expand his beloved Brio railway, Lego, Playmobil and lots of cars and track. There were also some lovely books and some great craft bits for those quieter times. One lucky boy.

That evening Arthur called the shots when it came to the dinner menu. He requested Pesto pasta, garlic bread and black olives followed by chocolate mousse made by mummy. The mousse was winner, so I shall share the recipe in a future post. In the meantime, here are some pics of the all-important Birthday cake that we enjoyed the next day at his party. It was triple chocolate: chocolate sponge, kit-kat fingers and smarties. Needless to say Arthur loved it and come the end of the weekend there wasn't a crumb left.

A Sneak Peek of What's To Come

14 May 2013

I hadn't planned to say anything until everything was in its proper place (these things always take longer than expected), but I can't wait any longer - I'm going to let you in on what I've been up to recently with Buttercup days.

Buttercup days will start to subtly change its focus becoming more refined in its content. Specialising in food is the most natural (and obvious) path for it to take. More often than not my posts are food related and my growing portfolio of freelance writing has also channelled itself into food. The over all identity and familiarities of the blog will remain and there will still be a smattering of ad-hoc posts that sit comfortably with the elements of Buttercup days that focus on family, occasion and nostalgia. The changes in content will be delicate, and possibly had you not read this post, you would be non the wiser. However, what I hope you will notice within the next month or so is the new look that Buttercup days will be donning. There will be a brand new logo and an altogether cleaner look which will allow the images to stand out proud.

Imagery is the other area of the blog that I am currently tackling. Until now I took images using either my phone or a rather dated camera that we used for holiday snaps. Both options, it is fair to say, had their limitations. So, I bit the bullet and bought myself a 'proper' professional camera on Ebay and recently undertook a crash course in food photography with the talented Brighton photographer Emma Lucy, who has shot some of my work in the past for magazines. I am now just practising at every given opportunity and honing any underlying photography skills I may have hidden somewhere. It will no doubt be a work-in-progress. The images on this post are from that first shoot. I'd like to say a huge thank you to both Emma for setting me on my way and to Keep It Vintage for the loan of all the lovely props.

P.S. I will be running the photographed recipes over the coming weeks: pineapple upside down cake with honey & pistachios | rhubarb french toast | fig & goats cheese salad.