Making it a December to remember - A set of cakes that are worthy of the Snow Queen's table
Oh my lord! We're like four days away from Christmas! Where did time go? How did we get here this fast? It's like this year has suddenly flown by in a rapid succession of days that speed ahead of me. Was it a good year, was it a bad year, was it so and so? Still too soon for me to be able to analize it, but personally it has been a year of getting things done for myself. Maybe I have nothing to show for it, but privately, to my very eyes and mind, it was a year of achievements and goals being reached. Even if I had set none, as I never do. It was also a tough year, but they all seem to be rather on the tough side, lately, still here we are now, at the end of it and going strong.
We're gearing up for this week's festivities, which are never stress free, and as I look ahead at the calendar, there seems to be still so much to do and so little time to do it!! Christmas gifts are not yet finished - when you have teenagers in the family, it becomes a lot harder to get the right thing, the proper present, you know? Especially because neither I nor my hubby were regular, run of the mill teens, and we always seem to come up against a blank wall of ideas what to present our nieces and nephew with!! Just recently we went to buy our nephew's Christmas gift, after my sister in law telling us he was into cartoons, and as soon as I got to the bookstore I saw Death Note (my fave manga and anime) and was all in a flurry to buy that one for him, until my husband called his sister and she told us the ones he liked, and guess what? Yep, Death Note was not part of the list. I have no idea what teens are into these days.
Thankfully we only have to get the gift for our youngest niece, as everything else seems to be accounted for, and the wrapping is nearly done as well. We had wanted to get a head start on the mince pies, but alas! time does not seem to stretch, and since we decided this was the year to tackle the panettone, the last couple of weekends have been solely dedicated to playing with that particular elusive Christmas treat. I do love a good panettone, and have been eager to try a homemade one, but lemme tell ya, it ain't easy!!
Still, if all else fails, we can easily bake a batch of these beauties and just get them on the Christmas table. These are festive enough, and pretty enough. They remind me of a white Christmas, actually, something I was lucky enough to experience once while I lived in Manchester, and it was a sight to fill one's heart. I wish I could spend more Christmases like that, share that with my boy, I know he would love the magic of a snowy Christmas as much as I do. But since it is not thought of that it should snow here in Lisbon this Winter - or any other Winter, for that matter!! - I have to make do with these little connundrums! Cakes that somehow bring on that feeling of snowy Winters and white Christmases.
As you all know by know I really cannot be bothered with decorating cakes. Mainly because I am quite aware I lack the talent for that - I may have other talents, this is one I surely do not possess! - and also because I do like simplicity in my cakes, a rustic simplicity at that. But lately I can see I have begun to stretch my so called wings when it comes to the way my cakes look. It all started here, with this major flop of a cake when it comes to the decoration (how ugly does that look??) then there was this one, which didn't come out pretty as well, this one which I was rather proud of (see, simple does better when I'm involved!) this one that happened to be a success but when I tried to recreate it here it was a major fail, but then I seemed to get my mojo back with this beaute of which I am still rather proud of and this one that somehow I still think looks so pretty . Finally I seemed to hit the spot with this cake that to my eyes was one of the most gorgeous things I have ever seen, but again, it's down to this being such a simple looking cake, with only a drizzle of white chocolate ganache over it.
So it kind of looks like I am happier with my work when I keep it simple, or rustic looking, like this cake. I mean, this one to me came out so perfect, it loos so festive and so wintery, simple yet with a bit of embelishment, rustic but somewhat luxurious, perfect for a Christmas table or a New Year's Eve dinner party. It's moist, it's sweet, it has the subtle hints of clementine and cinnamon, the butteriness of white chocolate, the depth of cocoa, and because it has carrots, you can call it a healthy cake! It contributes to your daily intake of fruit and vegetable, doesn't it? It's got both!
Jokes aside, it is one of those cakes that are a little bit lighter because of the carrots, yes, and you can also make tiny cupcakes out of this recipe, I usually do. Just little nibbles of cupcakes, that you can down in two bites, that look so pretty in their simple casings, these to me look like a true Winter scene, a fantasy on ice, they remind me of Narnia and the Queen in her frosty castle, they're the stuff childhood dreams are made of, as far as I'm concerned. They're also quite girly, come to think of it, and wouldn't be amiss on a baby shower table, or a hen's do!! And if you're still trying to come up with something original, quick and easy, that's pretty enough to make up for a last minute gift, these can come in handy, they keep for a while and if you wrap one in cellofane with a pretty bow and present a friend with it, I'm sure it will be appreciated!
So, the recipe for these is as follows:
- two medium sized carrots
- one cup olive oil
- two cups flour
- one and a half cups sugar
- one tablespon baking powder (yes, you read it right, it's one tablespoon)
- 4 eggs
- zest and juice of two clementines
- two scant tablespons of cocoa pwder
- pinch of cinnamon
- 100 gr white chocolate
- dizzle of milk
- clementine zest and cinnamon for decorating
Grate the carrots and zest the clementine. In a bowl, mix sugar, flour and oil until combined. Add the eggs and the carrots, mixing gently, the clementine juice and zest, the cocoa, the cinnamon and finally the baking powder. Pour half the batter into a small round tin, the other half divide by cupcake moulds (or just bake cupcakes or one single cake, whatever tickles your fancy) and bake on a pre heated oven at 180º. It will take about 45 minutes, but check after 40 minutes, if the skewer comes out clean, then it's baked. Let cool over a rack, and once they have cooled down slightly, take them out of the tins and allow to cool completely. Melt the chocolate in a small drizzle of simmering milk and add a little knob of butter to make it shinier. While the chocolate is still warm but not piping hot, it will have thickened up slightly, just drizzle it over the cake and the cupcakes. Thn use the zest and the cinnamon to add the finishing touches, scatter dried rose petals over the cupcakes, or add a star anise to the top of the cake. It will make your table shine and look very season appropriate, I believe!!