Gin and Dubonnet Sponge Cake

We are continuing to celebrate Kitty’s Storecupboard Gin Week, so in the words of the lovely Vicky…

I’ve always been one for a spot of baking (next to eating it’s my favourite thing!) and I’ve recently been pondering starting a blog so when Katherine asked me to do a guest post for her blog I was straight on it!

This particular post celebrates two national treasures – Her Majesty the Queen, and Gin. This year is queenies 90th birthday and this weekend it just happens to be World Gin Day. Legend has it that our Liz’s favourite tipple is the classic ‘gin and dubonnet’, so I decided it was only right and proper to use this as inspiration for my latest bake.

I’m always one for an easy life so decided to use a classic (and easy!) Victoria sponge as the basis for the cake. I can safely say the hardest part about it was finding somewhere that sells dubonnet! Sadly it’s not the most popular of drinks so can be hard to track down but definitely worth it – it’s got a light fruity flavour which works really nicely in this cake, and it’s not half bad in a gin cocktail either!

Gin cake
Ingredients
6oz butter (actually I am a stork devotee but whichever you prefer)
6oz caster sugar
3 eggs
6oz self-raising flour
3tbsp gin and dubonnet (equal measures, so 1.5tbsp of each)
300ml double cream
approx 3tbsp icing sugar (or to taste)
mixed fresh berries
200g white chocolate
optional glitter!
Method
Grease and line two 8″ round cake tins and preheat your oven to around 170oC fan.
As for a normal sponge, you could easily use the all in one technique but I used the traditional creaming method – cream the butter and sugar together until pale and light, then beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a little flour with the last egg to prevent curdling, then gently fold in the remaining flour. Lastly fold in the alcohol then split the batter between the two tins as evenly as possible (you could weigh the tins if precision is your thing but I just guesstimate). Try and spread the batter with a dip in the middle which will offset any ‘doming’ during cooking. Then just bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes.

Now I know most chefs will say baking is an exact science, blah blah, but I’m a bit more freestyle with my cooking…. use whatever size eggs take your fancy, if the batter curdles when you add the booze just give it an extra mix and chuck it in the tins, and the oven time is flexible – just keep an eye on them, after 20 mins check and then leave a bit longer if needed. You can check with a cake tester (or skewer/cocktail stick/knife) which will come out clean when the cake is ready but I prefer to just give it a prod – if the sponge bounces back rather than leaving a massive dent then you’re good to go!

Once the cake is done, leave to cool in the tins for about 5-10 mins then remove and leave on a cooling rack until completely cold. Whilst still warm brush the cakes with a mixture of gin and dubonnet – I used about 1.5tbsp but you could use more if you fancy. For a more intense flavour and an even more moist sponge you could poke holes all over and spoon alcohol over liberally (a la lemon drizzle cake).

Next gently whip the cream, adding icing sugar to taste – make sure not to over whip! A good tip is to keep some cream back and then if you do slightly over mix the cream you can add a bit more and fold through to slacken it off. Unfortunately this won’t work if you’ve gone so far it’s turned to butter! Spread about a third of the cream on one of the cakes (if it’s domed slightly during baking then trim it down so the top is level) then top with your mixed berries. I soaked the berries beforehand in gin and dubonnet and a teaspoonful of sugar, then drained them well before using but this is optional.

Top with the other cake and then cover the top and sides with the remaining cream. To make the white chocolate ‘collar’ measure around the cake (actually it’s much easier to measure around the tin!) and also measure the height of the cake then cut a strip of greaseproof paper to size and lay on a flat surface. For the sake of your kitchen you may want to lay a further sheet of greaseproof or cling film underneath as it does get messy! Melt your white chocolate (in the microwave or over a saucepan, either way remove from the heat once around 2/3 of chocolate has melted then beat until the remainder has melted, this makes sure you won’t burn it) and then simply spread over your greaseproof template. You want a layer a couple of millimetres thick to make sure it holds.

I sprinkled glitter on the greaseproof before spreading the chocolate to give a nice finish, I’ve also done this in the past with 100’s and 1000’s! You can also pipe the chocolate to make a design or use patterned transfer sheets for different effects. Leave the chocolate until it has set enough that it won’t drip or run when you move it but not so hard that you can’t bend it. (I have zero patience so I often cheat and slip a couple of ice packs under to speed this up but it’s a high risk tactic as it can set too hard very quickly). Then simply pick up your greaseproof and wrap around the cake – you need to do this quickly and press tight against the cake to hold so this is easier with two pairs of hands but not impossible to do single handed. Then straight into the fridge to set!

Once the chocolate collar has set hard simply peel off the greaseproof. Finally I decorated the top of the cake with more fresh berries and then glazed them. I used the juice/booze mix which I had soaked the other berries in, boiled until reduced by at least half, but you could use jam thinned down with a little water for a nice finish. Then last but not least I topped the whole thing off with a liberal sprinkling of gold glitter! After all, it’s hardly a celebration without some sparkles around.

And it’s as simple as that ūüôā

You can read more about baking in honour of the Queen’s birthday with the Fleet, Farnham & Farnborough group of the Clandestine Cake Club, which Vicky runs, here.

You can also follow Vicky (although I feel I should call her Victoria – rather more regal!) on Twitter @vixyvonshock.

Happy World Gin Day!

I’ve decided to have a little break¬†from the frugal here at Kitty’s Storecupboard and celebrate all things Gin in honour of¬†World Gin Day.¬†I know that there is now a ‘day’ for everything¬† (yesterday was Iced Tea Day apparently), but I am particularly fond of Gin and reckon that this one is worth celebrating.

Another reason to mark this day on the blog (other than ‘I like Gin’) is that Gin is a wonderful and varied ingredient. Recently my friend Sarah and I made a rather fabulous Gin and Tonic Tart at her home which is a few miles from the Bombay Sapphire distillery – a perfect excuse for a blog post! Then, not long afterwards, another friend who is a fantastic baker put a picture of a Gin cake on Facebook and I decided that World Gin Day was not enough – the idea of ‘Kitty’s Storecupboard Gin Week‘ was born!

So, what you have to look forward to in the coming week is:

  • ¬†Sarah’s Gin and Tonic tart –¬†Sarah’s day job is making wine (alright for some!) and has a lot to say about flavour;
  • Vicky’s Gin and Dubonnet Sponge¬†Cake –¬†Vicky is an old school friend who is part of the Clandestine Cake Club and is looking forward to starting her own baking blog soon; and
  • (a different) Sarah’s lesson on distilling¬†(and I assume tasting) Gin in Edinburgh
    Sarah has a blog promoting all things women in STEM and will, I’m sure, have something interesting to say about the technical side of distilling, with a bit of Gin tasting and feminism on the side!

So, with all that excitement to look forward to I am going to go and make myself the Allcock family cocktail, ‘Grandad’s Special‘.¬† I’m not entirely sure that I have permission to share the recipe though – maybe if you’re good I’ll finish off ‘Kitty’s Storecupboard Gin Week‘ with it!

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My little Gin collection ūüôā

Cranberry Gin!

Cranberry gin! This is a great little invention of mine which I have wanted to share with you for a while. It takes inspiration from my mother’s Sloe Gin recipe and my sister’s Quince ‘Brandy’. I first made it a couple of years ago as an ‘experiment’; it was delicious but rather too sweet for me because I used the same proportions as for Sloe Gin, and cranberries are not nearly so bitter. This year I am making a few slightly different versions to try and ascertain what the optimum amount of sugar is – I’m afraid you will have to wait a good few months for the verdict though!

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My original Cranberry Gin recipe, and appreciation of the final glass of the first vintage.

Method

First freeze the cranberries – this bursts the skin so that you don’t have to prick them with a fork.

Allow the cranberries to defrost in the fridge and then put them into an empty 1 litre glass bottle along with the cloves – I’m afraid that there is no substitute for dropping them into the bottle one at a time.

Using a funnel, add the sugar and then top up with gin. When there is still a little space in the top, put the lid back on and tip the bottle up and down a few times to mix it. Top up with a little more gin; you want it to be very nearly full, but with enough air at the top that you can tip it up and mix it periodically.

Don’t forget to label the bottle with the proportions that you used!
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For the first few weeks you will have to tip the bottle every day or two to help the sugar to dissolve. After that, you can put the bottle at the back of a cupboard and ignore it for a good few months.The longer you leave it the better – upwards of six months is best. I tend to make it early in the year – January to March – and then it is ready for next Christmas!

When you just can’t wait a moment longer, decant into pretty bottles using a funnel and coffee filter papers.

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Kitty’s Shrove Tuesday Feast

I hadn’t planned on writing a Pancake Day blog post; but then I don’t think that I have planned any of my blog posts so far so nothing new there! My impromptu three-course pancake feast was so spectacular though that I just had to share it with you.

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The problem with not having intended to write this up is that it is rather difficult to communicate the batter proportions to you because I did it by eye. I added a little bit of Rye Flour (~ 1/4), which was a first for me and was rather nice. I tend to use half milk half water. For the savoury pancakes I made the batter rather thicker than I would usually, and then added more liquid when I got to the sweet pancakes.

The First Course

  • pancake batter
  • lemon thyme from the garden
  • smoked salmon
  • plain yoghurt
  • ground black pepper

Heat some high smoke-point oil (Rapeseed is good) in a non-stick pan. When the oil is hot add the batter and sprinkle the lemon thyme leaves on top. Flip the pancake after about a minute, then flip again so that both sides are cooked.

Put the pancake onto a plate and top with the salmon, yogurt and black pepper.

The Second Course

For this course I made a larger pancake in the same way as above, but instead of the thyme I used chilli flakes and some mixed herbs.

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For the filling I used meatballs and tomato sauce which I had made earlier in the day and re-heated; very similar to the meatball pasta sauce which I have shared with you previously.

Pudding!

So I said that I added more liquid when I made the sweet pancakes, what I didn’t tell you is that the liquid was gin and tonic! I decided that G&T pancakes required only lemon and sugar as a topping. This was a little experiment which definitely worked – yum!

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And finally, Shrove Tuesday today means Ash Wednesday tomorrow. I am in the process of deciding on the details of an interesting challenge for Lent, I’ll keep you posted.