Almond Cake with Plum and Sweet Geranium Jam and Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I only recently discovered scented rose geranium as a baking ingredient, having bought some at our local farmer’s market. While not the pretties of leaves, it releases a wonderfully delicate rose scented flavour simply by rubbing  to release the oils. It can be used in sweet dishes in a variety of ways, for example by infusing sugar to use in baking and desserts in place of normal sugar, or in scented syrups or jams. It pairs well with citrus flavours, fruits and spices.  I choose to use my geranium in a jam with plums, which happened to be in season at the time of late Autumn. It is quite possibly the best jam I have ever made! While we have been using it on toast and scones for several weeks, I finally satisfied my original intention of using it as a cake filling by creating this delicious recipe for Almond Cake with Plum and Geranium Jam and Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream.

I chose to make this as a tray or sheet cake. I will tell no lies, I was in a bit of a rush and didn’t have the time to consider layering and icing in my usual way. And actually I quite like the informality of a tray cake; it is easy to cut and serve for a casual teatime treat! The large surface is a perfect canvas for decorative prettiness too!

The almond cake is particularly dense and moist, and is a classic pairing with the plum jam. The sweet geranium in the jam adds just the right amount of floral fragrance.  I used quite a few geranium leaves but feel free to adjust this flavour to your preference.  You could also try making the jam with geranium-infused sugar, rather than the chopped leaves I have used here, although this would take a little more forward-planning. I chose a vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream for a simple, light and complimentary flavour.

The quantities for the jam makes much more than you need, but store in sealed sterilised jars and use it in other bakes, or simply enjoy on your favourite toast, croissant or scone! If you can’t find geranium or seasonal plums, this cake and buttercream recipe works well with other similar fruity floral combinations, try shop bought raspberry jam with a little rosewater added for an even quicker but equally delicious cake.

Similarly the Swiss meringue buttercream makes more than required. However as this is a more labour-intensive buttercream than the straightforward recipe of mixing icing sugar and butter, I always go for the larger quantity and freeze leftover icing for my next bake. You can of course halve the quantities if you don’t envisage using it again in the foreseeable future.

I was delighted to donate this bake to my local community Crosscare cafe, which offers hot meals and a warm and friendly environment for those in need. Spread love with cake!

Happy baking!

Suzanne x

Almond Cake with Plum and Sweet Geranium Jam and Vanilla Bean Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 400g unsalted butter
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 100g plain flour
  • 250g ground almonds
  • Pinch salt
  • Few drops almond essence (optional)
  • 4-6tbsp milk

Ingredients for Plum Jam:

  • 900g plums (washed, dried, stoned and sliced)
  • 700g caster sugar
  • 5-6 large sweet geranium leaves, finely chopped
  • Juice one lemon

Ingredients for the Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

  • 300g fresh egg whites (about 10 eggs)
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 680g unsalted butter, cool but not cold
  • seeds 1 vanilla pod
  • pinch salt
  • pink paste food colouring (optional)

For decoration (optional):

  • Sliced plums
  • Dried edible flower petals (rose and cornflower)
  • Toasted flaked almonds

Method:

  1. To make the jam, place the plums in a large pan with 250ml water. Cover, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20mins until the plums are soft.
  2. Remove the lid and add the sugar, sweet geranium and lemon juice. Simmer on a medium heat until the jam is reduced down and has reached setting point (you can test this by placing a spoonful on a cold plate in the fridge for a few minutes. It should form a skin when you push it with your finger).
  3. Remove from the heat and pour into clean sterilised jars and seal immediately. Leave to cool.
  4. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 160°C/320F.  Grease and line a 9″x 12″ baking tray that is approximately 1.5″ deep (or similar size) with baking parchment.
  5. Cream together the butter, sugar and almond essence in a mixer until pale.
  6. Sift together the flour and salt into another bowl.
  7. Add the eggs one at a time into the butter sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
  8. Add in the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
  9. Add the ground almonds and mix again.
  10. Finally add milk and mix to achieve a dropping consistency.
  11. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 35-45 mins until the top of the cake is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  12. Remove the cake from the tin after 10-15mins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  13. To make the icing: Clean the bowl and whisk of an electric mixer with a squeeze of lemon juice and dry with paper towel to remove any traces of grease.
  14. Place the egg white and sugar into the bowl and place over a pot of simmering water, whisking constantly, until the temperature reaches 160°F on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
  15. Transfer the bowl to the mixer and using the whisk attachment whisk until the meringue is thick and glossy and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch.
  16. Switch to paddle attachment and with mixer on low speed add the butter a cube at a time, mixing until incorporated after each addition. If the mixture curdles continue to mix until it comes back together. Add the vanilla seeds and salt and food paste colouring as desired.
  17. If the buttercream is too runny, refrigerate until firmer and mix again before using.
  18. To assemble the cake, when cool cover the cake generously with plum jam followed by a thick layer of delicious buttercream. Scatter with plum slices, flaked almonds and dried flower petals. Serve with a cup of tea!

 

Lime Basil and Blackberry Bundt Cake Recipe

Bundt cakes are so easy to make, require little decoration and serve a crowd…hence I always love making a bundt cake for weekend treats or family celebrations!

Lemon Curd and Violet Loaf Cake Recipe

Loaf cakes are a weekend favourite, partly because they are so quick and easy to make. Without the need for layering and filling, a quick glaze or icing and some edible decorations results in something delicious and pretty with minimal effort.

This recipe evolved from a half jar of homemade lemon curd lurking in my fridge that I had left over from a wedding cake order. I am always loathe to throw away food and try to use everything up, so decided to add the curd itself to this loaf cake to add an extra tang and moistness.

Lemon and violet are a perfect summery combination. I had crystallised violet petals from Sous Chef UK in my cupboard so used them to add a subtle violet flavour to the cake as well as flavour and decoration on the icing. You could also use other violet products such as a violet sugar (try substituting some of the regular sugar for violet sugar) or violet food essence. Another nice addition would be some seasonal blueberries.  Feel free to experiment!

Lemon Curd and Violet Cake

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 190g unsalted Irish butter
  • 190g plain flour
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 3 medium free range Irish eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 4 tbsp lemon curd (homemade or shop bought)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 4tsp crystallised violets, ground

Ingredients for the icing and decoration:

  • 100g icing sugar
  • Juice 1 lemon
  • Crystalised violets, coarsely ground
  • Edible flowers

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/320F.  Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Cream together the butter, caster sugar, lemon zest and ground crystallised violets in an electric mixer or by hand until light.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time into the butter sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add in the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
  6. Finally add the lemon curd and mix again.
  7. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 45-55 mins until the top of the loaf is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove the cake from the tin after 10-15mins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lemon juice to make an icing with a thick pouring consistency. Add more lemon juice/icing sugar as required to achieve this.
  10. Pour the icing over the cooled cake, using a spatula to spread over the top and allowing a little to drizzle down the sides. Decorate with crushed crystallised violet petals and edible flowers if desired.
  11. The cake keeps well in an airtight container for 2-3 days.

 

A fun creative collaboration….

Most of my work is well planned in advance, weddings are booked up to 18 months before the date and classes are always scheduled several months ahead. Sometimes though something fun and creative gets thrown your way at short notice and no matter how busy you are you have to fit it in! Such an opportunity happened for me last month when O’Reillys Auctioneers of fine jewellery asked me to collaborate on their March catalogue cover.

O’Reillys Auction Rooms is based in Francis Street in Dublin’s ‘Antique Quarter’. They hold monthly auctions of fine jewellery, watches and silver and their monthly auction catalogues are remarkable for their vibrant and artistic imagery which showcases the stunning jewels.

For the March cover Natasha Bernon of O’Reillys approached me with the idea of using some of my sugar flowers to create a bouquet that could be held by a model wearing some of the gorgeous jewellery available at the auction.  The brief was to herald the arrival of Spring, with pretty flowers reminiscent of Mother’s Day to be held against a vibrant spring backdrop. I made a bouquet using a mix of chrysanthemum, roses, sweet pea, hydrangea buds and foliage in pastel colours… all in sugar! For the cover the bouquet was set against a striking yellow backdrop, with glistening jewels on the model’s hands. 

The back cover featured a single sugar rose alongside a stunning emerald ring.

There was also an nice little biography of my business towards the end of the catalogue! 

Thank you so much to O’Reillys Auction Rooms, Natasha Bernon (Creative Director) and Eithne O’Brien (Photography) for giving me such a fun opportunity, it was a pleasure to work with you!

Suzanne, x

Orange Fennel and Honey Loaf Cake Recipe

I do love a loaf cake…easy to make and requiring little decoration, they are a perfect weekend teatime treat. I devised this recipe for a feature in the November 2018 edition of Irish Country Magazine and hence had the pleasure of having talented photographer Ramona Farrelly follow me in its making in my kitchen…thank you for these lovely photos Ramon!

This is a classic loaf cake recipe, kept moist by the addition of yogurt and given a refreshing zing with orange zest and syrup. Fennel seeds add a subtle liquorice flavour and heighten the sweetness of the orange. Decorated here with dried edible flowers and chopped pistachios feel free to experiment with presentation…an orange icing would also work well, as would candied orange slices or other nuts.

Orange Fennel and Honey Loaf Cake

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 190g unsalted Irish butter
  • 190g plain flour
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 3 medium free range Irish eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 25g natural greek yogurt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
  • 3tsp fennel seed

Ingredients for the syrup and decoration:

  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 1tbsp Irish honey
  • 50g caster sugar
  • Handful chopped pistachios (optional)
  • Handful dried flower petals (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/320F.  Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Lightly toast the fennel seed in a hot pan until fragrant. Pour into a pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder.
  3. Cream together the butter, caster sugar and orange zest in an electric mixer or by hand until light.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, ground fennel and salt.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time into the butter sugar mixture, beating well after each addition.
  6. Add in the flour mixture and mix on low speed until combined.
  7. Finally add the yogurt and mix again.
  8. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 45-55 mins until the top of the loaf is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  9. Meanwhile make the syrup. Add the orange juice, honey and sugar to a pan and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer until reduced slightly. Pour over the loaf cake when it comes out of the oven.
  10. Remove the cake from the tin after 10-15mins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Decorate with chopped pistachios and dried flower petals if desired.

Real Weddings – Three of my favourites from 2018

It is always a delight to receive wedding photos from clients! So many months are spent working closely on their wedding cake design, it is exciting to finally see those plans come to fruition but also to see the cake in the context of a beautiful wedding day. Today I am sharing three of many stunning real weddings from 2018!

Sharon and James

This wedding was close to my heart as Sharon is actually my sister-in-law and my little girl was one of the flower girls. Sharon was the most relaxed bride and it showed, she glowed with happiness! The venue was Harvey’s Point hotel on the shores of Lough Eske which allowed for stunning photos by Ghorm Studio Photography in the surrounding mountains. The all-important cake was inspired by Sharon’s gorgeous dress, with applique lace and sugar flowers.  Family weddings are always exciting and I can testify that Sharon and James’ was an incredible weekend of celebration!

Rebecca and Fred

Rebecca, along with her mother, runs Hedgeroe Home, a Dublin-based interiors and lifestyle store. It was no surprise then to see Rebecca’s unique sense of style translate into her stunning wedding which was held in a marquee in the grounds of her family home. I mean look at her dress…divine! Ferns were the theme of the day, and the inspiration for the cake design, which featured a modern geometric pattern juxtaposed with fern moulding. Stunning photography by Paula McManus.

I was delighted to see Rebecca and Fred’s wedding featured in Social and Personal Magazine…what a lovely feature!

Suzanne and Eamon

Suzanne and Eamon traveled from America to celebrate their wedding with 400 guests at one of Ireland’s finest venues, the gorgeous Adare Manor. Living in America the bride and groom enlisted talented wedding planner, Alise Taggart, to coordinate their day. I worked with Alise in the design of their cake which drew inspiration from the elegant surroundings of the venue, with a gold leaf tier and soft sugar flowers in shades of blush, reflecting the wedding flowers by The Informal Florist. A monogram featured on their invitations was also incorporated into their cake design.

With photography by renowned photographer Taylor and Porter, it was no surprise that this  beautiful wedding was featured on prestigious wedding blog, US Brides

Thank you to all my wonderful 2018 clients, it has been a pleasure to work with each and every one! Looking forward to all of 2019’s orders!

Suzanne, x

Autumn Cake Design

 

For many cake decorators Autumn and Winter mark the end of a busy wedding season and allow for time to be creative in designing new cakes and experimenting in new forms and techniques. With time for a new cake design over the last few weeks I wanted to experiment with different colour tones in my sugar flowers and also embrace a more natural approach to their composition on a cake.

I was in love with the autumn hues this year: copper, burnt orange and light browns filled trees and then carpeted the ground….these colours are a departure from my usual in sugar flowers and hence a perfect palette to experiment with. I have also recently been drawn to more natural and organic floral arrangements by floral artists such as The Blue Carrot and this bowl arrangement by American Florist Kelly Lenard.

My take on this palette and inspiration was a loose arrangement of a blush O’Hara rose, yellow garden roses, and sweet pea for softness. Completing the arrangement were sparse withering leaves in shades of copper, rust and light brown and I also added in my version of my latest obsession, lunaria! I set the flowers atop a tall modern square cake, not the easiest to ice but quite striking I think once done! The cake needed a little texture for which I took inspiration from botanical artist Rachel DeinRachel Dein is a London-based artist who creates intricate botanical art in plaster and concrete in the form of tiles and larger pieces. The detail and texture is incredible!My texture was certainly a more simplified version of Rachel’s beautiful detail but it is something I would love to explore more…if I have the opportunity!I hope you like the finished piece!

Suzanne x

 

 

Secret Garden Inspiration Shoot

I had the pleasure of being invited to collaborate on a photo shoot last July designed and planned by the talented Grace and Saviour Styling and photographed by Paula O’Hara Photography.  I am in love with this one and thrilled to see the full shoot now published on prestigious wedding blog Green Wedding Shoes.  In this blog post I wanted to give a little insight into the inspiration for the shoot and corresponding brief for the cakes…with a sneak peak of the result!

The inspiration for the shoot was ‘ vintage botanical illustrations from the 18th century’. The brief was dreamy,  ‘..to convey the wedding of a cool, relaxed, slightly bohemian couple who get married in a beautifully ramshackle glass house in a country pile…overgrown gardens and slightly too warm, glistening skin’.  The shoot was to feel earthy and relaxed so I created a mood board for the cakes, drawing on pretty, informal and delicious looking cakes as inspiration, with natural florals for decoration.

Mood board:

 

The ‘country pile’ was Carncairn Lodge in Northern Ireland, an Irish Manor house with a beautiful garden and rambling greenhouse.  It was a glorious July day, creating the perfect atmosphere to convey a relaxed summer garden wedding. The shoot was centred around the greenhouse which was styled by Grace for an informal wedding lunch with draped linen, relaxed flowers, candles and fruits.

 

For the cakes, I opted for a trio for an informal sweet table concept. A main textured iced cake adorned with oversized garden blooms styled by Grace was accompanied by un-iced Chocolate Salted Caramel and Prosecco Peach Thyme cakes (for more of our delectable cake flavours check our our menu!). Purposefully oozing peach and thyme jam, a cake slice, and the exposed chocolate cake layers were chosen to convey delicious homemade and summery sweet treats. 

 

This gives a little taste of what’s to come in this gorgeous summery shoot which features signature informal flowers by Petal and Twine,  exquisite gowns by Ivory and Pearl, stationary by Lenka Calligraphy, hair by Lynette Murray, and make up by Jennifer Ireland. To swoon over the full shoot head on over to Green Wedding Shoes!

Lemon Balm Shortbread

I love to bake with herbs either in savoury recipes themselves or to add a savoury twist to sweet recipes. My herb garden is currently abundant with beautiful leaves, from flowering thyme and sage to chives and rosemary. A new addition to my herbs this year was lemon balm. Being a member of the mint family, lemon balm is also known as balm mint, and indeed has similar leaves and vigorous growing properties to mint. The leaves have a mild lemony scent and I have been using it on fish and in salads for an alternative citrus flavour. Last weekend I used it to add a herby twist to a traditional lemon shortbread. (If you don’t have lemon balm however just add a little extra lemon zest to this recipe). Decorated with some dried edible flowers these would make a pretty edible gift, or a lovely summery teatime treat!

Lemon Balm Shortbread

Ingredients for the Shortbread (makes 12):

  • 170g plain flour
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 110g room temperature butter
  • 1tbsp finely chopped lemon balm leaves
  • Finely grated zest 1/2 lemon
  • Dried flower petals (optional, to decorate)
  • Icing sugar (optional, to decorate)

Method

  • To make the shortbread, preheat the oven to 180°C/356F.
  • Place the flour, caster sugar, butter and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse until the mixture has almost come together.
  • Add the chopped lemon balm and pulse a few more times until mixed in.
  • Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to between 0.5-1cm thick. If you are using edible flowers, sprinkle over the rolled dough at this point and give a further roll to press the petals lightly into the dough.
  • Cut out biscuit rounds using a 6cm round cutter (or any size or shape you prefer!).
  • Place the biscuits on a baking tray and bake for 8-10mins (turning half-way through if required) until lightly golden.
  • Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before gently transferring to a wire wrack to cool completely.
  • Once cool, dust with a little icing sugar.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Let’s Talk Waste

Much attention has been focused of late on the scourge of plastics in our oceans and environment, with dire consequences for future generations unless we take action. Living beside the sea, we see at first hand the waste that is routinely washed up on our little stretch of coast. Since last year my family has worked to take one small step at a time to reduce plastic use, and waste in general, in our home, each thing we eliminate is one less piece of plastic or waste in our environment.

It was inspiring to learn of the recent launch of a Green initiative in my local villages of Glasthule and Sandycove (the latter after which my own business is named!) aimed at tackling waste.  ‘Glasthule Sandycove Going Green’ sees businesses aiming to reduce waste, focusing on plastics first. Businesses signed up to the initiative are pledging to replace at least three of their single use plastic items with biodegradable alternatives in 2018. To coincide with this I have taken a look at my own business to see if I can further reduce waste.

Cove Cake Design is a small home based business who supplies clients directly. The direct delivery of the majority of my products, wedding cakes, to a venue means there is thankfully little to no packaging involved in these orders…I take back my transport box to use again. Cakes that are collected are packaged in cardboard boxes which can be recycled. In terms of my supplies, I try to shop for ingredients locally and seasonally (and in small quantities to avoid potential food waste), choosing products not in plastic where possible. Any food waste is composted (and I keep this to a minimum, carefully quantifying recipes so that there isn’t an excess) and anything that can be recycled is.

There is always room for improvement though and I have been taking further steps to reduce waste (even though some only small I think even saving one item from waste is an achievement!)

  • I am in the process of sourcing biodegradable cellophane for my cake samples in my sample boxes. This is one area of my business where I do us packaging and I hence need to minimise waste from this.
  • I have started using a washing up liquid that comes in a container which is made from 100% recycled plastic and can be recycled again itself.
  • I switched from antibacterial soap in a plastic pump bottle in my kitchen to an antibacterial soap bar that comes packaged in a box.
  • I have switched from purchasing plastic milk containers to tetra pak cartons which have a better water and carbon footprint than plastic.
  • I have discovered a farmer in my local market who takes my old egg box cartons to re-use to sell his eggs…even though I always recycled them before to have them re-used is a much better circular system!
  • I have reduced the amount of paperwork that I print, backing up certain files electronically that I used to print a hard copy of too.
  • I am determined to work with suppliers and make complaints where excess packaging is used in my orders, shopping elsewhere if necessary! (Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows how much this upsets me!)

I have been inspired by others and I hope this little post can inspire too. I also want my clients to have confidence in knowing that when they buy a cake from Cove Cake Design I am conscious of doing my best to minimise any waste produced in the process!

Suzanne x