Many-Splendored Quick Bread

What is it with Americans and the vowel "u" (amongst others)?  I do see the point, honestly.  I mean why use two letters, when one is enuf?  I do worry for a few seconds each week every blue moon when I post, that some of you may think I can't spell.  I can barely read stalkerbook anymore because some of the spelling irritates me so (or makes me laugh so hard - a dilemma that keeps me going back for more).  Don't get me started on SMS "language" - it is so very far from gr8.  It is s2pid.

What is it I do on this blog thing again?  Apart from open myself to criticism for any spelling mistakes I may make?   People in glass houses and all...

So, yes, it has been a while.  I am embarrassed to realise that it is over six weeks since I last posted.  I have slipped to the third bottom of Marie's HCB blogger update list.  Eeek.  And whilst I have been baking a fair amount, I haven't converted that baking into blogging.  Apologies.  I will further apologise, because this post will cover off all the baking I have done in the last six weeks.  

So in order of memory retention...

This weeks' Many Splendored Quick Bread.  (Can I just say that every element of that name - besides "quick" irks me).  But I can't come up with a better name than Rose, so it can remain Many Splendored Quick Bread ... for now.  As the English say, it does exactly what it says on the tin.   Quick it is.

The most time consuming part of this recipe was finding the loaf tin - owned for years, used precisely never. 

Oh, and there was one time wasting instruction which I duly ignored - mix flour, leavening and salt in one bowl, sift into another bowl and mix in the oats.  Um.  No.  How about I sift it all into one bowl, mix it and then mix the oats in and call that one less bowl to wash up.  Each time I ignore an OCD like instruction in Rose's recipe I have a giggle about how Raymond will react to it on his post.

The UK has a health marketing program "eat 5 a day" which is the recommended serves of fruit and veg in one day.  Given this bread has zucchini (courgettes in the UK), carrots (strangely, they call them carrots here too), banana (ditto) and walnuts (I subbed pecans because that was what I had), by my calculations if you ate the full loaf, then you probably would meet half of your "five" a day quota.  Because even though it contains all those things - it is literally three quarters of one ig carrot, half a big zucchini and one banana.  Well, actually, my one banana was 8 grams shy of the target, but hey ho.

I love these oil based cakes.  You are never instructed to have the oil at a set temperature and everything just kind of gets bunged together until it emulsifies.  The carrot and zucchini is grated, of course, because I am yet to hear of a cake that has them either diced or sliced or left whole.  Because there is a relatively small portion of zucchini and carrot, I opted for the old fashioned knuckle grater.  Happily, because it didn't use the full amount of either carrot or zucchini I avoided adding unnecessary protein to my mix.

 The end product was pretty and good.  My father in law ate it like bread.  As in with lashings of butter.  The rest of us ate it virtuously.  Given it was quick and easy and didn't end in grated knuckles, I would call it a success.  And it is quite a virtuous cake.  I could tell, because this didn't improve with age - it became drier.  Don't all virtues get a bit weary with the passage of time?

Instead of the Pineapple brioche puddings, we went to Kew Gardens on one of those Autumn days where you can momentarily fool yourself that perhaps winter isn't just waiting behind the next tree.  It was a tough one, but sunshine in mid October was a definite winner.

The Chocolate Tomato cake did get a run - it should be grateful, because, trust me, that will be the last time I bake that recipe.   I baked this one mid week and took it to a company I have been working on a project with for the past six months.   They were very pleased.  But then again, I think they may have just been polite, after all, how many of their clients pay the bills *and* bring them cake? 

The cake mix was so thick and the tomato soup was barely discernible.  I would maybe bake the cake again, but to me, it just felt a bit gimmicky, so, yeah, maybe not.

The ganache with the mystery ingredient.  How such a tiny amount of tomato soup results in such bitter ganache is definitely a mystery to me.  My tastebuds are still demanding a root cause analysis with corrective action to be submitted for review.  Never. Again.  If you can't tell from the cake photo, that ganache was so grainy it looked terrible.  Especially when I compare it to the lusciousness that was the caramel ganache.  Now I know why Rose encased her cake in those cigar biscuits.  First rule of cake decorating - if it is ugly - cover it!

Oh me, oh my.  The Apple Caramel Charlotte.  How I love thee.  How my entire family loves thee (except the little assistant - he didn't at all like the texture or the hint of calvados).  This was an incredibly long recipe in the book.  And truth be told, it did take me two weeks to complete it.  I poached the apples on a Sunday afternoon, thinking I could turn it out that night.  Ahem.  No you can't.  Especially if it takes four goes to poach the bloody apples. 

First ones turned to mush.  Second ones looked weird - kind of firm on the outside but floury (how a poached apple can be floury, I have no idea), the third batch I left with my husband while I ducked out to the hairdresser, only to a return to apple sauce.  The fourth batch were grand.  Ironically the fourth batch were a generic bag of apples from Tesco.  The first three were bought from farmers markets and various organic healthfood shops.

Anyway, assuming that you can poach apples, you could probably knock this out in a few hours.  The filling is a combination of a caramel made with the apple poaching liquid combined with an italian meringue.  Capital A amazing.  

The cakey bit is just a genoise.  See how I fooled you there with pretending that genoise are easy.  Far fricking out.  Genoise has become my nemesis.  Even with the faffing Wondra flour I ended up with chewy nuggets.  But that annoyance was nothing compared to what you see in the next photo.

Yep, that is correct.  Two inches short of a cake tin.  And no, I am not talking about my mental capacity.  Those pits in the base sponge were the wondra lumps.  I had to patch the gap with some frozen whipped cream cake I excavated from the freezer.  Somehow, I ended up eating that bit of the cake, and I can tell you that nine (!!) month old frozen whipped cream cake is not nearly as delectable as even my crappy genoise.

At one point, my husband questioned whether a cake that produced as many dishes as this one, could ever be worth it.  His concern was hilarious, given that he gets to eat the cake, but doesn't ever have to do the dishes!  

The final call was that this cake is definitely worth using every single pot (more than once over) and every bowl (I have four pots, and six bowls) and countless other implements.  Especially when your wife does the dishes (yeah, I am struggling with the logic of that one too!).  This is now the requested birthday cake, along with a tiramisu and 3 dozen cupcakes to take to his office.  So there will be plenty of dishes in my kitchen this weekend!

I didn't realise it was free choice week until after we had eaten the upside down apple cake.  Um.  So the only photo I had was from above.  Happily, it was a lot more successful than the first go round, where I smoked out the house.  I do learn from previous errors (sometimes)!  I retract all negative comments I had a year ago about this cake.  It is fantastic.  Perfection.

I made the Upside Down Plum & Blueberry cake which was nice enough.  Great with a cup of tea and a trashy mag.  Though equally good with a glass of champagne and (not trashy) friends.  I did research on both pairings.  Easy to make and not completely ruined by the fact that the caramel and plums sat overnight and completely turned to mush.  So feel free to prepare the night before and bake in the morning!  It is a great breakfast cake - and has to count as one of your "5 a day".

The Marionberry shortcakes were in there too, except my camera was shotless, so no photos.  I do recall that my genoise shortcakes were a little short.  The hit of those cakes was the lightly sweetened creme fraiche.  That is definitely going into the bag of tricks.  Creme Fraiche is lower in fat than cream, so you can feel all fabulous and healthy (but only in comparison to the cream eaters, because creme fraiche at 31% fat is no lettuce leaf.)

 I did eventually get around to the Lemon Meringue Cake.  This is one of those "if it looks crap, cover it up" cakes.  And wow, meringue and some oven time do wonders to bring this cake from spotted gangling teen to airbrushed supermodel.

 I seem to have a lot of photos labeled "cake x - crap genoise".  Sigh.  Thank goodness for meringue.  And these were made with the wondra flour.  And my eggs were whipped until the requisite tripling or whatever was required.  When we HCB'ers meet up, I need a one on many genoise intervention (as in I bake the genoise and you all tell me where I am going wrong).

I even made the lemon curd from scratch for this cake.  I was a bit ho hum about the cake.  A bit too much going on for me - I think the syrup pushed it over the top.  Not the four inches of meringue on the top.  Honestly.

So, that rounds out the multitude of posts that I have forsaken, because I have been too busy working, baking and enjoying the last remnants of summer.  That amazing tractor is at the Princess Diana Memorial Playground just outside Kensington Palace.  And whilst the Little Assistant is anywhere in that playground, you are all reminded that it is most definitely "HIS".  When he is not there, you may play with it.  Maybe.  And remember that parents are in the trailer, NOT on the tractor (unless they are required to bounce any other kid who hasn't realised whose tractor it is).

I think I may be back in the mix again.  My work project has now been delivered, so it is just normal crazy, instead of crazy crazy.  With winter setting in, and days feeling about four hours long, I guess that our park time will be restricted, so more time for blogging.  Ever the optimist.


  1. Oh my goodness, you've been busy in the kitchen!!! You're funny too! Glad to see so many of your yummy HCB Selections all in one post.


  2. Nicola! I'm so glad you're back in the blogging saddle. How I've missed thee! I haven't had this good a laugh in a long while! Sign me up for the genoise intervention. I swear it has something to do with the temperature of the heated eggs. Flour dissolves in cold water, gums up in hot, ergo my "theory". And the spelling? It started out on personalized auto license plates and graduated to instant messaging. I fear for the English language.

  3. P.S. I couldn't find my loaf tin either and gave up. Luckily there were leftover paper ones from some HCB thing. I took a picture of my cupboard but didn't have the nerve to post it! Love your little boy's tractor. So cute!

  4. Your post made me giggle, because I felt the same way as you about so many of these cakes, in particular the comment about how Raymond would react to the sifting instructions! I was disappointed to see that he had no snarky remarks. ;)

    I also wonder how readers must react to my spelling, given that we Canadians try to stick to proper English spellings too.

  5. Hey, good to have you back!! Wow, you've been busy. I mean, good 2 have u back; wow, u've been bz :o)
    And your little guy looks super cute!

  6. baked all the cakes but didn't blog until now! LOL! Your post made me laugh.

  7. Oh, Nicola, I've missed you.

    Re: Americans and the letter u. You know what really gets me? Americans who use British spellings such as colour to appear more cultured, sophisticated, well-traveled (pick one). I've noticed it the most in upscale advertising. We also do the whole switching our fork to the other hand thing; the lengths people will go to to be rebellious!

    I can't believe how busy you've been baking!

  8. Nicola! Please don't go away for so long again, I've forgotten how funny you are! Thanks for the cake roundup, glad to see you were always baking along. I love your photo of the caramel apple upside down cake.

  9. ב''ה

    That kid is getting biggur and cuteur (is that how you spell it over there?...)

    Niuce tou knouw thaut youu hauve beeun bauking aloung wiuth uus thius whoule tiume.

  10. Nicola, you have been missed! You go girl on the American way of spelling! Shall we start on the lack of metric system?

    I also have forgotten how funny you are. I love love your write up bit on the Apple Caramel Charlotte - and yes we too feel it is worth every dishes.

    Great job on all the cakes. WOHO! They all look so yummy.

  11. Nice, fruitful post. welcome back.


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