You may remember (but probably won't - I know most of you just look at the pictures, drool a little, then click onto something else) that I sampled nearly the entire range of Billington's sugars a little while ago, and that the result was this utterly divine banana and pecan caramel ice cream. So when the people at Baking Mad came up with some Mother's Day recipes, using said sugar, I figured it would be rude not to have a go, especially as I still have an enormous amount of Billington's products in my storecupboards. It's not as if I need an excuse to bake, really, and the idea of making my own fondant fancies was just too appealing.
I haven't eaten a fondant fancy in years; I used to love having them at my birthday tea parties: the combination of sweet buttercream, grainy sugary icing and soft, vanilla-scented sponge is irresistible. Even more so when you make your own, because you end up with the buttercream and jam filling sandwiched between two pillow-light sponges, fresh from the oven and deliciously soft and moist.
The recipe is fairly simple, but you do have to make three different elements: the sponge cake, the buttercream, and the fondant icing. If you have a good mixer this shouldn't be a problem, as long as you're prepared to wash up a lot of bowls. If you read my post about Jamie Oliver's 30 minute fish the other day, I'm sure you're well on the way to enlisting your own team of kitchen minions. I do not have a team of kitchen minions, unfortunately - just a couple of cats who yesterday tried to eat the sea bass I had sitting on the counter, and who spent most of last night licking the sugary remnants off my hands after I'd made these.
The sponge is just a standard cake mixture, with the same weight of butter, sugar and flour, and three eggs. I think it would be immeasurably improved with the addition of some vanilla extract, which isn't in the recipe but which I think would give that extra dimension to the fondant fancies. I'll have to remember that for next time. I put the mixture in a square cake tin and baked it for about 40 minutes, then left it to cool.
After that, I sliced it in half vertically and then sliced each half horizontally. I made a buttercream out of butter and icing sugar (a lot of butter and sugar was used in my kitchen yesterday...it's a good job I didn't give up sweet things for Lent, as I had considered doing). Incidentally, I have discovered that it is basically impossible to work with icing sugar and not end up with a thin layer of the stuff in an area about a two-metre radius from your mixer. This is perfectly fine, unless you have a mother who starts to grumble and become a dishcloth fascist. I think the mess I made slightly undermined the lovely gesture of baking mother's day treats (yes, I know mother's day is next week, but I couldn't wait any longer to mess around with pink icing).
On top of the buttercream, some lemon curd and some cherry jam. Not together, obviously - lemon curd for the yellow fancies, and cherry for the pink ones. The recipe suggested strawberry, but I thought cherry would be a nice twist, and also a little bit tarter against the overwhelmingly sugary sponge and cream, as it was morello (i.e. sour) cherry jam. I also spread some buttercream on the top of the cake. If I'd made more, I would have put it on in little lumps - bought fondant fancies always have a dome of sweet cream on top of each one. Maybe next time.
After layering the cakes, I made a fondant icing for the top. This was just fondant icing sugar mixed with a little hot water, and some food colouring. I decorated them with pink and silver sugar balls. After gazing at them for a while, I realised what was missing: the white stripes. The commercial fondant fancies I remember from childhood had those perfectly geometric white stripes across the top. Mine were nowhere near perfect - I just drizzled some white icing over - but they gave a nice dappled effect to the pastel topping.
That's it. Bake, slice, fill with jam and cream, ice, slice again, and eat. They taste like your classic birthday sponge cake, sandwiched with jam and buttercream, but there's something quite nice about having them all cut individually into little squares. The best ones are from the edges of the cake, where there's a little bit of crunch to the sponge. I, naturally, snaffled these for myself. The list of things it's acceptable to steal from your guests in the name of "cook's perks"is amazing (think the crusty end of freshly baked bread, or crunchy bits of a roast left over in a pan, or the middle slice of a piece of rare meat...the list is endless and I add to it nearly every time I cook). If you're home for the holidays and bored, or fancy making something a little bit different that everyone will love (mainly because it brings out the childish side in people), I'd suggest baking these. They'd make a lovely present, if you put them in individual paper cases in a nice box.
175g butter, softened
175g Billingtons unrefined caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
175g self-raising flour
2 tbsp milk
For the filling:
150g Silver Spoon icing sugar
75g butter, softened
3 tbsp strawberry jam (or cherry)
3 tbsp lemon curd
For the topping:
100g Silver Spoon Fondant icing sugar
Silver Spoon Cakecraft pink and yellow food colouring
Grease and line a 20cm square cake tin.
Preheat oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C, gas mark 5, 375°F.
Beat together 175g butter and sugar, till pale and creamy. Whisk in eggs a little at a time, and then fold in the flour. Add enough milk so mixture easily falls off a spoon. Transfer into cake tin and cook for 35-40 minutes, till a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, then turn out and cool upside down on a wire rack. When cool, cut the cake in half and then split both halves in half horizontally.
For filling, beat the butter and slowly beat in 150g icing sugar till smooth. Reserve about 2 tablespoon butter icing and use the remaining to fill one half of the cake. Top with jam and sandwich together. Cut cake into 8 squares. Fill the other half with lemon curd and cut into 8 squares. Spoon a dollop of the remaining butter icing on top of each cake.
Sieve the fondant icing sugar into a small bowl and stir in enough hot water to make a smooth icing thick enough to coat cakes. Half the icing into two separate bowls. Add pink colouring to one bowl and yellow colouring to the other. Drizzle the pink icing over the buttercream and jam cakes and yellow over the lemon curd cakes. Coating the top and sides of the cakes. Sit in paper cases and decorate with sugar flowers (or silver sugar balls).
Should any of you fancy making these rather gorgeous flower biscuits, also from Baking Mad, here's the recipe:
Flower cookies (makes 7-10):
350g plain flour plus extra for rolling out
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 level tsp edible lavender seeds or 1 level tsp rose water
175g light soft brown sugar
1 medium egg
4 tbsp golden syrup
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/ Gas 4. Line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Add either the lavender or rose water. Add the butter and rub until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
Lightly beat the egg and golden syrup together, and then add to the flour and mix to make a dough. Leave to chill for 20 minutes.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface to ½ cm thick. Cut out with flower shaped cutters. To make the flower stem carefully insert lolly stick into the flower shaped dough, flattening the dough over the stick. Place on a baking tray, leaving a gap between them.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes then move to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Using a smaller flower cutters, cut out shapes out of coloured Silver Spoon Cakecraft ready rolled icing. Drizzle a little white writing icing over the cookies and top with the icing cutouts. Use a Silver Spoon Cakecraft Chocolate beans as the middle.
Use Pink Silver Spoon Cakecraft Designer icing to form and outline on the cookies, again using the chocolate beans for the middle.
Use Pink Silver Spoon Cakecraft Designer icing to form and outline on the cookies. Make a small amount of water icing, adding a few drops of boiling water to white icing sugar until a runny icing is formed. Add a few drops of pink food coloring and smooth the icing within the outline. Sprinkle with Silver Spoon Cakecraft sprinkles.