Tag Archives: sweet things

Diamond Jubilee: Edinburgh Tart

For most of us, the Queen has always been the Queen. Always there, changing only very slowly. Stability. Certainty. Continuity.

However, while it may at times seem hard to believe, the Queen has not always been the Queen. Back in 1947, she was newly-married and know as HRH The Duchess of Edinburgh. So today’s Jubilee-related foodie frolic honours this earlier part of the Queen’s life. This is a sweet treat called the Edinburgh Tart.

The obvious question is what is an Edinburgh tart? I’ll admit that it’s not one of the most famous pieces of Scottish baking (that title clearly belongs to our national biscuit shortbread). This tart has a puff pastry shell and is filled with a custard-like filling made with butter and sugar, candied peel, sultanas and eggs. It’s similar to certain other Scottish tarts like Border Tart or the Ecclefechan Tart, but with more of a citrus, sunny demeanor (of which more later).

I was thinking for a while how I would be able to make a foodie link to Edinburgh, and it came down to this tart and the less refined Edinburgh rock. Edinburgh rock is like “normal” seaside rock, but made with cream of tartar, so that it becomes very soft and crumbly…which is rather odd, when you consider that Edinburgh is built on the very hard stone of an extinct volcano…anyway, I though that the tart looked simpler and would be a lot more sophisticated.

This tart has two links to Edinburgh. The most obvious is that it shares its name with Scotland’s royal capital. The second is via one of the Queen’s royal ancestors. The story goes that this tart was first baked in honour of Mary, Queen of Scots, upon her arrival in Scotland for the first time. Given that she was arriving from warm France to freezing Scotland in the 1500s, I suspect that she was in need of as much cheering up as she could get. The luxury of the ingredients would probably have tasted incredibly decadent to the middle ages palate. Faced with bowls of lukewarm porridge, I’m sure the Edinburgh tart would really have looked rather appealing.

My own verdict? I think this is a lovely tart, with a rich, citrus flavour, and it’s a shame it’s not more widely known. It reminded me a little of Portuguese custard tarts (the flaky pastry, I think). It makes a nice large tart, but I think it would also work well if you were making individual tarts.

To make an Edinburgh Tart:

• 75g sugar
• 75g butter
• 1 tablespoon marmalade
• 75g chopped candied peel

• 50g sultanas
• 2 eggs, beaten
• 1 tablespoon whisky
• pinch of salt
• 1 sheet rolled puff pastry (yes – I’m lazy!)

Preheat the oven to 230°C. Lightly butter a loose-bottomed flan dish (23cm diameter).

Put the butter and sugar into a saucepan. Heat gently until the butter melts. Add a generous tablespoon of marmalade, the candied peel and sultanas, and stir until well-combined. Allow to cool until just warm, then add a tablespoon of whisky, the eggs and salt. Stir well.

Roll out the pastry and use to line the flan dish. Prick the base with a fork. Add the filling, spread it out, and bake for around 15-20 minutes until the pastry is puffed and the filling is golden. Watch the tart while it is baking – the base might start to puff up with steam – if this happens, quickly open the door, pierce with a skewer, and the pastry should sink back down.

Once cooked, remove from the oven, allow to cool complete and serve with cream or ice cream.

Worth making? Simple, quick and very tasty! This tart is straightforward (if, like me, you just buy the pastry and don’t make it) and looks spectacular, has lots of flavour but is not too sweet.

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Little Simnel Cakes

In keeping with the Easter theme, I’ve tried to make a traditional Simnel cake, but in miniature form. To to be clear, these are miniature cakes. Let’s just not use the work “cupcake”.

A Simnel cake is an Easter tradition – a spicy fruit cake which also includes a decent amount of marzipan. You probably have to love marzipan to want to eat Simnel cake, but if you do, you’ll love it. Circular reasoning, but true.

It has a long pedigree, first appearing in mediaeval times, and was originally associated with Mother’s Day, but with time, this has come to be linked with Easter. The Easter connection is also seen in how the cake is decorate with marzipan – there should normally be eleven marzipan balls on top, representing the true apostles, minus Judas. For rather obvious reasons.

The mixture itself is really simple to make, and can also be changed depending on what you’ve got in the cupboard and your personal preferences, provided you keep the quantities the same and don’t do silly things like replacing raisins with fresh pineapple. Dried fruit can be swapped out for another type of dried fruit, but sweet, juicy fruit could do all manner of things to the mixture. By all means experiment, but you’ve been warned. I used candied peel, sultanas and raisins, but a few chopped nuts, dried cranberries, dried blueberries or even dried pineapple or mango would all work too.

The marzipan is the fun bit. Traditionally, the bright yellow marzipan is used, and by all means, go with that, but I prefer the look of white marzipan, which I think is rather more elegant.

Now, you do get a real marzipan hit with a Simnel cake. It’s not just on the cake, it’s in it too. You can either chop some into chunks and fold into the batter, or roll out a disc and place in between two layers of the uncooked cake batter, so that marzipan bakes into the cake. Then you finish the cake with another layer of marzipan and the marzipan balls, and finally – brush with egg white and pop under the grill to give the cake a lovely burnished golden look. Otherwise, use a handheld blowtorch to bring a little more finesse to the burnishing. There may be reason for this touch, but I don’t know what it is, beyond the fact that it’s traditional and looks rather pretty.

For the record, and for the curious, the recipe below can easily be scaled up to make a full cake (20cm diameter), but just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Happy Easter!

To make mini Simnel cakes (10 mini cakes or one normal size):

For the cake:

• 300g self-raising flour
• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 teaspoon mixed spice or Lebkuchengewürz
• 120g butter
• 120g soft brown sugar
• zest of 1/2 lemon
• zest of 1/2 orange
• pinch of salt
• 3 tablespoons golden syrup(*)
• 300g mixed dried fruit (**)
• 50g chopped candied peel
• 2 eggs
• 100ml milk
• 200g marzipan

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Grease and line a large muffin tray with paper cases.

Mix the flour and baking powder. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingers. Add the rest of the dry ingredients (spice, sugar and dried fruit) and mix well. Add the egg, golden syrup and milk. Stir well, then add until the mixture is soft but not runny, and drops easily from a spoon.

Put half the mixture into the muffin cases.

Next, divide the marzipan into pieces and roll into discs. Place one into each muffin.

Add the rest of the mixture on top of the marzipan, smoothe down, and place in the oven to cook for around 30 minutes (until an inserted skewer comes out clean). Leave the cakes to cool then decorate with the marzipan.

(*) If you don’t have maple syrup, use dark corn syrup, rice syrup, agave nectar or maple syrup.
(**) Currants, raisins, sultanas, cranberries, blueberries…whataever you want, as long as it’s dried.

For the decoration:

• 300g marzipan
• 3 tablespoons strained apricot jam or quince jelly

• 1 egg white

Use one-third of the marzipan to cover the cakes. It is easiest to use icing sugar to dust a worktop,  roll out the marzipan with a rolling pin, then use a circulate cutter to cut a circle for the top of each cake.

Brush the top of each cake with jam/jelly, then put the disc of marzipan on top. Smooth the marzipan, and if you want, use your fingers or a knife/spoon/fork to make a pattern round the edge.

Next, roll out balls of marzipan and arrange 11 on top of each cake. Brush the marzipan with a little egg white, then place under a hot grill or use a blowtorch to heat the marzipan until it is lightly browned.

Worth making? Yes – provided you’ve got the patience to do the fiddly marzipan on top, this cake is simple and delicious.

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