Along the Grapevine


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Wild Berry Tarts with Rhubarb Curd

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When I read Lindy’s post on rhubarb curd, I knew I had to make it. Not only do I have a huge supply of rhubarb, but I also happen to be fond of all things rhubarb, and good rhubarb recipes are not easily found. I will not re-write the recipe, as her explanations are clear and easy to follow and can be found here.

It is a delicious variation of lemon curd and can be used easily for any recipe calling for that. I am always happy to find recipes where local ingredients can be used in lieu of imported ones. Not that I have anything against lemons, but I know the lemons we get here are not the same as where they are grown, so why not find a local alternative when possible.

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I figured this would be a perfect combination for the berries I have been picking lately, and the best way to pair them would be in small, bite-size tarts. Any berries would work, but I used mostly black berries, raspberries and red currants.

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Any kind of pastry is fine, but I made two versions of this one, a dark one with palm sugar and red fife flour and a light one with white sugar and white flour:

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 cups ground almonds

1/2 cup palm sugar (or other sugar)

1/3 cup butter

1 egg

Method

Blend all the ingredients together until you can form it into a ball. Cover and let rest in the fridge for about an hour.

It is difficult to roll this pastry, so just roll each tart separately using an appropriate amount for the size of mould you are using.  Once in the tin, weigh it down with some marbles or other weight (like beans or lentils). Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. Remove the weights and bake for another five minutes. Allow to cool.

To make the tarts, fill the centre with some curd and arrange berries on top. They keep well refrigerated for up to three days.

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Blueberries, now in season, would be perfect too!

Linked to Fiesta Friday #79


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Spuds ‘n’ Buds Salad and Crepes with Wild Berries

DSC02273 A few days ago I prepared cured duck eggs in two different ways – one sweet and one salty. For Fiesta Friday 75 I wanted to make something to demonstrate ways to use these easy-to-make ingredients. At this time of year, salads offer so many possibilities straight from the garden. There is no need ever to make the exact same dish twice. Just now I have masses of ditch lilies in bloom, and never having used them in a salad before but knowing that that they taste very much like green beans, I figured I’d let the recipe make itself. DSC02270 I used boiled golden Yukon potatoes, a good handful of chopped chives, garlic, fermented dandelion buds and blanched lily buds with a light vinaigrette dressing.  Fresh buds would be just as good, and offer a better presentation, since even a little cooking of the buds causes them to open a bit, but either works fine as far as taste goes. This was topped with shredded egg yolk giving it a salty cheese-like flavour. DSC02277 And of course, I couldn’t resist putting a fully opened lily on top, but there are plenty of other wild flowers I could have used to garnish it. The cured yolk is quite salty, so go easy with the seasoning. The sweet cured egg yolk, flavoured with lavender, needed a sweet fruity dish. Buckwheat crepes, made simply with buckwheat flour, 1 egg and enough milk or milk substitute to make a thin batter were the base for this recipe. Whipped cream, sweetened slightly with (forsythia) sugar and mixed with wild berries from the garden: raspberries, blackberries, red currants and gooseberries. Rolled up and garnished with sweet egg yolk made a rich and delicious brunch. DSC02283 The sweet version is not overly sweet, so you could even add sugar to the dish, either mixed in or sprinkled on top.


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A Dessert of Wine and Roses

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This is a dessert I have been thinking about for some time, but had to wait for wild strawberries to be in season. It has taken me a couple of weeks to collect the berries, about half a cup which I picked every time I was out weeding, and popped them in the freezer until I had enough.

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This is a super light dessert – a perfect finale to a rich dinner. It contains wine, fruit and sugar. All sorts of variations could be tried, and strawberries are not essential – any other fruit would do. It consists of three simple parts: a mixture of unsweetened apple sauce and wine; a jelly made of rose scented geranium syrup with strawberries; some kind of garnish.

For the base I used apple sauce made from last year’s feral apples and a dry red wine. I mixed 1 part of wine with 2 parts apple sauce.

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The jelly was made from a simple syrup made from a ratio of 2:1 sugar and water mixture boiled with the addition of the rose geranium. Rosewater to taste is a possible alternative. I added the strawberries to the jelly and when set, cut it in small cubes. This is the sweet part of the dessert. Spoon applesauce/wine mixture into individual bowls alternately with cubes of jelly.

As a garnish, I made a granita from watermelon and more rose syrup. This was done by blending some fresh, ripe watermelon with syrup according to how sweet you want it. I processed it in an ice cream maker, but it can also be done just by scraping with a fork several times during the freezing process.

I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday #73, and hope that some of the guests will be inspired by this simple, delicious and romantic dessert.

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Related posts:

Olive oil ice cream with balsamic wild strawberries

Wild greens and strawberries with chocolate balsamic dressing

Wild apple and rose geranium jelly


23 Comments

Spruce Tip Panna Cotta with Mint Rhubarb Sauce

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The season for spruce tips is quickly drawing to a close, so I wanted to present one more recipe using this not-to-be-passed-up-on ingredient while there is still time.

I’m told there are slightly different flavours on different trees and that a common favourite is blue spruce. I have been sampling tips wherever I find them, and really can’t say my taste testing has helped me come up with a favourite, but you might want to sample some for yourself. The flavour should be citrussy, sweetish and with a light resin taste.  This is the tree I picked from.

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Something that pairs extremely well with the flavour of spruce is cream, which is why I decided to make a panna cotta. Less rich and certainly less work than ice cream, it makes for a light and refreshing dessert, especially when combined with fruit. Rhubarb happens to be the only fruit I have in the garden just now, so that and a little mint which goes with just about anything is what I used to embellish this dessert I am taking to Fiesta Friday #69.

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Spruce Tip Panna Cotta with Mint Mint Rhubarb Sauce


Ingredients

2 cups cream (10%)

1 pkg gelatine

1/4 cup hot water

4 Tbsp sugar

1/4 cup spruce tips

Method

Dissolve the gelatine in hot water. Heat to just before boiling 1/2 cup of cream and mix with the gelatine until it is completely dissolved. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Mix the rest of the cream and the spruce tips in a blender or food processor until the liquid becomes a smooth green with not tips visible. Strain through a sieve and mix with the gelatine mixture. Pour into 8 ramekins or other moulds and chill until set.

For the rhubarb sauce, sprinkle 4 Tbsp sugar over 1 cup of rhubarb. Allow to rest until the sugar dissolves. Heat the rhubarb until soft. Add 6 finely chopped fresh mint leaves and 2 Tbsp white wine. Bring to a gentle boil for 1 minute, cool, pour over the panna cotta and serve.

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Petits Fours aux Fleurs

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The spring flowers are in full bloom around here – and as spectacular as I have ever seen them. The other day when I was wandering in the woods foraging for fiddleheads I was able to get some pictures of our provincial emblem – the trillium. Even here in Ontario they are a rare sight. Found mostly in wooded areas, or what’s left of them, they flower only briefly, but if you do find them you are likely to see them in masses. They are truly impressive.

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And sometimes they are red, and sometimes a cross between red and white.

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I bought one trillium last year for my garden. It survived but has not bloomed yet. It’s a start.

But I do have at the moment a great selection of wild flowers some of which I wanted to feature on this blog and share with the guests at Fiesta Friday #68.

Some of the edible flowers I have are: fruit blossoms, lilacs, wild strawberries, violets, forsythia, forget-me-nots, rose scented geraniums.

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Flowers are not a major source of food – they are often bitter and unless they are served very fresh they do not serve the purpose for which they are intended, which is to prettify the dish. They are finicky to preserve in candied form, and some lose their colour when cooked (e.g. wild violets).

I did find that drying them in the oven with just the oven light on, or in a dehydrator at the very lowest setting for about four hours does concentrate the colour and they can then be ground into a powder and used as a colouring as well as adding a distinctive flavour. They can also be mixed with sugar and saved for several months.

I used only three colours to decorate these petits fours: forsythia for yellow, violets for purple and a mixture of lemon balm and violet leaves for green. The flavours were floral enough to add a taste of spring, but for the violets I mixed in a little lavender sugar to give them a boost. As the season progresses, I will collect other edible flowers to use in a similar way, avoiding the necessity of commercial food colourings.

I made the cake with a gluten-free batter of ground almonds and cornflour, but a sponge cake recipe is also ideal. I baked it very thin in a cookie sheet, divided it into three, and spread the top of two pieces with rose geranium apple jelly. Any smooth seedless fruit preserve can be used.

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I stacked them and iced the top layer with a white icing made of coconut oil, icing sugar and cream to make it as white as possible. I then cut them into squares and covered them with a royal icing which I divided in four and added the colours to three of them. A little edible fresh wild flower and/or leaves as a garnish and voila!

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Next time I would bake it a bit thicker and just make it two layers, as the three layers makes it more difficult to slice neatly. I loved using the flowers, and was pleased to have these dainty cakes to serve guests.


17 Comments

Foam-enting Interest in Maple Syrup

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Here in Ontario maple syrup season is in full swing, and for the second year we are beginning to boil down the sap from our sugar maples and a few Norway maples too. The latter don’t provide as much sap, and it will not be as sweet, but once we’ve set up the apparatus, may as well make use of what is available to us.

We managed to find some second-hand metal buckets which I like much better than the blue plastic ones we already had from last year.

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We also have a new sugar shack, which is actually the now-empty wood shed.DSC01938

We are following the same process as last year which you can read about here.

My blog has been dormant for a while. We were off in Spain for a couple of weeks, and my arm still keeps me from doing much in the kitchen, so as I cautiously resume my adventures in backyard foraging, I wanted to bring something pretty special to Angie’s Fiesta Friday. This recipe is special because it uses the most iconic of all Ontario’s products, but in a way which is thoroughly innovative, fun, and Delicious.

I got the idea from an esteemed fellow blogger, Poppy, at Bunny Kitchen who shared an extraordinary idea for making a fluffy chocolate mousse out of the liquid from unsalted canned chickpeas. It seemed a bit risky to me, but her gorgeous pictures convinced me I should give it a try. Since she’d already proven the technique with her own chocolate version, I had to try it with maple syrup, and lots of it.

I used dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked them in the usual way. Once cooked, I chilled them, then poured off the liquid. From about one and a half cups of peas, I had one cup of liquid which, as it turned out, was plenty.

Using a hand mixer I beat the liquid for about ten minutes. I then added 1/2 tsp guar gum, 100 ml of sugar (I used maple), and gradually added 250 ml maple syrup, beating all the while. This is what it looked like – about two litres in all.

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As promised, this made a super light and delectable mousse. With all the maple, no hint of bean flavour came through, and the maple flavour was strong but the sweetness somewhat tempered. Perfect for so many things!

On its own, it was a delicious dessert, but I also wanted to see how else I could use it. Here are 3 ways I served it.

1. As a garnish for a fruit pie.

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2. As icing for cupcakes.

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3. As a dessert layered with banana walnut cake and topped with some violet syrup I had from last spring.

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I also tried freezing it to make ice cream, adding a little more syrup to make a swirl, but it didn’t really freeze – just got colder.

Some tips to consider when making this dessert.

  • A little goes a long way. Try to calculate how much you’ll actually need. The topping on the cakes has kept well beyond a day, but what was left in the bowl began to separate and lost some of its frothiness. Beating it again solves the separation problem, but it is no longer as airy.
  • The mixture is too thin to make a heavy frosting capable of holding its shape, so allow for some runnyness.
  • Any sweetener would work with this. Just add gradually and taste as you do so.

There are plenty more possibilities I can think of for using this technique and I expect to have some fun with it. I hope you do too.


23 Comments

Spiked Crabapple Cheesecake

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I don’t often bake cakes these days, but am always happy to oblige when there is an occasion – especially when I can use some foraged ingredient from my backyard. I had two constraints in choosing what kind of cake I would bake. First, the birthday girl wanted something gluten-free and second, I have one arm in a cast due to a recent mishap leaving me less dextrous than usual. So what to make with no gluten and one hand? Cheesecake was the perfect solution. I just needed some help with cracking eggs! I still had some crabapple preserve in the freezer, and frankly I don’t think there are many fruits that pair any better with cheese than a nice tart apple. If I had any Calvados, that would have been my choice of liqueur, but brandy seemed a good alternative. I used an 8 inch spring form pan, placed it in a larger pan which was placed in another larger pan filled with water. I believe that prevented the cake from having any cracks on the surface when baked.   DSC01830

Spiked Crabapple Cheesecake

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

1 cup almonds

1/2 cup hemp hearts

4 oz butter

a pinch of salt

1 cup plain yogurt

8 oz cream cheese

1/2 cup honey

3 eggs

1 cup crabapple preserve

1/4 cup brandy

Method

Grind the nuts and add hemp hearts and butter and salt. Press the mixture into an 8″ spring form pan lined with parchment paper. Blend the next 4 ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Pour on top of the nut mixture. Bake at 325 degrees F for about one hour, until the custard has set. Meanwhile heat just to mix the brandy with the preserve. Allow to partially cool and pour over the cooled cheesecake.

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The result was a little uneven looking due to my one-handedness, but delicious nonetheless. I think some toasted almond slices on the sides would have made it prettier but I can’t think that the flavour could have been improved at all.

Featured at Fiesta Friday.


51 Comments

Maple Walnut Baklava

Maple season will soon be upon us so now is the time to put new recipes out there for all the maple syrup enthusiasts. After all, there is much more that can be done with this delicious sweetener than pour it on waffles and pancakes.

I am not the first to come up with the idea of making baklava with maple syrup as a sweetener, but all the recipes I found on line also added refined white sugar. It is beyond me why one would want to mix maple and sugar since avoiding the latter is one good reason to use the former. To cut the sweetness of the syrup, I used some plain almond milk, but any milk would work fine. This and a conservative amount of syrup resulted in delicious but not overly sweet dessert. If you want it sweeter, you can add more syrup. Walnuts seemed like the logical choice for the filling since they pair so well with maple, but hazelnuts, pistachios or a mixture of any of these would also work well.

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Maple Walnut Baklava


Ingredients

filo pastry

1/4 cup butter

2 1/2 cup almonds

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground sumac (optional)

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup almond milk

Method

Chop the nuts and mix well with the spices.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.

Butter the base of a 9″ square pan. Place two sheets of filo pastry in the pan and brush with some melted butter. Repeat this three more times for a total of eight sheets of filo. Sprinkle two cups of the nuts over the pastry, then cover with two more sheets of filo. Brush with butter and repeat with two more sheets. Brush the top with more butter and sprinkle the remaining nuts on top. Cut with a sharp knife into squares or diamond shapes.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden.

Mix and heat the syrup and milk and pour over the pan. Allow to cool.

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I’m off to Fiesta Friday to share these treats with everyone. A big thank you to our host Angie and co-hosts Suzanne and Sue for keeping the party going.


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Snow Kachang

We are just now getting our first real blizzard of the season. It has been snowing all day, and tomorrow we may just be snowed in. This is what it looked like yesterday when we went for a walk on the lake.

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And this is what it looked like today in the early hours of the blizzard.

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So what do we do when we are getting snowed in? We make snow kachangs.

Actually, I’ve never made one before, but decided to give it a try for the second part of Angie’s Fiesta Friday first anniversary celebration where we have been invited to bring a main course or dessert.

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This recipe is based on a favourite sweet dish of mine that I used to enjoy in Singapore called Ice Kachang, usually spelt kacang. It was a while before I had built up enough curiosity to try it, but once I did I thought it the best way to cool down when on the town, and something that I would have to recreate when back home in Canada. It has taken me a long time.

When I first saw it, I was not impressed. All I could see was a tall pyramid of shaved ice, with 3 or 4 garish coloured syrups poured over it. I’m pretty sure the green colour was made from pandan, but have no idea what the others were. When I finally ordered one, I found that this pyramid covered a delicious mixture of adzuki beans, sweet corn, little cubes of agar agar or jelly and a very sweet brown sugar syrup. Sometimes other things like tapioca or coconut milk were added making a kind of sweet pudding salad. Of all the pictures I have found on line, none resembles what I had in Singapore. The original recipe is Malaysian, and seems to have a lot of the pudding on top of the ice shavings. Other pictures show all the ingredients including the ice mixed together. I am sticking with the pyramid shape and only syrup on top.

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For my recipe I used snow, of course. It takes quite a bit of the white stuff, and I failed to make a really tall pyramid. But as I assembled it outside to give me time to get pictures, my fingers were becoming numb with the cold and harvesting any more snow was out of the question.

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I intended to use adzuki beans, but was unable to find any, so settled for small kidney beans. I figured with the syrup everything would be sweet enough anyway, and I was right. Besides beans I used sweet corn, cubes from the pealed leaves of my aloe vera plant, and our own maple syrup.

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Once these ingredients are assembled in any proportion you like, just pile on the snow. The syrup I used to drizzle on top was some wild grape syrup I had lingering in my fridge, but any sweet syrup will do, preferably one made of fruit or berries, or pandan if you are lucky enough to have any.

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The result, which we did bring indoors to eat, was every bit as good as the Singaporean version but with a distinctive Canadian touch. This is a recipe you can make your own with whatever local ingredients you have, and ice shavings if you don’t have clean snow available.

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Thanks to Angie at The Novice Gardener as well as this week’s co-hosts, Nancy at Feasting with Friends and Selma at Selma’s Table for managing this event, and to everyone else, enjoy the party!


35 Comments

A Forager’s Dark Fruit Cake (Vegan & GF)

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The traditional, rich, dark Christmas cake seems to be out of fashion these days. A good one, if you can find it, is very expensive, and a home-made one requires more time and planning than many people want to put into their holiday baking. If you think of it not so much as cake, but of a great selection of dried fruit and nuts flavoured with spice and brandy or rum, you might reconsider this as an essential part of the holiday fare. It is best, if you decide to make one, to make it early enough that it has time to age, preferably wrapped in a liquor soaked cloth for a few weeks. So, being a bit of a traditionalist, I decided to make one batch and share the recipe with at Fiesta Friday #43.

Christmas cakes have evolved over the last decades – an evolution that I sometimes find discouraging. Artificially coloured fruits and berries and a batter that is mediocre have become the norm. I have therefore used only good quality fruit, some of it foraged from my own garden, freshly ground spices and enough brandy to make it illegal for minors to eat it. It is a cake my ancestors would recognize, and they wouldn’t even notice that it is vegan and gluten-free. The recipe can be altered to use a wheat flour and butter instead of the chestnut flour and coconut oil I used, and adding eggs wouldn’t hurt it either, but definitely not necessary. I have given the measurements for what I used, but the variety of fruits and nuts can be altered to suit your taste and what you have on hand as long as you stick to the same measurements.  I wanted to use my wild apples, crabapples and pears, but any dried fruit is fine – preferably organic.

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There is only enough batter in this cake to hold together the fruits and nuts. I added no sugar, but with the sweetness of the other ingredients, you will not find it lacking. Not sure if this recipe would work at all, I made a few small cupcake forms just to try them out. They will improve with aging in texture and taste, but they held together fine, and the flavour was exactly what I was aiming for.

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A Forager's Dark Fruit Cake


Ingredients

(fruit and nut mixture)

2 cups dark raisins

1 cup light raisins

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup dried mulberries

1 cup dried apples

1 cup dried pears

1 cup candied ginger

1 cup dried apricots

1 cup dried dates

2 cups nuts (I used almonds and pecans)

1/3 cup chestnut flour

(batter)

1 1/3 cup chestnut flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp mace

1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 Tbsp ground chia (or flax) seeds

1 cup coconut oil, melted

1/3 cup blackstrap molasses

3/4 cup fruit preserve or jam

3/4 cup brandy (or rum or apple juice)

Method

Chop the fruit and nuts and place in a very large bowl or cooking pot. You will need lots of room to stir the mixture when the other ingredients are added. Cover with the 1/3 cup of flour and mix until all the fruit is coated. If there are any large chunks of fruit, break them up into smaller pieces.

Mix the rest of the dry ingredients in another bowl.

In a smaller bowl, mix the oil, brandy, fruit preserve and molasses.

Add the dry ingredients to the fruit mixture, and when well combined mix in the wet ingredients. Stir well making sure there are no dry bits left. The batter will be very thick, but it should stick together.

Line your tins with greased parchment paper and spoon batter into them. Press down with the back of a spoon and smooth the top, making sure there are no air pockets.

Place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven and bake the cake(s) at 275 F.

The cooking time was 1 1/2 hours for the twelve cupcakes, and 2 hours for the 8 inch loaf and 8 inch round springform pan. If you make one large cake, you will need to bake it for about 2 1/2 hours. To check for doneness, it should be dry on top and spring back when you press on it.

Remove the cakes from the pans and allow to cool. If you like, you can wrap them in a liquor soaked cheesecloth, then wrap them again in parchment paper or plastic wrap, and store them in an airtight container. When the cheesecloth dries after a few days, repeat the soaking process. You can do this regularly until they are ready to be served.

When ready to serve, you can decorate it, ice it with marzipan and royal icing, or just as is.

This recipe makes 5 pounds.

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