A Blustery-Sunday-in-May Cake

Last Sunday I found it hard to believe it was late May: 7°Celsius (45°F), Dull, Rainy and Windy (yes, with capital letters!). Luckily I had cut some of my early peony flowers a couple of days earlier before they got spoilt.

The perfect activity for such a day, as I’m sure you’ll agree, is to go into the kitchen, tie on a pinny, turn on the oven, and bake a cake!

MARBLE CAKE

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After looking through several marble cake recipes, mostly German (Marmorkuchen), I decided to just try out my own. And it worked first time! This is a German classic and was requested a while back by my Man of Many Talents… Really tasty and soft, just the right proportion of chocolate, and nice and moist from adding yoghurt to the batter.

  • 175g (1 and 1/2 sticks) soft butter
  • 175g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g (2 cups) SR flour
  • 2 tbsps cocoa powder
  • 150g (2/3 cup) plain yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and flour either a 1lb/500g loaf tin and 2 mini Gugelhupf moulds, or a slightly larger loaf tin.

Beat the butter with an electric mixer until smooth, then add the sugar and continue mixing until creamy. Slowly beat in the eggs, adding a little of the flour if it curdles, and the vanilla extract. Sift in the flour and gently fold in, and finally stir in the yoghurt very carefully. Now spoon 2/3 of the vanilla batter into your tin(s).  Add the cocoa to the remaining third and mix in well. Spoon the cocoa batter over the top of the vanilla batter. Using a knife, swirl through the mixture 3 or 4 times in a figure of eight motion. I didn’t bother with this for the mini Gugelhupf cakes, but for a round tin or loaf tin the effect is nice.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. (The mini Gugelhupf moulds only needed about 20 minutes.)

After removing from the oven, wait 5 minutes, and then turn out the cakes to cool on a rack.

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That warmed me up, and the house smelt warm and cosy too… hope June has some warmer weather in store!

What do YOU do on a cold and wet weekend when you can’t get out in the garden?

Tuesday at Two (May 28th)

What a week it has been! Cool and showery. A rained out Sunday and Monday, with unseasonally low temperatures. But bright warm sunshine at last today!

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The Aquilegias have definitely been the plant of the month…

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They withstand the wind and rain

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And keep the few bees that venture out happy

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But the most amazing plant in May was this tulip, “Texas Gold”, which has flowered all month, despite lots of stormy showers, and has gradually turned more and more orange around its slightly frilly edges.

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What has been YOUR favourite flower this May?

My “Lawn”

When looking at my Tuesday Views, it is clear that we have a large expanse to mow…

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However, it is not just grass. In fact, in places there is barely any grass, and in winter a lot of it is actually moss… here are some pictures of what’s really down there!

(Click on any picture to open the gallery)

The Moon Daisies are just starting to flower too!

What’s in YOUR lawn?

Tuesday at Two (May 21st)

The weather has been quite a mix this last week – but the garden has enjoyed the sunshine and rain. I cheated a little with the photo today as at 2pm it was just starting to rain again, and looked quite gloomy – so this picture was taken at around 3.30pm… sun and stormy skies after the shower!

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And here’s a closer look at the rockery directly below me when I took this photo…

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Irises flowering next to Tulips, with Euphorbia, Poppy and Heuchera foliage, Aquilegia on the right, and the later Peony buds bottom left.

😀

A Peony, and How to Plant a Strawberry Pot

As you can also see from my new header, on Friday the first Peony finally opened!

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😀

~~~

And now for the Strawberry Pot…

I have had this beautiful strawberry pot for about 10 years now, yet have never had much success growing anything in it.

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The problem is that the little pockets just don’t soak up any water in dry weather, so the plants dry up while the top flourishes… I didn’t plant it at all last year – such a shame.

The solution? I googled strawberry pots and found a great way to deal with this watering problem. If you have a similar pot this may be useful for you too.

This is what you need:

A strawberry pot, and a piece of pipe the same height has your pot (30cm in my case) and about 5cm in diameter…

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(If, like me, you are not adept with drills yourself) A man of many talents to drill some holes in the pipe (sorry, not available for the photo!).

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A nylon stocking/sock(!) and a little adhesive tape…

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Some potting compost…

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And some plants (not necessarily strawberries!). I used some bacopa and blue lobelia, and a pink geranium for the top.

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First, mark where the holes in the pipe should be, as in the pictures above – they don’t need to be very big. For a 30cm pipe I have four rows of four holes.

Put a piece of nylon stocking over the top of the pipe and pull it down to almost the bottom. Cut off the excess and tape it in place. This stops soil from entering the pipe and clogging it up.

Put a little compost in the base of the pot and press the pipe into the centre, then fill the pot lightly with soil to hold the pipe in place. Now push the plants into the pockets and fill up compost all around them, pressing firmly. When the pockets are finished you can then fill the pot to the top and add a plant to the top too. Don’t worry if the pipe/stocking is still visible – the plants will soon cover it. Water through the stocking covered pipe! It will seep slowly into the lower end of the pot and (hopefully!) keep all the pockets supplied with moisture.

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This photo is two weeks later, and it seems to be working very well…

Strawberry Pot

I also bought some smaller pieces of pipe to bury next to my tomato plants to aid watering. And some smaller watering cans to relieve my wrists. It means walking to the outdoor water supply more often, but seeing as my legs are fine I think this is the only solution!

Have you got any tips for watering?

Rhubarb Crumble Chocolate Cake

I found the recipe for this cake on the UK Lindt website – I find Lindt chocolate unbeatable, especially for baking,  although Milka comes a close second. And this rhubarb chocolate combination is fabulous! The cake alone is a perfectly moist chocolate cake recipe which I will certainly use again for other cakes. The rhubarb and crumble topping adds some zing!

Rhubarb Crumble Chocolate Cake

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Here’s the original recipe, Lindt’s Rhubarb Chocolate Crumble Cake …. and here is mine, slightly adapted:

For the Crumble:

  • 50g (2 oz) cold butter, 100g (4 oz) flour, 50g (2 oz)sugar

Rub the butter into the flour and sugar until nice and crumbly

For the Cake:

Beat these ingredients together with a whisk/electric whisk.

  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml (4/5 cup) milk
  • 100ml (2/5 cup) sunflower oil
  • 75g (3 oz) icing (powdered) sugar
  • seeds of one vanilla pod
  • 100g (4 oz) melted dark chocolate (melt in a bain-marie)
  • a pinch of salt

Sift the next 3 ingredients and gently fold  into the batter with a large metal spoon.

  • 200g (8 oz) flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Pour into a 20 x 20cm (8×8 inch) pan lined with greaseproof paper.

Press 200g (8 oz) chopped rhubarb onto top of cake.

Sprinkle the crumble on top. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 180°C (350°F). (If making cupcakes, as the Lindt website shows, the baking time will only be about 20-25 mins)

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Have you been enjoying rhubarb season?

😀

Tuesday at Two (May 14th)

After a very cool spell, with lots of rain, the garden is looking lush and healthy. Two iris flowers have opened, but the big red peony buds still haven’t braved the cold nights and unfurled. Maybe it will warm up enough for them in the next few days…

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The Ice Saints (days in the middle of May when we very often get a cold snap) are nearly over – the last one, Cold Sophie, is tomorrow night. I can sow my last seeds soon!

😀