For my friend Lynne – Get well soon!
Simple! Ha! Marcus Wareing’s Home Made Jaffa Cakes recipe from Great British Chefs – recipe can be found here.
It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Make a tray of little tiny spongy things, cut them in half, take out a bit of the middle bit, blob some marmalade in there, dip them in melted chocolate, take a photo, give to one’s true love who has asked for them. Well, let me say this. NO! It is not an easy recipe. No, no, no.
What these great chefs don’t tell you is anything about how to stick the things back together, about how to cut the tops off the cakes so that they are straight, how to dip properly in chocolate, how to melt chocolate, any of it.
They pretend that it is easy but it is fiddly and stressful. Plus the instruction to use a muffin tin? My muffin tin is cavernous, an army of small children could sleep in it. Hmm…Maybe a mini muffin tin with teeny weeny holes? I made one batch in a jam tart tin and they came out all lumpy on top. Wet your finger and smooth the tops down, that should be in the recipe too.
So after a long tearful discussion with Brian, he went into the bowels of the garage and found a tin fetchingly named, a ‘mini morsel’ tin; one of my purchases, so far unused. This one he said, this will give you the same shape as the ones in the photo. I wept some more.
Desperate to console me, he went out and bought me a new handmixer. My thirty year old one died last year. He went to John Lewis, they had two that he thought were rubbish. He went to Comet; they had closed down. He finally went to Argos which had six and found one made by Wahl which seems to be pretty good. The trouble with the big ones is that they are too heavy and too powerful, what is needed for the ‘whisk one egg and 40 g sugar’ instruction is just a little ordinary mixer, the Kenwood can’t do small amounts like this.
By now I had no choice, readers, at this point I was committed to making these things, Brian had got the kit, I gritted my teeth, took some more painkillers and got on with making a mess. By this point the dog had given up and gone back to bed.
Armed with my mini morsel tin and my new handmixer I set to. Does anyone know about adding melted butter to densely whipped eggs and sugar. Is there a secret? Does one add it cool ? (I am guessing yes) does one add it in a thin stream? (I’m guessing yes) does one fold it in or beat it in with the mixer? (no idea) All I know is that my bowl of fluff deflated both times in the blink of an eye when I added the butter.
The mixture got very thick and almost solid once the flour and almond meal went in. The next challenge, portioning out tiny even dollops. I take my hat off to all you patisserie people, this is where I start to fall down.
On the plus side, once I had smoothed the lumpy stuff down with a wet finger in the mini morsel set up, the mini morsel tin performed well and released all the little cakelets without a whimper. Score one to me.
But how to slice the tops off neatly? You need a sharp knife and to hold them on edge so you can cut straight – that or a Black and Decker workmate for petits fours. You also need a sharp edged teaspoon to get the middles out or you break through the sides of these tiny little things. I have some elderly silver teaspoons worn thin with age and they have very sharp edges so I used one of those.
Marmalade? we have loads of jars so I blobbed this in the middles and attempted to stick them together. Ok that bit wasn’t too bad, fiddly but not impossible.
Then we come to the chocolate. Bain marie, ok, but the chocolate was in a bad mood and didn’t want to play. Did I learn anything from the last time I ventured into dipped chocolate land with those mint chocolate yo-yo biscuits? No, I don’t think so. Anyway I tried various combinations of fork (you have to be joking surely?) toothpicks, teaspoons, rubber spatulas etc. Dipping top down resulted in top detaching from base, pouring over was messy, rolling a bit hit and miss. There has to be something these chefs are not telling us. I reckon they say ‘easy’ and leave out instructions and ‘how to do its’ on purpose, leaving us poor mortals to stare dolefully at their perfect pictures with our chocolate streaked hands and our aching shoulders from over concentrating on inch sized bits of sponge goo and wondering forlornly how they do it.
So when you look at these photos, please don’t think this is easy, a mere bagatelle; it is an illusion. This was harder work by far than making a few loaves of bread. I doubt I will do it again for a while.
I also attempted to ‘food style’ it for you. With no expense spared I cut up some ikea napkins with their faux Marimekko flowers and attempted various artistic arrangements. The current fad for food photos seems to be to take a pic of half of whatever it is, and blur the background. The sun came out at various points so I scuttled out with my plate into the garden and the bees buzzed and the flies instantly came to see what was going on so I came back in. The things this blogger does, honestly I think she is quite mad.
Those of you who are wiser and smarter than me at making little amuse-bouches and petits fours will no doubt have sage advice to offer me. But I think the best advice if you want to make these is to do it when you have lots of time to spare and nowhere particular to go, adopt a Zen like attitude and you will be fine. Or not as the case may be. The case for non-attachment gets stronger each day and for buying Jaffa cakes in the shops like normal.
However if someone wants to come and show me how to dip, I will trade them for a bread lesson, serious offer! I’ll even put you up and give you dinner.
And just one last thing, don’t be fooled by photos, just like fashion photos it is as easy as one, two, three to smooth out the bumps and take out the fingerprints and even add chocolate where there was none. Just remember that. Here are two of my photos. All I’ve done is lighten and ‘retouch’. Brian will eat them whatever they look like and will be happy because he is a polite and decent chap. Take a look at the one on the far right, doctored in the first image and the original below.
The dog is fast asleep now and I have finished ranting and raving for one day. Wishing you all a happy weekend !
Oh, I’m so glad you’re there. I looked half-an-hour ago, like a dog checking to see if a walk was in the offing, then went back to my basket to wait. I’m just about to crawl off to bed actually, it being that time in this part of the world and I’m feeling like Zeb. So I’ll look forward to reading this post tomorrow. The ‘morsels’ look delicious. So sorry you are dogged by poor health – no pun intended. I do hope things take an upward curve for you Joanna.
i am the archetypal wingeing Pom! we have a reputation to maintain ;)
I keep losing my comments! This is my third try and I will keep it short and sweet so I don’t lose it again!!!
These look great. You are a kitchen goddess/trooper for even trying to make them!
Good job and chocolate dipping is always messy!
i like the title trooper Heidi, this felt a bit like a forced march, there must be a way to dip tidily, someone knows the secret somewhere :)
They look marvellous…first time I have had a “dedication” so thank you so much.
Sounds as if they were a trial to make, but they look super.
I do not think there is a way to dip choc without making a mess…I never have found it and even when you leave them to dry, they mess up the baking tray.
Mine looked considerably less fine, I made in a small silicone tray that has “square cups”, called a min brownie tray. They were not deep enought to cut in half, so I popped a tsp of marmalade on top and froze it and then dipped….they looked a bit messy but they did taste very good…I ended up freezing the filled sponges and then coating them from frozen…just because I ran out of time but maybe it made it easier to dip as they stuck together.
I have to ask whether Brian liked them ?
Just a little “frippery” on the humble jaffa cake…there are some UK court cases ruling on whether they are cakes or a biscuit (VAT is due on biscuits, since they are deemed a luxury good in the UK whereas cake is food and so no VAT)….the final decision was they are cakes and not biscuits since a cake starts out soft and hardens as it stales, whereas a biscuit starts out crisp and softens as it stales…no danger of these lovely morcels going stale…
Another vote for always messy, eh? I do have these silicon baking sheets that they sat on to cool, left a delicate square pattern on the bottom, which, B said approvingly, made them look ‘like the real thing.’ He says he likes them. -wise man to say that ;)
Wish I could send you a plateful xx
They look beautiful, Joanna, and I’ll bet tasted just delicious! I love reading about the truth in recipes…so nice to know where you might run into bumps. (Dipping in chocolate is always a bump for me.) And I only very occasionally have the patience for fiddly desserts (tell me to bake a loaf of bread over that any day!), so my hat is off to you. :)
Some people are born to bake bread, some are born to make petit fours,and some just wag their tails :)
You, others (and I) may well have some sympathy with The Great Recipe Swindle: “The idea that you can follow a recipe to the letter and produce impeccable results is a recent one; the problem is, it’s nonsense”.
Chefs are encouraging us to try out quite complex and involved techniques – by the nature of the thing, we end up trying several novel things at once and the whole process zooms from ‘easy’ to wretchedly complex. But we flagellate ourselves with that ‘easy’ as if doing penance to the kitchen gods.
Just to add to Jaffa Cake/biscuit VAT wrinkle, Pringles tried the same thing in a way. Pringles tried to argue that their product is a cake/biscuit because it’s made from dough and therefore should be VAT’d as potato crisps are. They initially won their case for exemption and then lost it.
Weird and wonderful world of tax exemption.
You know this already but your Best Beloved is a true gem.
A blog is a perfect venue for self-flagellation. Great links EM ! I enjoyed the comments on the Guardian piece. Brian just likes shopping for gadgets and eating cake, he is very reliable like that :)
Firstly well done, what a trial it turned out to be! But your reference to “Black and Decker workmate for petits fours” had me giggling. They look truly wonderful, I just hope you have a relaxing weekend now :)
There was a suggestion that I should use a ‘shaped mitre block’ when I realised I couldn’t cut the tops off straight. Thanks for the nice comment, I’m off to visit family tomorrow, long train journey and busy when I get there.
Well I would say your dipping looks pretty darn good, especially as it was the last stage of an exhausting process, well done.
They look really good and I love your account, great fun to read.
I was too exhausted to eat them, ;) I am glad you enjoyed it, thanks!
Your jaffa cakes may have been trouble to make but I’m sure they taste good, they must do with your home-made marmalade to sandwich them together. However, I think you should get full marks for writing so honestly about the making of them, and for being so entertaining in doing so.
The chocolate is richer than the stuff on jaffa cakes, and jaffas only have the choc on the top, (this from Brian who is not letting me have any ;) )
They look fantastic, I have to confess when I see recipes like this I cheat! I would put the marmalade in the centre of the cake dough then baked it, I probably would have even used a basic sponge… I’m not very patient! The choc dipping, very fiddly I would have just pour some melted choc over the top and called them Jaffa Cakes Cousins ;0) so well done for your perseverance and Brian is a saint
Love the idea of Jaffa Cake Cousins! Lynne’s version sounds pretty sensible too. I have no common sense when I decide to follow a recipe first time out. :)
Joanna, I am with you all the way… let’s bake a sourdough, maybe two. Or three. But there’s no chance I could face a challenge like this one, and I am amazed at your performance!
I think they look quite professional!
(I had a great laugh with peasepudding, the Jaffa Cakes Cousins – too good!
I can always rely on you Sally xx :)
What a treat! Sounds like an extended adventure, but one you can be proud of. Just take another look at how ‘perfect’ they really are! You should be really proud of the result,I find it never good to rush, bake and savour the flavour in one day. Sit and relax and enjoy tomorrow one of these gems! x
They are definitely a treat Yvette and if I ever get to take tea in a high end restaurant I will be very respectful of any petit fours that come my way :)
That does sound like a torrid day in the kitchen. They look so good though and I love marmalade with chocolate. I do hope those who were given one ate them slowly to appreciate all your efforts xx
My neighbour came in last night to get me to unravel the mystery of why her iPhone had suddenly gone silent. (We discovered the mute button together hidden under the cover – that sort of thing I can do :) ) She pronounced it a very superior sort of jaffa cake….
They do look great but I’m sure the one cut in half is laughing at us, in fact the half on the left has laughed so hard it has fallen on it’s back and is unable to get up again!
This looks like the kind of project I’m happy to read about and applaud but have no intention of trying, it sounds way too frustrating.
That is so true, Cas, that little cake does look like it’s laughing so hard it can’t get up! I was already giggling from the post but that remark sent me over the top! Joanna, you are a hero and a pretty funny writer too… Have a relaxing weekend, you surely deserve it!
Cas and MC, I’ll never be able to look a Jaffa Cake in the face again. I’ll have to eat them with my eyes shut from now on. I may need them later, the weekend is looking a bit dodgy right now…. Thanks for reading both of you and having a laugh with me :)
jo..i’m in awe of your perseverance..i’m not that familiar with jaffa cakes but they look truly amazing especially with the pieces of marmalade peel on top..and i loved your amusing ‘how to’ write up..x
Apparently they used to be sold in a supermarket called Coles? Anyway, they are a British institution http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaffa_Cakes – glad you enjoyed the story :)
But they look so good. surely they are not hard! NO throwing stuff at me!! I am glad you kept at it and produced such pretty and delightful little cakes.. The story of finding the mixer was too funny.. poor you, you had to make them after all that!! c
My trials are great indeed ;) And you are right I did have to make them after all that. thanks c !
I do admire you for doing all that and loved the story – the end result looks yummy. Jaffa cakes are one of my favourite things but I think I will stick to buying them!
Lynne’s method sounds much more sensible than mine. I think freezing is the way, pre-dipping. The bit when the lids fall off in the chocolate upside down is the low point after all. But yes buying them is definitely simpler :)
Hello Joanna, another baking treat for me to try! Your rye grain bread and peanut butter cookies are staples now.
I would add the hot butter to the beaten egg ……….. very carefully pouring down the side of the bowl at low speed (as if you are making an Italian meringue).
I would be delighted if you made them too, send me a photo if you do and I will add it to the post if you like. That sounds like a good idea, down the side of the bowl, not sure if I’ve made Italian meringue….. not very good at that either xx :)
What an impressive effort! The end result looks lovely – I’m really impressed as I can appreciate how hard jaffa cakes would be to re-create!
Thanks Kari :)
Don’t you think, Joanna, that the little jaffa centre-front of the plate, on the marimekko serviette, looks as though it’s grinning and sticking its tongue out!
Ha! I have shut my eyes now to that naughty little face :D
Oh, well done! I’d have given up much sooner. Far too fiddly for me.
The ones in the photograph look very professional.
Thank you Suelle :)
Oh sweet, what an ordeal. You have suffered for your art, because they really do look like perfect little works of art! :) I’m glad Brian went out hunting for a handmixer for you – we use out $20 from KMart quite a lot, even though the blades are starting to rust, and I should probably go get a new one. The chocolate coating looks very fine too – all smooth and glossy. I’m really very impressed, even though I’ve only heard of jaffa cakes for the first time just last week on Kavey’s blog. Yours look MUCH nicer than the packaged ones! :)
You always say such sweet things! And I must admit when I peeked in the tin before I headed off to Dad’s again that they looked quite chic.
These blog posts are a bit like those trails that jets leave in the sky Celia. The whole exercise was voluntary, driven on by a mix of stubborn and stupid, like so many of my endeavours. The least I can do is laugh at myself afterwards :) xx
Very funny and they look tasty too. Well done for persevering!
Hello ! I was just peeking at your blog earlier, I have walked up that beach at Blue Anchor with dogs and someone who is a bit partial to steam trains. We took the dogs in that cafe too when it was raining, if it is the one I am thinking of, up some steep steps. They were very friendly.
That’s the one. Delicious food too. Just what we wanted on rather a drizzly day!
Oh My. What an ordeal. I was amazed to see such beautiful morsels in the photos at the end. But I get what you mean by it all. Simple – HA! I’m going to guess that it is one of the boxes you check off that says “been there, done that” and are truly done.
Done and dusted indeed. Just wish I thought if I did it again I would be able to do it more smoothly, but somehow I doubt it. Thanks for reading Emily ;)
Oof! Well, they are beautiful… I notice it’s one of those Great British Chefs recipes. I wanted to make their pumpkin ravioli and got so confused reading the ten oversimplified steps that I sent some comments to that effect. They didn’t change the recipe, though, as the comments option was offered for “tweaks”, and really, it would’ve had to be rewritten.
I guess this is a problem with recipes from chefs who don’t have time – or staff – to think through a recipe and so just dash something off from memory or notes…
I am so underimpressed by ‘chef’ recipes for the most part that appear on the internet on sites like these. I think they are just part of their PR machine, branding whatever you call it. I don’t think there is any real desire on their part to educate or inform through this mechanism. These are ‘hooks’ to get you to buy whatever it is they are selling. However, this just puts me off them rather than entices me to embrace their brand. I suspect that people just look at it rather than make it.
They really do look great, and I love the honesty of your blog – I always try to point out the pitfalls in the recipes I’ve done too. I’m very impressed at you tackling them – I rarely take on anything that is a multistage process, I’ve usually lost interest by the time the first stage is complete. I did once attempt my version of jaffa cakes, and very nice they were too, but I just topped mine with chocolate rather than dipping them.
I can’t live in a Martha Stewart world online, any more than I can in real life. I am not trying to sell myself to anyone via a blog either, have no product to promote. Never quite sure why I do the blog thing, but as an ex-smoker of twenty plus years, maybe I just have an addictive personality and I have become addicted to blogging? I don’t know why this one annoyed me so much – maybe that it looked deceptively simple and I didn’t reallise how fiddly and silly it was till too late. And then there is always the feeling that maybe you have misread the instructions, or that there is something blindly obvious that everyone knows except you that you should have done. Goodness I am rabbiting on here… thank you for reading my blog C and the chat, I always appreciate your comments :)
I had the same frustration with a cake once.. how something so simple could have me pulling out my hair.. BUT.. look what you’ve accomplished! Good on you for not giving up because these are a lovely success! I’m so impressed! (And have no advice whatsoever regarding adding butter and that sort of thing.. so sorry, I’d be in the same boat as you!)
I am much more comfortable making bread, it’s more forgiving, a lopsided loaf has a certain chutzpah, a sunken cake is a sunken cake :) If I thought I had cracked how to make these in a relaxed way I would feel I had accomplished something, but honestly I am no wiser. I am curious what could have made you pull your hair out about a cake though…
Well, they look delicious. Using melted chocolate is always horrendous – have given up on it…!
I wish I could give up on it, but I return to it with blind optimism time after time, thinking that I will suss it out one of these days soon – I’m away from home and have a feeling that they’ve all been eaten in my absence. Never mind :)
Hi Joanna – it’s Rory here from the Great British Chefs website :)
Really glad you enjoyed the recipe! Would love to get in touch – could you drop me an email?
Hello Rory – will do.
Ed : [For the curious Rory asked me to amend the position of the link to the Great British Chefs website where the recipe can be found so I have done that, bet you thought he was going to tell me how to keep the cakes together…. ]