Sunday 13 September 2009

Macmillan Coffee Morning

A good friend of mine works for Macmillan Cancer Support, and she asked me if I fancied getting involved in a campaign of theirs, called Macmillan Coffee Morning. The idea is to either bake or buy some cakes, invite your friends over or bring them to work, have a coffee, eat some cake and make a small donation to Macmillan. The official date for this is Friday 25th September, but you can really do it whenever you like. I agreed to do it with some trepidation; after all, I'm not much of a baker. Nevertheless, I thought this would be a good learning curve, and all for a good cause too.

I picked Saturday 12th September to host the coffee morning at my flat. As I was inviting friends from all over London, I didn't want to choose a Sunday as more likely than not, there would be transport issues. With this in mind, I took the Friday previous to it off work, and a friend and I set about baking some cakes.

As we started baking, we realised that perhaps 4 cakes wouldn't be enough for 16 or so people. I wanted to have a decent variety of cakes even if it did mean leftovers, so we added another two to the list. The trusted blueberry cake got jazzed up with using raspberries as well in the mix. Next up, seeing as it was a coffee theme, we decided upon a Irish coffee meringue roulade, taken from Rachel Allen's 'Bake'. The coffee-scented meringue was made on the Friday, with the boozy filling of whiskey, coffee and whipped cream rolled into it last minute on the Saturday.

It looks like a bit of a car crash - or some sort of ancient rock, but interestingly it was the first one to get scoffed up. Probably the booze.

Other favourites were this pear and almond cake. I had the recipe saved on my laptop for a while, but I have no idea where it's from. If anyone knows, then let me know and I'll credit them.

Pear and almond cake

Serves 6

175g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp
3 pears, firm but not too hard, peeled, cored and quartered - we used William pears
2 eggs
75g ground almonds
75g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas mark 3. Grease a 20cm diameter, springform cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.

Put a frying pan over a medium heat and add 25g of the butter. When it's sizzling, add a tablespoon of sugar and stir until it dissolves. Add the pear quarters and fry in the buttery caramel for five to 10 minutes, until they start to brown and soften (the time taken will vary greatly, depending on how ripe the pears are). Put to one side to cool a little.

Put the remaining butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream together until light and fluffy. Beat in the two eggs, one at a time. Tip the ground almonds into the cake batter, then sift in the self-raising flour and fold in gently. Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin. Arrange the pieces of pear on top of the cake. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Place the tin on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or cold.

Lemon drizzle cake was given a bit of a makeover with the addition of poppy seeds, and it was nice and tangy. On holiday earlier this year, two of my friends made a Victoria sponge with orange cream which worked beautifully, so we modified this one so taking inspiration from that by sandwiching it with lemon curd and cream whipped with orange zest to give it a fruity twist. Lastly, a flourless chocolate cake was fudgy, rich and dense. Given it was the only chocolate on offer, I was surprised that it was the least popular. Perhaps something to do with our dusting of icing sugar, which was a bit of a botch job as we'd added too much and then had to brush some off.

No party is complete without some sausage rolls, and these were expertly made by Helen using puff pastry. To 10 sausages-worth of meat we added the zest of a lemon, a hefty pinch or two of chilli, and a handful of finely chopped parsley, which gave them a kick and a lift. Brushed with egg, these were deicious warm out of the oven and were all eaten. Similarly, we made some Parmesan straws and some anchovy straws, also out of puff pastry. These were pretty simple to make but were so delicious - how could they not be, with all that umami. The anchovy ones were my favourite and delivered a mouth-watering, salty hit.

While we were baking on Friday, I had a last minute panic that there wouldn't be enough savoury food so, having a look through the fridge, decided to do a Stilton, spinach and roasted red pepper quiche. Rather rustic-looking, as I snapped off the pastry sides rather impatiently but this, served cold, also went down extremely well and there wasn't a scrap left.

When it came to Saturday morning, I was racked with nerves. I'd asked people to come round at 2pm, but there was still so much to do - like sandwiching the sponge together, decorating the chocolate cake, rolling the meringue. Not to mention tidying the flat and making it all look presentable. I ran into a couple of hitches; the coffee mugs promised to me and the actual coffee itself failed to materialise. I had a little panic, and then as I was basking out in the morning sun, I had a brainwave. It was too hot for coffee - I'd make iced Irish coffees instead. My blender does have an ice-crushing mode, after all. Another thing that failed for us was when we tried to make pork scratchings with sheets of pig skin bought from Morrisons, specifically for this purpose. It just didn't work out under the grill or shallow fried, and we were too scared to deep fry it. So it went in the freezer. If anyone has any suggestions of what to do with about half a kilo of pork skin, let me know.

We nervously watched the clock and put the finishing touches on to everything and everyone started to arrive. Our 6.5 hours worth of baking, stressing out and general hard work paid off; we had a fantastic day in the sunshine of my balcony, eating cake and between us we managed to raise £175 (including donations of two friends who couldn't make it).

I would really recommend doing a coffee morning yourself. We all had a great time catching up, and it gave us an excuse to binge on cake all in the name of charity. Of course, you don't need to go to as much trouble; you can buy the cakes, or get each friend to bring a cake, whatever really. Do let me know if you do a coffee morning of your own; leave me a comment or email me.

A full Flickr set is here and if you do your own Coffee Morning, please take photos, upload them to Flickr and add them to this group so we can all have a nose at the lovely cakes you've baked or bought. A couple of people have asked me where to donate if they wanted to, so I have set up a Just Giving page, here.

So now, a thank you to all my lovely friends who turned up and donated generously. In particular, a huge thank you to Helen for being my baking buddy for a marathon 7 hours, and without which I'd be a nervous, under-prepared wreck. Given that I've never hosted a party of this size, it was invaluable having her there. Another thank you goes to Gin & Crumpets for lending me cake stands and cake slices.

Finally, a big thank-you-I-love-you to the good people at Kitchenaid. They contacted me and donated me The Beast to help us out with our baking; without it our cakes would have been miserable shadows of what they were.


Ann said...

That all looks so good! Wish I'd known it was happening, as I would have done something on the 25th, but sadly (?|) that day we're flying off on hol. Next year, I hope! Love the Irish coffee too!

Dan said...

Bloody well done. Catering for a load of people is really hard work, seems like you had a really great time and the cakes look excellent.

Niamh / Eat Like A Girl said...

What a lovely & fun day - looks great! Well done :) Sorry I couldn't make it but I will be sure to donate to the cause.

Your Kitchenaid is gorgeous. I covet it! Want. Want. Want!

Niamh / Eat Like A Girl said...

Ps. The only way I've succeeded with crackling is to roast it. The skin is too tough and needs an intense heat to break it down in my experience.

Suelle said...

Lovely looking cakes! You did really well for 'not much of a baker'!

Your pear and almond cake looks like a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe from his Guardian Weekend column! It's really good, I think!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Brilliant effort, and I'm not a bit surprised those cakes were scarfed. They all look absolutely delish.

Like Niamh, I'm really sorry I couldn't make it, but am off right now to make a donation anyway.

Michelle said...

It all looks fabulous. I love roulade if I made it too often I would eat it all. I like the sound of the pear cake also - will have to try that recipe.

Browners said...

Holy hell! This looks like an incredible spread. So sorry I missed it but glad it went well. Awesome stuff.

BribedwithFood said...

The cakes look fantastic and what a great idea to raise money!
The sausage rolls too... NOM!

For the pork skin - Braise and use it to add flavour to black beans or rices?

catty said...

The cakes look amazing Lizzie, good work! :)

ginandcrumpets said...

I think turning up and immediately smashing the cake stand was my particular moment of genius. The pear and almond cake was really, really good. And the blueberry cake. And the sausage rolls. And the anchovy straws. And the Irish coffee frappuccino. Am I beginning to sound a bit greedy, like I scoffed as much food as possible? Charity cake parties are the best.

An American in London said...

Congrats on a good deed well done. I like the general idea of asking friends who come over for a meal to donate money to a charity, so I'll have to try it out sometime. And the Beast is a beauty.

Ollie said...

Such a lovely day - well done and thanks so much. The blueberry cake was totally delicious.

Helen said...

Awww, thanks for the thanks! Made me a bit emotional reading that, I am such a wuss! It was such great fun that day - the cake Gods were smiling down on us. not so much the day after - fail after fail after fail. We did mention roasting didn't we for the crackling but we didn't have time.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - that partay went OFF!

Helen @ World Foodie Guide said...

Pear and almond cake, followed by lemon drizzle cake, sound like my top favourites! Sorry I couldn't make it, thanks for inviting me and I hope the donation helped a little!

Naimah said...

This is an effort on your part, my dear! Wonderful job, and you did an amazing thing for charity as well! The pear and almond cake looks yummy (you can obviously bake really well). And I am SO impressed that you whipped up a Stilton, spinach and roasted red pepper quiche at the last minute. Congratulations, it looks like the event was a success!!


Su-Lin said...

Looks good! Congrats on its success!!

Nic said...

Everything looks fantastic, what a super way to raise money - brilliant!
And how nice of the people at Kitchenaid to donate that mixer.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this looks like a yummy spread, well done!!

The food is seriously drool-worthy!

Just dropped you an e-mail/invite for a special event, it may have landed in your junk mail though.

Anne said...

Everything looks delicious Lizzie and all for a really worthwhile cause too :) I am wanting your shiny kitchenaid, such a pretty colour!

I have done fundraising before for Macmillan and the work they do is invaluable, my late uncle benefited greatly from them, well done and keep up the good work :)

Hollow Legs said...

Ann - you can do it any time you like!

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments.

Anonymous said...

A very impressive spread, well done!

Anonymous said...


That looks fabulous. Nice when that much effort pays off.

Well done!

Passport Foodie