Thursday, 10 January 2019

Curl Up and Dye

Some retro touches from the past remain exclusively in the olden days. They never get revived. There's no rhyme nor reason for it, just overlooked I suppose. Or forgotten. Perhaps the skills have left us. Perhaps the will has gone. Perhaps the tools were gifted to the local charity shop in haste. Fanny's personal favourite retro touch is of course the garnish, exclusively for presentation. It's the ultimate. So much so that she often sets 'the young ones' to learn the techniques with tables full of basic ingredients to be embellished with the very simplest of tools. If one of the tools missing from your own kitchen drawer is the humble butter curler, you'd best make a dash to that charity shop and retrieve it immediately...

Fanny Cradock Buttercream Cake

I can't remember the last time I saw curled butter. Fortunately for me, I happen to have a butter curler to hand, from a failed attempt to recreate Fanny's gloriously green Brandy Butter 'tree' for Christmas. I clearly need additional practice. I'm sure Fanny would sit me down at the table and set me to work on an endless mountain of butter crying out to be curled and loved if she could. Fanny being Fanny doesn't settle JUST for curled butter of course. Why would you when you could have curled BUTTERCREAM to lift your cake from the ordinary to the extraordinary in a few gentle strokes?

Fanny Cradock Buttercream Cake

Fanny says to make a standard batch of her basic buttercream. Version 1. Naturally, she has several variations. Version 1 is butter whipped up all softly and creamily, with twice the amount of icing sugar blended in. Normally she adds an egg yolk too, for good measure and perhaps for a touch of colour. Normally I would add one too. Normally however I would take extra care NOT to drop the yolk, which I had just rescued from the white, down the kitchen sink... Normally it wouldn't be the last egg in my house. Normally I would worry endlessly about this, but nothing about this venture is normal anyway. As is normal with Fanny, icing and cakes, a massive burst of colour is involved anyway...

Fanny Cradock Buttercream Cake

Fanny splits her buttercream into two and colours each a tasteful shade. Fanny has taught me to go one better in every walk of life, so three colours for me! Once tinted, the buttercream needs to be shaped into, err, well butter shapes and popped back in the fridge to harden up. This is not normal for buttercream. Fanny explains that this is an invention of a nameless Farmer's Wife from the nineteenth century. She made her own butter, and enjoyed shaping it using her butter curlers. She apparently also liked to colour it up and set it on top of her cakes. She didn't have a fridge naturally, but did have a stone slab in the dairy to keep her handiwork cool... Hmmm, I wonder if Fanny is simply just making this story fit her own fiendish plans. Either way, we must salute the anonymously curly Farmer's Wife for her buttery endeavours.

Fanny Cradock Buttercream Cake

The Farmer's Wife uses her butter curler to scrape curls of buttercream which she then arranges on top of a freshly baked cake in an amusing pattern. Fanny did the same in her honour. I did too, although I used one of the many White Christmas Cakes I made before the festive season using Fanny's fabulous formula. The colourful insides now matches the colourful garnish. The cake has a kind of crocheted feel to it, reminiscent of a tea-cosy. I clearly need more practice with the curler. Surely, however, Fanny would be pleased? Perhaps not. One type of garnish Fanny does NOT subscribe to is that used by Italian pastry cooks. She seems to take issue with all things Italian. For Fanny, nothing is more 'potent for putting you off' your food that all the colours being too bright, especially when they are 'swirled and curled up together'. Make your mind up Fanny. Bright orange, green (luckily I would never use green for icing, always blue) and, god forbid, another colour, makes for a 'horrifying, brash appearance' which is off-putting in the extreme. I feel well and truly 'told off'. Excuse me while I slink off to the corner, curl up and hide... I'm taking a massive slice of cake with me though. Welcome to the New Year...

Fanny Cradock Buttercream Cake

6 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. It's quite addictive - I may even get the hang of it one day!

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  2. Your pattern is bright, but I'm not sure it's particularly amusing. Still, determining what makes a pattern of butter curls amusing, is very subjective.

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