jeudi 8 décembre 2011

Sugar and spice

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I often think I could be someone you'd love to hate:
  • I go to bed early and never stay out late, even at weekends
  • I'm bright and cheerful in the mornings without needing coffee or having the alarm clock on snooze for an hour.
  • I rarely drink alcohol and have never taken drugs or smoked.
  • I love to exercise and work out almost every day.
  • I like the normally unpopular things like anchovies, stinky cheese, raisins in cheesecakes, brussels sprouts, cabbage and spinach.
  • I'm always early for appointments and the first to arrive at parties.
  • I never forget to floss.
  • I never eat at the cinema because the noise distracts me.
  • I only watch original versions of films and love reading subtitles.
  • My flat is a mess 90% of the time and if you're brave enough to open any of my cupboards, things tend to fall out.
  • My favourite seasons are autumn and winter and I don't like summer.
  • I cry easily at films.
  • And last but not least, I love Christmas. The whole smaltziness, kitsch and overblown occasion that it is. The twinkling of the lights, the smell of cinnamon and chestnuts, coming home laden with bags stuffed with presents, buying a poinsettia, listening to classic songs by the Carpenters, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams and Nat King Cole, watching the Snowman and It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve then bursting into tears. The build-up part is my favourite so I try to make the most of every spare minute; baking Christmas cookies for friends, going out for walks in the evenings wrapped up warm to see the decorations and visiting the Christmas markets. Yesterday I finished work early and headed over to Gendarmenmarkt and then to the one at the Opernpalais. It made me realise how much I love this city in winter. Instead of the usual mulled wine or waffles I paid one final visit to the charmingly old fashioned Opernpalais for coffee and cake which will close at the end of the year. The room was packed with people savouring their spectacular Viennese style Torten, large bowls of soup and hot chocolate piled high with cream. A sad farewell to a Berlin institution which offered a welcome relief to Starbucks; I'm going to miss that place.

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Scandinavian design on the way to the market

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Stormy weather over Gendarmenmarkt

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Anyone for a cocktail?

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Alpaca wool

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The market at the Opernpalais

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Opernpalais café

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Just part of the amazing range of cakes

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Dusk on Bebelplatz

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Fairy lights at Potsdamer Platz

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As promised in my last post, here's my version of Julia's recipe for the Swedish spice cake. Her original recipe uses unsweetened bilberries which you should also choose if you're lucky enough to find any. In Berlin there were plenty in jars but sweetened which I hate so I replaced them with fresh cranberries. Julia also used lait ribot which you can easily find in Brittany but I replaced it with buttermilk, although any kind of fermented milk would be fine. My icing came out too thin and was more of a syrup but the cake was still moist and delicious and should definitely be an addition to the Christmas coffee time.

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Mjuk pepparkaka or Swedish spice cake (original recipe in French here)


100g soft butter, unsalted
2 eggs
100g brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cloves
220g white spelt flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100ml buttermilk
100g unsweetened cranberries

1. Grease and line your cake tin (it should hold up to 1.5l). Preheat the oven to 150°C.
2. Melt the butter.
3. Beat the eggs and sugar vigourously for five minutes until thick and frothy.
4. Add the spices, flour, bicarb of soda followed by the buttermilk, melted butter and cranberries, beating in slowly.
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour.
6. Decorate the cake with icing and berries.

For the icing

Combine 200g icing sugar, a tablespoon of lemon juice and 25ml of water. Heat up to 40°C and pour over the cake. The icing will set as it cools.

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33 commentaires:

  1. Berlin is making me fall in love with Christmas all over again too! Especially with the weather being so grey and twinkling lights everywhere! You're photos are beautiful!

  2. Tu es totalement, complètement, définitivement infréquentable !!!!!!!!!!!!!
    quel coming out !!!!

  3. How can one hate somebody who is healthy, intelligent and cheerful!? I'm a lot like you...

    Lovely festive pictures! I'd love to visit Germany's Weihnachtsmärkte.

    Can I have a slice of that divine looking cake?



  4. Lovely pictures! I'm looking forward visiting the christmas market in Friedrichshain at the weekend and hopefully taking some photos as well.
    Not staying too late though, because I'm a getting-to-bed-early-and-being-cheerful-in-the-morning-person too. :-)
    Good luck and enjoy the last two weeks of Advent in Berlin!

  5. Oh, I wish you lived in Baltimore...or, we lived in Berlin. I think it would be nice to bake cookies with you and watch It's a Wonderful Life. Stay warm and savor every moment.

  6. Oh my goodness, that picture of the Bebelplatz brought a tear to my eye. I'd love (LOVE) to go back to Berlin -- to see it in the Summer and at Christmas-time, too. Weinachtsmärkte were my favourite part of my first trip to Germany as a 16-year-old. I can still remember all the smells.

    I also am smitten with Christmas, and have often considered myself a bit of a loser for feeling so. It's nice to find a kindred spirit! However, even though I brush my teeth at least twice a day, I am not as vigilant about flossing...

  7. @Liz - Nice to meet another Berliner, I'll be sure to pay you a visit this weekend. Thanks for your comment. People complain about the winters here but I love the spirit and colours of the markets and think it's such a great city to explore right now.
    @Gwendoline - Ahhh,je sais, c'est un grand risque de me trouver sans amis après la lecture de ce billet. Heureusement je ne suis pas parfaite; je ne sais ni danser ni chanter, je rate parfois mes gâteaux et je suis presque toujours fauchée!
    @Rosa - Thanks for reassuring me. I'm glad I haven't lost all my readers and friends. It'd be wonderful to explore the markets together.
    @Onnola - The weather looks pretty fair this weekend so I hope your plans work out. I'm sure the market in Friedrichshain will be wonderful. I'm planning to head for Potsdam on Sunday as this will be my last full weekend in Berlin to enjoy things. On the 18th I'm flying to the UK.
    @Tracy - Same here, it'd be such fun hanging out and baking together. Hope you have a lovely weekend and stay warm too.
    @Amber - It looked so lovely last night in the blue twilight glow that I couldn't resist taking a photo. I really hope you make it back here sometime soon but they say once a Berliner, always a Berliner. No, you're not a loser for loving Christmas. It's fashionable to go all humbug and grumpy but that just gets on my nerves. I only started to floss regularly (and using an electric toothbrush) after visitng the dentist here and getting a proper professional clean.

  8. I think we must have known each other in a former life.... your list rings true as a bell. I was just telling someone how I love winter and snow (I have a st bernard for a reason). The lights, the cold, the warm's all perfect this time of year. Here's wishing you a happy holiday.

  9. Hooray for the Christmas build-up. Lovely photographs...I wish I had the energy to make a cake, then it would be this one. But I'll keep it on file for the future. xoxo

  10. Bravo ! Ton Mjuk Pepparkaka est à la hauteur de l'original ;-)

    Je savais qu'on avait des points communs, mais là ça en devient troublant ! Je me retrouve absolument dans toutes tes révélations (enfin, sauf dans le rangement !) ;-)

    Bises et bon week-end à toi !

  11. Hmm, I think we share a number of similar traits. Your photos make me yearn for Berlin. I too love Christmas. Having all the ingredients for that delicious looking cake, makes me want to make it, time permitting.

  12. @Deana - Another winter fan, nice! I'd love to have a St. Bernhard, I bet yours is adorable. Hope you're enjoying the Christmas build up and festivities as I much as I am. I certainly hope we knew each other in a former life and that we'll meet in this one.
    @Susan - I remember reading how much you hate this humbug attitude too which has become very common, especially on Facebook. Well, I love Christmas and am not afraid to admit it. Making cakes should be a pleasure and also relaxing so save the recipe for a day when you feel better.
    @Julia - Mais non, le tien reste le meilleur mais c'est un très grand compliment quand même, merci! Mes amies ont adoré ce gâteau. C'est chouette qu'on ait tant de choses en commun; je me souvenais seulement que tu étais aussi très sportive et que tu aimes les films en VO. Par contre, je t'envie pour le rangement; être bordélique c'est trop facile mais pas le contraire. Bises et bon-weekend à toi aussi!
    @P.K - It's to nice to find so many people here with those same habits, it makes me feel less weird. A pity you live so far away because I'm sure we'd have some wonderful walks together round Berlin. Hope the cake works out for you, it's very simple but comforting and looks lovely.

  13. Love the pictures as always, especially the Quebec Chalet!
    Happy holidays, my dear!

  14. Well, on the contrary, I think you could be someone I'd love! We seem to have been seperated at birth:-D

  15. I think you are just the kind of person I like.

  16. @Kat - Oh thanks! Yes, I thought of you when I saw that. It's a pity you're not here, otherwise we could have gone in and ordered poutine with cheddar.
    @Carina - It's so nice to hear that. I saw that you live in Copenhagen, one of the places I'd most love to visit and your blog looks great.
    @Denise - A true compliment!

  17. take beautiful and moving photos!
    Yes, we are sisters under the skin. Aren't you surprised that so many commentors agreed with you? :)
    (I think perhaps we should make a list for New Years listing all our less than stellar qualities. I have a few of those too.)
    Hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Vanessa.

  18. I'm the total opposite of you in so many ways, according to that list :)
    I haven't gotten into the holiday mood yet but your beautiful photographs managed to sparkle that Christmas spirit in me somehow.
    Have a wonderful rest of Sunday!

  19. @Barbara - Oh thanks! By the way, I think you have a wonderful way with words, sisters under the ski, what a lovely expression. Yes, I was surprised by how many people here seem to share my qualities; i thought I was listing all the annoying ones but we're always too hard on ourselves. I'd like to read your list as I'm sure we have so much in common.
    @Manon - Luckily though that doesn't prevent us from being friends :-) Although it probably doesn't make me a wonderful guest at your party, falling asleep at 10pm and sticking to Apfelschorle but we can always get a coffee instead. I'm also probably the only person who doesn't enjoy Berlin in summer. So glad you like the photos and hope you can enjoy the festive season here.

  20. Et bien, on a tous nos defauts non? les miens sont pires que les tiens ;)
    Tu pars passer les fetes en Angleterre?

  21. C'est difficile à y croire :-) Oui, je pars dimanche matin déjà, d'abord pour passer trois jours à Londres, toujours magique pendant ce temps et puis chez mes parents jusqu'à la fin de l'année. J'ai vraiment hâte.

  22. As usual your photo are beautiful...
    I agreed with a big part of your list specially "My flat is a mess 90% of the time....".
    Enjoy your advent in Berlin!

  23. Thanks dear Michela! It's also nice to find another messy person; I have to tidy up sometimes but it looks just as bad a few days later and then I can never find things, well that's my excuse.

  24. wunderschöne fotos!
    ich hab gehört, dass weihnachtsmarkt am Gendarmenmarkt am schönsten ist. ich soll den mal besuchen...

  25. Your photos are wonderful, since I can't go to a European Christmas market I almost feel like I'm there. I live in the US (New Jersey) and the Xmas markets here are not the same. I love your blog - Happy Holidays!!! :-)

  26. I.S - Den Markt am Gendarmenmarkt kann ich unbedingt empfehlen, er ist wirklich toll. Aber am besten nicht am Wochenende, weil es zu voll ist und dann kann man die wunderbare Stimmung kaum genießen. Ich war in der Woche um 15 Uhr da und es war richtig angenehm. Sonst ist der kleine Markt in der Sophienstraße schön und ein bisschen anders und den Lucia Markt in der Kulturbrauerei mag ich auch sehr gern. Sie haben ganz viele skandinavische Sachen. Am letzten Sonntag war ich auf dem Markt in Potsdam - viel ruhiger aber trotzdem nett.
    @Melanie - Oh it's lovely to hear that you can still enjoy the special atmosphere here. German markets are something special, even if people complain they're now too commercial. In Britain there's also nothing comparable so I feel really lucky to have so many lovely ones here.

  27. I have just come across your blog - it looks like you live in an amazing place - the christmas market looks so vibrant, inspiring - festive!
    Great recipes!

  28. Magda - Argh, soooo sorry. I also have a French friend called Manon who also wrote a blog under the name of Magda but now changed to her real one. Forgive me.
    @M Violetta - Yes, Berlin truly is an amazing and unique place and I feel lucky to live here. The atmosphere is so special and it's not too expensive or crowded. Thanks for stopping by.

  29. Emily Vanessa merci! versuche dann lieber in der woche )))

  30. These pictures are stunning! I feel Christmas warmth and even Santa is like behind the door when I watched these over and over again!

  31. @I.S - bitte schön! Ich wünsche dir viel Spaß auf dem Markt.
    @Kate - Oh thank you! It was my first time on Gendarmenmarkt and I wonder why it took me so long.

  32. Love the pictures as always, especially the Quebec Chalet!
    Happy holidays, my dear!