2 May 2016

#Jet2Sunchester - An adventure with cake

I hate to open with one of the biggest clichés ever, but seriously, what has been going on with the weather recently? I know April showers are a thing, but I expected less of the April snowfall, hailstone, and thunderstorms. It's definitely had me reminiscing about the sunny temptations presented to me at the recent #Jet2Sunchester event. I've flown with Jet2 many a time but never taken advantage of the package holiday deals they offer, so the event gave me a great opportunity to get to know some of their recommended destinations. And since I unfortunately have no immediate plans to jet off, I figured the best way to become more familiar with these well-loved resorts from home was through cake, obviously.

The first destination we were introduced to was the sunny island of Mallorca, where representatives from two very different resorts were available to tempt us with tales of pool parties and all-inclusive cocktails! BH Mallorca is a full-on party hotel, with big-name DJs and the worlds first adults-only waterpark. They were also responsible for the amazing cocktails we were drinking on the day!

The Sol Katmandu resort, on the other hand, is a super-family-friendly place to stay - the hotel looks great but definitely plays second fiddle next to the fabulous on-it Katmandu Park, complete with soft play area, splash park and huge crazy golf course. We visited the park on a family holiday nearby last year, and wouldn't hesitate to book Sol Katmandu for a full trip next time!

For now though, I've been fulfilling any Majorcan fantasies by indulging in this delicious Almond Cake, or Gató d'Ametlla.

Almond trees are plentiful in Majorca, and so almonds feature heavily in a lot of their regional recipes - like this delicious and easy to prepare sponge cake. Here's how you make it:

5 eggs
165g icing sugar
1 lemon (zest)
165g ground almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Separate the egg yolks and whites, and whisk the whites until they form stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks and icing sugar. Add in the almonds, cinnamon, and lemon rind. Combine both mixtures and pour into a greased baking tin. Place into a pre-heated oven (150) for 50 minutes, then leave to cool in the oven. Sere cold with ice cream (almond ice cream is suggested but since I didn't have any I can confirm that it definitely works with salted caramel Haagen-Dazs...!)
I've never been to Tenerife but I know my mum has always been a big fan, so I was excited to learn more about what makes the largest of the Canary Islands such a great holiday destination - it didn't take long at all before I fell a little bit in love with the Hotel Botanico. The luxurious hotel is set in six acres of luscious landscaped gardens and has a fully operational spa as well as a handful of pools for a truly indulgent relaxing retreat, but has easy access to a huge water park (Siam Park) and zoo (Loro Parque) so my body and brain don't get *too* lazy!

Until I can get this trip booked, I've been enjoying a traditional Canary Islands dessert Bienmesabe.

Bienmesabe ('tastes good to me', roughly translated) is a sort of almondy cinnamony custard-type thing (don't I sound professional?), and it's made a bit like this:

2 1/4 cups almonds - blanched, toasted and ground
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 lemon (zest)
3 egg yolks

Boil the water and dissolve the sugar in to make a syrup. Stir in the ground almonds cinnamon and lemon zest. Set on a low heat and stir constantly as the mixture cooks and thickens (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Once cooled, beat the egg yolks and fold into the pan, stirring constantly. Return to medium heat until it boils and then remove from heat. Pour into individual serving dishes and allow to cool. Store in fridge until ready to serve! This is another dessert that's great with ice cream, mmm!

Malta is a destination I wasn't at all familiar with before the event, but a combination of its nine UNESCO sites and it's year-round sunshine have placed it firmly on my wishlist!
Before I explore the beautiful coastlines of Malta, I've been exploring a typical cake from carnival time, Prinjolata! The name comes from the Maltese words for pine nuts, a key ingredient that can be found inside the dessert as well as decorating it!

You put it together by first creating a sponge cake, then breaking up the cake (this was hard for me to bring myself to do!) and mixing it with other ingredients before moulding into the traditional dome shape, before decorating! If you want that a little more specific, here it is:

4 eggs
200g caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence,
1/2 tsp lemon zest
200g self raising flour

Beat the eggs and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the vanilla essence and lemon zest, then fold in the flour. Bake for around 35 minutes at 180, and allow to cool. Break into small cubes, around 1cm, and mix with the rest of the filling, which includes:

Sponge (as above)
50g pine nuts, toasted and chopped
50g glace cherries, chopped
200g butter
2tsb icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
2tbs cocoa nibs

Beat the sugar and butter together until smooth, then add the other ingredients and combine together. Your sponge cake will be entirely decimated by now, but it will work out ok, I promise! Line a bow with cling film and fill the bowl with the mixture, pressing it down for a nice dense texture and to make sure it fills all the gaps. Then pop in the fridge or a couple of hours.

I didn't come a cross a definitive answer for what to use to top the cake, so I used dream topping... because I love dream topping. Fresh cream is used b many though, as well as icing, buttercream and carious other forms of topping... so I think as long as it's white and sugary you are good to go! Then decorate with halved glace cherries, pine nuts and chocolatey drizzles. Everywhere I've found pictures of this cake, it looks beautiful with a mixture or red and greed cherries... but goodness knows where people have been buying those green ones, I can't find them anywhere (not even that weird shop near my brothers house that sells everything...!) but mine still turned out pretty tasty if not as colourful as others!

Apologies to anyone who knows better than I for any authenticity issues in any of these recipes, hopefully I'll get to travel to some of these sunshiny destinations soon to check how close I got them - in the meantime though a huge thanks to Jet2Holidays for providing plenty of inspiration - for both cakes and holidays!

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