23 December 2011

Oh hello Christmas.....

I've known for some time (approximately 23 days) that its' December and my extensive education and calendar collection lead me to the knowledge that December ends in Christmas, and an endless list of baking possibilities. Having put off baking anything resembling a mince pie or refined carbohydrate for as long as possible, I succumbed today to the draw of the (totally overloaded) baking cupboard and went a bit over the top..... We've had building work going on in our cottage for about 1 million years (...18 months) and this past week we've finally got into our new living room - to celebrate this, and Christmas, we had the builders in for a glass of champagne this afternoon and 'a mince pie'. 'A mince pie' escalated when I was left on my own to around 56 mince pies, a huge pile of gingerbread biscuits, fudge and cupcakes.

A rather unfestive looking table, but there you go!

Rather pleased with my pretty little mince pies: last years were heart shaped because my star cutter went on a tour of the home counties, so I'm making up for it this year!  These are almond shortcrust pastry, incase you were wondering...

I made gingerbread cupcakes with milk chocolate icing after seeing some on Sweetapolita's blog (my favourite) here http://ow.ly/893fk and thought I'd have a play when mum mentioned the Christmas drinks; her icing is fluffier looking than mine, its been a LONG time since I last iced a cupcake so I may have done a hash job

The rum and raisin fudge was a bit hit and miss - last years attempt at fudge ended in me learning that you do actually have to get the sugar as hot as the recipe says you do, so this year I really tried to get it hot, but somewhere after that I sort of failed again and my rum and raisin never really set solid. But, it does taste very rummy so I'm probably drunk now thanks to being a massive lightweight with a sweet tooth.

Naturally I made far more mince pies than anyone could ever eat and stuck at the end of the table were some with orange shortcrust pastry and full tops so they look like little pies!

Recipes to follow when I need to do procrastinate in a more serious manner.

29 November 2011

Turkish Delight Brownies

There are some days in a girls' life that can only be saved by chocolate.  Today I had one of those days and opted in favour of turkish delight to cure my ailment instead of my usual chocolate peanut of choice - the packaging is so pretty and pink!

Having made (and been obsessed with) snickers brownies earlier this year (please excuse the terrible iphone photos), I pushed my chocolate boundaries by using turkish delight instead of snickers as the brownie filling.

turkish delight brownies

The result?  Delicious, naturally, but the flavour was really light from the turkish delight and was almost lost in the brownie because I used dark chocolate instead of plain chocolate.  Also where the turkish delight didn't melt or do whatever it may have done at high temperatures, there are lumps of it through the middle of the brownie rather than a layer like the snickers ones had.  Didn't effect the taste but it did look kind of weird...

turkish delight brownies

Brownies (from http://bit.ly/hsO5ZG)
4 oz plain chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup butter
280g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
1 cup plain flour
around 250g of your chocolate bar/sweetie of choice; suggestions include snickers, bounty, creme egg and percy pigs (haven't tried but it would look pretty)

1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees and grease an 8x8 square tin
2) Microwave the chocolate and butter until the butter has melted; stir together until the chocolate has melted.
3) Stir in sugar, eggs, extract and salt.
4) Gradually add in the flour and stir until combined.
5) Pour half the mix into the tin, cover with chopped chocolate of choice and cover this with the remaining mixture.
6) Bake for 30 minutes and try to let them cool a bit before eating because they have burnt me many a time by tempting me with their chocolatey snickersy filling.

20 November 2011

Happy Birthday to me!!

Its a sad day when the desire for a non-bloated tummy and the subsequent hangover stop you making and eating your own birthday cake until two days after your birthday, but needs must and so I have stuffed my face tonight quite happily with my favourite cake; coffee and walnut.

coffee and walnut cake

Beautiful!  The butter in the icing makes it so shiny and velvety looking, wonderful.

coffee and walnut cake

Its a 7" cake which is now my new favourite sized cake (is it weird to have a favourite sized cake?) so its nice and tall but chunky and the slices come out short but thick, so many short descriptive words.  Also the icing isn't coffee buttercream, its made with cream and melted, sort of burnt butter, and I like it (I like everything it appears).  I made it before a while ago and ate the whole thing with a fork, like a real lady.

coffee and walnut cake slices

Coffee and Walnut Cake (from the Great British Book of Baking)
175g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
75g walnut pieces, chopped
175g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water or 1tbsp coffee essence

1) Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line two 7" cake tins; you can use 8" tins for a larger cake but I think they're cute in the smaller tins.
2) Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
3) Beat in the eggs one at a time
4) Sieve in the dried ingredients and fold in with a metal spoon; fold in the coffee essence and nuts.
5) Bake for 25 minutes until the sponges spring back when you poke them.

125g unsalted butter
300g icing sugar
3 tbsps instant coffee granules dissolved in 2 tbsps boiling water or 2 tbsps coffee extract
4 tbsps double/whipping cream
25g walnut pieces + extra if you want to decorate with them

1) Melt the butter until it goes frothy; heating it for slightly longer until it goes a pale brown colour gives it the stronger nutty taste I go on about liking.
2) Sieve the icing sugar into a heatproof bowl and add the melted butter, coffee and cream and mix together until smooth; stir through the chopped walnut pieces.
- The icing will need to cool before it can be used.

Chocolate Banana Bread for breakfast

It was my birthday on Friday, I spent Saturday asleep so Sunday still counts as my birthday as far as I'm concerned so today I am doing my 'birthday baking' (I'm so fun).

chocolate banana bread

Breakfast was chocolate banana bread - AMAZING.  I love chocolate (obviously) and banana and the only thing missing from this is peanut butter, so I covered some slices in it which only made it even more amazing than it already was (not a claim, a fact).

The recipe asks for walnuts but I decided it would be exciting (over enthusiastic from too much sugar too early in the day) to use pecan nuts instead, it just gives it a bit of a different taste and stops Geoff from casually stealing slices because he is 'allergic' to nuts.....  I also used wholemeal flour instead of plain; not sure why I just quite like the taste and this time my loaf didn't go weird, it was in fact exceptionally delicious - my last loaf went all crumbly and I blamed the flour, not me, its never my fault anyway.

large dog surveys the mess I have made and considers what to steal first...
large dog looks a bit guilty...

Chocolate Banana Bread  (from the Great Book of British Baking) 
250g self raising flour
a good pinch of salt
150g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 medium eggs, beaten
250g peeled mashed banana (2 large bananas)
75g dark chocolate + extra to eat whilst baking
100g walnut pieces

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a 900g loaf tin.
2) Put some good music on, James Blake is a good option for early on a Sunday morning, Bon Iver would also work well.
3) Mix the flour, salt and sugar together and add the butter and eggs.
4) Roughly mash the banana so its still a bit lumpy; add this to the mix with the chopped chocolate and nuts and mix it all together.
5) Press into the tin and bake for roughly 50 minutes until the loaf is golden brown.
6) Probably wait until its cooler before trying to eat it because, from experience, you will burn your tongue and this hurts.

11 November 2011

Latte Layer Cake

I must admit that the idea for this cake came completely from http://sweetapolita.com/blog/, a blog I am totally obsessed with, mines just a bit different.... I love lattes and when Dad asked me to make a cake for a family friend I thought this had to be a safe bet because I don't know anyone who doesn't like lattes (massive claim).

The sponge is just a simple victoria sponge, nothing fancy but I like it, its' reassuringly simple and perfectly flavoured when made well (obviously mine is always made well) so it acts as the vanilla element to the flavours of the cake.  The swiss meringue buttercream is lightly flavoured with both vanilla extract and a little coffee essence to give it a slight coffee kick and the pale latte colour.

The flavours are very delicate and the coffee and vanilla compliment each other nicely in the icing; I used 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1tsp coffee. Its worth playing with the taste as the icings mixed to make sure both elements are strong enough.  I am a fan of this cake.

Victoria Sponge (makes 2 x 7" cakes)
6oz butter
6oz caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
6oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
small glug of milk (technical measurement)

1) Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions.
3) Sieve in the dry ingredients and fold in carefully, adding the milk towards the end.
4) Spread evenly between the tins and bake for 25 minutes at 180 degress

Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe here; add 1 tsp coffee essence and 1tsp vanilla extract for flavour (change these according to taste) + a small glug of milk to help the icing soften a bit

23 October 2011

Gran's Birthday Cake: Hummingbird and Chocolate

It was my Gran's birthday last weekend and as I couldn't make it up to visit her in person I sent my mum up with a cake (a fair replacement I'd have thought, it doesn't talk or demand sweets every 10 minutes). Gran likes fruit, nuts and chocolate in cakes so I saw this as a good chance to try making a recipe for hummingbird Cake from the Hummingbird recipe book.


The cake is essentially a carrot cake but using banana and pineapples for carrot and pecan nuts instead of walnuts. I've made a few different types of carrot cake so I liked the idea of the different fruit in this one. Traditionally, as with carrot cakes, the hummingbird cake is iced with cream cheese icing but I think its weird and it freaks me out so I went for a milk chocolate icing instead thinking it would make a fun flavour mix and chocolate makes everything better anyway (fact).

In taste and texture its quite similar to banana bread and according to my mum makes it seem wholesome so it could pass as a healthy cake I suppose.....  The chocolate doesn't overpower the flavour of the fruit either which I thought it would so thats good too.

Hummingbird Cake (from the Hummingbird Bakery; makes 3 x 20cm rounds)
300g caster sugar
3 eggs
300ml sunflower oil
270g peeled bananas, mashed (about 2 1/2 medium bananas)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
100g tinned pineapple, drained
100g pecans chopped up smallish = extra to make it pretty

1) Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and prepare the tins
2) Beat together the sugar, eggs, oil, banana and cinnamon until the ingredients are well mixed together.
3) Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until everything is mixed (too much beating and the cake will become heavy)/
4) Stir in the chopped pineapple and pecans.
5) Split the mixture into the 3 tins and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Chocolate Frosting (from the Hummingbird Bakery; double for the cake)
300g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter
40g cocoa powder
40ml milk

1) Beat everything together until creamy; the longer you beat it the lighter it gets
2) Eat whats left after you've iced the cake

21 October 2011

Mini Birthday Cake

A few weeks ago I went shopping with my mum and got over excited by some small cake tins, 4.5" to be precise, so naturally I had to get two....

They made their maiden cake voyage(struggling for better words to use)wshen I went round a friend's at late notice and had no birthday cake to offer (it was his birthday a few days before) so a minature layer cake was perfect!


I love the combination of raspberry and chocolate so, as I had some raspberries in the fridge, I mixed fresh fruit through the batter before baking and popped a few on top because pink fruits are very masculine.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake (makes 2 x 4.5" rounds and a little batter is left)
4 oz self raising flour
4 oz caster sugar
4 oz butter
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 handfulls fresh raspberries

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare the cute little tins.
2) cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then beat in the eggs one at a time
3) fold in the flour and fresh fruit
4) Bake for 20 minutes

Chocolate Fudge Icing (makes enough to ice and fill an 8" layer cake)
2 oz butter
2 tbsps milk
2 tbsp cocoa powder
8 oz icing sugar
+ decorations

1) sieve the cocoa powder and icing sugar together and beat well with the remaining ingredients.
*the icing should not run or set*

19 October 2011

Chocolate Courgette Brownies

I have a weird, possibly unhealthy, addiction to courgettes.  I like to grill them, roast them, barbequeue them, put them in pitta bread and cover them in hummous.  Naturally, the next step is to put them in a baked good.  Thus my search for courgette brownies was born!
courgette brownies vegan vegetables chocolate

They're weird if I'm honest but I quite like them....you can taste the courgette and they're a bit bitter maybe is the word I'm looking for but not really (not good at explaining) but I would make them again.  They are also vegan which is fun (I am not, I have no willpower).
My brownies had no walnuts because I ran out, no icing because I simply couldn't be bothered and I used wholemeal flour instead of white just because I can and I think I actually like it now....

Whilst perusing the internet, I found myself on mumsnet (unplanned) where a similar recipe was listed but with half grated carrot and half grated courgette as a way to trick your child into eating more vegetables.  Having had a parsnip forced upon me disguised as a chip as a young child I'm not keen to promote sugary baked things in this way.  Vegetables should be embraced into baking (except some really bad beetroot brownies I made a while ago that tasted like dirt) and not as a way to force feed a child.  That just reflects badly on the brownies in the end.

Courgette Brownies (makes 24)
125ml vegetable oil
300g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarb
1 tsp salt
250g grated courgette
60g chopped walnuts

6 tbsp coca powder
4 tbsp butter/marg
250g icing sugar
4 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a 9''x13'' tin
2) Mix together the oil, sugar and vanilla until well blended
3) Fold in the dry ingredients, courgette and nuts
4) Bake for 25 minutes until the brownies spring back when gently touched
5) For the icing (they're fine without, unless you want them sweeter) melt the cocoa powder and butter together and set aside to cool.  Blend together the icing sugarm milk and vanilla then stir in the cocoa powder mix.  Spread over the cooled brownies.

18 October 2011

Stress baking: Banana tea loaf

After having a lovely day I find myself feeling horribly stressed and tense; solution = baking.  I just needed to bake something, anything, and I love bananas and anything with carbs in so settled for a plain and simple banana tea loaf.


Easy.  Its got an odd texture to it though from the wholemeal flour, a bit like a muffin I think?
Banana Tea Loaf
8oz self-raising flour (I used wholemeal becasue it makes me feel slightly less worse for eating it)
1/4 tsp bicarb of soda
pinch of salt
3oz butter
6oz caster sugar
2 medium eggs
2 1/2 bananas all mashed up
4oz chopped walnuts (mines half pecan because thats what I had left)

1) cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time.
2) fold in the dry ingredients
3) fold in the banana and nuts
4) bake for 1 hour (roughly) at 160 degrees
5) eat quickly with a mug of green tea and don't feel guilty because bananas and nuts are both good for you.

9 October 2011

If Carlsberg made sisters....

My sister's 21st birthday party theme is video game characters - never the wallflower, she's made herself a Spiro the dragon costumer, complete with horns and wings.... so the cake was never going to be easy.  She asked me to make a companion cube cake - its a character thingy from an 80's video game (I don't really understand but its very cute and full of love) and it looks like this.

So I got the weekend off work and had a go.

Step 1 - think its really easy, go to the cake shop, buy 2kg of the wrong coloured icing, seriously consider spending £15 on a spatula and listen carefully when you're told not to use victoria sponge because it will cave in under the weight of all the icing...

Step 2 - draw some pictures and measure some things in a serious manner

Step 3 - bake 3 7" square maderia cakes, slice the tops off, stack them with jam and then realise there are some big gaps and its unlevel by half an inch on the top...

Step 4 - cover the whole thing in swiss merringue buttercream and suddenly it looks perfect and flat and pink

Step 5 - cut out the royal icing bits and stick them together with jam - make sure to cover everything in icing sugar and jam because its not baking if you don't make a mess.  Also, eat more royal icing than a person should be able to whilst rolling it out.

Finished and actually quite proud of it but I'm not sure I could manage many more decorated cakes for a while now.

9 September 2011

Chocolate and Apple Cake

Where I live there is an abundance of fruit every summer and my dad has a trade going on with our neighbours so we get some of everything but still end up with a ridiculous amount of plums.  Across the road there is an orchard so I'm eating stewed apple at just about every meal (amazing with agave nectar, just saying) and was going to make some apple turnovers with some until I remembered a cake I've been wanting to re-create for a while.

Mum took me a little cafe in a nearby village maybe last summer and we had sandwiches and a slice of cake each; the cake I had was a chocolate sponge with chunks of apple in the sponge, filled with fresh whipped cream and topped with demerara sugar.


My version is filled with whipped cream mixed with fresh raspberries from our vegetable patch and covered with cream and demerara sugar.

Chocolate Apple Cake
1 large cooking apple
6oz self-raising flour (minus 1tbsp replaced with cocoa powder)
6oz butter
6oz sugar
3 eggs
dash of milk

1) Pre-heat the oven to 180 degress and grease and line two 7" round pans.
2) Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
3) Beat in the eggs one at a time
4) Fold in the flour and the dash of milk
5) Peel, core and chop up the apple into small chunks and fold through the mix
5) Bake for around 20 minutes.

As mine had cream it had to be eaten pretty quickly, not really a problem in this house.

5 September 2011

(budget looking) Battenburg Cake

After promising to make my sister a battenburg cake for about 4 weeks I gave in last week when she was away and had a go.  I had it in my head the cake would be fiddly and difficult to make - I suffered through the first episode of this series of the 'Great British Bake-Off' and watched the contestants make some hash-jobs of the cake and a few beauties, so I wasn't overly keen to try!

However, the hardest part was lining the tin so I could cook both colour at once...mum did it for me because I couldn't quite work out how to (defiately worth going to University...) and then rolling the thing up in the marzipan.  As a result mine does like a bit budget but I did not make the fuss they made on the tv and I quite enjoyed making it so I'll have another go and try and make it look a bit better!

the batter was so pretty I had to take a photo

 If you look from further away you can see the pinching on the edges of the cake which distracts your eye from the gaps between the sponges where I didn't press them together enough because I had jam all over my hands.

Battenburg Cake

175g/6oz softened butter, plus extra for greasing

175g/6oz golden caster sugar
3 free-range eggs
175g/6oz self-raising flour
½ tsp vanilla extract
red food colouring

For the covering:6 tbsp apricot jam
                           500g/1lb 2oz ready-made marzipan
                           2–3 tbsp icing sugar, for rolling.

1) Preheat the oven to 190C and grease a 20cm/8in square, loose-based cake tin with butter.
            -Take a 30cm x 20cm/12in x 8in strip of baking parchment and make a 8cm/3in fold in the       centre. This will create a division in the cake so that the two differently coloured sponges can be cooked at the same time (or ask your mum for help)
2) Cream the sugar and butter until creamy, then beat in the eggs and vanilla then fold in the flour. 
            - half the mixture and colour one half pink with a few drops of red food colouring
3) Pour the batters into the tin, keeping the division in the centre and bake for 25 minutes - If the sponges have risen unevenly, press the surface gently until level (read this after you've made the cake then realise it would have helped).
4) To assemble the cake,place one sponge on top of the other and trim off the crusty edges so they're both the same size; cut the sponges in half lengthways to make four long rectangles.
5) Warm the apricot jam in a saucepan then press through a fine sieve.
6) Brush the long side of one of the sponges with jam and sandwich together with a sponge of a contrasting colour. Do the same with the other two sponges.
7) Sandwich the two pairs of sponges together like a checker board and brush the top and sides with jam.
8) Roll a rectangle of marzipan of about 40cm x 20cm on a surface dusted with icing sugar;large enough to wrap the cake completely, leaving the ends exposed, and be about 5mm/¼in thick.
9) Turn the cake upside down on the marzipan and brush the underside of the sponges with jam.
10) Wrap the marzipan around the cake, pressing it gently onto the surface of the sponges, and press the edges together to make a firm join.
11) Turn back over with the seam underneath, trim a thin slice off each end and pinch the edges so people don't notice if you botched it up anywhere and feed to anyone nearby.

31 August 2011

Scones with plum jam

Scones are so British; having a scone layered with clotted cream and jam makes summer.  Mum had been craving one so I baked her up a batch of 8 oversized scones.  After eating in the Eden Bakery at the project in June I've wanted to make all my baked things giant.....we had giant danish pastries and I had a massive flapjack, baked things just seem more exciting when they're teeny or oversized.  Fact.

We make our own jam every summer from the glut of plums we get from the tree in our garden.

It tastes good on oversized scones....

Scones (makes 8 'normal' sized)
250g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
50g caster sugar
50g unsalted butter
1 medium egg
100ml buttermilk/milk

1) Preheat the oven to 220 degress
2) Sift the flour, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl, add the butter and rub into the flour with your fingertips to make fine crumbs (I whizzed it all in a food processor, genius)
3) Beat the egg with the buttermilk/milk and add to the mixture and stir with a round bladed knife to make a slightly soft dough; add for milk if there are dry bits left at the bottomt onto of the bowl.
4) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and work gently for a couple of seconds. 
5) With floured hands pat the dough out flat to 3cm thick (mine were thicker) and stamp out rounds with a cutter.  Press trimmings together to make more, don't use a rolling pin.
6) Set the rounds on a greased baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.

22 August 2011

Orange Ginger Carrot Cake

Giles came to visit me today and the event warranted a cake.  As ginger men apparently require ginger fuel I wanted to make a ginger cake and came across this cake on a blog I love www.sweetapolita.com

I think I must check it at least 3 times a week and love reading Rosie's posts about her baking and family, and the cakes she produces always look incredible and I've always wanted to try one so this seemed like a perfect time to have a go so I made her Zingy Orange Ginger Carrot Cake.

The cake was MASSIVE and so moist (soooo many carrots) that I almost broke it every time I tried to move it; the flavour of the ginger and orange are subtle but complimentary and the ginger makes it different to a regular carrot cake.  Plus I hate cream cheese icing so this was perfect for me with its' white chocolate buttercream.

This is not the slice I ate, mine was much much smaller, honestly.

19 August 2011

Bagels for lunch

I had a day off today and the sun was shining and Giles came to visit and everything was good so I thought it would be fun to make something new - bagels!  I have a recipe in the Great British Book of Baking but it wants malt extract and my locval Tesco (average customer age approximately 85 years old) could provide me with horlicks malt at best so I had a google and got myself a BBC good food recipe instead.

I used wholemeal flour instead of white because I'm on a bit of a health kick at the moment and topped them with sesame seeds which proceeded to drop off when the bagel was turned to slice.  I've never made them before and the poaching process was met with concern from my sister who wanted to know why I was deep-fat frying them and weren't bagels supposed to be good for you....

Most of them weren't overly round but I did enjoy swinging them round the wooden spoon handle, as did the dog who followed me around patiently waiting for my dough to crack and make his year.

The recipe says it makes 10 bagels and advises each should weigh 85g; I weighed mine and only got 8 from the dough, all weighing 84-86g each!
Despite using wholemeal flour to make them filling, Giles managed to eat 3 filling them with hoummous and ham and my mother's choice of goats cheese and honey.....

'Bagels for brunch' recipe from BBC Good Food
7g sachet dried yeast
4 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
450g bread flour
poppy, fennel and/or sesame seeds to sprinkle on top (optional)

1) Tip the yeast and 1 tbsp sugar into a bowl, pour over 100ml warm water. and leave for 10 mins to go frothy.

2) Pour 200ml warm water into the bowl, then stir in the salt and half the flour. Keep adding the remaining flour (you may not have to use it all) and mixing until you have a soft, not sticky dough. Knead for 10 mins until the dough feels smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and put in a bowl covered with cling film and leave to rise for about 1 hour.

3) Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 8 pieces, each about 85g. Shape each piece into a flattish ball, then take use the handle of a wooden spoon to make a hole in the middle of each ball. Slip the spoon into the hole, then twirl the bagel around the spoon to make a hole about 3cm wide.

4) Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil and tip in the remaining sugar. Slip the bagels into the boiling water - no more than four at a time. Cook for 1-2 mins, turning over in the water until the bagels have puffed slightly and a skin has formed. Remove with a slotted spoon, sprinkle over your choice of topping and place on a baking tray lined with parchment.

5) Bake in the oven for 25 mins until browned and crisp - the bases should sound hollow when tapped.

10 August 2011

Chocolate Birthday Cake

My flatmate in Oxford, Charly, asked me to bake a 'really chocolatey' birthday cake for her grandfather's birthday last month so I went straight to the Hummingbird Bakery book for their 3-layer chocolate cake (made for both my sister's birthday and mine last year).  I topped and filled the cake with a chocolate ganache frosting after burning my arm, hand and face trying to make the chocolate custard the book suggests using - I'm interested to know if anybody has ever made the custard successfully as it went so horribly wrong when mum and I tried that we felt like nobody had tested the book before selling it?!

Topped with fresh raspberries picked from my dad's vegetable patch!

Hummingbird's Brooklyn Blackout Cake
100g unsalted butter
260g caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
45g cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp bicarb soda
pinch of salt
170g plain flour
160ml milk

1) Preheat the oven to 170
2) Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
3) With the mixer at a slower speed, beat in the vanilla, cocoa, baking powder, bicarb and salt.
4) Add half the flour, then all the milk followed by the remaining flour.
5) Pour into 3 20cm cake tins and bake for 25 minutes.

Chocolate ganache
400g dark chocolate
200g double cream

1) Microwave the mix in 30-sec bursts until most of the chocolate has melted.
2) Whisk until all the chocolate has melted and the frosting has become thicker
3) Cool in the fridge until needed (around half an hour) and whisk again before using.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes, thank you Cox, Cookies and Cake

Words cannot express how excited I was when I saw that Cox, Cookies and Cake were releasing a cookbook (loser....) after sharing (!) one of their beef cake cupcakes (a butch hazelnut praline cake with praline icing, topped with a bulging bicep = AMAZING) with my boyfriend when we went to the Brewer Street shop.

The book is beautiful with a quilted cover and black pages (very sexy) with cupcake, bar and cookie recipes but sadly no beef cake recipe.

After promising my sister a million times to make her cake in return for her help I got excited and said I'd make her a batch of cupcakes, as long as they came from my new book.....she chose the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes to share with a friend who needed a bit of a cheer up.

Screw being a vegan, these cakes were amazing - the sponge is denser than others I've made, just like the cake we bought in the bakery and I really like that, they're not dry with it though or heavy.  The peanut butter made them almost savoury and the chocolate gave them a sweeter edge.  I topped them with the chocolate peanuts mum bought that didn't get put into my mouth....

recip from Cox, Cookies and Cake book www.coxcookiesandcake.com/
Cakes (I made 15 but the recipe is for 12)
175g unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
150g light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
240ml buttermilk
125ml sour cream
2 tbsp espresso coffee
2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
250g plain flour
100g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

Peanut butter frosting
150g icing sugar
110g smooth peanut butter
50g unsalted butter, softened
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp double cream

1) Preheat oven to 180 (fan),
2) Cream the butter with both sugars until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time.  Add the vanilla extract and beat well.
3) In another bowl whisk together buttermilk, sour cream, coffee and peanut butter (luckily I have lots of beaters left over from all the electric whisks I've broken)
4) In a third bowl sift together flour, baking powder and cocoa.
5) With the whisk on a low speed add 1/3 of the liquid mixture, followed by 1/3 of the flour to the sugar and butter but only whisk until just mixed.  Repeat until all the ingredients are in, then fold with a spatula to make sure it is mixed well.
6) Fill the cases 2/3 full and bake 20-25 minutes.

To make the frosting beat together all ingredients without the cream, until well mixed, then beat in the double cream until the mixture is light and smooth.

2 July 2011

Vegan Chocolate-Strawberry Cookies

I've tried pretty much every fad-diet there is in an attempt to be healthy and lose some weight (the aim of almost all girls...), from protein-only to fruit only, and spent years bingeing on sugary and fatty foods.  Recently my body felt like it just said 'no more please' and stopped working, so I tried a detox to fix myself.  I cut out sugar, dairy, meat and refined carbs and effectively ate a vegan diet.

Suddenly I felt fine and my skin cleared up and I had energy and had never felt healthier so I stuck to it (mostly).  As I'm not an ethical vegan I reason its ok for me to eat cakes I've baked every now and then because I try to use eggs from my mum's hens and don't do it often and obviously I have to try otherwise how will I know what they're like......

So today my copy of the new Cox, Cookies and Cake book arrived and I've spent the evening reading it cover to cover (and back again) deciding what I want to make.  But all my baking things are at my mum and dad's house and I am not, so I turned to Veganomicon to see if there was anything Emma-friendly I could bake quickly and found these cookies.  I didn't have raspberry jam so used strawberry instead and halved the quantities to save myself eating them all in one go....

1/2 cup strawberry/raspberry jam
1 cup sugar (I used demerara because I don't have any caster sugar)
1/3 cup vegatable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups plain wholewheat flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
 1/4 tsp salt

1) Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
2) mix together the jam, sugar, oil and extracts
3) sift the dry ingredients together into a separate bowl and add to the wet mix in 3 batches, mixing well with a fork
4) work the dough into 12 walnut-sized balls and flatten gently onto the baking tray; they don't really spread so you can put them quite close together on the tray.
5) bake for 10 minutes; let them cool for around 5 minutes before you move them off the tray.


29 June 2011

Raspberry Cake

My parents went to Henley Regatta today and wanted to take a cake for their picnic so Mum asked me to make the Hummingbird blueberry cake again but as I'm getting fed up of making the same things all the time I swapped the blueberries for raspberries to be more fun....

Mum iced it in the morning because the weathers been so warm and topped it with freshly picked raspberries from Dad's vegetable patch.

350g unsalted butter
350g caster sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
450g plain flour
2 tbsp + 2tsp baking powder
280ml soured cream
225g fresh raspberries (the blueberry cake asks for 250g but as raspberries are a moister fruit I used slightly less for fear of making the mixture too wet)
cream cheese frosting to finish

1) prehear the oven to 170C and grease the tin and dust it with flour; I use a 25cm ring mould and fill it 3/4 full which leaves enough mix to make 6 muffins as well)
2) cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
3) add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
4) add the vanilla extract and beat well
5) add the baking powder and flour and beat to combine (I beat the mixture as little as possible once I've added the flour because I don't want it to get heavy and dry)
6) add the soured cream and beat again to combine
7) add the fruit and carefully stir with a large metal spoon

Bake it for around 35 minutes until the sponge is golden brown; leave to cool and ice!
I find keeping the icing in the fridge until I'm ready to use it helps it keep its shape and despite many (failed) attempts to use low-fat cream cheese, full-fat cream cheese makes the best icing.  Cakes aren't meant to be that healthy anyway...

28 June 2011

Rasperry cake leftovers...

As the ring cake I made for mum had so much mixture left I added chopped up milkybar to the batter and popped it in a 1lb loaf tin in the oven for around 45 minutes at 150C (there was a LOT of leftover batter).

Lets call it an 'experimental' tea loaf because it looks a bit like one if you turn it upside down so you can't see the sunken bit in the middle of the cake.....it looks quite pretty though with its' chocolate glace icing!

Muesli Bars

Giles is working for the charity Practical Action at the moment and I'm going to see him this evening so, obviously, I've made something for him!  The team are out going door-to-door for hours at a time so I thought it would be nice to make something that could be wrapped up and put in your pocket as a snack without suffering the fate of the poor squashed muffins.

The recipe came from the Hummingbird Bakery book but, me being me, I forgot to buy half the ingredients so just upped the quantities and missed some bits out...

320g unsalted butter
240ml golden syrup
250g lift soft brown sugar
250g rolled oats
200g dessicated coconut
125g dried apricots (forgot these...)
60g dried dates (..and these...)
125g cornflakes (...so put in loads more of these..)
125g sunflower seeds
60g dried cranberries
125g shelled walnuts, chopped
125g raisins (..and extra raisins too...)

1) Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup together over a low heat until melted and smooth
2) Combine the dry ingredients together (in a REALLY big bowl) and mix
3) Add the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until everything is combined
4) Press this into a prepared tray (33x23x5-cm lined with greaseproof paper) and press with the back of a spoon to flatten it.
4) Cover with more greasproof paper and place in the fridge with heavy things on top to flatten and cool overnight (Delia Smith's complete illustrated cookery guide did a good job...).

It took some persuading to get them to come out of the tray but when they did they held together perfectly and were quite easy to cut.

All packaged up and ready to go, except it was a tight squeeze in the box so one was sacrificed even though they aren't really vegan friendly....whoops

19 June 2011

Father's Day

My daddy loves crunchies and food so when he said 'a crunchie' would be a good present I thought it would be more fun to bake with them instead and made crunchie brownies.

Charity Dog Show

This weekend I was asked to bake for a charity dog show held in our village to raise money for the local primary school and the Church roof fund.  The weather managed to hold out most of the day and only spat with rain for half an hour or so and the sun did try to shine; loads of people came with their dogs for the fun classes and my mum's ancient spaniel won the 'Best older dog' class!

Mum, Sue and I ran the stall together and Sue baked a chocolate cake which went really fast (classic); some friends of Charlotte's (the organiser) brought some cakes along too which was great and by the end of the day everything had sold out.

I baked a selection of brownies, double chocolate cookies and oat and raisin cookies

As well as some pretty cupcakes for the children who came with their dogs

and some 'grown-up' cakes; my favourite coffee & walnut and a lemon loaf which was bought as a whole and I was very pleased with! (thats Sue's chocolate cake in the background)

I took the opportunity to advertise for myself a little bit so got some friends to help me make some personalised 'Mariposa Cakes' labels for my goods as well as some business cards which I gave to people buying my things, I'm interested to see if anything comes of it.