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.