Cookies & Cream Cake

I’m back! Last month I finally moved into the lovely maisonette in Milton Keynes that I put an offer on back in February which has been extremely exciting, but also means I’ve been a) super busy with house things and b) without broadband for an achingly long period! Anyway, I’m all set up and able to access the World Wide Web once again, so I thought it was about time I posted this recipe. So, without further ado, here we go…

A large number of my friends and family have birthdays in the summer, and the 22nd June saw my dear step-grandad, John, turn the grand old age of 90! I’ve made him a cake the last few years and wanted this one to be particularly special due to it being a milestone occasion.

I got the idea for this cake from the wonderful Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, Home Sweet Home, but adapted it in a few ways, most notably using Dream Topping in place of the buttercream.

I fancied trying something different and I have to admit I have a bit of a weakness for this particular type of faux cream myself, despite the dodgy 1970s dinner party connotations it seems to be lumbered with! It works perfectly in this cake and the overall taste reminded me of that oh-so-American activity of dipping cookies in milk.

I would definitely make this wondrous beast again. It’s ridiculously easy to create but the result is a feast for the eyes and, hence, ideal for a celebration, as well as being appealing to all age groups. I mean, whether you’re nine or ninety, who could resist a homemade triple-layer choc chip cake adorned with a mountain of cookie bits?!

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INGREDIENTS – makes 3 shallow sponge layers of approx. 20cm/8 in diameter

For the cake:

  • 280g/10 oz self-raising flour
  • 280g/10 oz butter
  • 255g/9 oz caster sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50g/2 oz milk or dark chocolate chips

For the filling/topping:

  • 1 x packet Dream Topping, prepared according to pack instructions with x ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 packet shop-bought chocolate chip cookies (from the biscuit aisle of the supermarket; not the chewy bakery ones), e.g. Maryland

METHOD

For the cake:

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line three round baking tins with parchment paper.
  • Whisk the butter/margarine and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until pale, then whisk in the eggs.
  • Fold in the flour and vanilla extract until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins, then scatter the chocolate chips over the top.

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  • Pop the tins into the oven and bake for around 15-20 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponges comes out clean.
  • When baked, transfer the cakes onto a wire rack and remove from the tins when cool. At this stage, the sponges can be frozen for decorating at a later date if you wish.

For the filling/topping:

This part should be done just before serving the cake, otherwise the cookies will go soft.

  1. Mix up the Dream Topping according to the packet’s instructions, and stir in the vanilla extract. Divide equally into two bowls.
  2. Bash the cookies up in a zip-lock bag using a rolling pin. Do this quite roughly – you want chunks rather than crumbs.
  3. Stir half of the crushed cookies into one bowl of the Dream Topping and then spread half of the mixture onto one of the cooled sponge layers. Sandwich another layer on top and repeat.
  4. Place the final sponge layer on top of the other two and spread with the other bowl of smooth Dream Topping. Scatter the remaining crushed cookies on top of the cake and serve.

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Categories: Icing, Layer Cakes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Caramel Coffee Cake

I should probably start by saying that one of my pet hates is promotional blog posts that fawn over products that have been sent to the blogger in return for free advertising so apologies if this is a bit hypocritical, but I must say that this particular type of coffee really made this recipe special. And I promise I’ve not been given any incentive to promote it!

The product in question is Beanies caramel flavour instant coffee. My mum bought a jar of it from Aldi a few weeks ago and I was captivated by the absolutely heavenly aroma wafting from the cup as it brewed.

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Now, I actually cannot stand the taste of coffee, but bizarrely I love it in cake form and knew I had to try and bake with this angelic smelling stuff! And a 50th birthday for a java-loving colleague at work was the perfect excuse to try.

The recipe is extremely simple – pretty much just a slightly adapted Victoria sponge and standard buttercream – but the caramel coffee really takes the flavour to another level of deliciousness.

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INGREDIENTS – makes 3 shallow or 2 deep sponge layers of 20cm/8 in diameter

For the cake:

  • 225g/8 oz self-raising flour
  • 140g/5 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 55g/2 oz brown sugar
  • 225g/8 oz butter/margarine
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp Beanies caramel coffee granules dissolved in 1.5 tbsp boiling water

For the buttercream icing/topping:

  • 55g/2 oz butter
  • 140g/5 oz icing sugar
  • 0.5 tbsp Beanies caramel coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water
  • Handful of mini salted caramel fudge pieces, or other fudge/toffee type sweets chopped into small pieces
  • 50g/1.5 oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

METHOD

For the cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line two or three round baking tins with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the butter/margarine and sugars together in a large mixing bowl until pale, then whisk in the eggs.
  3. Fold in the flour and coffee until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins, then pop in the oven and bake for around 15-20 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponges comes out clean.
  5. When baked, transfer the cakes onto a wire rack and remove from the tins when cool. At this stage, the sponges can be frozen for decorating at a later date if you wish.

For the buttercream/topping:

  1. Place the butter and coffee in a bowl and gradually beat in the icing sugar until smooth and spreadable (if it’s too runny, add a bit more icing sugar until you have the desired consistency).
  2. Spread half of the buttercream on top of one of the cooled sponges (or one third if using three layers), then place the other sponge on top and spread with the remaining buttercream (or divide it between the remaining two sponges if using three layers).
  3. Sprinkle the chopped dark chocolate and fudge pieces over the cake before serving.
Categories: Icing, Layer Cakes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pineapple & White Chocolate Pavlova

Following the success of my first ever homemade meringues back in October last year, I’ve been keen to have a go at a full-blown pavlova. A sweet, snowy mountain adorned with smooth white cream and colourful fresh fruit, I’ve always thought pavlovas make a spectacular dessert, as well as being a nice lighter alternative to cake.

I thought if my attempt turned out like the delicious marshmallowy-on-the-inside-crisp-on-the-outside individual little clouds I made previously I’d be happy, but I was worried that this monster version would be more temperamental, and cook unevenly or shatter into sad little bits of chalk dust when baked. Luckily, I needn’t have had such concerns as it came out beautifully.

Although the topping combination was my idea, I can’t take credit for the meringue base here. My kitchen-whizz mum suggested I use her failsafe pavlova recipe from her trusty old copy of The Love of Cooking by Sonia Allison (from 1972!), and it proves that the oldies are certainly goodies as it worked perfectly. It’s definitely going to be be my go-to recipe in future!

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Now here I must confess that I’m not a massive fan of berries, which are a staple of the quintessential pavlova. I love anything strawberry, raspberry or blueberry flavoured, but I just don’t enjoy the texture of the fruits themselves. However, I needed something that would cut through the sweetness of both the meringue and white chocolate, so I decided to use refreshingly sharp pineapple instead and I think it worked really well.

The finished article went down an absolute storm with my family, and I’ve definitely been bitten by the homemade meringue bug, so I’ll certainly be making more pavs in the future!

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INGREDIENTS – serves approx. 6 people

For the meringue base:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g/8 oz caster sugar
  • Quarter tsp cream of tartar
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 tsp vinegar (any kind will do)

For the topping:

  • 1 36g sachet Dream Topping + milk as needed by the packet instructions (or 250ml/0.5 pint double cream)
  • 1 432g can pineapple chunks or slices in juice, drained
  • 50g/1.5 oz white chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • A sprinkling of white and pink edible pearls (optional)

METHOD

For the meringue base:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 130 degrees C (or 110 fan) and line a large flat baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place the egg whites in a very clean mixing bowl and whisk with the cream of tartar until white and frothy.
  3. Continue to whisk while adding the sugar a few tablespoons at a time until stiff, glossy peaks form – this will take a good few minutes (you should be able to hold the bowl of mixture over your head without it spilling out!)

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  4. Gently fold in the cornflour and vinegar with a spatula (and don’t panic at the odd acidic smell like I did – this will disappear once it’s cooked, I promise!)
  5. Dollop the mixture in a rough circle on the baking parchment, ensuring it’s in a thick layer so you can’t see the paper through it at any point.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for around 1-1.5 hours, until a crisp shell has formed and the meringue is very slightly golden on the top but mostly white.
  7. When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool.

For the topping:

  1. Prepare the Dream Topping (or cream) according to the packet’s instructions – it should be quite thick and not runny – and then pile it on top of the meringue base.
  2. If using pineapple slices, cut them into small chunks and scatter on top of the Dream Topping, followed by the white chocolate chunks.
  3. Finish with a sprinkling of a few pretty pink and white pearls if you fancy, and serve immediately.
Categories: Other Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Healthy Rice Krispie Granola Bars

Well, I think it’s about time to make my first blog post of 2017! A very belated Happy New Year to you all 🙂

In my last post I said I wanted to try and eat healthier and shift a bit of weight, and by some miracle I’ve actually stuck to it (thus far)! I’ve not been following any kind of radical diet, just cutting down on the amount of naughty stuff and exercising more. I’ve been going to the work gym twice a week, walking to and from the office every day and taking lunchtime yoga classes on Mondays, also at work (one of the great things about being employed by a university is the access to an array of convenient fitness facilities, and at a significant discount!)

I’ve managed to lose 6 pounds so far, which I’m really pleased about as I’m not trying to lose a shedload of weight in a short period, only to pile it all back on when the urge to eat a wheelbarrowful of Dairy Milk becomes too much. I want to do it gradually while still being able to enjoy my favourite treats in moderation. To be perfectly honest, I’ve not missed eating cake that much but chocolate is proving to be very much my Achilles’ heel…

The downside to this wee health kick is that I’ve not been doing as much baking, apart from a few cake requests for colleagues. However, my other half bought me the latest Bake Off book for my birthday last month and it contained a fabulous recipe for ‘Posh Granola Bars’, which I knew I had to try right away. Toasted oats, Rice Krispies, nuts, fruit and honey in yummy crunchy bar form and easy on the waistline to boot – what’s not to like?

They turned out delicious, but I decided to adapt them slightly in subsequent batches by increasing the quantity of Rice Krispies, substituting the butter for peanut butter and using raisins instead of dried cranberries. I like these ones even better, and they’re easier to cut without turning to crumbs, meaning they’re perfect to take to work for a healthy and filling mid-morning snack.

If you’re not as mad a fan of Rice Krispies as me, cut the amount down to 25-50g and up the oats to 200g, although personally I love the crunch they add! Also feel free to use whatever dried fruit you like, or maybe go wild and add some chocolate chips?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 12 bars

  • 150g/5 oz oats
  • 70g/2.5 oz Rice Krispies or other puffed rice cereal
  • 100g/3.5 oz mixed nuts, coarsely chopped (I used pecans, walnuts, almonds and Brazil nuts)
  • 50g/1.5 oz peanut butter
  • 160g/5.5 oz honey
  • 50g/1.5 oz raisins
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan).
  2. Tip the oats and chopped nuts into a rectangular baking tray and add the cooking oil.
  3. Use your hands to combine the mixture, rubbing the oats so that they’re lightly coated in the oil.
  4. Place the tray in the oven for around 6-8 minutes until the oats become slightly dry and golden.
  5. Place the honey and peanut butter in a mixing bowl and melt together in the microwave in blasts of 1 minute until smooth.
  6. Pour the oat and nut mixture, Rice Krispies, raisins and cinnamon into the wet ingredients and stir thoroughly to combine. If the mixture seems too dry and crumbly, add a dash more honey.20170212_122217
  7. Wipe the baking tray clean and line with parchment paper, then pour in the mixture and press down evenly with a spatula.
  8. Place in the oven for around 10 minutes until the top of the mixture is light brown in colour.
  9.  Leave to cool on a wire rack and then cut up into bars using a sharp knife.
Categories: flapjacks, Healthier, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Year in Cake – 2016

As I’m currently tucked up in bed with a rotten cold on New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d do another blog post like I did this time last year looking at my top bakes of 2016.

I won’t bore you with the details but this year has been the worst one for a long time for many reasons and has left me a bit emotionally battered to say the least. I’m hoping with all my strength that 2017 is an improvement and that the changes I’m desperate to make in my life will come about.

Still, baking is a part of my life come rain or shine and I’ve managed quite a few successful bakes this year, including several celebration cakes which I was really pleased with. My creations will never be up there in the showstopper stakes, but I think my presentation skills have improved and I’ve been a bit more daring with decoration.

One new thing I’ve tried this year is meringues. I’d always been a bit nervous to try them as I got the impression they’d be very temperamental and difficult to pull off, but happily I was wrong. My piping skills are still as dire as ever, but they were surprisingly easy to make and tasted absolutely delicious – crispy on the outside with a gooey marshmallow-like interior. And so SO much better than the brittle, chalky shop-bought ones. I was hoping to make a chocolate or cappuccino pavlova for NYE dessert and unfortunately being ill has put paid to that, but I’m keen to make something meringuey again soon! Like an idiot I forgot to include the fruits of my labour in the collage below so here’s a snap of my cute little ghost meringues from Halloween:

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I’ve decided to make on culinary resolution this year, and I’m sure I’ve made it before. I would really like to have a go at making proper bread, i.e. using yeast (not soda bread!) I’m a very impatient cook which is what’s put me off trying this previously but the effort would be worth it in order to create a nice big tear-and-share centrepiece, either a delicious chocolatey monkey bread or a mouth-watering sundried tomato and cheese number. I also fancy having a go at brioche, which is my all-time favourite bread, with its indulgent melt-in-the-mouth buttery sweetness and cloud-like texture. Watch this space!

So anyway, here’s a wee compilation of my personal favourite bakes from 2016:

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  1. Chocolate Orange Bonfire Cake (recipe here)
  2. Spiced Tea & Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon Ganache Icing (recipe here)
  3. Banana, Peanut Butter & Caramac Loaf (recipe here)
  4. Honeycomb & Chocolate Flapjacks with Marzipan Bees (recipe here)
  5. Raisin Spice Christmas Cake with Fondant Sealies (base recipe from the 1000 Cakes & Bakes cookbook)
  6. Moomin Lebkuchen (base recipe from the Bake Off Christmas cookbook)
  7. Lady Baltimore Cake (recipe here)
  8. Ducky Custard Cream Cake (base recipe here)
  9. Cheese & Sundried Tomato Quiche (recipe here)

I’ll sign off now by wishing everyone in the Bakeosphere a very happy and healthy 2017! 🙂

Cloud9.1 x

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Mince Pie Flapjacks

Hurray! The most wonderful time of the year is upon us again! 🙂 Christmas is my favourite time for baking, and each year I have to meticulously plan when I want to make what as I always have so many bakes I want to try – both old seasonal favourites and new recipes that I haven’t tried before.

This festive season I intend to make another batch of my yummy stollen biscotti from last year, the spiced fruitcake with fondant seal decorations that has become a Christmas tradition, and also have a go at creating my own lebkuchen. I’ve also recently been experimenting with different gingerbread recipes so no doubt there’ll be a repeat performance of some of those too before the year’s out.

After the success of the aforementioned stollen biscotti last year, I wanted to have a go at conjuring up another Christmas recipe of my own, and these deliciously spicy and fruity flapjacks are the result.

I made my flapjacks using my mum’s marvellous homemade mincemeat which is lovely and fruity and not too boozy, but use whatever kind you like, be it homemade or bought. Like their traditional pie counterpart, they’re delicious served warmed with some cream (preferably accompanied by Christmas songs and a festive jumper).

This would also be a good recipe for the new year when jars of mincemeat are being sold off ten-a-penny in the shops and you’re in need of something sweet and warming to distract you from the fact that Christmas is over, you’re cold, skint and have already broken all of your new year’s resolutions.

This may be my final blog post before the big day so I’ll take this opportunity to wish everyone in the Bakeosphere a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

P.S. If you’re looking for other easy festive baking ideas, why not take a look at my recipes for chocolate gingerbread cake, low fat Christmas pudding brownies and red velvet star biscuits?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 15 large or 20 small flapjacks

  • 280g/10 oz oats
  • 130g/4.5 oz butter or margarine
  • 170g/6 oz brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 80g/3 oz mincemeat
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • Half tsp mixed spice
  • 40g/1.5 oz raisins or sultanas (optional)

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Put the butter/margarine, sugar and golden syrup in a heatproof bowl and melt together in the microwave in blasts of 1 minute until smooth, stirring at each interval. Alternatively, melt together in a pan on the hob over a low heat, stirring regularly.
  3. Stir the oats, mincemeat, cinnamon, mixed spice and raisins/sultanas into the liquid mixture until thoroughly coated.

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  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tray and place in the oven for around 15-20 minutes, or until firm and slightly golden at the sides
  5. Leave the flapjacks to cool on a wire rack and then slice into squares with a sharp knife. Scoff in front of the fire or crappy Christmas TV.

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Categories: Festive, flapjacks, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chocolate Orange Bonfire Cake

I love being asked to make cakes for other people (providing no sugarpaste sculpture is involved!), especially to a theme or particular flavour.  I get to rise to the challenge of making something decadent and special, but without the subsequent burden of a shedload of leftover cake which needs eating before it goes off, and inevitably leads to colossal stress and guilt over my already-expanding waistline.

It was my dear friend and work colleague Mel’s birthday on Monday this week and this year’s brief was ‘chocolate orange’. Throughout this month I’ve seen various photos of brilliant bonfire cakes – with the crowning decoration constructed from chocolates intertwined with sugar flames – and fancied giving one a go myself, so it was a no-brainer to combine the two ideas.

I’m by no means a ‘showstopper’ kind of person when it comes to cake making as I simply don’t have the skills to execute masterpieces in buttercream and fondant that look like they belong in the Louvre (to be honest, I struggle just to use a piping bag and will avoid using one at all costs!) However, I think this is probably the most best looking cake I’ve made to date and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Despite being very simple to put together, it’s very striking and ideal for a celebration.

More importantly than pure aesthetics, this cake is absolutely delicious. The melted chocolate makes it wonderfully moist and satisfying and all my work colleagues commented on how good it was.

Personally, I think I actually prefer it without the icing; the sponge can really hold its own with its taste and texture and I don’t think the ganache is really necessary, despite its lovely silkiness. If you’re not making this for a celebration, feel free to omit it, unless you’re a real hardcore chocoholic!

Speaking of chocoholics, if this recipe appeals to you, why not try my spiced tea & chocolate cake with cinnamon ganache?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 3 sponge layers of 8in/20cm diameter

For the cake:

  • 280g/10 oz self-raising flour
  • 115g/4 oz granulated or caster sugar
  • 115g/4 oz dark brown sugar
  • 280g/10 oz butter or margarine
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 x Terry’s Chocolate Orange (157g) or equivalent weight of other orange chocolate
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder

For the orange ganache icing/decorations:

  • 1 x Terry’s Chocolate Orange (157g) or equivalent weight of other orange chocolate
  • 90g/3 oz butter or margarine
  • 20g/0.75 oz dark brown sugar
  • 65 ml/2 fl oz water
  • About 10-12 orange Matchmakers
  • 55g/2 oz granulated or caster sugar
  • Orange/yellow sugar stars + sprinkles (optional)
  • 1 sharing bag of Mini Chocolate Orange segments (optional)

METHOD

For the cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line three round baking tins with parchment paper, or spritz with cake release spray.
  2. Whisk the butter/margarine and sugars together in a large mixing bowl until pale, then whisk in the eggs and milk.
  3. Break the Chocolate Orange up into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl, then place in the microwave on a low heat in blasts of 1 minute until melted.
  4. Fold the melted chocolate, flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into the egg mixture until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins, then pop in the oven and bake for around 20-25 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponge comes out clean.
  6. When baked, leave the sponges to cool on a wire rack before turning them out of the tins. At this stage they can be frozen for decorating at a later date if you wish.

For the orange ganache icing/decorations:

  1. Break the other Chocolate Orange into small pieces and set aside.
  2. Place the water, butter/margarine and brown sugar in a saucepan and melt together on a low heat.
  3. When the mixture begins to bubble, take the pan off the heat and add the chopped Chocolate Orange. Swirl the liquid over the pieces so that they melt evenly.
  4. When the chocolate has all melted, whisk the mixture until smooth and glossy, then transfer into a cool mixing bowl.
  5. Leave the frosting to set for at least one hour (place it in the fridge to speed up the process a bit) until it’s a spreadable consistency.
  6. When set, spread the frosting onto the cooled cake and place in the fridge for at least an hour.
  7. Pour the granulated/caster sugar into a small, heavy-bottomed pan over a medium heat on the hob and wait until it has turned golden brown with a liquid consistency – be patient and DO NOT STIR!
  8. Pour the liquid sugar onto non-stick parchment paper in one big sheet (be careful as it will be extremely hot), then allow to set until very hard and brittle.
  9. Arrange the Matchmakers in a criss-cross pattern across the top of the cake so that they resemble branches on a bonfire.
  10. Just before serving, snap the melted sugar sheet into flame shapes of different sizes and arrange as you see fit among the Matchmakers by pushing them upright into the sponge.
  11. Scatter the sugar stars and sprinkles over the top and arrange the Mini Chocolate Orange segments around the edge of the cake as a finishing touch, if using.
Categories: Chocolate, Icing, Layer Cakes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gooey Toffee Apple Flapjacks

Hurray, Autumn is upon us again! As corny as it sounds, is there anything more heart-warmingly lovely than taking a quiet pink-cheeked walk in the September/October sunshine amidst a crisp breeze while taking in all the gorgeously coloured leaves, fallen apples and shiny conkers underfoot? It’s at this time of year that I’m glad I can walk to work, and recently I haven’t been able to resist stopping to take photos on the way as my scenic route looks particularly stunning of an autumnal morning.

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Most importantly, Autumn marks the arrival of one of my favourite things – scrumping season! My mum and I did our usual ritual of venturing out to the nearby fields on the first Saturday in September and came back with a glorious bounty of apples, blackberries and plums. The majority of the berries and some of the apples were used to make vast quantities of my beloved blackberry, apple & cinnamon jam, but it wouldn’t be right to not keep a few aside for some baking.

The scrumped apples have made a delicious addition to various recipes that I’ve tried, including Waitrose’s spiced apple & walnut blondies and my go-to Weetabix loaf. However, I think my favourite 2016 Autumn apple creation has to be these toffee apple flapjacks. They’re squidgy, sweet and sharp, and remind me of a cross between a flapjack and a crumble – perfect for a chilly evening. They’re also yummy served warm with custard.

For another wonderfully autumnal treat where apples are the star, why not check out my Autumn Bliss cake?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 15 flapjacks

  • 130g/4.5 oz butter or margarine
  • 170g/6 oz brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 255g/9 oz oats
  • 2 eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks about the size of a 10p piece
  • 60g/2 oz mini toffee/fudge pieces (I used Aldi’s mini salted caramel fudge pieces), or larger toffees/fudges chopped into small pieces
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

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METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Put the butter/margarine, sugar and maple syrup in a heatproof bowl and melt together in the microwave in blasts of 1 minute until smooth, stirring at each interval. Alternatively, melt together in a pan on the hob over a low heat, stirring regularly.
  3. Stir the oats, apple chunks, toffee/fudge pieces and cinnamon into the liquid mixture until thoroughly coated.20161008_132436.jpg
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tray and place in the oven for around 15-20 minutes, or until slightly golden at the sides.
  5. Leave the flapjacks to cool on a wire rack and then slice into squares with a sharp knife.
Categories: flapjacks, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Banana, Peanut Butter & Caramac Loaf

I wouldn’t like to estimate the number of times I’ve said “this bake has got to be one of my all-time favourites” in my blog posts over the years, but I really think this one might actually be my all-time all-time favourite.

For me, it’s simply heaven in cake form. I love banana bread, I love peanut butter and I love Caramac, and they go together so darn well. This is what I make when I’m feeling blue or when I fancy some proper sweet, squidgy, unapologetic comfort food. I can only describe it as a warming hug in cake form, perfect for this time of year when the nights are drawing in and another Summer bids a fond farewell.

I know it looks, at best, unremarkable and, at worst, downright sloppy, but, honestly, it tastes SO good it really doesn’t need any aesthetic adornments – the flavour says it all. No frills, no fuss, just pure unadultered pleasure. Happiness = biting into a big slab of this sweet, nutty cake as a pool of gooey Caramac melts in your mouth (with a cuppa on the side, of course). What could be better??

And if you’re bananas for this cake, why not check out my recipe for scrummy banana and toffee cake with brown sugar buttercream too?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 1 standard loaf cake

  • 175g/6 oz butter/margarine
  • 175g/6 oz brown sugar
  • 175g/6 oz self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 ripe or overripe bananas, mashed
  • 3 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 x 110g bag Caramac buttons or 110g Caramac bars, roughly chopped

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C (or 150 fan) and line a loaf tin with parchment paper.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter/margarine and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the eggs, peanut butter, cinnamon, vanilla extract and mashed bananas.
  4. Fold in the flour and Caramac buttons until a batter of soft dropping consistency has formed.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for around 30-40 minutes or until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponge comes out clean (although it doesn’t do any harm to leave it a bit squidgy in the middle!)
  6. Leave to cool on a wire rack before turning the cake out of the tin, cutting into slices and devouring with gusto.
Categories: Loaf Cakes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lady Baltimore Cake

One of the few downsides of being a prolific baker (apart from an ever-expanding waistline) is when you really want to try something new, that’s also not too complicated, but you end up skimming over the same old well-loved recipes. Chocolate cake, Victoria sponge, lemon drizzle, brownies; they’re all undeniably delicious but sometimes I find myself craving something a bit different that’s still simple to whip up.

This is particularly true when it comes to birthday cakes. I’ve made my lovely step-grandad’s celebratory sponge for the last three years and wanted to make a cake that he and the rest of the family had never tried before, but one that equally didn’t involve hours of painstaking fiddling and stressing.

I was flicking through my latest cookbook bargain, The Best-Ever Book of Cakes by Ann Nicol (bought for £2 from The Works and brimming with an array of fantastic recipes) for inspiration, and the Lady Baltimore cake caught my eye. I’d never heard of such a thing before, let alone baked one, but it looked delicious with its snowy white and unapologetically bumpy frosting.

Admittedly, I altered the recipe a bit with a couple of substitutions, but the result was absolutely heavenly. The crunch of the walnuts mixed with the sharpness of the raisins and cranberries, all contrasting with the sweet and marshmallowy meringue frosting, is divine. I would never have thought to mix lumpy things like fruit and nuts into an icing but it really works!

Oh, and if you’re a fan of dreamy, cloud-like meringue frosting, why not have a go at my Tunnock’s chocolate teacake cake?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 2 sponge layers of 8in/20cm diameter

For the cake:

  • 250ml/8 fl oz vegetable oil
  • 225g/8 oz caster sugar
  • 280g/10 oz self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Grated rind of 1 small lemon (or orange)
  • 125ml/4 fl oz lemon (or orange) juice

For the frosting/filling:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 115g/4 oz icing sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5 tsp cream of tartar (optional but helps stabilise the frosting)
  • 50g/2 oz mixed nuts, pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • 85g//3 oz raisins
  • 40g/1.5 oz cranberries

METHOD

For the cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line two round baking tins with parchment paper.
  2. Whisk the vegetable oil, sugar and eggs together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Stir in the lemon rind and juice.
  4. Gently fold in the flour and baking powder, until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins, then pop in the oven and bake for around 25-30 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponges comes out clean.
  6. When baked, transfer the cakes onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

For the frosting/filling:

  1. Set aside 8 whole walnuts and 8 cranberries.
  2. Separate the egg whites into a clean bowl and whisk with the vanilla extract and cream of tartar, while adding the icing sugar a few teaspoons at a time, until stiff peaks form – you should ideally do this for a minimum of 7-10 minutes.
  3. Spread half of the mixture on top of one of the cooled sponges with a palette knife.
  4. Gently stir in the chopped nuts, raisins and cranberries into the remaining frosting and spread the mixture on top of the other sponge.
  5. Sandwich the sponge topped with plain frosting on top of the one with the fruit and nut frosting, then arrange the extra 8 walnuts and cranberries on top of the cake in a neat circle.

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Categories: Icing, Layer Cakes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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