Icing

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

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

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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Spiced Tea & Chocolate Cake with Chocolate & Cinnamon Ganache Icing

I first came up with the idea of, and impulsively made, this cake for the first time over a year ago when I wanted to combine the winning combination of chocolate and good old-fashioned English tea in sponge form. The addition of cinnamon and mixed spice adds an extra layer of depth to the flavours and I’m really pleased with how the finished product turned out.

The flavours are slightly reminiscent of my Christmas favourite, chocolate gingerbread cake, but the texture is less dense and more akin to a traditional sponge, making it an ideal treat all year round.

I stupidly didn’t take any photos of my first attempt but, when asked to make a birthday cake for a pony-mad colleague, I decided to recreate it in deceptively simple but eye-catching horseshoe form. The equine motif is, of course, optional and the cake tastes just as delicious made in a regular round or square tin. It’s also very tasty in its naked form, minus the icing, but the cinnamon ganache adds an extra touch of indulgence.

I must give credit to the inspirational domestic goddess and my all-round food idol, Nigella Lawson, for the aforementioned icing – the original recipe is hers (part of her decadent Devil’s Food cake), and I simply added some cinnamon.

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INGREDIENTS – makes 1 bundt ring cake as in the picture, or 1 deep round 20cm/8in cake

For the cake:

  • 225g/8 oz butter or margarine
  • 115g/4 oz caster or granulated sugar
  • 115g/4 oz brown sugar
  • 225g/8 oz self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  •  120ml/4 fl oz strong cold tea
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder

For the ganache icing/decorations:

  • 125g/4.5 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 90g/3 oz butter
  • 20g/0.75 oz dark brown sugar
  • 65 ml/2 fl oz water
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 7 Caramac buttons (optional)
  • Silver shimmer spray (optional)
  • Palm-sized piece of marzipan (optional)
    + horse-shaped cookie cutter (optional)

METHOD

For the cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line your cake tin of choice 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.
  3. Fold in the flour, cocoa powder, tea, cinnamon, mixed spice and baking powder until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin, then pop in the oven and bake for around 25-30 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponge comes out clean (it might need a bit longer if you’re using one round tin instead of a ring-shaped one).
  5. When baked, leave the cake to cool on a wire rack before turning it out of the tin. At this stage it can be frozen for decorating at a later date if you wish.
  6. If you’re making a horseshoe cake, cut out a section of the sponge ring (and eat later!)

For the ganache icing/decorations:

  1. Place the water, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan and melt together on a low heat.
  2. When the mixture begins to bubble, take the pan off the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate. Swirl the liquid over the pieces so that they melt evenly.
  3. When the chocolate has all melted, whisk the mixture until smooth and glossy, then transfer into a cool mixing bowl.
  4. 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.
  5. When set, spread the frosting onto the cooled cake.
  6. If you’re making a horseshoe cake, arrange the Caramac buttons, evenly spaced, along the middle of the sponge and finish with a spritz of silver shimmer spray for a metallic sheen.
  7. To make the little yellow horse centrepiece as in the photo, roll out the chunk of marzipan until it’s about the thickness of a pound coin, then stamp it out using the horsey cookie cutter and place in the middle on the serving plate/board.

 

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Banana Toffee Cake with Brown Sugar Buttercream

Originally posted 21/05/2015

As a keen and frequent baker, I’m not quite sure why I’d never made banana bread/cake before as I love bananas and it’s pretty much a failsafe culinary venture. In fact, it almost seems to be a rite of passage recipe for those who begin to pursue an interest in baking. Anyway, when the time came to make a cake for my mum and dad’s joint birthday celebrations back in April, I wanted to make something different that I hadn’t tried before which would be indulgent but not too complicated. I decided to do a banana cake but with added toffee flavouring, and paired with a brown sugar buttercream and chopped up Caramac and Chomp bars for extra celebration-appropriate banoffee decadence.

I found that the brown sugar buttercream was a bit thinner than normal frosting but if you need it to be stiffer just add in some extra icing sugar.

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

For the cake:

  • 225g/8 oz self-raising flour
  • 100g/3.5 oz granulated/caster sugar
  • 90g/3 oz dark brown sugar
  • 225g/8 oz butter/margarine
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 ripe/over-ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp Lakeland buttery caramel flavouring (optional but delicious)
  • Half a tsp baking powder

For the buttercream/topping:

  • 100g/3.5 oz butter
  • 100g/3.5 oz dark brown sugar + a few pinches for sprinkling
  • 100g/3.5 oz icing sugar
  • Few drops of Lakeland buttery caramel flavouring (again, optional but so good!)
  • 2 Chomp bars (or other toffee/caramel chocolate)
  • 1 Caramac bar

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 butter/margarine and sugars together in a large mixing bowl until pale then whisk in the eggs.
  3. Fold in the flour, mashed bananas, vanilla extract, caramel flavouring and baking powder 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 20-25 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponges comes out clean.
  5. When baked, leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack before turning them out of the tins. 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, caramel flavouring and brown sugar in a bowl then whisk while gradually adding the icing sugar until a smooth mixture has formed.
  2. Spread half of the buttercream on one of the sponges and sandwich the other on top, then spread the rest of buttercream on the top layer.
  3. Chop the Caramac and Chomp bars into small squares using a sharp knife or scissors then place them on top of the cake before finishing off with a few sprinkles of brown sugar.

I also used this recipe to make cupcakes to take to my old workfriends 🙂 The above quantities will yield about 15-18 cupcakes.

Categories: Icing, Layer Cakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Low Sugar Chocolate Mud Icing

Originally posted 19/05/2013

Unfortunately my dad has diabetes and is therefore unable to consume my myriad teeth-rottingly sweet baked goods in large quantities. The rest of my family are fairly health-conscious too so I came up with this delicious and simple alternative to sugary buttercream using just cream cheese and dark chocolate with a high cocoa content. I’ve called it ‘mud’ because of its colour and thick, chunky consistency! Obviously if you’re topping standard vanilla or chocolate sponges with it they can hardly be classified as super healthy, and there’s still quite a high fat content, but it does mean a small cupcake can be enjoyed with a bit less guilt if you’re watching your sugar intake without going overboard with the artifical sweetener, and the strong flavour means a little goes a long way. Generally I’m not a fan of dark chocolate containing a high percentage of cocoa myself but the slight bitterness of the icing was offset really nicely with the light sponge, and the vanilla cereal stars make very cute decorations!

There are various reduced-sugar cake recipes available online that this could be paired with. Remember: the higher the cocoa content percentage, the less sugary the chocolate but the more bitter the taste.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a health or nutrition expert so try at your own risk!

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INGREDIENTS – to ice approx. 12 cupcakes

  • 55g/2 oz high-cocoa chocolate (minimum 60%), roughly chopped
  • 140g/5 oz cream cheese (at room temperature, full-fat works best)
  • Handful of crushed sugar-free Werther’s Orignals sweets, to decorate (optional)

METHOD

  1. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water without letting the bottom of the bowl touch the water and stir occasionally, or place in the microwave and blast on low heat in short bursts until completely melted.
  2. Place the cream cheese in a separate bowl and gradually pour in the melted chocolate while stirring until a smooth, spreadable mixture has formed.
  3. Spread the icing onto each cupcake using a palette knife – make sure you work quickly as it sets very rapidly – then top with some crushed sugar-free Werther’s Originals if desired.
Categories: Chocolate, Healthier, Icing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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