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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 with milk according to pack instructions
  • 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 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.
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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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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.

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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.
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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

Super Easy Nutella Popcorn Cupcakes

I have been so ridiculously busy the last few weeks that my poor blog has been rather neglected of late. The main reason for this is that I am currently in the midst of house hunting! After much renting and moving back and forth, I’ve decided it’s time to get my bum in gear and finally get on the property ladder now that I’m earning again.

It’s something I’ve wanted for a long time and I’m desperate to settle in one place. It’s quite exciting but also overwhelming and scary!

Anyway, both my other half and my best friend had birthdays within a week of each other this month. Neither wanted a big cake but I couldn’t not create anything for them, despite my current time-poor situation. So one exhausted Saturday afternoon I made these delicious and decadent cupcakes, which don’t involve any fancy ingredients and are a doddle to put together.

Nutella is a life-saver when you don’t have the time/energy to whip up icing following the effort of making the actual cake, and ready-made popcorn is an impressive but simple decoration. And, most importantly, they’re extremely tasty!

If you’re reeeeally short on time, you could use packet chocolate cake mix instead of doing the sponge from scratch – I certainly wouldn’t judge you!

And if  you like super-easy Nutella recipes, why not whip up a batch of delicious Nutella porridge bars?

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 15-18 cupcakes

For the cakes:

  • 225g/8 oz self-raising flour
  • 140g/5 oz caster or granulated sugar
  • 70g/2.5 oz brown sugar
  • 225g/8 oz butter or margarine
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp strong coffee

For the icing/decoration (I have to confess that I didn’t measure these accurately!)

  • Roughly half a jar of Nutella or other chocolate & hazelnut spread
  • Roughly half a pack of ready-prepared toffee popcorn, e.g. Butterkist

METHOD

For the cakes:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  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, coffee and vanilla extract until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the cake cases until they’re each about three quarters full, 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, leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack. At this stage the they can be frozen for decorating at a later date if you wish.

For the icing/decoration:

  1. When the cakes have cooled, dollop a generous amount of Nutella onto each one and smooth out using a palette knife.
  2. Top each cake with 5 pieces of popcorn.
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Iris Tart

Our lovely and amazingly hardworking intern at work from the Netherlands, Iris, sadly left us a couple of weeks ago. To mark the occasion, I wanted to make her a genuine Dutch ‘vlaai’, which is a traditional tart made with fruit and a yeasted dough and topped with a distinctive lattice pattern.

Unfortunately, I only had a couple of hours to create one so I cheated and used an American recipe for a (supposedly) Dutch almond lattice tart with apricot jam that I found online and used regular shortcrust pastry instead of a dough that involved proving, kneading etc. The ingredients were pretty much all in tablespoons which was a bit frustrating (ever tried precisely measuring out a tablespoon of solid marzipan?!) and I didn’t have quite a few of the required ingredients so I ended up improvising and making up my own version. It took quite a while to cook in the oven, the top becoming ever browner while the middle remained soggy as I panicked that I’d incinerated it, convinced the finished product was going to end up an outright insult to the good people of the Netherlands.

Anyway, as is so often the case with cooking, it turned out fabulously and received lots of compliments from my colleagues. Despite its success, it’s certainly not authentic Dutch cuisine so I decided to christen it with its own unique name, Iris Tart, in her honour. I’ll certainly be making it again and will think of her when I do!

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INGREDIENTS

For the pastry:

  • 340g/12 oz plain flour
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 170g/6 oz butter
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

For the filling:

  • 115g/4 oz butter
  • 130g/4.5 oz marzipan (+ extra if you wish to use for decorations)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 85g/3 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 45g/1.5 oz plain flour
  • 150g/5 oz dried apricots, snipped into small pieces
  • Sprinkling of demerara sugar

METHOD

For the pastry:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan), grease a large heatproof flan dish with butter/margarine and place the apricots in a jug of boiling water to soak.
  2. Place the flour, sugar and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl and then rub the butter into the mixture with your fingertips until breadcrumb-type bits form. Add the milk and form into a ball of dough. If it’s too sticky add some more flour and if it’s too dry and crumbly add a splash more milk.
  3. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 25 minutes.

For the filling:

  1. About 5-10 minutes before the pastry’s chilling time is up, beat the butter, eggs and sugar together in a bowl.
  2. Grate the marzipan block into the mixture (you may want to chill it for a bit if it’s too squishy to grate) and then fold in the flour and soaked apricot pieces.
  3. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out on a floured surface with a rolling pin until it’s about 0.5cm thick. Carefully transfer onto the prepared flan dish and gently press down into the fluted bits. Trim off the excess pastry with a knife.
  4. Squish the offcuts back together and roll out again. Cut into 9 strips, each around 1 inch wide and long enough to lie across the tart.
  5. Pour the filling into the flan dish and then carefully arrange the pastry strips in a lattice pattern on the top – ‘glue’ them together with a bit of water on your fingertip if needs be.
  6. Sprinkle the tart with some demerara sugar and then place in the oven for around 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and the filling is cooked through.
  7. Transfer onto a wire rack to cool and decorate with extra marzipan adornments if you fancy. Enjoy the tart cold as it is or serve warm with a bit of cream or ice cream.

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A Year in Cake – 2015

As the end of 2015 is very nearly upon us, I thought I’d have a look back at the year’s baking and eating adventures and muse what culinary activities 2016 might have in store.

I don’t want this to become one of those tedious new-year-new-me-embarking-on-a-detox-diet-frenzy-until-the-novelty-wears-off-after-a-week type posts that are a common side effect of January’s imminent approach. However, I have been thinking about my recent eating habits and would like to make more of an effort to be healthier in the new year.

I drink gallons of water and, in terms of my savoury diet, I eat a good deal of wholegrains, fish and a hell of a lot more veggies than I used to, but fatty, sugary sweet treats really are my downfall. My typical daily work situation is as follows: eat a lovely healthy lunch of delicious homemade cous cous salad with, say, mackerel or a bit of feta cheese, accompanied by a banana, a nutritious homemade oat or raw/vegan-type bar and perhaps a packet of low fat crisps, preceded by a mid-morning snack of dried fruit or a cereal bar…and then the 3pm slump hits and I stuff my face with the abundance of chocolate, cake and/or biscuits that are a continual feature of the office.

One of my weaknesses is that I am terrible with portion control – I can’t stop at a couple of squares of Dairy Milk or one Bourbon biscuit once I start munching. I eat a balanced home-cooked meal when I get home, and then the sweet cravings start again later in the evening, only this time tenfold.

And this is why I have put on weight and frequently feel more bloated than a waterlogged whale without a blowhole. Although I walk to and from work, 20 minutes each way, every day and practise yoga once a week, my energy levels are currently zero and I generally don’t feel great in myself. This is why I really want to better my eating habits – I don’t want to use the word ‘diet’ as I’m not about to launch some desperate bid to lose a ton of weight (although shedding a few pounds would be a welcome bonus); it’s more for general reasons of all-round health and happiness.

With this in mind, I’ve been bookmarking some delicious-sounding healthier bakes. I’m also looking forward to making some of the lighter recipes I’ve tried out previously with success when feeling health-conscious, like my Christmas pudding brownies, matzo meal muffins and other treats that can be found here: https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/category/healthier/ (I’m hoping 2016 will see this category of my blog expand!)

Here are a few new recipes I’ve found that I’m already keen to try out soon:

  • Healthy Digestive Biscuits – http://www.talesfromthekitchenshed.com/2015/01/healthy-digestive-biscuits/
  • The Hairy Dieters’ Low Fat Fruit Tea Loaf – http://www.waitrose.com/home/recipes/recipe_directory/h/hairy-bikers-lowfatfruittealoaf.html
  • Skinny Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes – https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0ahUKEwj_6Mrh0ITKAhVBVxQKHUUtBQ0QFggmMAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fsallysbakingaddiction.com%2F2013%2F02%2F19%2Fskinny-chocolate-peanut-butter-swirl-cupcakes%2F&usg=AFQjCNGet8gHepME-iC6PzI4BJbtI8MAGA
  • Vegan Apricot Crumble Bars – http://embracethecake.co.uk/post-a-recipe/2015/6/12/apricot-crumble-bars
  • Cinnamon macaron-style cookies; I haven’t found an actual recipe yet but I’m thinking of experimenting with maple syrup or sweetener or something to lower the refined sugar content in these low fat cookies – watch this space!

Aaaand finally, here’s a selection of my favourite bakes from 2015 🙂

collage

  1. Healthy No-Bake Choco-Date Bars (https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/healthy-no-bake-choco-date-bars/)
  2. Autumn Bliss Cake (https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/10/17/autumn-bliss-cake/)
  3. Banana Toffee Cake (https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/06/10/banana-toffee-cake-with-brown-sugar-buttercream/)
  4. Cherry Bakewell & Cherry Chocolate Scones (https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/cherry-bakewell-cherry-chocolate-scones/)
  5. Mary Berry’s Coffee Cake (https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/07/31/cookbook-challenge-1-mary-berrys-coffee-cake/)
  6. Nigella’s Devil’s Food Cake (https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/cookbook-challenge-2-nigellas-devils-food-cake/)
  7. Trine Hahnemann’s Scandi Marzipan Tarts (https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/cookbook-challenge-3-trine-hahnemanns-scandinavian-marzipan-tarts/)
  8. Nigella’s Chocolate Fudge Cake (available at nigella.com)
  9. Oatmeal Gingerbread (from the 1000 Cakes & Bakes cookbook)
  10. Minimalist Raisin Spice Christmas Cake (from the 1000 Cakes & Bakes cookbook)
  11. Stollen Biscotti (https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/12/23/stollen-biscotti/)
  12. Neapolitan Cake (https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/neapolitan-cake/)

Best wishes for a fantastic 2016, fellow bakers and bloggers – I hope it’s a happy and healthy one!

Love,
Cloud9.1 x

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stollen Biscotti

I know I’m cutting it a bit fine posting my one brand new edible festive creation late on Christmas Eve Eve but these biscotti are so fabulous that I think they warrant a fashionably late arrival. I have been doing a fair amount of yuletide baking recently but everything bar these have used recipes from books/magazines (which is unusual for me), hence why I haven’t posted them on here.

I was originally going to make the divine-sounding stollen muffins from the November issue of Good Food, but the only problem with muffins is that they’re quite heavy and I wanted to bake something lighter to enjoy with a cuppa after the hefty indulgence that is Christmas lunch, hence the idea for a biscotti version came to me. I used to hate marzipan as a child and have distinct memories of painstakingly picking it off every slice of wedding or Christmas cake while carefully salvaging the sweet, sticky white icing. However, I’ve started to love it in my old age, and I now can’t imagine a December without stollen.

This biscotti recipe and technique are very similar to the wonderfully versatile ones I blogged about here: https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/fabulous-biscotti/. Despite this, I feel that their rich, festive flavour and all-round fruity, almondy deliciousness means they deserve a separate post. Again, feel free to experiment with ingredients and flavours – you could try adding pistachios, candied peel and/or chopped dates, among other things, to create a similarly Christmassy taste if you’re not a fan of marzipan.

I’ll sign off now by wishing a very MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone reading this, and a huge thank you for supporting my little blog 🙂 Here’s to more culinary fun in 2016!

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 15 pieces

  • 180g/6 oz self-raising flour
  • 80g/3 oz caster or granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 40g/1.5 oz dried cranberries
  • 40g/1.5 oz sultanas
  • 40g/1.5 oz marzipan, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a large flat baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, ground almonds and baking powder together in a large bowl then add the cranberries, sultanas, marzipan cubes and almond extract.
  3. Beat the egg and milk together for around 1 minute and pour into the mixture.
  4. Mix with a wooden spoon and then your hands until the ingredients come together to form a stiff dough. If it’s too sticky add a little more flour and if it’s too dry and crumbly add a splash more milk.
  5. Roll the dough into a sausage shape about 25-30cm long and place on the baking tray then gently flatten it until it’s about 2cm tall.

    20161224_134355.jpg

  6. Place in the oven for around 25-30 minutes until the dough is firm with a crust but still fairly pale.
  7. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 140 degrees C then allow the dough to cool for around 10 minutes before sawing into pieces about 2cm thick using a serrated knife.
  8. Place the biscuits back on the baking tray and cook for a further 25 minutes or until lightly browned then leave to cool before enjoying with tea, coffee or a festive tipple!
Categories: Biscuits/Cookies, Festive, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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