Posts Tagged With: 2015

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 🙂

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  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

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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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Sundried Tomato & Feta Oat Bars with 5-Minute Microwave Chutney

I realise that I’ve been a bit rubbish at regularly updating my blog recently – what with work, writing, frantically making lots of pom pom bunting for a recent charity craft fair and the inevitable neverending to-do list that comes with the run up to Christmas I’ve been very busy! I’m planning on posting some more seasonal recipes very soon, but firstly I must share these super scrummy but non-festive (ruby red tomato flecks and snowy feta notwithstanding) creations.

The idea for these was spawned from the porridge bars I blogged about here: https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/virtuous-fruity-porridge-bars-sinful-nutella-porridge-bars/. This time I wanted a lunchbox snack that wasn’t sweet but I couldn’t be bothered to make bread…which I will attempt one day; actual, proper bread, with yeast. Not soda bread. Maybe. Anyway, while the sound of tomato and cheese porridge in the traditional sense sounds grim at best, I couldn’t see any reason why applying the same method as before, but replacing the sweet ingredients with savoury ones, wouldn’t work. I’m pleased to say that the experiment paid off and the results are very tasty, with a great medley of flavours; the closest thing I can think to compare them to is corn bread. They are delicious served hot or cold and, most importantly, they do not taste like savoury porridge!

I needed something with a mushy consistency to replace the apple compote/Nutella required for the sweet versions and ended up throwing some bits and bobs together to create a surprisingly flavoursome cheat’s chutney. It took all of five minutes to prepare in the microwave so I thought I’d share this recipe too. You could, of course, just use the shop-bought kind but this is so easy to throw together using only most basic of storecupboard ingredients.

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 15 bars

For the bars:

  • 300g oats
  • 3 tbsp chutney (see recipe below)
  • 50g sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 50g feta cheese, chopped into small cubes
  • 225ml milk
  • Pinch of black pepper

For the chutney (yields roughly enough for the above recipe plus 1 small jar):

  • 3-4 apples (any kind will do)
  • 4 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 0.5 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

METHOD

For the chutney:

  1. Peel and core the apples and cut into chunks no bigger than a 50p piece, then place in a heatproof bowl or large jug.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir, then place in the microwave on a medium to high heat for 2 minutes.
  3. Stir again and put back in the microwave for a further 3 minutes, or until the apple chunks are soft enough to squash with a spoon.
  4. Leave to cool before spooning into a clean jar.

For the oat bars:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular cake tin with baking parchment.
  2. Pour the oats into a large mixing bowl, then add the chutney, sundried tomatoes, feta, milk and pepper. Stir until combined.
  3. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin then pop in the oven and bake for around 25 minutes, or until the mixture feels fairly firm and slightly crisp to the touch.
  4. Allow to cool and slice into bars with a sharp knife.
Categories: Savoury, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn Bliss Cake

Autumn is here! Season of mist and mellow fruitfulness! I absolutely love this time of year: beautiful golden falling leaves, Halloween, fireworks, mulled cider, comforting soups and hot chocolate, warm spicy scents and a crisp chill in the morning air. The nights draw in and the cloying, sticky summer heat becomes a fading memory.

One of my favourite things to do at this time of year is to go scrumping in the fields near my house. As I mentioned in my previous post, I got a fantastic haul of blackberries this year which have been incorporated into endless culinary creations, but, for me, nothing says autumn quite like fallen apples fresh from the branch. I’ve used the ones I’ve collected for various bakes and desserts but this cake is by far my favourite. I think it’s a true celebration of the season, with the slightly sour apples marrying gorgeously with the sweetness of another autumnal kitchen staple, cinnamon, and topped off with some lovely golden brown walnuts and pecans.

Although there are a few steps to it, this recipe is very simple and the result is stunning. You could use bought jam in place of the spiced apple filling I made here to save time but making it yourself is so easy and really does taste like Autumn Bliss! Why not make up some extra and put it into jars to have as a tasty treat on your toast? Cinnamon granola would also work well on top of the cake if you don’t have any cinnamon biscuits.

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

For the cake:

  • 225g/8 oz self-raising flour
  • 115g/4 oz brown sugar
  • 90g/3 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 225g/8 oz butter/margarine
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the filling/topping:

  • 4-5 (approx.) green apples, e.g. Granny Smith (or scrumped ones!)
  • 4 tbsp demerara/brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  •  100ml/3 fl oz apple juice (or apple cider if you want to add a boozy twist!)
  •  50ml/1.5 fl oz water
  • 5-7 (approx.) cinnamon biscuits
  • Handful of walnuts
  • Handful of pecans
  • Edible gold shimmer spray (optional but looks fab)

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, cinnamon and vanilla extract 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 (still in the tins – don’t remove them until they’re cool!) onto a wire rack and get started on the jammy apple filling…

For the filling/topping:

  1. Peel and core the apples (and remove any brown, manky looking bits if you’re using scrumped ones), then chop them into small chunks no bigger than a 50p piece.
  2. Place the chunks in a large pan along with the water, apple juice, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and mixed spice and bring to the boil.
  3. Turn the heat down a little and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the apple pieces can be easily squished with a wooden spoon. If the mixture is too tart, add a bit more sugar to taste.
  4. Bring to the boil a second time, then turn down the heat as before and allow to simmer for a further 5-10 minutes, again stirring occasionally.
  5. Turn off the heat completely and allow to cool.
  6. Scoop out about two thirds of the mixture along with all of the visible apple chunks and spread it onto the top of one of the cooled sponges with a palette knife, then sandwich the second sponge on top. Scrape out the remaining smooth apple mixture and spread it onto the top layer.
  7. Crush the cinnamon biscuits with your hands until they resemble breadcrumbs, then sprinkle over the top of the cake. Add the nuts and finish off with a few spritzes of edible gold shimmer spray for a truly autumnal effect. Ta-dah!
Categories: Layer Cakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cookbook Challenge 3 – Trine Hahnemann’s Scandinavian Marzipan Tarts

I was given Trine Hahnemann’s beautiful book, Scandinavian Baking, for Christmas last year and have been meaning to have a go at some of the recipes from it for a while. I have a soft spot for all things Scandi (Norway and Iceland are top of my bucket list of places to visit!) and love the sound of a lot of their traditional bakes, both sweet and savoury. I have to admit that I have made an alteration to this recipe and substituted the original lingonberries after ending up with a fabulous haul of blackberries following a productive foraging session in the fields near my house. Scrumping is one of my favourite things to do when autumn arrives so I thought it fitting to use the fruits of my labour and add a British twist 🙂 The berries’ tartness and the sweet, nutty marzipan are a match made in heaven.

I tend to stick with cakes or biscuits when baking so these lovely simple tarts were a perfect way to try something a bit different. I’d never made my own pastry before but it was so easy I’ll definitely be doing it again! This bake would also work wonderfully as one large tart for sharing, or with other kinds of sharp fruit. Trine’s recipe said to use individual fluted tins but a standard muffin tray works fine.

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I topped my tarts with a few flaked almonds as a final flourish.

INGREDIENTS – makes 16 tarts

For the pastry:

  • 170g plain flour
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 115g butter, chilled
  • Half an egg, lightly beaten
  • Pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 300g marzipan
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 150g lingonberries (or blackberries)

METHOD

  1. Sift the flour, icing sugar and salt into a bowl and rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles crumbs.
  2. Add the egg and stir until the pastry comes together in a ball.
  3. Wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C and grease 16 mini fluted cake tins or 2 muffin trays with butter.
  5. Roll the chilled dough out on a floured surface until 5-8mm thick then cut out rounds with a 9cm cookie cutter.
  6. Place the rounds in the prepared tins or muffin tray and grate the marzipan.
  7. Mix the grated marzipan, eggs and butter into a smooth paste and use to fill the pastry cases, then add the berries (about 3-4 per tart if you’re using blackberries).
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the bottoms of the pastry cases are slightly brown then remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.
Categories: Other Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Matcha Green Tea & Dark Chocolate Shortbread

I hadn’t done any baking in weeks until recently due to moving from my flat in London back to my hometown in Buckinghamshire and spending every waking moment finishing off my MA dissertation, but I’m happy to say it’s fiiiiinally done and dusted now, all 10,000 words of it 🙂

The people on my degree programme (English Linguistics if you’re interested) and our lecturers are getting together on deadline day for a wee goodbye tea party so I whipped up a batch of scones to take along, and also wanted to make something as a thank you to my friend Andy. He very kindly brought me back some traditional cakes when he went to Taiwan as he knows I love baking, cooked an amazing authentic Chinese meal for my friend Lara and me, and gave me some proper green tea leaves from his homeland of China – what a sweetie!

I thought I’d make something that was partly traditionally British but also had a Chinese twist, hence this experimental shortbread made with matcha green tea powder (the same I used in my matcha cupcake recipe). I was worried that the biscuits would taste too bitter or be over/undercooked but I’m happy to say that the results were lovely. They were very buttery and melt-in-the-mouth but with a slightly fragrant twang, and the dark chocolate pieces gave them just the right amount of sweetness.

Just a word of warning – the dough in this recipe will be very sticky so I’d advise not to skip the step that says leave it to chill in the fridge for half an hour, as this helps make it more workable, and make sure you use plenty of flour when rolling it out. If you find stamping out the shapes with cookie cutters too frustrating, just form the dough into a log and cut off rounds with a sharp knife instead.

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 12 biscuits depending on size of the cookie cutter

  • 110g/4 oz plain flour
  • 110g/4 oz butter
  • 70g/2.5 oz granulated sugar
  • 30g/1 oz ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
  • 50g/2 oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

METHOD

  1. Add the butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl and whisk together until pale.
  2. Add the flour, ground almonds, matcha powder and chocolate pieces to the mix and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until a soft dough forms (it will be very sticky).
  3. Wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Around 10 minutes before you remove the dough, pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C (or 150 gas).
  4. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour onto your work surface and rolling pin and roll the dough out until it’s about 1cm thick.
  5. Cut out biscuits using the cookie cutter of your choice, sprinkling on more flour as you go to avoid sticking, then squish the offcuts together, roll out again and repeat until all the dough is used.
  6. Carefully transfer the biscuits using a fish slice or large palette knife onto a large baking tray lined with parchment paper then pop in the oven and bake for around 10-13 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly browned – they will still be quite soft but will harden after you remove them from the oven.
  7. Place the biscuits on a wire rack and leave to cool.
Categories: Biscuits/Cookies | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cookbook Challenge 2 – Nigella’s Devil’s Food Cake

I had another birthday cake request a few weeks ago, this time from my lovely Californian friend Lara. Her only brief was ‘CHOCOLATE’ so, in keeping with my resolution to try more actual cookbook recipes, I decided to have a go at Nigella Lawson’s sinful Devil’s Food cake that I remembered her baking on one of her TV shows. Anyone that knows me knows that Nigella is one of my all-time favourite people in the world and, seeing as she’s the queen of decadent eating, I thought it was appropriate to use one of her recipes for a chocolatey, indulgent birthday treat. I used white chocolate fingers to cover a strawberries and cream cake for my friend Danielle’s birthday last year and it turned out fantastically so I decided to go for a similar look for this one, but using dark chocolate Kit Kats instead. It looks quite fancy but it’s surprisingly easy to make and assemble – just make sure you allow extra time for the frosting to set to a spreading consistency.

I was worried the sponges wouldn’t rise properly when I was making them as the batter was so runny but they turned out beautifully. It’s gorgeously moist, dark and luscious, and a level up from a standard chocolate cake. You don’t need a big slice as it’s very rich due to the lashings of divine ganache frosting but it’s perfect for a special occasion. The birthday girl was over the moon and it was well worth the suspenseful tube journey transporting it from West Hampstead to Tower Hill!

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

For the cake:

  • 225g/8 oz plain flour
  • 150g/5 oz caster sugar
  • 100g/3.5 oz brown sugar
  • 125g/4.5 oz butter
  • 50g/2 oz cocoa powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250ml/8.5 fl oz boiling water
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the frosting:

  • 30g/1 oz brown sugar
  • 175g/6 oz butter
  • 300g/10.5 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 125ml/4 fl oz water

For the decorations:

  • 19 (approx.) dark chocolate Kit Kats (I used the Sainsbury’s own brand ones as I think the criss-cross pattern on them is prettier than the Kit Kat logo!)
  • 400g/14 oz (approx.) strawberries (about one standard punnet)
  • 110g/4 oz (approx.) raspberries (about half a standard punnet)
  • Pinch of edible glitter (optional)
    + a ribbon long enough to tie around the cake

METHOD

For the cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line two baking tins with parchment paper.
  2. Put the cocoa and brown sugar in a bowl and add the boiling water. Mix briefly and set aside.
  3. Whisk the butter and caster sugar together until pale.
  4. Place the flour, baking powder and bicarb into a separate bowl.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and one egg to the butter mixture and whisk, then add half of the flour mixture.
  6. Add the other egg to the butter mixture, followed by the rest of the flour mixture and continue whisking.
  7. Fold in the liquid cocoa mixture and mix until all the ingredients are combined.
  8. Pour the batter in equal quantities into the prepared cake tins, then place in the oven and bake for around 25-30 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponges comes out clean.
  9. When baked, leave the cakes to cool on a wire rack before turning out of the tins.

For the frosting:

  1. Place the water, butter and brown sugar 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 some of the frosting onto one of the cooled sponges then sandwich the other sponge on top. Spread the rest of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake.

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For the decorations:

  1. Take the Kit Kats out of their wrappers and carefully place all around the edge of the cake, without any gaps, pushing them firmly into the frosting so that they stick.
  2. Tie the ribbon around the middle of the cake to secure the biscuits.
  3. Top with the strawberries and raspberries and add a sprinkling of edible glitter if you fancy. Et voila!

Cake & frosting recipe © Nigella Lawson

Categories: Chocolate, Layer Cakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Cookbook Challenge 1 – Mary Berry’s Coffee Cake

Pretty much all of my baking is based on ideas I’ve made up myself or adapted from existing recipes found online. It’s nice to be creative and come up with my own original bakes but I own so many lovely cookbooks that it’s a shame how little I actually use them! I also sometimes frustrate myself by not bothering to follow a recipe and then ending up with a sloppy, slapdash result. For these reasons I’ve set myself the challenge of making at least three creations from cookbooks, instructions followed to the letter, in the coming months.

I started off with this wonderfully easy but delicious all-in-one coffee cake from Mary Berry’s Simple Cakes book (it’s actually a recipe for Hokey Pokey cake with a walnut praline topping but I left this part out). It’s one of my other half’s favourite things to bake (and eat!) and he requested it for his birthday this month. He said no frills but as it was a special occasion I wanted to put some time and effort into the decoration, so I added some dark chocolate chips and made a cute cappuccino-style heart in the middle with cocoa powder (okay, I know this is technically straying from the recipe but this was extra to the actual cake!) I’m happy to say Jack was thrilled with it and, even though I HATE coffee as a drink, I loved it too 🙂

20150719_180902INGREDIENTS – makes 2 thick or 3 shallow sponge layers of 18cm/7in in diameter

For the cake:

  • 225g/8 oz self-raising flour
  • 225g/8 oz caster sugar
  • 225g/8 oz butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the icing/decorations:

  • 250g/9 oz icing sugar
  • 75g/2.5 oz butter
  • 1.5 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
  • 50g/2 oz (approx.) dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp (approx.) cocoa powder
    + a heart (or other shape of choice) cut from card, approx. 6cm/2.5in wide

METHOD

For the cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C (or 140 fan) and line two or three baking tins with parchment paper.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined.
  3. Pour the mixture in equal quantities into the prepared cake tins then pop in the oven and bake for around 25-30 minutes (you may need less time if making three shallow layers) until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponges comes out clean.
  4. 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 icing/decorations:

  1. Place the butter and coffee in a bowl and sift in the icing sugar (I’m normally too lazy to do this but it does make for a lovely smooth buttercream!) then whisk until a smooth, spreadable mixture has formed.
  2. Spread half of the buttercream on one of the sponges and sandwich the other on top (do the same for the third layer if you’re using three tins), then spread the rest of buttercream on the top layer.
  3. Place the card heart in the centre of the cake and push down quite firmly so it doesn’t move then sieve the cocoa powder over the entire top surface (don’t worry if the edges are patchy as this will be covered up by the chocolate chips).
  4. Carefully remove the card template then arrange the chocolate chips neatly in pairs in a circle around the edge of the cake.

20150719_181553Cake & buttercream recipe © Mary Berry

Categories: Layer Cakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Healthy No-Bake Choco-Date Bars

I went to the Foodies Festival at Alexandra Palace the other week with my other half as an early birthday present for him and we had a wonderful day, despite the blazing heat (made even better by the fact that we got the tickets half price through Groupon!) We saw some fantastic cooking demonstrations, ate lots of free samples and bought lots of goodies! A definite highlight for me was the ‘Embrace the Cake’ stall where I had the most incredible raw, vegan, no-bake pecan pie. It was so delicious that I couldn’t believe it was free from refined sugar and made from only healthy, natural ingredients – mostly ground nuts, dates and coconut oil if I remember correctly. The other sin-free treats on offer looked similarly mouth-watering, including apricot crumble, coconut balls, lemon slices, ‘rawreos’ (raw Oreo cookies) and gingerbread balls.

I’m also a huge fan of Nakd bars, which are similarly raw and vegan friendly with no refined sugar (unlike most cereal bars which claim to be healthy but are in fact teeth-rottingly sweet!), and I have been eating an obscene amount of them recently, especially the cocoa ones. Feeling inspired, I decided to have a go at making some healthy no-bake treats myself and the results are these absolutely scrumptious, gooey and chocolatey-tasting date bars 🙂 This recipe was also the perfect excuse to try out the Beloved date nectar that I bought from the festival, which is a gorgeously sweet alternative to sugar, made from nothing but smooshed dates. If you don’t have this, simply replace it with a second tablespoon of honey, or use maple or agave syrup instead.

I used honey and milk in my recipe here but I realise these aren’t vegan ingredients, so I’ve given suggestions for replacements below if you want to make the bars completely free from animal products.

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 16 bars

  • 250g unsalted cashew nuts
  • 220g dried dates
  • 1 tbsp date nectar
  • 1 tbsp honey (or maple/agave syrup to make it vegan)
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 150g oats
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tbsp skimmed milk (or almond/soya milk to make it vegan/dairy free)
  • Handful of flaked almonds, to decorate
  • Handful of raisins, to decorate

METHOD

  1. Line a rectangular baking tin with baking parchment.
  2. Finely chop the cashew nuts or blitz them with a food processor depending on how fine you want them and place in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Roughly chop the dates then add them to the bowl along with the date nectar, honey, cocoa powder, oats, vanilla extract and milk.
  4. Blend the mixture together using a stick blender or food processor until it has a smooth, mushy consistency.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and press down with your fingers or a rubber spatula, then top with the flaked almonds and raisins.
  6. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 4 hours then cut into bars with a sharp knife.
Categories: Healthier, No-Bake, Raw/Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Cherry Bakewell & Cherry Chocolate Scones

Apologies for the lack of action on my blog recently – I’ve been back in my hometown doing some office temping at my old workplace for the last three weeks and left all my recipes back in my flat in London! I’ve also not been doing so much baking recently due to the sweltering weather (I’m not good with heat; I’m a bit of a summer grinch!), although I’m looking forward to making cakes for both my best friend and my boyfriend who have birthdays in the next couple of weeks.

Anyway, here’s a recipe I’ve been meaning to post for a while. I love scones as they’re so darn simple to make – nothing but flour, butter and milk in their most basic form – and they’re so versatile, so I decided to do decadent a twist on the traditional plain kind for Sunday Baking Club’s (@SundayBakeClub on Twitter) charity cherry theme a while back. Both types came out really well and tasted delicious with a bit of butter or just on their own (mountains of jam and clotted cream not required here unless you have an incredibly sweet tooth!) The chocolate ones had a sweet, sticky texture and the bakewell ones had a lovely marzipan-like flavour. Perfect to enjoy as part of an alfresco afternoon tea!
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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 8-10

For the cherry bakewell scones:

  • 250g/9 oz self-raising flour
  • 55g/2 oz butter
  • 25g/1 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 150ml/5 fl oz milk
  • 40g/1.5 oz glace cherries, chopped
  • 2 tsp almond essence
    To decorate:
  • 2 tsp almond essence
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 4-5 glace cherries, halved

For the cherry chocolate scones:

  • 250g/9 oz self-raising flour
  • 55g/2 oz butter
  • 25g/1 oz caster/granulated sugar
  • 150ml/5 fl oz milk
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 40g/1.5 oz glace cherries, chopped
  • 40g/1.5 oz dark or milk chocolate, chopped
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
    To decorate:
  • Handful of flaked almonds
  • 2 tsp icing sugar
  • Few drops of milk or water

METHOD

For the scones:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a large rectangular baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flour, sugar and chopped cherries (plus the cocoa powder and chopped chocolate if making the chocolate scones) in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle.
  3. Place the butter, milk and almond essence (if making the bakewell scones) or vanilla extract (if making the chocolate scones) in the well and roughly mix with a knife.
  4. Rub the liquid into the dry ingredients with your hands until a pliable dough forms. If the mixture is too sticky, add a little more flour and if it’s too crumbly, add a little more milk.
  5. Place the dough on a floured surface and roughly pat until it’s around 3cm/1in in thickness, then cut out scones with a large round or fluted cookie cutter. Squish the offcuts together and repeat until all the dough is used.
  6. Place the scones on the prepared baking tray and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes until they’re slightly brown on the bottom.
  7. Leave the scones to cool on a wire rack. They can be frozen at this stage if you wish.

For the cherry bakewell decorations:

  1. Mix the icing sugar and almond essence together thoroughly until a runny mixture forms.
  2. Drizzle in a criss-cross lattice pattern over the cooled scones then top each one with half a glace cherry.

For the cherry chocolate decorations:

  1. Mix the icing sugar and milk/water together thoroughly until a runny mixture forms.
  2. Place a small blob in the centre of the top of each scone using a teaspoon, then arrange 5 flaked almonds in the shape of flower petals using the icing as ‘glue’. Finish each flower with a tiny blob of icing in the centre.
Categories: Chocolate, Other Treats | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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