Posts Tagged With: 2016

A Year in Cake – 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cloud9.1 x

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Mince Pie Flapjacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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INGREDIENTS – makes 15 large or 20 small flapjacks

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

METHOD

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

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

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

Chocolate Orange Bonfire Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the cake:

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

For the orange ganache icing/decorations:

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

METHOD

For the cake:

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

For the orange ganache icing/decorations:

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

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Categories: Chocolate, Icing, Layer Cakes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gooey Toffee Apple Flapjacks

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

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

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

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

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INGREDIENTS – makes 15 flapjacks

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

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METHOD

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

Banana, Peanut Butter & Caramac Loaf

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

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

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

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

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INGREDIENTS – makes 1 standard loaf cake

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

METHOD

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

Lady Baltimore Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the cake:

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

For the frosting/filling:

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

METHOD

For the cake:

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

For the frosting/filling:

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

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

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.
Categories: Chocolate, cupcakes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Custard Cream Flapjacks

I’m officially obsessed with flapjacks. Up until a couple of months ago, I don’t think I’d ever actually made them, but after creating Caramac and honeycomb & chocolate ones, I now find myself whipping up a batch or two at least every couple of weeks!

I just love how they’re both so foolproof and so adaptable. Simply mix together butter, sugar, syrup and oats et voila – you’ve got the base for a million varieties and you can add pretty much whatever goodies you feel like. And all without the ever-present fears of over-mixing, soggy bottoms or sunken sponges.

Aside from the aforementioned types, other flapjacks I’ve attempted include Malteser, Fudge bar, cherry bakewell, white chocolate & cranberry, date & raisin, Dime bar, salted caramel, Milky Way…and many more to come I suspect.

As I love anything custard cream related, I decided that these yummy biccies would form the basis for my next flapjack experiment. The results were deliciously vanilla-y, moreish, and heartily demolished by my colleagues!

Oh, and if you’re also a custard cream fan, why not try my custard cream cake?

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INGREDIENTS – makes 12 large flapjacks or 15 small flapjacks

  • 130g/4.5 oz butter or margarine
  • 170g/6 oz granulated or caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4 tbsp custard powder
  • 255g/9 oz oats
  • 100g/3.5 oz white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-4 custard cream biscuits, roughly crushed

    METHOD
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter/margarine, sugar, golden syrup and vanilla extract together – either in a saucepan on the hob or in a large mixing bowl in the microwave – until smooth.
  3. Stir in the oats, white chocolate and custard powder until evenly coated.
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  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and pop in the oven for around 15-20 minutes until the edges are slightly brown (the mixture will will firm up as it cools).
  5. Leave to cool on a wire rack for about 15-20 minutes and scatter the crushed custard creams over the top while still warm, gently pushing larger bits into the flapjacks.
  6. When completely cool, slice in squares using a sharp knife.
Categories: flapjacks, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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.

 

Categories: Chocolate, Icing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honeycomb & Chocolate Flapjacks with Marzipan Bees

I’m a huge fan of The Great British Bake Off’s 2013 champion, Frances Quinn, who captured my heart with her incredible culinary creativity when she appeared on the show. She is an idol of mine as I love how she always thinks outside the box and is constantly coming up with quirky new twists on recipes.

There are lots of brilliant cooks out there, but I’ve never come across another with Frances’s talent of taking baking to the next level by slathering it with an extra layer of fun and Willy-Wonka-like wonder. A big jam sandwich recreated in Victoria sponge, biscuit matchsticks, squirrel cake and a giant Swiss roll cigarette were among her wonderfully imaginative creations on the show, proving that it is indeed possible to combine both style and substance. I’ve never seen another contestant come close to her in terms of visual presentation before or since, despite the hundreds of showstopping bakes produced over the years.

Needless to say, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy of her book, Quinntessential Baking, when it was released and it has become a firm favourite. Instead of churning out recipes for the same old ‘best ever chocolate cake’, blueberry muffins and yet another pavlova that hardly differ from the offerings of the dozens of other cookbooks that clamour for attention among the saturated culinary market, I adore the way in which she outlines a set of base recipes and then tells you how to transform them into something wonderfully ingenious with a few simple touches. Some delightful examples include a wall of Bourbon ‘brick’ brownies, white chocolate candles, meringue swans and bonfire cupcakes with spun sugar flames. And, as a fellow lexeme lover, her cute puns and wordplay make me feel all warm and fuzzy!

Anyway, despite my rambling ode to Ms Quinn’s fabulousness, this post doesn’t actually include one of her recipes. However, the creations I’m sharing here were very much inspired by her. Some the gorgeous adornments Frances suggests in her book are marzipan bees, which I’ve copied here and which inspired the idea of honeycomb flapjacks. I realise it’s hardly the most original concept in history, but I like to think of them as a little homage to the Queen of Creative Baking. And they taste absolutely bee-rilliant (sorry…)!

20160416_115706

INGREDIENTS – makes 12 large or 18 small flapjacks

For the flapjacks:

  • 130g/4 oz butter or margarine
  • 170g/6 oz brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 255g/9 oz oats
  • 4 x standard Crunchie bars, chopped into small cubes (as in the picture below)Untitled

For the bees:

  • 3 tbsp marzipan (approx.)
  • Chocolate or black writing icing
  • 10 flaked almonds

METHOD

For the flapjacks:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter/margarine, sugar and honey together – either in a saucepan on the hob or in a large mixing bowl in the microwave – until smooth.
  3. Stir in the oats and chopped up Crunchie bars until the oats are all evenly coated.20160409_162606
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and pop in the oven for around 15-20 minutes until the edges are slightly brown (the mixture will will firm up as it cools)
  5. Leave to cool on a wire rack and then cut into bars with a sharp knife. If you’re very patient you could cut them into individual hive-esque hexagon shapes!

For the bees:

  1. Tear off pieces of marzipan around the size of a 50p piece and roll into balls with your palms.
  2. Use the writing icing to pipe three horizontal stripes and two eyes, as in the picture.
  3. Gently push two flaked almonds into each bee so that they resemble wings.
  4. Arrange artistically on top of your flapjacks!
Image of Quinntessential Baking book copyright Amazon.co.uk
Categories: flapjacks, Traybakes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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