spiced coffee and date cake – in progress

28 Apr

spiced coffee and date cake - in progress

Look at that rise!

It is still in the oven but I filled 2 muffin cases with some of the mix, they were done a while ago and tasted super good! the recipe has sour cream in – I think from this point forward I shall always use sour cream in cakes, makes them moist fluffy and light if you go for the half fat version and rich if you go full fat! I say stick to half :). It is taken from a cozy kitchen’s blog but will  a few additions  – namely half butter half margarine, half fat creme fraiche instead of sour cream, lots more dates, pistachios in the mix as well as on top and couple of tbspns of strong coffee in the mix.

Its almost bedtime now but will reiterate recipe this week… along with how it is received by my husband’s work colleagues – this is his office birthday cake offering.



Lemon bars

19 Nov

my efforts to write weekly updates have lapsed ever so slightly. but i would like to add these little treats were baked last week, so I got the bake in, just not the write up. i had lots of lemons but wasn’t in the mood for a drizzle cake… so lemon bars it was.

a delicious shortbread base, with a sort of baked lemon curd topping, a straight take from joy of baking but with my ‘learnings’ added.

160g plain flour
35g golden caster sugar
135g butter

preheat oven to 175C. beat the butter and sugar with an electric whisk, then add the flour and whisk through the breadcrumb stage, until it’s just coming together, then turn out on a board, bringing the dough together with your hands and incorporating the final floury bits with a few kneads/turns of the dough.

You are then supposed to flatten it by hand in the tin (20cm x 20cm), but I rolled it out between 2 sheets of baking parchment (just bigger than the tin size), then lifted it into the tin and squished down any excess, and pushed the dough into any empty corners – much fewer sticky fingers. put in the pre-heated oven (175degC). bake til pale golden, approx 18-20mins. fyi- these quantities are a departure from the original recipe – the base on that rolled out very thin, and was a bit crumbly to serve, so I’ve up-ed it by 1/5.

2 eggs, beaten
180g golden caster sugar
zest and juice of 2 lemons
2tbsp plain flour

beat sugar and eggs for a few mins till airy and thickened slightly. stir in juice and zest, fold in flour. pour mix over the part-baked shortbread base. Bake at 175degreesC for 15-20mins.

I decided to bake my topping until golden, but I dried it out a bit :(, take out when just set through. Cool on a wire rack then douse with lots of icing sugar. zingy, rich, crumbly and chewy, yum!

I have plans a-foot for a Movember bake which, goes without saying, must be completed by the 30th! being unable to grow my own I’m hoping to raise a bit of £ and awareness by selling my wares at work. so watch this space for cute ‘tache cookies – flavour and topping combos are a work in progress.

The birth (day) of the jenny cake

5 Nov

q: what does a baking fanatic give one of her closest friends, the ‘girl who has everything’, on her 30th birthday!?
a: a cake created in her honour of course!

so, ladies and gentleman, i give you the ‘jenny’. a dessert-come-cake chocolate, raspeberry, creamy, crunchy celebration! and following the tradition the other greats – the sacher, the fraisier – finished to perfection with its own name piped across the top!

basically one of the most yummy and best looking i’ve made – see photo evidence. though i can not take all the credit, i was abley helped in the deocrating by my friend’s very sweet boyfriend.

executive summary: 3 layers of rich moist chocolate sponge, sandwiched with a vanillla mascarpone mousse and a generous layer of raspberry compote. coated with a thick layer of bitter dark chocolate ganache. topped with fresh plump raspberries, brushed with a glycerine gloss. the edges were covered in chopped roasted hazlenuts – applied in a horizontal slinging throwing motion – much like one would perform during a game of frisbee – by aforementioned boyfriend!

the recipe

the chocolate cake is based on this good food recipe which is amazing. the cake is moist and rich yet light, and bakes beautifully. I will warn you though, it rises well and has collapsed in on me before (the sticky fudgy middled outcome was delicious mind you!). so fill your tin with caution, don’t go much beyond the halfway point. the quantity on the Good Food site (for a 30cm round deep tin) filled 1 x 23cm and 1 x 30cm spring form tins (note: neither was very deep). I had a bit of mix left I daren’t add due to previous disaster, so i put about 2cm of mix in another 23cm tin and put it in with the others after 40mins baking time (ie once the risk of sinking had passed).

bake the cakes at 140degC for 1hr – until risen, spongey and knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. once cool, split the 23cm in half horizontally, the third layer is from the other tin (i split the larger cake 3 ways, assembled it as below and used it as cutting cake).

filling, plenty for the 23cm (do same again for the 30cm):
300g mascarpone cheese
1 large egg white beaten to soft peaks
3 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbpn icing sugar
1kg frozen rapsberries, defrosted and drained

lightly beat the mascarpone with the vanilla and sugar, so it is smooth and soft – but not runny. be careful as it is easy to overbeat. in a separate clean bowl beat the egg white then cut a spoonful into the mascarpone to loosen it a little, then gently fold in the remainder. this lightens the mix, and make it a bit more moussey, but you could skip the egg white.

spread half the mix on the bottom layer of the cake, and spread with a thin layer of the defrosted raspberries, which are a little like a fruity compote. carefully put the next layer of cake on top, the repeat the mascarpone mousse and raspberry spreading. top with the final layer (ensure a flat ‘bottom’ of one of the cakes is facing upwards).

ganache, nuts and rasps (enough for the 23cm cake):
300g dark chocolate (i love waitrose continental)
300ml double cream
200g bag of chopped hazlenuts
300g plump raspberries, washed a patted dry on kitchen paper
small bottle of glycerine

break up the choc and melt on med/low in the microwave til just melting, then remove stir to finish off you dont want it to be too hot. warm the cream in the microwave til just warm, 30secs on med should do it. pour the cream gradually over the chocolate, beating in gently with a fork, then add a little more cream. if it starts to get  stiff  warm the cream a little more, pour over, leave to mingle then keep beating.

once it is still runny enough to pour, but firm enough to stay where you put it (!), tip the ganache onto the cake and work across the top and down the sides, using a palate knife to spread and smooth. then stand the cake, with it’s plate, on foil and da da dahh **star equipment** here comes the hairdryer! on a med setting blow the cake, just enough to watch to the surface melt and shine. firstly get the vertical edge soft, and throw the chopped hazlenuts at it, turning as you go, after some throwing lift the cake off the foil, pick up the foil carefully folding it to tip the nuts back into the bowl, then carry on, until the edge is sufficiently coated.

then use the hair dryer to get a good shine on the top, and melt the ganache a little the add the raspberries, pressing the very gently into the ganache so they hold. do as many rings as you like. should you wish to do a message i melted white choc on low in the microwave, made a piping bag from greaseproof paper, then piped ‘jenny’ onto some baking parchment and popped it in the fridge. once it was set i carefully lifted it onto the cake.

For the final touch (phewf we got there!) i squeezed some glycerine into a bowl and used a small pastry brush to dab the raspberries with a glossy sheen , a la juicy tubes lips!

All in all this easily fed 50 hungry party goers.

Paul’s brain slug cupcakes

30 Oct

anything between 12 and 20 months ago i made a deal with my friend at work, Paul. he had been fortunate enough to pick up not just one but two (!) freebie Orla Kiely wottles. i however had made my way to said freebie give-a-way location to find none left 😦

so when Paul offered me the chance to bid for his wottle, recalling he had not long previous to this event sent me a link to these cupcakes, i knew i could make him an offer he could not refuse: i would make him brain slug cupcakes… lo and behold a deal was done!

numerous months and reminders from Paul later i had managed to never-quite-find a convenient time to create these sci-fi themed treats, until Paul sent round an email – subject: i’m leaving – and suddenly time was running out!

As a woman of my word, the rest is documented below…

Cupcakes – makes 8

preheat oven to 170c (fan)
weigh 2 eggs (mine were 120g) then weigh out that amount for soft butter, caster sugar and self-raising flour
1-2 tbspn milk
0.5 tspn baking powder
2 tspn vanilla extract

Cream the butter and sugar, with an electric whisk or in a mixer until pale, fluffy and smooth, beat in the eggs. beat in a dash of milk to thin the mix and add the vanilla, sift in 1/3 the flour and baking powder, gently fold it in, add a dash more milk if you need to, and gently sift in the rest of the flour and gently fold.

spoon even amounts of the mix into 8 cupcake cases in a muffin tin. bake for 18-20mins until mid golden brown, and springy to the touch. cool on a wire rack. Once cool cut a hole in the top, about 1.5cm across and deep, fill with the cooled creme pat. take the end off the bit of sponge you cut out and put the top back on the cupcake.

Brain goo filling
2 egg yolks worth of creme patissiere (alter the quantities found here along with the method) seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod once cool add a few drops of green food colouring

80g soft butter, 160g icing sugar, 160g cream cheese (med fat is ok but light can split), 3 tspn berry jam

beat the butter, icing sugar and jam together. drape a tea towel over the mixer/whisk to stop icing sugar blowing everywhere. then gently stir in the cream cheese – you need to combine but not thin it too much. put it into a freezer/piping bag and in the fridge.

once ready squeeze the icing to the corner of the freezer bag. snip the corner, to create a hole just a few mm across. i think i made my snip a little big. alternatively use a piping bag and small round tip. applying firm, constant pressure to keep the icing moving out the bag, move it over the surface of the cupcake to create a swirly back and forth line. do one ‘hemisphere’ of the ‘brain’, then the other!

Brain slugs
8 blobs of green fondant icing
8 smartie sized bits of white fondant icing
1 square of dark chocolate, melted and let to set a bit
alternative colour fondant for antenae (16 little balls)
thin wire eg floristry, green garden, trimmed freezer ties, jewellery (16 2cm lengths)

flatten the green icing, and then shape into a slug (see pics) over the end of a wooden spoon. flatten the white blob to form an eye and gently stick to the slug body, use a bit of writing icing to stick it.

i had a genius idea for the pupils (my black writing icing was too runny) – so i put a single square of dark choc in the corner of a  freezer bag, then popped in the microwave on med for 2 mins. i then snipped off the tiniest corner or the bag ad hey presto  – i was ready to pipe little eyes.

assemble the antennae and poke into the slugs’ heads, angling in a quirky manner :). let them dry out a bit, then place on on the cupcake. you can position them to hide dodgy bits on the icing 😉

done! eat!

Scone update!

24 Oct

i repeated my scones for my mum’s botanical art committee lunch, with a few variations, i left out the chilli, went with walnuts and added a tbspn of chopped chives. all good moves. i also added a little more cheese and a dollop of left over sour cream in with the milk… not so good a move – and the scones were considerably less light than my original batch.

i have therefore concluded – don’t mess with the milk, a thin buttermilk is the thickest you should go, and go for a stronger flavoured hard cheese, rather than adding more of it.

hope that helps.

Get well soon scones

16 Oct

A work friend, Alec, had a nasty cycling accident a few weeks back and has since been laid up with a very broken knee and elbow. A few of us are taking a slightly longer lunch to go and see him tomorrow. With a fruit bowl of over ripe bananas, some hearty healthy healing banana muffins were the plan. Until our friend Emma said she was making lemon cake – a particular favourite of Alec’s!

So that left me thinking of a savoury option, easy enough to bake post 9pm (as 8 til 9 was uninterrupted GB Bake-Off final – oh my!!) and not lead to too late a bedtime… the perfect quick savoury bake… scones! I threw together what I could find, i am sure you can mix and match but here is what I did and the results are YUM!

100g wholemeal bread flour
150g strong white bread flour
2.5 level tsps of baking powder
75g butter
half red chilli, seeds removed very finely chopped
3 tbpn finley chopped parsley
1 level tsp paprika
75g toasted pinenuts (but I think walnuts would b better) – I put them in the oven for 12mins as I pre-heated it to 170 Celsius
freshly milled salt and pepper
75g mature cheddar grated
150ml milk
1 beaten egg – to glaze

sift the flours into a bowl (tip in the wheaty bits form the brown flour), add the baking powder and mix. Add the butter in dots and then rub into the flour with you finger tips. it will seem like there is not much butter, but you don’t need much! add the chilli, paprika, pinenuts, chopped parsley, a dozen or so turns on the salt and pepper mill and the grated cheese, stir to evenly distribute. then add the milk.

mix with a spoon and finish off with your hands, tipping it out on a lightly floured board and kneading for a few moments – it will be quick sticky. roll it to about 2.5cm thick and use a round pastry cutter (i like the classic fluted edge) to cut 12 scones. You’ll probably get about 6 before you need to gather the off-cut dough, knead and roll again, and so on.

place the scones on a floured thin baking tray (I find the heavy base ones burn the base) brush the tops with egg, then I grated a little cheese over them.

Put in the oven at 170c for 20-25mins depending on thickness and size. Cool on a rack, enjoy while warm or store in a airtight tin yaddah yaddah.

Hopefully they have healing powers!

ps this is an excellent recipe for sweet scones

pps upon tasting a day later these did have quite a kick, go easy on the chilli if you aren’t a fan of the heat. they went excellently with butter, cream cheese, soup and/or a slice of parma ham

Saturday Sandwiches

29 Sep


I have some alliteration thing going on with my titles, not sure why… but anyway…

This morning I rustled up a quick, easy and delicious grilled open sandwich, using the pumpernickle and rye bread we bought from the Saturday market in town. The cheese on toast/pizza bread concept is not new and easily varied, so use your imagination but, for reference, my recipe is below:

Ingredients and method

4 slices of  pumpernickle and rye bread (or any malty or sour dough bread)

Meat feast topping
2 tbsp of my mum’s home-made home grown tomato and pepper sauce (alt. use a peperonata type sauce or tomato salsa)
3 mini mozzerella balls, or equivalent from large ball
8-10 thin slices chorizo sausage
slice of ham
parmesan/hard cheese of your choice

Turn the grill on, at about 200 degrees C.

Divide and spread the tomato sauce across 2 slices of the bread, right to the edge. Top evenly with the chorizo and ham, pieces of mozzerella, then grate a thin layer of hard cheese over the top. Place under the grill until the cheese is melty, bubbling with patches of golden brown.

Fruit and nut topping
2 tbsp ricotta cheese
1 small ripe fig
5 walnuts roughly chopped
sprinkling of pumpkin seeds

Divide and spread the ricotta across 2 slices of the bread, top with thin slices of fig, covering the whole slice. Place under the grill for 3 mins, then sprinkle on the nuts and seeds and grill for 3 more minutes until the fig is starting to soften and the nuts are looking (and smelling) toasted.

Top with freshly ground salt and pepper. Serve with a mixed salad, and if you fancy it a slice of quiche (the pics are one made my by mum, soooo good) I will aim to add the recipe in a future post.

It was a happy husband making lunch – despite the expression on his face.