These brownies are rich, dense and studded with cranberries and white chocolate chunks- a great (and easy) festive treat to whip up for visiting family and friends over the coming weeks…
300g dark chocolate
310g caster sugar
3 eggs, 1 egg yolk
3tsp vanilla extract
120g plain flour
150g white chocolate, chopped into chunks
100g dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a square baking tin/ brownie tray.
Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a pan of gently simmering water. Do not allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl or it could cause the chocolate to seize.
Stir the butter and chocolate occasionally until melted then set aside to cool for a few minutes. Once the chocolate has cooled a little, add the sugar and salt then whisk (with electric beaters or in the bowl of a stand mixer) until well combined.
Now add the eggs and whisk on high until the mix has lightened in colour and is glossy (about 5 minutes- whisking well at this stage is what gives you that classic flaky top!).
Sift in the flour and fold then finally stir in the white chocolate and cranberries. Tip into the lined baking tin and spread out. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set but still very moist in the middle.
This four layer ginger cake filled with lightly salted toffee sauce and tangy cream cheese frosting is a great alternative to the classic Christmas fruit cake, and is usually the preferred option in my house.
The Scandi-style flowers I’ve used for decoration were sent to me by Bloom & Wild, a brilliant flower delivery company who focus on carefully selecting the best seasonal blooms. The bouquet I received ( the Sadie)is part of their Christmas range and I would definitely recommend you check out their other options; I don’t know about you, but I find it tricky to find a wide range of good quality cut flowers outside of London (I know, first world problems), so it’s great to know I can choose more unusual varieties online and have them delivered straight to my door the next day by Bloom & Wild.
I hope you like how I’ve made use of the flowers and perhaps this could inspire some other botanical themed Christmas cakes!
220g black treacle
80g golden syrup
340g dark brown soft sugar
380g self raising flour
3tbsp ground ginger
2tbsp ground cinnamon
60g soured cream
6 pieces stem ginger, grated (from a jar)
For the toffee sauce: 50g butter, 50g dark brown soft sugar, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, large pinch sea salt
For the cream cheese frosting: 200g unsalted butter (soft), 250g cream cheese, 900g icing sugar, seeds of 2 vanilla pods
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Place the butter, treacle, syrup and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer). Beat together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs in one at a time along with a little of the flour to prevent curdling. Mix well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, sift in the remaining flour, cinnamon and ginger. Fold gently then finally stir in the stem ginger and soured cream. Split between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 30-40 minutes.
While the cakes are cooking, make the toffee sauce. Place the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once melted pour in the cream and add the salt. Mix to create a smooth sauce then set aside to cool and thicken.
Now make your cream cheese frosting. Put the butter in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until fluffy and light in colour. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat once again until well combined. Now, still beating, gradually add the icing sugar. Once all the icing sugar has been added increase the speed and mix until the consistency is light, thick and spreadable.
When the cakes are ready, a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Rest in their tins for 10 minutes then remove and leave on a wire rack until they are completely cool.
Now you are ready to assemble your layer cake. Level off the sponges as best you can then slice in two (you should be left with 4 layers). Place one layer down on your plate or cake board. Secure with some cream cheese frosting if it’s a little slippy. Now spread over a few tablespoons of the toffee sauce. Allow it to sink into the sponge then apply a thick even layer of cream cheese frosting. Top with the next sponge and repeat until the sponges are used up.
With the remaining cream cheese frosting, cover the cake all over and smooth down with a cake scraper. Decorate with fresh flowers dusted in frosty edible glitter or get creative and come up with your own design to suit the occasion.
More decorating ideas:
Leave the cream cheese frosting rough and decorate with mini gingerbread houses to create a snow drift scene.
Top with traditional/vintage Christmas cake decorations.
Make little white meringue kisses and cover the top of the cake with them, then dust with gold edible glitter.
Last week Dr Oetker invited me to a festive masterclass with the lovely Juliet Sear to celebrate the launch of their new social platform We Bake. During the class myself and nine other food bloggers had a great time experimenting with festive shimmer sprays, drip cakes and baubles while Juliet shared some of her top decorating tips.
For those of you who weren’t aware, We Bake is an online space where bakers of all abilities can share photographs, recipes, tips and even disasters with one another- think of it as an Instagram or Pinterest built solely for baking enthusiasts (at last, right!?)! I’ve been scrolling through the site regularly and have been truly inspired by all the imaginative flavours and decorations my fellow bakers have been sharing- its definitely worth a look!
If you’d like to get involved with We Bake you’re in luck, as Dr Oetker have very kindly provided me with an amazing hamper brimming full of baking goodies for one of you to win! All you have to do to be in with a chance is sign up to We Bake (here), post a picture or recipe, and then link it in the comments section below- I can then forward your name and you will be entered into the draw!
I wish you all luck with the competition and hope to see lots of your brilliant bakes soon…
Many thanks to Dr Oetker and Juliet Sear for having me last week- I had a brilliant time and was very grateful (despite being a complete nuisance on the train home) for my mass of goodie bags and cakes!
Everyone loves a chocolate eclair, and these Starbucks inspired ones (filled with coffee cream, dipped in milk chocolate and topped with a strip of dark chocolate and hazelnut praline) make a nice seasonal change from the usual vanilla cream variety.
105g plain flour
100ml strong black coffee, cold
2 tbsp light brown soft sugar
300ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
100g caster sugar
100g milk chocolate
100g dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 200c. Line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper. Sieve the flour twice to ensure there are no lumps then pour onto a square of greaseproof (this means it is ready to tip straight into the choux when you need it!).
Place the butter and water in a saucepan. Heat gently until the butter has melted then bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat and immediately shoot in all the flour. Stir very quickly for about a minute until the mixture is shiny and coming away from the sides of the pan. Now tip into a large bowl and spread thinly to speed up cooling.
Once the choux mixture (called a panade at this egg-less stage!) has cooled to room temperature it’s time to add the eggs. Whisk the eggs in a jug to break them up then pour 1/4 into the bowl. Whisk with electric beaters to fully incorporate, then keep adding a little more and whisking until you reach a dropping consistency (this means the mixture should fall off a spoon when shaken after about 4 seconds). You might not need all the egg.
Pile the choux into a piping bag and pipe 5 inch lines onto the prepared sheets (leaving space for expansion). Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden then pierce each eclair with a skewer, reduce the temperature to 180c and bake for a further 10 minutes to dry out. When they’re ready they should be crisp and nicely browned. Cool on a wire rack while you make the fillings and toppings.
For the coffee cream, heat the brown sugar and coffee together then set aside to cool.
In a large bowl whisk together the mascarpone, cream and icing sugar until thick. Fold in the coffee mix when it’s cooled completely.
For the hazelnut praline, place the sugar and nuts in a small saucepan. Stir occasionally to encourage the sugar to melt then take it to a deep golden colour. Pour onto greaseproof paper, leave to harden then break into pieces or smash into a dust (depending on your decorating ideas!).
For the chocolate topping simply melt the milk chocolate and allow it to cool. If you’d like to recreate the chocolate strip just melt and set the dark chocolate on a flat surface in the fridge, then slice into your desired shapes.
To assemble the eclairs, slice them in half and fill with the coffee cream, dip in the melted chocolate and decorate with the set dark chocolate and praline.
This spiced apple side is so easy to make and pairs perfectly with so many dishes; sandwich it between sponges to make deliciously moist celebration cakes, use it as a topping for porridge and waffles, enjoy it warm with ice cream or pile it onto meringue for the ultimate Winter pavlova!
100g dark brown soft sugar
4 large cooking apples
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp mixed spice
zest 1 orange
Core, peel and dice the apples.
Place the butter, sugar, apples, slices, juice and zest in a large saucepan. Allow the sugar and butter to melt on a low heat then stir to coat the apples.
Increase the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the sauce thickened slightly. Finish with a pinch of salt, if you like.
This compote is delicious served hot or cold (and you can reheat it if you’d like to use it the following day).
This chocolate cake is my absolute favourite; it’s moist, rich and filled with both ganache and buttercream (completely necessary in my opinion!). Make it for a celebration or get together and you will be very popular!
For the cake:
450g plain flour
550g caster sugar
3tsp baking powder
3tsp bicarbonate of soda
250ml vegetable oil
3tsp espresso coffee
475ml boiling water
For the frosting:
600g icing sugar
140ml double cream
For the ganache:
200g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
250ml double cream
pinch sea salt
For the toppers (optional):
100g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
any sprinkles, nuts or metallic sprays/glitter you fancy
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line three 8 inch cake tins.
For the cake, place the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cocoa powder in a bowl. Stir together with a whisk or wooden spoon.
In a jug, mix together the eggs, vegetable oil, milk and espresso. Pour into the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.
Now add the boiling water in batches, gently stirring between each addition (it’s supposed to be runny so don’t worry if the consistency seems a bit odd!).
Split the mixture between the three cake tins and bake for 35-45 minutes until well risen and cooked through. To test whether they are ready, insert a skewer- if it comes out clean it is ready to come out of the oven.
Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes then remove and transfer to a wire rack. Leave to drop to room temperature while you make the fillings.
Firstly, make the ganache. To do this simply chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a jug, then heat the cream until almost simmering and pour straight over it. Leave the chocolate to melt for a couple of minutes then stir to form your ganache. Set aside in the fridge to thicken and cool before you use it.
Now make your buttercream. Whisk the butter until light and fluffy then gradually add the icing sugar and cocoa, whilst beating to combine. Add the vanilla and double cream and give it a final whisk- stop when you have a light, smooth frosting.
If you’d like to make your own toppers, simply melt the chocolate (melt separately for some contrasting shards) then spread a thin layer onto greaseproof paper. Set in the fridge while you assemble the cake then break into pieces and use as you wish.
Now you are ready to assemble the cake. Level off the tops of the sponges with a cake cutter or large bread knife to make sure you have even layers. Take your first sponge and spread over a layer of ganache followed by a layer of buttercream. Top with the next sponge and repeat until you have a stack of three. Cover the whole cake in buttercream and smooth the sides with a palette knife or cake scraper. Decorate with the shards or any other decorations you fancy.
If you know me you will be well aware that chocolate is my kryptonite; if it’s there, I will eat it/ drink it/ not share it. In winter I naturally move onto hot chocolate and drink it by the bucketload (this year I’ve had to reign it in as last winter I got into an at-least-once-a-day habit… don’t tell me how bad that is for me. I know).
Anyway, addiction aside, I thought it was only right for me to share my recipe for the best, most luxurious hot chocolate you can make at home (tis the season after all)…
3tbsp cocoa powder
1 litre milk (I use semi skimmed)
100g dark chocolate (chopped)
50g milk chocolate (chopped)
4tbsp granulated sugar
For serving (optional): torched marshmallows, chocolate stirrers, whipped cream
Bring the water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Add the cocoa and whisk out the lumps, then add the milk gradually, constantly stirring.
Bring back to a simmer and add in the chocolate, sugar and salt. Whisk until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Distribute into 4 mugs and if you want to be really fancy, top with whipped cream, marshmallows and more chocolate.