Chocolate Sesame Layer Cake

Chocolate, tahini, sesame seeds (and more chocolate). What’s not to like? With four layers of dark chocolate sponge sandwiched together with creamy milk chocolate ganache smothered in sesame-studded tahini buttercream, this little twist on a classic chocolate fudge cake makes for a great celebration centrepiece which boasts a delicious balance of  sweet, nutty and rich cocoa flavours.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 375g plain flour
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 85g cocoa powder
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 325ml milk
  • 175ml vegetable oil
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 325ml just boiled water
  • 2tsp instant coffee granules

For the milk chocolate ganache

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 175ml double cream
  • pinch salt

For the icing

  • 100g tahini
  • 200g soft butter
  • 600g icing sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 3-4tbsp black sesame seeds

For decoration (optional)

  • extra black sesame seeds

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins with baking paper.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate, either in a heatproof bowl in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl stir together the flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. In a jug, lightly whisk the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the contents of the jug into it. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until well combined then add the melted chocolate and stir again (I just use a balloon whisk for this- nothing electric is required as you don’t need to incorporate much air).
  4. Pour your just boiled water over the instant coffee granules and once they’ve dissolved, gradually add to the chocolate batter, stirring gently with your whisk as you go. The final cake batter will be very thin but don’t worry, it bakes beautifully.
  5. Split the mix evenly between the prepared tins and bake for 40-50 minutes ( or until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached). Once baked leave to cool completely in the tins.
  6. For the chocolate ganache, place the milk chocolate,salt and cream in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently melt together (ensuring that the water does not touch the base of the bowl) and once smooth and creamy, set aside to cool completely.
  7. For the buttercream, beat together the butter, tahini, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer (or using electric beaters) until light and fluffy. Now add the icing sugar in batches, beating well on a slow speed between each addition. Once it’s all in increase the speed and beat for about 5-10 minutes until very light, smooth and creamy. Add in the sesame seeds and briefly mix again to distribute them evenly through the buttercream.
  8. To assemble the cake, slice the cooled sponges horizontally into two even layers (leaving you with four layers). Sandwich them on top of each other with a generous helping of ganache in between, then cover the whole cake with a thick coating of tahini buttercream using a palette knife (this buttercream is a little more textured than the regular kind due to the addition of tahini, so dampen the palette knife before spreading to achieve a smooth surface).
  9. To decorate, spinkle with extra sesame seeds for an understated look, or go to town which chocolate shards and sesame brittle.

Enjoy!

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Rose Labneh with Sumac Baked Figs

I know I’m getting a few months ahead of myself by posting a fig recipe (usually they come into season around late July), but when I saw some particularly plump, dark looking figs in my local fresh produce shop, I couldn’t help but cook them up with some delicious accompaniments. You could recreate this super simple recipe using any seasonal fruit- rhubarb, greengage or peach would work particularly well.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 400ml Greek yoghurt
  • 3tbsp runny honey
  • 2tsp rose water
  • 10-12 ripe figs
  • 1-2tsp sumac
  • Few sprigs thyme
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds only
  • 75g almonds

Method

  1. Place the yoghurt, 1tbsp of the honey and the rose water in a bowl. Mix together then transfer to a muslin cloth and tie up the corners. Sit this in a sieve over a bowl for at least 24 hours (refrigerated).
  2. After 24 hours the liquid will have drained from the yoghurt, leaving you with a thick, smooth labneh.
  3. Once the labneh is ready, prepare the other elements of your dessert. Preheat the oven to 200c and line a high sided baking tray with greaseproof paper. Slice the figs into either halves or quarters (depending on your visual preference!) and spread out on the tray (cut side up). Drizzle with the remaining 2tbsp honey and sprinkle over the sumac. Roughly break the thyme into the tray too.
  4. Roast the figs for 20-25 minutes until very tender and sticky. While the figs are cooking, toast the almonds in a dry frying pan until lightly coloured, then roughly chop.
  5. To serve, spread a generous spoonful of the labneh onto your dessert plates and arrange some fig pieces on top. Sprinkle over the almonds and pomegranate seeds and lastly, garnish with some thyme, if you like.

Enjoy!

Cardamom Baked Custards with Orange Blossom Roast Rhubarb

I’m kicking it old school today with a seasonal take on a childhood classic; baked custard. Custard is something which, until a few years back, filled me with dread. I think it has something to do with enduring memories of school puddings accompanied by lukewarm, thick skinned, unsettlingly lumpy custard… That said, a good baked custard I had at cookery school a few years back converted me after years of avoiding the stuff; it was deliciously smooth, creamy and comforting and since then I can appreciate how the simple format can make for a really versatile dessert.

In this spring recipe I’ve flavoured the custard with cardamom and paired it with some orange blossom roast rhubarb and pistachios for added texture. Once you’ve made it once though you’ll definitely want to play with other flavours. Coffee, chocolate, citrus, rose and almond are just some flavours you might like to try, but the possibilities and accompaniment choices are endless.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 4 eggs
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 300ml whole milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • 10-12 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground
  • 300g rhubarb
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • Juice and zest 1 orange
  • 2-3tbsp orange blossom water (I used a great Arabica Food & Spice variety)
  • 100g pistachios

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 140c.
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together to combine. Heat the milk, cream, vanilla and ground cardamom seeds in a saucepan to just below boiling point then leave the flavours to infuse for 10 minutes.
  3. Bring the cream mix back up to scalding point then pour it all over the eggs. Whisk  to combine then strain through a sieve into a jug. Distribute the mixture between four individual oven proof serving dishes.
  4. Place the dishes into a deep roasting pan and fill with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the custards are almost set but have a gentle, uniform wobble in the middle.
  5. The custards can be served warm or cold, so depending on your preference you might like to prepare the rhubarb and pistachio topping before baking the custards. I personally like them cold so once they’re cooked just take them out of the water bath to cool completely. Once cooled you can refrigerate the custards until required.
  6. Meanwhile, up the temperature of the oven to 180c. Place the rhubarb in a bowl along with the sugar, orange zest, orange blossom water and orange juice. Toss to evenly coat then tip everything onto a lined baking tray and roast for 10-15 minutes.
  7. When it’s done the rhubarb will be tender but hold its shape. Set aside to cool and make sure you reserve the delicious cooking syrup. Last of all, roughly chop the pistachios.
  8. To serve, top the custards with a generous spoonful of roast rhubarb and some of the orange syrup. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and enjoy!

Tahini & Pistachio Brownies

First off, apologies for the brief recipe hiatus. I’ve recently moved house and have been trying to figure out the perfect temperature to bake with in my new (incredibly retro) gas oven. And no, it’s not been as simple as converting degrees to gas marks- this oven has its own special way of working (i.e. it’s lukewarm for the majority of settings until the last when it turns into Mordor and burns everything in sight). Anyway I think I’ve cracked it now, so here’s my first recipe a la 1980s oven; tahini and pistachio brownies. They’re really simple to make but deliver everything you’d expect from a really good brownie- a dense, moist texture with added crunch from the pistachios and a deep indulgent chocolate flavour, which is definitely enhanced by the slightly salty, nutty pockets of tahini and halva.

Ingredients

  • 250g good quality dark chocolate
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • generous pinch sea salt
  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 75g chopped pistachios
  • 100g halva, crumbled
  • 100g tahini, well stirred

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22x22cm brownie tray.
  2. Place the dark chocolate and the butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the base of the bowl or the chocolate will burn). Melt gently, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little.
  3. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) whisk together the golden caster sugar and eggs until pale and voluminous (about 3-5 minutes). Fold in the cooled chocolate mixture followed by the sea salt and flour. Add the milk chocolate and dark chocolate chunks and most of the pistachios (reserve a few for sprinkling on the top) then stir.
  4. Tip half the brownie mix into the prepared tin then dollop over half the tahini and sprinkle on half the halva. Top with the rest of the brownie mix and repeat, then finish with the reserved pistachios.
  5. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the middle is almost set but retains a slight wobble. Set aside to cool completely in the tin.
  6. Once cooled, slice up and serve.

Seeded Granola with Cacao and Coconut

This granola is super easy to make and can be adapted with your choice of nuts and seeds; I particularly like this variety as the cacao nibs add a hint of chocolate which pairs really well with the coconut flavour. If you want to keep it vegan serve this with seasonal fresh fruit, nut butter and coconut yoghurt or enjoy as a sprinkling on top of an Acai bowl.

Ingredients

  • 400g whole oats
  • 75g pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
  • 75g chia seeds (or poppy seeds)
  • 75g hemp seeds (or flax seeds/ sesame seeds)
  • 100g cacao nibs
  • 100g pecans (or brazil nuts/walnuts/hazelnuts)
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 175g coconut oil
  • 250g coconut nectar (or agave syrup/honey)
  • 100g coconut shavings
Method
  1. Line a large high sided baking tray with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 160c.
  2. Place the oats, nuts, seeds, cacao nibs and spices in a large bowl and stir to combine. Put a saucepan over a medium heat and add the coconut nectar and coconut oil- melt these together and once you have a lump-free liquid remove from the heat.
  3. Pour the melted liquid into the dry ingredients and stir together until everything is evenly coated. Tip this into the prepared tray and spread out then bake for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to make sure the edges don’t catch.
  4. When the granola is almost ready add the coconut shavings and bake for a further 10 minutes- it’s important you add these near the end as they don’t need too long to colour.
  5. Once the granola is golden and has dried out a little, set aside to crisp up and cool then tip into jars and use as required.

 

Banana, Rum & Raisin Cake with Coconut Icing (Vegan/ DF)

This is my first successful foray into the vegan cake world. It’s a space I’ve steered clear of for quite some time, half because I’m not vegan and have had a bit of an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ attitude to baking, and half because I’ve tasted some very cardboard-esque vegan bakes in the past that have put me off.

This cake, however, contains aquafaba (that starchy water you get in a tin of chickpeas) and it’s a real game changer; just whisk it up in a stand mixer and it thickens like egg whites, bringing a great lightness to sponges. It’s worked particularly well in conjunction with banana in this recipe and the resulting sponge is moist, light and delicious- helped along with a few rum soaked raisins and a generous swirl of coconut icing for good measure. As a complete experiment this has worked really well and I hope some of you try it out over the next few weeks, vegan or not.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 150g mixed raisins and sultanas
  • 4tbsp dark rum
  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 75g pecans, roughly chopped
  • 125ml aquafaba (i.e. the drained starchy water from a can of chickpeas)
  • 250ml olive oil
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed with a fork

For the icing

  • 3-4 tins coconut cream (I used 160ml tins but if you are buying different sizes just make sure you’ve got roughly 600ml overall)
  • 2-3tbsp icing sugar
  • juice 1/2 lemon

Method

  1. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins. Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the raisins, sultanas and rum in a bowl and let them soak for 10 minutes (stir occasionally to make sure they’re all plump and well flavoured).
  2. In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, mixed spice, both sugars and chopped pecans. Tip the aquafaba into the clean bowl of a stand mixer (alternatively use a handheld electric whisk) and whisk until frothy (about 5-10 minutes). Set aside.
  3. In a large jug mix together the olive oil and mashed banana then add in the thickened aquafaba. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add in the wet. Carefully fold the ingredients together until you have a batter free of flour lumps then stir in the soaked raisins and sultanas along with the rum.
  4. Split the batter evenly between the two prepared cake tins and bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. At this point pop the coconut cream tins in the freezer (trust me, it makes the cream much easier to separate from the water and makes for a thicker icing).
  5. Once the cakes are baked leave them to cool completely in the tins and move onto the icing. Retrieve the coconut tins from the freezer and scoop out the hardened cream from the tops. Place this in a stand mixer along with 3tbsp coconut liquid (from the bottom of the tin). Whisk with the icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth, thick and lump free (add another tbsp of liquid to loosen if necessary but you shouldn’t need it) then place in the fridge to firm up a little.
  6. Once the cakes are completely cool and the coconut cream has firmed up slightly you’re ready to assemble. To do this just even off the cakes if necessary then spread a generous layer of icing over the first, sandwich on the second and repeat, creating a swirl design on top, if you like.
  7. Garnish with pumpkin seeds, pecans, banana chips and cinnamon.

Blood Orange and Ginger Celebration Cake

This ode to the fruits of winter will brighten any grey day with it’s sticky layers of spiced sponge, fresh ginger mascarpone cream and smooth blood orange curd. Decorate with pomegranate seeds, candied blood orange slices and chopped pistachios for a welcome explosion of colour during these colder months.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 250g golden syrup
  • 3 tbsp ginger syrup
  • 190g butter
  • 3-4 lumps stem ginger, diced
  • 175g dark brown soft sugar
  • zest 1 orange
  • 375g self-raising flour
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 260ml milk

For the blood orange curd

  • juice and zest 2 blood oranges
  • juice and zest 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g butter, cubed

For the ginger mascarpone cream

  • 1tbsp icing sugar
  • 1tbsp ginger syrup
  • 300ml double cream
  • 250g mascarpone

Garnish ideas (optional)

  • pomegranate seeds
  • chopped pistachios
  • candied orange slices
  • shards of tuile or ginger biscuit

Method

  1. Start off with the ginger cake. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins and preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Place the golden syrup, ginger syrup, butter, diced stem ginger, dark brown sugar and orange zest in a saucepan and melt over a low/medium heat. Once the ingredients are melted bring to the boil and leave to bubble for about a minute, then set aside to cool a little.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl stir together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Make a large well in the centre and tip in the melted butter mixture. Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together until smooth and flour lump free. In a jug whisk the eggs and milk together with a fork and add those into the mixing bowl. Whisk once more to combine then split the batter between the prepared cake tins.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  5. While the cakes are baking make the blood orange curd. To do this simply place the blood orange zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, eggs and egg yolks and caster sugar into a heatproof bowl. Whisk together to combine then set over a pan of simmering water (without the water touching the bowl). Add the butter cubes one at a time, constantly whisking. Once all the butter has been added and is melted, continue to whisk until the curd has thickened to a coating consistency (this will take between 5-10 minutes). Once the curd is ready, set aside to cool in a clean bowl with cling film flat across the surface (this will prevent a skin from forming).
  6. When the cakes are ready leave them to cool completely in the tins. Once cool, even the tops off if necessary then slice each horizontally (so you are left with 4 even cake layers).
  7. Now make the mascarpone cream; tip the double cream, icing sugar, ginger syrup and mascarpone into a bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until thickened and smooth.
  8. Once all your components are cool it’s time to assemble the cake. Place one layer on your chosen serving plate and pipe dots of mascarpone cream around the edge then fill the centre with blood orange curd. Repeat until you’ve used up the cake layers and decorate the top as desired.

 

Enjoy!