bakes

Rhubarb and Ginger Cake with Cardamom Creme Fraiche

It’s hardly surprising that a combination of some of my very favourite ingredients (brilliant pink forced rhubarb, fiery stem ginger and warming cardamom) have married together to form my perfect cake (aside from fudgy, rich chocolate cake- that space in my heart will never be replaced). The recipe is super easy and the result is a moist, fruity bake packed full of flavour. Serve up with pistachio praline and additional poached rhubarb to brighten up the miserable grey that is January…

Ingredients (serves 8-12)

For the cake

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • 175g golden syrup
  • 3tbsp ginger syrup (from a stem ginger jar)
  • 125g butter
  • 4 balls stem ginger, diced
  • 125g dark soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 250ml milk

For the cardamom creme fraiche

  • 300ml creme fraiche
  • 10 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground to a fine powder
  • 1tbsp icing sugar

Optional extras

  • poached rhubarb pieces (just pop 125ml water and 125g caster sugar in a saucepan and heat to melt the sugar- once it’s dissolved, bring to the boil and add 200g sliced rhubarb. Remove from the heat and leave for 5 minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but not mushy, then drain and use as desired)
  • pistachio praline (put 100g caster sugar in a heavy bottom pan and leave it to melt, swirling occasionally. Once completely melted add in the pistachios and swirl until the syrup has reached a deep golden colour. Scrape onto some greaseproof paper to set hard then break into a mixer, blitz and use as desired)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
  2. Stir together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a large bowl. In a saucepan melt together the golden syrup, ginger syrup, butter, diced stem ginger and sugar. Bring to the boil for a minute then make a well in the dry ingredients and add the melted mixture. Stir together to eliminate any lumps then whisk the eggs and milk in a jug and add those in too and beat once more.
  3. Slice the rhubarb into 2 inch lengths and stir through, then tip the batter into the prepared tin (the mix is quite loose but don’t worry, it bakes beautifully and the rhubarb levels out within the cake during baking and doesn’t end up sinking to the bottom!)
  4. Bake for 1 hour- 1 hour 10 minutes or until the cake has reached a deep golden colour and a skewer comes out clean when inserted (it’s quite a long cooking time but this is necessary as there is a fair amount of liquid in the fruit- if the cake starts colouring a little too much before it’s cooked through, just cover it in foil for the remaining cooking time).
  5. While the cake is baking make the cardamom creme fraiche topping. To do this simply whisk together the creme fraiche, ground cardamom and icing sugar.
  6. Once your cake is baked, allow it to cool completely in the tin before removing it and presenting it on your chosen plate. Dollop on the creme fraiche just before serving and decorate with rhubarb and pistachios. I like to be quite free with this presentation but you can make yours more refined if you like.

Enjoy!

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Dark Chocolate and Salted Tahini Cookies

Tahini, a thick sesame paste commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking, is my go to ingredient for when I want to  add a deep, nutty and slightly bitter flavour to a dish. I don’t usually think of incorporating tahini into my baking (for some unknown reason), and more often than not I’ll just pop it into baba ganoush, add it into a yoghurt dressing or drizzle it neat over slow cooked lamb and roasted roots to balance out a sweet date syrup glaze. This being said, yesterday I fancied making some cookies (someone put a stop to my wild and spontaneous lifestyle please…) and decided to bring tahini into the mix alongside sea salt and rich dark chocolate- the major players in my cookie game. The resulting cookies are absolutely delicious with a good balance of sweet, savoury, nutty and salty flavours; one hundred percent give the recipe a go, it’s a real winner.

Ingredients

  • 115g tahini
  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 150g dark brown soft sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp sea salt
  • 300g plain flour
  • 300g coarsely chopped dark chocolate, plus 50g extra for decoration (optional)
  • 2tbsp toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line 3 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the butter, tahini and both sugars in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. If the mix curdles or you’re worried about curdling, add 2tbsp of the flour with each egg.
  3. Once the eggs are well incorporated add the bicarbonate of soda, salt and flour then mix to combine. Finally, add in the coarsely chopped chocolate and very briefly mix once more just to distribute through the dough.
  4. Pop the dough in the fridge for half an hour to firm up a little, then line even balls onto the prepared trays leaving room for spreading (I like to use an ice cream scoop for this). Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are turning a light golden colour but the middles are still very soft (they will firm up during cooling).
  5. To finish the cookies melt the additional dark chocolate and drizzle over the tops, then sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Enjoy!

Apple Gingerbread with Rum Caramel

This Autumnal bundt cake, inspired by the humble toffee apple, is perfect for feeding a bonfire night crowd; it’s easy to make, packed with flavour and can be enjoyed hot with ice cream or cold alongside your post-fireworks drink.

Ingredients

For the gingerbread:

  • 150g butter
  • 125g dark brown soft sugar
  • 175g golden syrup
  • 200g black treacle
  • 4 balls stem ginger, chopped
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 freshly grated nutmeg
  • 250ml milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 300g plain flour
  • 3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and chopped (about 1-2cm cubes)

For the rum caramel:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 125ml water
  • 100ml double cream
  • pinch salt
  • 2tbsp rum (or brandy)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a 22cm bundt tin (or 20cm square tin) with butter then dust with plain flour and tap off the excess. Set aside.
  2. For the gingerbread place the butter, sugar, syrup, treacle, stem ginger and spices in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Melt the ingredients together, stirring occasionally, until you have a smooth liquid. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes then stir in the milk and eggs.
  3. In a large bowl briefly stir the bicarbonate of soda and flour to combine. Add in the warm liquid and beat until you have a smooth batter (this should only take a minute or so- I do it by hand).
  4. Finally, add the chopped apples and briefly stir, then scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached.
  5. Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes to cool a little while you make the caramel. For the caramel just pop the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves (do not let it boil and do not stir it at this stage). Once the sugar has dissolved up the heat and boil the syrup until it reaches a deep golden colour, then add in the cream, salt and rum and stir (it will spit a little but don’t worry, just watch your hands!). Set aside once your caramel is smooth and lump free.
  6. Now turn out your bundt cake (it will still be warm) and prick it all over with a skewer. Pour over most of the caramel, allowing it to sink into the holes. Serve with ice cream and any leftover caramel.

Enjoy!

Conference Pear and Dark Chocolate Tart

This tart is simple but indulgent and marries together an Autumn favourite (pear) with my biggest weakness (chocolate). It makes for a delicious weekend treat served warm with ice cream but would equally round off a dinner party with a topping of lightly whipped Calvados cream; either way you can’t go far wrong with chocolate pastry and almond frangipane studded with ripe pears and oozing dark chocolate…

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 140g cold cubed butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2tbsp cold water

For the filling:

  • 5 eggs
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 300g ground almonds
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 pears, sliced
  • 100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

To finish:

  • 3tbsp honey
  • 50g dark chocolate

Method

  1. Start off with the pastry. Place the flour, cocoa, icing sugar and butter in a food processor and blitz until it takes on the texture of coarse breadcrumbs (you could also do this by rubbing these ingredients between your fingers then stirring in the egg and water with a cutlery knife). Add the egg yolks and water and pulse. Stop when the crumbs start to clump together to form large lumps of pastry then tip out, push together and shape into a disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180c. Lightly grease a 22x22cm loose bottom tart tin with butter. Take your pastry and roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick. Line the tart case, pushing the pastry into the corners with a smaller lump of dough. Trim the edges and return to the fridge to chill for a further 15 minutes.
  3. Once your pastry is firm, line with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 10-15 minutes until the sides are set. Remove the paper and beans and prick the base all over with a fork then bake for another 10 minutes or until the base is cooked through and has a sandy texture with no damp areas.
  4. While the pastry is cooking make the filling. To do this simply place the eggs, caster sugar, ground almonds and vanilla in a food processor and whizz up until well combined (or beat together with a wooden spoon).
  5. Reduce the oven temperature to 140c. Pour half the almond filling into the cooked pastry case and then sprinkle over the broken up chocolate. Add the remaining filling, level out, then arrange your pear slices all over the surface. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the filling is golden and well risen.
  6. When your tart is ready, heat the honey a little and brush all over the surface to create a shine. Melt the dark chocolate (either in a ban marie or in the microwave) and flick across the top as desired to finish it off.

Slice up and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or Calvados cream.

Vegan Berry Oat Bars

These dark chocolate covered bars are packed with nuts, seeds, fresh blackberries and oats; they’re essentially loaded flapjacks without the refined sugar and dairy, so you can feel a little better about having that extra piece (plus they’re vegan and absolutely don’t taste like those cardboard-esque ‘healthy’ alternatives to baked goods- you know the ones I mean).

Ingredients

  • 175g coconut oil
  • 175g your favourite nut butter (I used a combination of almond and peanut)
  • 175g agave syrup
  • 400g oats (I used Royal Oats Jumbo variety which you can find here)
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1tsp ground ginger
  • pinch salt
  • 50g flaxseeds
  • 50g chia seeds
  • 150g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 200g fresh raspberries
  • 200g fresh blackberries
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • freeze dried raspberries (optional)
  • a few chopped pistachios (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c (325f/ gas mark 3). Grease and line a square brownie tin (about 22x22cm).
  2. Place the coconut oil, nut butter and agave syrup in a saucepan and heat gently until everything melts together, then set aside.
  3. In a large bowl stir together the oats, spices, salt, seeds, pistachios, blackberries and raspberries. Pour the slightly cooled nutty liquid into the bowl and mix until the dry ingredients are all evenly coated (don’t be too rough with the berries as they can break up quite easily- you want some to remain whole!).
  4. Tip the oat mix into the prepared tin and pack down with the back of a spoon. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  5. Once baked, leave the traybake to cool completely in the tin. When it’s cooled and set up a little melt the dark chocolate (either in a ban marie or in short blasts in the microwave) and spread evenly all over the top. Sprinkle on the freeze dried raspberries and chopped pistachios (if you’re using them) and chill until the chocolate has set. Slice into bars and enjoy!

Sticky Fig Cake with Pistachio Praline

Ripe, pink fleshed figs are one of my very favourite fruits and pair brilliantly with so many other ingredients, from goats cheese and honey to cured hams and walnuts. In this cake I have used dried figs soaked in tea ( a method commonly used with dates to make sticky toffee pudding) to flavour the spiced sponge, then added a salty sweetness with the caramel drizzle and finished it off with a tangy mascarpone cheese icing, earthy pistachio praline and slices of fresh fig. Though the finished cake makes for a really beautiful centre piece, you could also enjoy it as a warm pudding with the salted caramel and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Ingredients

For the sponge:

  • 300g dried figs, chopped
  • 325ml hot black tea
  • 185g soft butter
  • 275g light brown soft sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 375g self raising flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch black pepper
  • pinch salt

For the salted caramel (this is a sort of cheats caramel- a bit like butterscotch sauce):

  • 50g butter
  • 50g golden syrup
  • 50g light brown soft sugar
  • 50ml double cream
  • pinch sea salt

For the pistachio praline:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 200g shelled pistachios

For the mascarpone icing:

  • 200g mascarpone
  • 300ml double cream
  • 3-4tbsp icing sugar

Toppings (optional)

  • fresh figs and herbs

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c fan (325F/ gas mark 3). Grease and line a deep square tin (around 22x22cm).
  2. Place the chopped dry figs in a bowl or jug and pour over the hot tea. Leave to infuse while you start making the cake batter.
  3. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) cream together the butter and sugar along with the vanilla until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  4. Once the eggs are incorporated, sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt. Fold until the batter is smooth and all the ingredients are well combined then tip in your soaked figs (along with the tea) and fold once more.
  5. Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and level off. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached when inserted.
  6. While your cake is baking, make the salted caramel. To do this simply pop the butter, syrup, sugar and cream in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted bring to the boil and let it bubble for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat, add the salt to taste and leave to cool.
  7. Next, make the pistachio praline topping. Line a tray with greaseproof paper and put the sugar and pistachios in a heavy bottom pan. Heat gently until the sugar starts melting. Swirl the pan occasionally to coat the pistachios and prevent burning. Once the sugar has completely melted increase the heat and turn the pistachios with a wooden spoon until the caramel reaches a deep golden colour, then tip onto the prepared tray and leave to set hard.
  8. Lastly, make the mascarpone icing. In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) whisk together the mascarpone, cream and icing sugar until you have a spreadable (but not overly whipped) consistency.
  9. Once your cake is baked, prick lots of holes all over the surface and pour on about 2/3 of the salted caramel, allowing it to sink into the sponge. Leave to cool in the tin.
  10. When your cake is completely cool you’re ready to decorate. Spread the mascarpone icing in an even layer all over the top and sides (or just the top if you like, it’s up to you!) and smooth with a palette knife. Use the remaining cooled caramel to drizzle down the sides then crush up the praline and sprinkle around the edges. Arrange the fresh fig slices on top and add some woody herbs (such as rosemary) for colour.

Enjoy!

Apricot and Thyme Tart

Crisp pastry, apricot jam, almond thyme frangipane, fresh apricots and a honey glaze make up this seasonal take on a classic Bakewell tart. It works really well with a big spoonful of creme fraiche and can be enjoyed warm or cold, perfect for this unpredictable British ‘summer’.

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g butter
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2tbsp water

For the Filling:

  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tbsp thyme, chopped
  • 5 tbsp good quality apricot jam
  • 300g apricots, sliced

For the glaze:

  • 50g honey

Optional toppings:

  • few thyme sprigs
  • some toasted almonds
  • some creme fraiche

Method

  1. Start off with the pastry. Place the flour, butter, caster sugar and lemon zest in a food processor and blitz until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (you can also do this by hand by rubbing the ingredients lightly between your fingers). Lightly mix the egg yolks and water in a cup then, with the processor running, pour in through the funnel. Stop blitzing as soon as the mixture clumps together then tip onto a clean surface and quickly shape into a disc. Wrap in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180c (fan) and lightly grease your tart case ( I used a long rectangular tin but this recipe will also work with a 20-22cm traditional fluted tin). Take your pastry and roll out to about 3mm thick on a  lightly floured surface. Line the tin with your pastry, using a little extra to push it right into the corners. Trim any over hanging pastry from the edges and then cover with cling film and chill again for 10-15 minutes, until firm.
  3. Line your chilled pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 10-15 minutes (or until the sides are set) then remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for around 10 minutes (or until the bottom is sandy with no grey undercooked areas). Set aside while you make the frangipane filling and lower the oven temperature to 160c (fan).
  4. For the filling, cream together the butter and sugar (in a stand mixer with paddle attachment or with electric beaters) then add in the almonds and mix briefly until well incorporated. Crack in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition, then finally stir in the chopped thyme.
  5. Take your cooled pastry case and dollop the jam all over the base. Spread out evenly then pile on the frangipane and level off. Top with the sliced apricots in a pattern of your choice then bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden.
  6. Heat the honey a little to loosen the consistency (either in a saucepan or in the microwave) then brush all over the top of the tart to add shine. Once cooled, decorate the tart with thyme sprigs, almonds and creme fraiche, if you like.

Enjoy!