No recipe to see here, just some decorating inspo for those of you who prefer less refined looking cakes (this is my preference- if I could put fresh flowers and greenery on every cake, I probably would). The base cake pictured is my classic chocolate fudge variety, filled with salted dark chocolate ganache and covered in swiss meringue chocolate buttercream; for decoration I’ve gone with seasonal blooms from the garden and hedgerows nearby (yeah, I live in the middle of nowhere and it has it’s perks!). I’ve never used eucalyptus before and have been pleasantly surprised with how versatile the leaves are- the curves and bends in the stems lend themselves to framing the cake and when paired with the cherry blossom (which, though beautiful, I fear may wilt very quickly) the overall effect is elegant and effortless.
Hope you like the cake and are inspired to freestyle with lots of different plants and flowers on your next bake!
Coffee cake is one of my all time favourites, but this spin on a classic is perhaps even better (I know, big claim). The cardamom hum in the sponge goes really well with the simple coffee buttercream, and the crunch of earthy pistachio praline rounds off the overall flavour and prevents it from being overly sweet. Make these for any occasion (you can fool people into thinking they’re fancy with the help of a piping bag and edible flowers) and they are sure to go down a storm.
200g softened butter
200g soft brown sugar
200g self raising flour
8 cardamom pods, emptied and ground
3tbsp coffee granules mixed with 3tbsp boiling water
For the buttercream:
200g softened butter
400g icing sugar
2tbsp coffee granules mixed with 2tbsp boiling water
For the praline:
100g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a brownie tin (around 20x20cm).
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the flour, salt and ground cardamom and fold in until well combined. Do the same with the coffee and milk.
Once your straightforward batter is ready, spoon into the tin and level off. Bake for 30-35 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Cool in the tin.
While the cake is cooling, make the praline. Place the sugar and pistachios in a heavy bottom pan and allow the sugar to melt (don’t stir, just tip the pan to move the sugar around). Once it’s melted and golden, swirl the pan to coat the nuts in the caramel then tip onto some greaseproof paper and leave to set hard.
Now make your buttercream. Beat the butter until light then gradually add the icing sugar, whisking until very light. Add in the coffee and whisk again to combine. Once it’s streak free and smooth, pile into a piping bag ready to decorate.
Slice the cooled cake into nine squares (or larger/smaller pieces depending on your appetite!). Pipe the coffee buttercream on top in little kisses (or freestyle with rosettes/patterns using different nozzles). Break up the praline and roughly crush then sprinkle a generous helping on top of the buttercream.
Zesty lime and fiery ginger make for a winning combination in this super simple cake (and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been yearning for a taste of something summery recently). For all out sunshine vibes decorate with edible yellow flowers (I’ve used violas), lime zest and crystallised ginger.
250g soft butter
250g light brown soft sugar
2tbsp golden syrup
250g self raising flour
2tbsp ground ginger
1tsp baking powder
75g chopped stem ginger (in syrup)
For the lime drizzle: 75g caster sugar, juice 4 limes
For the lime cream cheese frosting: 50g soft butter, 150g cream cheese, 400g icing sugar, zest 3 limes
Preheat the oven to 160c (fan). Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then mix in the golden syrup. Add the eggs one at a time along with a tablespoon of the flour. Mix well and scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition.
Once the eggs have been incorporated, sift over the remaining flour, ginger, baking powder and salt; fold in the sifted ingredients followed by the stem ginger then transfer the batter into the prepared tin. Level out and bake for 35-40 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
While the cake is cooking, make the lime syrup. To do this simply place the juice and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil for a minute then remove from the heat and set aside.
When the cake is ready, prick all across the surface with a skewer and pour over the lime syrup so it sinks deep into the cake. Leave to cool while you make the lime cream cheese frosting.
To make the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth, then add the icing sugar slowly while continuously whisking. Whisk until light and smooth then add the lime zest and a drop of milk if the consistency is a little stiff.
To assemble the cake, cover neatly with the frosting then decorate with extra lime zest, crystallised ginger, herbs and edible flowers.
Alternating layers of brown sugar cake and chocolate sponge sandwiched with peanut buttercream, chopped peanuts, salted caramel sauce and chocolate ganache make up this look-at-me celebration cake (and ode to the Snickers bar)… A bit of a project? Yes. Worth it? Definitely!
For the chocolate sponge:
50g dark chocolate (melted and cooled)
250g soft butter
250g soft light brown sugar
100g cocoa powder
250g plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
For the brown sugar sponge:
165g dark brown soft sugar
150g self raising flour
20g melted butter
60ml boiling water
For the peanut buttercream:
150g smooth peanut butter
100g soft butter
500g icing sugar
For the ganache:
100g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
200ml double cream
For the salted caramel:
150g caster sugar
pinch salt (to taste)
75ml double cream
For decoration (optional):
chopped Snickers bars
thin ganache to create drips
Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins ready for the chocolate cake layers.
To make the chocolate cake, cream together the butter, sugar and salt.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Now sift in about two thirds of the cocoa, flour and baking powder. Fold, then incorporate the melted chocolate with the same gentle action.
Fold in the rest of the dry ingredients followed by the milk. Distribute this batter between the two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
Line the cake tins again and increase the oven temperature to 170c. Now you’re ready to make the brown sugar sponge layers!
To make this sponge place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) then whisk until light and voluminous (about 10 minutes). Sift in the flour and fold, then add the melted butter and boiling water to the side of the bowl. Fold very gently to retain the air then distribute between the tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes until springy (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
When the brown sugar sponges are cooked, cool in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. You should now have four cake layers (two chocolate and two brown sugar) and are ready to make the fillings.
Start off by making the caramel. Just place the sugar and water in a heavy bottom saucepan and gently heat to dissolve the sugar (do not boil or stir, just be patient!). After the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and boil for a few minutes; once the syrup reaches a deep amber colour remove from the heat and whisk in the cream (be careful as it will spit a little). Set aside to cool slightly then stir in the salt.
For the ganache simply chop up the chocolate and transfer to a jug or bowl. Heat the cream to just below boiling point and pour all over, allowing the chocolate to slowly melt. After a couple of minutes, stir the mixture to achieve a lovely smooth, glossy consistency. Set aside.
Finally, for the peanut buttercream beat the peanut butter and butter together with electric beaters (or a stand mixer). Once well combined continue whisking while you add the icing sugar a little at a time. Once you’ve added all the icing sugar increase the speed and add the milk; whisk until very light, fluffy and smooth.
To assemble the cakes stack a chocolate layer with ganache and salted caramel, followed by a brown sugar layer. Repeat this process then cover the entire cake with peanut butter icing. You can be as neat as you like! Decorate with peanuts, Snickers pieces and chocolate shards (more is more in this case!).
I’ll be completely honest, a few weeks ago I thought spring had well and truly sprung and was all for leaving heady spices and warming bakes behind me in the depths of winter… That being said, Doris terrorised the UK last week, today I had to stop my car because I literally couldn’t see for hail, and yesterday I reluctantly packed away my denim jacket. You can probably see where I’m going with this- yep, warming spices and winter fruits are sticking around here for a little longer, today in the form of these deliciously moist apple and hazelnut muffins with zesty orange frosting and apple crisp toppers…
2 apples (diced)
150g soft butter
150g caster sugar
150g self raising flour
50g chopped hazelnuts (plus extra for decoration)
For the orange cream cheese frosting:
250g cream cheese
500g icing sugar
zest 1 orange
For the apple decoration (optional):
1 apple, thinly sliced (with a mandolin if you have one)
100g caster sugar
Before you bake the cakes, you will need to make the apple crisp decorations (if required). For these, preheat the oven to 130c then dissolve the sugar into 100ml water in a saucepan, bring to the boil for 3 minutes and set aside to cool. Dip the apple slices into this syrup and allow the excess to drip off then arrange on a lined baking tray. Bake for 1-1 1/2 hours, turning occasionally. Once dried out, leave to harden on a rack.
Now preheat the oven to 180c and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
Toss the diced apple in cinnamon and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well between each addition (add a spoonful of the flour too if you’re worried about curdling).
Stir in the vanilla extract and sift over the flour. Fold, then mix in the milk to loosen and add the hazelnuts and apples, briefly mixing to distribute evenly. Fill each case (2/3 full) and bake for 20 minutes.
Once the muffins are ready, cool in the tin while you make the cream cheese frosting.
For the frosting, simply beat together the cream cheese, zest and butter until combined, then gradually add the icing sugar until you have a light, fluffy consistency. If you’d like to loosen the texture, just add the milk and beat.
Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cakes, sprinkle with some hazelnuts and top with the apple crisps.
I’m on a bit of a rhubarb trip at the moment- in our house it’s going in just about anything, primarily, my mouth (I jest, but seriously; salad, granita, posset, sorbet, you name it). It’s got a versatile tart flavour and brilliant pink colour (if you buy the forced variety) which lends itself to so many recipes and pairs with lots of other ingredients, so naturally I’ve put it into a cake. This lightly flavoured thyme cake is sandwiched with a tart rhubarb compote which partners beautifully with the sweet white chocolate buttercream. Try it out and top with candied rhubarb ribbons and herby decorations for a statement nod to the season.
For the cake:
350g soft butter
350g caster sugar
6 large eggs
350g self-raising flour, sifted
2tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2tsp finely chopped thyme
For the rhubarb filling:
75g caster sugar
For the white chocolate buttercream:
200g melted white chocolate
250g soft butter
500g icing sugar
For the decorations (optional ideas):
Candied rhubarb ribbons (to make these dissolve 100g caster sugar in 200ml water then bring to the boil and cool. Peel strips of rhubarb and dip into this syrup then line onto a baking tray and dry out in the oven at 110c for 1 hour. Once ready, mould around spoon handles or use as little strip decorations)
thyme/rosemary sprigs, freeze dried fruit, mini meringue kisses
100g white chocolate (melt this then pour out onto a lined tray and set. Break into shards and use as desired)
Preheat the oven to 170c and grease/line two 7 inch cake tins.
For the cake, place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat (with paddle attachment or electric beaters) until light and well combined. This all in one method is so easy and so long as you don’t over-beat results in a lovely even sponge.
Split the batter between the two prepared cake tins and level out. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted, and the tops are springy to the touch.
While the cakes are cooking, make the rhubarb compote. Simply place the ingredients in a saucepan and stir occasionally over a gentle heat until the rhubarb breaks down and resembles a loose jam. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Once the cakes are ready leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling make the buttercream. For this just beat together the butter and icing sugar until really light and fluffy, then add the melted white chocolate (ensuring it is cool) and milk and beat again for a couple of minutes. Your buttercream should be pale (not yellow) and light when it’s ready.
To assemble the cake, slice the sponges horizontally into two even layers so you have four in total. Place one down on your plate/board and spread over a dollop of the buttercream followed by 1/3 of the rhubarb compote. Repeat until you have a 4 layer cake. Take a few spoonfuls of the remaining buttercream, spread a thin layer all over the cake with a palette knife or cake scraper and chill for 10 minutes (this is your crumb coating).
To finish, use all the remaining buttercream to cover the gaps and visible cake (unless you’re going for the naked look!) and smooth down. To decorate, use candied rhubarb, mini meringues, herbs, freeze dried fruits and chocolate shards!
This cake is a straight forward throw-it-all-in, mix, bake and frost situation (but tastes uh-mazing). The pecan brittle is optional but I think the nutty crunch and slightly bitter caramel really adds to the spiced sponge and tangy cream cheese frosting- definitely a winner!
225ml vegetable oil
225g soft light brown sugar
250g grated carrot
225g self raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2tsp mixed spice
75g chopped pecans
For the brittle: 100g caster sugar, 100g pecans, pinch salt
For the frosting: 80g butter, 250g full fat cream cheese, 400g icing sugar, zest 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a square brownie tray (about 22x22cm).
Place the oil, sugar, eggs and grated carrot in a large mixing bowl and briefly whisk to combine. Now sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt and mixed spice and beat together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Fold in the pecans.
Tip this mixture into the square tin and bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
While the cake is cooking, make the brittle. To do this simply place the pecans and sugar in a heavy bottom pan and gently heat until the sugar melts (don’t stir but swirl the pan occasionally). Once the sugar has melted allow it to reach deep golden brown then pour onto a piece of greaseproof paper and allow to set hard and cool.
Once your cake is cooked and cooling on a rack (in the tin), make the frosting. Beat the butter until smooth then add the cream cheese and whisk until combined. Gradually pour in the icing sugar and continue to whisk for a few minutes- you should achieve light smooth consistency. Stir in the lemon zest last.
Turn the cake out of the tin once it’s cooled and level off if necessary. Spread a generous layer of the cream cheese frosting all over then break up the brittle and sprinkle on.
Slice up and serve (and try to resist coming back for a second piece).