cakes

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!

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Cherry Blossom and Eucalyptus

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 and Cardamom Cakes with Pistachio Praline

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.

Ingredients:

  • 200g softened butter
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 200g self raising flour
  • pinch salt
  • 8 cardamom pods, emptied and ground
  • 3tbsp coffee granules mixed with 3tbsp boiling water
  • 3tbsp milk

For the buttercream:

  • 200g softened butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 2tbsp coffee granules mixed with 2tbsp boiling water

For the praline:

  • 100g pistachios
  • 100g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a brownie tin (around 20x20cm).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Enjoy!

 

 

Ginger and Lime Cake

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.

Ingredients:

  • 250g soft butter
  • 250g light brown soft sugar
  • 2tbsp golden syrup
  • 5 eggs
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 2tbsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 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

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c (fan). Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. To assemble the cake, cover neatly with the frosting then decorate with extra lime zest, crystallised ginger, herbs and edible flowers.

Enjoy!

Snickers Celebration Cake

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!

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Ingredients:

For the chocolate sponge:

  • 50g dark chocolate (melted and cooled)
  • 250g soft butter
  • 250g soft light brown sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 100g cocoa powder
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 225ml milk

For the brown sugar sponge:

  • 4 eggs
  • 165g dark brown soft sugar
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 20g melted butter
  • 60ml boiling water

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For the peanut buttercream:

  • 150g smooth peanut butter
  • 100g soft butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 5tbsp milk

For the ganache:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 200ml double cream

For the salted caramel:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150ml water
  • pinch salt (to taste)
  • 75ml double cream

For decoration (optional):

  • chopped peanuts
  • chocolate shards
  • chopped Snickers bars
  • thin ganache to create drips
  • excess caramel

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins ready for the chocolate cake layers.
  2. To make the chocolate cake, cream together the butter, sugar and salt.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  4. Now sift in about two thirds of the cocoa, flour and baking powder. Fold, then incorporate the melted chocolate with the same gentle action.
  5. 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).
  6. Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
  7. Line the cake tins again and increase the oven temperature to 170c. Now you’re ready to make the brown sugar sponge layers!
  8. 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).
  9. 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.

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!).

Enjoy!

Apple Hazelnut Muffins with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

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…

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Ingredients (12):

  • 2 apples (diced)
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 150g soft butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 2-3tbsp milk
  • 50g chopped hazelnuts (plus extra for decoration)

For the orange cream cheese frosting:

  • 250g cream cheese
  • 100g butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • zest 1 orange
  • 2-3tbsp milk

For the apple decoration (optional):

  • 1 apple, thinly sliced (with a mandolin if you have one)
  • 100g caster sugar

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Method:

  1. 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.
  2. Now preheat the oven to 180c and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. Once the muffins are ready, cool in the tin while you make the cream cheese frosting.
  6. 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.
  7. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cakes, sprinkle with some hazelnuts and top with the apple crisps.

Enjoy!

Rhubarb, White Chocolate and Thyme Cake

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.

rhubarb-3

Ingredients:

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:

  • 400g rhubarb
  • 75g caster sugar

For the white chocolate buttercream:

  • 200g melted white chocolate
  • 250g soft butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2-3tbsp milk

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)

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease/line two 7 inch cake tins.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Once the cakes are ready leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. 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!

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Enjoy!