caramel

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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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!

Snickers Cookie Sandwiches

These Snickers cookies sandwiched together with peanut buttercream and caramel sauce are the ultimate indulgence- you must try them!

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Ingredients:

For the cookies:

  • 225g soft butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 175g dark brown soft sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch salt
  • 4 chopped Snickers bars
  • 100g dark chocolate chips

For the caramel filling: 40g butter, 40g dark brown sugar, 40g golden syrup, 50ml double cream

For the peanut butter filling: 300g icing sugar, 50g butter, 50g peanut butter, few drops of milk

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c and line 2 large baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream together the butter, brown sugar and caster sugar with an electric whisk or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and some of the flour then whisk again to incorporate them into the mix. Add the remaining flour and bicarbonate of soda. Mix again.
  3. Add the chopped snickers bars and chocolate chips then fold in with a wooden spoon.
  4. Roll the cookie dough into small even balls (slightly smaller than a ping pong ball) and line onto the baking trays (allowing space for spreading).
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Once cooked allow to cool on the trays while you make the fillings.
  6. For the caramel, melt together the butter, sugar and syrup. Once melted, bring to the boil then add the cream off the heat. Stir and allow to cool and thicken.
  7. To make the peanut butter buttercream, whisk the butter until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and briefly whisk together, then add the icing sugar gradually, whisking constantly until you have a light buttercream. Add some milk if the frosting is too stiff to achieve the desired pipe-able consistency.
  8. Now it’s time to assemble your cookie sandwiches! Just take a cookie, pipe a ring of peanut buttercream around the edge, fill it with caramel and pair up with another cookie to form a sandwich.

Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake

This cake is the ultimate Autumn centre piece- it combines a moist spiced pumpkin sponge with cream cheese frosting, caramel buttercream, pecans and salted toffee sauce; the best flavours of the season! I decorated mine in a really rustic semi-naked style, but you can refine yours to make it a little more formal if you like.

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Ingredients

  • 450ml vegetable oil
  • 450g soft light brown sugar
  • 7 eggs
  • 450g self raising flour
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3tsp ginger
  • 3tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 grated fresh nutmeg
  • 250g sultanas
  • 400g grated pumpkin

For the Toffee Sauce: 100g butter, 100g dark brown soft sugar, 100g golden syrup, 100ml double cream, large pinch sea salt

For the Caramel Buttercream: 200g butter, 75g of the toffee sauce, 500g icing sugar

For the Cream Cheese Frosting: 250g cream cheese, 150g butter, 500g icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla extract

Extras: 200g roughly chopped pecans

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Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line three 7inch cake tins.
  2. Place the eggs, sugar, salt and oil in a large bowl then whisk until light and well combined. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg then gently stir with a spatula until non-streaky and smooth.
  3. Now add the sultanas and pumpkin. Mix well and distribute the batter evenly between the three tins. Bake for 30-45 minutes. When a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cakes, they are done. Once cooked, remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

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  1. While the cakes are cooling, make the frostings. Start off with the toffee sauce. Place the dark brown sugar, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted, bring to the boil then remove from the heat and add the cream. Stir then set aside to cool.
  2. Now make your cream cheese frosting. Whisk the butter with electric beaters or a stand mixer until fluffy, then add the cream cheese and whisk again. Once well combined, gradually add the icing sugar and continue whisking until you have a light frosting. Fold in the vanilla.
  3. Once your toffee sauce has cooled you can make the caramel buttercream. Simply beat the butter until really light, then add the icing sugar gradually until you have a simple fluffy buttercream. Finally, add 75g of the toffee sauce and stir through.
  4. To assemble the cakes just place one sponge on a plate and pipe a ring of cream cheese frosting round the edge. Fill the centre with caramel buttercream and sprinkle over some pecans. Now just top with another layer and repeat until all the cakes are used. Thinly coat the outside of the cake with cream cheese frosting and pipe a design on the top with the caramel buttercream. Pile on pecans for decoration and drizzle generously with the remaining toffee sauce.
  5. Enjoy!

Plated Pear, Ginger and Chocolate Dessert

I’ve recently been working on a few new recipes for a sort of ‘food portfolio’. This particular dessert is one I’m really pleased with so I thought I would share! It is made up of poached pear, a pear crisp, stem ginger ice cream, ginger caramel, vanilla tuille shards, caramelised white chocolate and dark chocolate ganache cubes (yes, quite a few elements but if you’re up for the challenge it makes for an impressive and delicious dish!).

dessert

Serves 4 (note, the ice cream is best made the day before you are serving this dish)

For the stem ginger ice cream: 100ml double cream, 100ml whole milk, 70g caster sugar, 4 egg yolks, 4tbsp chopped stem ginger

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan until a skin forms then set aside. In a bowl mix the egg yolks and caster sugar then pour the cream mix over the top. Stir together, rinse the saucepan and return the liquid to it. Place over a gentle heat and stir with a wooden spoon until it thickens to coat the back. Set aside to cool a little then add the chopped stem ginger and pour into a freezer proof tub. Freeze overnight.

The next morning, chop the ice cream into large pieces and blitz in a food processor until they just break down (blitzing means your ice cream will be smooth without using an ice cream maker!). Return to the container and re-freeze until needed.

For the pear crisp: 1 pear

Very thinly slice your pear so you are left with cross section pieces. Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake for half an hour at 140c, turning occasionally. Once dried out, leave to harden at room temperature.

For the ganache cubes: 100g dark chocolate, 75ml double cream

Finely chop or grate the chocolate. Heat the cream and pour it over the chocolate. Stir to melt it fully then pour into a shallow mould and set in the freezer for 20 minutes- half an hour. When ready to use, slice into cubes.

For the caramelised white chocolate: 50g white chocolate

This chocolate is delicious- it takes the sweetness off the white chocolate and gives it a smokey, almost bitter taste. Simply place in the oven and colour for 10 minutes at 180c. When needed, break down into a crumb and use as desired.

For the poached pear: 1 pint water, 100g caster sugar, 1 vanilla pod, 3 pears

Dissolve the sugar in the water with the vanilla over a gentle heat. Peel the pears. Add the pears to the sugar syrup and poach gently for 30-40 minutes. When soft and cooked through, slice into cubes (the same size as the ganache).

For the ginger caramel: 100g granulated sugar, 50ml water, 30g butter, 50ml double cream, 2tbsp ginger syrup, pinch salt

Dissolve the sugar with the water over a gentle heat. Once dissolved, boil vigorously until it reaches a deep golden colour. Add the butter at this stage and mix in (it will spit a little) then add the cream and return to the heat. Stir until thick then remove from the heat, add the ginger syrup and salt and leave to cool.

For the vanilla tuille shards: 60g butter, 60g plain flour, 2 egg whites, 120g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 190c. Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly.

Take a silicon mat or silicon paper lined baking tray and spread the mixture thinly over it with a palette knife. Bake for 5 minutes or until the edges are golden then leave to harden at room temperature. Once set break up into pieces and use.

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To assemble: 

To assemble this dessert spread your caramel in a swoosh and sprinkle your white chocolate crumb over it in a half moon shape. Take a scoop or quenelle of your ice cream and place on top. Balance the pear crisp on the ice cream then arrange the ganache and pear cubes in an attractive pattern. Use the tuille shards for garnish and finish it off with edible flowers, if you like.

Enjoy!

Easter Layer Cake

This carrot cake with a hint of zesty freshness is ideal for Easter events; it’s a real crowd pleaser and people always ask for the recipe, so here it is!

CARROT CAKE

For the sponge you will need: 400g grated carrot, 3tbsp finely chopped stem ginger, zest 1 lemon, zest 1 orange, 4 eggs, 2tsp vanilla, pinch salt, 400ml vegetable oil, 150g light brown soft sugar, 100ml buttermilk, 300g caster sugar, 550g plain flour, 3tsp baking powder, 2tsp bicarbonate of soda, 2tsp cinnamon, 2tsp ginger

Preheat the oven to 180c (fan) and line three 18cm cake tins with baking paper.
Whisk the carrot, ginger, zests, eggs, vanilla, salt, vegetable oil, light brown sugar and buttermilk in a large jug, until smooth.
Sift the caster sugar, plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour the wet egg mixture in.
Gently stir until the dry and the wet ingredients are thoroughly combined. Be sure to scrape any run away ingredients down the sides of the bowl and fully incorporate them into the mixture too.
Divide the cake mix evenly into the prepared tins. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Do not open the oven until at least 30 minutes have passed.
Leave to sit in their tins for 10 minutes once baked then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the cream cheese frosting, you will need: 700g icing sugar, 250g cream cheese, 85g butter, a few drops milk

Mix the icing sugar together with the butter with a hand held electric whisk until a powdery breadcrumb-like consistency is achieved.
Now gradually add the cream cheese and mix like mad until it is thick but spreadable. If you like, add the zest of one lemon for a fresh twist.
Add a little milk to alter the consistency if it’s too stiff.
Spread some cream cheese frosting on the first sponge then pop the second on top. Repeat this process and you will be left with a three layer cake sandwiched with frosting. For a professional finish, cover the entire cake with the remaining cream cheese mixture. Use a wet palette knife to smooth the icing down. Now your cake is ready for the decoration.

CARROT CAKE 2

For the additional decoration, you will need: 200g caster sugar, 100g chopped walnuts, few hazelnuts

To achieve the neat line of chopped walnuts, wrap some baking parchment neatly around your cake, leaving 2 inches spare at the bottom. With the palm of your hand, press the walnuts into the cream cheese frosting around the circumference of the base. Remove the baking paper and use a palette knife to create vertical lines all around the remaining cream cheese covered area.

For the spirals, place the caster sugar in a deep bottom pan over a medium heat. Do NOT be tempted to stir it, just wait for it to melt and turn a golden amber colour. Don’t leave it for any longer than this or it will quickly burn. Remove from the heat and leave for a few minutes until the consistency is sticky and slightly thick. Once this consistency is achieved, lightly oil a wooden spoon handle and, with a fork, gather up some of the caramel to mould around it- this should form a spiral shape. Leave for a few moments to harden then remove from the spoon carefully and place around the edges of the cake (as in the above photograph).
If the caramel hardens too much just return to the heat briefly to soften again.
Dip the hazelnuts in any left over caramel and pile in the centre of the cake.
If you don’t feel like attempting the sugar work, just scatter nuts over the top or buy some carrot shaped cake toppers!

Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Pecan Brownies

Brownies just got serious.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of any brownie, but after trying out countless flavour combinations and ingredients I’ve deemed this my all time favourite recipe… dense fudgy chocolate, roughly chopped pecans and oozy salted caramel sauce… what more could you want?

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To make these tempting treats, you will need…

For the salted caramel: 80ml water, 250g golden caster sugar, 80ml double cream, 20g butter, 2tsp flaked salt

Before you make your brownies, you’ve got to make your salted caramel (if this phases you a bit, you could just buy some ready made).

Pour the water into a wide bottom pan followed by the sugar. Swirl about a little to combine then place on a high heat.

Keep an eye on the pan but DO NOT STIR or it may crystalise. The sugar will quickly dissolve and bubbles will form on the surface of the sugar syrup after a few minutes. At this point, watch the mixture and wait for it to turn a golden brown (this should take 3-4 minutes). Now remove from the heat and pour in the cream, mixing quickly. The liquid may spit but that’s completely normal, just be careful!

Now add the butter and stir in the salt. Pour into a container and cool for about an hour (or you could make this the day before and refrigerate until required).

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For the brownie mix: 240g dark chocolate, 240g butter, pinch salt, 3 eggs, 280g golden caster sugar, 100g plain flour, 60g cocoa powder, 100g roughly chopped pecans

Line a 10″x10″ brownie tin with greaseproof paper and preheat the oven to 160c (fan).

Break the chocolate into pieces and cube the butter, then place in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water. Gently stir until melted then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk your eggs, salt and sugar until pale, fluffy and very thick. This might take 5 minutes or so but it’s well worth the result!

Sift the flour and cocoa into the bowl and gently fold with a spatula until just combined. Now pour the chocolatey butter mixture down the side and fold this in until smooth- try to retain the light texture of the mix by carefully combining.

Lastly, mix in 70g of the chopped pecans.

Pour half the brownie mix into the prepared tin and level out. Now take a third of the salted caramel sauce and drizzle all over. Put the rest of the brownie mix on top and spoon over another third of the caramel, followed by the rest of the pecans.

Place in the oven for 50 minutes to bake.

When cooked (but still fudgy), leave to cool COMPLETELY in the tin (this makes it easier to remove and cut).

When cool chop into pieces and drizzle over the remaining caramel.

Enjoy!