This isn’t a sophisticated cake. There is nothing particularly fancy or groundbreaking about the flavours or decoration; however, sometimes (and by sometimes I mean far more often than is deemed acceptable) I just crave a proper, dense, delicious chocolate hit, and for that this delivers every time (whether smothered in salted caramel buttercream or chocolate ganache- I’ll take either).
300g caster sugar
300g soft butter
225ml soured cream
2tsp vanilla extract
75g cocoa powder
300g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the buttercream:
100g soft butter
100g salted caramel sauce
large pinch salt
500g icing sugar
For the brittle:
200g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 10 inch cake tin.
Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy. In a jug whisk the eggs, soured cream and vanilla. Add to the creamed mixture in 3 additions, beating well between each to ensure they are fully incorporated (add a little of the flour if you’re worried about curdling).
Sift the cocoa powder, plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt over the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked leave to cool in the tin.
Now make your brittle. Line a tray with lightly oiled baking paper. Place the sugar and almonds in a heavy bottomed pan and heat until the sugar melts. Tip the pan to coat the almonds in the caramel and leave it until it reaches a deep golden brown then pour onto the prepared baking paper. Use a wooden spoon to move the almonds around into a single layer, then leave to set hard.
For the salted caramel buttercream (this is a bit of a guilty pleasure- it’s obviously very sweet so you could coat the cake in a dark chocolate ganache if you’re more grown up than me), simply beat the soft butter, caramel sauce and salt (I will be posting a recipe for salted caramel sauce soon if you’d like to make your own, otherwise just buy shop bought!) together until creamy, then gradually add the icing sugar until it reaches a light and thick consistency. Lastly, loosen up with a few drops of milk if necessary (do this by eye).
To assemble, remove your cake from the tin and smother in buttercream. Break up the brittle and use as shards, or smash into a crumb and sprinkle over the top of your finished bake.
I’ve been eating a lot of chocolate covered raisins recently (health god) and yesterday I had a brain wave (daydream) about throwing them into brownies alongside chocolate chips. I cooked a batch up today and they might just be my favourite variety ever; moist middle, crispy shell-like top, pockets of chewy chocolatey fruit and chunks of white chocolate- a definite winner. Try my recipe out and join the party.
250g dark chocolate
275 caster sugar
175g plain flour
large pinch salt
125g white chocolate, roughly chopped
125g chocolate covered raisins
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a brownie tin.
Melt together the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little. Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt until pale and thick.
Add the melted chocolate and butter into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Sieve over the flour and fold in then do the same with the white chocolate chunks and chocolate covered raisins.
Tip the brownie batter into a baking tin and level out. Bake for 35-40 minutes until crisp on top and fudgy in the centre.
Leave to cool in the tin then slice into squares and enjoy!
Spring has well and truly sprung here in Bucks, and the sunny weather has inspired me to make something zesty, refreshing and seasonal. This brilliant pink sorbet really hits the spot after a three course dinner or makes for a great component in a larger dessert. I’d advise preparing it a day or two ahead as it does require blitzing a couple of times (but no ice cream maker needed- result!).
250g granulated sugar
400g rhubarb, sliced into 4 inch lengths
zest and juice 3 limes
1 egg white (optional)
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add the rhubarb pieces and poach for 15-20 minutes until very soft.
Remove the rhubarb from the saucepan and place in a food processor along with the lime juice.
Increase the heat on the rhubarb sugar syrup and boil until it reaches ‘thread’ stage. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds; you can check it’s ready in two ways. Firstly, you could use a sugar thermometer and make sure it reads between 223 degrees and 235 degrees. Secondly, if you don’t have a thermometer just add cold water to a bowl and drop some of the syrup in- if it forms a thin thread in the water, it’s ready (I use this method).
Once you’ve reached thread stage take the syrup off the heat and cool a little, then add half to the rhubarb and lime ( too much will make the sorbet too sweet!). Blitz to a smooth puree and pass through a sieve, then add the lime zest. Pour into an ice cream tub and freeze for 4-6 hours, stirring occasionally to help break up ice crystals.
After the sorbet has frozen, break it up and return to the blender. Add the egg white (if you can’t eat these or are making this for vulnerable people, just skip this) to lighten the texture and blitz again until smooth.
These bars are the perfect grab and go treat to keep you going on a hectic day- I love my rhubarb and ginger jam sandwiched between the peanut butter flapjack and nutty topping, but you could choose any marmalade or jam in your version.
75g coconut oil
175g peanut butter (or another nut butter ie. almond, cashew)
150g dark brown soft sugar
4tbsp golden syrup
300g porridge oats
Filling and topping:
200g rhubarb and ginger jam (or your favourite jam- fig or raspberry would work well)
200g flaked almonds
75g brazil nuts
100g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a brownie tray.
For the base place the coconut oil, peanut butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan. Melt together over a medium heat. Tip the oats into a large bowl and add the melted liquid. Stir together until well combined then pack down into the prepared baking tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
For the topping, heat the caster sugar and water together over a medium heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve then pour into a bowl along with all the nuts. Stir together to coat.
Now you can assemble the next layers. Spread the jam all over the flapjack base and spoon on the nuts in an even layer. Press down the top then bake for 15-20 minutes, until the nuts are golden brown.
I’m a big fan of rhubarb (I’ve decided putting it in granita with lime zest is my favourite way to eat it- I’m sure that could be blitzed into a daiquiri of sorts as well… anyway I digress) and thought I’d take the last stems of the season to make some nutty frangipane tartlets. This recipe calls for pistachios and almonds in the frangipane to create an earthy flavour which I think pairs really well with the tart rhubarb.
For the pastry:125g plain flour, 70g butter, 1tbsp caster sugar, pinch salt, 1 egg yolk, 2tbsp cold water
For the rhubarb: 75g caster sugar, 100ml water, 2 stems rhubarb
For the frangipane: 50g butter, 50g caster sugar, 1 egg, 75g ground almonds, 75g shelled pistachios (blitzed until roughly ground), 1tbsp plain flour
To make the pastry, place the cold butter and plain flour in a food processor along with the salt and sugar. Blitz until the mix resembles fine bread crumbs then whisk together the egg yolk and water in a small bowl. Add half this liquid to the crumbs and pulse until they start clumping together. If it still seems a little dry, add another teaspoon of the egg and briefly pulse again. As soon as the dough forms little lumps stop the machine and tip out the contents. Press together and shape roughly into a disc (don’t overwork). Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190c. Grease and flour four small (about 8cm) tart cases.
Once the pastry has firmed up a little, roll out to about 2-3mm thick. Line the tart cases, carefully using a little ball of spare pastry to get it right into the corners. Trim away any excess and chill again for 10 minutes.
For the rhubarb, dissolve the sugar in the water over a gentle heat then bring to the boil. Remove from the hob and add in the chopped rhubarb. Leave it to soften in the hot syrup until required.
Now it’s time to blind bake the tart cases. To do this just line the pastry cases with some baking paper and baking beans to ensure that the walls are supported. Bake for 10 minutes then remove the baking beans and paper and bake for a further 10 minutes until a sandy consistency is achieved with no grey areas.
While the cases are baking make the frangipane. Place the butter and sugar in a food processor and blitz until light and fluffy, then add the remaining ingredients and pulse to fully combine (this should take a few minutes). The final consistency should be smooth and creamy (remember, if you don’t have a food processor you can use a stand mixer, electric beaters or a wooden spoon!).
Now it’s time to assemble. Just place 1-2 heaped tablespoons of the frangipane into the tart cases, smooth out then top with some rhubarb pieces (don’t overfill, remember leave a little bit of room for expansion).
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the frangipane is golden. Top with some white icing if you like and enjoy warm or cold with a big dollop of creme fraiche.
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.