I know, it’s January; cue the health kick and gym session right? Wrong. I was trialling this cake for a client today and just had to share the recipe despite the diet-crazed time of year… the sponge is so light and moist and the cherries pair perfectly with the vanilla bean buttercream. I will be posting some healthier bakes and dinner ideas soon, so why not make this as a bit of a last hoorah (at least until the obligatory post-Christmas detox is over).
For the sponge:
400g soft butter
400g golden caster sugar
400g self raising flour
6 large eggs
250g greek yoghurt
2tsp vanilla extract
For the buttercream and filling:
240g soft butter
800g icing sugar
2tsp vanilla extract
250g good quality cherry jam (homemade is always preferable!)
handful fresh cherries
Preheat the oven to 160c and grease/line three 7 inch cake tins.
Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream together with an electric whisk until really light and fluffy (this could also be done in the bowl of a stand mixer).
Now add the eggs one at a time (with a little of the flour if you like to prevent curdling) and whisk well between each addition.
Once the eggs are well incorporated, sift in the flour and fold to incorporate. Finally, stir in the greek yoghurt.
Distribute the batter evenly between the tins and bake for 30-35 minutes or until springy to the touch.
Leave the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
For the buttercream, whisk the butter until it’s light, then add the icing sugar a little at a time and beat until it lightens in texture and colour (this could take about 10 minutes). Once you’ve achieved a fluffy consistency add the milk and vanilla and whisk again to incorporate.
At this stage you may like to ripple in a little of your cherry jam to create the streak effect but that’s up to you.
Time to assemble! Place one cake down and top with a generous layer of buttercream and spoonful of jam. Repeat until you’ve used up the sponges then cover completely with buttercream, swirling in some remaining jam as you go. Decorate with fresh cherries (and some glitter if you’re feeling fancy).
I can’t decide if this looks impressive or a complete mess (I’ll let you choose); either way, it’s a delicious tower of salted dark chocolate and coffee cream profiteroles decorated with coffee nib white chocolate shards and gold shimmer spray- the perfect look-at-me centre piece!
Ingredients (makes enough profiteroles to cover a 30cm cone):
Preheat the oven to 200c and grease 2 large baking trays. Sift the flour onto a piece of baking paper.
Place the butter and water in a saucepan and gently melt together. Once melted bring to the boil and tip in the flour all in one go. Mix rapidly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan and looks glossy. Place in a bowl and leave to cool to room temperature.
Break up your eggs in a jug then gradually whisk into the cooled butter mixture until it reaches a dropping consistency (where it drops off a spoon after about 5 seconds).
Pile the choux into a piping bag and pipe even piles onto the greased baking trays (leaving room for expansion). If they have little points just tap them down with a wet finger to create an even shape.
Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and well risen then poke a hole in each one with a skewer. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes to dry out then cool on a wire rack.
Make the fillings- for the coffee filling, whisk together the cream, coffee and icing sugar until soft peaks form. For the chocolate, whisk together the cream and icing sugar in a separate bowl.
Melt the milk chocolate and dark chocolate in heatproof bowls over pans of simmering water.
Once the profiteroles have cooled, fill half with coffee cream (using a fine nozzled piping bag) and half with the sweet cream (in the same way).
If you would like to decorate with white chocolate shards, now is a good time to make those. Simply melt the white chocolate and spread over a piece of baking paper. Sprinkle with espresso powder and beans and set until solid and breakable.
By this time, the chocolate should’ve cooled a little. Dip the coffee filled profiteroles in milk chocolate and the sweet cream ones in the dark. Sprinkle the dark chocolate pastries with sea salt.
Now it’s time to assemble. Take your cone and cover it with any leftover melted chocolate. Stack up the profiteroles layer by layer to cover the cone completely. You may need to wait a few minutes between layers to allow the profiteroles to set.
These Bakewell inspired bars are made up of a crisp pastry base, zesty mince meat centre, cinnamon frangipane top, toasted almond sprinkling and a dollop of obligatory brandy cream; delicious and oh-so festive!
250g plain flour
1tbsp caster sugar
3 egg yolks
1 jar good quality mince meat (optional: add the zest of 1 orange and a handful chopped walnuts to it)
150g golden caster sugar
75g ground almonds
75g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
handful flaked almonds
150ml double cream
2tbsp icing sugar (plus extra for dusting)
First, make the pastry (or skip steps 1 and 2 if you’re using shop bought shortcrust!). Place the butter, sugar and flour in a food processor and blitz until they form breadcrumbs. Pour into a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the water and egg. Add 4tbsp of this mix to the crumbs and stir with a cutlery knife. If there are still dry patches add a little more liquid until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Press into a thin disc shape and wrap in cling film. Chill for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190c. Lightly grease a rectangular tart tin. Take your chilled pastry and roll out to about 3mm thick. Line into the tart tin, pushing it into the corners as you go. Chill again for 10 minutes.
Now it’s time to blind bake. Screw up a piece of greaseproof paper and unfold, then press down into the case. Fill with baking beans and spread out to completely cover the base. Bake for 15 minutes until the sides are set then remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the base is dry and sandy. Don’t let it colour as it will be returning to the oven when filled.
Reduce the oven temperature to 170c.
Now make the frangipane. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a little of the flour to prevent curdling if you like). Once well combined, beat in the ground almonds and fold in the remaining flour and cinnamon.
Now it’s time to assemble. Take your tart case and spread a generous layer of mince meat across the base. Top this with the frangipane and level out as best you can. Sprinkle with flaked almonds.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the frangipane is cooked through. If the pastry or almonds are browning too much just cover loosely with foil.
Once baked, cool on a wire rack while you make the brandy cream. To do this simply whisk together the brandy, cream and icing sugar until thick. Spoon onto each bar, dust with icing sugar and serve.
I was recently sent some delicious Mandarin Edition chocolate from Amelia Rope. I am a big advocate of her single origin chocolate bars and am really pleased with this festive recipe I’ve developed using her product. The dark zesty chocolate goes really well with the crisp meringue, ginger cream and torched mandarin slices- it’s the perfect winter pavlova, ideal for Christmas day!
Preheat the oven to 180c. Spread the caster sugar across 2 baking trays and place in the oven to heat up (don’t let it melt or crystallise).
While the sugar is heating up, put your egg whites into a large clean bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Whisk on low to build up air bubbles then increase the speed and whisk until you have medium peaks. Take your hot sugar and gradually add to the egg whites whilst whisking constantly. Once all the sugar has been added you will have a thick glossy meringue. Now add the cocoa powder and lightly swirl through the mixture to create a ripple effect.
Reduce the oven temperature to 110c.
Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Roughly pile the meringue on in a wreath shape. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the meringue peels off the paper easily. The middle should be mallowy and the outside crisp. Once the meringue is cooked, switch the oven off and allow it to cool with the door ajar (this prevents cracks).
While the meringue is cooling, make the toppings. For the ginger cream, just place the ginger syrup, icing sugar and double cream in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.
For the torched mandarins, slice into pieces and line onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with the granulated sugar and place under a hot grill until caramelised (or use a blow torch).
Melt the chocolate and cool a little.
To assemble the meringue, layer on the ginger cream, followed by a sprinkling of chopped ginger, the mandarin slices and finally a generous drizzling of mandarin chocolate. Slice up and serve with any leftover ginger cream.
These brownies are rich, dense and studded with cranberries and white chocolate chunks- a great (and easy) festive treat to whip up for visiting family and friends over the coming weeks…
300g dark chocolate
310g caster sugar
3 eggs, 1 egg yolk
3tsp vanilla extract
120g plain flour
150g white chocolate, chopped into chunks
100g dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a square baking tin/ brownie tray.
Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a pan of gently simmering water. Do not allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl or it could cause the chocolate to seize.
Stir the butter and chocolate occasionally until melted then set aside to cool for a few minutes. Once the chocolate has cooled a little, add the sugar and salt then whisk (with electric beaters or in the bowl of a stand mixer) until well combined.
Now add the eggs and whisk on high until the mix has lightened in colour and is glossy (about 5 minutes- whisking well at this stage is what gives you that classic flaky top!).
Sift in the flour and fold then finally stir in the white chocolate and cranberries. Tip into the lined baking tin and spread out. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set but still very moist in the middle.
This four layer ginger cake filled with lightly salted toffee sauce and tangy cream cheese frosting is a great alternative to the classic Christmas fruit cake, and is usually the preferred option in my house.
The Scandi-style flowers I’ve used for decoration were sent to me by Bloom & Wild, a brilliant flower delivery company who focus on carefully selecting the best seasonal blooms. The bouquet I received ( the Sadie)is part of their Christmas range and I would definitely recommend you check out their other options; I don’t know about you, but I find it tricky to find a wide range of good quality cut flowers outside of London (I know, first world problems), so it’s great to know I can choose more unusual varieties online and have them delivered straight to my door the next day by Bloom & Wild.
I hope you like how I’ve made use of the flowers and perhaps this could inspire some other botanical themed Christmas cakes!
220g black treacle
80g golden syrup
340g dark brown soft sugar
380g self raising flour
3tbsp ground ginger
2tbsp ground cinnamon
60g soured cream
6 pieces stem ginger, grated (from a jar)
For the toffee sauce: 50g butter, 50g dark brown soft sugar, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, large pinch sea salt
For the cream cheese frosting: 200g unsalted butter (soft), 250g cream cheese, 900g icing sugar, seeds of 2 vanilla pods
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Place the butter, treacle, syrup and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer). Beat together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs in one at a time along with a little of the flour to prevent curdling. Mix well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, sift in the remaining flour, cinnamon and ginger. Fold gently then finally stir in the stem ginger and soured cream. Split between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 30-40 minutes.
While the cakes are cooking, make the toffee sauce. Place the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once melted pour in the cream and add the salt. Mix to create a smooth sauce then set aside to cool and thicken.
Now make your cream cheese frosting. Put the butter in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until fluffy and light in colour. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat once again until well combined. Now, still beating, gradually add the icing sugar. Once all the icing sugar has been added increase the speed and mix until the consistency is light, thick and spreadable.
When the cakes are ready, a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Rest in their tins for 10 minutes then remove and leave on a wire rack until they are completely cool.
Now you are ready to assemble your layer cake. Level off the sponges as best you can then slice in two (you should be left with 4 layers). Place one layer down on your plate or cake board. Secure with some cream cheese frosting if it’s a little slippy. Now spread over a few tablespoons of the toffee sauce. Allow it to sink into the sponge then apply a thick even layer of cream cheese frosting. Top with the next sponge and repeat until the sponges are used up.
With the remaining cream cheese frosting, cover the cake all over and smooth down with a cake scraper. Decorate with fresh flowers dusted in frosty edible glitter or get creative and come up with your own design to suit the occasion.
More decorating ideas:
Leave the cream cheese frosting rough and decorate with mini gingerbread houses to create a snow drift scene.
Top with traditional/vintage Christmas cake decorations.
Make little white meringue kisses and cover the top of the cake with them, then dust with gold edible glitter.
Last week Dr Oetker invited me to a festive masterclass with the lovely Juliet Sear to celebrate the launch of their new social platform We Bake. During the class myself and nine other food bloggers had a great time experimenting with festive shimmer sprays, drip cakes and baubles while Juliet shared some of her top decorating tips.
For those of you who weren’t aware, We Bake is an online space where bakers of all abilities can share photographs, recipes, tips and even disasters with one another- think of it as an Instagram or Pinterest built solely for baking enthusiasts (at last, right!?)! I’ve been scrolling through the site regularly and have been truly inspired by all the imaginative flavours and decorations my fellow bakers have been sharing- its definitely worth a look!
If you’d like to get involved with We Bake you’re in luck, as Dr Oetker have very kindly provided me with an amazing hamper brimming full of baking goodies for one of you to win! All you have to do to be in with a chance is sign up to We Bake (here), post a picture or recipe, and then link it in the comments section below- I can then forward your name and you will be entered into the draw!
I wish you all luck with the competition and hope to see lots of your brilliant bakes soon…
Many thanks to Dr Oetker and Juliet Sear for having me last week- I had a brilliant time and was very grateful (despite being a complete nuisance on the train home) for my mass of goodie bags and cakes!