chocolate

Chocolate Honeycomb Celebration Cake

Whenever I bake a chocolate cake (the layered kind, not the flourless, fudgy sort) I’m looking for a sponge which actually tastes of chocolate, is really moist without being overly dense and isn’t too sickly sweet. I’m always tweaking my go to chocolate cake with these characteristics in mind and think I’ve pretty much cracked it with this recipe. I’ve teamed the light chocolate layers with honeycomb toppers, salted toffee cream filling and a rich ganache coating here, but you could definitely fill it with chocolate buttercream if you want a pure chocolate fest.

Note: this cake is so extra and is definitely one for a special occasion- you could half the recipe and just coat with ganache if you’re after something indulgent but a little more modest

Ingredients (makes a tall 8 inch celebration cake- feeds 12-14 people)

For the cake:

  • 375g plain flour
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 85g cocoa powder
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 325ml milk
  • 175ml vegetable oil
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 325ml just boiled water
  • 2tsp instant coffee granules

For the toffee cream filling:

  • 325g soft light brown sugar
  • 225ml double cream
  • 175g butter
  • pinch sea salt

For the ganache:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 300ml double cream

For the honeycomb (this makes more than enough- I use about half and store the rest in a jar for my many weak snacking moments):

  • 60g butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 60g golden syrup
  • 1 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c (325F / gas mark 3). Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave in short stints, stirring often). Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl stir together the flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt. In a jug, lightly whisk the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the contents of the jug into it. Stir the wet and dry ingredients together until well combined then add the melted chocolate and stir again (I just use a balloon whisk for this- nothing electric is required as you don’t need to incorporate much air).
  4. Pour your just boiled water over the instant coffee granules and once they’ve dissolved, gradually add to the chocolate batter, stirring gently with your whisk as you go. The final cake batter will be very thin but don’t worry, it bakes beautifully.
  5. Split the mix evenly between the prepared tins and bake for 45-55 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached). Once baked leave to cool completely in the tins.

  1. While your cakes are cooking and cooling you can get on with the filling, ganache and honeycomb toppers.
  2. For the filling, place the cream and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved and you are left with a smooth caramel coloured cream. Set aside, add the salt (to taste) and cool completely. Once your cream has cooled take the butter and whisk (in a stand mixer or with electric beaters) until it reaches a light, whipped consistency then gradually add your cream mixture. Keep whisking this until it has thickened and is spreadable. Set aside for later.
  3. For the ganache chop up the chocolate and scrape into a heatproof bowl or jug, then heat the cream until it just reaches boiling point and pour directly on top. Leave for a couple on minutes then stir to make sure the chocolate has melted into the cream leaving you with a smooth ganache. Set aside to cool and thicken.
  4. For the honeycomb line a baking tray with some lightly oiled baking paper then place the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan. Gently heat until all the ingredients start melting together then stir to combine. Turn up the heat and leave to bubble until it reaches a deep golden colour then add the bicarbonate of soda and briefly mix to make sure it’s evenly distributed- it should now start bubbling up and becoming lacy in appearance. At this point pour it quickly onto the lined baking tray and leave to set hard.
  5. Once you’ve made all your elements and they’ve cooled to room temperature you’re ready to assemble the cake. To do this slice any uneven tops off your sponges then slice in half horizontally, leaving you with four layers.
  6. Sandwich the layers on top of one another, filling with the toffee cream as you go. Once stacked, spread any remaining toffee cream all over the cake and then chill for 10 minutes (this setting time makes it easier to cover the cake neatly in ganache).
  7. After chilling the cake spread the ganache all over its surface. I used a palette knife to create a line pattern on my cake to tie in with the honeycomb theme but you could make it super sleek and smooth or go for a really rustic look- it’s up to you. To finish it off break up the honeycomb and use as decorations; I also made some toppers by setting melted chocolate over bubble wrap, but it really isn’t necessary!

I hope you all enjoy this recipe- my family and friends went absolutely mad for it so it’s definitely worth the effort if you’re up for a little bit of a baking project!

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Chocolate, Cardamom and Raspberry Macaroons

I’m no macaroon master. I’ve never really committed much time to perfecting the art and will fully admit I’ve had a few disasters which have put me off practicing (not the best attitude). That said, I’ve recently been playing around with the classic patisserie staple and have become a lot more comfortable with the making process. This spiced chocolate variety is my favourite experiment to date and although they’re not entirely perfect to look at, the shells are both crisp and chewy, the fillings are well balanced and, most importantly, each mouthful is deliciously moreish.

Ingredients:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 80ml water
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 15g cocoa
  • 160g egg whites
  • pinch salt

For the filling:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 10-12 cardamom pods
  • 1 punnet fresh raspberries

For decoration (optional):

  • some additional dark chocolate, melted
  • edible gold paint

Method (makes about 30 macarons):

  1. Before I begin- you will need a sugar thermometer, an electric whisk or stand mixer, a food processor or blender, some greaseproof paper with 4cm circles traced on to use as a piping guide (see here) and piping bags.
  2. The first thing to do is weigh out your ingredients accurately (this is something I don’t often do but for this recipe, its a necessity!) and line up to 4 baking trays with your greaseproof paper templates.
  3. Now, place your ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor and blitz until very fine (about 30 seconds- 1 minute). Pass through a sieve into a bowl, discarding the chunky bits.
  4. Next, pop your water and caster sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Once dissolved, increase the heat and boil until the temperature reads 115c on your sugar thermometer.
  5. While your sugar syrup is heating up, stir half of the egg whites (80g) in with the ground almond mixture to create a thick paste. Place the other half (remaining 80g) in a clean bowl (or bowl of  a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff peaks.
  6. Take your sugar syrup (which should now be at 115c) and, while whisking on a high speed, pour it into your stiff egg whites in a slow stream. Your egg whites will become smooth and glossy (as you would expect from meringue). Now continue whisking for about 5 minutes until the bowl has cooled down to room temperature.
  7. Take 1/3 of this cooled meringue and stir it into the almond paste to loosen the consistency. Once well mixed add the remaining meringue and fold, very gently, until you have a mixture which is thick enough to be piped without running but not so thick that the meringue isn’t fully incorporated.
  8. Pile the mixture into a piping bag and snip the end off (about 1cm diameter). Take your macaroon template and pipe vertically (not at an angle) into each circle. Be sure to leave a tiny bit of space for spreading. I find that working quickly is best for consistency as you develop a bit of a rhythm.
  9. Once you’ve piped all your circles lift the trays a few inches off the work surface and drop them down a few times- this eliminates air bubbles. Now leave them for an hour to form a bit of a skin before baking. Preheat the oven to 140c (fan).

  1. While your macaroons are forming a skin, make the chocolate cardamom ganache. To do this, put the cream in a saucepan, crack the cardamom pods and add to the pan then very gently heat. Bring to the boil then set aside to infuse for 20 minutes. Chop the chocolate finely and scrape into a heatproof bowl.
  2. Once infused, strain the cream into another saucepan and bring to scalding point (just before boiling) then pour over the chocolate. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes then stir together to form a smooth ganache. Set aside until cool and thickened.
  3. Now your macaroons will be ready to bake; they will take around 18-22 minutes but check after 15. You’re looking for a crisp top and chewy middle, and they should peel off the greaseproof when ready.
  4. Cool the macaroon shells on a wire rack when they’re baked.
  5. To assemble the macaroons, pipe the thickened ganache in a ring around one shell and place a raspberry in the middle, then sandwich with another shell. Decorate with drizzled chocolate, edible gold paint and freeze dried raspberries.

Enjoy!

Cherry and White Chocolate Brownies

These fudgy brownies incite frenzied eating in my house; they barely saw the light of day when I made them last and half my family were out… It’s hardly surprising they are so addictive though- white chocolate matches brilliantly with fresh cherry compote (particularly when accompanied by a very generous glug of slightly unseasonal brandy).

Ingredients:

For the compote:

  • 300g cherries (stones removed)
  • 2tbsp caster sugar
  • 1tbsp water
  • large glug brandy (this amount is totally down to your taste)

For the brownies:

  • 300g dark chocolate
  • 200g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • caster sugar
  • 225g plain flour
  • 200g white chocolate chunks

Method:

  1. Start by making the compote. Roughly chop the cherries. Place in a pan along with the sugar, water and brandy. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the cherries become soft and the syrupy liquid starts to thicken (about 10 minutes). Once the consistency is somewhat jam-like, taste and add more brandy if you like (you can leave out the brandy entirely if it’s not your jam- ha.). Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a brownie tin (around 22x22cm is perfect).
  3. Place the butter and dark chocolate in a  heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water (don’t let the water touch the base of the bowl). Stir occasionally and remove from the heat once melted together.
  4. Place the eggs and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat together until well combined.
  5. Add the chocolate mixture to the bowl and fold in followed by the flour and 2/3 of the white chocolate chunks. Tip into the lined baking tin and level out.
  6. Dollop the compote all over the surface of the brownie and finish by sprinkling on the remaining white chocolate. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the top is set but the inside is moist and a little gooey.
  7. Allow the brownie to cool completely in the tin then slice up and serve.

Enjoy!

Orange, Dark Chocolate, Pistachio and Cardamom Cookies

This recipe takes the classic chewy chocolate cookie and turns it into something altogether more grown up with a little help from crushed pistachios, orange zest, dark chocolate chunks and ground cardamom. Stash them away from kids (and other adults- let’s be honest) and enjoy when you’ve got a quiet moment to yourself, preferably with a strong coffee.

Ingredients (makes 20-24 large cookies)

  • 225g butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 150g dark brown soft sugar
  • zest 1 orange
  • 1tsp ground cardamom (or 8-10 cardamom pods, crushed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 300g plain flour
  • pinch sea salt
  • 300g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Place the butter, sugars, zest and ground cardamom in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until light and fluffy using electric beaters (or a wooden spoon if you’re slightly mad/ less lazy than me).
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, tip in the pistachios and stir. Now sift the bicarbonate of soda, flour and salt into the batter and beat briefly to form a soft dough.
  3. Finally, add the chocolate chunks and stir with a spoon to evenly distribute. The dough won’t be firm and to make cooking easier I like to freeze it before baking. To do this simply lay a long rectangle of cling film across your work surface, spoon on the dough in a long line and roll up, shaping into a log. Chill for half an hour and at this stage preheat the oven to 180c and line some baking trays.
  4. Once your cookie dough logs have firmed up a bit, unwrap them and cut into slices (about 1.5 cm thick). Place the slices on the prepared baking trays with generous spaces between them for spreading (I usually put about 4 on each tray).
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden but still soft and chewy in the middle. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Raisin Brownies

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.

Ingredients:

  • 250g dark chocolate
  • 250g butter
  • 275 caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • large pinch salt
  • 125g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 125g chocolate covered raisins

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a brownie tin.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Leave to cool in the tin then slice into squares and enjoy!

Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Roll

Yes this is really a roulade but I can’t bring myself to type that word (in my head it’s associated with hostess trolleys, raspberry pink table runners and, worst of all, glace cherries), so let’s settle on meringue roll. Regardless of the terminology though, this is delicious; hazelnut studded meringue, smooth milk chocolate cream, dark chocolate ganache and to top it off, caramel covered hazelnuts- it’s pretty much a guaranteed winner (plus it’s not as complicated to make as it looks, providing you’ve got a good whisk… or guns of steel).

Ingredients:

For the meringue:

  • 100g hazelnuts
  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 50g icing sugar

For the chocolate filling:

  • 400ml double cream
  • 3tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3tbsp icing sugar

For the topping:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • handful hazelnuts
  • 100g caster sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a 20cm x 30cm (roughly) shallow baking tin with a little butter then line with greaseproof paper. Set aside.
  2. Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until golden brown. Once golden cool a little then blitz in a food processor to create a corse crumb texture. Set aside to cool for later.
  3. Whisk the egg whites to form medium peaks then add the caster sugar  in three additions, whisking well between each. Once you’ve added all the sugar continue to whisk until the meringue reaches stiff peaks, then add the crushed and cooled hazelnuts. Fold the nuts in carefully then tip the meringue into your prepared tin. Spread out evenly to the edges with a spatula or palette knife. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it has some light colour.
  4. When your meringue is ready, place on a wire rack and leave to cool in the tin. Dust the icing sugar in an even layer over a large rectangle of greaseproof paper, ready for when you turn out the meringue.
  5. While the meringue is cooling, make the chocolate cream filling. To do this sift the cocoa and icing sugar into the double cream and whisk to soft peaks with electric beaters.
  6. When the meringue has cooled turn out onto the prepared paper. Spread the chocolate cream all over the surface, leaving a gap of about 1cm around the edge.
  7. Using the paper to help you, roll up the roulade lengthways. I always find it’s easier if you do this away from you, using the paper to help tease up the meringue. It will crack, but don’t worry, it’s meant to!
  8. When your roll is complete, make the ganache. To do this just chop up the dark chocolate and place in a bowl, then heat the cream to just below boiling and pour directly over it. Leave it to melt together then give it a stir to completely combine. Set aside to thicken a little then pipe down the centre of your roll.
  9. For a final (completely optional) flourish, pour the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently. Allow the sugar to melt (do not stir, just swirl), then take it to a golden amber colour. Once it reaches this colour remove it from the heat and keep an eye on it’s consistency. Once it thickens and begins to form sugary threads, dip the whole hazelnuts in and pull out to create spiky caramel coated nuts- the perfect decoration!

Enjoy!

One For the Kids: Easter Tiffin Nests

I’m sure lots of you could make these little treats with your eyes closed, but that’s not to say the end result isn’t absolutely delicious and for me, very nostalgic. Calling for only a few ingredients and with barely any skill required, these are the perfect thing to make with children over Easter- they (and you, be real) will love mixing together the melted chocolate with their favourite biscuits, and who doesn’t get worked up into a frenzy over mini eggs?!

Ingredients (makes 12):

For the tiffin base: 200g dark chocolate, 100g butter, 1tbsp golden syrup, pinch salt, 200g your favourite crushed biscuits (I used ginger snaps)

For the nest topping: 200g crumbled up shredded wheat, 150g milk chocolate (melted), mini eggs

Method:

  1. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases. Place the dark chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted then remove from the heat and add the biscuits and salt. Stir to coat then distribute the mix between the cupcake cases. Smooth down and chill for half an hour.
  2. While the tiffin bases are firming up, stir together the melted milk chocolate and crumbled shredded wheat until it resembles little twigs.
  3. Take the chilled bases and top with a spoonful of the chocolate coated shredded wheat. Make a little dip in the centre and press in three mini eggs.
  4. Chill the complete nests for a further half an hour then remove the cupcake cases and serve!

Enjoy!