cooks

Gooseberry and Elderflower Layer Cake

Layers of zesty elderflower sponge sandwiched together with tart gooseberry compote and lightly whipped elderflower cream make up this delicious nod to the British countryside. Bake it for a special mid-summer occasion or round off a Sunday lunch with a generous slice.

Ingredients:

  • 275g soft butter
  • 275g caster sugar
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 5 eggs
  • 275g self raising flour
  • 3-4tbsp elderflower cordial

For the gooseberry compote:

  • 500g fresh (or frozen and defrosted) gooseberries
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 50ml water

For the elderflower cream:

  • 600ml double cream
  • 4-5tbsp elderflower cordial
  • 1-2tbsp icing sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  2. Place the butter, sugar and zest in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy.
  3. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition to ensure they are fully incorporated. Now tip in the elderflower cordial and briefly mix once more to distribute it evenly through the batter.
  4. Sift over the flour and fold in with a large metal spoon. Split the mixture between the two prepared tins and level out. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
    While the cakes are baking, make the gooseberry compote. Put the gooseberries, sugar and water in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruits are soft and a loose compote has formed (10-15 minutes).
  5. When the cakes are ready, leave to cool completely in the tins. While they cool, make the elderflower cream. To do this simply whisk together the cream, cordial and sugar until soft peaks form.
  6. Once all your elements are cool, assemble the cake. Spread a generous layer of compote and several dollops of elderflower cream between each sponge, then finish with a few sprigs of elderflower for a simple, effortless summer pudding.

Enjoy!

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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!

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.

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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!

Lemon Melting Moments

I’ve made a chocolate and orange blossom variation of these biscuits before and they were so popular I thought I’d experiment with another flavour. This time I’ve gone for lightly flavoured lemon biscuits (which are super crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth) sandwiched together with lemon buttercream and a really zingy lemon curd; the end result is (unsurprisingly) zesty and really delicious- give them a try.

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Ingredients (makes 8-10 sandwiches):

  • 175g soft butter
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 60g corn flour
  • 185g plain flour
  • zest 1 lemon

For the lemon curd: 100g caster sugar, 2 lemons (juice and zest), 50g butter, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk

For the lemon buttercream: 65g soft butter, 175g icing sugar, juice and zest 1 lemon

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160c. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream together the butter, icing sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Sift in the corn flour and plain flour then briefly mix until a dough forms (don’t over mix or you won’t achieve that melty texture you’re after in the final biscuit).
  3. Take the dough a tablespoon at a time and roll into balls. Line onto the prepared baking trays and press down with the back of a fork to create a lined texture. Chill for half an hour.
  4. While the biscuits are chilling make the lemon curd. To do this place the sugar, lemon juice, zest and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally, allowing the butter to melt. Once the butter has melted allow to cool slightly then add in the egg and egg yolk. Whisk together.
  5. Set the bowl back over the pan and gently mix for about 10 minutes until the heat thickens the curd. Remove from the heat and cool.
  6. Once your biscuits have chilled and are firm, bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool on the trays.
  7. While the biscuits are cooling, make the buttercream. Whisk the butter up to lighten then gradually add the icing sugar and beat until you have a fluffy texture. Add in the lemon juice and zest then briefly whisk to combine.
  8. When the biscuits are cooled, pair them up. Pipe a ring of buttercream on one and spoon some lemon curd into the middle. Sandwich together with the other biscuit.

 

Enjoy!

Carrot Cake with Pecan Brittle

This cake is a straight forward throw-it-all-in, mix, bake and frost situation (but tastes uh-mazing). The pecan brittle is optional but I think the nutty crunch and slightly bitter caramel really adds to the spiced sponge and tangy cream cheese frosting- definitely a winner!

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Ingredients:

  • 225ml vegetable oil
  • 225g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g grated carrot
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp ginger
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2tsp mixed spice
  • 75g chopped pecans
  • For the brittle: 100g caster sugar, 100g pecans, pinch salt
  • For the frosting: 80g butter, 250g full fat cream cheese, 400g icing sugar, zest 1 lemon

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a square brownie tray (about 22x22cm).
  2. Place the oil, sugar, eggs and grated carrot in a large mixing bowl and briefly whisk to combine. Now sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt and mixed spice and beat together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Fold in the pecans.
  3. Tip this mixture into the square tin and bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
  4. While the cake is cooking, make the brittle. To do this simply place the pecans and sugar in a  heavy bottom pan and gently heat until the sugar melts (don’t stir but swirl the pan occasionally). Once the sugar has melted allow it to reach deep golden brown then pour onto a piece of greaseproof paper and allow to set hard and cool.
  5. Once your cake is cooked and cooling on a rack (in the tin), make the frosting. Beat the butter until smooth then add the cream cheese and whisk until combined. Gradually pour in the icing sugar and continue to whisk for a few minutes- you should achieve light smooth consistency. Stir in the lemon zest last.
  6. Turn the cake out of the tin once it’s cooled and level off if necessary. Spread a generous layer of the cream cheese frosting all over then break up the brittle and sprinkle on.
  7. Slice up and serve (and try to resist coming back for a second piece).

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Mince Pie Bars

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!

Ingredients:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 140g butter
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3tbsp water
  • 1 jar good quality mince meat (optional: add the zest of 1 orange and a handful chopped walnuts to it)
  • 150g butter
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 75g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • handful flaked almonds
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1tbsp brandy
  • 2tbsp icing sugar (plus extra for dusting)

 

Method:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Reduce the oven temperature to 170c.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

 

Gluten Free Chocolate & Almond Cake

This chocolate cake is rich, moist, easy to make and even gluten free! I’ve used ground almonds where I would usually reach for flour and olive oil instead of butter to create a fudgy texture and it really works. Try it yourself (you could even omit the topping to make it dairy free too!)…

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For this cake you will need: 175ml boiling water, 2tsp instant coffee granules, 80g cocoa powder, 225g ground almonds, 1tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1tsp salt, 300g golden caster sugar, 5 eggs, 225ml olive oil

And for the topping (which is optional- you could just dust with icing sugar or cocoa powder), you will need: 100g dark bittersweet chocolate, 100ml double cream, some white chocolate and a sprinkling of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 180c and grease a 20cm cake tin with butter. Place a disc of baking paper in the bottom and grease over that too.

Combine the almonds,bicarbonate of soda and salt in a small bowl.

Mix together the cocoa, coffee and boiling water in a jug and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and sugar until pale and thick. Add the cocoa mix and continue whisking until you have a fairly liquid cake batter with no streaks.

Add the almond mixture down the side of the bowl and fold in gently.

Pour into the prepped tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

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While the cake is baking, make the topping (a simple ganache). Place the cream and chocolate in a bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water (ensuring the water doesn’t touch the bowl).

Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted and remove from the heat. Leave to cool.

When the cake is cooked leave in the tin for 5 minutes then remove and cool on a wire rack. Once cooled, spread the ganache over the top then sprinkle with white chocolate scratchings and sea salt.

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Enjoy!