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!

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!

Rhubarb and Lime Sorbet (No Churn)

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!).

Ingredients:

  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 500ml water
  • 400g rhubarb, sliced into 4 inch lengths
  • zest and juice 3 limes
  • 1 egg white (optional)

Method:

  1. 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.
  2. Remove the rhubarb from the saucepan and place in a food processor along with the lime juice.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Freeze again and use as required.

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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