It will come as no surprise to find out that I’m partial to a chocolate brownie, and having tried a fair few, I can safely say this variety (which I threw together as an experiment and didn’t have particularly high expectations for) is now a firm favourite. With a blackberry and cherry compote core and hazelnut praline top, these moist and deeply chocolatey bars deliver the dense, moist texture you expect from a great brownie, but also carry a welcome tang and contrasting crunch which make them a little different and perfect for late summer.
For the hazelnut praline
150g blanched hazelnuts
150g caster sugar
Generous pinch sea salt
For the black forest fruit filling
400g fresh or frozen black forest fruits (blackberries, cherries, blackcurrants- choose one or use a combination depending on your preference/availability)
2tbsp caster sugar
Zest and juice 1 lemon
4tbsp kirsch (optional)
For the brownie batter
250g butter, cubed
250g dark chocolate
100g dark brown soft sugar
100g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
large pinch sea salt
100g plain flour
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Before you make the brownie batter, prepare the fillings. Start with the hazelnut praline; to make this simply place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently until it forms a caramel (don’t stir, just swirl the pan to move the sugar around). Once the caramel has taken on a golden colour, add the hazelnuts and stir to coat. Scrape the contents of the pan onto a baking paper lined tray and spread out in an even layer. Leave to harden.
To make the black forest filling, place 300g of the fruit in a saucepan along with the caster sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and kirsch (if using). Heat gently until the berries release their juices, then increase the heat to medium and, stirring occasionally, reduce to a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
The caramel will now have hardened around the hazelnuts. Break it up into pieces and place in a food processor, then blitz until you’ve got a coarse crumble (don’t over blitz, you want a little texture to remain).
Now it’s time to make the brownie batter. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line a 20x20cm brownie tin. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and melt together over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.
While the chocolate mixture cools, place the sugars, salt, eggs and egg yolk in a stand mixer (or in a large bowl) and beat until very light and voluminous (it will pretty much double in size).
Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate mix down the side of the bowl and fold in using a large metal spoon, then add the flour and do the same until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Now add the chocolate chunks and stir through to evenly distribute.
Tip half the mix into the brownie tin and level off. Scrape in the black forest filling and sprinkle over most of the hazelnut praline. Top with the rest of the brownie batter then, finally, scatter on the remaining fruits and praline.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
When it’s ready, the brownie will have a crisp top but will wobble slightly when shaken and have a gooey texture inside. Set aside to cool (completely) in the tin then once it’s set up a little, remove, slice up and serve.
This cake, decorated with whimsical blooms from the Eloisebouquet by Bloom and Wild,is made up of four layers of moist hazelnut sponge soaked in lavender honey syrup, filled with a fresh blackberry compote and covered in delicately flavoured lavender mascarpone cream. The bouquet is inspired by a summer meadow, so it seemed only right to pick out some of my favourite ingredients the British countryside has to offer for this recipe; together the balance of nutty, floral and fruity flavours are delicious. Try this one out in August/September for a really special seasonal centre piece.
For the lavender honey syrup (this is used to soak the sponges and flavour the mascarpone icing)
100ml runny honey
4 sprigs fresh lavender or 1tbsp dried lavender
For the blackberry compote
400g fresh blackberries
3tbsp runny honey
Zest and juice 1 lemon
For the hazelnut sponges
350g soft unsalted butter
325g light brown soft sugar
200g ground hazelnuts (to make these just blitz 200g blanched hazelnuts in a food processor until fine)
150g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
For the lavender mascarpone cream
3-4tbsp of the lavender honey
350ml double cream
To garnish (optional)
The Eloise bouquet by Bloom and Wild
Crushed and toasted hazelnuts
Start by making the lavender honey (to give it time to develop in flavour). To do this just place the honey, water and lavender (whichever sort you’re using) in a saucepan and gently heat until the honey has dissolved into the water. Once this has happened, simmer for 2 minutes then set aside and leave to infuse until required
Now make the blackberry compote by gently heating the blackberries, honey, lemon zest and juice in a saucepan. Stir occasionally, until the blackberries release their juices and reduce down to form a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Place the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating very well between each addition (add a tablespoon of the flour each time to prevent curdling). Once all the eggs are well incorporated, fold in the ground hazelnuts, remaining flour, baking powder and salt with a large metal spoon.
Divide the mix between the prepared tins and level the tops. Bake for 35-40 minutes (or until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted). Once baked, prick the surfaces of the cakes with a fork and spoon over 3-4tbsp of the lavender honey syrup, then leave to cool completely in the tins.
While the cakes are cooling, make the lavender mascarpone cream. Put all the ingredients in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until thick and spreadable. Scrape half the mixture into a piping bag. Now you’re ready to assemble the cake (providing all your elements are completely cool!).
To put the cake together, slice the sponges in half horizontally (so you have four even layers). Place the first layer down on your chosen plate and pipe a thick ring of mascarpone cream around the edge, then fill the middle with one third of the blackberry compote and repeat this until you’ve stacked up all four layers. With the remaining mascarpone cream, cover the cake and smooth with a palette knife. Decorate with blooms from the Eloise bouquet or freestyle with hazelnuts, fresh blackberries and lavender.
This recipe is the first in a two part collaboration with Bloom and Wild, the letterbox flower delivery service. They’ve recently launched a collection of bouquets inspired by three well recognised destinations we all associate with summer; the tropics, the meadow and the desert. This week I’m going all club tropicana with the Ines, a bouquet inspired by the flora and fauna of, you guessed it, the tropics. The cake I’ve created to reflect this theme boasts four coconut sponge layers, a filling of caramelised pineapple and rum caramel, and a lime cream cheese frosting. It really delivers on flavour and if you’re throwing a birthday party any time soon would be a great centre piece… Also, the UK feels like the tropics at the moment anyway so you might as well go the whole hog and theme your baking accordingly (nearly went a whole post without mentioning the weather there… NEARLY).
For the coconut sponges
350g unsalted butter, softened
350g caster sugar
zest and juice 2 limes
350g self raising flour
50g desiccated coconut
100g coconut yoghurt
For the caramelised pineapple filling
1 ripe pineapple
75g soft dark brown sugar
50g unsalted butter, cubed
For the rum caramel (this will leave you with a little left over- keep in the fridge for a few days and use on ice cream!)
200g caster sugar
85g butter, cubed
125ml double cream
spiced rum, to taste (I used 2 shots)
generous pinch sea salt
For the cream cheese icing
125g unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
200g cream cheese (full fat)
zest 2 limes
For decoration (optional)
the Ines bouquet by Bloom and Wild
toasted coconut shavings
rum caramel drips
Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins. Preheat the oven to 160c.
Start off by making the sponges. Place the butter, caster sugar and lime zest/juice in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat together until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a spoonful of the flour every now and then if you’re worried about curdling).
Once the eggs are well incorporated, add the flour, salt and desiccated coconut and fold carefully with a large metal spoon. Finally, fold through the coconut yoghurt.
Scrape the batter into the two cake tins and level off the tops. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the sponges are golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked, set aside to cool in the tins.
Increase the oven temperature to 180c. Slice the pineapple into even chunks, discarding the skin and central core. Soften the butter slightly and mix together with the sugar. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and dot over half the butter mixture then place the pineapple pieces over the top in one layer. Top with the remaining butter mixture then place another piece of greaseproof paper on top and finally, add another baking tray to weight it down. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then turn the pineapple pieces over and cook for another 15 minutes (or until golden and caramelised). Once caramelised, roughly crush the pineapple then set aside and leave to cool completely.
While the cakes and pineapple are cooling, make the rum caramel. To do this simply tip the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and gently heat until it melts (do not stir, just swirl the pan occasionally). Once the sugar has melted, allow it to reach a deep golden colour then add in the butter and stir (it will spit a little so be careful). Now add the cream and stir again. Cook out for a further 2 minutes on the heat, then remove from the hob, add the rum and stir once more. Set aside to cool.
Finally, make the cream cheese icing. Place the butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until light and smooth. Add half the icing sugar and beat again (cover the bowl with a clean damp tea towel to avoid an icing sugar explosion) until well combined, then add the rest along with the lime zest. Once these ingredients are well combined, add the cream cheese and beat until smooth.
Once all the elements are cool, it’s time to assemble the cake. To do this slice both sponges in half horizontally (so you have four even layers) and place the first down on your serving plate of choice. Mix half the rum caramel in with the pineapple (reserve the rest for drips). Pipe a ring of cream cheese around the edge of this layer and fill the middle with your pineapple mixture. Repeat until you’ve used up all your sponges then spread a light layer of cream cheese icing all over the cake. Chill for 10 minutes (to catch all the crumbs) then spread the rest of the icing on neatly. Finish with the flowers, or alternatively use toasted coconut and lime zest.
We’ve been enjoying a very unusual bout of beautiful hot weather here in the UK, so today’s recipe is an iced one. I served this up for my boyfriends birthday (after he broke the news to me that he didn’t want a cake- yeah, sacrilege I know) and although it requires a little more effort to make than a simple sponge, the creamy, indulgent and slightly bittersweet (thanks to the tahini and very dark chocolate) result is well worth it.
For the chocolate ripple
150g bitter dark chocolate
150ml double cream
pinch sea salt
For the cherry compote
200g fresh cherries (de-stoned)
3tbsp honey or caster sugar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
For the parfait base
75g caster sugar
125ml whole milk
250ml double cream
For the tahini crumble
25g demerara sugar
25g butter, cubed
100g plain flour
1tbsp black sesame seeds
Start by making the chocolate ganache for the ripple. To do this simply place the chocolate, salt and cream in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl). Stir occasionally until it melts together and forms a smooth ganache. Set aside to cool.
Now prepare the cherry compote. Put the cherries, honey (or sugar), orange zest and juice in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a sticky compote consistency (5-10 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
Now it’s time to make the parfait base. Line a loaf tin with 2 layers of cling film, leaving an overhang on all sides.
Separate the eggs. Put the yolks in a large bowl along with the sugar and whisk until pale, meanwhile, heat the milk until just boiling in a saucepan. Remove the milk from the heat and pour into the egg yolks, then stir together until smooth. Return the mix to a clean pan and gently heat, stirring constantly. After a few minutes, the mix will start to thicken- once it coats the back of the spoon set aside and cool to room temperature.
Once the ganache, compote and custard have cooled to room temperature, whisk the double cream to soft peaks. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to medium peaks. Stir the tahini into the egg yolk mixture. Fold the double cream into the egg yolk/ tahini with a large metal spoon, then do the same with the egg whites, retaining as much air as possible. Ripple through 2/3 of the chocolate ganache and 2/3 of the cherry compote.
Spoon the remaining chocolate ganache and cherry compote into the bottom of the prepared tin, then spoon in the parfait mix. Cover with cling film and freeze for at least 4 hours.
While the parfait is freezing, make the sesame crumble. Preheat the oven to 180c. Rub together the butter and flour until they resemble breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar and tahini, then tip onto a lined baking tray- bake for 10 minutes then check, shake and return to the oven to 10 more minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown. Stir through the sesame seeds and set aside to cool.
Take the parfait out of the oven 10 minutes before you’d like to serve it to allow it to soften slightly. Sprinkle on the sesame crumble and finish with some fresh cherries.
Light, buttery sponge flavoured with lemon, tart pockets of soft, juicy gooseberries, and a generous swirl of elderflower mascarpone make up this simple summer cake and ode to the British countryside.
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
zest 2 lemons
1tsp vanilla extract
225g self raising flour
75g ground almonds
1tsp baking powder
250g gooseberries (blueberries, blackberries or raspberries would also work well)
3tbsp elderflower cordial
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 9 inch cake tin.
Place the butter, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and beat until very light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add a little flour if you’re worried about curdling.
Once all the eggs are well incorporated, fold in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder. Trim the tops and stalks of the gooseberries then fold them through the cake batter.
Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin and level off the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is springy and golden (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted). Once baked, leave the cake to cool completely in the tin.
Meanwhile, whisk together the mascarpone, elderflower and honey. When the cake is cool, swirl the mascarpone over the cake and decorate with fresh flowers.
Make the most of the fleeting cherry season with this deliciously indulgent ode to my favourite things (chocolate and cherries). Great for a summer dinner party dessert or post-BBQ chocolate fix, this tart layers up cherry compote, orange blossom infused chocolate filling and cardamom cream, all encased in crisp, zesty pastry; you’d be hard pushed to find someone who’d turn down a slice.
For the pastry
225g plain flour
150g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
50g caster sugar
zest 1 orange
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
For the cherry layer
400g cherries (de-stoned)
2tbsp caster sugar
zest and juice 1 orange
2tbsp cherry molasses (optional)
For the chocolate filling
125ml double cream
zest 1 orange
2tsp orange blossom extract
300g dark chocolate
1 egg plus 3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
For the cardamom cream (optional)
200ml double cream
1tsp ground cardamom
2tbsp icing sugar
To decorate (optional)
edible flowers, petals only
Grease a 20cm deep tart tin lightly with butter.
Before you make the pastry, flavour the cream for the chocolate filling. To do this just pop the double cream, butter, orange zest and orange blossom extract in a saucepan and heat until the butter has melted and starts to gently simmer. Set aside until required.
Place the plain flour, butter and salt in a food processor and whizz on a pulse setting until they resemble breadcrumbs. Tip this mix into a large bowl and stir through the caster sugar and orange zest. Briefly whisk together the egg and egg yolk and add to the bowl then stir with a cutlery knife to form pastry. Once it all comes together in big lumps, shape it into one large disc (handling as little as possible) and wrap in cling film. Chill for about an hour or until the pastry is a little firmer. Preheat the oven to 180c.
While the pastry is chilling, make the cherry filling. To do this just place the de-stoned cherries, caster sugar, orange zest and juice, and the cherry molasses (if using- this is optional but it really helps intensify the cherry flavour) in a saucepan. Heat gently until the cherries release their juices, then up the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are sticky and resemble a compote.
Once the pastry has firmed up, roll out to about 3mm thick on a well floured surface. Line the tart tin with the pastry, ensuring that you push it into the corners and flutes. Trim any overhanging pastry and chill for 20 minutes.
When your pastry is sufficiently chilled, line with baking paper, fill with baking beans and blind bake for 10-15 minutes until the walls of the tart case can support themselves. At this stage remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes or until the pastry is completely cooked through with no grey, raw areas of pastry remaining. Set aside.
Now make the chocolate filling. Gently melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Meanwhile, remove the orange zest from the cream mixture and heat up. Once the chocolate has melted pour the cream into the bowl and briefly stir to combine, then set aside to cool a little. Put the egg, yolks and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk until very thick, pale and voluminous (5-6 minutes). Add a large spoonful of this to the chocolate and mix in, then add the rest and carefully fold.
To assemble the tart, tip the cherry compote into the pastry case and spread out in an even layer, then scrape the chocolate filling on top. Bake for 15 minutes then leave to cool completely in the tin (it should have a little wobble).
While the tart is cooling, make the cardamom cream. To do this simply whisk together the icing sugar, cream and ground cardamom until soft peaks form.
You can enjoy the tart at this stage- it will have a very fudgy, mousse like texture. If you chill the tart it will have a slightly different, but still delicious, texture (the cold will set it a little firmer, like a conventional chocolate tart). However you serve your tart, top it with a spoonful of cardamom cream and fresh cherries.
With a light baked ricotta filling studded with fresh raspberries, crunchy almond-oat base and griddled peach topping, these cheesecake bars pay homage to 90s peach melba, and make for the perfect summer dessert.
Preheat the oven to 160c and grease and line a 22x22cm baking tin. Place the digestives, demerara sugar and cinnamon in a food processor and blitz into crumbs. Add in the melted butter, almonds and oats and very briefly blitz again to combine- don’t over mix here, you want a nice crunchy base. Tip this mixture into the prepared tin and pack down with the back of a spoon. Chill for 15 minutes then bake for 10 minutes to set. Once baked set aside for later.
Now make the filling. To do this simply whisk together the ricotta, golden caster sugar, corn flour and vanilla until very smooth, then add in the egg and egg yolk one at a time, whisking between each addition to bring the mixture together again. Lastly, whisk in the yoghurt. Roughly break up the raspberries with the back of a fork and tip them in. Ripple them through then scrape all the filling onto the base. Place the tin into another larger roasting tin and fill with water (about half way up the sides of your baking tin). Bake for 1 hour or until the cheesecake is set but still has a uniform wobble.
Once baked, leave the cheesecake to cool completely then chill for 4-6 hours to set.
While the cheesecake is chilling, lightly oil a griddle pan and slice the peaches into wedges. Heat the pan and char the slices on each side, then leave to cool.
When your cheesecake has set, just remove it from the tin, slice into 12 bars (use a hot knife for this and you will get a cleaner result) and top with the griddled peach slices, extra raspberries and nuts.