First off, apologies for the brief recipe hiatus. I’ve recently moved house and have been trying to figure out the perfect temperature to bake with in my new (incredibly retro) gas oven. And no, it’s not been as simple as converting degrees to gas marks- this oven has its own special way of working (i.e. it’s lukewarm for the majority of settings until the last when it turns into Mordor and burns everything in sight). Anyway I think I’ve cracked it now, so here’s my first recipe a la 1980s oven; tahini and pistachio brownies. They’re really simple to make but deliver everything you’d expect from a really good brownie- a dense, moist texture with added crunch from the pistachios and a deep indulgent chocolate flavour, which is definitely enhanced by the slightly salty, nutty pockets of tahini and halva.
250g good quality dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter
250g golden caster sugar
generous pinch sea salt
150g plain flour
100g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
75g chopped pistachios
100g halva, crumbled
100g tahini, well stirred
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 22x22cm brownie tray.
Place the dark chocolate and the butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the base of the bowl or the chocolate will burn). Melt gently, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little.
In a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) whisk together the golden caster sugar and eggs until pale and voluminous (about 3-5 minutes). Fold in the cooled chocolate mixture followed by the sea salt and flour. Add the milk chocolate and dark chocolate chunks and most of the pistachios (reserve a few for sprinkling on the top) then stir.
Tip half the brownie mix into the prepared tin then dollop over half the tahini and sprinkle on half the halva. Top with the rest of the brownie mix and repeat, then finish with the reserved pistachios.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the middle is almost set but retains a slight wobble. Set aside to cool completely in the tin.
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
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
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):
120g caster sugar
60g golden syrup
1 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
Preheat the oven to 170c (325F / gas mark 3). Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
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.
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).
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.
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.
While your cakes are cooking and cooling you can get on with the filling, ganache and honeycomb toppers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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).
For the compote:
300g cherries (stones removed)
2tbsp caster sugar
large glug brandy (this amount is totally down to your taste)
For the brownies:
300g dark chocolate
225g plain flour
200g white chocolate chunks
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.
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a brownie tin (around 22x22cm is perfect).
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.
Place the eggs and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat together until well combined.
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.
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.
Allow the brownie to cool completely in the tin then slice up and serve.
Zesty lime and fiery ginger make for a winning combination in this super simple cake (and I don’t know about you, but I’ve been yearning for a taste of something summery recently). For all out sunshine vibes decorate with edible yellow flowers (I’ve used violas), lime zest and crystallised ginger.
250g soft butter
250g light brown soft sugar
2tbsp golden syrup
250g self raising flour
2tbsp ground ginger
1tsp baking powder
75g chopped stem ginger (in syrup)
For the lime drizzle: 75g caster sugar, juice 4 limes
For the lime cream cheese frosting: 50g soft butter, 150g cream cheese, 400g icing sugar, zest 3 limes
Preheat the oven to 160c (fan). Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then mix in the golden syrup. Add the eggs one at a time along with a tablespoon of the flour. Mix well and scrape down the sides of the bowl between each addition.
Once the eggs have been incorporated, sift over the remaining flour, ginger, baking powder and salt; fold in the sifted ingredients followed by the stem ginger then transfer the batter into the prepared tin. Level out and bake for 35-40 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
While the cake is cooking, make the lime syrup. To do this simply place the juice and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil for a minute then remove from the heat and set aside.
When the cake is ready, prick all across the surface with a skewer and pour over the lime syrup so it sinks deep into the cake. Leave to cool while you make the lime cream cheese frosting.
To make the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until smooth, then add the icing sugar slowly while continuously whisking. Whisk until light and smooth then add the lime zest and a drop of milk if the consistency is a little stiff.
To assemble the cake, cover neatly with the frosting then decorate with extra lime zest, crystallised ginger, herbs and edible flowers.
Alternating layers of brown sugar cake and chocolate sponge sandwiched with peanut buttercream, chopped peanuts, salted caramel sauce and chocolate ganache make up this look-at-me celebration cake (and ode to the Snickers bar)… A bit of a project? Yes. Worth it? Definitely!
For the chocolate sponge:
50g dark chocolate (melted and cooled)
250g soft butter
250g soft light brown sugar
100g cocoa powder
250g plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
For the brown sugar sponge:
165g dark brown soft sugar
150g self raising flour
20g melted butter
60ml boiling water
For the peanut buttercream:
150g smooth peanut butter
100g soft butter
500g icing sugar
For the ganache:
100g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
200ml double cream
For the salted caramel:
150g caster sugar
pinch salt (to taste)
75ml double cream
For decoration (optional):
chopped Snickers bars
thin ganache to create drips
Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins ready for the chocolate cake layers.
To make the chocolate cake, cream together the butter, sugar and salt.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Now sift in about two thirds of the cocoa, flour and baking powder. Fold, then incorporate the melted chocolate with the same gentle action.
Fold in the rest of the dry ingredients followed by the milk. Distribute this batter between the two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
Line the cake tins again and increase the oven temperature to 170c. Now you’re ready to make the brown sugar sponge layers!
To make this sponge place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) then whisk until light and voluminous (about 10 minutes). Sift in the flour and fold, then add the melted butter and boiling water to the side of the bowl. Fold very gently to retain the air then distribute between the tins. Bake for 25-30 minutes until springy (or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted).
When the brown sugar sponges are cooked, cool in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack. You should now have four cake layers (two chocolate and two brown sugar) and are ready to make the fillings.
Start off by making the caramel. Just place the sugar and water in a heavy bottom saucepan and gently heat to dissolve the sugar (do not boil or stir, just be patient!). After the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and boil for a few minutes; once the syrup reaches a deep amber colour remove from the heat and whisk in the cream (be careful as it will spit a little). Set aside to cool slightly then stir in the salt.
For the ganache simply chop up the chocolate and transfer to a jug or bowl. Heat the cream to just below boiling point and pour all over, allowing the chocolate to slowly melt. After a couple of minutes, stir the mixture to achieve a lovely smooth, glossy consistency. Set aside.
Finally, for the peanut buttercream beat the peanut butter and butter together with electric beaters (or a stand mixer). Once well combined continue whisking while you add the icing sugar a little at a time. Once you’ve added all the icing sugar increase the speed and add the milk; whisk until very light, fluffy and smooth.
To assemble the cakes stack a chocolate layer with ganache and salted caramel, followed by a brown sugar layer. Repeat this process then cover the entire cake with peanut butter icing. You can be as neat as you like! Decorate with peanuts, Snickers pieces and chocolate shards (more is more in this case!).
This indulgent ginger and date pudding is made for those miserable winter evenings where you just want to curl up and watch a film with a bowl of something warm, comforting and nostalgic…
225g soft dark brown sugar
70g black treacle
165g golden syrup
200g pitted dates
200ml boiling water
350g plain flour
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tbsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp mixed spice
For the sauce: 100g dark brown sugar, 75g butter, 50ml maple syrup, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a pudding dish (or chosen vessel) with butter.
Roughly chop the dates and place in a small bowl, then pour over the boiling water. While the dates are soaking, melt the butter, sugar, treacle and syrup in a large saucepan. Once melted, add the soaked dates and water. Stir together.
Now gradually pour in the milk. Stir together until well combined. Set aside.
Sift the plain flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle and break in the eggs. Briefly mix the eggs to break up then gradually add the melted ingredients from the saucepan. Stir together with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared dish and bake for 40-50 minutes (or until a skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs attached when inserted).
While the pudding is cooking, make the butterscotch sauce. To do this simply place the sugar, butter and syrups in a small saucepan and melt together until gently bubbling, then remove from the heat and stir in the cream and salt.
Serve the pudding warm with a generous helping of sauce and vanilla ice cream.
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.