flowers

Ginger Spice Christmas Cake with Bloom & Wild

This four layer ginger cake filled with lightly salted toffee sauce and tangy cream cheese frosting is a great alternative to the classic Christmas fruit cake, and is usually the preferred option in my house.

The Scandi-style flowers I’ve used for decoration were sent to me by Bloom & Wild, a brilliant flower delivery company who focus on carefully selecting the best seasonal blooms. The bouquet I received ( the Sadie) is part of their Christmas range and I would definitely recommend you check out their other options; I don’t know about you, but I find it tricky to find a wide range of good quality cut flowers outside of London (I know, first world problems), so it’s great to know I can choose more unusual varieties online and have them delivered straight to my door the next day by Bloom & Wild.

I hope you like how I’ve made use of the flowers and perhaps this could inspire some other botanical themed Christmas cakes!

Ingredients:

  • 380g butter
  • 220g black treacle
  • 80g golden syrup
  • 340g dark brown soft sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 380g self raising flour
  • 3tbsp ground ginger
  • 2tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 60g soured cream
  • 6 pieces stem ginger, grated (from a jar)
  • For the toffee sauce: 50g butter, 50g dark brown soft sugar, 50g golden syrup, 75ml double cream, large pinch sea salt
  • For the cream cheese frosting: 200g unsalted butter (soft), 250g cream cheese, 900g icing sugar, seeds of 2 vanilla pods

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
  2. Place the butter, treacle, syrup and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer). Beat together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs in one at a time along with a little of the flour to prevent curdling. Mix well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, sift in the remaining flour, cinnamon and ginger. Fold gently then finally stir in the stem ginger and soured cream. Split between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 30-40 minutes.
  4. While the cakes are cooking, make the toffee sauce. Place the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Once melted pour in the cream and add the salt. Mix to create a smooth sauce then set aside to cool and thicken.
  5. Now make your cream cheese frosting. Put the butter in a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until fluffy and light in colour. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat once again until well combined. Now, still beating, gradually add the icing sugar. Once all the icing sugar has been added increase the speed and mix until the consistency is light, thick and spreadable.
  6. When the cakes are ready, a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Rest in their tins for 10 minutes then remove and leave on a wire rack until they are completely  cool.
  7. Now you are ready to assemble your layer cake. Level off the sponges as best you can then slice in two (you should be left with 4 layers). Place one layer down on your plate or cake board. Secure with some cream cheese frosting if it’s a little slippy. Now spread over a few tablespoons of the toffee sauce. Allow it to sink into the sponge then apply a thick even layer of cream cheese frosting. Top with the next sponge and repeat until the sponges are used up.
  8. With the remaining cream cheese frosting, cover the cake all over and smooth down with a cake scraper. Decorate with fresh flowers dusted in frosty edible glitter or get creative and come up with your own design to suit the occasion.

More decorating ideas: 

  • Leave the cream cheese frosting rough and decorate with mini gingerbread houses to create a snow drift scene.
  • Top with traditional/vintage Christmas cake decorations.
  • Make little white meringue kisses and cover the top of the cake with them, then dust with gold edible glitter.
  • Top with frosted fruit and rustic greenery.

Enjoy!

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Cardamom, Pistachio and White Chocolate Cake

This cake is super easy to bake and is great if you’re looking to experiment with different flavours; the cardamom adds a distinct hum of spice to the light sponge which pairs really well with the earthy pistachios and super sweet white chocolate topping.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 350g soft butter
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 375g self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed to a fine powder
  • 150ml milk
  • 100g chopped pistachios

For the topping:

  • 150g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
  • a few crushed pistachios and some dried rose petals (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 (fan). Generously grease a bundt in with butter then sprinkle over some flour. Shake to coat the edges completely then tip out any excess (this should ensure that the cake doesn’t stick).
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk  (or a stand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating between each addition (add a little bit of the flour each time if you’re worried about curdling!).
  3. Once the eggs are fully incorporated and you have a smooth mixture, add the (remaining) flour, baking powder, salt milk, and cardamom. Whisk until light and well combined.
  4. Now fold in the pistachios and scrape the batter into the prepared bundt tin. Even out and bake for 30-40 minutes.
  5. When your cake is ready a skewer should come out clean when inserted. Once cooked, rest for 5 minutes in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
  6. While your cake is cooling, melt the white chocolate gently in a heatproof bowl above a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool.
  7. Once your cake and topping have cooled you’re ready to decorate. To do this drizzle the white chocolate over the bundt and let it drip down the sides. Sprinkle with pistachios and rose petals for a simple but elegant finish.

Willie’s Cacao: Orange Blossom and Chocolate Melting Moments

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you may well have noticed that my recipes tend to be a little chocolate heavy (it is my vice- I can’t help it). With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to team up with quality chocolate makers Willie’s Cacao to create a few recipes using different ‘single estate’ bars. By doing this I want to show how different beans create different flavours in chocolate, which in turn taste best when paired with specific ingredients and foods- as with grapes in fine wines.

Willie Harcourt Cooze, founder of Willie’s Cacao, focuses on ‘single estate’ cacao; what this means is that each bar is made from beans grown in one very carefully selected location (whether that be Peru, Venezuela or Cuba etc), instead of beans of various origins going into the same chocolate. The company work in this way to highlight how growing beans in varying climates and soils result in contrasting flavoured bars.

Having experimented with three of their chocolates, I have created three recipes in which the taste of the specific cacao is (hopefully)  highlighted by my choice of flavour pairings. This experimentation has made me realise how important it is to do your research when it comes to chocolate (and any ingredients really), as these bakes have a great depth of flavour I have never achieved before with chocolate based baking.

BISCUIT 3 USE

My first recipe is for these orange blossom and chocolate melting moments. For these I used the Colombian Los Llanos single estate bar- it has fruity and floral notes so really works with the orange centre. They are made up of two buttery chocolate biscuits, a delicious chocolate ganache and an orange blossom and fresh zest buttercream.

INGREDIENTS (makes 8-10 sandwich biscuits)

For the biscuits: 175g soft butter, 60g icing sugar, 60g corn flour, 20g cocoa, 150g plain flour

For the ganache: 50g 70% Colombian Los Llanos chocolate (or another good quality dark chocolate), 50g double cream

For the orange blossom centre: zest 1 orange, 1tsp orange blossom extract, 65g soft butter, 150g icing sugar

BISCUIT 1 USE

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 160c (fan) and line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.

For the biscuits, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift in the cornflour, cocoa and plain flour then very briefly mix until smooth and combined. The less handling the biscuits have, the more buttery and crumbly they will be.

Once the dough is combined, take 1tbsp pieces and roll into balls, then line onto the prepared trays (with a little space between each). When all the dough has been used, press down on the balls with the back of a fork to create the line pattern. Chill for 10 minutes in the fridge.

Once chilled, bake for 10-12 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the fillings. For the ganache, grate the chocolate into a bowl. Heat the cream until almost bubbling then pour over the chocolate. Leave to melt for a couple of minutes then stir to combine. Set aside to cool.

For the orange buttercream, beat the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy then add the zest and extract. Stir to combine.

Fill two piping bags- one with the ganache and the other with the buttercream.

Once the biscuits are cool pipe a ring of ganache around the outer edge then fill the centre with the orange buttercream. Place another biscuit on top to create a sandwich and repeat the process until all the biscuits have been used up.

Enjoy!

BISCUIT 2 USE

I hope you like these biscuits and find cacao as interesting as I do. Look out for two more chocolate recipes this week and do give them a try, I’m really pleased with the results!

Olive Oil Plated Dessert

Last week I developed this recipe for a competition I & P Olive Oil Company are running at Leiths; the challenge was to create an Olive oil focused dessert so I just had to enter (anything sweet and I’m there). I came up with this pistachio, cardamom and olive oil tart served with yoghurt cream, powdered raspberries, baked figs and a honey and olive oil dressing… here’s to hoping they like it! Wish me luck!

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For the tart case you will need: 250g plain flour, 140g cold unsalted butter (cubed), pinch salt, 1tbsp caster sugar, 4 egg yolks mixed with 4tbsp cold water

And for the filling: 4 eggs, 180g caster sugar, 200ml olive oil, 8-10 cardamom pods, 100g ground almonds, 100g de-shelled pistachios, pinch salt, handful extra chopped pistachios 

PASTRY

Place your flour, salt, sugar and cold cubed butter in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles fine crumbs.
Tip into a bowl and add 2tbsp + 2tsp of the chilled egg/ water mixture. Vigorously mix with a cutlery knife to form large lumps of pastry. If it still looks dry, add some more liquid 1tsp at a time until you can bring it together completely (it is important to work quickly and efficiently so you do not overwork the pastry).
Once you have bought the pastry together, form a flat, round disc and wrap in clingfilm. Chill for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, very lightly grease a 20cm tart case with butter.
Once chilled, roll out your pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 3mm thickness. Line your tart tin, pushing (but not stretching) the pastry into the corners. Once lined, chill again until firm.
Preheat the oven to 200c (fan). Line the tart case with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sides are set. Once set, remove the beans and paper and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until sandy and cooked through. Leave to cool.

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FILLING

Preheat the oven to 160c (fan).
Place the pistachios in a food processor and blitz until fine. Crush the cardamom pods and remove their seeds, then grind in a pestle and mortar until you have a course powder.
Whisk the eggs and sugar using electric beaters until pale and thick. Add the olive oil and whisk again until combined.
Tip in your ground almonds, blitzed pistachios, half the cardamom and the pinch salt. Whisk again to incorporate all the ingredients then taste- add more cardamom if it is too mild (I recommend doing this as too much cardamom can be overpowering).
Spoon the filling into the cooled tart case until almost full. Sprinkle on the spare chopped pistachios. Bake for 25-30 minutes until set and golden.
Leave to cool.

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For the yoghurt and vanilla cream you will need: 100ml double cream, 200g natural yoghurt, 1 vanilla pod

And for the baked figs: 6 figs, 2tbsp olive oil, 2tbsp honey, pinch cinnamon

The drizzle: 4tbsp honey, 4tbsp olive oil

Extras: 50g pistachios, 3tbsp freeze dried raspberries, edible flowers

ACCOMPANIMENTS

For the baked figs, preheat the oven to 180c. Quarter the figs and place on a baking tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and honey and sprinkle on the cinnamon. Bake for 10 minutes.

For the yoghurt and vanilla cream, very lightly whip the double cream with the seeds of the vanilla pod (until only slightly thickened). Add the yoghurt and stir until smooth. It should have a fairly loose consistency and should not be thick.
For the honey and olive oil drizzle, simply combine the honey and oil in a small bowl, then set aside.

For the last accompaniments, just roughly chop the pistachios (these add a pop of colour) and grind the freeze dried raspberries in a pestle and mortar until fine (these add a lovely sweetness).

TO SERVE

Cut the tart into your desired shape and spread some of the cream onto the plate. Place the tart and figs on top, sprinkle on some raspberry dust and chopped pistachios then drizzle with the olive/honey oil. Garnish with edible flowers, such as violas.

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I hope you like this recipe as much as my family do- I’ve shared 2 presentation ideas too (I couldn’t decide which one I preferred!).

Enjoy!

50th Birthday Cake

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When I embarked on making this cake I was skeptical about whether or not my ambitious idea of two different cakes baked with varied frostings, flavourings and colours adorned with hand made chocolate roses would materialise… I had images of wilting roses, mutant shapes and dry sponges on my (forever anxious) mind during baking, so I am relieved with the actual result.

The ‘5’ shaped cake is a rich chocolate sponge filled with milk chocolate ganache and iced with dark chocolate ganache. The ‘0’ is made up of a nutty carrot cake which is filled and covered with cream cheese frosting. Both cakes are decorated with hand made roses- on the ‘5’ with white chocolate roses and on the ‘0’ with milk chocolate. Having never used molding chocolate before I would certainly recommend it- I prefer it to sugar paste as I find the results a bit more modern and less ‘old-fashioned-wedding-cake’.

Now comes the challenge of transportation… my least favourite part of baking for parties! A heart-in-mouth journey awaits…