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.
This Autumnal bundt cake, inspired by the humble toffee apple, is perfect for feeding a bonfire night crowd; it’s easy to make, packed with flavour and can be enjoyed hot with ice cream or cold alongside your post-fireworks drink.
For the gingerbread:
125g dark brown soft sugar
175g golden syrup
200g black treacle
4 balls stem ginger, chopped
2tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 freshly grated nutmeg
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
300g plain flour
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and chopped (about 1-2cm cubes)
For the rum caramel:
200g caster sugar
100ml double cream
2tbsp rum (or brandy)
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease a 22cm bundt tin (or 20cm square tin) with butter then dust with plain flour and tap off the excess. Set aside.
For the gingerbread place the butter, sugar, syrup, treacle, stem ginger and spices in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Melt the ingredients together, stirring occasionally, until you have a smooth liquid. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes then stir in the milk and eggs.
In a large bowl briefly stir the bicarbonate of soda and flour to combine. Add in the warm liquid and beat until you have a smooth batter (this should only take a minute or so- I do it by hand).
Finally, add the chopped apples and briefly stir, then scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean with a few moist crumbs attached.
Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes to cool a little while you make the caramel. For the caramel just pop the water and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves (do not let it boil and do not stir it at this stage). Once the sugar has dissolved up the heat and boil the syrup until it reaches a deep golden colour, then add in the cream, salt and rum and stir (it will spit a little but don’t worry, just watch your hands!). Set aside once your caramel is smooth and lump free.
Now turn out your bundt cake (it will still be warm) and prick it all over with a skewer. Pour over most of the caramel, allowing it to sink into the holes. Serve with ice cream and any leftover caramel.
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!
This recipe takes the classic chewy chocolate cookie and turns it into something altogether more grown up with a little help from crushed pistachios, orange zest, dark chocolate chunks and ground cardamom. Stash them away from kids (and other adults- let’s be honest) and enjoy when you’ve got a quiet moment to yourself, preferably with a strong coffee.
Place the butter, sugars, zest and ground cardamom in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until light and fluffy using electric beaters (or a wooden spoon if you’re slightly mad/ less lazy than me).
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Once the eggs are fully incorporated, tip in the pistachios and stir. Now sift the bicarbonate of soda, flour and salt into the batter and beat briefly to form a soft dough.
Finally, add the chocolate chunks and stir with a spoon to evenly distribute. The dough won’t be firm and to make cooking easier I like to freeze it before baking. To do this simply lay a long rectangle of cling film across your work surface, spoon on the dough in a long line and roll up, shaping into a log. Chill for half an hour and at this stage preheat the oven to 180c and line some baking trays.
Once your cookie dough logs have firmed up a bit, unwrap them and cut into slices (about 1.5 cm thick). Place the slices on the prepared baking trays with generous spaces between them for spreading (I usually put about 4 on each tray).
Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden but still soft and chewy in the middle. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
These brownies are rich, dense and studded with cranberries and white chocolate chunks- a great (and easy) festive treat to whip up for visiting family and friends over the coming weeks…
300g dark chocolate
310g caster sugar
3 eggs, 1 egg yolk
3tsp vanilla extract
120g plain flour
150g white chocolate, chopped into chunks
100g dried cranberries
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a square baking tin/ brownie tray.
Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a pan of gently simmering water. Do not allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl or it could cause the chocolate to seize.
Stir the butter and chocolate occasionally until melted then set aside to cool for a few minutes. Once the chocolate has cooled a little, add the sugar and salt then whisk (with electric beaters or in the bowl of a stand mixer) until well combined.
Now add the eggs and whisk on high until the mix has lightened in colour and is glossy (about 5 minutes- whisking well at this stage is what gives you that classic flaky top!).
Sift in the flour and fold then finally stir in the white chocolate and cranberries. Tip into the lined baking tin and spread out. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until set but still very moist in the middle.
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!
220g black treacle
80g golden syrup
340g dark brown soft sugar
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
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Place the butter, treacle, syrup and sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a standing mixer). Beat together until light and fluffy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For the cake:
350g soft butter
350g caster sugar
375g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds, crushed to a fine powder
100g chopped pistachios
For the topping:
150g white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
a few crushed pistachios and some dried rose petals (optional)
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).
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!).
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.
Now fold in the pistachios and scrape the batter into the prepared bundt tin. Even out and bake for 30-40 minutes.
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.
While your cake is cooling, melt the white chocolate gently in a heatproof bowl above a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool.
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.