This isn’t a sophisticated cake. There is nothing particularly fancy or groundbreaking about the flavours or decoration; however, sometimes (and by sometimes I mean far more often than is deemed acceptable) I just crave a proper, dense, delicious chocolate hit, and for that this delivers every time (whether smothered in salted caramel buttercream or chocolate ganache- I’ll take either).
300g caster sugar
300g soft butter
225ml soured cream
2tsp vanilla extract
75g cocoa powder
300g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the buttercream:
100g soft butter
100g salted caramel sauce
large pinch salt
500g icing sugar
For the brittle:
200g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 10 inch cake tin.
Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy. In a jug whisk the eggs, soured cream and vanilla. Add to the creamed mixture in 3 additions, beating well between each to ensure they are fully incorporated (add a little of the flour if you’re worried about curdling).
Sift the cocoa powder, plain flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt over the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 45-55 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked leave to cool in the tin.
Now make your brittle. Line a tray with lightly oiled baking paper. Place the sugar and almonds in a heavy bottomed pan and heat until the sugar melts. Tip the pan to coat the almonds in the caramel and leave it until it reaches a deep golden brown then pour onto the prepared baking paper. Use a wooden spoon to move the almonds around into a single layer, then leave to set hard.
For the salted caramel buttercream (this is a bit of a guilty pleasure- it’s obviously very sweet so you could coat the cake in a dark chocolate ganache if you’re more grown up than me), simply beat the soft butter, caramel sauce and salt (I will be posting a recipe for salted caramel sauce soon if you’d like to make your own, otherwise just buy shop bought!) together until creamy, then gradually add the icing sugar until it reaches a light and thick consistency. Lastly, loosen up with a few drops of milk if necessary (do this by eye).
To assemble, remove your cake from the tin and smother in buttercream. Break up the brittle and use as shards, or smash into a crumb and sprinkle over the top of your finished bake.
This deliciously refreshing tart is simpler to bake than you’d think, and it rounds off a summer lunch perfectly. A classic lemon and lime filling encased in sweet short pastry is always a crowd pleaser, but the basil added to this one balances the sharp citrus with a sweet aromatic flavour; a great twist on a much loved warm weather dessert.
For the pastry:
185g plain flour
90g caster sugar
90g cold, cubed butter
3 egg yolks
For the filling:
175g caster sugar
150ml lime juice
50ml lemon juice
zest 3 limes
zest 3 lemons
125ml double cream
large bunch basil
lemon and lime zest (fresh or candied)
First off, make the pastry (you could buy shortcrust pastry instead of making this special sweet variety yourself- if you do, just follow from step 2). The easiest way to do this is to place the flour, sugar, butter and salt in a food processor and blitz together until a breadcrumb-like consistency is achieved (or rub together with your fingertips, handling as little as possible). Once you reach this stage, add in the egg yolks and blitz again, very briefly, until the mix just comes together to form large lumps. Tip the pastry out onto a clean surface and shape (again handling as little as possible) into a thin disc. Now wrap this pastry disc in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190c. Very lightly grease a 22-24cm tart tin with butter. Take your pastry and roll out on a floured surface to a little under 3mm thick. Line your tart case, using a ball of spare pastry to push right down into the corners. Run a knife around the top of the case to neaten the edges. Chill for 20 minutes.
Fill your pastry-lined tart case with non-stick baking paper and baking beans then blind bake for 10-15 minutes (until the walls are set). Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the pastry is cooked through and the base is sandy and dry but not overly golden.
Now it’s time to make your filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 150c. Place your eggs, sugar, zest, juice, cream and whole bunch of basil in a saucepan and leave off the heat for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes some scum will have formed on the surface; skim this off with a spoon then place the saucepan on a gentle heat. Warm until hot to the touch (not boiling), then sieve to remove the basil leaves and zest. Pour this filling into the prepared pastry case and bake for 15-25 minutes until the middle has a uniform and slight wobble when gently shaken.
Cool completely in the tin to allow the filling to fully set (this will take an hour or so) then remove carefully, slice up and serve. Decorate as desired and keep refrigerated once cool.
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.
No recipe to see here, just some decorating inspo for those of you who prefer less refined looking cakes (this is my preference- if I could put fresh flowers and greenery on every cake, I probably would). The base cake pictured is my classic chocolate fudge variety, filled with salted dark chocolate ganache and covered in swiss meringue chocolate buttercream; for decoration I’ve gone with seasonal blooms from the garden and hedgerows nearby (yeah, I live in the middle of nowhere and it has it’s perks!). I’ve never used eucalyptus before and have been pleasantly surprised with how versatile the leaves are- the curves and bends in the stems lend themselves to framing the cake and when paired with the cherry blossom (which, though beautiful, I fear may wilt very quickly) the overall effect is elegant and effortless.
Hope you like the cake and are inspired to freestyle with lots of different plants and flowers on your next bake!
This deliciously fresh tasting cake made up of homemade lemon curd, tangy cream cheese frosting and moist courgette sponge makes for the a great Easter treat, and the recipe will serve you well over the coming months when you’re looking for a simple and zesty summer bake too.
zest 3 lemons
200g caster sugar
375g grated courgette (2-3)
300g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the lemon curd filling:
4 lemons (juice and zest)
200g caster sugar
100g butter, cubed
3 eggs, 1 egg yolk
For the cream cheese icing:
300g cream cheese
100ml double cream
100g icing sugar
To decorate: edible flowers, courgette ribbons, chocolate eggs
Make the lemon curd first; put the lemon zest and juice, caster sugar and eggs in a saucepan and briefly whisk. Set over a gentle heat and gradually add the butter cubes, whisking constantly. After a few minutes the curd will start to thicken- keep whisking until you have used up the butter and stop when the lemon curd coats the back of the spoon (about 10-15 minutes). Set aside for later and cover the surface with cling film to prevent a thick skin from forming.
Preheat the oven to 160c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Place the butter, lemon zest and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well between each addition.
Squeeze any excess moisture out of the grated courgette then fold into the batter along with the sultanas.
Sift over the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Carefully fold in followed by the milk. The batter will be very thick- don’t be alarmed!
Split the batter between the two tins and level off. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden, well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
Leave the cakes to cool in their tins while you make the cream cheese icing. Place the cream cheese and cream in a bowl and beat together until thick, then sift in the icing sugar and beat to combine.
Now it’s time to assemble your bake. Take your first cake and level off the top (if necessary) then pipe a circle of cream cheese icing around the edge. Fill the middle with your lemon curd (using the cream cheese line as a barrier) and place the other cake on top. Cover the complete cake with the remaining cream cheese icing and decorate as you wish.
Coffee cake is one of my all time favourites, but this spin on a classic is perhaps even better (I know, big claim). The cardamom hum in the sponge goes really well with the simple coffee buttercream, and the crunch of earthy pistachio praline rounds off the overall flavour and prevents it from being overly sweet. Make these for any occasion (you can fool people into thinking they’re fancy with the help of a piping bag and edible flowers) and they are sure to go down a storm.
200g softened butter
200g soft brown sugar
200g self raising flour
8 cardamom pods, emptied and ground
3tbsp coffee granules mixed with 3tbsp boiling water
For the buttercream:
200g softened butter
400g icing sugar
2tbsp coffee granules mixed with 2tbsp boiling water
For the praline:
100g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a brownie tin (around 20x20cm).
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Add the flour, salt and ground cardamom and fold in until well combined. Do the same with the coffee and milk.
Once your straightforward batter is ready, spoon into the tin and level off. Bake for 30-35 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Cool in the tin.
While the cake is cooling, make the praline. Place the sugar and pistachios in a heavy bottom pan and allow the sugar to melt (don’t stir, just tip the pan to move the sugar around). Once it’s melted and golden, swirl the pan to coat the nuts in the caramel then tip onto some greaseproof paper and leave to set hard.
Now make your buttercream. Beat the butter until light then gradually add the icing sugar, whisking until very light. Add in the coffee and whisk again to combine. Once it’s streak free and smooth, pile into a piping bag ready to decorate.
Slice the cooled cake into nine squares (or larger/smaller pieces depending on your appetite!). Pipe the coffee buttercream on top in little kisses (or freestyle with rosettes/patterns using different nozzles). Break up the praline and roughly crush then sprinkle a generous helping on top of the buttercream.
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!).
250g granulated sugar
400g rhubarb, sliced into 4 inch lengths
zest and juice 3 limes
1 egg white (optional)
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.
Remove the rhubarb from the saucepan and place in a food processor along with the lime juice.
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).
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.
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.