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Chocolate, Cardamom and Raspberry Macaroons

I’m no macaroon master. I’ve never really committed much time to perfecting the art and will fully admit I’ve had a few disasters which have put me off practicing (not the best attitude). That said, I’ve recently been playing around with the classic patisserie staple and have become a lot more comfortable with the making process. This spiced chocolate variety is my favourite experiment to date and although they’re not entirely perfect to look at, the shells are both crisp and chewy, the fillings are well balanced and, most importantly, each mouthful is deliciously moreish.

Ingredients:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 80ml water
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 175g ground almonds
  • 15g cocoa
  • 160g egg whites
  • pinch salt

For the filling:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 10-12 cardamom pods
  • 1 punnet fresh raspberries

For decoration (optional):

  • some additional dark chocolate, melted
  • edible gold paint

Method (makes about 30 macarons):

  1. Before I begin- you will need a sugar thermometer, an electric whisk or stand mixer, a food processor or blender, some greaseproof paper with 4cm circles traced on to use as a piping guide (see here) and piping bags.
  2. The first thing to do is weigh out your ingredients accurately (this is something I don’t often do but for this recipe, its a necessity!) and line up to 4 baking trays with your greaseproof paper templates.
  3. Now, place your ground almonds, icing sugar and cocoa powder in a food processor and blitz until very fine (about 30 seconds- 1 minute). Pass through a sieve into a bowl, discarding the chunky bits.
  4. Next, pop your water and caster sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Once dissolved, increase the heat and boil until the temperature reads 115c on your sugar thermometer.
  5. While your sugar syrup is heating up, stir half of the egg whites (80g) in with the ground almond mixture to create a thick paste. Place the other half (remaining 80g) in a clean bowl (or bowl of  a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff peaks.
  6. Take your sugar syrup (which should now be at 115c) and, while whisking on a high speed, pour it into your stiff egg whites in a slow stream. Your egg whites will become smooth and glossy (as you would expect from meringue). Now continue whisking for about 5 minutes until the bowl has cooled down to room temperature.
  7. Take 1/3 of this cooled meringue and stir it into the almond paste to loosen the consistency. Once well mixed add the remaining meringue and fold, very gently, until you have a mixture which is thick enough to be piped without running but not so thick that the meringue isn’t fully incorporated.
  8. Pile the mixture into a piping bag and snip the end off (about 1cm diameter). Take your macaroon template and pipe vertically (not at an angle) into each circle. Be sure to leave a tiny bit of space for spreading. I find that working quickly is best for consistency as you develop a bit of a rhythm.
  9. Once you’ve piped all your circles lift the trays a few inches off the work surface and drop them down a few times- this eliminates air bubbles. Now leave them for an hour to form a bit of a skin before baking. Preheat the oven to 140c (fan).

  1. While your macaroons are forming a skin, make the chocolate cardamom ganache. To do this, put the cream in a saucepan, crack the cardamom pods and add to the pan then very gently heat. Bring to the boil then set aside to infuse for 20 minutes. Chop the chocolate finely and scrape into a heatproof bowl.
  2. Once infused, strain the cream into another saucepan and bring to scalding point (just before boiling) then pour over the chocolate. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes then stir together to form a smooth ganache. Set aside until cool and thickened.
  3. Now your macaroons will be ready to bake; they will take around 18-22 minutes but check after 15. You’re looking for a crisp top and chewy middle, and they should peel off the greaseproof when ready.
  4. Cool the macaroon shells on a wire rack when they’re baked.
  5. To assemble the macaroons, pipe the thickened ganache in a ring around one shell and place a raspberry in the middle, then sandwich with another shell. Decorate with drizzled chocolate, edible gold paint and freeze dried raspberries.

Enjoy!

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Carrot, Apple and Walnut Loaf with Maple Icing

Looking at the photographs of this cake, you could be fooled into thinking it’s mid Autumn and the trees are turning. They’re not, but given the weather here in the UK (it’s pretty miserable; grey skies and that fluffy rain which get’s you far more wet than you’d think) it might as well be. With this in mind I thought I’d bake something spiced, nutty, simple and comforting to combat the bad weather blues: enter this moist carrot and apple loaf cake laced with cinnamon, ginger and walnuts topped with maple cream cheese frosting…

Ingredients:

  • 225ml vegetable oil
  • 225g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 125g grated carrot
  • 125g grated apple
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2tsp ginger
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 100g chopped walnuts
  • zest 1 lemon

For the icing;

  • 5tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 heaped tbsp icing sugar
  • 250g cream cheese (full fat)
  • 100ml double cream

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a large loaf tin with baking paper.
  2. Place the oil, sugar and eggs in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and, using electric beaters, beat together until voluminous and well combined. Now add the grated carrot and apple and briefly beat again to evenly distribute.
  3. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt over the wet ingredients and beat in until just combined. Lastly, fold in the walnuts and lemon zest. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Cool in the tin.
  4. While the cake is cooling, make the maple cream cheese icing. Simply whisk together all the ingredients until thick and spreadable.
  5. Once the cake is completely cool, top with the cream cheese icing and some walnuts, edible flowers or apple crisps, if you’re feeling fancy.

Enjoy!

Nutty Cinnamon Swirls with Toffee Glaze

These sweet bread swirls are stuffed with cinnamon spice butter and assorted nuts, brushed with a sticky toffee glaze and drizzled with white icing; unsurprisingly, this makes them dangerously moreish and a great accompaniment to a Sunday evening Netflix binge (yep, dual binging going on here)…

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Ingredients (makes 7 rolls to fit a 9 inch cake tin):

For the dough:

  • 90g butter
  • 200ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 550g strong bread flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 3tsp fast action dried yeast
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1tsp salt

For the filling:

  • 200g soft butter
  • 80g light brown soft sugar
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 50g hazelnuts, chopped
  • 50g walnuts, chopped
  • 50g pistachios, chopped

For the topping:

  • 1 egg, whisked (to glaze)
  • 50g butter
  • 50g golden syrup
  • 50g dark brown soft sugar
  • 3tbsp double cream
  • pinch salt
  • 4tbsp icing sugar mixed with a few drops water

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Method:

  1. Place the butter and milk in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter melts. Set aside to cool, then add the eggs and whisk to combine.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast and sugar. Add in the wet ingredients in one go and rapidly mix together with a cutlery knife or your hands. Once you’ve bought it together to form a dough knead either by hand or using a dough hook (10 minutes by hand/ 5 minutes with a dough hook).
  3. Put the kneaded dough (it should be smooth and elastic) in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with oiled clingfilm. Place in a warm (not hot) place and leave to double in size for 1 hour.
  4. While the dough is rising prepare the filling; to do this simply beat together the butter, sugar and spices to create a soft spreadable consistency. Lightly toast the nuts and roughly chop. Prepare a large cake tin by generously greasing with butter.
  5. Once your dough has doubled in size roll it out to a large rectangle about 1cm thick (the rolling is enough knocking back). Making sure the longest side is facing you, spread the cinnamon butter evenly over the dough then scatter on the nuts.
  6. Roll up the rectangle away from you until you have a large sausage shape. Slice this sausage into around seven 2 inch (roughly) wide pieces- each piece should have a spiral cross section.
  7. Place the pieces (spiral up) in the bottom of the cake tin; I fit 6 around the edge and one in the centre. Cover loosely with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove for a final hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 180c. Whisk the egg and brush all over the top of the proved buns. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bread cooked through.
  9. For the toffee glaze melt together the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan, then stir in the cream and add the salt. Brush this over the cooked swirls then finish with the simple white icing and any leftover chopped nuts.

Enjoy!

Coffee Hazelnut Cake with Mascarpone Icing

Intense, rich, drag-me-out-of-bed coffee; yep, it’s the lonely hero of many a dark January morning, and for me, my second favourite cake flavour (after chocolate…duh). If you too trust in the caffeine hit, are partial to a slab of cake and have fallen off the health wagon you should definitely try out this recipe- the loaf format looks a bit different and the hazelnuts pair really well with the strong coffee flavour which is delivered in the sponge, frosting and espresso drizzle.

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Ingredients:

For the sponge:

  • 225g soft butter
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 3tbsp strong instant coffee

For the espresso soak:

  • 3-4 tbsp strong instant coffee
  • 1tbsp caster sugar

For the filling/decoration:

  • 600g icing sugar
  • 200g mascarpone
  • 200g soft butter
  • 2tbsp strong instant coffee
  • handful chopped toasted hazelnuts
  • Optional: espresso powder and coffee beans

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Method:

  1.  Preheat the oven to 160c and grease/line a large loaf tin.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar using an electric whisk (or in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment) until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs in one at a time, whisking well in between each addition to ensure they are well incorporated (you can add a little of the flour if you’re worried about curdling).
  4. Once the eggs have been added sift in the flour, salt and baking powder. Fold into the mix then add the instant coffee and stir. Scrape the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 30-35 minutes (or until golden brown and cooked all the way through- a skewer should come out clean with a few crumbs attached when inserted).
  5. Allow the cake to cool in the tin while you make the frosting and soak.
  6. For the frosting, place the butter, mascarpone and instant coffee in a bowl (or again, use a stand mixer) and whisk until light, well combined and fluffy. Now gradually add the icing sugar whilst mixing on a slow speed. Once all the icing sugar has been added increase the speed and keep whisking until you have a spreadable, light and smooth icing. Set aside.
  7. For the soak simply mix together the coffee and sugar. Take your cooling loaf cake and slice in half horizontally. Prick holes in the surface of each piece and drizzle the soak all over, allow it to sink in. Set aside until completely cool.
  8. Once the cake is completely cool spread a generous amount of mascarpone icing across the bottom layer along with a sprinkling of hazelnuts. Sandwich on the top sponge and cover the outside edges in the remaining icing. If you like, you can use a flat piping nozzle to create a ripple look, then top with more hazelnuts and some espresso powder.

Enjoy!

Decorative Gingerbread Biscuits

These gingerbread biscuits are super easy to make and are really fun to shape and decorate with children. Pierce holes in the tops and thread through festive ribbons for great homemade tree decorations (or just eat them straight away, they’re delicious!).

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Ingredients (makes about 20 large biscuits depending on the shapes you choose- you can always half it if you only want a few or double it if it’s for a big gingerbread house!):

  • 150g soft light brown sugar
  • 60g golden syrup
  • 30g black treacle
  • 40ml water
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 2tsp ginger
  • pinch mixed spice
  • 190g butter, cubed
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 450g plain flour
  • Optional: white icing for decorating, silver balls, edible glitter, ribbon

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Place the sugar, syrup, black treacle, water and spices in a saucepan. Melt together over a medium heat and stir to combine. Take off the heat and add the butter. Allow the butter to melt then stir again. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl. Stir into the liquid until you have a manageable dough. Add a little more flour if it feels too soft. Cover and set aside for half an hour to firm up.
  4. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Take your dough and roll out to about 3mm on a well floured surface. Cut out shapes with your desired cutters or templates and transfer to the prepped trays. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.
  5. Once cooked, cool the biscuits on a wire rack and decorate as you wish.

Club Tropicana Birthday Cake

Yesterday I made a custom cake to order (I do this most weekends, so any requests- throw them my way). This one in particular was for an eleven year old, so it was pretty fun to make and a bit different to the sort of thing I usually offer. I’m not posting the recipe as it’s a compilation of lots of the ideas already on here, but thought I would share some pictures.

( FYI: It’s a chocolate fudge cake with chocolate ganache filling, vanilla buttercream icing, pastel meringues, colourful chocolate shards and some homemade glittery flamingos- might add arts and crafts to the CV?!)

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Hope you like the design; if you’re interested in ordering similar custom cakes or are looking for a caterer for birthdays, weddings or any other events, please contact me at tassygoodall@gmail.com – I’m professionally trained and am here to help…

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Spring Cake Decorating

Naked or ‘semi-naked’ cakes are by no means a new trend, but they are simple, pretty and ideal for spring and summer. I’ve been enjoying experimenting with the style recently so thought I’d share some tips and tricks I use to make fresh looking layer cakes for gatherings and special birthdays (I made this orange and passion fruit cake last week for an Easter get together!).

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TIP ONE : WHERE TO BUY EDIBLE FLOWERS

Pinterest is flooded with beautiful cakes smothered in edible flowers, and up to now I have been at a loss as to where I can buy them; scour the shops and you are unlikely to find any and look online and you are faced with tiny boxes of pre-cut flower heads for upwards of £4.99 plus shipping (well out of my budget for a perishable cake decoration!).

I’d almost given up on looking for affordable edible flowers when I stumbled upon a section of violas in my local garden centre. They had a huge range on offer with pots for only £1.50 each. I bought a selection and now have a steady supply of  flowers when I need them, as when I cut the heads off, they re-bud!

Next time you’re in the market for some edible flowers, take a trip to a garden centre and see if you can find a better value option than the online boxes- just make sure they haven’t been sprayed with chemicals before you buy them!

(Note: the white flowers on this cake (gypsophila) are not edible, I just love their bohemian look).

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TIP TWO: THE IMPORTANCE OF FROSTING

When you frost your cake, make sure your icing has a slightly loose but still spreadable consistency so you can make the edges as smooth as possible. I find that cream cheese frosting works a little better than buttercream for this.

My basic cream cheese frosting consists of: 200g cream cheese, 100g butter, 600g icing sugar and a few drops of milk 

When I frosted this cake, I used a palette knife to spread a very thin layer around the edges to seal off the crumbs (a ‘crumb layer’), then chilled for 10 minutes until firm before spreading one more thin layer over the top to finish.

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TIP THREE: GREAT COLOUR POP INGREDIENTS

I like to keep fruity spring cakes as natural as possible when it comes to the toppers and there are two particular ingredients I find really useful in giving a pop of colour without resorting to sprinkles etc.

Pistachios- I like to chop up pistachios roughly and sprinkle them in a half moon shape around the surface of cakes as a base on which to place flowers and other decorations. Vibrant green looks great on white and gives a really summery feel.

Pomegranate seeds- A classic middle eastern ingredient, ruby red pomegranate seeds are brilliant for bringing a fairly dull looking cake to life (or main courses and beige dips too!). When paired with pistachios they look bold and eye catching.

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TIP FOUR: PINEAPPLE CRISP DECORATIONS

If you look at the above photo you will see the orange flower-like crisps I have angled to give some height to the decoration. I made these crisps using pineapple and think they make for really pretty and quite impressive cake toppers.

All you need to make them is a pineapple. Simply heat your oven to 100c and slice a pineapple with a mandolin (or very sharp knife) as thinly as possible.

Dry out thoroughly on kitchen paper then place the pineapple rounds in a muffin tray and leave to harden in the oven for 2 hours. After that time just turn the pineapple over and return to the oven for another half an hour to fully dry the bottoms, then leave out to cool and harden fully. Use as required!

I hope these little tips help in your cake decorating endeavours and that you like the look of my orange and passionfruit creation!