pastry chef

Soured Cream Chocolate Cake with Salted Caramel Buttercream and Almond Brittle

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).

Ingredients:

  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300g soft butter
  • 225ml soured cream
  • 3 eggs
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt

For the buttercream:

  • 100g soft butter
  • 100g salted caramel sauce
  • large pinch salt
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2-3tbsp milk

For the brittle:

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 10 inch cake tin.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.

Enjoy!

Rhubarb and Pistachio Tartlets

I’m a big fan of rhubarb (I’ve decided putting it in granita with lime zest is my favourite way to eat it- I’m sure that could be blitzed into a daiquiri of sorts as well… anyway I digress) and thought I’d take the last stems of the season to make some nutty frangipane tartlets. This recipe calls for pistachios and almonds in the frangipane to create an earthy flavour which I think pairs really well with the tart rhubarb.

Ingredients:

For the pastry: 125g plain flour, 70g butter, 1tbsp caster sugar, pinch salt, 1 egg yolk, 2tbsp cold water

For the rhubarb: 75g caster sugar, 100ml water, 2 stems rhubarb

For the frangipane: 50g butter, 50g caster sugar, 1 egg, 75g ground almonds, 75g shelled pistachios (blitzed until roughly ground), 1tbsp plain flour

Method:

  1. To make the pastry, place the cold butter and plain flour in a food processor along with the salt and sugar. Blitz until the mix resembles fine bread crumbs then whisk together the egg yolk and water in a small bowl. Add half this liquid to the crumbs and pulse until they start clumping together. If it still seems a little dry, add another teaspoon of the egg and briefly pulse again. As soon as the dough forms little lumps stop the machine and tip out the contents. Press together and shape roughly into a disc (don’t overwork). Wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190c.  Grease and flour four small (about 8cm) tart cases.
  3. Once the pastry has firmed up a little, roll out to about 2-3mm thick. Line the tart cases, carefully using a little ball of spare pastry to get it right into the corners. Trim away any excess and chill again for 10 minutes.
  4. For the rhubarb, dissolve the sugar in the water over a gentle heat then bring to the boil. Remove from the hob and add in the chopped rhubarb. Leave it to soften in the hot syrup until required.
  5. Now it’s time to blind bake the tart cases. To do this just line the pastry cases with some baking paper and baking beans to ensure that the walls are supported. Bake for 10 minutes then remove the baking beans and paper and bake for a further 10 minutes until a sandy consistency is achieved with no grey areas.
  6. While the cases are baking make the frangipane. Place the butter and sugar in a food processor and blitz until light and fluffy, then add the remaining ingredients and pulse to fully combine (this should take a few minutes). The final consistency should be smooth and creamy (remember, if you don’t have a food processor you can use a stand mixer, electric beaters or a wooden spoon!).
  7. Now it’s time to assemble. Just place 1-2 heaped tablespoons of the frangipane into the tart cases, smooth out then top with some rhubarb pieces (don’t overfill, remember leave a little bit of room for expansion).
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the frangipane is golden. Top with some white icing if you like and enjoy warm or cold with a big dollop of creme fraiche.

Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate and Ginger Cookies

These cookies are big, chewy and packed full of dark chocolate chunks and stem ginger pieces; better still, they’re so easy to make and you can make the dough ahead of time and freeze it for future use!

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Ingredients (makes 15-20):

  • 200g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • pinch salt
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g dark brown soft sugar
  • 2tbsp ginger syrup
  • 175g butter, melted
  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 300g dark chocolate chunks
  • 100g chopped stem ginger

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Method:

  1. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and caster sugar into a large mixing bowl. In a jug, mix together the dark brown soft sugar, melted butter, ginger syrup, egg and egg yolk.
  3. Pour the mixed wet ingredients into the dry. Beat with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth cookie dough.
  4. Add the chocolate chunks and chopped stem ginger and knead briefly into the dough.
  5. Take a tablespoon of the cookie dough and roll into a ball. Repeat until you have used it all up then line onto trays and press down with the palm of your hand. Chill for 20 minutes and preheat the oven to 190c.
  6. Once the cookies have firmed up a bit, bake for 10-12 minutes. Leave to cool on the trays (they will be soft when you take them out of the oven but will become chewy after cooling) then display on a platter and serve!

Enjoy!

 

Rhubarb, White Chocolate and Thyme Cake

I’m on a bit of a rhubarb trip at the moment- in our house it’s going in just about anything, primarily, my mouth (I jest, but seriously; salad, granita, posset, sorbet, you name it). It’s got a versatile tart flavour and brilliant pink colour (if you buy the forced variety) which lends itself to so many recipes and pairs with lots of other ingredients, so naturally I’ve put it into a cake. This lightly flavoured thyme cake is sandwiched with a tart rhubarb compote which partners beautifully with the sweet white chocolate buttercream. Try it out and top with candied rhubarb ribbons and herby decorations for a statement nod to the season.

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Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 350g soft butter
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 350g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2tsp finely chopped thyme

For the rhubarb filling:

  • 400g rhubarb
  • 75g caster sugar

For the white chocolate buttercream:

  • 200g melted white chocolate
  • 250g soft butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 2-3tbsp milk

For the decorations (optional ideas): 

  • Candied rhubarb ribbons (to make these dissolve 100g caster sugar in 200ml water then bring to the boil and cool. Peel strips of rhubarb and dip into this syrup then line onto a baking tray and dry out in the oven at 110c for 1 hour. Once ready, mould around spoon handles or use as little strip decorations)
  • thyme/rosemary sprigs, freeze dried fruit, mini meringue kisses
  • 100g white chocolate (melt this then pour out onto a lined tray and set. Break into shards and use as desired)

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease/line two 7 inch cake tins.
  2. For the cake, place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat (with paddle attachment or electric beaters) until light and well combined. This all in one method is so easy and so long as you don’t over-beat results in a lovely even sponge.
  3. Split the batter between the two prepared cake tins and level out. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted, and the tops are springy to the touch.
  4. While the cakes are cooking, make the rhubarb compote. Simply place the ingredients in a saucepan and stir occasionally over a gentle heat until the rhubarb breaks down and resembles a loose jam. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  5. Once the cakes are ready leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.
  6. While the cakes are cooling make the buttercream. For this just beat together the butter and icing sugar until really light and fluffy, then add the melted white chocolate (ensuring it is cool) and milk and beat again for a couple of minutes. Your buttercream should be pale (not yellow) and light when it’s ready.
  7. To assemble the cake, slice the sponges horizontally into two even layers so you have four in total. Place one down on your plate/board and spread over a dollop of the buttercream followed by 1/3 of the rhubarb compote. Repeat until you have a 4 layer cake. Take a few spoonfuls of the remaining buttercream, spread a thin layer all over the cake with a palette knife or cake scraper and chill for 10 minutes (this is your crumb coating).
  8. To finish, use all the remaining buttercream to cover the gaps and visible cake (unless you’re going for the naked look!) and smooth down. To decorate, use candied rhubarb, mini meringues, herbs, freeze dried fruits and chocolate shards!

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Enjoy!

Gold Splatter Cake

This bake is just my go to chocolate cake (My Favourite Chocolate Cake) but I thought I’d share the photos as I went a bit rogue with the decoration. I wanted to do something a bit different from my go to chocolate shards/praline/freeze dried fruit, so rooted around my baking stuff and uncovered some long forgotten metallic spray and edible gold gel. I covered the base cake in a layer of glossy dark chocolate ganache (made by pouring 100ml hot cream over 150g chopped dark chocolate, stirring together then cooling), allowed it to set a little then flicked and sprayed it gold; I really like the minimal result and think it could be a great effect for a tiered celebration cake.

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Be sure to send me photos if you try it out!

New Year Croquembouche: Salted Chocolate and Coffee

I can’t decide if this looks impressive or a complete mess (I’ll let you choose); either way, it’s a delicious tower of salted dark chocolate and coffee cream profiteroles decorated with coffee nib white chocolate shards and gold shimmer spray- the perfect look-at-me centre piece!

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Ingredients (makes enough profiteroles to cover a 30cm cone):

For the choux pastry:

  • 6 eggs
  • 170g butter
  • 440ml water
  • 210g plain flour

For the coffee profiteroles:

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 3tbsp espresso coffee
  • 400ml double cream
  • 1tbsp icing sugar

For the dark chocolate profiteroles:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 1-2tsp sea salt
  • 400ml double cream
  • 1tbsp icing sugar

For the white chocolate shards:

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 1tsp espresso powder
  • 2tsp coffee beans

Extras: 20-30cm cardboard cone, gold shimmer spray, edible glitter

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Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200c and grease 2 large baking trays. Sift the flour onto a piece of baking paper.
  2. Place the butter and water in a saucepan and gently melt together. Once melted bring to the boil and tip in the flour all in one go. Mix rapidly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan and looks glossy. Place in a bowl and leave to cool to room temperature.
  3. Break up your eggs in a jug then gradually whisk into the cooled butter mixture until it reaches a dropping consistency (where it drops off a spoon after about 5 seconds).
  4. Pile the choux into a piping bag and pipe even piles onto the greased baking trays (leaving room for expansion). If they have little points just tap them down with a wet finger to create an even shape.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and well risen then poke a hole in each one with a skewer. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes to dry out then cool on a wire rack.

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  1. Make the fillings- for the coffee filling, whisk together the cream, coffee and icing sugar until soft peaks form. For the chocolate, whisk together the cream and icing sugar in a separate bowl.
  2. Melt the milk chocolate and dark chocolate in heatproof bowls over pans of simmering water.
  3. Once the profiteroles have cooled, fill half with coffee cream (using a fine nozzled piping bag) and half with the sweet cream (in the same way).
  4. If you would like to decorate with white chocolate shards, now is a good time to make those. Simply melt the white chocolate and spread over a piece of baking paper. Sprinkle with espresso powder and beans and set until solid and breakable.
  5. By this time, the chocolate should’ve cooled a little. Dip the coffee filled profiteroles in milk chocolate and the sweet cream ones in the dark. Sprinkle the dark chocolate pastries with sea salt.
  6. Now it’s time to assemble. Take your cone and cover it with any leftover melted chocolate. Stack up the profiteroles layer by layer to cover the cone completely. You may need to wait a few minutes between layers to allow the profiteroles to set.
  7. Finish with the shards and a spray of glitter.

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Happy New year!

Plated Pear, Ginger and Chocolate Dessert

I’ve recently been working on a few new recipes for a sort of ‘food portfolio’. This particular dessert is one I’m really pleased with so I thought I would share! It is made up of poached pear, a pear crisp, stem ginger ice cream, ginger caramel, vanilla tuille shards, caramelised white chocolate and dark chocolate ganache cubes (yes, quite a few elements but if you’re up for the challenge it makes for an impressive and delicious dish!).

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Serves 4 (note, the ice cream is best made the day before you are serving this dish)

For the stem ginger ice cream: 100ml double cream, 100ml whole milk, 70g caster sugar, 4 egg yolks, 4tbsp chopped stem ginger

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan until a skin forms then set aside. In a bowl mix the egg yolks and caster sugar then pour the cream mix over the top. Stir together, rinse the saucepan and return the liquid to it. Place over a gentle heat and stir with a wooden spoon until it thickens to coat the back. Set aside to cool a little then add the chopped stem ginger and pour into a freezer proof tub. Freeze overnight.

The next morning, chop the ice cream into large pieces and blitz in a food processor until they just break down (blitzing means your ice cream will be smooth without using an ice cream maker!). Return to the container and re-freeze until needed.

For the pear crisp: 1 pear

Very thinly slice your pear so you are left with cross section pieces. Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and bake for half an hour at 140c, turning occasionally. Once dried out, leave to harden at room temperature.

For the ganache cubes: 100g dark chocolate, 75ml double cream

Finely chop or grate the chocolate. Heat the cream and pour it over the chocolate. Stir to melt it fully then pour into a shallow mould and set in the freezer for 20 minutes- half an hour. When ready to use, slice into cubes.

For the caramelised white chocolate: 50g white chocolate

This chocolate is delicious- it takes the sweetness off the white chocolate and gives it a smokey, almost bitter taste. Simply place in the oven and colour for 10 minutes at 180c. When needed, break down into a crumb and use as desired.

For the poached pear: 1 pint water, 100g caster sugar, 1 vanilla pod, 3 pears

Dissolve the sugar in the water with the vanilla over a gentle heat. Peel the pears. Add the pears to the sugar syrup and poach gently for 30-40 minutes. When soft and cooked through, slice into cubes (the same size as the ganache).

For the ginger caramel: 100g granulated sugar, 50ml water, 30g butter, 50ml double cream, 2tbsp ginger syrup, pinch salt

Dissolve the sugar with the water over a gentle heat. Once dissolved, boil vigorously until it reaches a deep golden colour. Add the butter at this stage and mix in (it will spit a little) then add the cream and return to the heat. Stir until thick then remove from the heat, add the ginger syrup and salt and leave to cool.

For the vanilla tuille shards: 60g butter, 60g plain flour, 2 egg whites, 120g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 190c. Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly.

Take a silicon mat or silicon paper lined baking tray and spread the mixture thinly over it with a palette knife. Bake for 5 minutes or until the edges are golden then leave to harden at room temperature. Once set break up into pieces and use.

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To assemble: 

To assemble this dessert spread your caramel in a swoosh and sprinkle your white chocolate crumb over it in a half moon shape. Take a scoop or quenelle of your ice cream and place on top. Balance the pear crisp on the ice cream then arrange the ganache and pear cubes in an attractive pattern. Use the tuille shards for garnish and finish it off with edible flowers, if you like.

Enjoy!