These buttery shortbreads, dipped in white chocolate and flavoured with warming cardamom and citrus, have got me feeling (dare I say it) pretty festive. The format might be a bit retro but there’s something comforting and nostalgic about bedding in with a batch of homemade biscuits and a cup of builder’s tea at this time of year. Give them a try for a quick and easy twist on a classic.
Ingredients (makes 20-24 biscuits)
225g soft butter
100g caster sugar
zest 1 orange
150g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
75g rye flour
Pinch of salt
100g white chocolate
50g pistachios, finely chopped (optional)
Place the butter, sugar and orange zest in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and beat until very light and fluffy. Add in the flours, salt and ground cardamom and beat briefly until the flour is just incorporated and the mix starts to come together in large clumps (it’s important not to over-mix here as beating for too long could result in a tough biscuit which isn’t buttery and short!).
Bring the mix together with your hands and roll out on a floured surface to about 1cm thick. Stamp out biscuits using a cookie cutter (or just slice the dough into squares with a knife) and line up on a lined baking tray. Chill for at least 30 minutes, or until firm. Preheat the oven to 180c.
Once your biscuits have firmed up, bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges are golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water (or melt in the microwave at 30 second increments, stirring between each) then dip each biscuit in, about half way up. Place the dipped biscuits on a piece of greaseproof paper for the chocolate to set and sprinkle with pistachios.
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…
225ml vegetable oil
225g soft light brown sugar
125g grated carrot
125g grated apple
225g self raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
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
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a large loaf tin with baking paper.
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.
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.
While the cake is cooling, make the maple cream cheese icing. Simply whisk together all the ingredients until thick and spreadable.
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.
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.
These bars are the perfect grab and go treat to keep you going on a hectic day- I love my rhubarb and ginger jam sandwiched between the peanut butter flapjack and nutty topping, but you could choose any marmalade or jam in your version.
75g coconut oil
175g peanut butter (or another nut butter ie. almond, cashew)
150g dark brown soft sugar
4tbsp golden syrup
300g porridge oats
Filling and topping:
200g rhubarb and ginger jam (or your favourite jam- fig or raspberry would work well)
200g flaked almonds
75g brazil nuts
100g caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a brownie tray.
For the base place the coconut oil, peanut butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan. Melt together over a medium heat. Tip the oats into a large bowl and add the melted liquid. Stir together until well combined then pack down into the prepared baking tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
For the topping, heat the caster sugar and water together over a medium heat. Allow the sugar to dissolve then pour into a bowl along with all the nuts. Stir together to coat.
Now you can assemble the next layers. Spread the jam all over the flapjack base and spoon on the nuts in an even layer. Press down the top then bake for 15-20 minutes, until the nuts are golden brown.
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!
Ingredients (makes 15-20):
200g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
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
Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
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.
Pour the mixed wet ingredients into the dry. Beat with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth cookie dough.
Add the chocolate chunks and chopped stem ginger and knead briefly into the dough.
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.
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!
I’ve made a chocolate and orange blossom variation of these biscuits before and they were so popular I thought I’d experiment with another flavour. This time I’ve gone for lightly flavoured lemon biscuits (which are super crumbly and melt-in-your-mouth) sandwiched together with lemon buttercream and a really zingy lemon curd; the end result is (unsurprisingly) zesty and really delicious- give them a try.
Ingredients (makes 8-10 sandwiches):
175g soft butter
60g icing sugar
60g corn flour
185g plain flour
zest 1 lemon
For the lemon curd: 100g caster sugar, 2 lemons (juice and zest), 50g butter, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk
For the lemon buttercream: 65g soft butter, 175g icing sugar, juice and zest 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 160c. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper.
Cream together the butter, icing sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Sift in the corn flour and plain flour then briefly mix until a dough forms (don’t over mix or you won’t achieve that melty texture you’re after in the final biscuit).
Take the dough a tablespoon at a time and roll into balls. Line onto the prepared baking trays and press down with the back of a fork to create a lined texture. Chill for half an hour.
While the biscuits are chilling make the lemon curd. To do this place the sugar, lemon juice, zest and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally, allowing the butter to melt. Once the butter has melted allow to cool slightly then add in the egg and egg yolk. Whisk together.
Set the bowl back over the pan and gently mix for about 10 minutes until the heat thickens the curd. Remove from the heat and cool.
Once your biscuits have chilled and are firm, bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool on the trays.
While the biscuits are cooling, make the buttercream. Whisk the butter up to lighten then gradually add the icing sugar and beat until you have a fluffy texture. Add in the lemon juice and zest then briefly whisk to combine.
When the biscuits are cooled, pair them up. Pipe a ring of buttercream on one and spoon some lemon curd into the middle. Sandwich together with the other biscuit.
This cake is the ultimate Autumn centre piece- it combines a moist spiced pumpkin sponge with cream cheese frosting, caramel buttercream, pecans and salted toffee sauce; the best flavours of the season! I decorated mine in a really rustic semi-naked style, but you can refine yours to make it a little more formal if you like.
450ml vegetable oil
450g soft light brown sugar
450g self raising flour
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 grated fresh nutmeg
400g grated pumpkin
For the Toffee Sauce: 100g butter, 100g dark brown soft sugar, 100g golden syrup, 100ml double cream, large pinch sea salt
For the Caramel Buttercream: 200g butter, 75g of the toffee sauce, 500g icing sugar
For the Cream Cheese Frosting: 250g cream cheese, 150g butter, 500g icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla extract
Extras: 200g roughly chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line three 7inch cake tins.
Place the eggs, sugar, salt and oil in a large bowl then whisk until light and well combined. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg then gently stir with a spatula until non-streaky and smooth.
Now add the sultanas and pumpkin. Mix well and distribute the batter evenly between the three tins. Bake for 30-45 minutes. When a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cakes, they are done. Once cooked, remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.
While the cakes are cooling, make the frostings. Start off with the toffee sauce. Place the dark brown sugar, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan and melt together. Once melted, bring to the boil then remove from the heat and add the cream. Stir then set aside to cool.
Now make your cream cheese frosting. Whisk the butter with electric beaters or a stand mixer until fluffy, then add the cream cheese and whisk again. Once well combined, gradually add the icing sugar and continue whisking until you have a light frosting. Fold in the vanilla.
Once your toffee sauce has cooled you can make the caramel buttercream. Simply beat the butter until really light, then add the icing sugar gradually until you have a simple fluffy buttercream. Finally, add 75g of the toffee sauce and stir through.
To assemble the cakes just place one sponge on a plate and pipe a ring of cream cheese frosting round the edge. Fill the centre with caramel buttercream and sprinkle over some pecans. Now just top with another layer and repeat until all the cakes are used. Thinly coat the outside of the cake with cream cheese frosting and pipe a design on the top with the caramel buttercream. Pile on pecans for decoration and drizzle generously with the remaining toffee sauce.