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!
Layers of zesty elderflower sponge sandwiched together with tart gooseberry compote and lightly whipped elderflower cream make up this delicious nod to the British countryside. Bake it for a special mid-summer occasion or round off a Sunday lunch with a generous slice.
275g soft butter
275g caster sugar
zest 1 lemon
275g self raising flour
3-4tbsp elderflower cordial
For the gooseberry compote:
500g fresh (or frozen and defrosted) gooseberries
75g caster sugar
For the elderflower cream:
600ml double cream
4-5tbsp elderflower cordial
1-2tbsp icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.
Place the butter, sugar and zest in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) and cream together until light, pale and fluffy.
Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition to ensure they are fully incorporated. Now tip in the elderflower cordial and briefly mix once more to distribute it evenly through the batter.
Sift over the flour and fold in with a large metal spoon. Split the mixture between the two prepared tins and level out. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
While the cakes are baking, make the gooseberry compote. Put the gooseberries, sugar and water in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruits are soft and a loose compote has formed (10-15 minutes).
When the cakes are ready, leave to cool completely in the tins. While they cool, make the elderflower cream. To do this simply whisk together the cream, cordial and sugar until soft peaks form.
Once all your elements are cool, assemble the cake. Spread a generous layer of compote and several dollops of elderflower cream between each sponge, then finish with a few sprigs of elderflower for a simple, effortless summer pudding.
These fudgy brownies incite frenzied eating in my house; they barely saw the light of day when I made them last and half my family were out… It’s hardly surprising they are so addictive though- white chocolate matches brilliantly with fresh cherry compote (particularly when accompanied by a very generous glug of slightly unseasonal brandy).
For the compote:
300g cherries (stones removed)
2tbsp caster sugar
large glug brandy (this amount is totally down to your taste)
For the brownies:
300g dark chocolate
225g plain flour
200g white chocolate chunks
Start by making the compote. Roughly chop the cherries. Place in a pan along with the sugar, water and brandy. Heat gently, stirring occasionally, until the cherries become soft and the syrupy liquid starts to thicken (about 10 minutes). Once the consistency is somewhat jam-like, taste and add more brandy if you like (you can leave out the brandy entirely if it’s not your jam- ha.). Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a brownie tin (around 22x22cm is perfect).
Place the butter and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of gently simmering water (don’t let the water touch the base of the bowl). Stir occasionally and remove from the heat once melted together.
Place the eggs and caster sugar in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat together until well combined.
Add the chocolate mixture to the bowl and fold in followed by the flour and 2/3 of the white chocolate chunks. Tip into the lined baking tin and level out.
Dollop the compote all over the surface of the brownie and finish by sprinkling on the remaining white chocolate. Bake for 25-35 minutes until the top is set but the inside is moist and a little gooey.
Allow the brownie to cool completely in the tin then slice up and serve.
This panna cotta recipe can be adapted by substituting the coconut for flaked almonds, basil or other nuts and herbs. I love this tropical combination for summer though; paired with mango sorbet, sesame seeds and lime zest it makes for the perfect refreshing and light dessert to follow a late lunch or dinner.
Ingredients (makes 4):
225ml whole milk
225ml double cream
200g coconut flakes (lightly toasted)
1 stick lemongrass
3 1/2 leaves gelatine (around 6g)
Lightly grease four dariole moulds with a flavourless oil (such as sunflower).
Place the milk, cream and lightly toasted coconut flakes in a saucepan. Bash the lemongrass with the back of a knife to release the flavour and add to the pan. Heat the mixture and bring gently to the boil. Boil for 1 minute then remove from the heat and leave to infuse for half an hour.
Soak the gelatine in cold water for 5 minutes (until soft). Sieve the panna cotta mixture to remove the coconut and lemongrass then place back on the heat. Reheat until just steaming then squeeze the water from the gelatine and add. Mix in until dissolved then pour into the moulds.
Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours then remove from the moulds and serve as desired (dip the moulds in boiling water for a few seconds to make turning them out easier!).
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.
I’ve been eating a lot of chocolate covered raisins recently (health god) and yesterday I had a brain wave (daydream) about throwing them into brownies alongside chocolate chips. I cooked a batch up today and they might just be my favourite variety ever; moist middle, crispy shell-like top, pockets of chewy chocolatey fruit and chunks of white chocolate- a definite winner. Try my recipe out and join the party.
250g dark chocolate
275 caster sugar
175g plain flour
large pinch salt
125g white chocolate, roughly chopped
125g chocolate covered raisins
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a brownie tin.
Melt together the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, then set aside to cool a little. Whisk the eggs, sugar and salt until pale and thick.
Add the melted chocolate and butter into the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Sieve over the flour and fold in then do the same with the white chocolate chunks and chocolate covered raisins.
Tip the brownie batter into a baking tin and level out. Bake for 35-40 minutes until crisp on top and fudgy in the centre.
Leave to cool in the tin then slice into squares and enjoy!
Banana bread is a staple in many a baking repertoire- it’s simple, tasty and for some reason one of the only cakes deemed acceptable to eat for breakfast (what’s not to like). My version calls for wholemeal spelt flour, making it nutty in flavour and a little courser in texture than a regular banana bread; delicious when paired with the walnut crumble topping!
175g soft brown sugar
75g melted butter
3 ripe bananas, mashed
200g wholemeal spelt flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp mixed spice
1tsp ground ginger
For the crumble topping:
50g spelt flour
25g soft butter
25g soft light brown sugar
1tsp mixed spice
75g chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a loaf tin.
Place the eggs, sugar and butter in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk until thick, pale and voluminous then fold in the mashed banana.
Add the dry ingredients (flour, spices, salt and baking powder) and fold again until well combined. Tip the mix into the prepared loaf tin and level out.
For the crumble topping, rub together the butter, flour, sugar and mixed spice between your fingers until they resemble course crumbs, then stir in the chopped walnuts. Sprinkle this liberally over the top of the banana bread and bake for 45-55 minutes until well risen and a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
Serve warm or cold, on it’s own or with cinnamon butter, creme fraiche or yoghurt.