Make the most of squash season with an ode to the Autumn months; made up of heavily spiced pumpkin and brown butter layers, smooth bourbon-laced caramel cream cheese icing and a slightly salty crunch of pecan brittle, this cake is absolutely delicious and marries together some of my favourite flavours.
Ingredients (serves 10-12)
For the bourbon caramel
200g caster sugar
100ml double cream
1-2tbsp bourbon ( spiced rum would also work, or feel free to omit the alcohol)
pinch sea salt
For the cake
250g butter, cubed
200g caster sugar
50g soft light brown sugar
225g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp baking powder
large pinch salt
1tsp ground ginger
1tsp ground cardamom
1tsp mixed spice
450g grated pumpkin (alternatively, you could use carrot or squash)
zest 1 lemon
100g pecans, roughly chopped
For the icing
250g full fat cream cheese
the bourbon caramel
For decoration (optional)
pecan praline (to make this melt 100g caster sugar in a pan until golden, then add 75g pecans, stir to coat and set on a piece of baking paper- once set, crush up)
Start off by making the caramel. To do this place the water and sugar in a saucepan set over a gentle heat; do not stir, but swirl the pan occasionally to encourage the sugar to dissolve. Once the sugar has dissolves and you have a clear syrup, increase the heat and boil until it turns golden brown. At this stage add the double cream and stir, then pour in the bourbon and stir again. Continue to stir on the heat for another couple of minutes, then set aside and add the salt to taste. Leave to cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins with baking paper. Place the butter in a saucepan and leave to melt and bubble until it starts to brown and smell nutty. Set aside to cool.
Once the butter has cooled put it in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment) along with the sugars and egg and mix until pale and thick (about 5 minutes). Beat in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, baking powder and spices and stir until just combined. Stir through the pumpkin, sultanas, lemon zest and pecans. Split the batter between the cake tins and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
Leave the cakes to cool completely in the tins. Meanwhile, make the icing by simply whisking together the mascarpone, cream cheese and caramel until smooth. Pile into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle.
Once the cakes are completely cool, remove from the tins and slice in half horizontally (leaving you with 4 layers). Pipe the icing in little mounds over the whole surface area of the first layer, then stack up the remaining layers, repeating the piping as you go. Decorate the top with pecan praline and thyme.
I’ve tried a lot of vegan brownies which are dry, crumbly or ‘raw’. Sure, there’s a time and a place for healthy alternatives and we can’t just slob around eating sugar-laden baked goods all day, but if I want a brownie and I’m vegan (I’m not I’m just being really selfless…) I want the real thing, not a load of dates and coconut oil. With this not-very-2018 thought in mind, I’ve been attempting to put together a recipe for a completely vegan and gluten free brownie which rivals a conventional dairy/egg based one. The recipe I’ve devised delivers a fudgy core and crisp top, rich flavour and all round delicious result- give it a try, it’s a good place to start with vegan baking.
Ingredients (makes 16 small brownies, or 9 big ones!)
125g smooth peanut butter, plus 50g more for the core and topping
75ml vegetable oil
275g dark chocolate (I used half 60% and half 80%), plus 75g roughly chopped for chocolate chips
large pinch salt
100ml aquafaba (the starchy water you get in a can of chickpeas- you will get about 100ml from one can)
1tbsp ground flaxseed mixed with 1tbsp water (this replicates an egg yolk very well!)
100g dark brown soft sugar
100g golden caster sugar
100g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm)
few chopped peanuts, for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 20x20cm square brownie tin.
Mix together the flaxseed and water at this stage to give it time to thicken an form an egg-yolk consistency. Put the oil, peanut butter and 275g of the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set it over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Allow the ingredients to melt together, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat to cool to room temperature.
Place the aquafaba in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk until soft peaks just form. At this stage add in the flax mixture, sugars and salt (it’s amazing how much this looks like eggs whisked together with sugar!). Whisk again until the sugars are well incorporated then fold in the cooled chocolate mixture with a metal spoon, followed by the flour. Scrape half of the batter into the prepared tin then dot over half of the extra peanut butter and some of the chopped chocolate. Top with the remaining batter and repeat the peanut butter/chocolate stage, then finish with the peanuts (if using).
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until crisp on top but very slightly wobbly in the middle. Leave to cool completely then slice up and serve.
No intricate decorations, fillings or tiers here, just one humble layer of ludicrously fudgy, crinkly chocolate joy (which is, entirely by chance, dairy and gluten free). For a real depth of flavour and the perfect balance of bitter and sweet, take note of my chocolate recommendations and use a good quality olive oil (this recipe idea actually stemmed from a yearning to bake with a deliciously floral, wincingly expensive extra virgin oil I picked up in Greece last month*).
* Disclaimer: don’t judge, I was in that holiday headspace where you flash your card with the sort of cavalier attitude usually reserved for Monopoly money… sufficed to say, I could do with passing GO right now
200g 60% dark chocolate
100g 70% dark chocolate
100g 80% dark chocolate
200ml good quality olive oil
275g light brown soft sugar
75ml strong espresso
Generous pinch sea salt
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line an 8 inch cake tin.
Roughly chop all the chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl along with the olive oil. Put the sugar and coffee in a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has completely dissolved (avoid bringing it to the boil at this stage).
Once the sugar has dissolved increase the heat and bring to the boil, then pour over the chocolate. Leave for a few minutes while the chocolate melts, then stir everything (chocolate, olive oil, sugar, espresso) together to form a smooth, glossy liquid. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then stir in the egg yolks.
Place the egg whites in a large bowl with the salt (or bowl of a stand mixer) and whisk to stiff peaks. Carefully fold the whites into the chocolate mixture in two batches using a large metal spoon, then scrape the mixture into the prepared cake tin (make sure you don’t scrape from a height or you’ll knock out some of that air you’ve just put into the whites!).
Bake for 50-60 minutes, then leave to cool completely in the tin. When cooling, the top of the cake will dip and crack- don’t worry, it’s a smooth, flourless torte, not a sponge cake! Once cool, slice up and finish with a dusting of cocoa powder. Serve with creme fraiche, if you like.
Bloom and Wild have just released a beautiful range of bouquets for Autumn/Winter, in collaboration with infamous London department store, Liberty. Each bouquet has been artfully designed to reflect some of the most coveted prints in the Liberty archive, from the vintage look 1910 Elysian Day, to the vibrant 60s Ciara. This week marks 5 years of letterbox flowers from Bloom & Wild, and to mark the occasion they asked me to create a very special birthday cake which encapsulates the style of the Bloom and Wild X Liberty collection.
To make this celebratory cake really striking, I’ve decorated it with meadowy blooms and wild greenery from the Rachel Deluxe bouquet, which is inspired by a 1988 Liberty print. To keep things simple but delicious, the sponge I’ve developed is light and zesty, with a hum of pistachio. For the filling I’ve gone with a raspberry and rose cream, in part because the bouquet boasts stunning quicksand roses but also because British raspberries are nearing the end of their season, so we need to make the most of them while we can. To apply the flowers, I trimmed and sealed the stems, then arranged them in as natural a way as possible, staying true to the print. I hope you all like what I came up with and enjoy the recipe- it’s perfect for late summer celebrations!
For the sponges
350g soft unsalted butter
325g golden caster sugar
Zest 2 lemons
200g ground pistachios (just blitz 200g shelled pistachios in a food processor until fine)
150g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
For the rose and raspberry cream
400g double cream
2-3tbsp rose water (add this in small amounts, tasting between each addition)
2-3tbsp icing sugar (to taste)
200g fresh raspberries, lightly crushed with a fork
To finish (optional)
Bloom and Wild Rachael bouquet, or pistachios and crystallised rose petals
Preheat the oven to 170c. Grease and line two 7 inch cake tins.
Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until very light, pale and fluffy (this can take about 10 minutes). Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a little bit of the flour with each egg if you’re worried about curdling). Once all the eggs are well incorporated, add the rest of the flour, ground pistachios, salt and baking powder and fold in using a large metal spoon.
Once you have a light, lump free cake batter, split between the two tins and level off the tops. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted.
Once baked, leave the cakes to cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling make the filling. To do this simply whisk together the cream, icing sugar, mascarpone and rose water until spreadable. Take 2/3 of this filling and ripple through the raspberries. Put the remaining 1/3 to the side (this is for coating the outside of the cake).
When you cakes are completely cool, slice in half horizontally so that you have four even layers. Place the first layer on your serving plate and spread over 1/3 of the raspberry cream, then repeat until you’ve stacked all four.
Take the remaining rose cream and spread a very thin layer over the cake to seal in any crumbs. Chill for 10 minutes to firm up a little, then cover with the last bit of rose cream (use a palette knife or cake scraper to do this). This stage is optional, you can leave the sides bare if you like.
To finish the cake, arrange fresh flowers all over the top (ensuring that you seal any ends and remove them from the cake before consumption!). Alternatively, decorate with lemon zest, pistachios and rose petals.
It will come as no surprise to find out that I’m partial to a chocolate brownie, and having tried a fair few, I can safely say this variety (which I threw together as an experiment and didn’t have particularly high expectations for) is now a firm favourite. With a blackberry and cherry compote core and hazelnut praline top, these moist and deeply chocolatey bars deliver the dense, moist texture you expect from a great brownie, but also carry a welcome tang and contrasting crunch which make them a little different and perfect for late summer.
For the hazelnut praline
150g blanched hazelnuts
150g caster sugar
Generous pinch sea salt
For the black forest fruit filling
400g fresh or frozen black forest fruits (blackberries, cherries, blackcurrants- choose one or use a combination depending on your preference/availability)
2tbsp caster sugar
Zest and juice 1 lemon
4tbsp kirsch (optional)
For the brownie batter
250g butter, cubed
250g dark chocolate
100g dark brown soft sugar
100g golden caster sugar
3 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
large pinch sea salt
100g plain flour
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Before you make the brownie batter, prepare the fillings. Start with the hazelnut praline; to make this simply place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and heat gently until it forms a caramel (don’t stir, just swirl the pan to move the sugar around). Once the caramel has taken on a golden colour, add the hazelnuts and stir to coat. Scrape the contents of the pan onto a baking paper lined tray and spread out in an even layer. Leave to harden.
To make the black forest filling, place 300g of the fruit in a saucepan along with the caster sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and kirsch (if using). Heat gently until the berries release their juices, then increase the heat to medium and, stirring occasionally, reduce to a compote consistency. Set aside to cool.
The caramel will now have hardened around the hazelnuts. Break it up into pieces and place in a food processor, then blitz until you’ve got a coarse crumble (don’t over blitz, you want a little texture to remain).
Now it’s time to make the brownie batter. Preheat the oven to 170c and grease and line a 20x20cm brownie tin. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and melt together over a pan of simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.
While the chocolate mixture cools, place the sugars, salt, eggs and egg yolk in a stand mixer (or in a large bowl) and beat until very light and voluminous (it will pretty much double in size).
Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate mix down the side of the bowl and fold in using a large metal spoon, then add the flour and do the same until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Now add the chocolate chunks and stir through to evenly distribute.
Tip half the mix into the brownie tin and level off. Scrape in the black forest filling and sprinkle over most of the hazelnut praline. Top with the rest of the brownie batter then, finally, scatter on the remaining fruits and praline.
Bake for 25-30 minutes.
When it’s ready, the brownie will have a crisp top but will wobble slightly when shaken and have a gooey texture inside. Set aside to cool (completely) in the tin then once it’s set up a little, remove, slice up and serve.
This recipe is the first in a two part collaboration with Bloom and Wild, the letterbox flower delivery service. They’ve recently launched a collection of bouquets inspired by three well recognised destinations we all associate with summer; the tropics, the meadow and the desert. This week I’m going all club tropicana with the Ines, a bouquet inspired by the flora and fauna of, you guessed it, the tropics. The cake I’ve created to reflect this theme boasts four coconut sponge layers, a filling of caramelised pineapple and rum caramel, and a lime cream cheese frosting. It really delivers on flavour and if you’re throwing a birthday party any time soon would be a great centre piece… Also, the UK feels like the tropics at the moment anyway so you might as well go the whole hog and theme your baking accordingly (nearly went a whole post without mentioning the weather there… NEARLY).
For the coconut sponges
350g unsalted butter, softened
350g caster sugar
zest and juice 2 limes
350g self raising flour
50g desiccated coconut
100g coconut yoghurt
For the caramelised pineapple filling
1 ripe pineapple
75g soft dark brown sugar
50g unsalted butter, cubed
For the rum caramel (this will leave you with a little left over- keep in the fridge for a few days and use on ice cream!)
200g caster sugar
85g butter, cubed
125ml double cream
spiced rum, to taste (I used 2 shots)
generous pinch sea salt
For the cream cheese icing
125g unsalted butter
400g icing sugar
200g cream cheese (full fat)
zest 2 limes
For decoration (optional)
the Ines bouquet by Bloom and Wild
toasted coconut shavings
rum caramel drips
Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins. Preheat the oven to 160c.
Start off by making the sponges. Place the butter, caster sugar and lime zest/juice in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat together until very light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition (add a spoonful of the flour every now and then if you’re worried about curdling).
Once the eggs are well incorporated, add the flour, salt and desiccated coconut and fold carefully with a large metal spoon. Finally, fold through the coconut yoghurt.
Scrape the batter into the two cake tins and level off the tops. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the sponges are golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked, set aside to cool in the tins.
Increase the oven temperature to 180c. Slice the pineapple into even chunks, discarding the skin and central core. Soften the butter slightly and mix together with the sugar. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and dot over half the butter mixture then place the pineapple pieces over the top in one layer. Top with the remaining butter mixture then place another piece of greaseproof paper on top and finally, add another baking tray to weight it down. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, then turn the pineapple pieces over and cook for another 15 minutes (or until golden and caramelised). Once caramelised, roughly crush the pineapple then set aside and leave to cool completely.
While the cakes and pineapple are cooling, make the rum caramel. To do this simply tip the sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and gently heat until it melts (do not stir, just swirl the pan occasionally). Once the sugar has melted, allow it to reach a deep golden colour then add in the butter and stir (it will spit a little so be careful). Now add the cream and stir again. Cook out for a further 2 minutes on the heat, then remove from the hob, add the rum and stir once more. Set aside to cool.
Finally, make the cream cheese icing. Place the butter in a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer) and beat until light and smooth. Add half the icing sugar and beat again (cover the bowl with a clean damp tea towel to avoid an icing sugar explosion) until well combined, then add the rest along with the lime zest. Once these ingredients are well combined, add the cream cheese and beat until smooth.
Once all the elements are cool, it’s time to assemble the cake. To do this slice both sponges in half horizontally (so you have four even layers) and place the first down on your serving plate of choice. Mix half the rum caramel in with the pineapple (reserve the rest for drips). Pipe a ring of cream cheese around the edge of this layer and fill the middle with your pineapple mixture. Repeat until you’ve used up all your sponges then spread a light layer of cream cheese icing all over the cake. Chill for 10 minutes (to catch all the crumbs) then spread the rest of the icing on neatly. Finish with the flowers, or alternatively use toasted coconut and lime zest.
We’ve been enjoying a very unusual bout of beautiful hot weather here in the UK, so today’s recipe is an iced one. I served this up for my boyfriends birthday (after he broke the news to me that he didn’t want a cake- yeah, sacrilege I know) and although it requires a little more effort to make than a simple sponge, the creamy, indulgent and slightly bittersweet (thanks to the tahini and very dark chocolate) result is well worth it.
For the chocolate ripple
150g bitter dark chocolate
150ml double cream
pinch sea salt
For the cherry compote
200g fresh cherries (de-stoned)
3tbsp honey or caster sugar
Zest and juice of 1 orange
For the parfait base
75g caster sugar
125ml whole milk
250ml double cream
For the tahini crumble
25g demerara sugar
25g butter, cubed
100g plain flour
1tbsp black sesame seeds
Start by making the chocolate ganache for the ripple. To do this simply place the chocolate, salt and cream in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (don’t allow the water to touch the bottom of the bowl). Stir occasionally until it melts together and forms a smooth ganache. Set aside to cool.
Now prepare the cherry compote. Put the cherries, honey (or sugar), orange zest and juice in a saucepan and gently heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a sticky compote consistency (5-10 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool.
Now it’s time to make the parfait base. Line a loaf tin with 2 layers of cling film, leaving an overhang on all sides.
Separate the eggs. Put the yolks in a large bowl along with the sugar and whisk until pale, meanwhile, heat the milk until just boiling in a saucepan. Remove the milk from the heat and pour into the egg yolks, then stir together until smooth. Return the mix to a clean pan and gently heat, stirring constantly. After a few minutes, the mix will start to thicken- once it coats the back of the spoon set aside and cool to room temperature.
Once the ganache, compote and custard have cooled to room temperature, whisk the double cream to soft peaks. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to medium peaks. Stir the tahini into the egg yolk mixture. Fold the double cream into the egg yolk/ tahini with a large metal spoon, then do the same with the egg whites, retaining as much air as possible. Ripple through 2/3 of the chocolate ganache and 2/3 of the cherry compote.
Spoon the remaining chocolate ganache and cherry compote into the bottom of the prepared tin, then spoon in the parfait mix. Cover with cling film and freeze for at least 4 hours.
While the parfait is freezing, make the sesame crumble. Preheat the oven to 180c. Rub together the butter and flour until they resemble breadcrumbs. Stir through the sugar and tahini, then tip onto a lined baking tray- bake for 10 minutes then check, shake and return to the oven to 10 more minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown. Stir through the sesame seeds and set aside to cool.
Take the parfait out of the oven 10 minutes before you’d like to serve it to allow it to soften slightly. Sprinkle on the sesame crumble and finish with some fresh cherries.