Amaretto fruit cake

We are fast approaching the time of year when I begin to get ridiculously excited. I love Christmas and this year we have an extra special reason to celebrate…

Our gorgeous little boy Hamish Andrew arrived on the 30th October 2016, at 11.09pm. I can’t believe he is a month old already! I ended up having to have an emergency C section and for the first couple of weeks I wasn’t up to venturing out at all. My husband had to do everything for me – thank God he was off work. 4 weeks on and I’m still pretty tender and I get tired quite quickly. Breastfeeding every 3 hours can take it out of you as well, so at the moment my motto is – If it’s not desperate, it ain’t getting done! I’m just enjoying every moment with our little bundle of joy 🙂

 I just can’t imagine Christmas without a fruit cake – if I’m totally honest one of my main reasons for making one is to fill the house with the amazing, festive smell while the cake is in the oven! I usually make elaborate plans to ice and decorate the cake, but in reality I’m never usually organised enough to actually do it. If you’re short of time, a fruit and nut topping is easy and looks so pretty. 

This simmer and stir method means it isn’t totally necessary to make the cake weeks before Christmas and feed it – but you can if you want to.

It’s definitely worth taking the time to line your cake tin correctly to protect the cake during its long baking time.

Grease a deep, loose bottomed 23cm round cake tin and line the base and sides with non stick baking paper. Cut out a circle of baking paper, using the base of your tin as a template. To line the sides, cut a strip of baking paper a little longer than the circumference of the tin and about 3 inches higher. Fold it 1 inch along its length, then using scissors make little snips up to the fold line, making a fringe along the length. It should now fit snugly inside the cake tin. Finally, fit your circle over the top, covering the fringe.

Amaretto fruit cake

200g dried figs, chopped
300g sultanas
350g raisins
200g glace cherries, rinsed, dried and halved
50g crystallized ginger, chopped (optional)
125ml Amaretto, plus extra for soaking the cake
300g butter
250g dark brown sugar
Zest and juice of 1 large Orange
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons treacle
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
5 medium eggs
250g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
30g flaked almonds

FOR THE FRUIT AND NUT TOPPING: (OPTIONAL)

3-4 tablespoons apricot jam
250g mixed fruit and nuts such as apricots, glace cherries, cranberries, crystallized ginger, Brazil nuts, pecans, pistachios

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas Mark 2.

Place the dried fruits in a large saucepan with the Amaretto, butter, sugar, Orange zest and juice, lemon zest, treacle, cinnamon, mixed spice and nutmeg. Gently bring to a simmer, stirring, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes. I’ve often done this in advance and left it overnight. When you’re ready to bake the cake, pour the soaked fruit mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the flour, baking powder, ground almonds and flaked almonds. Stir until everything is well combined. Pour into the lined tin and bake for 2 1/2 – 3 hours or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool completely in the tin. When the cake is cold, poke a few holes in the cake, drizzle with a little Amaretto, then wrap in baking paper and store in an airtight container.

If you’re decorating the cake with the fruit and nut topping, warm the apricot jam in a small pan over a low heat. If there are any lumps of fruit, strain through a sieve.
Brush the top of the cake with some jam, then stick the fruit and nuts onto the cake. Carefully brush the fruit and nuts with the remaining jam to add a lovely shine.

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Homemade Jaffa Cakes

I’ve not been feeling up to spending much time in the kitchen lately, but after watching the return of The Great British Bake off I was inspired to try the technical challenge – jaffa cakes. Plus the fact that there has been a serious lack of cake in the house for a while – so I needed to do something about it!

I ended up using a recipe from The boy who bakes for the sponge bases – I’ve made Mary Berry’s before and although I had no problems with them, I wanted to try a different recipe this time for comparison. Edd’s genoise sponge contains eggs and a small amount of butter, so it is somewhat richer and slightly denser than Mary’s fatless sponge but I do prefer it. But no offense to Mary, I still love her!

You’ll find Edd’s recipe for blood orange jaffa cakes right here. I’ve bookmarked it and I’ll be giving it a try in late January/early February when blood oranges come into season. 

Jaffa Cakes

Makes 12

1 135g packet orange jelly

150ml water

Place the jelly cubes in a heatproof bowl and pour in 150ml boiling water. Stir until the jelly cubes have thoroughly melted. Pour into a shallow dish measuring 30cm x 20cm and place in the fridge for an hour or two or until competely firm.

For the sponges

1 large egg

30g caster sugar

30g self raising flour

15g (1 tablespoon) butter, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 180C and thoroughly grease a 12 hole muffin tin (or use cake release spray)

Place the egg and sugar into a medium bowl and using an electric mixer whisk together for 5 minutes or until the mixture is pale and thick. Sieve the flour over the egg mixture and carefully fold in. Pour in the butter and carefully fold in, taking care not to beat to much air out of the mixture by overmixing. Place about 1 tbsp of batter into each muffin tin base and bake for 7-10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed. Leave in the tins for a few minutes before turning out (you may need to carefully coax a few out using a butter knife, they can stick a little). Place on a wire rack to cool completely. 

Remove the jelly from the fridge and using a 2cm round cutter (I couldn’t find a cutter small enough so I used an icing nozzle) cut out 12 little rounds of jelly and place in the middle of each sponge.  

For the topping, place 150g dark chocolate over a pan of simmering water and leave until melted. Watch the chocolate doesn’t get too hot or it will melt the jelly. Using a spoon, spread the chocolate over the top of the jelly centres, gently spreading it over to the edges of the cakes. Leave to set. 

Are you baking along with GBBO this year? I posted these jaffa cakes on Twitter for #gbbotwitterbakealong – if you fancy joining in (there are some great prizes to be won!) head on over to Twitter and search for the hashtag to find out more ☺

Malted Fruit and banana Loaf

The past couple of weeks have been a bit fraught. I ended up going to hospital not once, but four times due to a few complications (baby and I are fine thankfully  – they are just keeping a close eye on me because I lost my first baby very late in pregnancy) and I had to stay in for a couple of days last week as a precaution. I have to say though, the staff at the hospital are absolutely amazing and I can’t praise them enough. They did a fantastic job of calming my nerves and comforting me when I was taken through via an ambulance last Tuesday night. Honestly, where would we be without our NHS? I actually dread to think 😕

So needless to say, things have been pretty quiet on the cooking/baking front. The housework is being severely neglected. I’m sure my ironing pile contains clothes that we’d forgotten we owned we haven’t seen them in that long, and I just have piles of stuff. 

Everywhere. Boys are so messy!

But I’ve been told to rest as much as I can, so I’m trying my hardest to turn a blind eye. To be fair, my eldest has been hoovering daily (one of my bug bears is dirty carpets – normally if I see a speck of dirt I’m out with the hoover) and they’ve both been taking their dirty washing/cups/plates downstairs and helping Dad wash up. They are trying! 

I made this fruit loaf just before one of my longer hospital visits. It’s packed full of goodness and is fat free. So in other words, it’s a health food! If you can overlook the golden syrup, lol 😉

Malted fruit and banana loaf 

Adapted from the “River Cottage Cakes” book

100g malt extract      

100g golden syrup 

100ml milk

75g dried dates, roughly chopped

75g sultanas or raisins

225g self raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

1 medium egg, lightly beaten  

1 ripe banana, mashed

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the malt extract, golden syrup and milk in a saucepan. Stir over a gentle heat until the mixture is hot and all of the ingredients are well combined. Remove from the heat and add the dates and raisins/sultanas. 

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the fruit mixture, egg and mashed banana. Stir the mixture until everything is well combined and no pockets of flour remain. Spoon into a greased and lined 1 litre loaf tin (approx 20x10cm) and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. 

Leave to cool completely in the tin. This fruit loaf will last for about a week – if it isn’t devoured by then!

Chocolate chip banana muffins

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As luck would have it (and much to my eldest son’s disgust because he had to go to school – ha ha) I got a much needed day off work today due to the bank holiday!

I’m now 17 weeks into my pregnancy and everything seems to be going ok. I could just do with a bit more energy! Unfortunately the job I do means I’m on my feet pretty much all day and I’m starting to find it pretty draining. Which means that when I get home from work every night I have my dinner, get my pj’s on and crawl into bed. I’ve been trying to start Stephen King’s book 11 22 63 for a while now but I can’t seem to keep my eyes open long enough to read! But despite my moans, I really am counting my blessings and crossing my fingers that everything has been going well so far. I’ve even started to feel the little one wriggle about which I love 🙂

Here’s a really great recipe for using up those black bananas. I don’t know about you but as soon as they start to turn black, I have to make something with them right away or just throw them out because the overwhelming smell makes me feel ill.

These don’t take much effort at all – and once you’ve tried them you’ll be glad you didn’t chuck those yuckky overripe bananas out!

Chocolate chip banana muffins
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s chocolate banana muffins in “Kitchen”

Makes 12

225g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
125ml coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
100g soft light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g chocolate chips of your choice

Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin lined with papers.

Weigh out the flour and cocoa powder. Stir together and set aside. Mash the bananas in a bowl and add the eggs, coconut oil, sugar and vanilla. Gently fold in the flour and cocoa powder, taking care not to overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spoon the mixture into the cases. Bake for 25 minutes or until risen and springy.

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Reeces peanut butter cup banana loaf

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Over the years, I’ve made so many banana loaves I could probably make them in my sleep. I’ve tried dozens of different versions but I think this one is my new favourite. This moist banana loaf is studded with Reeces mini peanut butter cups and Reeces pieces. It’s pure heaven for lovers of the banana and peanut butter combo!

Reeces peanut butter cup banana loaf

175g soft butter
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs
175g self-raising flour
2 large, very ripe bananas (about 250g total weight), mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g Reeces mini peanut butter cups, chopped in half (save a few for sprinkling over the top)
1 small packet Reeces pieces OR handful chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line the base and sides of a 2lb loaf tin.

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Slowly add the eggs to the creamed mixture, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the mashed bananas and vanilla extract. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little curdled at this stage. Gently fold in the flour. Finally, fold most of the peanut butter cups and Reeces pieces/chocolate chips into the cake mixture, taking care not to overmix.

Scoop the cake batter into the prepared loaf tin. Top with the reserved peanut butter cups and bake for between 1 hour and 1 hour 10 minutes, or until risen and skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes or until turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Book Review – The Everyday Baker

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The Everyday Baker
Essential Techniques and Recipes for Foolproof Baking
By Abigail Johnson Dodge

A sumptuous, comprehensive tome, The Everyday Baker is a baking reference to die for containing 200 essential, step-by-step techniques and recipes that every home cook should master. The book showcases a huge variety of sweet and savoury baked goods, from simple crumbles and muffins to pavlovas, meringues, soufflés and more, all with detailed instructions, visual clues and ingenious tips, so that each one is in easy reach of the novice cook.

Author Abigail Johnson Dodge is a veteran cookbook writer and pastry chef who explains techniques in a friendly, conversational tone, alongside 650 photos to bring her instructions to life. For each recipe, Abigail provides the extras that make her a highly regarded baking expert: make ahead tips, flavour and size variations and ‘baker’s wisdom’ gems that will help home cooks become more knowledgeable and confident. The Everyday Baker is packed with authoritative yet approachable information and will remain a staple in the kitchen long after home bakers gain the skills they need to become Great British Bake Off hopefuls!

I was recently given a copy of The Everyday Baker to review. It is indeed a tome, with over 600 pages. It is pretty heavy! It’s definitely a perfect book to curl up and read if the weather is rubbish. I’m pretty certain you would pick up a few new tips along the way – Abigail shares a wealth of handy kitchen hints and techniques. One thing I really love is the recipe measurements are in cups, grams and ounces – very helpful! There are also step by step photographs for many of the recipes.

I could quite happily bake my way through the entire book. The chapters include:

Morning food
Quick to make
Cookies
Cakes
Pies and tarts
Pudding and custards
Yeast breads
Pastry
Flatbreads
Fruit desserts

Recipes I want to try include:

Cinnamon swirl crumble topped ricotta coffee cake
Baked double chocolate dougnuts
Vanilla macarons with Nutella filling
Toasted coconut meltaways
Espresso hazelnut meringue cake with espresso buttercream and milk chocolate ganache
Maple pear slab pie
Roasted butternut squash pie with pecan praline
Popcorn creme caramel
Bourbon maple pecan baklava
Double tomato basil open faced tart
Cheesy bacon focaccia rolls

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I made the creamy peanut butter filled Devil’s chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache topping. The chocolate sponge was so moist and light. They were amazing. My sister declared them the best cupcakes ever!

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The best ever maple pecan granola clusters were addictive. It was lovely with natural yoghurt but I couldn’t walk past the jar without grabbing a handful. Perfect. Another keeper recipe!

So far that’s two brilliant recipes – I’m really looking forward to trying more.

The Everyday Baker is a fantastic baking reference. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced, confident baker I highly recommend this book. It will be a constant kitchen companion for me.

I was given a copy of The Everyday Baker to review. All opinions are my own.

Terrys chocolate orange cheesecake

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December 1st!! The countdown to the big day has officially begun and I’m celebrating with a very easy and delicious no bake chocolate orange cheesecake.

I converted two supposed cheesecake haters with this one. I really hope you love it too!

Terry’s chocolate orange cheesecake

150g butter
280g chocolate orange digestives, crushed to fine crumbs
450g full fat philadelphia cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g icing sugar
Finely grated zest of one large orange
200ml double cream
1 (or 2 if you want lots of chocolate orangey goodness OR for extra pieces to snack on while you’re slaving away making this….just saying ;))Terrys chocolate orange (keep about 10 neat looking pieces for decorating the top, roughly chop the rest for the filling)

Melt the butter in a saucepan and tip in the crushed biscuits. Stir until the biscuits are completely coated in butter and resemble damp sand. Tip into a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin and press down evenly. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling, whip together the cream cheese, vanilla, icing sugar and orange zest. In a separate bowl, lightly whip the double cream to very soft peaks. Fold the cream into the cream cheese mixture. Finally, fold in chopped chocolate orange. Pour the cheesecake filling over the biscuit base. Pop back in the fridge to set for at least five hours or preferably overnight. The last time I made this I only lasted 3 hours before cutting…needless to say it wasn’t set properly! It was still delicious but a little runny. When the cheesecake is set and you are ready to serve it, decorate with the reserved chocolate orange segments/melted chocolate. If you didn’t eat them while waiting for the cheesecake to set. I didn’t do that myself by the way. Nope. Not at all………

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Gingerbread latte cake

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I am a huge fan of gingerbread. Especially gingerbread lattes. I just can’t help it, I find them irresistible. I frequent Starbucks more often in December than I do any other time of the year – I’ve got to have my gingerbread lattes! But my obsession doesn’t end with visiting coffee shops – I buy the syrup and make it at home (which is much kinder on the purse!)

It was only a matter of time before I turned my favourite festive drink into a cake. This three layer cake is full of warming winter spices and just a hint of coffee. The caramel biscuit icing is from this months Christmas BBC Good Food magazine. The only thing I changed was substitute some of the cream cheese for mascarpone because I had some that needed using up.

Gingerbread latte cake
Inspired and apapted from “Gingerbread cake with caramel biscuit icing” from BBC Good Food Magazine

225g soft butter
375g light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tbsp treacle
375g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
300ml tub sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 heaped tsp coffee granules, dissolved in 50ml boiling water (leave to cool a little before using)

Grease and base line three 20cm loose-bottomed cake tins. If your tins are shallower than 4cm, line the sides with a baking paper collar.

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C/Gas 4. Using an electric mixer/whisk, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the treacle.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices. Stir the sour cream, vanilla and cooled coffee together in a jug. Fold the spiced flour and sour cream coffee mixture into the creamed mixture, alternating until all the ingredients are incorporated and you have a smooth batter. Divide the batter between the tins and bake for 25-30 mins or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes come out clean. Cool the cakes in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Once the cakes are completely cool (and if you don’t need to ice them straightaway) wrap in cling film and store for up to 4 days, or they can be frozen for up to 2 months.

The recipe for the caramel biscuit icing can be found right here – I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s not cheap to make, but for a treat it’s definitely worth it!

Plum amaretti crumble cake

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One of my favourite things about Autumn is all of the seasonal fruit around this time of year – apples, figs, pears and plums are all perfect for baking homely cakes. You know the kind I mean – a cake that could be served alongside a cup of coffee on a rainy afternoon or for pudding, with lashings of custard. This recipe is that kind of cake. The sponge is really moist with the addition of Greek yoghurt and ground almonds, topped with ripe juicy plums and finished off with a layer of buttery amarreti crumble. It’s a gorgeous Autumal bake!

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Plum amaretti crumble cake

175g soft butter
175g caster sugar
3 Large eggs
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
2 tsp vanilla extract
85g Greek yoghurt
6-7 ripe plums (depending on size – mine were pretty small so you might need less)

Amaretti crumble topping

50g each of butter, demerara sugar, ground almonds, plain flour and amaretti biscuits

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 22cm cake tin and baking paper. 

Make the crumble topping first – place the sugar, ground almonds and plain flour in a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Crush the amaretti biscuits in random sized pieces and stir them through the crumble mixture.

For the cake, place the butter, sugar eggs, flour, baking powder, vanilla, ground almonds and Greek yoghurt in a large bowl. Beat the ingredients together until the batter is smooth. Tip the batter into the tin and level the top. Arrange the plums cut side up over the batter, then scatter over the crumble. Bake for 1 hour or until well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out and leave to cool on a wire rack. Lovely with either cream or custard (or both, if you’re that way inclined!)

Nutty banana cake with browned butter maple icing and salted caramel

If you’re looking for a healthier kind of banana cake, better stop reading now.

This banana cake is all dressed up and ready to party.

In brown butter maple icing and salted caramel. It’s not for the faint hearted! It’s very sweet so I like to add a little more salt to the salted caramel to balance it out a little.

You can of course leave the nuts out if you wish.

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Nutty banana cake with browned butter icing and salted caramel glaze
Inspired/adapted from the banana and hazelnut cake from The Meringue Girls “Everything sweet”

500g very ripe bananas, mashed
125ml vegetable oil
125g light brown sugar
2 large eggs
150g mixed nuts, chopped (I used pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts)
225g self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
A large pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line the base of two 20cm cake tins.

Sift the self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat the oil and sugar together and beat in the eggs one at a time, beating until  well mixed. Add the vanilla extract and mashed banana. Fold in the flour and mixed nuts. Pour the batter into the cake tins and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the sponges are risen and springy.
Carefully turn out on to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

Browned butter maple icing

150g butter
500g icing sugar
2-3 tbsp maple syrup

For the browned butter, start by melting the butter in a small pan. Once it’s melted, leave on a medium heat until the butter has browned and has an almost nutty smell. Measure your icing sugar out and place in a mixer with a whisk attachment fitted. With the beaters going, carefully pour the still warm butter into the icing sugar. Keep whisking – it might look a bit strange at this stage but keep going. Add one tbsp of the maple syrup and keep whisking until the icing is very light and fluffy. If it’s a little too thick, add another tbsp maple syrup.

I used this recipe for the salted caramel. Leave to cool completely (obviously!) before pouring over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides.

Lemon and lime madeira cake

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Here’s my second bake inspired by the first episode of bake off….madeira cake.

I have to confess that madeira cake always sounded a little boring and plain to me…but after one taste I was sold! It’s light, buttery and moist – anything but boring! It really is a lovely, lovely cake. Sometimes the classics are the best!

Lemon and lime madeira cake

Grease and line an 18cm round cake tin. Preheat the oven to 180c.

175g soft butter
Zest of one lemon and one small lime
175g caster sugar
225g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
3 eggs

Measure out the sugar in a large bowl and using your fingertips, rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar is damp and fragrant.  Add the butter, flour, ground almonds and eggs and beat for one minute until the mixture is smooth. Pour into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 60 minutes or until well risen and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes in the tin before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing:

125g icing sugar
Juice of half a lemon or lime

Mix the icing sugar with the juice until you have a fairly thick icing that will still run off the back of a spoon. Pour over the cooled cake.

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Black forest cake

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Bake off is back!!

Yay!!! 😀

As soon as I heard the bakers were making a black forest gateau for the first showstopping challenge, I had to make one. I wasn’t going to go to a huge amount of effort because no-one else in my house would be eating it – which is extremely dangerous for my hips. Luckily though, I have plenty other family and friends who were more than willing to help me eat it!

Black forest takes me right back to my childhood (I’ve spoken about this before – but please, humour me) but the kind I enjoyed as a little one was not home made but from a box found in the freezer aisle of the supermarket.
The Sara Lee gateau was the height of sophistication in the 80’s and we usually seemed to have one whenever there was a special occasion to celebrate. A jug of pouring cream was always on offer to trickle over your slice. It all felt very grown up and posh to my eight year old self.

I’ve kept things fairly simple for my version – chocolate sponge sandwiched together with whipped cream, cherry compote and topped off with a rich chocolate ganache.

Black forest cake

For the cake

200g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g cocoa powder
225g soft butter
200g caster sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
4 large eggs
150g Greek yoghurt

Grease and line two 20cm round cake tins and preheat the oven to 180c.

Sieve all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and beat together until the mixture is smooth.) I sieved the dry ingredients into the bowl of my KitchenAid, then added everything else and used my paddle beater to mix).

Pour the smooth batter into the cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until well risen and springy. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before removing and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I used this recipe for the cherry compote and halved it. And then halved it again since I only had a smallish punnet of cherries! It was just a shame I didn’t have any kirsch or cherry brandy leftover from Christmas – it would have been really lovely in the compote.

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Fill the cooled sponges with softly whipped double cream and the cherry compote.

For the ganache, place 100ml double cream in a small pan over a medium heat. When it almost reaches a boil, take off the heat and immediately add 100g finely chopped dark chocolate. Leave for a few minutes before stirring to make sure all the chocolate has melted. Leave to thicken and cool a little before pouring over the top of the cake. Decorate with fresh cherries.

Mummy Mishaps

I’m linking this recipe up over at Mummy Mishaps for the great bloggers bake off, a blogging event which is so much fun and a brilliant excuse to bake along with The Great British bake off!

Baking with Teatulia tea/coconut and lemon drizzle loaf cake

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Tea. It’s such an everyday part of our lives. How many times a day do you hear the words “I’ll put the kettle on” or “fancy a cuppa?”

It’s not just about Tetley these days. There must be literally thousands of different flavours these days (how do they keep dreaming up new ones?)

And tea isn’t just for drinking.

Using tea in baking is a great way of infusing flavour in your bakes. The best way of extracting the flavour for baking is to steep the teabags in melted butter or milk.

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Teatulia recently sent me some samples of their organic teas to try – I was more than tempted to drink it all but I decided to save the lemongrass tea to make a zesty lemon and coconut cake.

Coconut and lemon loaf cake

100g coconut
5 tbsp milk
200g butter, melted
3 lemongrass teabags
Zest of one lemon
180g caster sugar
4 eggs
275g self raising flour

Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin.

Pour the milk over the coconut, stir and set aside.

Melt the butter in a small pan with the tea bags. When the butter has melted, simmer for a couple of minutes, then take off the heat and leave the teabags to steep in the butter for 15 minutes or so. Carefully squeeze the teabags to release their liquid.

Using your fingertips, rub together the sugar and lemon zest until the sugar is damp and fragrant. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the coconut and milk mixture and melted butter. Sift over the flour and fold in gently.

Pour into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until well risen and golden.

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For the drizzle:

100g icing sugar
Juice of one large lemon

In a small pan over a low heat, dissolve the icing sugar and lemon juice. Simmer for a couple of minutes until syrupy, then remove from the heat and set aside.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pierce all over with a skewer. Slowly pour over the syrup, letting it soak in.

For the lemony icing, mix together 100g icing sugar and around half the juice of one lemon. Once the cake is completely cold, pour the icing over the cake and finish with toasted coconut flakes and crystallised lemon.

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The Teatulia teas were delicious and so fresh tasting – I especially enjoyed the black tea. Visit http://www.teatulia.co.uk to read what they are all about and where you can find their tea.

Gluten dairy free fresh apricot and raspberry almond cake

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This cake was the result of a little late night experimental baking. In all honesty I hadn’t intended to post the recipe on my blog, but the picture was pretty popular on my Instagram and Facebook pages plus I had a few requests for the recipe from colleagues.
This was my first attempt at a gluten and dairy free cake so I was pretty relieved that it was so well received. Phew!

I have been looking for any excuse to use the delicious ginger syrup I recently received in the post from the very generous and lovely ginger people. I added two tablespoons of the syrup to replace the milk – it turned out lovely, the ginger gave the cake a very gentle warmth without overpowering the other flavours.

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I absolutely love this ginger syrup – I’ve poured it over my porridge, ice cream and using it to make gingerbread lattes! You can find out more about The ginger people and their lovely products on their website.

Gluten free apricot and raspberry almond cake

175ml light olive oil
175g caster sugar
4 or 5 ripe apricots
2 eggs
175g gluten free plain flour
1tsp gluten free baking powder
100g ground almonds
2 tbsp ginger syrup (if you don’t have the aforementioned ginger party brand, any other kind of ginger syrup would be fine)
150g raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line the bottom of a 20cm cake tin.

Lightly beat the olive oil, sugar and ginger syrup together, add the eggs and beat until the mixture is well blended.

Sift in the flour, ground almonds and baking powder and lightly fold into the oil and egg mixture until the batter is smooth. Finally, fold in 100g raspberries.

Pour this batter into the lined cake tin.

Cut the apricots in half and remove the stones.  Arrange the halved apricots, skin side down, on the top of the cake. Place the remaining raspberries on top. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. If the cake is getting a little dark on top, cover with a piece of baking paper.

This cake is beautiful served warm as a pudding with extra ginger syrup and a trickling of cream if your diet allows – although bear in mind that it is quite delicate until it’s completely cooled.

Foodie parcels and weekend bakes

    Hello! Sorry things have been a little quiet on here this past week. Work and home life has been super busy lately. I’ve also had some stupid sore throat virus for the past couple of weeks. I haven’t been able to shake off. So lately my daily routine has been get myself and the boys ready for leaving the house, go to work, come home for dinner, a bit of washing/housework/helping the kids with homework or whatever else needs my attention, bath then collapse in bed with my tablet to watch a couple of Breaking Bad episodes. I’m up to season four and totally hooked. Brilliant series.

    I’ve got a few recipes on the backburner that I will share with you soon..in the meantime here’s what’s been going on in my kitchen.

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    Debbie and Andrew’s sent me this lovely package. I’ve already tried their sausages and loved them so I knew we would be in for a treat. Their gluten free caramelised red onion sausages went down an absolute storm with us. I used them in a tomato and sausage pasta recipe from the cute little booklet they sent me – there were clean plates all around. If you see these sausages in the supermarket I urge you to pick up a packet!

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    Scan sent me a couple packs of their Swedish meatballs to try. I’ve never seen tried Swedish meatballs before and they were pretty tasty! I made the meatball and roasted vegetable pasta bake from the recipe booklet that came with the package and it went down very well, plus I had leftovers for lunch the next day! Scan Swedish meatballs are available to buy in Sainsburys, Ocado and Morrisons.

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    I was delighted when I received this ginger syrup from the ginger party. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know all about my love of all things ginger related! I can’t wait to use this syrup in my baking.

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    My cookery book obsession continues…here are a couple of recent purchases! The Works is a very dangerous place indeed…I’m sure I’ve pretty much doubled the amount of cookery books I own since they opened!

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    I made these cute little Baileys glazed baked doughnuts on Sunday…who could resist these? Not me that’s for sure. You’ll find the recipe right here on Recipes from a pantry.com

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    Pecan tassie bars from The Hummingbird Bakery “Life is Sweet”. I love anything with pecans so these jumped out at me while reading through the book. They are quite rich but the large amount of treacle stops them from being too sweet.

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    Last but certainly not least, I made this custard cream cheesecake from She Who Bakes. The ultimate treat for a custard cream lover!

Coconut and raspberry jam loaf cake

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This coconut cake is another old fashioned recipe that is so easy to make yet so lovely.

This particular recipe is actually the very first cake I ever made. It came from the Hamlyn book of cakes and baking, an extensive baking book that had a picture alongside every recipe. The raspberry jam topping is my nod to the retro school dinner pudding that was a favourite of many, the square slab of sponge covered with jam, coconut and slathered in custard. Birds of course!

Coconut and raspberry jam loaf cake

2 large eggs
6 tbsp milk
100g caster sugar
75g dessicated coconut
175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g butter
About one third jar raspberry jam
Dessicated coconut for sprinkling over the top

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Butter and line a loaf tin.

Crack the eggs in a measuring jug and top up with enough milk to make 200ml. Stir in the dessicated coconut and leave for 30 minutes. In a bowl, sieve together the plain flour and baking powder. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Add the egg mixture and stir everything together until well combined. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for 45-50 minutes or until risen, golden and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool completely.

When the cake is cold, spread with the raspberry jam and sprinkle with dessicated coconut.

Creme egg chocolate bundt cake

Creme eggs. People seem to either love them or hate them. Some find them sickly, others can’t get enough of them.

Regardless of whether you’re in the love/hate camp, you couldn’t have failed to notice the uproar on social media a couple of months ago when the story broke that creme eggs had changed and the chocolate “shell” is no longer Dairy Milk.

So which side are you on? Do you love or hate creme eggs? Have you noticed a difference? I think they have definitely gotten smaller, but that seems to be the case with all chocolate bars! They all seem to have shrunk over the years.

This chocolate cake is rich, moist and totally delicious – it didn’t last very long!

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Creme egg chocolate bundt cake

250ml milk
1 tbsp vinegar
180g soft butter
300g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
80g cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 180C. Spray a bundt tin liberally with cake release spray (I’ve tried to use butter/butter and flour with bundt tins and it was always a disaster!)

Pour the milk in a measuring jug and add the vinegar. Set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then slowly add the beaten eggs, a little at a time. Add the vanilla extract. Combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder in a bowl. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter, stirring lightly to combine. Pour in half of the milk and lightly stir until everything is smooth and combined. Repeat with the rest of the flour and milk. Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Place on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then place another rack on top and carefully invert – crossing everything that the cake falls out of the tin effortlessly! Leave to cool completely.

chocolate ganache

This chocolate ganache recipe couldn’t be simpler. Pour 100ml double cream into a small pan. Heat until almost boiling, take off the heat immediately and throw in 100g chopped dark chocolate. Leave for a minute, then stir to make sure the ganache is smooth. Set aside until needed.

When the cake is cool, spread over the chocolate ganache and decorate the top with halved creme eggs.

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Baking with Tea – Thai Chai Spiced Madeleines

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Up until fairly recently I wasn’t really a tea drinker at all – I was (and still am) a hardcore coffee lover. But lately I’ve been seduced by the world of loose tea – I had no idea there were so many varieties. Ever since tea company Adagio sent me some samples of their delicious teas, I’ve been thinking about various ways I could use tea in my baking.

Firstly I needed to find out the best way to infuse the tea flavour into the ingredients. In “Baking from my home to yours” Dorie Greenspan recommends steeping the tea leaves in butter to extract the flavours. Dorie says she learned this trick from the tea masters at Mariage Freres in Paris.

These delicate thai chai infused madeleines are adapted from Dorie’s Earl Gray madeleines recipe. Shortly after I placed my madeleine tray in the oven, my kitchen was permeated with a gently spiced, aromatic aroma with notes of lemongrass, cardamom and cinnamon.

Thai Chai Spiced Madeleines
recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from my home to yours

75g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons loose Thai Chai tea
100g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
75g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
makes 12 Madeleines or 24 mini Madelines

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the tea and allow it to infuse for 15 minutes. Line a small sieve with a double layer of damp cheesecloth or two layers of extra strength kitchen towel, then strain the butter into a small bowl and discard the tea leaves. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Place the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl and using your fingertips, work the zest into the sugar until the smell of lemon is strong. Add the eggs and beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until pale and thick. Add the honey and vanilla extract and beat for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the dry ingredients. When they are only just incorporated, fold in the butter. Place cling film against the surface of the batter and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or for up to 2 days.

When you’re ready to bake, grease your Madeleine tin and preheat the oven to 200C. Spoon the batter into the little moulds. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes (but start to check after 8) or until the madeleines are golden and the tops spring back when touched. Remove the pan from the oven and release the madeleines from the mold by rapping the edge of the pan against the counter. If some stick, use a butter knife to gently prise them out. Lovely eaten warm alongside a pot of tea, obviously!

If you’ve feeling inspired to bake with tea, have a look on the Adadio site and check out all the flavours they stock – you’ll be spoilt for choice!

A look back at 2014…

While we’re all waiting for the clock to strike midnight and welcome in a brand new year, I thought it would be fun to look back on some of my favourite posts of 2014 and also sneak in a few pictures that didn’t make it on the blog…

In January I made this gorgeous blood orange drizzle cake.
This is definitely a recipe to make again when beautiful blood oranges come into season.
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In February I met James Morton at the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness. He is a lovely guy and was kind enough to give me some of his 9 year old sourdough!

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And here is James (well what else could I have called him?) still alive and kicking…

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James was fairly busy day throughout the year….

Sourdough English muffins
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Sourdough Pizza
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Sourdough Loaves

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Ciabatta
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In March I was lucky enough to interview Ruth Clemens, finalist on The Great British Bake off series one. I also got to review her new Éclairs book and made her delicious white chocolate and raspberry éclairs!

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In April I found an amazing white chocolate, cranberry and orange hot cross bun recipe. I think I might be a little obsessed with orange…

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In May Sugar and Crumbs sent me some baking goodies to test out. Their cherry bakewell icing sugar and coconut cocoa powder was awesome.

This coconut chocolate loaf cake went down a storm at work.

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These mini Malteser Cheesecakes were very popular on the blog in June.

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I spent July and August making loads of bread…

Cherry tomato and thyme focaccia
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Brioche
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In August I met the lovely Victor and Carina Contini at the Nairn food festival…and I was very lucky to win a copy of their kitchen garden book and a voucher for lunch at their Scottish cafe and restaurant which is located in the Scottish National Gallery. I haven’t had the chance to visit yet,but soon!!

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In September I went to the first Inverness Let’s Bake meeting at the cafe and bicycle shop Velocity. I met some lovely lassies including Susan of Mess in the Ness and Kirsty of Ever so Sweet. We had a lovely evening chatting and eating all the lovely baking everyone had brought along!

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In October I mostly baked from Ruby Tandoh’s gorgeous book “Crumb” – my favourite baking book of the year.

Apple and fig upside down cake

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Orange Bourbons

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November was chilli month. I ate a lot of smoky chipotle chilli.

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In December there was a lot of cookie making in my kitchen…

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Wishing all my readers a very happy New Year, I hope 2015 brings you happiness, health and good times!

Thank you all for taking the time to read my blog, leave a comment, or try my recipes. I appreciate each and every one of you.

See you in the New Year and happy cooking in 2015!

Xxx

A catch up

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for us. There’s been so much going on I’ve neglected this blog but I guess that’s what happens when you’re busy.

I still found time to do a little baking but there hasn’t been anything exciting happening on the cooking side of things – hubby was working continuous late shifts, I was working five days a week instead of my usual three plus taking the kids to their after school activities meant that the boys and I were getting home pretty late in the evening. In their tired state all they wanted to eat for dinner was soup and toasted cheese sandwiches which I was happy to oblige them with!

So here is what else I’ve been up to in the kitchen lately…..

I made these Lotus (or, as it’s also known, Biscoff) caramelised spread cupcakes from Picky Palate to take into my last day at work on Friday. While we’re on the subject, what the heck do they put in that spread??? it’s so addictive! I used the crunchy spread in these cupcakes as it was all I had in the cupboard – in hindsight though it’s a bit of a waste of time using the crunchy stuff in the actual sponge recipe because the tiny biscuit pieces are lost in the final product. They were lovely in the buttercream – but made it difficult to pipe because the crunchy pieces kept getting clogged in the nozzle! You live and learn!

I also took in a lemon drizzle traybake which I’m told went down very well!

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I’ve been baking a fair bit from Ruby Tandoh’s new book “Crumb”. I wasn’t actually intending to buy this book (or any cookery books for that matter – I’m trying to be good and save money) but after flicking through it in Waterstones I was completely sold. It’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve seen this year. It is packed full of gorgeous achievable recipes and Ruby goes into to detail about how to avoid common pitfalls in baking and how to achieve best results.

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Apple and fig upside down rye cake
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Chocolate orange bourbons

My sourdough James is still going strong – I treated him to some lovely organic rye flour and he seemed to love it! Expect to see a very long post dedicated to James and all the baking he has produced later on in the month.

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James is alive and Well!

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This weekend I made Salted Millionaires shortbread from Jane Hornby’s new book What to bake and how to bake it. Whenever I make Millionaires shortbread it disappears very quickly – everyone seems to love it. I don’t have this book (yet!) but the recipe is available here – it’s in American cup measurements though.

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I always seem to have overripe bananas sitting on my kitchen counter. If they get too past it I can’t bear to look at them and end up chucking them so I’m always looking for ways to use them up. This is one of my favourite banana bread recipes by Nigella from How to be a Domestic Goddess. I changed it up like Nigella suggests in the book by adding 25g cocoa powder in place of some flour and adding a chopped up bar of chocolate. I used a bar of Green & Blacks butterscotch chocolate which I found lying in the back of my cupboard like a little hidden gem 🙂 You’ll find the original banana bread recipe right here.

So that’s what I’ve been up to in the past couple of weeks – no new recipes but I’ve got a few on the backburner I’ll be sharing with you this month so watch this space. You can also expect to see a few reviews this month, a few companies have asked me to work alongside them for a few posts which I’m really excited about 🙂

So I’m signing off for now – as I type this I’m sitting in my new work uniform all ready to leave for my first day at my new full time job. I’m feeling very nervous and excited – Wish me luck! I’ll be back soon lovely readers x