I can’t believe you made that

Back in January I saw this cake baked by Lorraine Pascale on her first tv show Baking made easy. As soon as I saw this cake I knew I would have to make it for a special occasion. I love to cook and bake but I have decorated very few cakes and to be honest I’m a bit intimidated by cake decoration. This cake though looked very impressive but simple to decorate at the same time. By the time I volunteered to bake a cake for my Aunties 80th birthday party I had forogotten all about this cake. I flicked through my recipe books looking for a suitable cake that was simple but yet looked that little bit special, nothing fit the bill. That was until I remembered this recipe for the I can’t believe you made that cake. The recipe is easy to follow and simple, you just need a little bit of time to make it (there a few stages involving waiting for the cake to cool or icing to set). I was very pleased with the final cake. Not only did it look great, it cut well and it tasted delicious. It was very moist and almost chocolate fudge cake like (I made the cake friday and served it sunday, the left overs were still moist on monday).

I can’t believe you made that

vegetable oil or oil spray
200g/7oz butter, softened
200g/7oz caster sugar
4 free-range eggs
140g/5oz plain flour
60g/2½oz cocoa powder
pinch salt
2 tsp baking powder

For the buttercream
250g/9oz butter, softened
500g/1lb 2oz icing sugar100g/3½oz good dark chocolate (at least 70 per cent cocoa solids), melted and slightly cooled

For the decoration
3 packs of chocolate fingers
Fresh Strawberries and blueberries

  • Preheat the oven to 180/C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 20cm/8in round deep cake tin with baking paper and brush or spray with oil.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until they begin to go pale.
  • Add half of the eggs and half of the flour and mix well.
  • Add the rest of the eggs, flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder and beat for a minute or two until the mixture is uniform.
  • Dollop into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 30–40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.
  • Meanwhile, make the buttercream: put the butter and icing sugar in a bowl and whisk together until the mixture goes fluffy.
  • Add the cooled, melted chocolate and whisk for a further two minutes.
  • Once the cake is completely cool (I left mine a couple of hours), remove it from the tin.
  • Carefully cut the top flat with a large serrated knife.
  • Turn the cake upside down on a 20cm/8in cake board so that the bottom now becomes a nice flat top.
  • Split the cake horizontally and sandwich the top and bottom together with a 1cm/½in layer of buttercream.
  • Spread half of the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides of the cake, making it as smooth as possible.
  • Put it in the fridge to set before doing another layer – this makes it much easier to get neat squared-off edges.
  • Gently push the chocolate fingers vertically onto the sides of the cake, positioning them as straight as possible and making sure they touch the bottom. Cover the top with fresh fruit (or your choice of topping).

The Daring bakers – March 2011 challenge – Yeasted meringue coffee cake

This is my first Daring Baker’s challenge since the gingerbread house of December 2009! I can’t believe it’s been so long. I never planned to leave it so long before getting back in to taking part in these challenges as I really enjoyed the gingerbread house challenge as well as the Bakewell tart and who the Dobos torte (which still gets talked about). All challenges that I really enjoyed baking and sharing with family and friends and that I would not have baked if it wasn’t for the Daring Bakers (well perhaps I would have baked the Bakewell tart at some point). This months challenge was a perfect example of what I had been missing, I enjoyed baking it, we all enjoyed eating it and it’s certainly not a recipe I would have found myself.

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

As someone who regularly bakes bread with yeast this didn’t feel like the big baking challenge that it might have done to the none bread bakers in the group. I made this challenge quiet early in the month and took it with us when we went to stay with my fiance’s family for the weekend. I only made half the recipe which was plenty. Everyone commented on how as soon as the lid was opened it smelt like a French bakery. As well as smelling fantastic, it tasted truly delicious and the texture was perfect (almost brioche like but with a lot less butter). The meringue layer might sound strange but it disappears during baking into the bread adding to the sweetness and moistness. The filling was our chance to experiment and use what we liked or use the suggestions from Jamie or Ria. I used Jamie’s suggestion as it sounded and looked delicious. It was chocolate chips, cinnamon, sugar and chopped up pecan nuts.

Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter
The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake

For the yeast coffee cake dough:

4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour (I wasn’t sure of the type, so used plain with good results)
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk
¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature

For the meringue:

3 large egg whites at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar

For the filling:

Jamie’s version:
1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts
2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes


Prepare the dough:

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast.

In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted.

With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.

Prepare your filling:In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue:
In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cakes:

Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle. Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).

Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings.

Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown. The dough should sound hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool.

Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

Chocolate and vanilla marble cake

This is a simple recipe for a delicious, moist cake that not only tastes good but looks impressive and far more complicated than it is. The vanilla and chocolate flavours come through strong and work well together. The recipe is from Gorgeous cakes by Annie Bell and I have included it below.

I made a few adaptations to this recipe as I needed to bake something at short notice so I had to find a recipe that used what I had in the house (admittedly I have a well stocked baking cupboard including lots of flours, sugars etc).

  • Firstly the caster sugar I had in was not golden.
  • I didn’t have any chocolate chips in so I omitted them.
  • The type of milk was not specified so maybe it’s not important but I used what we had (1%).
  • I never buy self-raising flour instead I follow the directions on the baking powder label which said 3 tsp to every 225g flour.
  • Since I only had a 100g bar of dark chocolate, I was unable to ice the cake.

Even with all these changes the cake was still delicious.

I made a few adaptations to the method too.

Firstly, I melted my chocolate in the microwave, here’s how:

  • Put the pieces of chocolate in a microwave proof bowl.
  • Microwave at 50% power for 30 seconds, stir, repeat until the chocolate is almost all melted.
  • At this point take the bowl out of the microwave and continue to stir as the residual heat should melt the last of the chocolate.

I used a silicone bundt tin and I did not bother to butter it and you do not need to use a knife to loosen the cake from the tin at the end. If you use a silicone bundt tin you will need to place it on a baking tray to bake.

Using a skewer I swirled together a bit the two different types of mixture before baking.

I found that at 30 minutes my skewer was not coming out clean but the cake was getting a bit too dark so I cover the top of the tin with foil and put the cake back in the oven. I continued to check with a skew until the cake was ready.

Marble Cake

100g dark chocolate, broken in to pieces
110g unsalted butter, diced
150g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
75mls milk
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g dark chocolate chips
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

40g white chocolate, broken into pieces
40g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

  • Preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C/gas 5 and butter a 23 cm ring mould.
  • Place the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a pan with a little simmering water in it and gently melt, leave to cool.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the milk. Don’t worry if the mixture appears curdled at this point; it will cream again in the next stage.
  • Sift together the flour and baking powder and gradually whisk them into the mixture.
  • Remove half the mixture to another bowl and stir in the cooled, melted chocolate and chocolate chips.  Stir the vanilla into the other half.
  • Drop alternate dessert spoons of the mixture into the prepared tin – you should have two layers. Smooth the surface with a spoon and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and risen, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven. Run a knife around the inner and outer edges of the tin, turn the cake out on to a wire rack to cool.
  • If the cake has risen unevenly, trim the bottom a little to even it out.
  • To ice the cake, melt the white and dark chocolate separately in bowls set over simmering water. Using a teaspoon, drizzle first the white chocolate and then the dark chocolate over the cake.
  • Leave the chocolate to set for a couple of hours.
  • The cake will be good for several days, very crumbly to begin with, but it will firm up on the second day.

Nigella’s maple pecan bundt cake

After months of very little baking, October seems to be the month of baking in our house. So far I have baked chocolate chip cookies and brownies (for my boyfriend to take to work to celebrate his birthday) and a maple pecan bundt cake for his 30th birthday. All 3 recipes are from Nigella’s new book Kitchen and all 3 turned out beautifully. I’ve still got to bake something for our late Macmillan coffee morning at work on friday and something to take in to work for my birthday next week. Just as well then that Tate and Lyle sent me a range of their fair trade sugars to tell you about. They are committed to making their range 100% fair trade and have a new design to their packaging too. Why not have a look at their fantastic baking facebook page here.

I loved the maple pecan bundt cake. The cake itself was delicious and moist but the best thing about this cake is the surprise that comes when you cut in to it. The maple syrup and pecan filling is to die for! The cookies worked really well too. I’ve made quiet a few cookie recipes before but these were by far the best texture wise, crunchy outside and chewy in the middle. The only negative was, for me, they were perhaps a little too sweet. The everyday brownie recipe was easy to make and the results were gooey and delicious.

I bought Nigella’s book on a bit whim whilst I was taking a break from revision last month. It was a bargain at just £13 and almost 500 pages. It is however my first Nigella cookbook! I know, I know I’m a bit late finding Nigella but I never watched her shows until this summer when that seemed to be all that was showing on the Good food channel. I’ve always thought of her cooking as being too “unhealthy” but with the bargain price, delicious looking pictures and me desperate to get back in to the kitchen trying out new recipes, I decided to give it a go.

The book doesn’t disappoint, I instantly loved her style of writing and only 20 pages in I found I’d read nearly every word and learnt quiet a few hints and tips. As for the recipes, first impressions are that they don’t seem as unhealthy as I thought. Yes there are a lot of baking recipes but I don’t bake that often, for just the two of us, but when I do  have an occasion to bake for, it’s nice to have a selection of recipes you can trust to turn out well. There are some savory recipes I’ll never cook or that I would experiment with replacing or reducing the butter etc but not as many as I expected and anyway it’s all about moderation and using your own judgment. Now a days I tend to look at the balance of the types of food we eat over a week rather than in one day, we all need the occasional treat. All in all a great book that I can see myself going back to regularly. I may even have to take a look at some of her earlier books.

Maple pecan bundt cake

for the maple pecan filling:

75g plain flour
30g soft unsalted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
150g pecans (or walnuts), roughly chopped
125ml maple syrup

for the cake:

300g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g soft unsalted butter
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
250ml creme fraiche or sour cream
1-2 tsp icing sugar, for decoration
flavourless oil, for greasing

1x23cm bundt tin

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Using flavourless oil grease your bundt tin, and leave upside down on newspaper for the excess oil to drain out.
  • Make the filling for the cake by mixing together the 75g flour and 30g butter with a fork, till you end up with the sort of mixture you’d expect when making crumble topping. Then, still using the fork, mix in the cinnamon, chopped nuts and maple syrup, to form a sticky, bumpy paste. set a side for a moment.
  • For the cake, measure 300g flour, the baking powder and bicarb into a bowl.
  • Now, cream the butter and sugar together, then beat in 1tbsp of the flour mixture, then 1 egg, then another tbsp of flour mixture followed by the second egg.
  • Add the rest of the flour mixture beating as you go, and then finally the creme fraiche or sour cream. You should expect to end up with a fairly firm cake batter.
  • Spoon just more than half the cake batter into the oiled bundt tin. Spread the mixture up the sides a little and around the funnel of the tin to create a rim. You don’t want the sticky filling to leak out the sides of the tin.
  • Dollop the maple filling carefully in to the dent in the cake batter, then cover the filling with the remaining batter. Smooth the top and put the tin in the oven for 40 minutes, though it’s best to check with a cake tester after 30 minutes.
  • Once cooked, and the cake tester comes out clean where it hits the sponge (obviously, any gooey filling will stick to the tester), let the cake cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes in its tin, then loosen the edges with a small spatula, including around the middle funnel bit, and turn the cake out onto the rack.
  • When the cake is cold, dust with icing sugar by pushing a teaspoon or so through a tea strainer.