Chocolate Silk Cake

I have this idea of a chocolate cake in my head that I can’t quite find the recipe for. It’s rich, chocolatey, not too heavy nor light. A Goldilocks of chocolate cake if you will. Nigella’s recipes have gotten close, but not quite there. My go-to chocolate sponge cake is great but it’s a lightish cake and not the Bruce Bogtrotter behemoth I’m after.

So I saw this recipe on the Waitrose recipe and thought I would give it a go after the heavy sugar-fest that was the Konditor and Cook Curly Whirly Cake.

I’m a bit out of practice with decorating layer cakes so I went for straight and simple. I also had some dark chocolate truffles in the cupboard so popped them on top for a bit of extra flair.

So what was the verdict?

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This chocolate cake is delish! It falls firmly into the sponge cake category, but it is a bit richer than your standard chocolate cake flavoured with cocoa powder alone. I could definitely see myself making this again for birthday cakes and other celebratory cakes in the future.

It’s been so long since I regularly blogged that I forgot to take a photo of the cake being sliced, by which time it was so late in the evening it was dark outside and I was having to rely on the horror that is indoor lighting. So I cut a second slice just for a quick photo so you can see what it looks like inside. Sorry about the yellow appearance!

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Whether it’s the chocolate cake of my dreams…well perhaps not quite there. This cake was great, and definitely one to bookmark, but I’m still searching for the one! ❤

 

Curly Whirly Cake

Thank goodness January is over. It’s definitely is a month where everybody goes a bit nuts. The gym is suddenly full, the streets are full of joggers. I end up going absolutely mental for online shopping. There’s no explaining it, I just want to buy EVERYTHING. I also spend many hours fantasising about my perfect duvet day, waking up when it’s light outside, and spending the whole day snuggled up in my pyjamas reading novels and chocolates. Seriously, old lady proclivities rule.

It’s also been a time for heart-warming puds. I baked this sticky toffee pudding and discovered the deliciousness that is this cake, which had gone a bit stale in the tin but was utterly delicious gently warmed through, and poured all over with hot sticky toffee sauce. It is sooo tasty, try it with any plainish cake that’s gone a bit dry and old and you will see miracles happen. I wish I had taken more photos but to be honest, the cake was deeply unphotogenic, and we ate it straight out of the pyrex dish in around 1 minute flat.

I’ve also been on the hunt for a brand-new delicious chocolate fudge recipe. This one from Konditor and Cook looked incredibly promising. Unfortunately, when I baked it, it turned into an absolute stodge-fest.

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Just look at how claggy that sponge looks!

I’m sure I probably did a few things wrong in the making of the cake, but even so, it just didn’t taste of much either, just sugar. Disappointing, because Konditor and Cook’s Curly Whirly Cake seems to have a cult following, but perhaps it’s just not for me.

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I’ve seen another recipe on the Waitrose website for a chocolate silk cake that looks like it has a similar method, and I might give that one a whirl next time.

If you want to give the Curly Whirly Cake a go, the recipe is all over the internet and can be found on the The Guardian here.

Cakes and Calligraphy

Happy Easter everyone!

I’ve been enjoying the last couple of days off from work,  and it has been a blissful time filled with leisurely lie-ins, lazy lunches, and plenty of retail therapy. It was so nice not to worry about all the usual holiday palaver of flights, accommodation, and struggling with directions in a strange destination, but I certainly managed to consume plenty of cake and empty my wallet shopping!

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I sadly didn’t photograph all the cakes but we ate delicious sticky toffee tweener from Selfridges, sugary doughnuts from Bread Ahead, and gorgeous french patisserie from Le Patisserie des Reves.

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I oohed and ahhed over beautiful cake displays, and pink flowers galore. The floral displays outside Liberty never fail to impress.

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I dragged poor A along for a calligraphy class which was so interesting – now I see what I’ve been doing wrong all along, and now I’ve got all the equipment handy will be keen to continue practising!

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Work hasn’t been great recently, and it’s been a real struggle getting myself to keep going every day. I’ve been thinking about ways to try and make my free time go further, and I think this break was a great way of utilising time without spending ridiculous amounts or going to a huge effort.

Chocolate Loaf Cake

These colder, darker nights are perfect for staying indoors, warmed by the heat of the oven, baking simple cakes. Loaf cakes, where all you need is a knife to cut out a sturdy, soft-crumbed slice, and take it away to a cosy corner to nibble away. Sometimes with a slick of icing on top, to pick away, savour, and get fingers sticky.

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With a craving for chocolate to satisfy, I pottered around the kitchen throwing flour and sugar over most of the kitchen counter before popping into the oven a chocolate loaf cake. It’s draped in a lusciously tasty chocolate fudge icing.

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I’ve moaned at length about my flat’s gas oven, and getting good results from my baking is a heck of a lot more difficult than it used to be. This cake didn’t rise quite as nicely as it has done in the past, but the plus side of the gas oven is the top heats so poorly that I never have to cover any of my cakes for fear of scorching. Like most chocolatey bakes, it also seems to improve with a rest, well-wrapped, overnight.

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Chocolate Loaf Cake

For the cake:

  • 170g softened butter/margarine
  • 170g muscovado sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • splash of milk

For the icing:

  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 40g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Line a 2lb loaf tin.

Whisk the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then whisk through the eggs one by one. Sift together the cocoa powder, flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda, then fold into the mixture gently. Add a splash of milk to loosen the mixture to dropping consistency. Spoon into a lined loaf tin, and bake for around 45 minutes until cooked through, springy, and a sharp knife comes out clean.

Set to one side to cool down.

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder together. Then heat the butter, caster sugar and milk together on the hob until melted together, and pour into the dry ingredients. Mix together until well combined, cool until spreading consistency, then ripple over the top of the cake.

My Favourite Brownies

I’ve had two missions in life lately. Number 1: bake some deliciously lip-smacking brownies. Number 2: bake them successfully in my rickety gas oven that burns everything on the bottom.

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I tried out the Ottolenghi recipe last week but it just wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Instead, I went back to a recipe for brownies that I have been baking since I was at university. They were basically the only foodstuff I could combine ingredients together and cohesively turn into something edible. Over the years, I’ve refined the method a little, upped the quality of the ingredients, and along the way they have stayed my favourite brownies.

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I found a tip online about baking the brownies at the very top of a gas oven to help with the heat distribution, and I think it noticeably helped, so no more baking on the middle shelf round here!

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This recipe is best baked in a rectangular tin. I used to only have a square tin, and there was always a little batter leftover for a mini microwave brownie. Here, I find each slice has just the right amount of crust to goo ratio. I cut this batch into fifteen, all slightly different sized rectangles. Even the corner squares have a delightfully meltingly soft centre, a characteristic that will make A happy.

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I love throwing in a handful of milk and white chocolate, because the little nibbly nuggets form such a delicious contrast to the melting richness of the brownie itself. I can’t wait to make a chocolate-orange version with a little orange zest and some chopped up orange-flavoured chocolate.

Recipe from the Hamyln Student Cookbook, found here

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On a side note, I’ve re-vamped the blog layout recently, and gone with something that I find easier to read – with a plus of bigger photos so even more to look at! Hope everybody likes it.

Ottolenghi Chocolate Brownies

Brownies are like the ultimate hedonistic treat. Sugary, buttery, full of chocolate, and easy to whip up in less than an hour.

I’ve got a whole spectrum of brownie adoration. From these salted caramel brownies that are soft and truffle-like, to these cakier cocoa ones, to the full on wham-bam-so-much-chocolate ones of yore. With such a whirl of recipes out there, it’s impossible to choose a favourite, but still I keep testing out new recipes, curious if this will be the life-changing ultimate brownie

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These brownies are from Ottolenghi’s first book, and are based on his recipe for white chocolate and macadamia nuts. I didn’t have any macadamias handy, so simply omitted them from the recipe. It’s a chocolate-rich recipe, using up a whopping 300g in total. You also add some instant coffee to further enhance this full-on chocolate flavour.

The batter for these brownies was astonishingly thick, with an oily appearance, and needed some deft spoon manipulation to fit it into the tin. I entertained fears of it splitting on baking into brown slop and oil, but thankfully they didn’t turn out looking like that.

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These are really dense rich bricks of brownies. One slab might send you into a chocolate-induced coma for at least half a day before you pick yourself up to eat another one. They have a surprisingly high quantity of flour. and this probably contributes towards the dense, slightly crumbly texture.

At work, the brownies quickly disappeared mouthful by mouthful until only a smattering of sticky crumbs were left behind. A felt they were a little too cakey in his preference for gooey brownies. I’d say that these Ottolenghi brownies were good, but they weren’t the ultimate. They teetered very close to the too rich/sickly side of some brownie recipes, and didn’t quite live up the hype I expected from them.

I think I might bake a batch of my old favourite brownies again, just to compare the two. A is hankering after the salted caramel version. Or perhaps I should try out another new recipe altogether? Decisions, decisions. Which to choose? 🙂

Caramel Banana Cake

Mornings are distinctly autumnal now, cold and crisp, with a haze of mist hovering over the seafront. I’m excited about blackberry picking, windfall apples, and cosy nights in.

I spent the weekend luxuriating in precious free time, and baked banana bread.

I’ve noticed my focus in baking has really shifted this year, and I haven’t had much time for complex French patisserie-style recipes, focusing instead on quicker, more familiar cakes and treats. I suppose I’m starting to think that those recipes aren’t worth all the effort and faff. The reward at the end is not necessarily equal to the work. Let’s face it, there are so many stunning patisseries out there, perhaps it’s time to let others do the hard work!

That’s not to say I won’t always have room for a home-baked cake, it’s just more likely to come as two layers rather than six, and one cream filling rather than three!

Anyways, this banana bread has already been baked in several incarnations. I baked one last weekend which was so popular at work I spend all week willing my bananas to ripen more quickly so I could bake another one. My first run was with all dark brown sugar which turned out quite treacly, almost like gingerbread. The second time I changed it to light brown sugar – both are really tasty.

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This version is mostly based on Mary Berry’s banana bread recipe, but I had some leftover caramel buttercream in the freezer so threw that in too, which added a whole extra level of caramel flavour and was scrumptious. Granted, not everybody has a handy spoonful of caramel buttercream lying about so you could probably substitute a spoonful of ordinary caramel without any problems.

Caramel Banana Cake

  • 100g butter/margarine
  • 175g dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp salted caramel buttercream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a loaf tin. Beat the butter, sugar, and salted caramel buttercream together until soft and fluffy, then whisk in the eggs followed by the mashed bananas. Sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda, fold into the batter, then fold in the milk. Bake for around 45 minutes until risen and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool, and wrap up overnight. Tastes best the next day (if you can wait that long!).

Summer Berries and Cream Cake

Small happy thoughts towards the end to the rather wet summer…

A fresh coat of scarlet paint on my toenails, an upcoming trip to the Royal Opera House, the anticipation of annual leave in just a few weeks time, and with it, opportunities to go and explore the beautiful South Downs.

More in the present (or rather, the past, by the time this post goes up) is the prospect of delicious cake. I have lost count of how many times I have baked variations on a theme of sponge cake this summer. The combination of buttery sponge, cream and fresh fruit has an utterly delicious scent and is just irresistable to a cake-fiend like me.

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On the bank holiday weekend, A and I held our first flatwarming party. I went bake-crazy and made a grand sum of two kinds of macarons, a lemon and raspberry cake filled with lemon curd, raspberry jam and cream cheese, pumpkin pie, mixed berry cheesecake, and two kinds of chocolate tiffin. Then after all that, I had a wobble when the cheesecake base went soggy, made a second cheesecake, a backup sponge cake, and bought a pear tart from the patisserie just in case all the above wasn’t enough.

I think the moral of this story is don’t make quite so much next time!

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My parents ended up being the recipients of this, the backup cake, and very tasty it was too. It’s a very simple victoria sponge, unflavoured, and filled with whipped double cream, raspberry jam, and topped with a profusion of late summer fruit. I overwhipped the cream so it looks aesthetically less pretty, but actually I prefer it that way in terms of taste and texture.

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I was surprised to find out that my parents’ lawn was a lush verdant green, rather than the scorched gold I tend to expect at this time of year. One positive from the excessive amount of rain lately.

Sadly I didn’t actually take any pictures of the bakes at the housewarming itself! I’ll definitely be making the lemon sponge again though, as the pink lemon curd in the centre was just so girlishly pleasing. Summer might be coming to an end, but the cakes are just going to keep coming!

Vanilla Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I’ve discovered that I can’t seem to make macarons in my current oven. Mega sad face. I’ve made several cracked pied-less batches but I can’t quite figure out what I am doing wrong here, or what exactly is the difference between my old oven and this one.

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On the other hand, I have had a lot more success with cakes. I decided to bake a batch of cupcakes to cheer myself up with the failed macaron attempts, and used some cute new polka-dot pattered cases.
DSC_0457I decided to try out a new recipe for meringue icing from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet. Although I freaked out slightly at the part where I had to cook egg whites and sugar in a saucepan, it was suprisingly easy. An extra bonus is I find this creamy buttercream far more palatable than the traditional half butter to icing sugar kind.

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I didn’t have my usual star-shaped nozzle to hand so splodged the buttercream on with a plain tipped  one instead, and had a bit of fun with the mini gummy sweets…

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I wasn’t totally happy with my icing technique, but A took some photos where they do look very pretty in their sweet swirly glory. Plenty of practising still needed, and considering the wedding cake I’ve been comissioned for has turned into cupcakes, there will likely be many many more cropping up onto this blog in the next coming twelve months. So be prepared for cupcakes galore!

A Housewarming Cake

So, I’ve finally become an adult.

Hahaha, who am I kidding?

I have however moved into my first non-student flat ever, as well as sadly bidding farewell to rent-free days chez parents. Despite tearing my hair out in stress over all the admin associated with moving house, I seem to still be in one piece in a new place.

First impressions? Mixed, but it always takes me a while to settle comfortably into a new place, so not too worried about that.

Of course, whenever I move anywhere new, the oven’s gotta work. Ours is pretty old, runs off gas (all my recipes are in centigrades, noooo) but I’ll get used to it.

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So I baked this – a coffee and walnut cake. It isn’t the prettiest of bakes but it’s just so tasty. The buttercream is luxuriantly rich, silky smooth and not too sweet. The perfect foil to a soft, slightly squidgy sponge cake. Apologies for phone snap, I didn’t have my camera handy (ahem, forgetful packing).

Now that there’s only two around, I think it’s probably time to get out my smaller cake tins again. I’ve not made a 15cm cake for a while, and it looked absolutely weeny, but it certainly ekked out plenty of portions (as well as using up a hefty block of butter!).

Coffee and Walnut Cake

Adapted from Poires au Chocolat

For the cake:

  • 110g unsalted butter, softened
  • 110g golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • milk

For the buttercream:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 60g granulated sugar
  • 60ml water
  • 150g lightly salted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp instant espresso powder mixed with 1 tbsp hot water
  • toasted walnut halves, chopped into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a 15cm cake tin. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one by one, followed by the espresso powder. Then fold in the flour and add just enough milk to loosen to dropping consistency. Scrape the cake batter into the prepared tin then bake for around 20 minutes, then drop the oven temperature to 170˚C and bake a further 15-20 minutes until the top is springy and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool, then unmould and slice into two halves.

In a mixing bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks until broken up. Heat the sugar and water in a small pan over a medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Boil until it reaches the soft ball stage, then slowly pour the syrup onto the egg yolks, whisking all along until completely combined and creamy in colour. Whisk until room temperature, then slowly add in the softened butter, bit by bit, whisking as you add each batch until thoroughly combined. Finally whisk in the dissolved espresso powder.

Sandwich the cakes with half the buttercream, and spread the remainder on top.