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! ❤

 

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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.

Salted Caramel, White Chocolate, and Cocoa Nib Brownies

Happy Valentine’s Day y’all. Not that I’m planning on doing anything exciting, probably just an evening of curling up with sticky, gooey brownies, bemoaning the end of War and Peace.

I’ve got major War and Peace withdrawal symptoms. My Sunday evenings just won’t be the same without those stunning costumes and James Norton’s brooding silhouette. The only cure for my BBC period drama-itis will probably be the eventual return of Poldark, but in the interim, brownies instead.

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For the past year, A has gotten a huge hopeful grin on his face every time I suggest baking salted caramel brownies again. Unfortunately for him, talk has never turned into actual baking of the aforementioned brownies, until now. Behold, salted caramel heaven!

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These are supposed to be a homemade version of Paul A Young’s famous salted caramel brownies from his veeerrrry expensive chocolate shop. I had the pleasure of finally sampling this illustrious brownie, and boy it was good. Mightily expensive at £5.95 a brownie but I can quite honestly say it was one of the most delectable brownies to have passed my lips.

The homemade version are a bit squidgier than the official version, and I can’t quite replicate the exact chocolate flavour – probably because Paul A Young uses a particularly fancy chocolate. I used a combination of Waitrose continential, and my stash of Valrhona.  The recipe is pretty much lifted directly from Poires au Chocolat, this time I sprinkled on some white chocolate chunks before baking.

They are really rich brownies, so a small square goes a long way. They have a smooth, dense texture that with each mouthful slowly melts in the mouth, releasing an intense shot of chocolate and caramel flavour.

It’s maddeningly tricky photographing brownies (and in fact, most chocolate/brown baked goods) so they appear photogenic, but I think I just about managed to refrain from making them look like somebody scooped them up from the soil outside. I think my next bake will definitely have to be something iced and pretty! Got to get round to using my stash of flowery cupcake cases after all.

I don’t tend to bake especially for Valentine’s Day, but if you are feeling particularly romantically inclined, I’ve stuck a couple of luuurvely (haha) links underneath to dive into:

Felicity Cloake makes the perfect chocolate pots for two.

Date and rum cookies, just perfect for wooing and twoing.

If you want to get out and about, biscuit icing classes for two with the Biscuiteers.

Or if you’ve been on a January diet, and are still somehow managing to avoid all things biscuity and carb-filled, how about buying the love in your life this custard-cream cushion? 🙂

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.

Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies

I woke up this morning to the white blankness of thick mist, and sight of hundreds of dew-jewelled spiderwebs that had been spun overnight. Very fitting for the morning post-Halloween.

With the refreshingly brisk November air (it’s November now, how time flies!) is the comforting contrast of the sweet warmth that comes from cookies baking away in the oven. Magical how a bowl of ingredients transforms into a pile of freshly baked cookies, crunchy outside with just the right amount of chew, interspersed with lightly toasted milk chocolate chunks.

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My crappy oven doesn’t do this delicious batter justice, and the cookies baked looking somewhat anaemic, so I baked a second batch in my parents’ (much better) oven and snapped a few photos afterwards.

P1070198I tried a few variations with the basic batter – one with white chocolate and cranberry, another with toasted ground hazelnuts – and really, my favourite has to be this milk chocolate version. I’m a milk chocolate girl through and through, and although there’s a time and a place for dark chocolate, this cookie isn’t one.

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Eat whilst admiring adorable fuzzy plushies online. I’m in denial about being a mature, fully-fledged adult, yes I know. Seriously, how could anybody say no to this?

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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? 🙂

Chocolate, Cream and Raspberry Cake

Currently…

Still obsessed with baking sponge cakes. I can’t seem to stop, they are just so good, so addictive, and so easy. Chocolate this time, lavishly filled with Jersey double cream and raspberries.

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Admiring the peonies. Despite being the epitome of online-social-media cliche, they are stunning flowers, and I can’t possibly get sick of looking at them at my window.

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Lusting after stand mixers. I almost bit the bullet and bought one, but my laptop chose that month to die, so I had to spend a good chunk of my salary replacing that instead. Then I decided that perhaps I didn’t need a stand mixer after all, and splashed out on the Kenwood KMix hand mixer instead. It is a beauty.

Looking for twenties-themed black tie wear. I’ve got a themed do coming up in the next few weeks, and of course (in typical female style) I have nothing, NOTHING to wear.

Anyway, back to the chocolate cake.

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I never seem to bake chocolate-based victoria sponges, always preferring my go-to recipe based on oil. So I thought I’d astonishingly break away from my vanilla and lemon habits, and make a summery chocolate cake. After all, if thickly festooned with cream and fruit, it’s got to make the rainy weather a bit better eh?

The method is exactly the same as a standard victoria sponge, just with the addition of cocoa powder into the mix. The difficulty for me often lies in how much cocoa powder to add. Some recipes state up to a whopping 100g, whilst others are much more restrained with a mere 25g. I went for a compromise of 50g cocoa powder in a 4 egg cake batter.

By magic kitchen alchemy, my chocolate cakes always respond rather differently in the oven, rising taller, cracking, the crumb itself a different, more delicate texture.

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I remembered afterwards that I forgot to add the salt. I don’t think it made much difference. Of course I had to throw on as many raspberries as I could fit, they look so pretty on top. The only downside is raspberries go mouldy so fast. You either have to eat the cake super-fast or keep it religiously in the fridge between helpings. Why do raspberries go mouldy so quickly compared with, say, strawberries? Is it the sugar content? Or their furry mould-loving nature? Absolutely no idea.

Chocolate, Cream and Raspberry Cake

  • 225g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 175g self-raising or sponge flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp instant coffee powder
  • milk
  • 300g double cream (I used extra-thick Jersey cream which is utterly sinfully gorgeous)
  • punnet of raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Beat the butter until light and creamy, then beat in the salt, followed by the sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk the eggs together in a jug, then slowly add to the creamed mixture, whisking religiously as you go to incorporate as much air in as you can. Then sift in the flour, cocoa powder and coffee, and fold in until just combined. Add a dash of milk to get it to dropping consistency and scrape the cake batter into your prepared tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes until springy and a sharp knife comes out clean. Leave to cool, then unmould and slice into two halves.

Whisk the cream to soft peaks, then sandwich half between the cakes, and spread half the cream on top. Decorate with raspberries.

Very Good Chocolate Chip Cookies

Why are the simplest bakes sometimes the most difficult? For instance, let’s take chocolate chip cookies. It seems like it should be simple. However, despite having dozens of favourite recipes for all kinds of other cookies, chocolate-chip nirvana still escapes my tenacious grasp.

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I’ve spent years trying to figure it out. Trawling through the heavy masses of internet cookie wisdom, trying all kind of tricks and techniques. Baking immediately, to baking after resting the dough for 24 hours. Brown sugar versus caster sugar. Strong flour, spelt flour, rice flour, cornflour. English, French, Danish butter. Salted or unsalted?

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Heston Blumenthal’s recipe has been on my radar for a long time. It differs from most other chocolate chip cookie recipes by Heston’s trademark uber-precise instructions, and the added step of making your own golden syrup chocolate chips.  

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I baked them, and found they were good cookies, with a perfect texture. Crisp exteriors and desirably chewy centre.

However, they’re faffy. Making your own chocolate chips takes ages. You make a ganache, freeze it into useable firmness, and chop it into squares. When you want cookies now, waiting a couple of hours for the ganache to freeze solid is a bit of a test in delayed gratification. I found the chocolate ganache nuggets didn’t seem to add much to the finished cookies either. Finding little hard nuggets of chocolate is one my favourite parts of cookie-chomping, and chocolate ganache stays unexcitingly soft at room temperature.

I thought the ingredients could do with a bit of tinkering too. The cookies were a bit too sweet, and I needed a glass of water after polishing one off. So of course, I baked them again, tweaking the original recipe to my own tastes, reducing the sugar and replacing the fancy homemade chocolate chips with ordinary chopped up chocolate.

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They were just glorious. Fresh out of the oven with golden crispy edges and a soft, dense middle rich with melted chocolate chips. No need for chilling, or special ingredients – just lovely cookies when you want them.

My sweet tooth seems to be fading as I age, or these are just very sweet cookies. I reduced the quantity of sugar from 260g to 200g, but I think I could probably push it down further to 160g without any loss of flavour.

I ended up with an awful lot of cookies after these experiments, so took a big batch into work. They got scarfed down in about an hour. I went to check on their progress and was stunned to see that nothing remained but a crumpled foil wrapper and the cake tin lid hanging sideways off the counter. Always a good sign, although slightly alarming how voracious everybody’s appetites were.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Heston Blumenthal at Home

Makes 12

  • 115g salted butter
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 egg
  • 220g plain flour (I used a mixture of plain flour and spelt flour)
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp instant coffee powder
  • 125g milk/dark chocolate, chopped into chips

Preheat the oven to 190˚C. Prepare 2 baking trays.

Beat the butter and sugar together until combined, then beat in the egg, followed by the vanilla extract.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and coffee powder together. Add to the rest of the ingredients and mix to form a soft dough. Stir in the milk chocolate chips. Scoop into 12 balls, then bake for 8-10 minutes until golden around the edges. Leave to rest for a few minutes before transferring onto a cooling rack.

How to bake a wedding cake…?

Now, not a sign of my impending nuptials, but those of my friends, who have requested that I bake their wedding cake! How exciting/scary/responsible is that? Once my initial euphoria died down, I started getting down to some serious thinking. I’ve got plenty of time to get started, as the wedding is more likely to take place in 2017, but I’ve never made or decorated anything on so epic a scale before. It’s really quite terrifying!

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There are so many factors to consider in the making of a wedding cake. The logistics of it are mindblogging. The cake has to be made in advance, in order for it to be decorated, then transported many miles to the wedding venue. Then it has to arrive immaculate, be assembled without toppling over, and somehow through all of that, the cake still has to be tasty inside? So I thought I would have a trial run at one tier. Forward planning or what?

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I went for Peggy Porschen’s chocolate cake, cut it into four layers, and filled with vanilla buttercream. To test the ability of the cake to withstand days of sitting around, I baked it to real time, and only cut it open on day 5 after baking.

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I was excited to find out whether the cake had retained the freshness of a newly baked cake or whether it had gone dry and stale. Happily it was still moist although I cut into again the next day to find it had dried out quite a lot.

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The cake was also disgustingly sweet! I think it’s because the buttercream to cake ratio is so high, and the cake itself is also brushed with sugar syrup. Although four layers is pretty, two layers of cake and one layer of buttercream will provide a much nicer ratio of buttercream to cake.

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The next stage to consider is how many tiers will be required. It’s a fairly big wedding so I may bake up to 4 tiers in total. That’s a lot of cake! It’s also important to consider that my friends may also want some variety in there too. Other options could include a victoria sponge layer, traditional fruit cake, and carrot cake. I haven’t cracked red velvet cake to include that in my repertoire yet, plus I’m nervous about using cream cheese/mascarpone-based icing on a cake that will have to sit around for so long in early summer. Ahh, the million possibilities! Anybody else baked a wedding cake before? Any great tips to share?