Fruits of the Forest Cheesecake

Thank goodness the weather decided to perk up a little bit this week. I was starting to get horribly down in the dumps about the rain, but a little time out in the countryside, some sunshine, and of course, loads of sleep, have worked their magic.

P1060854

This cheesecake was one of the desserts I made for the housewarming party. I love unbaked cheesecakes for their simplicity, creamy texture and deliciousness. In fact, I love them so much I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to making the baked kind!

Anyway, at the housewarming party itself I never got round to taking a photo of the cheesecake, but it went down very well, and I still had plenty of ingredients leftover, so I of course, made it again.

P1060833

It was quite dark by the time I finished making it, so out came my camera to attempt some artificial light photography. I’m pretty pleased with the results!

P1060836

It’s just right for a crowd. I’d probably size it down by half if I was baking it again for just two – A and I managed to manfully eat our way through a large slice every day for a week.

P1060851

I’m a bit cheesecaked out at the moment, but as the festive season gets closer and closer I will be excited about thinking up some other variations, including peanut butter, baileys or even a spicy ginger version. Yum.

Advertisements

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.

P1060804 (2)

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!

P1060814 (1)

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.

P1060819 (1)

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!

Raspberry Crumble Bars

The weather has been utterly glorious, and I’ve been making the most of it by…doing nothing. Not a thing.

DSC_0395

Well, almost.

I did drag myself away from my box set of Sex and the City (can’t believe the first season is 17 years old!) to throw together some ingredients to make these raspberry crumble bars. They were a perfect excuse for finishing up the brown sugar, and leftovers of some scrumptious raspberry jam.

Raspberry crumble bars have eluded me for some time. They always turned out too crumbly, too sweet, too oaty. Apart from one success story around three years ago, I never seemed to get it quite right since.

So I had another stab at the elusive, roughly following that tried-and-tested shortbread formula, and some inspiration from my Peanut Butter and Jam Bars (minus any nuts of course).

DSC_0391

These were delicious, warm and cold. A real keeper of a recipe. I think it works well for multiple seasons – perfectly portable for summer picnics, a warmed slice with a dash of cream for pudding, or perhaps even a Christmas version with mincemeat and a little winter spice thrown in for good measure. Totally the wrong time to be thinking about such things, but I’ve never managed to stick to this whole seasonality thing much. That person in the jumper, holding a raincoat, when it’s sunny and a glorious 30˚C outside? Yep, that’s me.

DSC_0394

Raspberry Crumble Bars

Makes 16 bars

  • 200g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 160g brown sugar
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1/3 jar of good quality raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 170˚C. Line a rectangular baking tin with baking paper.

Put the butter into a bowl, followed by the salt and brown sugar. Mix together, then add the oats and flour. Stir together to form quite a crumbly mixture that sticks together easily to form a dough.

Scoop out around 2/3 of the crumbly mixture, and press it firmly into the lined tin.

Then spread a layer of jam over the base, leaving a gap of around 0.5cm around the edges as the jam will spread as it bakes. Sprinkle over the remaining crumbly mixture, and bake the bars in the oven for around 30 minutes until golden-brown on top. Slice into squares, and leave to cool down completely.

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.

P1060638

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.

P1060621

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.

P1060653

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.

P1060654

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.

Peonies and Pottering

What I have been up to this weekend…

P1060605

P1060592

A trip to Waitrose for baking goodies and peonies. The checkout lady was quite horrified at how much butter, chocolate and cream I bought and said consolingly “At least you’re still slim so you can eat it all. For now.”

P1060600

I put my peonies in pride of place, and got down to some sweet, simple baking. 

I did an experiment a few weeks ago on Tesco Value products and the results were so horrible, I’ve been fleeing to Waitrose ever since. I’ll write a future post on what happened, but I still have quite a wide variety of ingredients I am trying to use up. Currently, I am putting them to one side, and playing about with nice and expensive butter and flour instead.

Snobbery aside, I really do think better ingredients produce better cakes. I whipped up one of the lightest, fluffiest, most tasty victoria sponges I’ve done in a while, and it really went down a real treat. The only downside is all the fresh cream in this cake means it has to be stored in the fridge or it goes off very quickly.

DSC_0362

Mmm, definitely could help myself to another slice.

Raspberry Jam Tarts

Piping hot, ruby-red jam, bubbling stickily over crisp, buttery pastry.

P1040617

Two components, 15 minutes in the oven, the silence of blissful munching, and just a few jammy crumbs left to show as evidence.

P1040623

Jam tarts are SO good, and utterly underrated and underexposed as one of those easy peasy bakes that are brilliant crowd pleasers too. You don’t just have to stick with raspberry, you can be as experimental as you like! Strawberry, blueberry, cherry….even chestnut jam, or a splodge of salted caramel sauce. The higher the sugar content, the more chewy the jam goes after baking, so bear this in mind when choosing. Personally, I love that chewy, toffee like texture, which pairs so well with the crumbly pastry and really helps it all stick together!

P1040620

I’ve got Taylor Swift’s Blank Space stuck on repeat in my head. I find the video utterly mesmerising, and not sure whether it’s her array of amazing outfits or her scary man-eating antics. I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Jam Tarts

Makes as many as you like

  • shortcrust pastry odds and ends
  • jam

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Roll out your pastry and cut out circles with a cookie cutter. I use a thermos flask lid as none of my cookie cutters are quite big enough, and it works a treat. Line a muffin tray with your pastry circles and press them in well. Now prick the base of each pastry case well with a fork, and put a small teaspoonful of jam into each case. Don’t put too much jam in each case or they’ll bubble over and make a sticky mess of your baking tin. Put the tarts into the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the pastry is golden and the jam bubbling merrily away. Leave until cool for a few minutes before unmoulding from the muffin tray and cooling completely on a cooling rack.

Lemon and Raspberry Cake

Wooohoo, the Great British Bake Off is back! I’m so excited to have this on our screens again, and particularly pleased at how the first episode didn’t go into wild and wonderful, but concentrated on making some really excellent classic recipes again. If it continues this way, I’ll be very happy. It was getting a little too esoteric and the level of achievement somewhat impossible in the last series.

Anyway, the last few weeks have been busy, and I’ve been neglecting the baking. I have on the other hand discovered Richmond Park is utterly gorgeous. Deer everywhere just casually sunning themselves along the road. How can I have lived so close to such a stunning place for so many years and never noticed?

Anyway, the return of GBBO is a fantastic motivator for turning the oven back on. I found a neglected pat of butter in the fridge, a few lemons, some eggs….and hey presto, lemon cake.

P1030859

This time I paired it with some juicy raspberries, and a generous slathering of jam to sandwich the two layers together.

P1030905

It was sweet, and tangy, a glorious cake perfect for tea time. I took far too many photos, but I’m still trying to get the hang of the manual settings on my camera. I keep over or underexposing.

P1030911

I wish I’d had my camera with me in Richmond Park. There’s always next time, eh?

P1030900

The pairing of raspberry and lemon worked really well. It was a tad on the dry side – I think I overbaked the sponges in my determination not to under bake them, and by trimming the sponges whilst they were still hot, probably let them dry out even more in the process. It makes me feel a bit better that some of the GBBO contestants overbaked their sponges too.

P1030905

Also, on a more bakey themed note, I was wistfully window shopping in Anya Hinmarch a few weeks back and saw the MOST AWESOME BAG ever. It’s a giant golden custard cream!

Custard Cream in Pale Gold Metal_1

The downside is…you don’t want to know how much it costs. You could buy approximately 3,000 packets of custard creams with the amount.

Raspberry Macarons

When I was last in France, I spent my evenings glued to the screen watching Qui sera le prochain grand pâtissier. The incredible creations the contestants are expected to come up with….phew. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

Lately, I’ve had an increasingly strong desire to hop onto the Eurostar and go for a weekend in Paris, just to soak up all the incredible patisserie. Whilst I think London has a strong food scene, Paris still leads in this field.

In the meantime, I needed a little fix, so I made some more macarons.

DSC07560

I’m so glad I finally purchased Pierre Hermé’s book Macarons, where it can proudly join Larousse des desserts in fat-filled glory. After making his salted caramel macarons a total of six times, ’twas about time I tried a different flavour.

One of the most difficult aspects of macaron-making is getting the colouring spot on. I keep forgetting that natural colours don’t show up on the shell after baking. When I first made these macarons, I tossed some freeze-dried raspberry powder in for colour and flavour. Grumpy noises ensued when I discovered the biscuit-coloured result.

Round 2, and I slugged in the red and pink food colouring as liberally as I dared. I also made the call of not adding freeze-dried powder, as this definitely seemed to have a darkening effect! The batter came out a vibrant watermelon pink, and hoorah, this time they definitely worked. I’m definitely buying a collection of colouring pastes so I can be more daring with my colours without worrying about the texture.

DSC07572

Tartes aux Fruits, je t’aime

Spending my weekend lolling around reading Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Kiss, I started feeling a desperate desire for Parisian patisserie.

Given my geographical location, I have been to Paris many times over the past few years. Yet astonishingly, I have never, not once bought any patisserie in France, ever??

Knowing me, this is a TRAVESTY.

So until I read Laura Florand’s novel – I had been walking past Ladurée and the whole area of St Germain de Pres, sitting in café de thés, glancing at colourful meringues, and not once had it occurred to me that there was a whole world of edible beauty out there to be explored.

If you are heading to Paris any time soon, read The Chocolate Kiss and all will make sense. Unfortunately, I am not going to Paris, so I had to make do with what’s available here.

This is what I did:

  1. Wander around London gormlessly and fruitlessly 
  2. End up in Pierre Hermé and blow a small fortune on macarons
  3. Bake

DSC05466

Et voila!

We have here a pâté sucrée case filled with mascarpone cream, a profusion of fruit and a dusting of icing sugar on top to finish. I do feel a small pang of guilt at buying so much out-of-season fresh fruit, but fortunately for my carbon footprint, none of them came from too far away – I’m assuming the environs of the Mediterranean are fair game.

DSC05438

I’m so pleased with how these turned out! They certainly sated my patisserie craving….for a while. I’m guessing the lure of Paris will still continue to pull. Let’s see if I can purchase a proper patisserie cookbook and see where my baking projects go from there!

Strasberry Triple Layer Cake

Spring really is in the air now. There are snowdrops clustered in the garden, vibrant purple and gold crocuses, and daffodils proudly standing tall. For me, pink and spring have always seemed to go hand in hand. I wanted to make a pink cake, and here’s the beautiful result.

DSC05402

This cake already wins the award for “Most Rapidly Consumed Cake of the Year.” I baked it in the afternoon, but 2 hours later, more than half of it had already vanished.

The name was a bit of a conundrum. Calling it a Strawberry and Raspberry Triple Layer Yoghurt Cake seemed a bit long-winded, so straspberry it is.

The recipe for the sponge itself was adapted from the yoghurt cake from Chocolate & Zucchini, an excellent French foodie blog. I made a few modifications – I didn’t know the volume of yoghurt in Muller Strawberry Corners, for instance, so I used 2 and hoped for the best.

DSC05399

Anyway, the speed at which it was consumed should be testimony to how delicious this cake was. It was light and fresh, but substantial and satisfying all at the same time. The flavours are very delicate, with the tang from the yoghurt complimenting the strawberry and raspberry flavours beautifully. The crust does darken considerably (in fact, in the photo it looks alarmingly black) but I assure you it definitely wasn’t burnt.

Also another note for this who prefer to healthify their baking – I tried making the cake a 2nd time using fat-free fromage frais, and the results weren’t nearly as tender or light, so here, I would highly recommend using the full-fat version for the best results.

DSC05409

Straspberry Triple Layer Cake

Cake recipe adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini.

For the cake:

  • 2 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 pots of yoghurt (I used Muller Strawberry Corners – save the compote for filling the cakes with)
  • 80ml vegetable oil
  • 240g plain flour
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20g finely chopped, freeze-dried strawberries/raspberries

For the filling and icing:

  • strawberry compote from 2 Muller Corners 
  • strawberry jam
  • milk/water (optional)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 3-4 powdered freeze-dried raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line 3 x 15cm cake tins.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together. Whisk in the yoghurt, followed by the oil, and vanilla extract. Mix the flour, baking powder, and bicarbonate of soda together. Add it to the liquid mixture in one go, and fold in gently, just until the flour disappears, even if the batter is still lumpy. Fold in the freeze-dried fruit. Divide between the tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and springy.

Remove the cakes from the tins and leave to cool. Trim the cakes flat with a bread knife.

Make the buttercream by beating together butter and sugar until fluffy, then adding a little milk if it is too stiff. Add a spoonful of compote or jam, to tint the icing pink. Pipe a ring of buttercream on each cake layer, and a spiral going into the centre of the cake. Smooth out to form a smooth layer with a palette knife. On the 2 middle layers, sprinkle over half the powdered freeze-dried strawberries, then top with a thin layer of compote/jam. Stack the layers on top of each other. Finally, on the top layer, sprinkle with the remaining freeze-dried raspberries.