Friday, 31 May 2013

Victoria sponge

Ever have a day where you bake something that is not especially complicated, perhaps something you have made many a time before, and it is much more fantastic than usual? More fantastic perhaps than the effort put in?

I was asked for a victoria sponge, and I do enjoy a classic cake so I readily complied. I had raspberry jam in the fridge so decided, in a bold move that would have me cast out of the WI, to buy a pot of double cream and I was all set to go.

I have made various victoria sponges before but can honestly say hand on heart that this was the most delicious. I feel a bit of a fraud saying this as I did not do anything special, in fact my mind was on so many other things, that it should, in all fairness, have been a disaster.

Instead I was rewarded with a super soft, delicate sponge with a quite wondrous crumb structure. I filled it with sharp raspberry jam and softly whipped cream loaded with plenty of vanilla.

I am all for new baking techniques and flavour combinations but once in a while its good to remember why a classic is so awarded a place in the classic hall of fame.

Victoria sponge (raspberry and vanilla)

170g butter
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
170g golden caster sugar
3 large eggs
170g self raising flour
2 level tsp baking powder

100g raspberry jam
100ml of double cream
1 tsp vanilla paste/seeds from one vanilla pod

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN. Grease and line the base of a 20cm springform tin.

Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until very light and creamy, ~5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl after each addition. Add the flour and baking powder to the bowl and fold in with a spatula until there is no visible flour remaining.

Pour into the prepared cake tin and level with a spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for ~30 minutes.  Rotate the tin 2/3 of the way through cooking, especially if your oven has hot spots (like mine). Do not slam the oven door if you do not want your cake to sink! 

When the cake is golden and springy to the touch, remove from the oven and allow to cool for ~10 minutes in the tin. Release the cake from the tin and allow to completely coll on a wire rack. 

Using a sharp serrated knife cut the cake into two layers. At this point you can choose what to sandwich the layers with if you do not fancy jam and cream.

Add the vanilla to the cream and beat until it is softly whipped. Spread the jam onto one layer of the cake then spread with the vanilla cream. Gently place the second layer of cake on top. Gently dust with icing sugar, if you wish. 

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Snickers cupcakes

I have to admit that I am a recent covert to the amazingness that is a snickers. This is largely in part to my recent liking of nuts.

Making cupcakes for work I knew I wanted a chocolate-y one, its just what went with the chocolate. That is when I decided to take the snickers and make it into a cupcake. Now I know for a fact that the idea of a snickers cupcake is not original but I came up with this mish mash myself, though like I said there are probably hundreds of similar variations out there.

For this cake you will need your favourite chocolate cupcake recipe. Chocolate cupcake recipes vary a lot and everyone has their favourite way of making them. Make them and let them cool.

You will also need a caramel, you do not need much, a couple of heaped tablespoons at most. I confess to, in this instance, using it from a jar. Some salted peanuts. I also confess to not weighing these. I simply chopped up enough so that once stirred into the caramel there was a good peanut to caramel ratio.

You will also need to make the buttercream. I was just going to make peanut buttercream. Then, whilst looking at other baking books I thought about whoopee pie filling. That marshmallow fluff gives a sort of nougat-y quality so I decided to add that in. It works a dream, it is my current favourite frosting (this changes regularly, it has to be said).

Frosting for 12 cupcakes

50g butter
50g smooth peanut butter
250g icing sugar
2 tablespoons of milk
125g marshmallow fluff. 

Beat the butter and peanut butter together. Add in the icing sugar and milk and beat until very light and fluffy, this can easily take 5 minutes. Finally add in the marshmallow fluff and beat to combine. 

To assemble the cakes, core the middle of each cake and add a good heaped teaspoon of your peanut caramel mix. Replace the cone, trimming to fit as necessary. 

Pipe the frosting on top, if you have no piping bag simply swirl onto of the cakes. 

I decorated the top with a sprinkling of chopped salted peanuts and a slice of snickers.

These cupcakes were frankly amazing. I am a little sad that I gave the majority to work and more are being made soon!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Salted caramel cupcakes

To celebrate my recent engagement (hurrah!) I of course took cakes into work. I decided to make 3 different flavours of cupcakes because there would then be something that hopefully everyone would like, not that my work as ever turned down any cake. Ever.

I made white chocolate and raspberry, the recipe can be found here, snickers, which I will post in a few days and salted caramel.

I'll start with the salted caramel. I used a caramel cupcake recipe by the hummingbird bakery. To convert it to salted caramel I simply gently warmed my caramel, from a tin, and added sea salt until it had that yummy salted caramel taste. I was not convinced the caramel in the cake would have much flavour (and I still think that I was right on this) so I hollowed out the middle after baking and added a generous spoonful of the caramel.

On the top is my version of salted caramel butter cream, a drizzle of more slated caramel and some chopped up caramel buttons. The ones I used were from silver spoon and I found them in the baking isle at the supermarket.

Salted caramel cupcakes

makes 16

for the cake

80g butter
250g golden caster sugar
240g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
240ml whole milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla paste/extract
tin of carnation caramel
sea salt to taste

for the frosting

150g butter
375g icing sugar
2 tablespoons whole milk
leftover caramel (from cake ingredients)
caramel drops (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190C/170C FAN and line two cupcake trays with liners. If you only have one, like me, simply bake the cakes in two batches, mine turned out fine. 

Pour all the caramel from the tin into a saucepan and gently heat while stirring. Add sea salt to taste. Make sure the caramel is warm enough to dissolve the salt but it does not need to be hot. Set aside to cool.

Whisk the butter, sugar, flour and baking powder together until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Whisk the eggs milk and vanilla together in a jug.

Pour about 3/4 of the wet ingredients into the dry and beat until they are incorporated and the batter is thick. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the remaining dry ingredients and 150g of your salted caramel. Beat again until the batter is smooth.

Divide the batter evenly between the cases. Fill your cases no more than 2/3 full, these cupcakes really do grow!

Bake for ~20 minutes util golden and springy. If you are baking more than one tray swap them around halfway through baking. Once baked transfer the cakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting beat the butter, icing sugar and milk together for ~5 minutes until very light and fluffy. Add 100g of the salted caramel and beat to combine.

Once cool remove a cone from each cake and fill with the leftover caramel. Place the cone back, trimming to fit. Pipe the frosting onto the cakes however you like. Finish by topping the cakes with caramel drops and a drizzle of any remaining caramel.

These cakes certainly look pretty, they were the ones catching peoples eye at work and everyone said that they enjoyed them.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


This is a photo of me looking exceedingly happy.

Why am I so happy. Well I am eating baking. And not just any baking. When I watched the Hairy Bikers bakation series I fell in love with a dish called Kremesh that they ate at a cafe in Budapest. Kremesh is essentially a cross between a vanilla slice and mille feuille. It is made of layers of puffed pastry and a vanilla custard.

While inter-railing I just happened to be in Budapest, a fantastic place, you should all go, and I tracked down this cafe and had the Kremesh. It was worth the journey, it was fantastic.

I knew I wanted to make it but saved actually making it until the letter 'K' came up for alpha bakes, and finally this month it appeared.

My Kremesh tasted amazing but did not look good. The recipe said stir the custard till thick, mine was pretty thick, more thick than I would like on crumble. But it needed to me thicker, it literally needs cooking out until you could stand a spoon in it! Also my pastry puffed up too much, If I made my own I do not think it would do that, I would also consider baking it between two tray, as like mille feuille.

Still I have learnt and its definitely one I would make again.


makes about 8

pack of puff pastry (350g ish)

500ml milk
Vanilla pod
150g caster sugar
75g egg yolk (about 5)
65g plain flour
75g egg white (2-3)
65g icing sugar

Each Kremesh has 3 layers. I prefer to precut the layers instead of baking th pastry and then cutting it. Cut you pastry rectangles, each kremesh needs 3 and they all need to be the same size.

Follow the pack instructions and cook your pastry until it is golden and puffed up. Set aside to cool.

To make the custard filling first gently heat the milk with the seeds from the vanilla pod until just boiling, remove from the heat and set aside to cool. 

Whisk the egg yolks with the caster sugar until combined. Whisk in the flour, a little at a time, until you have a smooth paste. Add the milk, a little at a time, whisking constantly. Make sure the milk has cooled enough otherwise the eggs may scramble.

Once all the milk ha been incorporated into the egg mix tip the whiole mixture back into the pan. Heat gently, stiring constantly until the custard has thickened. By thickened I have learnt that this means, really very very thick not just simply thickened. Remoe from the heat and set aside.

Whisk the egg whites with the icing sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold into the custard. the custard will still be warm, that's ok.

Assemble the Kremesh by layering pastry and custard.

What my Kremesh lacked presentation made up for in yumminess!  

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Triple chocolate brownies

I know, another brownie recipe, I love brownies though and am always striving to find that perfect one, you know, the fudgy chewy one with the delicately crisp top?

As if a brownie were not indulgent enough I do enjoy pimping them, as it were, with cookie dough, chocolate bars, biscuits etc. These are a slightly more normal variety, the triple chocolate.

Its a recipe I have just slightly adapted from John Whaite's book. He uses different ratios of ingredients to some of my other brownie recipes, I wondered how this would affect taste and texture. Some of you may remember the apple sauce in a previous post? If that did not put you off how do you fare with the unusual ingredients in this recipe... mayonnaise  Yes that's right, the sandwich/chip condiment. John maintains that it keeps the brownies chewy. I am willing to give it a go.

I like my brownies deeply chocolate-y so have used all dark chocolate in the batter, John uses a mix of dark and milk. I have reduced the cocoa powder slightly. I have also added some coffee into the batter, not a lot, but coffee really brings out the depth of chocolate. I have also reduced the sugar very marginally, not enough to affect texture but hopefully to stop the brownies being too sweet.

Triple chocolate brownies

180g dark chocolate
125g butter
1 heaped tsp instant coffee
2 eggs
tsp vanilla paste/extract
3 tbsps mayo
125g light brown sugar
75g caster sugar
180g plain flour
2 tbsps cocoa
70ml milk
50g milk chocolate, chopped into chunks
50g white chocolate, chopped into chunks

Grease and line a brownie pan with baking paper and preheat the oven to 160C/140C FAN. 

Place the butter and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of barely simmering water. Allow the butter and chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally  When melted remove from the heat and stir in the coffee. allow to cool for a couple of minutes. Add the eggs, vanilla and mayonaise and beat in with a wood spoon until the mix is smooth and glossy. 

Add the sugars and stir to combine. Add the flour. cocoa powder and milk and stir until no streaks of flour are vissible. Finally mix through the chopped chocolate chunks. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a sptaula. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Once removed from the oven allow the brownie to cool in the tin for at least an hour, this will make it much easier to remove. Using the baking paper remove the brownie from the tin, cut into brownie sized chunks and allow to cool fully on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container. 

I am an idiot. I completely lost track of time and these brownies baked for at least 5-7 minutes longer than they should. Therefore the taste is amazing, deep and intensely chocolatey but the texture is wrong. The are too cakey and not fudgey enough and this is, I think, purely my own fault.

I will be making a second batch for work, I am sure they will not complain, as a test, and hopefully I will be able to update this post with good news!

Monday, 13 May 2013

Lemon meringue cake

My parents were visiting this weekend and I always like to have a baked good of some sort to have with tea/coffee on Sunday morning. Both my parents like lemon, (Dad especially is a lemon fiend!) so something lemon based was decided upon.

I also wanted a chance to use the cooks blowtorch that they had given me for Christmas  As luck would have it I have recently bought John Whaite's book and inside was the answer to all my requirements. A lemon meringue cake!

I tweaked the recipe a smidgen as I did not need a 3 layer cake for just the four of us, and I do not think it will keep long due to the nature of the frosting. I made one cake using 2/3s of the listed ingredients and cut it in half once cooked.

Lemon meringue cake

150g butter
150g golden caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract/paste
2 and 1/2 eggs 
zest of one lemon
150g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
Juice of 1/2 lemon

lemon curd, to taste, but I used about 3 tablespoons worth

3 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
150g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 160C140C FAN and grease and line the base of a loose bottom cake tin. 

Beat the butter with the sugar and vanilla until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs a little at a time, continuing to beat the mix, add the lemon zest with the last bit of egg. Sieve the flour over the wet ingredients, add the ground almonds and gently fold in. Finally stir in the lemon juice.

Pour the mix into the prepared tin and level the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes until golden. 

Allow the cake to cool for a few minutes in the tin then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Once the cake is completely cool use a sharp serrated knife to slice the cake into two layers. Spread a generous layer of lemon meringue over one of the layers, don't sandwich the cakes together just yet though. 

In a heatproof bowl, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar until semi firm peaks form. 

Place the caster sugar in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water. Heat over a medium heat, without stirring until it reaches 118C, or the soft ball stage. I used my new thermospatula from Lakeland.

Once the sugar has reached the correct temperature remove immediately from the heat. With the electric whisk on a medium speed pour the sugar syrup onto the egg whites in a steady stream. Keep beating until the meringue frosting is cool. This will take between 5-7 minutes.

Spread a little of the frosting over the lemon curd and sandwich the second layer of cake on top.

Pile the rest of the frosting onto the cake, making sure to cover the sides. I used a palette knife to create peaks and swirls but you could use a piping bag to pipe the frosting on. 

If you do not own a blow torch the cake looks pretty already. 

If you do have a cooks blowtorch then the frosting can be lightly toasted for a dramatic affect.

This cake was declared a huge success all round. I kept in in the fridge and it was just as good the next day, the frosting had kept well, probably due to the cream of tartar. 

Saturday, 11 May 2013


The smell of freshly made bread is, I think, truly intoxicating. Besides the smell, when you make your own bread you know exactly what goes into it.

With this in mind I decided to make baguettes. Which of course meant yet another trip to cooking shops to buy a baguette tray!
I have a number of baguette recipes and decided to first of all go for Paul Hollywood's recipe in his book 'Bread'.

The recipe was easy to follow and I ended up with lovely soft baguettes with a good crust.

I was about to type the recipe out but then realised the whole thing is here. If the link disappears I will have to return and type up the recipe but sorry to say I am feeling lazy this morning!

I had the baguettes with John Whaite's 'Lone wolf baked eggs', in a word? Delicious.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Chocolate truffle biscuits

These little beauties are the first thing that I have made from the Hummingbird bakery book, Home Sweet Home.

The book has a delicious looking array of treats. This particular weekend I really wanted to bake from it, my birthday was at the end of March and I could not believe I had not got round to anything from it, I have been so busy. Being immensely busy however meant I barely had the energy to turn the oven on, let alone do justice to some of the delightful looking bakes in this book. I settled on these biscuits as they looked easy, yummy and I had all the ingredients in. Well kind of. I substituted amaretto for almond extract and brandy!

These are one of those bakes that are better than expected. I like chocolate, I like biscuits, so I fully expected to like these. I did not realise they would be so good. They really do have that truffle-y flavour in biscuit form. They have an intense flavour and two of these beauties with a cup of tea really do satisfy chocolate cravings after a day at work. Yum.

Chocolate truffle biscuits

makes 14

80g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
85g golden caster sugar
25g butter
1 large egg
10ml amaretto, or a tsp of almond extract, or a combination of almond extract and brandy
icing sugar, for rolling

In a bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and sugar. Rub in the butter until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. 

Mix the egg and amaretto (or substitute) together and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until all the ingredients come together into a uniform dough. This takes a couple of minutes but keep at it, I promise you will get there. 

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.

Line a baking sheet or two with baking paper and preheat the oven to 180C/160C FAN. 

Split the dough into 14 equal pieces and roll into balls. Roll the balls in the icing sugar to coat them and place onto the baking tray, leaving at least an inch between them as they will flatten slightly as they bake.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Allow the biscuits to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

These biscuits keep well for a few days in an airtight tin. Not sure if it is just me but I think the flavour of the brandy is developing more and more each day.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Almond bakewell cookies

I enjoy reading the alpha bakes round up each month and often get inspiration from it. This month I high-tailed it straight over to Liv a little bakery after seeing her almond cookies.

They looked amazing. I made them a day later. I did not change the recipe apart from to add a handful of chopped glace cherries and omit the cinnamon. Oh and I made 24 instead of 12, as no matter how big the cookie I will ALWAYS go back for a second, and so at least if I make them a little smaller it is not so bad. The recipe can be found here.

These cookies are delightful. The texture is light with a slight chew in the centre and the flavour is just the right amount of almond. They are lovely with a cup of tea, be warned they will not last long, even if you do decide to make them smaller!