Blueberry Bluebird Cake

While I haven’t been doing a lot of general baking recently (brownies, cupcakes, cookies etc) I have done quite a few cakes for special occasions, which I’ve really enjoyed as not only does it mean they’re out of my kitchen and I can’t eat them all myself, but it’s also given me a chance to try out some different types of decorating.

Back in June, the Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club held a meeting in Truro, the town where I live, at a small cafe/cake shop called The Baking Bird.

The theme, naturally, was ‘free as a bird’, which could either be interpreted as being free to make whatever you want, or as I took it something with a avian link.

It took me quite a while to decide what to make, but in the end I decided to go for a bluebird theme, with a blueberry flavour to match.

I didn’t write down the exact recipe, but I based it on several ‘blue velvet’ cake recipes I found online, with fresh blueberries added in to the batter, a lime sugar syrup brushed over the sponges, and a layer of cheesecake in the middle (that came from this recipe).

To finish it off, I made a white chocolate buttercream and decorated it with fondant icing cut out birds, in three different shades of blue using templates I drew and cut out myself.

The blue velvet sponge didn’t turn out quite as I’d hoped – I think I had the wrong shade of blue food colouring and it was more green than blue – I really loved the flavours and the addition of the cheesecake layer, and I thought the decoration worked well too – people could at least tell it was meant to be birds!

I have quite a few more fancy cakes to post, which I’ll try to do interspersed with actual recipes, but hopefully the photos will help if you need some decorating inspiration!

Triple ginger cake

If you don’t like ginger, you really need read no further – this has a triple hit of spicy, warming ginger, which there’s absolutely no hiding from!

If you like ginger, then you’ll love these cake slices – I certainly did, and couldn’t get enough of them.

The sponge is made with both fresh and ground ginger, and there’s crystallised ginger spindled on top just for an extra kick with each mouthful.

To balance all the fiery ginger, I chose a sweet white chocolate icing which pairs perfectly. It was totally made up on the spot, but works in taste and consistency so I would definitely make it again.

Sometimes simple is what you need, and this cake comes together in no time. Plus, being a sheet cake makes it much easier to enjoy in bite size slices than a big layer cake so it’s great for taking in to work to feed colleagues or sharing with friends!

 

Triple ginger cake

  • 115g butter
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 1″ ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 60g natural yoghurt
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (but adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the icing:

  • 25g butter
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 30g cream cheese
  • Crystallised ginger to decorate

Start by beating the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the grated ginger and beat again. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the yoghurt, then sift together all of the remaining ingredients and fold into the batter. Test a little of the mix – you can always add more ginger if you think it needs it. Spread into a greased and lined 8″ square tin and bake at 170 degrees (150 fan) for approximately 25 minutes, or until risen and springy to the touch.

For the icing, melt the chocolate and set aside to cool. Beat the butter to soften, then add the cooled white chocolate and icing sugar and beat until it al comes together nicely. Finally, add the cream cheese and beat until light and fluffy (but don’t over mix or it will go too soft.) Spread over the cooled cake, then sprinkle the crystallised ginger on top – add as much or as little as you want, I say the more the better!

Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut cupcakes

A little while back now, I had a tiiiiiny accident, that caused just a minor bit of damage to my house.

Trying to take the curtains in the living room down while balanced precariously on the armchair didn’t go so well – I slipped, grabbed the curtain rail, and yanked it right out of the wall. Oops!

Luckily my housemate Becky’s dad is a DIY lifesaver, and within the hour was round clearing up my mess, and now you’d never know what a clumsy idiot I am.

I wanted to say thank you with cake, and after Becky mentioned that her dad’s favourite chocolate bar was Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut, these cupcakes were born.

Based on a basic chocolate cupcake recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery, I added chocolate covered raisins into the sponge, and chopped nuts and more chopped raisins into the icing. Topped with a chunk of the actual chocolate bar, they were a Fruit & Nut lover’s delight!

Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut cupcakes (adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery)

  • 40g butter
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking power
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1 medium egg
  • 120ml milk
  • 150g chocolate covered raisins

For the icing:

  • 100g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbsp milk
  • 50g chocolate covered raisins, chopped
  • 25g chopped mixed nuts
  • 2 regular sized Fruit & Nut bars

To make the sponge, beat the butter, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa powder until it turns into a sandy consistency. Add the egg and milk and beat again until well combined, then stir in the chocolate covered raisins. Divide between 12 large cupcake cases and bake at 170 degrees (150 fan) for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and a skewer comes out clean.

For the icing, sift together the icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt beat the butter to soften. Add the sugar mix little by little, beating until the mixture comes together. Add 2 tbsp milk and beat until light and fluffy, adding a little more milk if it seems too stiff. Stir in the chopped raisins and nuts, then spread on top of the cooled cupcakes. Finish with a square of the chocolate bars on top of each.

Gingham Chicken fudge – review

Sometimes, people surprise you with their loveliness.

Hazel Parsons is someone who I don’t really know, but have met though my housemate as they both work in the wedding industry in Cornwall.

A little while ago, she posted some photos on Twitter of some Gingham Chicken fudge which was being used for wedding favours. I commented saying that I’d heard their stuff was good but had never tried it, then the next thing I knew I had a tasty parcel waiting for me at the delivery office!

There was absolutely no reason for Hazel to send me the fudge – she doesn’t work for the company, wasn’t trying to promote it – she just did it to be nice. How lovely is that?!

I figured the best way of justifying the eating of an entire box of fudge was if I then reviewed it for the blog – so here goes.

Gingham Chicken is a Cornish fudge company, based in Liskeard. I first heard about them through Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog, but hadn’t seen the fudge on sale anywhere so never got around to trying any.

The flavour I was sent was sea salt and pecan nuts – a flavour combination I haven’t seen in fudge before but sounded like it could work well.

Regular fudge can be too sweet, but the salt balances it nicely, and Gingham Chicken have got the balance just right. Add pecan nuts, which I love and snack on all the time, and it becomes delicious fudge heaven!

Texture wise, it was perfect for me. I think fudge lovers can be divided into two camps – crumbly or soft and buttery. I’m in the crumbly camp, and that’s exactly what this was – although the one downside to this is that it didn’t fare brilliantly in the post and there wee quite a lot of crumbs left at the bottom of the box.

I would 100% recommend this fudge, and I can’t wait to try more Gingham Chicken flavours soon. And should anyone be in a generous mood, leave a comment and I’ll send you my address…

 

Strawberry Fudge Cake

So, things have been pretty quiet around here lately – I’m sorry!

There are two main reasons – firstly¬† life has just been crazy and I’ve barely had time to read any blogs, let alone write them; but I’ve also put a temporary stop to baking for the good of my health…

To summarise the situation, at the start of the year I moved into a new house, with new friends, in a new town. I’ve gone from living in the middle of nowhere and rarely going out, to having easy access to all manor of restaurants, bars and fabulous social occasions.

The upshot of this is that even though I’ve been exercising more, the weight has been creeping on – I’m now a stone heavier than I was in December, and although people are very kind to me and say it doesn’t show, I can see it and feel it, and I don’t like it.

Now I’m not going to pretend that this is all down to cake – copious amounts of rum and coke are definitely to blame too – but I’ve decided that having cakes sat around in the kitchen is one temptation I can do without.

My current health kick definitely isn’t forever, just until I get back down to a size I’m more happy with (and I am going to cut back on the alcohol to help this too… a bit…)

I’ll still be baking for special occasions because as far as I’m concerned nothing says love like baked goods, and I will continue to blog as often as I can. I also have a bit of a blog revamp in the pipeline, and I’m sure that will motivate me to get baking and writing more again!

This strawberry fudge cake was a cake of love, for my dear friend Charlotte’s birthday.

I was inspired by a box of strawberries and cream fudge, and came up with a vanilla sponge studded with fresh strawberries, filled and iced with a strawberry cream cheese frosting, with chinks of fudge between the layers and on top, finished with a few more fresh strawberries and pink sugar sprinkles.

It was everything I wanted it to be – pretty, summery, light and tasty. The birthday girl liked it and I think it was 100% worth the calories consumed taste testing the icing and eating leftover fudge…

Strawberry fudge cake

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 150g strawberry, chopped

For the icing:

  • 50g butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 50g cream cheese
  • 200g strawberries, chopped, plus extra to decorate
  • 100g strawberry (or plain) fudge, finely chopped
  • pink sugar sprinkles

For the sponge, follow the usual Victoria sponge method – beat together the butter and sugar, add the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla, then sift in the flour and fold in until just combined. Stir in the strawberries, then divide between three 6″ round cake tins and bake at 170 degrees (150 fan) for about 25 minutes, or until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, start by heating the strawberries in a small saucepan, and cook them until they have completely broken down and turn into a thick puree. Beat the butter and gradually add the icing sugar, adding a little of the cream cheese if it’s not coming together. Finally, add the cream cheese and cooled strawberries and beat until light and fluffy.

Chill the icing in the fridge for an hour before assembling the cake. Spread a layer of icing on the bottom layer of cake, then sprinkle a third of the fudge pieces on top. Add the second layer of sponge, more icing and more fudge, then the final layer of sponge. Cover in a thin coat of icing and refrigerate for half an hour.

Spread the remaining icing all over the cake. Finish by adding a few more strawberries and the remaining chopped fudge to decorate, and scatter some sugar sprinkles on top as well if you like. Store in the fridge until an hour before you’re ready to serve.

Chocolate and vanilla mud cake

This post sort of carries on the Malteser theme of my last one – I’m a bit of a fan!

Although with the Malt-Easter cookies maltesers were the driving force behind the recipe, in this case they were just a decoration for one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve made in quite a while.

Regular readers of this blog will have heard me gush about Charlotte White of Restoration Cake before – not only does she bake stunning and tasty takes, she is the epitome of vintage glamour, and I can only dream of looking as fabulous as she does while baking in high heels and stunning 50’s dresses. Swoon!

Earlier this year, her first book was published – Burlesque Baking. It starts with basic cake and icing recipes, then goes on to the fabulous decorated cakes, cupcakes and cookies, all inspired by burlesque dancers.

The cake she demonstrated at the Cake and Bake show, the Miss Polly Rae Cake, is in there (you can see my attempt here) along with some other truly stunning designs that I can’t wait to try out.

My lovely housemate Becky bought me the book for my birthday, and when I emailed Charlotte to tell her how excited I was to try the recipes she said that I absolutely MUST try the chocolate mud cake.

Well, when the author herself tells you to do something you can’t really say no, and so when I had an event to go to which required a celebration cake, I knew exactly which it would be.

Unfortunately as the event was mid-week and I have a pesky job that gets in the way of baking, I knew I wouldn’t have time to attempt any of Charlotte’s amazing designs, so I had to improvise. I filled and iced the cake with a vanilla bean cream cheese icing, poured chocolate ganache on top and then scattered crushed Maltesers on top to decorate.

Although not exactly refined or elegant, I think the overall effect worked quite well. What this cake was really about though was the taste – the chocolate cake was so dark and rich, and almost bordering on brownie-like in texture, that it may become my new go-to chocolate sponge recipe.

The vanilla icing offered a good contrast to the rich chocolate, and you can’t really go wrong with added ganache and crunchy Maltesers – I liked it and it went down rather well at the event too, along with a lemon drizzle cake with cream cheese icing which I made, and a towering monster of a birthday cake made by someone else.

I strongly recommend you buy Burlesque Baking, it’s a gorgeous book and I will hopefully have a chance to try out some of the decorating and blog about it very soon!

Chocolate and vanilla mud cake (adapted from Burlesque Baking)

For the cake:

  • 165g dark chocolare
  • 165g butter
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 120ml water
  • 90g plain flour
  • 90g self raising flour
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 320g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 80ml buttermilk

For the vanilla icing:

  • 50g butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

For the ganache and decoration:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 60ml double cream
  • 100g(ish) maltesers, crushed

Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof saucepan with the water and coffee granules on a low heat, stirring until no lumps remain. Sift both flours, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder and sugar into a large bowl, and whisk together the eggs, oil and buttermilk in another bowl. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients then pour in the egg mixture and stir until well combined.

Add the melted chocolate mixture and fold in until you have a smooth, glossy cake batter. Divide between two greased and lined 7″ round tins, then bake at 160 degrees (140 fan) for about 35-40 minutes, or until risen and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins – the cakes are quite fragile while warm.

While the cake is cooling, make the icing. Beat the butter to soften, then gradually add in the icing sugar beating until well combined. Add the cream cheese and vanilla and beat for a couple of minutes, until light and fluffy. Once the cake has completely cooled, level the tops of the sponges then use the vanilla icing to fill and cover the cake.

To make the ganache, heat the cream until nearly boiling then pour over the chopped chocolate. Leave for a minute and then stir until all the chocolate bits have melted. Leave to cool until thick but still pourable, then pour over the cake and let it just start to fall down the sides. Finish by piling the crushed Maltesers onto the ganache, then cut into slices and serve.

Malt-Easter chocolate chip cookies

This Easter was a sad one for me – I didn’t receive a single egg!

Sure, I may have told people that I was trying to be healthy and cut down on sugar, but still… it’s Easter!

On Easter Monday I went out to see if I could find any bargain reduced eggs and treat myself. I don’t know why Easter egg chocolate is better than normal chocolate, but it definitely is…

As it happened, there weren’t any actual eggs (apart from One Direction ones, wonder why no one bought those…) but what Tesco did have to offer my was half-price bags of Malteaster Bunnies – and so the idea for these cookies was born.

The dough on its own is delicious, with Ovaltine powder to give it a distinctive malty taste, but the two bags of massacred bunnies plus a bar of milk chocolate chopped and added to the mix really make these a Malteser-lover’s delight.

My first batch didn’t go entirely to plan, they spread too thinly and were a little oily, but I think I must have measured something incorrectly as the second batch turned out fine, with only 10g less butter difference to the first.

They are still quite thin cookies, falling into the soft and chewy rather than thick and cake category, but I liked them and they went down well with my taste testers at work too.

You could make these at any time of year – just swap the seasonal bunnies for one of those Malteser bars and it should work fine. Actual Maltesers I always find go chewy when baked, but feel free to experiment and let me know how it goes!

Malt-Easter chocolate chip cookies (basic cookie recipe adapted from Cookies & Cups)

  • 105g unsalted butter
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 medium egg
  • 130g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 50g (two sachets) Ovaltine powder
  • 2 bags (around 100g) Malteaster Bunnies, chopped
  • 100g milk chocolate, chopped

Chop the butter into cubes then add both sugars and beat until light and fluffy, this will take a couple of minutes. Add the vanilla bean paste and the egg and beat again until well combined, then sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt and Ovaltine and beat once again until it all comes together. Fold in the chopped chocolate and bunnies, then chill in the fridge for an hour or so.

Divide the dough into equal-sized balls – I got 14, weighing 45g each. Chill again while you pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (160 fan) and then place spaced out on a baking sheet, 6 at a time. Bake for around 10 minutes, until just starting to crisp around the edges. Leave to cool on the baking sheet – if you try and move them while hot they’ll break and you’ll be forced into eating warm gooey cookie dough, and no one wants that…

We_Should_Cocoa_V3

I’m entering these cookies into Choclette’s We Should Cocoa challenge, this month hosted by Rachel who chose Easter as the theme. They’re a great way of using up any sad looking bunnies leftover from the weekend!

The Stable, Fistral – review

When I first heard that a branch of the South West restaurant chain The Stable was opening in Newquay, I was pretty excited.

The concept is simple – pizza, pie and cider. LOTS of cider. And how could that not be awesome?

Although it is a chain, the menu at each Stable varies a little, using local ingredients to create different pizzas (named after local landmarks) and also featuring local ciders alongside the regulars.

The team at The Stable very kindly offered me the chance to visit and review the new Fistral restaurant last week. Before you even get to ordering, the restaurant impresses with the absolutely stunning panoramic views out over Fistral beach – it’s a great reminder of why living in Cornwall is so brilliant!

When we visited for a mid-week dinner, it was pretty busy with many of the tables reserved, and the atmosphere was lively and loud.

Normally I struggle with choosing what to eat when I’m out, but at The Stable the food was the easy bit – faced with a menu of around 60 draught and bottled ciders, deciding on a drink was much harder!

In the end I went for an Annings Pear and Peach, and my reviewing partner Becky went for a Norcotts Cider with Elderflower. Mine was light and fruity, refreshing and far too easy to drink; Becky’s was maybe a little stronger but equally delicious – I wouldn’t hesitate to have either again.

If like me you struggle to make decisions, you can order a cider tasting board – five 1/3 pints with tasting notes. The couple next to us had one and let me take a photo – definitely think I’m going to have to try this next time I visit…

For the main, I chose the Headland Herbivore pizza – roast potatoes, Cornish blue cheese, roasted Spanish onions, spinach, tomato and mozzarella. I thought it was great – the base was super thin but not overly crispy, there were plenty of toppings, and the flavours worked really well – I don’t usually like blue cheese, but on this it wasn’t at all overpowering.

Becky had the The Cribbar – free-range chicken, roasted red pepper, mushrooms, tomato and mozzarella. She was equally impressed, particularly with the quality of the chicken which was much better than you’d usually expect from a pizza.

After pizza and cider we were both stuffed, but it would have been rude to say no to dessert, so I had a baked caramelised apple and ginger cheesecake with pecan praline and Becky had the chocolate brownie with clotted cream.

I have to be honest, it is VERY rare that I am impressed by restaurant cheesecake, and more often than not think I could have done a better job myself. Not so this time – it was to die for! Perfect texture, great flavours, and just delicious. So good!

The brownie was super rich and Becky could only eat half, but any serious chocolate lover would be in heaven I’m sure.

Even though it was ‘only’ a pizza restaurant and nothing fancy, my meal at the Stable was one of the best I’ve had out in a while, and I think it’s going to prove extremely popular with both visitors and locals. I will definitely be going back – I have a lot of ciders to work my way through…

Thanks again to the lovely team at the Stable for sorting out our meal – opinions are 100% non-biased though as always! Thanks also to the bar and waiting staff who were friendly, helpful, and seemed to genuinely want diners to enjoy their experience – top service :)

Boozy billionaire’s shortbread

While there are certain recipes which I love, are always popular and are fun to bake, it’s very rare that I’ll make the same thing twice as there are just so many other recipes waiting to be tried.

Millionaire’s shortbread is a classic example – almost everyone I know loves it, and I like making it as there are several elements involved which makes it a bit more fun than a simple biscuit or cake – but I’ve done it before, more than once.

Still, when I wanted to bake something for the office a couple of weekends ago, millionaire’s shortbread was the one thing on my mind, and so I decided to turn to the universal solution to almost any problem – add alcohol.

There are quite a few variations on ‘billionaire’s shortbread’ if you search for it – salted caramel, white chocolate and peanut butter all feature – but I think I have come up with a real winning combination that seriously takes the traditional treat to a whole new level.

It starts with a shortbread base, but chocolate rather than plain. Then instead of a regular old caramel, I boozed it up with a salted rum caramel. Oh my – it was good! Then it’s finished off with a milk chocolate topping, with just a little added salt to counter the sweetness.

These are 100% better than the original, and went down very well with my taste testers. The flavour of the rum is most definitely there, but it isn’t overpowering, and ditto with the salt.

I loved these so much that I may even have to break my rule and bake them again, exactly the same…

Boozy billionaire’s shortbread (adapted from here)

For the base:

  • 130g butter
  • 150g flour
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 55g caster sugar

For the caramel and topping:

  • 400g condensed milk
  • 115g butter
  • 40g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbsp rum (I used Havana Club Anejo Especial, but any golden or spiced would be good)
  • 150g milk chocolate
  • Salt to taste

For the base, rub the butter into the flour until it reached a breadcrumb-like consistency, then stir in the cocoa powder and sugar. This could also be done in the food processor if you want to speed things up! Press into the base of a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin and bake at 180 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until just starting to crisp up.

While the base cools, make the caramel. Heat the condensed milk, butter and sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until it starts to bubble and thicken and turn a lovely golden brown. Once it’s pretty much ready, add the salt and the rum, one 1/2 tbsp at a time until it tastes right to you – I like a fair amount of salt and rum, you might want to go more subtle. Pour the caramel over the base and leave to set.

Finally, melt the chocolate and add a little more salt to taste. Spread this in an even layer over the set caramel, then leave again. Once the chocolate has firmed up, remove from the tin and cut into squares.

Fresh strawberry Victoria sandwich

Sometimes simple really is the best.

Don’t get my wrong, I love making trashy and over the top desserts with layers of chocolate and caramel and peanut butter, rich and decadent and delicious – but there will always be a place in my heart for a simple, classic sponge cake.

Inspired by a punnet of strawberries sat in my fridge, I decided to go back to basics with a Victoria sandwich, filled with jam, buttercream and fresh strawberries.

Although I did get one comment of ‘what made you decide to make just a sponge cake’, most people loved it, me included.

Simple, to the point, fresh and tasty – perfect for elevenses, afternoon tea, or just because!

Fresh strawberry Victoria sponge

  • 115g butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 110g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the filling:

  • 30g butter
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp milk
  • 3-4 tbsp strawberry jam
  • 3-4 large strawberries, diced

Beat the butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes, or until really light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla – add a spoonful of the flour if it’s starting to curdle. Sift together the flour and baking powder then fold into the cake batter. Divide between two greased and lined 6″ tins, then bake at 170 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean.

For the filling, beat the butter and icing sugar together until well combined, then add the milk and continue to beat until light and airy. Spread a layer of jam on top of one of the sponges, then scatter the diced strawberries on top. Spread the buttercream onto the underneath of the other cake layer, then place this on top. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar and serve with a cup of tea!