Mocha ombre cake

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Every year in October I face the same challenge – coming up with a new idea for a birthday cake for my dad.

He’s very certain in what he likes, which is coffee cake and fruit cake, which makes trying to get creative with different flavours and styles slightly pointless.

I don’t like fruitcake, which means that every year it comes down to how I can make a coffee cake in a different way.

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In the past I’ve done straight up coffee cake, coffee roulade, individual coffee cakes and a coffee cake with mocha filling.

This year I thought I’d try something that (I hoped) would be visually impressive and decided on a mocha ombre cake.

The cake features three layers of sponge – vanilla, coffee and coffee-chocolate – with icing that also graduates in colour with an ombre finish.

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Most importantly it tasted good, but it did also look pretty good if I may say so myself, especially given that the icing was done in a five-minute rush before heading out for dinner.

All the elements of this cake are pretty basic, but they come together for an impressive finish and a cake that’s perfect for the coffee-lover in your life.

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Mocha ombre cake

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1-3 tbsp milk

For the icing:

  • 250g butter
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa powder

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sieve and fold in the self raising flour, then add a tablespoon or two of milk if needed to make the mixture a thick consistency that will drop off a spoon.

Pour a third of the mixture into a greased and lined 6″ round tin. My top tip is to weigh your mixing bowl before starting, then you can figure out exactly how much cake batter you have and how much needs to go into each pan.

Mix the instant coffee with a tablespoon of hot water, then add this to the cake mixture and stir in well. Divide the remaining mixture in half and fill a second 6″ cake pan with the coffee cake mix.

Finally, sieve the cocoa powder into the final third of the mixture with a tablespoon of milk and pour this into a third 6″ tin. Bake all of the cakes at 180 degrees or 160 fan for approximately 20-25 minutes, until risen and springy to the touch.

Set the cakes aside to cool while you make the icing. Beat the butter to soften then add the icing sugar, half at a time, and beat until really well combined. Mix the instant coffee with a two tablespoons of water and add about half of this to the buttercream. Beat well and test to see if it has enough coffee flavour. Add more if you want it stronger, then add just enough milk to make the buttercream a light, spreadable consistency.

Split the buttercream in half, and set half aside. Add the cocoa powder a tablespoon at a time, until the colour is a few shades darker than your coffee butter cream. Split the chocolate mixture in half, and then add more cocoa powder to half of it again, to be an even darker shade of brown. You should end up with half plain coffee buttercream, a quarter light coffee chocolate buttercream and a quarter dark chocolate buttercream.

To assemble the cake, level off the tops of each sponge with a sharp knife, then place the chocolate layer on a plate. Spread a small amount of the coffee buttercream over the top, then add the coffee sponge on top. Spread with another layer of coffee buttercream, then place the final vanilla sponge on top.

Use the coffee buttercream to add a thin layer of crumb coat all over the cake and chill for 10 minutes. To complete the icing, either use piping bags or apply carefully with a palette knife so the dark chocolate buttercream goes around the bottom third of the sides of the cake, the light chocolate goes around the middle and the coffee buttercream goes around the top and on top. Use a palette knife to smooth the sides of the cake and subtly blend the three buttercreams together, then cut into slices and serve.

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Caramelised White Chocolate Blondies

 

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As this is my first recipe of the year that I’m posting, I had to make sure it was a really good one – after an 8 month or so wait average just wouldn’t cut it.

These blondies are something that had been a niggling idea at the back of my mind for a while and when the thought wouldn’t go away I knew they had to be made.

I’ve done a few versions of blondies before (these peanut butter blondies and these strawberry blondies are two of my faves) but none that have quite matched up to the texture and delicious fudgey, dense, chocolatey-ness of my favourite brownies.

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I figured this was because none of the recipes I’ve made previously have included as much melted white chocolate as brownies tend to have melted dark chocolate. This is probably because it would make them too sweet but it got me thinking that maybe caramelised white chocolate, with a hint of saltiness, might be just the right balance.

If you haven’t heard of or tried caramelised white chocolate before, it’s basically white chocolate that’s roasted over a low heat, stirring frequently, until it turns golden brown, with a pinch of salt added in at the end. For step by step instructions, David Lebovitz is the man.

To make these blondies I used 200g of the caramelised white chocolate melted into the batter and another 100g chopped up and added to the mix, which made sure the flavour came through really strongly.

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The texture was exactly as I’d hoped and the salt balanced the sweetness. The taste testers in my office loved them and even my boyfriend who insists he doesn’t like white chocolate or brownies really liked them too.

These blondies will definitely be made again at some point, possibly with some different add-ins, but the simple version really does work well and if you haven’t baked with caramelised white chocolate before, I highly recommend you give it a try.

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Caramelised white chocolate blondies

  • 300g caramelised white chocolate
  • 140g butter
  • 180g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 85g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt
  • 100g milk chocolate chunks (I used Galaxy Counters)

Break 200g of the white chocolate into chunks and melt with the butter in a medium-sized saucepan. Once completely melted, remove from the heat and stir in the sugar.

Add in the eggs one at a time followed by the vanilla, beating with  wooden spoon to combine. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt then fold into the mixture. I like a salted dessert so I used quite a bit, but if you’re not sure how salty you want it be conservative and you can always sprinkle some more on top before baking.

Stir in the milk chocolate chunks and the rest of the white chocolate, chopped into small pieces. Pour into a 8×8″ square baking tin lined with baking paper and bake at 170 degrees (150 fan) for 25-30 minutes, until a skewer comes out with crumbs on, but not liquid batter.

Leave to cool then cut into squares and serve!

 

A wedding and a resurrection

Hello!

This is my first post in something like nine months, so in case you’re wondering if I’m still alive the answer is yes! And if you’re a little less melodramatic and simply wondering if I’m still baking, the answer is also yes albeit less regularly.

The very short and sweet update is I am super busy with a great job and also surrounded by people who – for their sins – like dieting and are less keen on being force fed cake every week. Fools!

This means I’m making less frequently and not having the time to write about it, although if you follow me on Instagram (@natblachford) you will have seen some of the bits and pieces I have been knocking up in the kitchen.

One of the most significant things I’ve failed to mention on here is my biggest challenge to date – I made a wedding cake!

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A friend contacted me to say he was getting married and he wondered if I’d be interested in making the cake. There’s a cute backstory, as it turns out he proposed on his now wife’s birthday when he’d commissioned me to make her birthday cake and so they wanted the same cake re-made for their wedding.

You can see the original cake here – it’s a chocolate and raspberry extravaganza and, dare I say it, quite a lot tastier and more indulgent than your average wedding cake.

To turn it into a wedding cake that would serve 150 people, some tweaks were made to the recipe and I decided to go a bit more traditional in appearance with white chocolate collars rather than the dark chocolate used previously.

I used my new go-to chocolate cake recipe without any whole raspberries in and refined the raspberry sauce to remove the seeds – the verdict from my taste testers at work was that it was better without. I used a white chocolate buttercream (also a go-to recipe) to cover the cakes, before finishing with the chocolate collars and fresh raspberries on top.

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My life was made a lot easier by the fact the couple already had a cake stand to suit their countryside wedding theme so I didn’t have to worry about tiering. They also had their own lego wedding topper ready to pop on top – the perfect finishing touch.

It’s been so long since the wedding that I don’t even have the original photos any more, which is why I’ve had to salvage a few from Instagram to use here.

The most important thing was that the bride and groom were thrilled with the cake and it got eaten, which is good because in my mind nothing is sadder than a neglected cake left sat in the corner!

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So thank you Charlie and Sarah for letting me be a part of your big day and hopefully this blog post won’t be the last of this year – I’ve got some exciting recipes to share with you all and it feels like time to write again so the resurrection is here…

Double chocolate raspberry rose ombre cake

I’ve been incredibly slow in posting this, so apologies to anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram and first saw this several months ago…

This cake was made for a colleague who was going on maternity leave – and as you may be able to guess from the colour and decoration, she was having a girl!

I used what’s become my go to chocolate sponge from Charlotte White, combined with a fresh cream and raspberry filling and a white chocolate icing.

This is the first time I’ve attempted rose swirl icing, and I have to say I was rather pleased with the results. The icing was a little too soft, and the day a little too warm, to pipe the swirls on the sides of the cake as well, so I gave up and just spread that normally, but keeping with the ombre effect going from light to dark pink.

I won’t write the recipe for this as I’ve written the cake before and the icing is the same as the triple ginger cake I made a little while ago, but if you want to have a go you basically need to make three times as much icing so you can pipe the swirls, and use about 100ml of whipped cream for the filling, plus half a punnet of raspberries.

To pipe the roses, you need  star shaped nozzle – I believe mine is a Wilton 2D – and just start from the centre of the cake, adding a little more food colouring to the icing for each concentric circle of roses.

It’s a technique I’m definitely going to be trying out again, and the cake went down a treat too.

Chocolate peanut butter swirl brownies

Want a deliciously dense and fudgy brownie? The base recipe for these is all you need.

Want to take it to a new level with a swirl of one of the most addictive food products I’ve ever tried? Keep reading.

When I first spied a jar of chocolate peanut butter, I knew it would be love. What I didn’t realise was that it would be so good I would eat about a third of a jar in one go, spoonful by spoonful.

Yes I am a massive fatty.

When I needed to bake something to take to a party, that would be relatively quick and simple, didn’t need a long time to cool down or be iced, and that could be served in bite-sized portions, brownies were the obvious choice.

Inspired by these Nutella swirl brownies, I decided to buy another jar of the chocolate peanut butter and swap that in instead – a brilliant decision, if I can say so without sounding too boastful!

I used my favourite brownie recipe as the base, then just swirled the slightly warmed chocolate peanut butter on top.

Because I was in a rush, I cut the brownies while they were still slightly warm, which meant the chocolate peanut swirls were gooey and the process was rather messy, but the end result was totally worth it.

If you like the chocolate-peanut combination, you must try these, seriously. Writing about them and looking at the photos has made me realise how much I miss them, and another batch may have to happen soon.

Just as long as the chocolate peanut butter doesn’t mysteriously disappear from the jar first…

Chocolate peanut butter swirl brownies (adapted from Apple and Spice)

  • 140g butter
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 85g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 100g milk chocolate, chopped
  • 150g chocolate peanut butter

Heat the dark chocolate and butter over  a pan of simmering water until melted and stir to combine. Remove from the heat, then stir in the sugar. Beat in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until well mixed and glossy. Sift in the flour and baking powder, mix until fully combined, then stir in the chopped chocolate.

Spread the brownie mixture into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin. Heat the chocolate peanut butter in the microwave for 20 seconds or so, just to soften it up a little. Spoon in dollops over the top of the brownie batter, then gently swirl in with a knife or skewer, making sure not to over-mix.

Bake at 170 degrees (150 fan) for 25-30 minutes, until the brownies are crisping on top but a skewer still comes out with some crumbs. Leave to cool for as long as you can, then cut into squares and serve.

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.

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…

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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!

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.

Peanut butter cup rocky road

Peanut butter is a pretty big deal in my house. I try and sneak some in to everything I bake. A certain other housemate likes to occasionally (very occasionally) eat it with a piece of chocolate as a spoon. And I definitely don’t judge, because if I had chocolate and a jar of peanut butter right now, I’d be doing it too.

For my birthday this year, I decided to go with an American theme for my party – largely driven by wanting to have loads of American-style food.

Reeses peanut butter cups feature heavily on a lot of the American blogs I read, so I knew they would have to be included somehow.

I bought a bag of mini regular peanut butter cups, and a bag of mini white chocolate peanut butter cups, and although I did briefly consider just putting them in a bowl for people to help themselves, I thought they could be put to better use in this twist on rocky road.

They’re joined by that other American sweet snack favourite, Oreos, to create a super chocolately, crunchy, sweet and salty bar, that was a HUGE hit with all the peanut butter lovers who tried it.

If you have a weakness for peanut butter and chocolate you probably shouldn’t make these to be honest, because they are so insanely addictive you will keep going back for more. But if you have a party to go to, you should definitely make them and instantly become the most popular person there!

Peanut butter cup rocky road

  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 150g dark chocolate
  • 125g butter
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 225g Oreos
  • 1 bag mini milk chocolate peanut butter cups
  • 1 bag white chocolate peanut butter cups

Heat the chocolate, butter and golden syrup in a heavy-based saucepan, stirring until all the chocolate has melted then set aside to cool. Bash the Oreos and stir these into the chocolate mixture, then chop the peanut butter cups into quarters and add about two thirds of them into the mix. Spread into a 9×9″ square tin, lined with foil, then push the remaining pieces of peanut butter cups on top. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours, before cutting into squares and serving.