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.

Coconut rum cake with chocolate frosting

Coconut rum cake with chocolate frosting

The intention when I started to make this cake was a simple vanilla sponge, with sweet chocolate buttercream that I could feed to my visiting family and their children.

My plans started to change when I realised I had half a tin of coconut milk in the fridge and less than a quarter of a pack of desiccated coconut in the cupboard – it seemed like fate that vanilla would be turned into coconut, and I thought with a chocolate buttercream it would be almost Bounty-esque.

A bit of Googling for a coconut milk cake recipe led me to this recipe from Dan Lepard, which scaled down to a two-layer 7″ cake required almost exactly the amount of excess coconut products I had to hand.

The only slight downside was that the recipe called for white rum, meaning it would no longer be the child-friendly cake I set out to make.

I say downside – lets be honest, my recent posts are probably a good indication of the fact that I am in no way averse to the inclusion of alcohol in my baking, and white rum and coconut are just perfect partners.

I skipped the step of soaking the sponges in lime juice and more rum as I wasn’t sure how well it would go with the chocolate icing, but the cake was still beautifully moist with a nice bite from the desiccated coconut, and a subtle but definitely noticeable hint of the rum added to the cake batter. If anyone tries telling you the alcohol evaporates during baking, they’re wrong!

I finished the cake with a simple chocolate buttercream with just a little coconut milk added instead of regular milk, and a few Cadbury’s Flake bars crumbled up on top – because what cake isn’t improved by adding more chocolate?

I really liked this cake, and so did all of my testers. Whether you like alcohol in cakes or not, I would highly recommend you give it a go!

Coconut rum cake with chocolate frosting (adapted from Dan Lepard)

  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 35g desiccated coconut
  • 35ml white rum
  • 150g butter
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 180g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder

For the icing:

  • 130g butter
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut milk
  • 2 Cadbury’s Flake bars

Start by heating the coconut milk until boiling, then take off the heat and add the desiccated coconut and rum. Leave to soak  for half an hour, while you start the sponge. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, for me with an electric beater it takes 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, then sift together the flour and baking powder.

Fold in 1/3 of the flour mix, followed by half of the coconut milk, another 1/3 of flour, the rest of the coconut milk and then finish with the last 1/3 of flour. Divide between two greased and lined 7″ sandwich tins, and bake at 160 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until risen and golden.

To make the icing, beat the butter to soften then add the cocoa powder and half the icing sugar. Beat until well combined, then add 1 tbsp coconut milk and the rest of the icing sugar and beat again, until it’s really light and smooth textured. If it seems a bit thick, add a little more coconut milk to get it to the right consistency.

Spread 1/3 of the icing on top of one of the cake layers, then place the other cake on top. Spread the rest of the icing all over the top and sides, then crumble up the Flake bars and sprinkle all over the top before serving.

Lemon blueberry cake

Lemon Blueberry Cake

The inspiration for this cake came from a Clandestine Cake Club event I was hoping to attend, but ended up being postponed to a date I couldn’t make – I had already made the sponge before I found out so I thought I might as well carry on and bring it into work instead!

The theme was to bake a cake inspired by art, and I was planning to recreate Van Gogh’s Starry Night in cake form. I chose lemon and blueberry because I thought the inside would reflect the colours of the icing, plus it’s a combination I love anyway.

I thought a Starry Night cake might be a little OTT for my colleagues, and so instead I had my first go at ‘ombre’ style graduated colour, going from pale yellow in the centre to a bright sunshine yellow at the edge.

For a first attempt I was pretty impressed with how it turned out! I used a lemon buttercream with added white chocolate, which I find makes a better textured icing than regular buttercream and is a lot easier to work with.

The juicy bursting blueberries inside looked and tasted exactly how I imagined. I’m sad I didn’t get to share this cake with everyone at Cake Club, but it’s a recipe I would definitely make again, and an icing technique I look forward to experimenting with more.

Lemon Blueberry Cake (adapted from Domestic Adventure)

  • 150g butter
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 210g plain flour
  • 20g cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 200g blueberries, fresh or frozen

For the icing:

  • 75g butter
  • 225g icing sugar
  • 50g white chocolate, melted
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • Yellow gel food colouring

Start by beating the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy – because there’s quite a high ratio of sugar to butter I found I needed to add a splash of the milk to bring it together but you might not find that necessary. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, then the lemon zest and juice. Sift together the flour, cornflour powder and add to the mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk, so it’s – flour, milk, flour, milk, flour.

Whisk the egg whites until they stand in peaks, then fold into the cake mix a third at a time. Make sure no white bits are left but be careful not to overmix. Finally fold the blueberries through the batter and spread into a greased and lined 8″ round cake tin, and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour at 170 degrees, or until nicely golden, springy and a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, beat the butter to soften, then add the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and juice, then the melted white chocolate. If you’re not icing the cake straight away, leave the icing covered on the worktop – if you put it in the fridge it will set too hard because of the chocolate.

Spread a thin layer of icing all over the cake to crumb-coat, then chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to set.

To create the graduated colour effect, start by spreading a small circle of uncoloured icing in the centre on top of the cake. Add a little yellow food colouring to the remaining icing until it’s a shade or two darker, then spread a ring of icing overlapping the inner circle. Add a little more yellow colouring, then spread another circle – repeat, going a shade or two darker each time, until you reach the edge of the cake and it’s a nice bright yellow. Use the leftover icing to cover the sides of the cake, then transfer to a serving plate and cut into nice big wedges!

Sugar elephant – a rather random recipe

I’m not sure I can really call this a recipe to be honest – it involves one ingredient, and no cooking – but I didn’t want to cheat, and so for this month’s Random Recipe I give you the fondant icing elephant!

The theme for May is ‘First and Last‘. Dom at Belleau Kitchen set the challenge of randomly picking a book and then making either the very first or very last recipe.

My randomly chosen book was ‘Sugar Animals’ by Frances McNaughton, which gave me the choice of making either an elephant or a frog – both looked cute in the book but I decided to go for the elephant (sorry frog, I’m sure I’ll make you soon!)

I’m not sure mine is looking quite as cute as the one in the book, but you can definitely tell it’s an elephant so I’m calling this a success! I think my animal making skills are ever so slightly better than my people making skills

Sugar elephant (from Sugar Animals by Frances McNaughton)

Take 80g fondant icing and add in a little food colouring – I went for a bluey-grey but elephants look good in any colour.

Split the icing in half, and roll one half into a sort of egg shape, like this:

Cut the other half of the icing into quarters – one for the head, one for the arms, and one for each of the legs.

To make the legs, roll a fat sausage shape with a point at one end and pinch it flat at the other. Use a cocktail stick to draw on 3 semi-circles for toes.

Repeat with the second leg piece, then attach to the body.

Roll the arm piece into a long thin sausage, pinch the ends flat and draw on toes as with the legs. Wrap the arms around the top of the body.

Finally, roll the head piece into a ball. Roll one end between your fingers to make a trunk, then curl it upwards. Add two nostrils with a cocktail stick and some wrinkle lines underneath. Cut a v-shape under the trunk for the mouth and poke two eye holes either side. To make the ears, pinch the icing at either side of the head and gently pull it out and flatten Attach to the body, and your elephant is good to go!

Butterfly cakes

Before cupcakes became so popular, it was all about fairy cakes – and I think butterfly cakes are the ultimate version of the fairy cake.

Light sponge, just a little buttercream, and ‘wings’ proudly poking out the top, I think I’d take one of these bitesize treats over a sugar overloaded cupcake any day.

Butterfly cakes (sponge recipe from The Great British Bake Off book, icing my own)

Makes 12

For the cakes:

  • 125g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 3 tbsp milk

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Fold in 1/3 flour, then half the milk and repeat, finishing with flour. Divide between 12 cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, or until risen and golden.

For icing and filling:

  • 85g butter
  • 210g icing sugar
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1tsp lemon juice
  • 12 tsp jam, curd or marmalade

Beat the butter and half the icing sugar until well combined, then add in the milk, vanilla and lemon. Beat again, then add the remaining icing sugar and keep beating for 3-5 minutes until really light and fluffy.

To assemble the butterfly cakes, first cut the tops off of each cake with a knife. Don’t throw the tops away, as they will make the wings.

Spoon a small amount of jam or curd on top of each cake (I used blackcurrant jam, raspberry rose jam and orange curd).

Pipe a swirl of icing on top to cover the jam, starting from the outside and working inwards so the jam doesn’t ooze out of the sides.

Cut the cake tops in half, and the place back on top to resemble the butterfly’s wings.

Super cute! Enjoy as an afternoon treat with a cup of tea or coffee.

Mini Christmas cakes – Part 2

After a month or so of regular feeding with whisky, my little baked bean tin Christmas cakes were ready for decoration.

I won’t go into loads of detail, the photos hopefully speak for themselves, so here we go!

First, cut off the tops of your cakes so they’re level. Don’t throw away the scraps, they can be made into truffles!

Roll out the marzipan about 3mm thick. Cut out a round the same size as the cake top, and a long strip that can wrap around the sides.

Brush the cakes all over with melted apricot jam, then place the marzipan on top, pinching together where the top and sides meet. Leave for a day before icing.

Brush the marzipan all over with vodka (or water). Roll out the white icing using a lot of icing sugar to stop it sticking. Measure the cake up each side and across the top so you know how large a circle of icing you need – i went a lot bigger to be on the safe side!

Drape the icing over the cake, then smooth down on the top. Cup your hands to smooth down the sides until you get to the bottom, then cut around the cake. If you’re cutting out any shapes like I did, you can do this from the scraps around the outside of the cake.

You can decorate these cakes any way you want, but I went simple with cut out stars and white icing (from a tube!).

As I’m giving these as gifts I wrapped in cellophane, tied with a ribbon and added a gift tag. They look prettier in real life than in the picture!