Lemon, white chocolate and coconut blondies

Does anything say summer is coming more than delicious zesty lemon curd? Nope, thought not!

I was feeling the joys of spring the other day and, with a small jar of lemon curd to use up, decided to have a look back through Pinterest to find a suitable recipe to use it in.

As soon as I saw these lemon-vanilla dream bars from Mainly Baking, which I pinned a year and a half ago, I knew they were ‘the one’.

I did a bit of googling to see if I could find the original recipe, and although I didn’t manage that I did find a variation which used a coconut flavoured white chocolate, which then led to me adding desiccated coconut into the mix.

Although the flavour of the coconut wasn’t especially strong, it was noticeable and I thought it added a nice bite to the blondes. The lemon curd is swirled in so you get little pockets of zesty deliciousness, and the chunks of white chocolate add a nice texture contrast.

I was a fan of these, and so were all my taste testers at work – my boss even gave them a ‘wow’, and he’s not the biggest cake fan.

We_Should_Cocoa_V3

These bars are summery and lovely, and I would highly recommend you make them. They’re also perfect for March’s We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by I’d Much Bake Than… who chose coconut as the theme.

Enjoy!

Lemon, white chocolate and coconut blondies (adapted from Mainly Baking)

  • 225g white chocolate, chopped
  • 85g butter
  • 50g sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 30g desiccated coconut
  • 80g plain flour
  • 75g white chocolate
  • 165g lemon curd

Start by heating the 225g white chocolate and butter in a bowl of a saucepan of barely simmering water. White chocolate needs to be melted slowly over a low heat, so don’t rush this bit! Once melted, remove from the heat and beat in the sugar, eggs and vanilla bean paste. Fold in the coconut, then sift in the flour and fold again. Finally, stir in the white chocolate chips and then spread the mixture into an 8×8″ square tin, lined with baking paper.

Spoon the lemon curd in little dollops over the top of the cake batter, then gently swirl with a butter knife or skewer, making sure not to over-mix – you want there to be little pockets of lemon curd in the baked blondies. Bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is turning golden and the blondies are just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin, then slice into squares and serve.

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Lemon poppyseed meringue cupcakes

I love lemon curd. Nothing is better than biting into a cake, tart or pie and getting smacked around the face by a big zing of lemon – right?!

Part of the reason I was so disappointed with the lemon meringue torta I had at Pizza Express recently was that earlier in the week I’d been making my own lemon curd for these cupcakes, and, without wanting to sound too arrogant, the bland version they used jut couldn’t come close to it.

These cupcakes were for a friend’s birthday, and combine the best of both (lemon) worlds; lemon poppyseed cake and lemon meringue pie.

I wanted to bake something that was relatively light, as somewhat of an antidote to all the heavy Christmas food and stodgy winter puddings that having been wreaking havoc with my waistline over the past few months.

Not that I can exactly claim these are healthy, but they are light in flavour and texture, and the meringue frosting is certainly a little less bad for you than a buttercream or cream cheese icing would be.

They went down well with everyone who sampled them, and although the meringue would have looked better if I’d had a blowtorch to finish it overall I was still very happy with how these turned out.

Lemon poppyseed meringue cupcakes (adapted from BBC Good Food and Baking Mad)

  • 150g self raising flour
  • 120g caster sugar
  • zest of a large lemon
  • 1tbsp poppy seeds, toasted
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 65g natural yoghurt
  • 120g butter, melted

Sift together the flour and sugar and stir in the lemon zest and poppyseeds. Beat the eggs and whisk in the natural yoghurt and melted butter, then add this to the dry ingredients and whisk until combined. Divide between 9 large cupcake cases and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and springy (but still quite light in colour).

For the filling and icing:

Once the cupcakes are cool, cut a hole in the centre of each and fill with 1 tsp of lemon curd, then replace the bits you’ve cut out so the top is level again. Heat the caster sugar in a saucepan with 25ml water. For the best results, use a sugar thermometer and take it off the heat when it reaches 230 degrees fahrenheit.

While the syrup is heating, whisk the egg white until stiff peaks start to form, then once the syrup reaches the right heat slowly pour it in down the side of the bowl, while you have the mixer running. Keep whisking until the bowl, and the meringue, completely cools. Then you can spoon the meringue into a piping bag to frost the cupcakes. At this point, if you have a blow torch you should absolutely use it, but if you don’t you can do what I did and either put them back in the oven on a low heat for a more cooked meringue, or blast them under the grill for brown tops and a marshmallowy inside. Both ways are good!

tea time treats

As these cupcakes star egg yolks in the curd and egg whites in the meringue, I think they’re perfect for this month’s Tea Time Treats, hosted for the first time by Jane at the Hedge Combers. Eggs is the theme, and as much as I love them scrambled, poached or in an omelette, in cakes they’re even better…

Almost healthy carrot cake

Almost healthy carrot cake

Carrot cake is definitely one of my favourite cakes (despite not being able to comprehend why anyone could like it up until the age of about 20).

Moist yet light in texture, richly flavoured with a subtle blend of spices and a little sweetness coming through from the carrot, studded with either deliciously sweet bursts of dried fruit or the crunch of nuts, and finished with my favourite topping, cream cheese icing – what’s not to like?

Well, unfortunately there is one thing – the calorie and fat content. Healthy it may sound, but traditional carrot cake recipes have equal amounts of sugar and oil which kind of balance out any goodness coming from the carrots, and cream cheese icing just can’t be done low-cal.

My go-to carrot cake recipe is great, but I wanted to have a go at making a lightened up version that wouldn’t contain half a day’s calories in a single slice. I was also inspired by the arrival of my Riverford veg box, which was a lovely follow on from the lunch at Riverford Field Kitchen I attended a few weeks ago.

Usually costing £12.95 for what they call a small box of all organic, seasonal produce, I thought it was great value. Mine contained a cauliflower, two broccolis, a punned of chestnut mushrooms, a giant butternut squash, about 8 onions, a sack of potatoes – and lots of carrots.

So how did I lighten up my carrot cake? Well to start with, I used the classic Jedi mind trick of changing the shape of the cake from a two-tiered round to a one-layer square, meaning you can cut yourself a bigger slice, without actually eating as much. I made 2/3 the amount of cake, but cut it into the same number of pieces – obvious, right?

I then switched the vegetable oil, which would have been 1,800 calories, for a combination of low-fat creme fraiche, semi-skimmed milk and melted light butter spread, which came in at just 425 calories.

Instead of full fat cream cheese icing, I made a lemon flavoured whipped white chocolate ganache, made with more low fat creme fraiche – perfectly rich and creamy with a bit of a tang, but almost half the calories (790) of the original (1,500).

Using an 8×8″ tin and cutting it into 12 bars, each slice of cake had 255 calories. The original version, cut into 12 slices, would have been 635 calories, so it’s safe to say that this recipe is quite a bit of an improvement, and it lost nothing in taste or texture.

I quite often try to lighten up recipes where I can (although sometimes pure indulgence is the only thing that will do) – does anyone else have any top tips? Let me know!

Lighter carrot cake (adapted from here, original recipe from Breakfast by the Sea)

  • 200g carrots, grated
  • 200g light brown sugar
  • 75g light butter spread (I used Clover Light), melted
  • 75g low fat creme fraiche (I used Weightwatchers)
  • 50ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 40g sultanas

For the icing

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 50g low fat creme fraiche
  • 50g lemon curd

Whisk the sugar, melted butter, creme fraiche, milk eggs and vanilla together in a large mixing bowl, then stir in the grated carrots. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarb and spices, then fold into the mixture. Finally, stir in the sultanas and pour into an 8×8″ square greased and lined baking tin. Bake at 170 degrees for 45 minutes – 1 hour, checking to make sure it’s risen, springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, finely chop the chocolate and place in a small heatproof bowl. Heat the creme fraiche in a saucepan until almost boiling, then pour it over the white chocolate (don’t worry if the creme fraiche splits, it will come back together again later) and stir until the chocolate has completely melted.

Place the small bowl inside a larger bowl, half filled with cold water, being careful not to get any water into the chocolate. Using an electric whisk, whisk the mixture until it starts to cool and whips up into medium peaks. Fold in the lemon curd, then either spread on top of the cake straight away or chill in the fridge if you want it a little bit thicker.

Cut into bars and serve, guilt free!

Coconut and lemon cream sandwich cake

With the gorgeous weather we’ve had this past week, baking with winter flavours has been out – bright, light, summery baking was needed to see in the spring.

This coconut and lemon cream sandwich cake fits the bill perfectly with two of my favourite fresh flavours combined in a simple but tasty cake.

The only downside of this cake was that I went a little over the top with the filling – after a 20 minute drive to work it had all spilled out the sides and needed quite a bit of a tidy before it was fit to be seen!

Another reason I loved this cake was that I got to use my new cake plate and dome that I was given for my birthday for the first time  – finally I can present my baking in something slightly nicer than a tupperware tub!

Coconut and lemon cream sandwich cake (my own recipe)

Cuts into 8 big slices

  • 225g butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 75g desiccated coconut
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 3-4 tbsp lemon curd (I made mine following the Pink Whisk’s recipe)
  • 150ml double cream

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the lime zest and juice and coconut. Sift in the flour and baking powder and lightly fold into the mixture. Divide between two greased and lined 8″ round cake tins, and bake at 180 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and golden and a skewer comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool, then spread the lemon curd on top of one half. Whip the cream until it holds its shape, then spread on top of the lemon curd. Top with the second sponge, then dust with icing sugar to serve.

Classic scones – the Cornish way

When scones were chosen as the theme of this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge, I was pretty happy as they’ve been on my to-bake list for a while, and as far as I’m concerned there’s no better way of saying goodbye to winter than with a proper Cornish cream tea.

It wasn’t until I started to look for a recipe that I realised there were so many different versions of the humble scone, and so many things to consider.

Firstly, the flour. Self raising flour? Plain flour and baking powder? Plain flour and bicarbonate of soda? Then there’s the dairy – do you go for milk, buttermilk, cream, yoghurt, butter, no butter… And should they be sweet or savoury? Is adding spices or dried fruit sacrilege?

Faced with so many dilemmas, I eventually settled on this recipe from Jane Hornby, which sounded about right – self raising flour and baking powder, milk soured with lemon and butter. The only change I made was to reduce the sugar and omit the vanilla, as I don’t think scones should really be sweet – that’s what the jam’s for.

As far as I’m concerned, the only way to eat scones is with jam followed by clotted cream – not the other way round, and definitely not with jam and butter!

I did experiment a little, adding a handful of blueberries into my second batch, and eating them with lemon curd instead of jam…

Delicious, but I still think when it comes to scones, the original is always the best!

Classic scones (recipe adapted from BBC Good Food)

Makes 12 small scones

  • 175ml milk
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1tbsp caster sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 85g butter
  • 50g blueberries (optional)
  • jam and clotted cream to serve

Stir the lemon juice into the milk and heat for 20 seconds in the microwave. Sift the dry ingredients together into a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly add in the milk and cut through the dough with a butter knife, until it’s just starting to come together. If you want to include the blueberries, add them now.

Knead once or twice to bring the dough into a ball, then flatten out with your hands to about 1″ thick. Use a 5cm round cutter to cut out your scones, pressing straight down and not twisting. Place onto a baking sheet, and brush the tops with milk. Bake at 220 degrees on a high self for 9-10 minutes, or until risen and golden brown.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then slice in half and serve with jam and clotted cream.

This is my entry for March’s Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage.