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.

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Tropical desert island cake

Sometimes I have an idea for a cake that in my head is completely and utterly amazing, but I don’t quite have the skills to turn my vision into reality and I’m left feeling a little deflated.

Luckily, this cake was one of the rare occasions when the finished bake turned out EXACTLY as I had imagined, and I was very pleased indeed!

It was made for my first Clandestine Cake Club of the year, which took place at the gorgeous St Michael’s Hotel in Falmouth. The theme was ‘ship shape’, and my thought process was basically ships – sea – shells – island = tropical dessert island cake.

I knew what I wanted it to look like before I had decided what flavour it was going to be, but it had to be tropical in both taste and appearance, and a nautical cake has to include some form of rum…

So, I decided to use a Dan Lepard rum-soaked coconut sponge recipe, which I’d previously used for a coconut and chocolate cake, paired with a white chocolate mousse filling and buttercream icing both flavoured with a homemade mango and lime curd.

The ‘sand’ was made by throwing all the scraps of cake leftover after levelling the layers into a food processor and blitzing into crumbs, which were both the perfect texture and colour.

Blue icing flecked with desiccated coconut for the waves and white chocolate shells with a slightly marbled yellow effect completed the desert island look, and I think it ended up being a pretty attractive cake!

I got great comments from the people who tried it cake club, and from my housemates, so I think I can safely say it was a success. The cake itself was light and managed not to be too sweet even with the mousse and buttercream, and the flavours worked really well together.

Now all I need is an excuse to make it again!

Tropical desert island cake (loosely based on Dan Lepard’s coconut cake)

  • 150ml coconut milk
  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 50ml white rum
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 225g butter
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • juice of one lime and 2 tbsp rum to drizzle

Start by heating the coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour over the desiccated coconut and stir in the rum and vanilla bean paste, then leave for at least half an hour to soften the coconut (I actually left it overnight).

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time. Sift together the flour and baking powder, then fold a third of it into the batter. Stir in half the coconut mixture, fold in another third of the flour, the remaining coconut mixture and then finally the last third of the flour.

Divide between three 7″ round baking tins and bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 25-30 minute, or until golden and springy. Leave to cool completely, then level off the tops, keeping the offcuts for the sand. Squeeze the lime over the tops of the sponges, and then drizzle with the rum.

For filling and icing:

  • 200g (ish) mango and lime curd (I used this recipe but used less sugar)
  • 150g white chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 100g butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • blue food colouring
  • desiccated coconut to sprinkle

To make the mousse, melt the white chocolate in a small bowl and set aside to cool. Whisk the cream until soft-medium peaks form. To try and avoid the chocolate seizing when it’s added to the cream, I start by adding a spoonful of cream into the chocolate bowl to loosen it, then add that back to the cream and fold in. Add about 4 tbsp of the mango curd and give it a quick whisk – not too much or it will start to thin. Chill in the fridge for half an hour, then divide into two to sandwich the sponge layers, and put the whole cake back in the fridge to stop the mousse spilling out the sides.

To make the buttercream, beat the butter to soften then sift in half the icing sugar and beat until well combined. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat again, then finally add the mango curd – I think I used about 4 tbsp again, but you’ll need to use your judgement of the consistency of the buttercream – too much curd and it will be too runny to ice with.

Spread a thin layer of buttercream all over the cake to crumb coat, then chill for half an hour. Spread about 3/4 of the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides so there’s a good layer of icing all over. Use a cocktail stick to draw out the pattern of the waves all around the sides of the cake.

Throw the cake offcuts you saved into the food processor and blitz to make crumbs, then gently press these into the icing on top of the cake and down the sides as far as the top of the waves. Add a little blue food colouring (I used Sugarflair gel in Ice Blue) to the remaining icing and beat until fully mixed in, then use this to spread or pipe onto bottom half of the cake to fill in the waves. Finish by sprinkling a little desiccated coconut on top of each wave to look like the foam.

Finally, decorate the top of the cake with shell-shaped chocolates – I made my own using a cheap mould from Hobbycraft, but you could definitely use some of the Guylian-style praline filled chocolates if you want.

And there you have it, a tropical desert island cake, that tastes as good as it looks!

Caramelised rum and coconut pina asadas, and a big dose of guilt

As what I would consider a truly amateur food blogger, it’s always a lovely surprise when I’m contacted by anyone asking me if I would like to review their product/book/restaurant, and as long as it fits in with the content of my blog I’m happy to do it.

The only problem is, sometimes I end up with just too many things to post about and not enough time, which means it can take a little longer than I’d like to write up the posts.

I have what I think of as a guilt chest – all the things I know I should do, and feel terrible about not doing, but just haven’t quite go around to doing.

The biggest dose of guilt in it is for a cookbook I was sent months and months ago – and actually love – but until now hadn’t blogged about.

World Food Cafe: Recipes from a Vegetarian Journey has been written by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott, who run the World Food Cafe in London’s Covent Garden.

World Food Cafe Quick & Easy

The book contains more than one hundred veggie recipes, literally from all around the world. It’s split into sections by country – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Chile, Cuba, Japan, Laos, Helsinki & Lapland, Namibia, Syria and Vietnam – each with the story of Chris and Carolyn’s travels in that country, and lots of notes about the traditional dishes accompanying the recipes themselves.

Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to write this up is that I made loads of the savoury recipes straight away, but wanted to wait until I’d baked something sweet to post the recipe for. I couldn’t let it drag into the new year though, so now is the time to get rid of the guilt!

I love South American food so immediately gravitated towards Cuba to make the Huevos Habaneros (eggs from Havana) and the Sweetcorn and Caramelised Onion Tortilla de Papa, both of which were delicious.

After cooking my way around some of the other countries, I returned to Cuba to make these Caramelised Rum and Coconut Pina Asadas. I have to say, I think they would taste a million times better sat on a beach on a sunny evening in Cuba than they did in my kitchen on a cold December evening, but regardless it was a delicious dessert that I will definitely make again.

A big part of the reason I loved this recipe is the generous glug of dark rum involved – I love rum in general, but paired with pineapple, coconut, cinnamon and lime, it really is like tropical heaven.

My photos absolutely don’t do this dish justice, it was so good and I will definitely make it again. I also plan to keep trying new recipes from the World Food Cafe cookbook, as there are so may that sound amazing – the only slight downside is that a lot of them use ingredients I suspect most people don’t already have in their store cupboards, but if the ones I’ve tried so far are anything to go by it’s worth stocking up.

Caramelised rum and coconut pina asadas

  • 1/2 medium pineapples, sliced into 4 rings
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp demerara sugar
  • grated coconut
  • vanilla ice cream to serve

Melt the butter over a low heat, then add the rum, lime, cinnamon and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour over the pineapple and leave to marinade for half an hour.

Heat a griddle pan and lay the pineapple slices in it. Sprinkle the coconut on top, and baste with the leftover butter mixture. Once the underneath has caramelised, flip over to cook the other side and sprinkle with more coconut and baste with more butter.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream – and a perhaps a side of rum if you have any going spare…

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.

Courgette Mojito Cake

Continuing my mini-series of vegetable bakes, using the fab produce sent to me by Riverford Home Delivery Cornwall, is a recipe using one of my favourite vegetables, courgettes.

I cook with courgettes in my savoury meals usually once a week, but I’ve only ever used them once for baking, in a fairly basic chocolate cake.

When I received the box of veg from Riverford (full selection of veg above!), I was excited to have the chance to try something a little more adventurous, and pretty quickly an idea came into my head that just wouldn’t go away – courgette mojito cake.

I think my thought process started with pairing courgettes and lime, having seen a few recipes for lemon courgette cakes. Turning it into a mojito cake was jointly inspired by the fact that mojito cake has been on my to-bake list for a very long time, and by the fact that I might have drank one or two of the cocktails while on my travels and was having slight withdrawal symptoms…

I did a bit of research, and decided to combine two different recipes – a courgette and lime sponge on the River Cottage website, and the delicious sounding sugar syrup used in Lorraine Pascale’s mojito cake, from her book Baking Made Easy.

I wanted it to be easily shareable, so I made a flatter rectangular cake rather than a tall round cake, splitting it into two thin layers to soak with the sugar syrup and sandwich with a lime, rum and mint buttercream.

The cake turned out exactly as I had hoped – light zesty sponge with a real flavour of mojito, rather than just being lime and mint. It went down pretty well with everyone who tried it, and it’s a fabulously summery cake so I think I will definitely have to make it again!

baking with spirit

This cake is also perfectly timed to enter into June’s Baking with Spirit challenge, hosted by Cake of the Week. The challenge was to create something based on a cocktail, using spirits you already had in the house – I’m currently back living at my dad’s house, and one of the benefits of this is an exceptionally well-stocked alcohol cupboard with Bacardi among the many spirits available!

Courgette Mojito Cake (adapted from here and here)

  • 250g courgettes
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • zest ad juice of 1 lime
  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 60ml fat free natural yoghurt
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the sugar syrup:

  • 40ml white rum
  • 20ml water
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • half a bunch mint leaves

For the buttercream:

  • 50g butter
  • 150g icing sugar
  • zest and juice 1 lime
  • 3-4 mint leaves, very finely shredded
  • 1-2 tsp white rum

For the cake, start by grating the courgettes finely – it takes ages – then squeeze out any excess moisture. Whisk the eggs and sugar until trebled in volume, then add in the oil, yoghurt, lime zest and juice and whisk to combine. Sift together the flour and baking powder and fold into the mixture, then pour into a greased and lined 8×12″ rectangle tin. Bake at 170 degrees (fan oven) for around 30 minutes, or until golden and springy.

While the cake is cooking, make the sugar syrup. Add the rum, water, sugar and lime juice to a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and stir until the liquid thickens into a syrup, then remove from the heat, add the lime zest and mint leaves and leave to infuse.

For the buttercream, beat the butter to soften then add 50g of the icing sugar and beat until no lumps remain. Add the lime zest and juice, finely shredded mint and 1 tsp rum and the rest of the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Taste and add more rum if necessary, or more icing sugar if it needs thickening.

Once the cakes are cool, use a sharp bread knife to slice through the sponge horizontally. Brush the cut side of the bottom layer with sugar syrup, and the cut side of the top layer with more rum, if you like. I like. Spread the buttercream over the bottom layer, then place the second layer back on top.

Cut into squares and serve, on a sunny day with a long glass of refreshing mojito on the side!

Chocolate, hazelnut and marzipan torte

Chocolate, hazelnut and marzipan torte

My ‘to-blog’ list is just ridiculous at the minute, I have such a backlog to get through!

I don’t want to complain too much, because I’m glad to have lots of successful bakes to share as well as a couple of reviews which I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to carry out, but it does mean that I’m somewhat behind on posting and only just on time for entering two of this month’s blogging challenges.

randomrecipes2

This month’s Random Recipes challenge, set by Dom at Belleau Kitchen, was a little different to usual – the choice of book was completely down to us.

I had a little moment of panic at the thought of such freedom, but quickly decided it would make sense to choose something from my most recently purchased recipe book, Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen.

I handed it over to the pony for the random selection, and was very pleased with his choice as it was one that had stood out to me the very first time I flicked through the book – a chocolate hazelnut torte, topped with a layer of marzipan and chocolate ganache.

Which brings me nicely onto the second challenge I’m entering this for – Classic French, hosted by Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes. Ganache is the theme so this torte works perfectly!

french_logo

The cake itself is delicious and went down very well with all my taste testers – a really moist yet light textured sponge with a great balance of flavours – it sounds like quite a lot going on with chocolate, hazelnut, rum and the marzipan, but they all complement each other perfectly.

I had heard good things about Boutique Baking and based on this recipe I’m not disappointed – I can’t wait to try some of Peggy’s signature pretty cupcakes and triple-layer cakes as part of my mission to improve my decorating skills this year.

Chocolate, hazelnut and marzipan torte (from Boutique Baking by Peggy Porschen)

  • 150g whole hazelnuts
  • 75g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 50g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 150g butter
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 3 medium eggs, seperated
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • 20g caster sugar

To finish:

  • 200g marzipan
  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 60ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp liquid glucose

Start by blitzing the hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground, then add in the chopped chocolate, cinnamon and flour and blitz again until the mixture has a sand-like texture. Beat the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy, then add in the egg yolks and rum and beat again to combine. Fold in the chocolate and hazelnut mixture, then whisk the egg whites and caster sugar into stiff peaks and fold in, a third at a time. Spread the mixture into a greased and lined 8″ round cake tin and bake at 150 degrees for about 50 minutes, or until risen, springy to the touch and starting to crack around the edges. Leave to cool before removing from the tin.

To make the ganache, heat the cream until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate. Stir to melt the chocolate, then add in the liquid glucose and leave to cool. Roll out the marzipan on a surface dusted with icing sugar, to a little larger than an 8″ circle. Spread the ganache on top (saving about 2 tbsp) and chill in the fridge until completely set.

Use the cake tin to cut out a perfect 8″ circle from the marzipan. Turn the cake upside down onto a serving plate so the perfectly flat bottom is on top, warm the remaining ganache and spread a thin layer on top of the cake for the marzipan to stick to. Carefully lift the marzipan circle and place on top of the cake – then you’re ready to serve, enjoy!