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.

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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!

Strawberry cheesecake cupcakes

strawberry cheesecake cupcakes

The Hummingbird Bakery is possibly THE most well known of all the American-style bakeries and cupcake shops in the UK, so when I was London for a friends birthday the other month, I decided I had to pay a visit to see what all the fuss is about.

I met up with a cake-loving friend and headed to their branch in Soho, which I believe is one of the smaller ones and I’ve heard tales of their being queues out the door, but we were lucky and managed to grab a couple of the bar style seats to eat our cake.

The choice isn’t ridiculously huge, but definitely enough to make it difficult for someone as indecisive as me. They have the ‘classic’ cupcake flavours – vanilla, chocolate, carrot, red velvet and black bottom – as well as two monthly specials which were hummingbird cake and something with bacon (so wrong). They also had I think 6 cakes and cheesecakes sold by the slice and some brownies, whoopie pies and rocky road.

I went for the red velvet as I’ve only ever tried a homemade version and wanted to see if theirs was better. My friend had the black bottom cupcake, and then we decided we’d also share a slice of chocolate cake. The cupcakes were both really, really good, and although there was no way we could finish such a rich cake afterwards we did both try it and like it a lot.

By pure coincidence, about a week after our visit to the bakery, one of my friends at work asked me if I’d like to borrow her copy of the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook (the original, self titled one).

After such an awesome cake experience I had to say yes, and knew that the first recipe I tried would have to be cupcakes, the only question was which.

As this was when it was still hot and sunny, and the autumnal feeling was still to set in, I decided to use the last of the seasons strawberries and attempt these strawberry cheesecake cupcakes.

They basically consist of a vanilla sponge with juicy strawberries baked in, the classic Hummingbird cream cheese frosting, as featured on the red velvet and black bottom cupcakes above, and a sprinkling of biscuit crumbs on top.

I really loved these, the sponge is light but moist from the strawberries, the cream cheese icing is the best I’ve tried, and you get a bit of all the different tastes in each bite. The only thing I did that deviated from the recipe was only using a fraction of the amount of biscuits given for the topping – it still looks like plenty to me!

I would definitely make these again when strawberry season comes back around, and I’m looking forward to baking more from the Hummingbird book – I may even buy the more recent ones to see if they’re just as good…

Strawberry cheesecake cupcakes (adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

  • 120g plain flour
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 40g butter
  • 120ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 12 large strawberries, chopped small

For the icing and topping:

  • 50g butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 40g digestive biscuits

Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl, then beat in the butter until the mixture forms a sandy consistency – almost like making shortbread. Add the milk and vanilla and beat to combine, then add the egg and beat again. Divide the chopped strawberries between 12 large cupcake cases, spoon in the cake batter on top, and bake at 170 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean.

To make the icing, beat together the butter and icing sugar. I find this can only be done by adding the icing sugar a quarter at a time, and adding a little of the cream cheese if the mixture won’t come together. Once the butter and sugar are well creamed, at the cream cheese and beat until light and fluffy, around 4-5 minutes. But as Hummingbird Bakery warn you, don’t overbeat or it will become runny!

Top each cupcake with a swirl of icing, using a spatula to smooth down the sides. Blitz the digestives in a food processor, then sprinkle on top of the cupcakes to finish.

Honey almond cake with macerated strawberries

Honey almond cake with macerated strawberries

I know me going on about how amazing Romania is may be getting a little tired now, but to be honest I don’t care – I loved it there and I want everyone to know!

Among the many, many delicious foods we ate there, the fresh strawberries and acacia honey we ate at the farm of Gabriel, one of our hosts, really stuck out, and as I was eating I knew when I returned home the combination would have to be recreated in some sort of cake form.

When I saw this post by The Little Loaf, I knew straight away it was the recipe I was looking for – a really simple cake that could let the delicate flavour of the honey shine through, with slightly sauced strawberries to serve alongside.

Gabriel very kindly gave me a bottle of his honey to bring home, and I can honestly say it is better than any honey I have ever bought in this country. To up the flavour of the honey, instead of making The Little Loaf’s spiced strawberries, I simply macerated them in honey and a squeeze of orange juice, bringing out all the natural sweetness and juices of the strawberries.

I think this cake may be the perfect marriage of cultures – Romanian honey meets British strawberries, to create the perfect cake to enjoy in the summer sun.

Honey Almond Cake with Macerated Strawberries (adapted from The Little Loaf)

  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g acacia honey
  • 135g low fat yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 60g plain flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 500g strawberries
  • 1 tsp honey
  • juice of 1/2 orange

Start by whisking the eggs until light and tripled in volume, then whisk in the honey, yoghurt and vanilla. Sift together all the dry ingredients (try to get the ground almonds as fine as you can) and fold into the liquid mixture. Pour into a greased and lined 8″ cake tin and bake at 165 degrees for around 25 minutes, or until golden and springy.

For the strawberries, wash, hull and halve them then add to a bowl with the honey and orange juice. Leave for an hour or more at room temperature for the juices to come out. Serve slices of the cake with a spoonful of strawberries on top, and a little thick to finish.

tea time treatscalendar-cakes

‘Tis the season for summer fruits, and they’ve been chosen as the July theme for both Tea Time Treats, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and the newlywed Kate at What Kate Baked, and for Calendar Cakes, hosted by Laura at Laura Loves Cakes and Rachel at Dolly Bakes – so I’m entering this cake for them both!

Strawberries and cream bars

These are another of the bakes I made for our bank holiday barbecue (still 2 more to go!) and were chosen because no British summer event is really complete without strawberries cream in one form or another.

I had the original recipe for these from Cookies and Cups bookmarked on Pinterest for ages, so this seemed like the perfect occasion to give them a go before the strawberry season sadly comes to an end.

I changed the recipe up a bit because I didn’t want to use a boxed cake mix, and ended up using the same recipe for the base and crumb that I used as the base for my Millionaire’s Shortbread so I could make both at once.

It worked pretty well and the bars turned out great – they tasted just like strawberry cheesecake, looked really pretty, and were even relatively low calorie – 160 if you cut them into 12 pieces.

They would also work well with other fruits – I’m particularly thinking blueberry – so may have to try a few more versions…

Strawberries and cream bars (adapted from Cookies and Cups)

  • 165g flour
  • 130g butter
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 200g strawberries, washed, hulled and chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 200g cream cheese
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

For the base/crumb, rub the butter into the flour to create a breadcrumb-like mix, then stir in the sugar. Press about 2/3 of this into the base of an 8×8″ square tin, lined with baking paper, and bake at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until starting to turn golden.

Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla together until smooth. When the base is done, pour the cream cheese mixture on top, scatter the chopped strawberries all over, and finish by sprinkling clumps of the rest of the crumb mixture on top.

Return to the oven for another 30-40 minutes, until the cream cheese mixture is set and the crumb is golden. Leave to cool before slicing into bars, and serve chilled.

Strawberry blondies (GF)

I don’t know if I’m the only person who finds this, but in the summer I sometimes feel slightly overwhelmed by the amazing seasonal ingredients available, particularly summer berries, and never have enough time to make all the recipes I want to try, meaning they often get put aside for another year.

I have tons of strawberry recipes bookmarked, some I’ll probably never get around to making, but when I saw these blondies on Love and Olive Oil I knew I would have to find time to give them a go.

I made them last weekend to take to a barbecue – I needed something I could make a couple of days in advance that would keep in the fridge for a couple of days, could be easily transported, and easily adapted to be gluten-free, and these ticked all the boxes.

It’s a pretty standard brownie recipe, with white chocolate subbed in for the dark, but what I love is how the strawberries all rise to the top as it bakes, making them look really pretty (and like more skill was involved than was actually the case!)

They went down really well at the barbecue, a few people asked for the recipe and I don’t think you would have known they were made with gluten-free flour.

Although my favourite way of eating strawberries will always be fresh, this is definitely a great way of using them in baking and I’m glad I found the time to make them!

Strawberry Blondies (gf) (adapted from Love and Olive Oil)

Makes 16 sqaures

  • 140g white chocolate
  • 75g butter
  • 135g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120g gluten-free plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 150g strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 60g white chocolate, chopped

Melt the 140g white chocolate and butter over a saucepan of simmering water. Once melted, remove from the heat and beat in the sugar, followed by the eggs and vanilla. Sieve in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold until combined, then stir in the chopped strawberries and 60g white chocolate. Pour the mixture into an 8×8″ square tin, lined with baking paper, and bake at 180 degrees for 25-30 minutes. I found that the top browned quite quickly, so after 20 minutes I covered with foil and cooked for a further 10-15 minutes until set but with a slight wobble. Leave to cool then slice into squares and serve!

As a barbecue is as close as I’m going to get to a fair or fete this month, I’m entering these for the July Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage – I’d certainly be happy to buy one if I was at a summer fair or fete!

Strawberry and blueberry crumbles for two

I am literally obsessed with bargain shopping.

I used to stick to the ‘it’s only a good deal if you really need it’ motto, but not anything and everything that has a reduction sticker on it goes into the shopping trolley.

So naturally, when I found a punnet of blueberries originally £4 for 65p, and strawberries originally £1.50 for 55p, I couldn’t resist.

For the most part they were perfectly fine to just eat fresh, but a few of the strawberries were starting to look a little past their best, so I decided to whip up a couple of quick, individual crumbles for a really easy weeknight dessert.

This is so ridiculously easy that it may become a bit of a regular habit whenever I see bargain fruits, particularly when it’s as miserable and rainy as it has been this week…

Strawberry and blueberry crumbles for two

  • 125g strawberries
  • 100g blueberries
  • 15g butter
  • 30g plain flour
  • 15g demerera sugar
  • 15g rolled oats

Hull and quarter the strawberries, then mix with the blueberries and divide between two small ramekins. Rub together the butter and flour to form a rough breadcrumb-like mix, then stir in the sugar and oats and sprinkle on top of the fruit. Bake at 180 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until the crumble is golden and the juice is bubbling up at the sides. We had ours with custard but ice cream would be delicious too!

Strawberry cheesecake

Cheesecake is pretty much my favourite dessert, and is (I think) perfect for any time of the year as it’s so adaptable.

I was determined to wait until June to bake anything with strawberries so I could use the best, sweetest, British ones. June 1 is the friendly pony’s mum’s birthday, and every time we talk about baking she mentions how much she loved a cheesecake I made a couple of years ago, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to celebrate strawberry season with a fresh strawberry cheesecake.

I used my go-to cheesecake recipe for the filling, with a gingernut base, white chocolate cream cheese topping and plenty of delicious strawberries – which I tried to arrange in a kind of arty way, not sure if I pulled it off!

I didn’t get many pictures of it as I always feel a bit awkward getting my camera out at someone else’s house – do any other bloggers get that?!

As the theme for this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by Kate of What Kate Baked, is summer fruits, I am entering this. I can’t wait to see the round up for some more fruity inspiration – it’s what summer baking is all about!

Strawberry cheesecake

Cuts into 10-12 slices

For the cheesecake:

  • 200g gingernut biscuits
  • 30g butter, melted
  • 900g full-fat cream cheese
  • 3tbsp cornflour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • zest and juice of a lemon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 375ml double cream

For the topping:

  • 100g cream cheese
  • 50g white chocolate
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 400g strawberries

To make the base, blitz the biscuits in a food processor until finely ground, then slowly add in the butter – it should look like wet sand, if it seems a bit dry then add a little more butter. Press into the base of a 9″ round springform cake tin, and bake at 180 degrees for 8 minutes. Leave to cool while you make the filling.

Beat the cream cheese to soften, then add the sugar and cornflour and beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon juice and zest and fold in the cream. Pour onto the base, then place on the middle shelf of the oven with a tray of hot water on the shelf below. Bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees, then turn the heat down to 110 and bake for another hour and a half. Turn the oven off but leave the cheesecake inside to cool for at least 4 hours. When cool, move to the fridge to chill.

For the topping, melt the white chocolate then beat into the cream cheese with the icing sugar and spread over the cheesecake. Wash and hull the strawberries, then slice lengthways into 3 or 4 pieces. Arrange in circles on top of the cheesecake, using the biggest pieces first around the edge then working your way towards the middle using the smaller pieces. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Coconut cupcakes with strawberry jam hearts (GF)

Coconut cupcakes have been on my mind for ages now.

Originally I planned to make pina colada cupcakes with a pineapple curd filling, but the curd recipe didn’t turn out great so I put them on hold; then it was going to be coconut and Nutella, but I didn’t have any; then a white chocolate coconut ganache filling, but that didn’t work, so FINALLY I settled on simple coconut cupcakes with strawberry jam filling and coconut cream cheese icing!

I wanted to make these to take into work so they had to be wheat and gluten free, so I adapted the recipe for the cupcakes from this one at Cooking Classy, and subbed regular plain flour for gluten free.

The only other change I made was slightly altering the egg quantities, so I was really pleased when these baked with a nice, light but not dry texture, as I know sometimes GF flours can be a bit tricky to work with.

The cupcakes went down really well with everyone who tried one, and the cream cheese icing, adapted from a Dan Lepard recipe was a revelation – it’s the first one I’ve made that didn’t need half a box of icing sugar but was the perfect consistency, not at all runny!

Oh, and I almost forgot – I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of fancy piping techniques! Although the sprinkling of coconut on top can hide all manner of sins…

Coconut cupcakes with strawberry jam hearts (adapted from Cooking Classy)

Makes 16-18 cupcakes

  • 50g desiccated coconut
  • 210g gf plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 170g butter
  • 270g caster sugar
  • 3 whole eggs, one egg white
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 185ml coconut milk

For filling and icing

  • 2 tbsp strawberry jam
  • 200g butter
  • 200g icing cugar
  • 400g cream cheese
  • 50g desiccated coconut, plus extra for decoration

Start by grinding the desiccated coconut in a food processor to get it as fine as you can. Add it to the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs a little at a time, followed by the vanilla. Fold in 1/3 of the flour/coconut mix, then 1/3 of the coconut milk, then repeat, folding in alternately until all the ingredients have been used.

Line a cupcake tin with cases and spoon the mixture into them, about 2/3 full. Bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes or until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

To fill with the jam, I use an apple corer which cuts really need holes in the cakes (dodgy picture below as it was getting dark) – you could use a knife to cut holes if you want though. Heat the jam a little to make it easier to pour, then add a little into the hole of each cupcake and place the tops back on.

For the icing, beat the butter to soften, then add in the icing sugar and half the cream cheese. Using an electric mixer, beat until no lumps remain and it looks light and creamy. Add the remaining cream cheese and coconut, beat quickly until just combined, then leave in the fridge for half an hour to firm up a bit before piping or spooning on to the cupcakes. Sprinkle a little more coconut on top and you’re done!

Strawberries and cream chocolate Ivy cake

Last weekend, our neighbour Ivy celebrated her 91st birthday. NINETY-ONE!

This was definitely cause for a celebration cake. A bit of sneaky research revealed that creamy cakes are her favourite, so I set about making this strawberries and cream chocolate layer cake.

I used the same sponge recipe that I used for the chocolate gateau a while ago, but baked it in three layers as it rose out of the tin last time. I think this is definitely going to be my go-to recipe for chocolate layer cakes, it’s fudgey, chocolatey, and can hold the weight of several layers on top.

I spread each of the bottom two layers with melted strawberry jam, then piled on whipped cream with chopped strawberries mixed in. The top layer of the cake was decorated with a layer of chocolate ganache, halved strawberries arranged around the edge, and white chocolate writing.

We finished the cake with a few candles and took the it round to surprise Ivy. She loved it!

Strawberries and cream chocolate Ivy cake:

For the sponge

  • 250ml buttermilk
  • 125g plain chocolate
  • 125g butter or margarine
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 300g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of hot water. Cream together the butter and sugar then beat in the eggs one at a time. Sieve the dry ingredients into the cake and fold until well combined. Beat in half of the buttermilk, then the melted chocolate and remaining buttermilk.

Divide the mixture between three 7″ tins (I only have two so I baked then in two goes, and weighed the mixture to make sure each tin had the same amount). Bake at 180 degrees on the middle shelf of the oven, for approximately 2 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the filling and decoration

  • 300g strawberries
  • 275ml double cream
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 3-4 tbsp strawberry jam
  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 25g white chocolate

Halve 8 of the strawberries for the decoration and set aside. Finely chop the rest. Whip the cream until soft peaks are starting to form, then stir in the icing sugar and chopped strawberries.

Melt the jam, then brush onto two of the sponge layers. Divide the cream mix between the two sponges, and sandwich together.

Place the dark chocolate in a bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until almost boiling, then pour over the chocolate and stir until well mixed. Refrigerate until thick enough to spread, then spread onto the third cake layer to within 1cm of the edge. Arrange the halved strawberries around the edge of the cake, then leave in the fridge until the ganache is set.

Melt the white chocolate and transfer to a piping back for the writing. It’s easier to decorate the top before it goes on the cake, so once the writing is done add the third layer. Add candles and celebrations and enjoy!