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.

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Cranberry swirl cheesecake bars

Cranberry swirl cheesecake bars

As the pony and I were going to be spending Christmas day at our house with just the two of us this year, celebrations with my family took place a couple days earlier, and I volunteered to cook.

They are all meat eaters, and my step dad in particular feels quite strongly that a meal without meat is really nothing more than an appetiser, so I always relish having the chance to show them that vegetarian meals can be every bit as tasty and satisfying as a big slab of steak.

For the main course, I went with a veggie lasagne – a bit of a cliche, but with homemade pasta and a really good tomato sauce it tastes amazing – roasted cherry tomatoes and green beans and a garlic and mozzarella flatbread/pizza type thing.

For dessert, I thought we would need something light, especially with days of roasts, Christmas pudding and yule log just around the corner, and when I saw these cheesecake bars posted by Handle the Heat I knew they would do the trick.

A buttery biscuit base and creamy vanilla cheesecake is swirled with freshly made cranberry sauce, which cuts through the sweetness perfectly. They’re also light on calories – sliced into 12 bars they’re only about 160 calories each which is pretty good for cheesecake!

They went down very well with my family, as did the rest of the meal – although they’re still a long way from being sold on the virtues of vegetarianism…

Cranberry swirl cheesecake bars (recipe adapted from Handle the Heat)

  • 175g biscuits – I used Fox’s butter crunch
  • 40g butter, melted
  • 400g low fat cream cheese
  • 150g caster sugar (50g for the cranberries, 100g for the cheesecake)
  • 100g fresh cranberries
  • 3tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tbsp plain flour

To make the base, blitz the biscuits in a food processor until they turn into fine crumbs, then pour the melted butter in while the mixer is running. Press into the base of an 8×8″ square greased and lined tin and bake at 180 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until golden and firm to the touch. Leave to cool.

For the cranberry sauce, heat the cranberries, 50g sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have popped and created a syrupy liquid. Pour into a food processor and blent until smooth. You may need to add a little extra water to thin, or a little icing sugar to sweeten, depending on how tart the berries are.

While the cranberry sauce is cooling, beat the cream cheese with the remaining 100g sugar until smooth, then add in the eggs, vanilla and flour and beat again. Pour over the cooled biscuit base, then drop dollops of the cranberry sauce on top. Use a skewer to swirl the cranberries through the cheesecake, taking care not to over mix, then bake at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until pulling away from the edges of the tin but with a slight wobble in the centre.

Leave to cool completely at room temperature, then transfer to the fridge to chill for at least 2-3 hours before slicing into bars and serving.

Scottish Tablet

Once again I am cutting it rather fine, but I really love the idea of the Best of British blogging challenge, so I really wanted to make something for this month’s region – it’s just taken a while to find the time to do it!

Sponsored by New World Appliances and hosted this month by Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen, the region is Scotland – a place I’ve only visited once, so a bit more of a challenge for me than Cornwall was!

I did quite a bit of research for traditional recipes, but in the end settled on a recipe from one of my newest cookbooks, Home Made Sweet Shop, for a traditional Scottish Tablet.

The book describes tablet as being a cross between fudge and toffee, with the same grainy texture as fudge but a bit harder.

It was supposed to be a plain vanilla tablet, but that phrase ‘gilding the lily’ was apparently made for me so I made a last minute decision to press some freshly picked raspberries into it and sprinkle desiccated coconut on top – which looks very pretty, but now means that I can’t give it as a gift as I was planning too because the raspberries won’t keep long enough – oops!

Luckily the pony is on a mission at the minute to put on weight (the total opposite to my life goal), so the 2,500+ calories in this will hopefully help him out a bit…

The other problem it caused was less easily fixed however; the lovely, fresh, juicy raspberries actually released their lovely juice into the tablet, stopping it from setting properly. So now I know, fresh fruit and tablet/fudge do not mix!

I halved the original recipe, and it was a good job I did as even with these quantities it nearly filled my largest saucepan when it was at its peak of bubbling – so be warned if you do make the full amount! The recipe below omits the fruit but if you really want to repeat my mistake, feel free to throw some in!

Scottish Tablet (adapted from Home Made Sweet Shop)

  • 450g caster sugar
  • 60g butter
  • 75ml full-fat milk
  • 75ml water
  • 130g condensed milk
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract

Put the sugar, butter, water and milk into a LARGE pan and heat gently, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Increase the heat a little and bring to a boil – not stirring at all – until it reaches 114 degrees on a sugar thermometer. Remove from the heat, stir in the condensed milk, then return to the heat and boil again, until it reaches 116 degrees, then pour into a heatproof bowl and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

When cooled a little, whisk with an electric whisk for 2-3 minutes, until it lightens and thickens quite a bit. You can beat it with a wooden spoon, but I find the whisk method a lot quicker and more effective. Spread into a 9″ loaf tin, lined with baking paper (if you’re making double quantities, use an 8×8″ square tin).

Leave for 4-5 hours to set before removing from the tin and cutting into squares. Store in an airtight container.

Chocolate dipped melting moments

I’d been wanting to make melting moments for a while (in fact they’re on my to-bake list), but when I saw these incredibly cute ones ones on Baking Obsessively it was the incentive I needed to actually bake them.

The recipe is super simple, right up until the part where it says roll into balls the size of a large marble.

My image of a large marble is obviously a bit off, as I made half the amount I should have from the mix and ended up with rather large moment.

Because of this, I decided that sandwiching them together would make them way too big, and decided to dip them in chocolate instead. This made the friendly pony particularly happy, as he got to eat the entire bowl of vanilla buttercream.

These melting moments are like an incredibly light, melt-in-the-mouth shortbread and are delicious, especially with a cup of coffee!

Chocolate dipped melting moments, adapted from Baking Obsessively:

  • 175g self raising flour
  • 125g cornflour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 225g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 50g dark chocolate

Put all the ingredients, apart from the chocolate, into a food processor, and blitz until it comes together into a ball of dough. Roll the dough into (not so large) marbles and place on a silicon baking sheet, spaced a couple of inches apart. Squash the balls down with a fork dipped in cold water, to create the lines on top.

Bake at 160 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until just turning golden. Leave on the tray to cool, then move to a wire rack.

Melt the chocolate over a pan of hot water, then either dip the biscuits in or use a knife to spread a little of the chocolate on the bottom of each. Place back on the (cleaned!) silicon sheet and put in the fridge until the chocolate has set. Eat, lots of them!