Happy New Year, and a healthy new recipe

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and New Year – mine was a little hectic with moving house as well as lots of baking, but it was definitely a good one.

For New Year’s Eve, I headed up to Oxford to visit friends for a house party, and made the cake pictured above to take – a cinnamon sponge with milk chocolate filling and white chocolate frosting. I didn’t get any photos of the inside, so I’m going to make it again and wait until then to share the recipe – it’s a good one though, I promise!

For now, I’m going to give you another recipe, which I think is rather fitting for my first post of the new year – healthy chilli chocolate butternut brownies.

(Pro photo courtesy of http://www.seangeephotography.com)

I made several attempts last year at making healthier vegetable-based brownies, using a butternut squash recipe from Delicious and a sweet potato recipe from Dan Lepard at the Guardian.

I wasn’t entirely happy with either, but I think I finally cracked it with this recipe, which uses butternut squash to replace the fat, and can also easily be made wheat and gluten free by swapping the 25g of flour for more cocoa powder.

Cut into 12 slices, it comes in at 200 calories per slice – ridiculous for such a decadent tasting treat, and perfect for anyone on a new year health kick.

I also added a quarter teaspoon of scotch bonnet chilli mash, from the Bad Boy Chilli Company, which is based not far from me in Lostwithiel, Cornwall. You only need a tiny bit of the mash to give the brownies a really fiery kick, so use with caution!

Although the chilli does pack a spicy punch, the sweetness of the white chocolate balances it out, and these were a big hit with all of my taste testers when I made them.

I would definitely recommend giving this recipe a go, whether or not you’re starting 2014 with healthy intentions. I’m not planning any huge changes to my diet (cakes aplenty!) but I am going to be trying out some new classes at the gym to try and tone up and increase my fitness – I’ll keep you updated with how it goes…

Healthy chilli chocolate butternut brownies (loosely adapted from Delicious)

  • 330g butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • ¼ tsp Scotch Bonnet Mash
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 65g cocoa powder
  • 25g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g white chocolate, chopped

Start by microwaving the butternut squash for about 10 minutes, or until you can cut through it like butter.  Stir in the dark chocolate until melted, then blend with a stick blender to get rid of all lumps. Add the chilli – if you’re worried about it being too hot start with less and add more if you think it needs it.

Whisk the eggs with the caster sugar until the mixture triples in volume, then fold in the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder.  Finally, fold through the chocolate squash mixture and the white chocolate chunks and spread the mixture into an 8×8” square tin, lined with baking paper.

Bake at 180 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until just set. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then cut into squares to serve.


As this is the first time I’ve baked anything with the Bad Boy Chilli Company’s Scotch Bonnet Mash, I’m going to enter them into this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge, hosted by Linzi at Lancashire Food, who chose ‘new ingredient’ as the theme. I love trying out new things, so this may not be my only entry, we’ll see!


Festive alfajores

So, for those of you who don’t already know, I’ve gone and entered myself in ANOTHER baking competition. I just can’t stop!

I’m keeping it local this time though, with the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce Christmas Bake Off. I’m representing the company I work for and two rounds into the competition, it seems to be going pretty well…

The way it works is there are four rounds, one per week, each with a different theme – biscuits, bread, pastry and cakes. There are nine bakers in the competition, and after getting a free pass in the first week three will be knocked out in weeks two and three, to leave three for the final.

Week one was biscuits, and for some reason I decided straight away that I wanted to make alfajores, with a festive twist.

Alfajores are an Argentinian/South American biscuit, made with cornflour so they’re quite dry and crumbly, flavoured with Pisco and sandwiched with dulce de leche.

For my version, I changed the flavour to vanilla and cinnamon, and as well as using straight up dulce de leche added a layer of white chocolate caramel. Over the top, me? No…

Add a star shaped cookie cutter, sprinkles and glitter, and you have one festive alfajore.

I didn’t quite manage to get the title of star baker with them, but I came second out of nine which I’m more than happy with! The bread round has also taken place now, but I’ll wait until I blog about the recipe before revealing how it went…

Festive Alfajores (adapted from Chow)

  • 115g cornflour
  • 90g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp saltt
  • 115g butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste

For the filling:

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 60g dulce de leche
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 100g(ish) more dulce de leche to sandwich

Mix together the cornflour, flour, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon and salt. Beat together the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined, then wrap the dough in cling film and chill for half an hour in the fridge.

Roll the chilled dough out to the thickness of a pound coin, then cut out stars, circles, whatever. Re-roll the scraps and cut more shapes until all the dough has been used. Place spaced out on baking sheets lined with baking paper, then bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 9-11 minutes, or until just crisp and golden. Leave on the tray for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

You can decorate however you like – I used white royal icing, star and snowflake sprinkles, and white edible glitter for a nice festive sparkle! I only decorated the half that were going to be on top, but you could to top and bottom if you want.

For the filling, melt the white chocolate (microwave is fine if you stir often) then stir in the dulce de leche. You can buy the fancy stuff, or use tinned caramel, both work! The mixture might seize up a bit, but add the milk, stir, and reheat a little, and it should be fine. Leave to cool until thick enough to spread.

Turn the biscuits upside down, and spread the white chocolate caramel onto the undecorated bottom biscuits, and the dulce de leche onto the bake of the decorated tops. Sandwich them together and enjoy 🙂

tea time treats

I think these biscuits would make a great gift this Christmas, and so I’m entering them for the December Tea Time Treats Challenge, hosted (sadly for the last time) by Kate at What Kate Baked (although Karen at Lavender and Lovage will be keeping the challenge going in the new year, yay!

Autumn spiced butternut blondies

Autumn spiced butternut blondies

You’d possibly think after National Chocolate Week and Salon du Chocolat that I might want a tiny break from eating or thinking about chocolate – but if you do then you definitely don’t know me well enough!

Not only have I been munching on the goodies I brought back from the show, I also couldn’t resist orderinga chocolate brownie at dinner last night, bought a bar of salted caramel chocolate to get me through work this afternoon, and now I’m thinking back to these delicious blondies and wishing I still had one left to eat now.


This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, regularly hosted by Choclette but this month hosted by Jibber Jabber, challenged everyone to make something chocolatey with vegetables.

Exactly one year ago I was the We Should Cocoa host and chose pumpkin or squash as the theme, but I have to say I wasn’t entirely happy with my bakes and so I thought this would be a great opportunity to give it another go.

I’ve made a couple of different versions of butternut brownies, but this time decided to let the fabulous colour of the squash stay and go for blondies instead.

I based the recipe on one from the Whole Foods Market website, but cooked and pureed the squash rather than grating it for a squidgier texture, cut down the sugar and added a different mixture of spices to give them a bit of autumnal warmth.

They turned out pretty much how I’d hoped in both texture and taste – reducing the sugar worked especially well as the white chocolate chunks added just enough sweetness to balance the spice.

My colleagues were also a fan, and I think I would definitely make them again as they’re a great way of using up half a butternut squash if you don’t fancy making soup!

Autumn spiced butternut blondies (adapted from Whole Foods Market)

  • 400g butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 55g butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 150g white chocolate, chopped

Start by microwaving the butternut squash for 8-10 minutes, or until soft enough to cut through like butter. Puree it with either a stick blender, food processor or potato masher, then set aside.

Whisk the eggs with the sugar until they triple in volume, then pour in the butter and vanilla with the mixer still running. Add the pureed squash and beat until just combined, then sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices and fold into the mixture. Finally, fold through the chopped white chocolate then spread into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees (160 fan), until just set, then leave to cool before slicing into squares.

Black and white chocolate showstopper

Black and white chocolate showstopper

It feels kind of arrogant to refer to something I’ve baked as a ‘showstopper’ – it definitely sets it up to be something spectacular so it’s a pretty bold statement to make.

But with showstoppers being the theme for this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, hosted by the lovely Choclette, I’ve decided to embrace the word and be a little bold, and I am rather proud of this cake even if I do say so myself.


As I mentioned in my previous post about the Cake and Bake Show, I was totally inspired by the brilliant burlesque baking style demonstrated by Charlotte White, and so I decided to try my hand at a bit of a vintage design for my showstopper.

The stars all seemed to align for the making of this cake – I needed to make a showstopper, I was inspired by Charlotte, I had a friend with a birthday to bake for, and I was also having some professional photos taken on Saturday which was a great opportunity to get a half decent picture for a change (you may notice the drastic different in quality between the photos of the whole cake and the one of the inside, quickly snapped on my phone…)

The cake itself is my favourite dark chocolate cake, sandwiched with a white chocolate mousse and raspberry jam. I then coated it in a thin layer of buttercream before covering in white sugar paste, and decorating with royal icing, sort of piped in pearls but without flattening down the tips, and a flower paste flower of sorts on top.

For a first attempt at ‘fancy’ icing I was really happy with how it turned out, although I did have to do the sugar paste twice as I wasn’t happy with the first go as I rolled it too thinly and it cracked on the sides.

The birthday girl was happy too, and the taste lived up to the appearance – well, at 3 in the morning after one too many cocktails it seemed to anyway…

I really enjoyed making and decorating this cake, and I’m looking forward to my next attempt at something fancy – with a Clandestine Cake Club happening on Thursday I won’t have too long to wait, so I’ll update you on that soon!

Black and white chocolate showstopper

  • 90g dark chocolate
  • 90g butter
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 medium egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g plain flour
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 90ml milk
  • 90ml strongly brewed coffee, cooled

For filling and icing:

  • 150g white chocolate
  • 150ml double cream
  • 4 tbsp raspberry jam
  • 30g butter
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 750g sugar paste
  • 50g royal icing sugar mix
  • Black gel food colouring
  • 20g white flower paste

Start by melting the dark chocolate then set aside. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat again. Sift together the flour, cocoa and bicarb, then fold into the cake mix. Add half the coffee and milk and beat slowly until just combined, then add the rest of the coffee and milk along with the melted chocolate, and mix again until the batter comes together and is smooth with no lumps.

Divide between three 6″ round tins, and bake at 170 degrees for around 25 minutes, until risen and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool while you make the filling and buttercream.

For the white chocolate mousse, melt the white chocolate and leave to cool. Whip the cream until almost stiff, then fold in the chocolate, working fairly swiftly so the chocolate doesn’t seize. To make the buttercream, beat the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder together until light and fluffy (I actually had some leftover from another cake, but this quantity should be plenty enough).

To assembly the cake, line a deep 6″ cake tin with cling film and level the tops of all the cakes. Place one sponge in the bottom of the tin, then spread half of the white chocolate mousse on top. Spread two tbsp of the raspberry jam on the next cake layer, then place jam side down on the chocolate mousse. Repeat with the remaining mousse, jam and final cake layer, then leave in the fridge to set.

Lift the cake out of the tin using the cling film, then unwrap. Spread a thin layer of the buttercream all over the top and sides of the cake, then roll out the sugarpaste into a large enough circle to cover the cake. Drape over the cake, then work quickly to smooth down the top and sides before trimming any excess icing from the bottom.

To decorate, roll the flower past out very thinly and use a petal cutter to cut 20-25 petals. Use a ball modelling tool to thin the petals around the edges, then leave to set.

Mx the royal icing sugar with 1.5 tsp water and 1/2 tsp black gel colouring, whisking with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes. Add more water if it’s too thick, more sugar if it’s too thin. I then used Charlotte’s top tip of creating a baking paper collar for the cake to mark out the pattern for the pearl chain with a cocktail stick, before piping the decoration in dots.

Arrange the flower paste petals on top of the cake, securing with a little of the royal icing, then place the cake on a cake board covered in more sugarpaste.

Sit back, admire your handiwork, then eat cake!

Biscoff banana cake bars

Biscoff banana cake bars

Oh Biscoff.

Over the past couple of years, I have read countless blog posts, mainly American, which talk abut a magical ingredient called Biscoff.

Also known as Speculoos, cookie butter or biscuit spread, it is quite literally a penaut butter-esque spread, made out of the caramelised biscuits you always get with a cup of coffee at the hairdressers.

I’ve always kept an eye out for it, but never seen it on the shelves of a supermarket – even when I was in Romania I went on a Biscoff search, but to no avail.

But then, I heard a rumour. A whisper, that maybe this magical ingredient could be found. Not in a specialist shop either, but in a major chain supermarket – Waitrose.

I don’t live near a Waitrose, but luckily my fab colleague visits one every day for a free coffee on her way into the office, and within 24 hours of me mentioning it to her, a jar of Lotus caramelised biscuit spread was sat on my desk.

My big dilemma then was of course what to bake first (after sampling a few spoons straight from the jar and deciding that it was every bit as delicious as I had hoped.

I’d seen a few recipes for Biscoff blondies, and that provided the initial inspiration. After spotting a couple of blackened bananas on two of my colleagues desks, I promised that if they let me take them I would bring them back in cake form, and so these bars were born.

I based the recipe on these banana and peanut butter muffins, doubling up the basic recipe, swapping the peanut butter for Biscoff, reducing the sugar and flour, and adding chunks of white chocolate.

I was originally aiming for a blondie, but actually the slightly more cakey texture of these bars was really nice and a bit lighter than a blondie, so it worked out ok. If you did want more of a fudgy blondie I think cutting the flour by a quarter would probably do the trick so it depends on your preference – either way they are worth trying.

I am now a certified Biscoff addict, and can’t wait to bake with it again – if there’s any left after I keep going back for more spoonfuls that is…

Biscoff banana cake bars (adapted from here)

  • 120g light brown sugar
  • 140g smooth Biscoff or biscuit spread
  • 2 medium/large eggs
  • 1 medium/large egg yolk
  • 2 overripe bananas (200g), mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g white chocolate chunks

Beat the sugar and Biscoff until well creamed, then add in the eggs, one at a time. Add the banana and beat again until thoroughly mixed, then sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and fold into the cake batter. Finally, fold through the white chocolate chunks and spread the mixture into a gresaed and lined 8×8″ square tin.

Bake at 170 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and golden and a skewer comes out with a few damp crumbs on. Leave to cool before removing from the tin and slicing into bars.

PS – Cut into 16 squares these are only 170 calories each, which is practically health food! Awesome!

Orange, ginger and white chocolate cake

Orange, ginger and white chocolate cake

When I saw this zesty orange ginger carrot cake with white chocolate frosting over on Sweetapolita, it was instantly bookmarked and I knew it wouldn’t be long until I would have to try it myself.

Luckily the opportunity came a week later when I was having a farewell dinner with my dad, mum and step dad before leaving for Romania. I thought it would have elements that appealed to them all – my step dad loves white chocolate, my mum I thought would like the ginger, and my dad likes most things that aren’t too sweet or chocolatey.

I adapted it quite a bit, halving the recipe and baking in a 6″ tin, switching carrot for butternut squash and using a cream cheese white chocolate frosting rather than buttercream just to sandwich the layers and spread on top, rather than completely covering the whole cake.

Even after an hour and a half in the car on a sunny day (sorry cake!) it was very well received, and my dad even gave it the huge compliment of saying he wish he hadn’t given so much of it away to my mum and step dad.

It was a very moist cake, and when I took it out of the tin it sort of sunk in on itself a bit, so if I made it again I’d possible bake it for a little bit longer on a lower temperature, but other than that I was very happy and kind of wish I had another slice to eat now…

Orange, ginger and white chocolate cake (adapted from Sweetapolita)

  • 115g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking power
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 75ml milk
  • 250ml butternut squash, finely grated
  • 40g crystalised ginger

For the icing:

  • 50g butter
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 100g white chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 100g icing sugar

Beat the butter, sugar and orange zest until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and vanilla and beat again. Sift in half the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger and fold in, stir in the milk and then sift in the remaining flour mixture and fold again until just combined. Stir in the butternut squash and crystalised ginger then pour into a greased and lined 6″ round baking tin.

Bake at 170 degrees for about 50 minutes (or a little lower and slower if you want) then leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the icing, beat the butter to soften then add the cream cheese and beat until no lumps remain. Stir in the melted white chocolate and sift in the icing sugar, then beat until light and airy. If it’s a bit too runny, chill in the fridge for half an hour and then beat again before icing the cake.

Slice the cake into three layers and use the icing to sandwich between them and spread on top. Finish with more crystalised ginger on top to decorate, then slice and enjoy!

L’Artisan du Chocolat – review

Earlier in the month, I was contacted by a website I’d never heard of before, the Handpicked Foodstore, to ask if I would like to try any of their products for a review.

When the first words I saw on the site were ‘smoked salmon’ my heart sank a little – a shop full of fish is kind of my worst nightmare – but I was relieved to see that there were also pages for artisan cheeses, condiments and spices, and best of all luxury chocolates.

I left it in the hands of their marketing team to decide which products to send me, as I was really spoiled for choice with chocolate from Rococo, Montezuma’s and L’Artiscan du Chocolat, all handpicked as the website name suggests by a panel of foodie experts looking for the finest British produce.

I was delighted when a box arrived containing a little round tub of L’Artisan du Chocolat No.1 Sea Salted Caramels and a selection of their ‘fusion’ range of chocolate bars, and immediately set about formally taste testing with the pony and our next door neighbour Jo.

Whether or not the caramels really are the original salted caramel I don’t know, but I do know that they are pretty special – the chocolate is dark and crisp and the dusting of cocoa slightly bitter; the caramel a complete texture and taste contrast with both the caramel and salt coming through strongly.

All three of us enjoyed them, but I’d say they’re probably not for your average Dairy Milk chocolate eater – the pony thought the salt was bordering on too strong and Jo thought the caramel tasted almost burnt – but as an after dinner treat with a cup of coffee I thought they were perfect.

The four chocolate bars I received were sugar free milk, caffe latte, gianduja and gingerbread cookie. By far my favourite was the gingerbread cookie ,a creamy white chocolate with gingerbread cookie crumbs that not only combines two of my favourite flavours but is also a combination I haven’t come across before.

The caffe latte at first was a bit of a shock, I think as I’ve only ever tried coffee flavoured dark chocolate so in a milk chocolate it wasn’t what I was expecting, but I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way. The gianduja was like taking everything that’s good about Nutella but somehow transforming into something classy and refined, and the sugar free milk was really good too (I ate some after eating regular milk chocolate and much preferred the sugar free).

The bars all have tasting notes on the wrappers which is a nice touch, and I was especially pleased to have been sent them in addition to the caramels as it meant I could do some baking as well as just scoffing chocolate. I made a cake last night involving the caffe latte bar, and it is seriously good – stay tuned for the recipe!

Big thanks to the Handpicked Foodstore for sending me the chocolate to try – obviously they were sent to me for free, but my opinions aren’t swayed by that in the slightest!

Coffee and caramelised white chocolate cupcakes

Coffee and caramelised white chocolate cupcakes

When I saw this post on Poires au Chocolat, I knew that caramelised white chocolate would be heavenly, and I would have to incorporate it into my baking soon, in one form or another.

Then I saw this post, on What Rachel Ate, and decided that caramelised white chocolate in buttercream would be a thing of beauty, and that I really must try it out soon.

It’s taken me quite a while to actually get around to it, but when Kate at What Kate Baked chose fairy cakes, cupcakes and muffins as the theme for this month’s Tea Time Treats challenge, it gave me the motivation I needed and these coffee and caramelised white chocolate cupcakes were born.

tea time treats

It is so hard not to just eat the caramelised white chocolate straight from the bowl – slow roasting it for an hour until it turns golden brown gives the chocolate a whole new depth of flavour, and when you add a little salt at the end it’s just SO good!

The sweetness of the icing is a perfect match for a strong coffee cake, and I was really pleased with how the cupcakes turned out, with half the icing spread straight on top of the cupcakes and the other half flavoured with coffee and piped in swirls.

I made these to take along to a working lunch (along with some fab apple/maple/pecan bars which I will blog soon) and they went down a treat – cake really is the best ice breaker when meeting new people!

I will definitely be doing more with caramelised white chocolate soon – Emma’s gorgeous eclairs are high on the list, but I’m sure there are countless recipes calling for normal white chocolate that could be improved with caramelisation…

Coffee and caramelised white chocolate cupcakes (inspired by Poires au Chocolat and What Rachel Ate)

Makes 9 cupcakes

  • 115g butter
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 30g light brown sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 heaped tsp coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tsp water
  • 115g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the icing:

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 140g unsalted butter
  • 140g icing sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tsp water

Beat the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, then beat in the egg and dissolved coffee. Sift in the flour and baking powder, fold to combine and then divide between 9 large cupcake cases, in a cupcake/muffin tin. Bake at 170 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until risen and springy. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

For the caramelised white chocolate, roughly chop the chocolate and place in a glass or ceramic baking dish. Place on the middle shelf of your oven and cook at 150 degrees for about an hour, stirring every 10 minutes – it should start to turn golden and caramelise and go delicious. Once it’s a nice caramel colour, stir in 1/2 tsp salt and transfer to a bowl to cool.

To make the icing, beat the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy, then add in the caramelised white chocolate. Spread half of this over the cupcakes, then gradually add in the coffee to the remaining icing, tasting until it reaches a nice strength (if it makes the icing too runny, you can always add more icing sugar). Pipe the coffee icing in small swirls on top of the cupcakes, then serve.

Triple chocolate cookies

Triple chocolate cookies

When it comes to eating shop-bought snacks and baked goods, I can be very particular – if I’m going to splurge on calories and sugar it has to be worth it, and more often than not anything that comes in a packet isn’t.

At my work we have a fairly well stocked biscuit tin, but it’s very rare that I’ll have anything from it as I just don’t see biscuits as a worthwhile indulgence. I also think there’s something slightly disturbing about a biscuit that has a shelf life of months, if not years – I dread to think what’s in it that keeps it fresh!

The one type of biscuits I do like, although still buy very rarely, is cookies. As in the big, chewy, American-style ones, that come from the bakery section rather than the biscuit aisle , or, my absolute favourite, from Millies Cookies.

Even with those I’m still pretty fussy though – I like standard chocolate chip cookies, milk, white or dark, but definitely not anything fancy like toffee or rolos or smarties, and definitely not double or triple chocolate. Nope, plain flavour dough all the way, get those sinister looking dark cookies out of here right now, they’re not for me. No way.

Until now.

I made these on the request of the pony, who complained that I’d never made chocolate cookies with chocolate dough. As most of what I bake is eaten by him anyway, I thought it was a reasonable enough request, and after the success of the thick and chewy cookies I made a few weeks ago decided to use a recipe from Edd Kimber’s ‘The Boy Who Bakes’, adapting chocolate and cherry cookies to be chocolate and more chocolate cookies.

I was fully expecting to be pretty indifferent about these, but I was so wrong. I think, maybe, they are the best cookies I have made to date, beating every one of the plain flavour dough recipes I’ve tried.

These cookies are addictive – I initially halved the recipe to make 12 cookies, but had to mix up another batch just two days later when they’d all been eaten (I ate two, the pony ten…)

I honestly can’t recommend this recipe strongly enough – even if you think you wont like them, you will! Promise!

Triple chocolate cookies (adapted from The Boy Who Bakes)

Makes 12, but you’ll probably want to double, or triple, or quadruple it…

  • 100g dark chocolate, melted
  • 50g unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 medium egg
  • 65g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 75g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 50g white chocolate, chopped

Beat the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy – because it’s quite a high ratio of sugar to butter this will take a few minutes, but stick with it. Add the egg and vanilla and beat again. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, bicarb, cinnamon and salt and fold into the mixture. Stir in the melted chocolate, then finally add in the chopped dark and white chocolate, folding until the chocolate is evenly distributed. Wrap the ball of dough in cling film and chill for at least an hour, to make the cookies easier to shape.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (mine were about 40g each) and roll into balls. Place six of the balls spaced a couple inches apart on a lined baking sheet, then bake at 180 degrees for around 13 minutes, or until the dough has spread and cracked and is just starting to crisp around the edges. Leave to cool on the baking sheet for as long as you can, then dive in and enjoy.

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!