8 September 2013

Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Icing

I know what I want to be when I grow up. A professional baking-batter-eater. It may not be a thing yet, but I'll make darn sure it is by the time I'm a real adult. 

I was going to call this future job of mine a cake-spoon licker but that seemed too restrictive. I would be missing out on all the cookie doughs and brownie batters of the world, and that just wouldn't do now, would it?

In an endeavor to make this future job as achievable as possible, I'm getting in as much practice as I can. That's where today's bake comes in. My-oh-my this batter is a good'un. It starts out pretty similar to a good staple cookie dough (feel free to put in a little practice and lick a spoon at this stage, my fellow budding batter-eaters). With the addition of buttermilk, cocoa powder and melted chocolate the mixture suddenly transforms into a delightfully soft and much thinner cake batter. After baking it produces richly flavoured and seriously moist cupcakes. Before baking it's a scrap-the-bowl clean kind of batter. 

At this point I also feel the need to point out that "spoon-licker" is also too restrictive a title - I employed many utensils to make sure I got every last bit of this batter (don't pretend like you've never done that either). 

Cupcake Ingredients:
75g dark chocolate, melted
50g butter
120g soft light brown sugar
1 large egg
120g plain flour
1.5tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
100ml buttermilk
4 heaped tsp cocoa powder
0.5tsp coffee granules
1tsp vanilla extract

Start by preheating the oven to fan 160 and lining a 12-hole cupcake tin.
Melt the chocolate either in the microwave or a bain-marie and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl beat together the butter, sugar and egg until evenly combined. Fold in the flour, baking powder and salt, being careful not to overmix. Carefully add the buttermilk and vanilla (it will splash if you beat too energetically, learn from my mistakes). Sift in the cocoa powder and fold in. 
In a small bowl, whisk the coffee granules with just a splash of water to make them dissolve. Add this to the large mixing bowl in mix a few times to incorporate.
Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners (leaving sufficient for good taste test). Bake for 20 minutes until well risen and springy to touch.
Remove from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

I cut out the middle of these beauts and filled them with a really tasty and much healthier yogurt truffle mix. They were then topped off with the remaining of the truffle mixed with salted caramel. Yum. 

Filling and Icing Ingredients:
150g chocolate, dark or milk - whatever your preference
150ml natural yogurt
caramel sauce
fleur de sel (or any other rock salt)

Melt the chocolate either in a bain marie or a microwave. Whisk in the yogurt and stir until fully combined. 
Allow this mixture to cool in the fridge for about ten minutes to firm up slightly.
Meanwhile, cut the middle out of each cupcake, making sure not to cut all the way to bottom. (Feel free to eat the middles - chef's perks).
Fill each of the holes with the light and tangy truffle mix. You will probably need just under half of the mixture.

With the remainder, mix in some of the caramel sauce. I'll admit, I was lazy and used store bought but Waitrose's caramel sauce is gooooood. I mean, sneak a spoon in whenever no one else is around kind of good. Add as much or as little of this as you like. I mixed in about 2 tbsp. 
Swirl this all over the top of each cupcake.
Then drizzle with more caramel sauce and sprinkle on your sea salt. Now eat...lots.

2 September 2013

Birthday Cake

On Wednesday it was my birthday and, yes, I made my own cake. It was one of the highlights of my day. I'm that much of baking nerd (is there even such thing as baking nerds?)

This year I decided on a chocolate malt cake. I love maltesers, they are by far my favourite chocolate, so I decided to try and replicate the flavour in cake form. I went all out and threw a hefty helping of malt powder into both the cake and the buttercream icing. 

I asked for a new camera for my birthday since I've been having to borrow my brother's to take photos for this blog. It's a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30EB-K and whilst I'm only just getting to grips with it and learning how to use it properly, I'm already in love with it.

Back to the cake;

Cake Ingredients:
250ml buttermilk
60ml sunflower oil
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
220g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
150g soft light brown sugar
95g cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder
3tbsp malt powder (I used horlicks)
100ml freshly brewed coffee

Preheat the oven to fan 160 and grease and line 2 9-inch cake tins.
Whisk together the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.
Sift together the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder and malt powder until lump-free. 
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until everything is evenly combined.
Pour in the coffee and mix again. It will be a very wet batter but don't panic, it's meant to be.
Divide between the two tins and bake for between 20 and 30 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to shrink away from the tin and the top springs back when touched, but the cakes are still moist and fudgy. 
Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Buttercream ingredients:
250g butter
500g icing sugar
5tbsp malt powder
2tbsp cocoa powder 
100g dark chocolate, melted

Cut the butter into smallish chunks and drop into a food processor. Blitz for about 30 seconds until well softened.
Add the icing sugar, cocoa powder and malt powder in batches of roughly thirds, blitzing each time until fully incorporated.
Lastly, pour in the melted chocolate and blend again.
At this point, the buttercream will be quite soft so you might want to put it in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up a little before spreading on the cake.

Once the cakes are completely cool, it's time to ice. Place one of the cake layers on your serving plate and spread about one third of the icing on top, going all the way to the edges. Put the other cake layer on top and spread another third of the icing on that. Use the last third of the icing to cover the sides.
If at any point your icing is getting too soft, bung both the cake and icing in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up a little. It might also help to build the icing up in thinner layers, rather than spreading it all on at once.

For the chocolate shards around the edge, I followed these instructions.  

25 August 2013

Blonde Brownies or Brown Blondies?

These are by no means delicate or beautiful. They don't photograph tidily, and you can't eat them neatly. 
You can however eat them slowly, savoring the chewy, dense texture, the intense chocolate flavour of the brownie top, the tangy raspberries hidden in the middle, and the caramelly flavour of the blondie bottom. You can let the white chocolate chunks slowly melt in your mouth...or you can shovel three down in a matter of minutes. Whatever floats your boat.

These started off as a rather simple but still pleasantly tasty treat - white chocolate and raspberry blondies. We had a whole box of raspberries sitting in the fridge that were just too soft to eat on their own, or as more often occurs in my house, at the side of chocolate cake. So baking with raspberries was in order. When I'd whipped up the blondie batter and studded it with the bright red berries, the offering looked a little shallow in the tin and just a bit underwhelming. 

My brain set to work and my first thought was, well double the blondie recipe and have a secret raspberry layer in the middle. That was all well and good until I realised I didn't have enough brown sugar. Back to the drawing board. Suddenly I was hit with a wave of inspiration and thought to myself "mwhahaha I'm an evil baking genius" (just a little insight of what goes on in my head) - what would work just as well, if not better, than blondies? Brownies! And so my somewhat traditional treat turned into something new, layered and delightful. Give it a go, you'll love them.

Blondie Layer:
115g butter, melted
100g brown sugar
100g caster sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
125g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
100g white chocolate, chunked

Preheat the oven to fan 160.
Beat together the melted butter and two sugars in a large mixing bowl until all combined and smooth. Crack in the egg and splosh in the vanilla and mix again. Carefully fold in the flour and baking powder until you have an even batter. Mix in the white chocolate chunks and pour into a greased 9x9 inch pan.

Dot raspberries all over the top of the blondie layer until it is mostly covered and you just see peeks of blondie batter coming through (I used roughly 175g raspberries).

Brownie Layer:
100g dark chocolate
100g butter
45g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
2 eggs
140g caster sugar
100g white chocolate, chunked

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bain marie.
Whilst the chocolate is melting, whisk the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until doubled in volume and moussey. When the beaters are lifted they should leave a small trail that sits on the top of the mixture for a few seconds. 
Fold the melted chocolate and butter into the moussey egg-sugar mixture, using either a spatula or a metal spoon, and going gently so you don't knock all the air out that was just whipped in.
Sift in the flour and cocoa powder, and again fold gently.
Add the white chocolate chunks then pour over the raspberry-studded blondie batter.
Bake for about 40 minutes, until there is a slightly crisp top to the brownies but a slight wobble underneath. You might need to cover the top with foil after about 20 minutes to avoid the top burning, so keep an eye on them. Leave to cool in the tin then slice in 16 pieces.

19 August 2013

Mini Victoria Sandwiches

Light and fluffy vanilla cake. Billowy, softly whipped cream. Sweet strawberry slices. And it's seriously easy too. What more could you want on a beautifully sunny summer day?

Victoria sponge is a classic British cake. And everybody loves cupcakes, right? So I did a little twist on both and made cupcake-y mini victoria sponges. 

These are so easy to whip up. Less than ten minutes work to make the little cakes. They play by the 2-4 rule of baking; 2 eggs and 4oz of sugar, butter and flour. 

100g/4oz butter
100g/4oz caster sugar
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
100g/4oz self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to fan 160 and line a baking tray with 12 cupcake liners.
Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract with the second egg.
Fold in the flour and baking powder until everything is fully combined.
Divide the batter between the cases and bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden and the tops spring back.
Leave to cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Once the cupcakes are cool, cut them in half horizontally.
Softly whip 150ml double cream until it is billowy and just holds it's shape, not stiff and dry.
Spoon a little cream onto the bottom half of each cake.

Top the cream with some sliced strawberries.

Replace the top half of the cupcake and you're done. A tasty twist on a classic.

Also, since they're mini, you're totally to go back for seconds...or thirds (no one will tell)

15 August 2013

Chocolate and Raspberry Bars

They're not quite brownies, not quite cake. These are dense and fudgy, rich and chocolately. The raspberries on top add a little tartness and complement the dark chocolate flavour really well. A few extra chocolate chunks are just the cherry on top, they are softened from baking so melt in the mouth for a totally "mmmm"-inducing mouthful.

1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup coffee, brewed and slightly cooled
1 egg
1/2 cup greek/natural yogurt
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to fan 160. Line a 12 x 8 inch tray.
Mix the sugars, coffee, yogurt, egg, oil and vanilla together in a large mixing bowl until everything is evenyl combined.
Fold in the flour and cocoa powder until you have a smooth, lump-free batter.
Pour into the tray and bake for 25 minutes.

How easy was that!?

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. These cut into 10 reasonable sized slices. 
Last night we have these piled high with extra fruit; strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. But I reckon these would be delightfully indulgent warmed through in the oven for 5 minutes and served with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream. 

8 August 2013

Vanilla Cake with Buttercream and Ganache

Just a quick post today.
After making the pavlova I had loads of yolks leftover so I went on a hunt for a yolky recipe that was a little different to the standard creme brulee or custard. Many websites and recipes later I decided I'd done enough reading to give a yolk-only cake recipe a go.

Cake Ingredients:
85g butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to fan 160.
Grease and line two 7-inch tins.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the egg yolks and beat until fully combined.
Mix the baking powder and salt into the flour then add one third of it and fold in gently. Add half the milk and stir. Add another third of the flour, followed by the remaining milk and then the remaining flour.
Divide the mixture between the two tins and bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden and the cake begins to shrink away from the sides of the tin.
Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing and leaving to cool on a wire rack.

Vanilla Buttercream Filling:
75g butter
150g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk

Beat the butter until softened. Add the icing in thirds and beat until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla for flavour and as much or as little milk as needed for your preferred consistency.

Turn one of the cakes upside down and put on a plate or cake stand. Spread the buttercream over it in an even layer.

Chocolate Ganache:
100ml double cream
100g dark chocolate

Finely chop the dark chocolate and place in a small mixing bowl.
Heat the cream in a small saucepan until just starting to bubble at the edges. Pour over the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate is melted and everything is mixed together. 

Place the other cake, right side up, on top of the buttercream layer. Top with the ganache. If you want, leave the cake out of the fridge for half an hour and let the ganache slowly drip down the sides of the cake for a more dramatic finish. I threw mine straight in the fridge because it was such a hot day so all the ganache stayed on top.

27 July 2013

Chocolate and caramel cookie bars

First of all, I want to apologise for being so distant recently. I was visiting family in Leeds all last week and I've been really ill with a horrible infection this week. Luckily, the antibiotics are working their magic and yesterday I found myself back in the kitchen.
Whilst I've been ill my appetite has been way down and barely any food has actually appealed to me. One thing I have wanted however, is cookie dough. So it seemed only appropriate that my return to the kitchen involved making something cookie related. I wanted to be a bit experimental and do something new so my littlest brother and I decided on chocolate chip and caramel cookie bars.

These are not delicate and elegant.
These do not look like some beautiful masterpiece you could find in a french patisserie. 
These are delicious.
These are dangerously moreish. 

These are like the best kind of sweet sandwich you could imagine. The bread is gooey chocolate chip cookie dough. The filling is melted soft toffees which turn into a beautiful sauce. You bake that sandwich and let it cool and all of a sudden you have some tasty magic begging to be eaten.

Let's get down to the recipe.

170g butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 1/8 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups chocolate chips (milk or dark depending on your preference)
225g soft toffees, melted (I used werther's originals)

Preheat the oven to fan 150. Grease and line an 8 x 12 inch pan.
Put the melted butter and two sugars in a large mixing bowl and stir until combined. 
Add the egg and egg yolk (if you have recently melted the butter, be careful the mixture isn't too hot or you'll end up with scrambled egg) and beat along with the vanilla extract.
Fold in the flour and baking powder and fully incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Spread half the batter into the pan.
Melt the toffees either in a pan over a low heat or in the microwave using short bursts of 30 seconds. 
Pour the melted toffees over the cookie dough layer then top with the remaining cookie dough. Bake for 30 minutes until lightly golden. 
Cool in the tin on a wire rack. Once cooled place in the fridge for about an hour for the caramel layer to firm up then cut into slices.

12 July 2013

Chocolate Cassis and Cherry Cake


With my brothers at home for the holidays I am literally baking every other day to keep up with the amount they eat. This means that not only do I get to spend a seriously pleasing amount of time baking but also that I can experiment a little with new flavour combinations. 

This time I didn't feel like doing any old chocolate cake (not that there's anything wrong with the classic). I felt like adding a little something different to give the cake a kick. So i sploshed in, with a slightly heavy hand, a good ol' glug of cassis to the cake batter. And it tastes good. Not only does the blackcurrant liqueur add a prominant fruityness which compliments the bitter chocolate really well but it also gives the cake an adult kick since it's alcoholic. 

At the minute I'm also really enjoying cooking fruit to add to my baking. For this recipe I cooked about 150g of cherries with just a splash of water and a sprinkling of sugar to help them soften and then let the simmer for 10 minutes to reduce the juices until I had an intensely flavoured cherry syrup. 
I used this a filling between my two cake layers as it added a perfect brake of sweet fruitiness to the otherwise rich and decadent cake. 

To any of you thinking "chocolate cake and bikini season don't go well together", I think you should note at this point that I've pretty much just provided 2 of your 5 a day in this cake - cherries and blackcurrants (despite being in an alcoholic form). To deny yourself this cake would be to deny your body of much needed vitamins and minerals - I'm only thinking about your health.

Side note - I used to HATE recipes in cups. I would avoid them at all costs in the belief that cups were really difficult to use and quintessentially un-British. I was wrong. Cups are the easiest things in the world to use and without scales this recipe is crazy quick. You could honestly have this batter ready in under 10 minutes. So, if you are an avid cup avoider like I used to be, give them a go.

Chocolate Cassis Cake Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 light brown sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsps coffee granules
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsps vinegar or lemon juice
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup creme de cassis (for a strong flavour, 1/4 cup if children will be eating)
2/3 cup water

Preheat the oven to fan 160. Grease and line two 7-inch baking tins.
Measure out the flour, sugars, cocoa powder, coffee and baking powder and add to a large mixing bowl.
In a seperate bowl combine the remaining ingredients.
Add the wet to the dry and mix until fully incorporated. Separate the batter between the two tins and bake for 15 minutes.
Cool in the tins for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Cherry filling ingredients:
150g fresh cherries
1-2 tbsp water
1 tbsp caster sugar

Slice the cherries in half and remove the stones. 
Throw them in a pan with the water and sugar and cook over a low heat for 10-15 minutes until they have softened and any juices produced have reduced to a sticky syrup. 

Chocolate ganache ingredients:
100g dark chocolate
50ml double cream
2 tbsps water
25g greek yogurt

Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie or a microwave. Stir in the cream, water and greek yogurt until you have a thick, glossy mixture. 

Place on of the cake layers upside-down on a serving plate/cake stand. 
Top with the cooked cherries and drizzle over the cherry syrup.

Spoon about 1/3 of the chocolate ganache mixture on top of the cherries.

Add the second cake layer, right side up. 
Spoon over the remaining ganache and spread until the cake is evenly covered.

Top with a few more sliced cherries for an elegant finish.

It might seem that a lot is involved in making this cake but it hardly takes any time at all. You can whip this up super speedily and make like me and be back out in the sun in no time - promise