Tag Archives: cake

Halloween spider’s web cake

We do Halloween in our own way in this house, which is not very much. We don’t do trick or treating because that kinda contradicts everything we say the rest of the year (“knock on strangers’ doors! Eat lots of sweets! Ghosts and ghouls do exist!”).

But we aren’t total killjoys, either. We do stuff and have our own traditions and one of them is that I make this cake.

It’s basically a red velvet chocolate cake – or that’s how it started – but I don’t add red colouring so mine isn’t red, it’s just a light chocolate cake with cream cheese/sugar/butter filling and covered with a chocolate ganache, then iced with white chocolate. It’s actually fairly easy and really tasty and if you have one, a plastic spider on top looks good.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe in Waitrose magazine. The changes I’ve made are: no salted butter, no red food colouring, more cocoa, I used kefir instead of buttermilk (don’t worry if this means nothing to you!) and I cut the sugar down. But you can’t tell. It’s still very much a proper cake.

The cake

200g butter at room temperature

350g plain flour

1 tsp of baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 tablespoons of good cocoa powder

quarter of a teaspoon of sea salt

300g caster sugar

3 eggs

1.5 tsp vanilla extract

284ml buttermilk/kefir

Cream cheese filling

120g butter

120g cream cheese

100g icing sugar

Chocolate icing

300ml double cream

250g 70% cocoa chocolate, chopped

1.5 tablespoons of liquid glucose (you can buy it in tubes in the baking aisle)

50g white chocolate (I use Green and Black’s – absolutely the best white chocolate there is that doesn’t cost loads)

You’ll also need an icing bag and fine nozzle

What to do

Oven to 170C.  Line a 23cm spring-form cake tin with parchment or treat yourself and buy some cake tin liners. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl, but not the sugar. Put the sugar and butter in a separate bowl and either beat by hand or put in a food mixer with whisk attachment and beat until smooth. Now add the eggs (continue with the food processor if you have started with it, but by hand is also, of course, fine) one at a time, beating well with each addition.

Now add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk/kefir until all combined. That’s it, your cake is done. Scrape into a tin then bake for about an hour.

It needs to cool completely. When it is cool, slice it into three. You’ll probably have two flat layers – the bits of the cake that were the middle and the bottom – and a slightly domed layer – the natural top of the cake. You can, if you want, straighten the slightly domed layer out by cutting it, or you can just use it as the middle layer of your cake. Either way, you want a very flat layer for the top, please.

Place what will be the bottom layer on a cooling rack on top of a baking tray (this is important for later) and spread half the filling on, place other layer on top and finish with a flat layer. Put it in the fridge for about 30 mins (longer if you want).

When you are ready to do the topping: place the double cream, dark chocolate and liquid glucose in a bowl atop some simmering water until all smooth and melted. At roughly the same time, melt the white chocolate in the same way and prepare to put into an icing bag with a thin nozzle icing head-piping-thing.

Now, spread the chocolate layer over the top with a spatula knife – this is where the baking tray comes in useful. It takes some practise but you will get some chocolate on the sides as you really need to cover the whole thing. Flatten the top. Now you pipe a spiral of white chocolate around the cake – start a bit off centre. When you’ve covered the whole cake, take a cocktail stick or skewer and make lines from the centre out, to make that ripple effect. Put back in fridge to chill and take out and serve at room temperature.

It’s good. Happy Halloween!

Lemon poppy seed cake that can be drizzled if you want

The first time I made this, I made a mistake. I didn’t read the recipe all the way through. The recipe was just a collection of letters, made into words, that were irrelevant to me until I started actually making the cake when they became vital and important, a means to cake. And then I realised that the sugar quantity was meant to be split in two, 165g of which was meant to be added to the cake mixture and 135g was meant to be reserved for the drizzle. So I never did the drizzle part and, actually, that was the best (to me) version of this cake I’ve ever made. I’m not overly keen on sugary drizzle on a cake. I mean, it’s like the sugar fairy has pissed on a perfectly good cake.

To me a cake should be soft, yielding, maybe creamy; but purposely moist – made moist – just confuses me. I think this is in part because there is an old Italian tradition, when eating stale bread, which is to wet it. A habit that I used to find abhorrent as a child, but then, I had that luxury, having not lived through a war.

So now, I occasionally make this cake the proper way and sometimes make it my way. I give both versions below. It’s a lovely cake to have in, it lasts a good few days and you always have something for guests. But it’s not the sort of cake you want to eat loads of, it’s not a dangerous cake. And it’s the best version of this sort of thing that I’ve ever made/had. I think the addition of ground almonds gives it a certain substance, a certain meatiness. And I like that. It was from Delicious magazine a few years ago.

Ingredients

165g soft, unsalted butter

250g caster sugar – if you intend to make the drizzle then use 165g of sugar in the actual cake and reserve the rest. If you don’t want to do the drizzle then just 165g of sugar is fine

The zest of 3 lemons and the juice of 2 (you only need the juice if you intend to do the drizzle)

2 eggs

165g plain flour (I sometimes put some wholemeal in there, or some oat flour, but not much, maybe 20-30g no more)

half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon of baking powder

50g ground almonds

50ml hot water

1 and  half tablespoons of poppy seeds

Method

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 1litre loaf tin. MIx together the 165g of butter and 165g of sugar and beat until pale and fluffy. Mix in the lemon zest. Now beat in the eggs, a bit at a time, adding a spoon of flour as you go with each egg. Add the rest of the flour/bicarb/baking powder.

Mix in the hot water, the ground almonds and poppy seeds and pour into the tin. Bake for 40-50 minutes. A tester pushed into the cake should come out clean. My oven is very hot so I check after about 38 minutes.

Now, set aside to cool and that’s it if you are not doing the drizzle. If you are, then you now mix the lemon juice with the remaining 135g of sugar and heat in a pan until dissolved. Prick the cake all over whilst it’s still warm and in its tin (but has had about 10 mins to just chill) and then gently spoon the lemony sugar mixture over the top.

Blueberry and yoghurt loaf cake

Ever since I started making my own yoghurt, I’ve looked out for recipes involving yoghurt. Prior to last year, I’d never used yoghurt in cakes. I’d used it, with much success, in pancakes, but cakes? No.

Last year I found an amazing recipe for a very plain, but none the less delicious, lemon yoghurt cake. I’m not reproducing that one here because although the actual cake was delicious, the topping it recommended, was not. Using yoghurt in a cake makes the cake really moist and light, making it a bit more ‘shop bought’ in texture, which sounds mad, but sometimes I do like the texture (if not the taste) of supermarket cakes.

This cake is a Donna Hay recipe. It’s light, easy, delicious, wonderful. And sometimes you need something easy, yet spirit lifting. Especially on a Monday. I hate Mondays. I find it so difficult to wrench myself from the bosom of my family and send my children out to school and me out to work. Cake makes it all better, and if it’s made of yoghurt and blueberries, that can’t be bad, can it?

You need:

150g unsalted butter, melted or very very soft.

220g caster sugar

2 eggs

140g thick plain yoghurt

Zest from a small lemon

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

225g self raising flour

125g blueberries

icing sugar to dust.

This is what you do:

Oven to 160C. Put the butter, sugar, eggs, yoghurt, lemon zest and vanilla in a bowl and whisk to combine (I use a food mixer with a whisk attachment but it’s fine to use a wooden spoon/hand whisk and some muscle). Now add the flour and whisk until well combined Gently fold through the blueberries and spoon into a lined loaf tin of about 22cm x 8cm x 7cm. Smooth the top and bake for about an hour, bit more if it’s still very moist. A cake tester should come out clean. Cool and dust with icing sugar.

Another favourite cake recipe that uses yoghurt in the icing is here and it’s delicious.

A cake to cheer you up and natural firelighters

A really rather superior cake.

I’ve been pretty flat thus far this month. In part because there is loads of bad news around, it’s end of year accounts time, tax is due, it’s not Christmas, all those things you put off until after Christmas can no longer be ignored, everyone is miserable, George Osborne is still chancellor and also because January just generally is the arse-end month of the calendar. The only good point in it is my mother’s birthday.

We usually book a little weekend away in Jan or Feb to cheer ourselves up. But not this year.

Anyway. Two things that cheer me up are real fires and cake and the two are connected today by: oranges.

Orange peel, left to dry a bit, makes excellent firelighters. I doubt they’d be an alternative to shop-bought, kerosene soaked firelighters, but they are a good addendum to them and also smell nice. I had two oranges that I’d studded with cloves for Christmas, you know the sort of thing. And they’d started to go off and dry up and I put them on a really roaring fire and the smell was amazing. As was the glow of the cloves..nut shells also burn well (because of the oils, same reason orange peel does). So save up all your pistachio shells to put on the fire.

Jesus, could that sentence sound more middle class.

Cake. I saw this recipe in the Waitrose magazine this month and earmarked it for the weekend (I don’t eat cake during the week). I made it last weekend and it’s a really excellent cake. The sponge is heavy with ground almonds which gives it a dense crumb but an amazing taste. I loathe icing sugar heavy icings – those that are nothing more than icing sugar and water or butter (why why why would anyone eat such things?) and have a glycaemic index of 112, and this is at least a bit better for you as it uses mostly Greek yoghurt and mascarpone.

I would link to the goddam recipe but Waitrose magazine hasn’t put it online yet the bastards.

for the cake

125g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
3 large eggs
100ml single cream
250g ground almonds
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
half a teaspoon of salt
zest of one orange
3 tablespoons of seville orange marmalade

for the syrup

the juice of one orange
1 tablespoon of seville orange marmalade

for the frosting

150g mascarpone
125g Greek yoghurt
4 tablespoons of icing sugar
2 tablespoons of seville orange marmalade
the zest and juice of half an orange

You need two 20cm cake tins lined in baking parchment.
Oven to 180C.

Using an electric mixer (I used the whisk attachments) beat the butter and  sugar for five long, boring minutes until it’s light and fluffy or at least, til 5 mins have passed.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the cream, then the almonds. Once mixed together, I took it off the whisk and did the rest by hand: folded in the flour, baking powder and salt, then the orange zest and marmalade.

Divide between the tins and bake for 20-25 mins until a skewer comes out clean. You know the drill.

The recipe says to wait til the cakes are cooled to pour on the syrup. I didn’t really. I left them for a bit then made the syrup and poured on whilst the cakes weren’t cool. Be warned however: keep the cakes in the tins whilst you pour the syrup on as there’s a lot of syrup and you want to contain everything.

So, to make the syrup you combine the two ingredients and warm gently in a saucepan  until the marmalade has dissolved, then prick the two cakes and pour over evenly.

Now leave the cakes until they are completely cooled. Disrobe them from their parchment and now make the icing which you do thus:

Beat all the frosting ingredients together, reserving a sprinkle of orange zest which you’ll use for decoration. Sandwich the cakes together with it, then put some icing on the top. Sprinkle with the zest.

Delicious.

Although I haven’t tried it, I think this cake might respond well to being made with rice flour.

Dan Lepard’s Almond Layer cake with crushed raspberries

All my own work.

This recipe was published in the Guardian last year. I made it on the day it came out, as you can probably see from the below the line comments (Dan linked to a picture of the cake that I tweeted, for I can no longer bake in isolation, but need to share with the world). Since then I’ve baked it many times. It’s perfect for when you want a proper teatime cake with goo. And it’s not difficult.

The recipe is here. There are a few comments I’d like to make:

I don’t have 18cm cake tins so I use 8″ ones (which is slightly bigger than 18cm, sorry to mix imperial and metric). It’s fine.

I find 30 mins just a bit too much….so check after 25 mins.

I double up the syrup Dan uses to soak the sponges, as I find doing his amount isn’t enough for my thirsty cakes.

You could easily, easily make two not-so-high-cakes out of these, by that I mean slice the cakes in half horizontally. That way you get more cream/raspberries to sponge ratio. Won’t be so towering and impressive, but if you need more cakes.

Put more cream in the sandwich layer than you think you’ll need. It squishes down.

Children also seem to love this. I find this is important when I just want to do one thing.

This is a really delicious cake. It’s so much more than a Victoria sponge. It’s so easy to make (make the cake bits ahead, assemble before you eat it) and is impressive. My friend Kate is so greedy for this cake, I can make her turn all sorts of tricks for it.IMG_0995

 

Eating and freezing notes: Unless this cake is for An Event, I now make two cakes out of it. That is to say instead of putting one of the cakes atop the other, which makes for a spectacular cake but one that’s fairly high, I slice each in half (see pic above). Or I freeze one of the (plain) cakes for another time. It freezes really well but freeze it before you soak it with the brandy/sugar syrup. Do that when you defrost it and then proceed with the cream/fruit part.

A nice cake for tea

Lovely cake for tea with a river of compote running through it. I’m sorry for the conifer in the background. Legacy of previous tenants. I hate conifers. It’s got to go.

I really was going to write about something non-food related.  But if I’m going to write about, say, a washing machine, I really feel I have to do my research. And frankly, at the moment, I just can’t be bothered. Whereas with food, well you don’t really need to do much work, do you?  You just say yum yum yum, I like this, you try it too.

Plus it’s cold and blowy and I want to write about cake and plus x2 we are in the fortunate position of having lots of eggs at the moment as each of our chickens is laying one a day. So I wanted to use some up. So this morning I made ice cream (four eggs yolks, the whites into the fridge for friands or madeleines another day), and then I thought “I really fancy a nice cake for tea”. The criteria being that it couldn’t be chocolate and it had to be made from things I already had in.

And I do have a lot in since I am a pig and an ingredient hoarder and I don’t like to run out of things.

I couldn’t be bothered to go through the 75 recipe books we have, or the vast amount of ripped out magazine recipes. So I did what I always do when in a tizz. I turned to Waitrose.

I actually typed in “cake” to see what it would bring up, and this Almond and Cherry cake came up and I checked and I had everything – save for the jam it asks for, I substituted compote instead. It’s so easy to make – chuck everything into a mixing bowl and get the food mixer to even whisk it up for you (sorry if you’re reading this Helena, I know you haven’t got your mixer situ. sorted yet…).

You take

150g self raising flour
100g ground almonds
175g softened butter – you’ll be lucky if at this time of year yours is soft enough at room temp, so stuff it in the microwave on low for 1-2 mins
150g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, preferably from your own chickens of course, failing that from the fridge
Few drops of almond essence, I use Amaretto di Saronno Lazzaroni from Bakery Bits, I find it vastly superior to anything else you can buy. When I say a few drops, I probably put in about 8-10 but it’s difficult to tell since they come out in a rush.
4tbsps of milk, any milk you have in the fridge that’s from a cow preferably.
150g fruity jammy stuff (the original recipe uses that St Dalfour no sugar one, I used Bonne Maman compote, sort of drained, and it was delicious. I wouldn’t personally use jam jam as it’d be too sweet I think)
handful of flaked almonds

You need a 900g loaf tin. Which brings me onto a slight rant which is, why do loaf tins never ever have their capacity on them? Anyway, I use a small, stout loaf tin and line it with parchment loaf liner; just cut some out of baking parchment sheets if you don’t have them pre-formed.

Preheat oven to 160C. I warn you, this cake is so quick, do this the moment you feel like making this cake. You put all the ingredients EXCEPT FOR THE FRUITY JAMMY STUFF AND THE FLAKED ALMONDS, in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric whisk for 1-2 mins. Pour half the mixture into the loaf tin. Stop. Now put the fruity, jammy stuff or compote in, like a layer. Now pour in the rest of the cakey mixture. Now get a skewer and gently swirl around. Scatter the flaked almonds on top and put in oven for 1hr – ish. Mine was done after one hour, go a bit longer if you need to. Cake should be firm and when you put in a cake tester/raw piece of spaghetti it shouldn’t come out all gooey.

Let it cool in the tin as this is a moist cake. I wasn’t expecting too much, but this is a really lovely cake. Moisty, almondy, bit Bakewell-ish. Perfect with tea. Shame I’ve already had a slice in the name of research.

UPDATE: You can also make this into individual cakes by putting the mixture into muffin cases. I got eleven out of the mixture. They took about 20-25 mins cooking time (sorry I got distracted and forgot to make a note of it) at the same temperature. This makes them ideal for picnics.

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