Spiced Rhubarb-Crumble Cheesecake

Happy Easter everyone. There have been far too many chocolate-based recipes recently for my liking so I’ve chosen Easter Sunday to do one without (which obviously makes sense…). Got some fresh rhubarb off my grandparents last week from their garden and here is what I turned it into. The recipe is based on Passion Fruit and Coconut Cheesecake with a few tweaks and the result is well worth trying as always.

This serves 12 people.

Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)

3oz Butter
6tbps Golden Syrup
9oz Caster Sugar
1 Large Orange (juice and zest needed)
8 Cardamom Pods (open the pods with the flat side of a knife or a mortar and pestle)
17oz Rhubarb (cut into 2cm pieces) (you can use a lot less if you want; I was just using what I had)
6oz Plain Flour
7oz Light Brown Sugar
2tsps Ground Ginger
1tsp Ground Cinnamon
1tsp Salt
2oz Pistachios (weight of the kernels, not the whole nuts)
26oz Cream Cheese
1 ½ tbsps Cornflour
6 Eggs (3 whole eggs and 3 yolks needed)
200ml Soured Cream
2tsps Vanilla Extract
300ml Crème Fraiche
8oz Digestive Biscuits
5oz Almonds (blanched or with skins)
70ml Water

Recipe:

In a small pan on a low heat, melt the butter and 3tbsps of golden syrup. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool once the butter has melted.

Pre-heat the oven to 160oC (325oF, Gas Mark 3).

Line a round cake tin (see Mama Molloy’s – The home of home-baking)

The prepared cake tin

The prepared cake tin

In a medium size pan, place 3oz of caster sugar, the juice and zest from the orange and the seeds from the cardamom pods. Put the pan on a low heat and dissolve the sugar. Put 15oz of the rhubarb into the pan and place a lid on the pan.

Poach the rhubarb for 15 minutes (I only did it for 10 and it wasn’t enough). Take the rhubarb out of the pan and leave the liquid on a medium heat; reduce the liquid to a thick syrup.

The poached rhubarb and the rhubarb syrup before it is reduced

The poached rhubarb and the rhubarb syrup before it is reduced

Into a medium size bowl sieve the plain flour, 3oz of light brown sugar, the ginger, cinnamon and ½ tsp of salt. Fry the pistachio kernels in a frying pan on a medium heat until they smell cooked and then stir into the flour mixture. Stir in the melted butter and golden syrup and bring together into a dough.

The biscuit base dough

The biscuit base dough

Press the dough into the base of the lined cake tin until flat. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes and then take out and allow to cool.

The biscuit base

The biscuit base

Reduce the oven temperature to 150oC (300oF, Gas Mark 2).

Mix the rhubarb syrup with the poached rhubarb and break up the rhubarb to create a thick mulch. Allow to cool.

The rhubarb mulch

The rhubarb mulch

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, 6oz of caster sugar, the cornflour and ½ tsp of salt with a wooden spoon until fully combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, soured cream and vanilla with an electric whisk until fully combined. Whisk the egg mixture into the cheese mixture until smooth.

Pour the cheesecake mixture onto the biscuit base. Add tablespoons of the rhubarb to the cheesecake across the surface and then gently swirl through the cheesecake mixture. Bake in the oven for 1 hour and then turn the oven off. Allow the cheesecake to cool in the oven for at least 3 hours.

The cheesecake before it goes into the oven

The cheesecake before it goes into the oven

Once cool, take the cheesecake out of the tin and cover the surface with the crème fraiche.

The cheesecake covered in crème fraiche

The cheesecake covered in crème fraiche

In a medium size pan on a low heat, cook the remaining 2oz of rhubarb with 20ml of water until the rhubarb has completely broken down. Take off the heat and allow to cool.

Take the digestive biscuits and almonds and blitz into fine crumbs in a food processor. Alternatively you can put them in a plastic bag and beat them to death with a rolling pin if you prefer. Mix the biscuits and almonds with 4oz of light brown sugar, 3tbsps golden syrup and 50ml of water in a medium size pan. Stir together on a low heat until a dough type mixture is formed. Take off the heat and allow to cool.

The outing coating composed of biscuits and almonds

The outing coating composed of biscuits and almonds

Take the biscuit/almond mixture and gently press it around the sides of the cake as shown below. Finish the cheesecake off with the cooked rhubarb and enjoy.

Spiced Rhubarb-Crumble Cheesecake

Raspberry and Lemon Layer Cake

Mum’s birthday, so I suppose I should put some effort in. I first made this cake last Easter and this is my second, more refined attempt at it. There are quite a few components involved but it’s actually fairly simple and the result certainly impresses. Last time I made it, the sponge was normal Victoria sponge rather than the no-butter (and better) sponge used this time. The flavours were strawberry, lemon and almond, whilst this time it’s raspberry, lemon and vanilla. The lemon curd also failed miserably last time as I didn’t know what I was doing or looking for whereas this time I do. Overall, a huge improvement on what was already a fantastic cake so can’t complain.

This cake serves 12 people.

Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)

300ml Double Cream
7oz White Chocolate (break into small pieces)
5 Lemons (zest and juice needed)
½ tsp Salt
3oz Butter
19 ½ oz Caster Sugar
8 Eggs (yolks and whites needed)
½ oz Granulated Sugar
4oz Raspberries
1tsp Cornflour
250ml Oil (I used olive oil but you can use any)
250ml Natural Yogurt
2tsps Vanilla Extract
12oz Self-Raising Flour
4tbsps Raspberry Jam
½ oz Icing Sugar

Recipe:

Make a white chocolate and lemon ganache – place a medium size pan on a low heat and heat the cream until hot to the touch. Stir in the white chocolate, the juice from one of the lemons and the salt until all of the chocolate has melted. Transfer to a bowl or plastic tub and leave to set (chill in the fridge once it has cooled down enough). Note that before you juice the lemon, you need to peel strips of the skin off with a potato peeler to be used later.

The ganache before it goes into the fridge to set

The ganache before it goes into the fridge to set

Make lemon curd – place a medium size glass bowl over a medium size pan with some water in and place on a low heat. Melt the butter along with the juice and zest of the remaining four lemons. Whisk in 7oz of the caster sugar until fully dissolved. Whisk in 3 whole eggs and the yolk of another egg (save the white) with a hand whisk until fully combined.

All of the ingredients for the lemon curd mixed together in a double-boiler

All of the ingredients for the lemon curd mixed together in a double-boiler

Continue to heat the lemon curd mixture, stirring regularly, until it thickens (you’ll feel resistance when whisking the liquid; takes about 15 minutes). Transfer to a bowl or plastic tub and leave to set (chill in the fridge when cool enough).

The lemon curd before it goes into the fridge to set

The lemon curd before it goes into the fridge to set

Make candied fruit decorations – take the strips of lemon peel created earlier and six of the raspberries. Place the granulated sugar on a plate. Brush the fruit with the reserved egg white and then coat with the sugar. Place on a plate to dry and set.

The candied fruit

The candied fruit

Make the meringue top – take a sheet of baking paper and a cake tin (mine is 19cm, 7 ½ inch). Draw around the cake tin onto the baking paper. Flip the sheet of paper over and line a baking tray with the baking paper and “glue” it down with butter.

In a small glass bowl, whisk the remaining egg white used above with another egg white until soft peaks form (the meringue is white and holds it shape) using an electric whisk.

"Soft peak" stage of the meringue

“Soft peak” stage of the meringue

Pre-heat the oven to 120oC (250oF, Gas Mark ½).

Whisk in 2oz of caster sugar until shiny. Fold in another 2oz of caster sugar and the cornflour with a metal spoon until fully combined. Place 4tbsps of the meringue into the centre of the circle on the sheet of baking paper. Carefully spread the meringue out into an even circle that is slightly smaller than the drawn circle. Transfer the remaining meringue into a piping bag fit with a wide star-shaped nozzle. Pipe six spirals of meringue onto the circle of meringue as shown below, trying to leave a hollow in the centre of each spiral.

The meringue before it goes into the oven

The meringue before it goes into the oven

Bake the meringue for 30 minutes and then turn the oven off. Leave the meringue in the oven for at least 2 hours to cool before taking out.

In a small pan on a low heat, place the remaining raspberries, ½ oz of caster sugar and a little bit of water. Reduce the raspberries to an even mush with no big lumps and then allow to cool.

Raspberry mush

Raspberry mush

Make the vanilla and raspberry sponges – line two circular cake tins with baking paper (see Mama Molloy’s – the home of home-baking).

Pre-heat the oven to 160oC (325oF, Gas Mark 3).

Make the two sponges simultaneously in two separate bowls. For the raspberry sponge, place 5oz caster sugar and 150ml oil in the bowl and whisk together with an electric whisk. Whisk in two eggs followed by 150ml natural yogurt. Whisk in the raspberry mush and then sieve in 8oz of self-raising flour, holding the sieve about chest height. Fold the flour in with a wooden spoon until fully combined.

For the vanilla sponge, do exactly the same but with 3oz of caster sugar, 100ml oil, one egg, 100ml natural yogurt, 2tsps vanilla and 4oz of flour.

The two cakes mixes - vanilla and raspberry

The two cakes mixes – vanilla and raspberry

Transfer the cake mixtures to the two cake tins and bake the vanilla sponge for 30 minutes and the raspberry sponge for 40 minutes. Take out and allow to cool completely. Cut the raspberry sponge in half horizontally.

Assemble the cake – on a baking tray, presentation plate, cake stand, chopping board, flat surface etc. place the bottom half of the raspberry sponge. Spread the raspberry jam across the top in an even layer. Place the vanilla sponge on top. Spread most of the lemon curd on top of the sponge in an even layer. Place the remaining raspberry sponge on top. Cover the cake in a thin layer of ganache. Place the meringue on top of the cake and gently press it into the ganache. Fill in any gaps with the ganache. Place a tsp of lemon curd into each of the six wells of the meringue and place a candied raspberry on top of each one. Finish the decoration with the lemon peel and icing sugar. Store in the fridge if you can avoid it eating it all in one go.

The first layer - raspberry sponge and raspberry jam

The first layer – raspberry sponge and raspberry jam

Second layer - vanilla sponge and lemon curd

Second layer – vanilla sponge and lemon curd

Topped with raspberry sponge and then the cake is covered in ganache

Topped with raspberry sponge and then the cake is covered in ganache

Meringue, lemon curd, candied raspberries and lemon peel and icing sugar to finish

Meringue, lemon curd, candied raspberries and lemon peel and icing sugar to finish

Raspberry and Lemon Layer Cake

This and Mama Molloy’s Millionaire Cake will satisfy anybody and everybody.

Gluten-Free Meringue Brownies

Gluten-free recipe number two (see Gluten-Free Deluxe Chocolate Cake), this time using a plain flour substitute. The “Plain White Flour Blend” that I am using is a mixture of rice, potato, tapioca, maize and buckwheat flour and contains no gluten. The problem with this flour is that it is much more powdery and dry, making the final product more likely to have a strange, chalky texture. Let the journey into the unknown commence…

This recipe is a simple, stripped-down one that contains no fancy touches and no complex ingredients. It can be elaborated in a number of ways by adding nuts (almonds or pecans), spices (allspice or mixed spice) or dried fruits (cranberries, sultanas, glace cherries) into the meringue or the base, but I wanted to get back to basics for a change and keep it a pure indulgence.

The recipe makes about 28 intact brownies but I would suggest doing half the recipe; I needed to use up eight egg whites from Tour de Fruits et de la Crème hence the large volume.

Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)

8oz Plain White Flour Blend (Gluten-Free)
14oz Caster Sugar
½ tsp Salt
4oz Butter (soften in a microwave for 10-15 seconds, full-power)
2tbsps Golden Syrup
2tbsps Milk (I used Semi-Skimmed)
1tbsp Water
8 Eggs (just the egg whites needed)
3tbsps Cocoa Powder
2oz Dark Chocolate (break into small pieces)

Recipe:

Into a large mixing bowl, sieve the flour, 4oz of the caster sugar and the salt. Whisk together to ensure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Cut the butter into small cubes and then rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips until fine “breadcrumbs” are left (see Mincemeat and Apple Pie, Almond Tart etc.).

In a small bowl mix together the golden syrup, milk and water and then add to the breadcrumbs. Stir together with a spoon and then bring together into a paste with your hand. Wrap the paste in Clingfilm and then chill in the fridge for at least one hour.

The biscuit paste before it goes into the fridge

The biscuit paste before it goes into the fridge

Line whatever tins you want to use with grease-proof paper. I had a 18cm (7 inches) square tin and two 18cm diameter round tins, lined the same way that a loaf tin and round cake tin are lined respectively (see Mama Molloy’s – The home of home-baking).

In a large glass bowl whisk the egg whites with an electric whisk until soft peaks form (meringue holds its shape when you draw the whisk out). Note that whisking eight egg whites is a little unmanageable, so again, I would suggest doing half of this recipe.

"Soft peak" stage of the egg whites

“Soft peak” stage of the egg whites

Whisk in 5oz of caster sugar until the meringue is smooth and shiny (stiff peak stage). Add another 5oz of sugar and the cocoa powder and gently fold into the meringue mixture with a metal spoon until fully combined and the meringue is a uniform colour.

The full meringue mixture

The full meringue mixture

Pre-heat the oven to 120oC (250oF, Gas Mark ½).

Take the biscuit paste out of the fridge, split into three and press into each of the lined tins with your fingers. Get the paste as thin and as even as possible.

The biscuit base in one of the tins

The biscuit base in one of the tins

Top with the meringue, smooth off as best you can and bake for 50 minutes.

Before it goes into the oven

Before it goes into the oven

Turn the oven off and allow the meringue to cool in the oven for at least 2 hours before taking out. Remove the cakes from the tins.

In a small glass bowl set over a small pan of water on a low heat, melt the chocolate. Drizzle over the cooled cakes to decorate. Allow to set, cut into squares and then eat.

Gluten-Free Meringue Brownies

If you’re not bothered about gluten-free, use normal plain flour and don’t bother with the golden syrup, milk or water and just bring the dough together by compressing it in your hands.

I intend for the next gluten-free recipe to not involve any chocolate as I am sure there are lots of sensible people out there who are gluten intolerant and not obsessed with chocolate (most likely not female then) so it’s only fair that I cater for these people too.

Tour de Fruits et de la Crème

I have to say that I am very proud of this one as the recipe isn’t based on anything else and is designed completely from my imagination. There is great texture with crisp biscuit, creamy crème patissiere, crunchy almonds and smooth icing alongside fantastic flavour from the raspberries, honey and cinnamon. It’s also quite easy to make combining simple techniques into a more complex product. I did however struggle with a name, hence me resorting to a pretentious French one…

This serves 10 people.

Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)

9oz Plain Flour
9oz Icing Sugar
1tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Salt
4oz Butter (soften in a microwave for 10-15 seconds, full-power)
8 Eggs (just the yolks needed, save the whites for something else)
500ml Milk (I used semi-skimmed)
2tsps Vanilla Extract
2 ½ oz Caster Sugar
1oz Cornflour
6oz Whole Almonds (blanched or with skins, up to you)
3tbsps Honey
300ml Double Cream
2oz Raspberries
2tbsps Raspberry Jam (preferably seedless)

Recipe:

Start by making the three biscuit layers. Take a cake tin and draw around it on a sheet of baking paper. Cut the resulting circle out to be used as a template. Line three baking trays with baking paper and “glue” the paper down with butter.

On the left is a fully greased tray and on the right is a lined tray with the paper "glued" down by the butter

On the left is a fully greased tray and on the right is a lined tray with the paper “glued” down by the butter

Into a large mixing bowl, sieve 8oz plain flour, 4oz icing sugar, 1tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp salt. Mix together evenly with a whisk. Cut 4oz butter into small cubes and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips until fine “breadcrumbs” are formed.

"Breadcrumbs"

“Breadcrumbs”

Add two egg yolks and bring together into a dough with your hands; no other liquid is needed. Wrap the dough in Clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least one hour.

Biscuit dough before it goes into the fridge

Biscuit dough before it goes into the fridge

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC (350oF, Gas Mark 4).

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about 3mm thickness. Turn and flip the pastry after every couple of rolls to stop it sticking to the work surface. Use the circle of baking paper to cut out a circle of pastry with a knife.

Paper template on top of the rolled out pastry

Paper template on top of the rolled out pastry

Place the circle of pastry onto one of the prepared baking trays and prick all over with a fork.

One of the biscuits before they go into the oven

One of the biscuits before they go into the oven

Gather up the pastry and repeat twice more.

Bake the biscuits for 8 minutes and then take out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

Next the crème patissiere:

In a medium size pan on a medium heat, bring the milk and vanilla to the boil.

The boiling milk

The boiling milk

In a large glass bowl, whisk the remaining six egg yolks and the caster sugar until pale and double in volume.

Whisked egg yolks and sugar

Whisked egg yolks and sugar

Sieve in 1oz plain flour and the cornflour and whisk to combine.

Once the milk has boiled, carefully pour it onto the egg mixture but try to avoid pouring the skin in as well. Whisk together and then transfer the whole mixture to a clean pan on a medium heat. Whisk continuously with a hand whisk until thick and smooth. Transfer the crème patissiere to a bowl to cool slightly.

Line the cake tin that you used earlier with Clingfilm (easier said than done)

Cake tin lined with Clingflim

Cake tin lined with Clingflim

Place one of the biscuits at the bottom of the tin. Spread the crème patissiere on top and smooth off. Allow to cool and then place another biscuit on top of the crème patissiere. Place in the fridge to set.

Put the almonds in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin to break the almonds into rough chunks. Place in a frying pan with the honey on a medium heat and cook until the honey darkens and the almonds are fully coated. Place on baking paper to cool.

In a glass bowl, whisk the cream into whipped cream. Take the cake tin out of the fridge and spread the cream on top of the biscuit. Place a ring of raspberries around the edge. Fill the middle with the almonds.

The middle layer of the dessert

The middle layer of the dessert

Place the remaining biscuit on top.

Mix 5oz icing sugar with some water to produce a thick paste. Spread the icing on top of the biscuit in as neat a circle as possible.

Heat the jam in a small pan on a low heat until loose. Transfer to a piping bag and pipe lines across the icing as shown below.

Circle of icing with lines of raspberry jam

Circle of icing with lines of raspberry jam

Use a cocktail stick to “feather” the icing by dragging it through the icing perpendicular to the lines of jam. Place back in the fridge to set.

Feathered icing design

Feathered icing design

Carefully remove everything from the cake tin and peel off the Clingfilm. Enjoy.

Tour de Fruits et de la Creme

Lemon, White Chocolate and Blueberry Cookies

I’ve made lemon and white chocolate cookies before and lemon and blueberry cookies before both of which were fantastic so there was no doubt that combining them would be a winner. So simple, but so nice…

This recipe makes about 25 cookies.

Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)

6oz Butter
3oz Caster Sugar
7oz Golden Caster Sugar
1 Whole Egg and 1 Egg Yolk (crack on a flat surface)
1tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Lemons (zest and juice)
1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
½ tsp Salt
12oz Plain Flour
2oz Ground Almonds
4oz Blueberries
6oz White Chocolate (break into rough chunks)

Recipe:

Line a baking tray with grease-proof paper, using butter to stick the paper to the tray. Make sure the paper is thoroughly glued down.

On the left is a fully greased tray and on the right is a lined tray with the paper "glued" down by the butter

On the left is a fully greased tray and on the right is a lined tray with the paper “glued” down by the butter

Melt the 6oz of butter in a small pan on a medium heat and then allow to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, place both of the sugars and whisk in the cooled butter. Beat in the egg and egg yolk with the whisk, followed by the vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest.

Pre-heat the oven to 160oC (325oF, Gas Mark 3).

In a separate bowl, mix the bicarbonate of soda, salt, flour and ground almonds together. Sieve this mixture into the large mixing bowl. Add the blueberries and white chocolate and fold the flour mixture in until everything is combined but try not to over mix (be gentle so as not to burst the blueberries).

The cookie mixture

The cookie mixture

Use a dessertspoon to collect a dessertspoon’s worth of dough.

A spoon's worth of dough

A spoon’s worth of dough

Dust your hands with flour and then shape the dough into a ball in the palm of your hands. Be quick! (sorry, but the longer you take, the warmer the ball gets in your hands and the more likely it is to stick to your hands). Flatten the ball and place it on the baking tray. Place a total of four balls onto the tray, evenly spread out and bake for 10mins.

The cookies before they go into the oven

The cookies before they go into the oven

Take the cookies out of the oven and allow to cool a bit on the tray. Use a fish slice to go around the edges of the cookies to lift them up a bit and then slide the cookie on to the fish slice to get it off the tray. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Get your next batch of cookies onto the same tray and go again.

Lemon, White Chocolate and Blueberry Cookies

I really struggled to leave enough cookies to put in the photograph but my willpower just about came through; these cookies really are fantastic.

Gluten-Free Deluxe Chocolate Cake

One of my friends has recently been diagnosed as gluten intolerant which gave me the idea to try some gluten free baking as a bit of a challenge. The major baking ingredient which contains gluten is flour which alongside butter, sugar and eggs is the most common ingredient in baking; baking without it is therefore a little tricky. However, I’ve already baked without butter on a number of occasions and found the results to actually be better than with butter (see Sweet Potato Cake, Simple Petits Fours, Chocolate Orange Torte, Chocolate and Vanilla Layer Cake and Orange and Lemon Cupcakes).

The biggest problem with no gluten baking is getting the texture right as cakes can be dry and crumbly without gluten holding everything together. The key is to add extra liquids and moist ingredients such as fruits to develop the correct texture. Baking gluten free requires a bit more thought than normal baking but being gluten intolerant shouldn’t prevent you from getting fat, as this recipe proves…
This recipe serves 10 people.

Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)

9oz Dark Chocolate (break into small pieces)
3 ½ oz Butter (cut into small cubes)
4 Eggs
6oz Caster Sugar
3tsps Ground Ginger
3oz Ground Almonds
3oz Pecans (chop into rough pieces)
5oz Dried Cranberries
Milk
150ml Double Cream
1 Orange (just the zest needed)

Recipe:

Line two round cake tins (see Mama Molloy’s – The home of home-baking) which are preferably the same size.

One of the prepared cake tins

One of the prepared cake tins

Pre-heat the oven to 160oC (325oF, Gas Mark 3).

In a small glass bowl set over a small pan of water on a low heat, melt 7oz of the chocolate with the butter.

Improvised double-boiler for melting chocolate

Improvised double-boiler for melting chocolate

Once all of the chocolate and butter has melted, take off the heat and allow to cool and thicken.

The melted chocolate and butter mixture

The melted chocolate and butter mixture

Take each egg, crack on a flat surface and pour the contents into your hand, allowing the white to run through your fingers into a small glass bowl. Place the yolk in a large mixing bowl. Add 4oz of the sugar to the egg yolks and whisk with an electric whisk until pale, thick and double in volume.

The whisked egg yolks

The whisked egg yolks

Clean the whisk and then whisk the egg whites until thick and soft; drawing the whisk out should leave peaks in the whites that hold their shape. Add 2oz of sugar and whisk until fully incorporated – the meringue should be shiny and hold its shape.

Meringue

Meringue

Whisk the ginger into the egg yolk mixture and then fold in the chocolate mixture with a wooden spoon. Sieve in the ground almonds and then add the cranberries and pecans; fold everything into the mixture. Add a dash of milk to loosen the mixture slightly.

The cake mixture before the egg whites are added

The cake mixture before the egg whites are added

Gently fold the meringue into the cake mixture until fully incorporated. Do not over mix as you’ll lose all of the air from the meringue and therefore the cake.

The cake mixture

The cake mixture

Split the mixture between the two cake tins. Spread the mixture evenly and then bake for 20 minutes. Take the cakes out and allow to fully cool.

One of the baked cakes

One of the baked cakes

Melt 2oz of chocolate in a small glass bowl set over a small pan of water on a low heat. Once melted, take the chocolate off the heat and allow to cool a little. Collect a muffin tray and cut out five or six rectangles of baking paper that are about as wide as the holes in the tray and a bit longer (see photograph below). Transfer the chocolate to a piping bag fit with a narrow nozzle and pipe out butterflies on the baking paper in any design that you want. Carefully place the butterflies across the holes in the baking tray as shown below and allow to set (the paper needs to bend to make the butterflies 3D rather than flat shapes).

Chocolate decorations - butterflies are in the tray and flowers are on the sheet of paper; the flowers broke when I took them off the paper so were not used in the end

Chocolate decorations – butterflies are in the tray and flowers are on the sheet of paper; the flowers broke when I took them off the paper so were not used in the end

In a glass bowl, whisk the double cream and orange zest into whipped cream.

Assemble the cake by placing one of the cakes on a flat surface. Spread most of the cream across the surface and then place the second cake on top. Place small blobs of cream on the top of the cream where the butterflies will be. Very carefully peel the paper off of the butterflies and gently press them onto the blobs of cream. Store in the fridge and enjoy.

A chocolate butterfly

A chocolate butterfly

Gluten-Free Deluxe Chocolate Cake

The cake is a little bit crumbly as expected but the texture is fine when you eat it, as I advise you to do…
The ginger clashes with the orange a little bit so you can leave the ginger out if you prefer but there is still plenty of flavour and texture from the fruit and nuts. You can’t taste the ground almonds (as intended) but they really help the texture of the cake.

Sweet Potato Cake

It’s been a while but here’s another five week blast of baking. It’s not long until I graduate now though and then there’ll be lots of baking all year round hopefully.

This cake is basically carrot cake but better (I know, you probably didn’t think that was possible, but here it is). Moist, full of flavour and really unhealthy, exactly like it should be.
This recipe serves 10 people.

Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)

4oz Light Brown Sugar
2oz Golden Caster Sugar
3 Eggs (crack on a flat surface)
200ml Oil (preferably olive oil but other oils are fine)
7oz peeled and grated Sweet Potato (about 9oz whole sweet potato)
9oz Self-Raising Flour
1tsp Allspice
2tsps Ground Cinnamon
5oz de-stoned Dates
7oz Pecans
10oz Icing Sugar
4oz Butter (soften at room temperature, don’t microwave)
5oz Full-Fat Soft Cheese
3tbsps Maple Syrup (or 4 if you want a stronger flavour)

Recipe:

Line two round cake tins (see Mama Molloy’s – The home of home-baking) which are preferably the same size; my tins weren’t the same size just to be awkward.

One of the prepared cake tins

One of the prepared cake tins

Pre-heat the oven to 160oC (325oF, Gas Mark 3).

In a large mixing bowl, place the light brown sugar and golden caster sugar (remove any lumps of sugar with the back of a spoon). Add the three eggs and whisk with an electric whisk until fully combined. Gradually whisk in the oil.

In a bowl, mix the flour, allspice and 1tsp of cinnamon. Sieve the mixture into the large mixing bowl, holding the sieve about head height as you do so. Use a wooden spoon to fold the flour into the batter – drag the spoon around the edge of the bowl in a circle and then push through the middle of the mixture from one side to the other, twisting the spoon as you do so. Repeat this until the flour has been fully incorporated.

The cake mixture before the potato, dates and pecans are added

The cake mixture before the potato, dates and pecans are added

Roughly chop the dates and 5oz of the pecans.

The prepared dates and pecans

The prepared dates and pecans

Mix in the sweet potato, dates and pecans until evenly combined.

Grate the sweet potato reasonably finely

Grate the sweet potato reasonably finely

Split the cake mixture evenly between the two cake tins. Smooth out the cake mixture and then bake for 25 minutes.

The cakes before they go into the oven

The cakes before they go into the oven

Take the cakes out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

Into a large bowl, sieve the icing sugar. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the icing sugar. Cream the two ingredients together with a wooden spoon by pressing the mixture into the base of the bowl repeatedly until the two come together into a stiff paste. Be patient with this and make sure they fully combine; it is very hard work (either that or I am pathetically weak, which could be the case) but necessary to prevent the cream-cheese topping from being a runny mess.

The creamed butter and icing sugar

The creamed butter and icing sugar

Gradually beat in the soft cheese until a loose paste is formed. It might be a bit lumpy so give it a whisk with an electric whisk. Whisk the maple syrup in and then place in the fridge to chill for at least one hour.

The cream-cheese topping

The cream-cheese topping

Place one of the cakes on a presentation plate/baking sheet/chopping board/flat surface. Cover the top in half of the cream-cheese mixture, spread evenly and smoothly. Place the second cake on top and then the remaining cream-cheese. Smooth off the cream-cheese topping and then dust with cinnamon. Finish with some pecans and then keep in the fridge until ready to eat.

Sweet Potato Cake

Orange and Almond Cake

This is the fifth time that I have made this cake (which makes it the thing that I have made more than anything else) and there is a good reason for that; the sponge is soft and moist and the flavour is fantastic. I wanted to work on my presentation with this one and it looks a lot different than it has in the past as I normally just drizzle icing over the top. It is very simple, very quick but really nice and a good way to end this period of baking before I go back to uni.

Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)

6oz Butter (soften in the microwave, full power for about 10-15seconds)
6oz Light Brown Sugar
3 Eggs (crack on a flat surface to avoid any rogue egg-shell in your cake)
2 Large Oranges
1tsp Almond Extract
6oz Self-Raising Flour
2oz Ground Almonds
½ tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1tbsp Ground Mixed Spice
5 ½ oz Icing Sugar
150ml Double Cream
1oz Orange Curd

Recipe:

Line a round cake tin (see Mama Molloy’s – The home of home-baking).

The prepared cake tin

The prepared cake tin

In a large mixing bowl place the 6oz of light brown sugar and add the 6oz butter, cut into cubes. Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon by pressing the mixture into the base of the bowl until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the 3 eggs, one at a time, using an electric whisk if you have one. Add the zest of the two oranges and the juice of one. Add the almond extract and whisk again.

Pre-heat the oven to 160oC (325oF, Gas Mark 3).

Combine the flour, the ground almonds, the bicarbonate of soda and the mixed spice and then sieve into the large mixing bowl, holding the sieve as high as you can in the process. Fold the flour into the mixture by dragging a wooden spoon around the edge of the bowl in one complete circle and then pushing the spoon through the middle from one side to the other. Repeat this until fully mixed but don’t get carried away; the more you mix, the more air you lose and the denser the cake is.

The cake mixture - quite runny and looks slightly lumpy due to the ground almonds

The cake mixture – quite runny and looks slightly lumpy due to the ground almonds

Pour the cake mixture into the lined cake tin and spread it evenly using a wooden spoon.

The cake before it goes into the oven

The cake before it goes into the oven

Bake for 40 minutes. Cover the cake with foil halfway through once it has achieved a golden-brown colour (see Useful things to know before baking).

Cover the tin with a sheet of foil and pinch four corners into the foil to secure it

Cover the tin with a sheet of foil and pinch four corners into the foil to secure it

Once the cake is done, remove it from the oven and allow to cool completely. Dust the top with ½ oz of the icing sugar.

The cake dusted with icing sugar

The cake dusted with icing sugar

Sieve 5oz of the icing sugar into a bowl and add the juice from the remaining orange a bit at a time until a reasonably thick paste is formed that can be piped easily. Transfer to a piping bag with a narrow nozzle.

Use a skewer to imprint 4 lines on top of the cake to split the top into 8 segments (see below). Either heat the skewer under the grill and place it on top or carefully drag along the top of the cake.

Pipe the icing in squiggles on each segment, originating from the centre (see below).

Nearly finished...

Nearly finished…

Whisk the double cream in a glass bowl until thick and gently mix with the orange curd. Transfer to a piping bag. Pipe rosettes of cream in a ring around the top of the cake to finish.

Orange and Almond Cake

Mince Cookies

I haven’t had that many mince pies over Christmas so I thought I’d try something a bit different that replicates the complex flavour of mincemeat to make up for this. These are much lighter than mince pies and also taste better; even if you don’t like mince pies, I would recommend giving these a shot.
This recipe makes 24 cookies.

Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)

6oz Butter
5oz Light Brown Sugar
5oz Dark Brown Sugar
1 Whole Egg and 1 Egg Yolk (crack on a flat surface)
1tbsp Golden Syrup
3tbsps Brandy
1 Large Orange (just the zest needed)
1tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Salt
8oz Plain Flour
2tsps Mixed Spice
2oz Dried Cranberries
2oz Raisins
2oz Sultanas
2oz Almonds (blanched or with the skins on, up to you)
1oz Caster Sugar
¼ oz Ground Cinnamon (yes, that does say ¼ oz)

Recipe:

Line a baking tray with grease-proof paper, using butter to stick the paper to the tray. Make sure the paper is thoroughly glued down.

On the left is a fully greased tray and on the right is a lined tray with the paper "glued" down by the butter

On the left is a fully greased tray and on the right is a lined tray with the paper “glued” down by the butter

Melt the 6oz of butter in a small pan on a medium heat and then allow to cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, place both of the sugars and whisk in the cooled butter. Beat in the egg and egg yolk with the whisk, followed by the golden syrup, brandy and orange zest.

Pre-heat the oven to 160oC (325oF, Gas Mark 3).

Place the almonds in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin into small chunks of almond.

In a separate bowl, mix the baking powder, salt, flour and mixed spice together. Sieve this mixture into the large mixing bowl. Add the cranberries, raisins, sultanas and almonds and fold the flour mixture in until everything is combined but try not to over mix.

The cookie dough

The cookie dough

In a small bowl, mix the caster sugar and cinnamon.

Use a dessertspoon to collect a dessertspoon’s worth of dough.

A spoonful of the dough used to make one cookie

A spoonful of the dough used to make one cookie

Dust your hands with flour and then shape the dough into a ball in the palm of your hands. Be quick! (sorry, but the longer you take, the warmer the ball gets in your hands and the more likely it is to stick to your hands). Coat the ball in the cinnamon mixture. Flatten the ball and place it on the baking tray. Place a total of four balls onto the tray, evenly spread out and bake for 10mins.

The cookies before they go into the oven

The cookies before they go into the oven

Take the cookies out of the oven and allow to cool a bit on the tray. Use a fish slice to go around the edges of the cookies to lift them up a bit and then slide the cookie on to the fish slice to get it off the tray. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Get your next batch of cookies onto the same tray and go again.

Mincemeat Cookies

Religieuse: Death at the Nunnery – Episode 1

This is my attempt at Mary Berry’s Religieuse (choux pastry nuns). It was going perfectly until I panicked with the choux pastry and took it out of the oven too early (silly boy), resulting in the pastry collapsing. This affected the shape of the end products and caused one to be a bit top heavy to the extent that it won’t stand up properly. However, it all worked out and produced this lovely seen from a period drama, where one of the nuns has been killed and the other nuns have just found the body (oh no!)… I promise I am sane, I think…

This recipe makes 8 nuns.

Ingredients: (Ounce to Gram Conversion Chart)

500ml Milk (I used semi-skimmed)
2tsps Vanilla Extract
8 Eggs (2 whole eggs and 6 yolks)
2 ½ oz Caster Sugar
1oz Cornflour
3 ½ oz Plain Flour
300ml Double Cream (keep chilled)
7oz Dark Chocolate
2oz Butter
150ml Water

Recipe:

Measure out the milk in a measuring jug and pour into a large pan. Add the vanilla and place the pan on a medium heat. Bring the milk to the boil and then set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, place the 6 egg yolks (see Strawberry Vacherin for how to separate eggs) and caster sugar. Whisk the two together with an electric whisk until pale and double in volume.

The whisked egg yolks and sugar - pale and beginning to thicken

The whisked egg yolks and sugar – pale and beginning to thicken

Sieve in the cornflour and 1oz of the plain flour. Briefly whisk to combine properly. Pour in the milk, whisking continuously (it will froth quite a bit so be careful). Transfer the mixture back into the pan and place on a medium heat.

The milk and egg mixture once it is back in the pan

The milk and egg mixture once it is back in the pan

Bring the mixture to the boil, whisking continuously with a hand whisk. You will eventually feel the mixture begin to thicken after 5-10 minutes. Take off the heat and continue to whisk until thick. Transfer the crème patissiere to a plastic container and allow to cool and set.

Crème Patissiere

Crème Patissiere

Pour 150ml of the double cream into a small pan and heat on a low heat until the cream is hot to the touch. Break the chocolate into pieces. Take the cream off the heat and stir in the chocolate until it has all melted and a thick ganache results. Transfer the ganache to a plastic container and allow to cool at room temperature (don’t want it to fully set, it just needs to be thick and hold its shape).

Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Ganache

Draw 8 circles on a sheet of baking paper with a diameter of 5cm and 8 with a diameter of 2.5cm. Stick the sheet to a baking sheet with butter.

The prepared baking sheet with 16 circles drawn onto the paper

The prepared baking sheet with 16 circles drawn onto the paper

Pre-heat the oven to 220oC (425oF, Gas Mark 7).

Place the butter and water in a medium size pan on a medium heat and bring to the boil.

The boiling butter and water mixture

The boiling butter and water mixture

Take off the heat and sieve in the remaining flour. Stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until a thick paste forms.

The choux pastry before the addition of the eggs

The choux pastry before the addition of the eggs

Place the pan back on a low heat and continue to stir for 5 minutes to dry out the mixture. Take off the heat again and add the two eggs. Stir vigorously until everything is combined into a smooth and shiny paste (be patient, it looks a mess at one stage but eventually the egg combines into the mixture properly). Transfer to a piping bag fit with a wide nozzle.

Pipe into the circles on the baking sheet holding the bag vertically above the centre of the circle as you do so to get an even shape. Wet your fingers and gently smooth out the surface of the rounds to get the shape as even as possible.

The choux pastry before it goes into the oven

The choux pastry before it goes into the oven

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. The oven needs to be very hot to get the choux pastry to rise properly. Reduce the temperature to 190oC (375oF, Gas Mark 5) and bake for another 10 minutes. Do NOT take the pastries out of the oven before 20 minutes has passed.

Take the choux pastry out and pierce the bottom of each bun with a skewer to allow the steam to escape. Place the buns back in the oven for another 5 minutes to dry out. Take the buns out and allow to cool completely.

Transfer the cooled crème patissiere to a piping bag fit with a narrow nozzle. Fill all 16 buns up with crème patissiere using the holes you made with the skewer. Use a palette knife to coat the top of each bun in ganache and use this to glue a small one onto a large one, producing “nuns”. Whisk the remaining cream into whipped cream and transfer to a piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle. Pipe a ring of cream around the collar of each nun to finish them off.

Religieuse