Dessert

Double Chocolate Cake with a Salted Cinnamon Caramel Buttercream

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I’m always nervous about giving away a chocolate sponge recipe, because everyone seems to have their own ‘no-fail’ version. However, undeterred I am offering to you this humble recipe in the hopes that its television debut (this last New Years Day) will work in its favour! (It did earn me the first Hollywood hug, so it must be alright)

Now, I will admit that the list of ingredients is rather long and seemingly unnecessary, however it hasn’t let me down in the years that I’ve been using it.

A very simple sponge that is delicate in flavour and texture, but holds its own against strong flavour pairings and has the durability to be cut and shaped for custom cakes.

A word about some of the flavours and methods;

Oil and butter! Originally I used just butter in this recipe and creamed it with the sugar as you would in a traditional cake mix. By removing some of the butter and replacing it with flavourless oil, the taste wasn’t compromised, and the cake was even more moist (for longer). Please feel free to revert to butter only with 150g of unsalted butter and no oil.

Flavourings. Coffee is a great friend of chocolate and vice versa. Whilst you can’t taste the coffee in the final product, you can leave this out completely without too much compromise. I will ask that you use decent instant coffee, or make it fresh with grounds using the boiling water in the recipe.

Vanilla. I (almost) insist on this flavour, purely for its familiar warm and creamy tones that complement most sweet treats. Extract (not essence) is perfect, however I have moved over to vanilla bean paste for an even more authentic flavour.

Hazelnut liqueur. This may seem odd, but the subtle nutty tones (once baked) work beautifully with this sponge but is certainly not necessary if you don’t like or want it. You could also use Amaretto if it takes your fancy.

Lastly the ganache. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate that’s so bitter that it could strip your mouth of its skin. Conversely, I don’t like sickly sweet chocolate reminiscent of my childhood! So, I compromise with half and half for the accompanying ganache (the second half of the double chocolate). Please try to use good quality chocolate for this, not only for its flavour, but it will melt and hold its structure much better than a cheaper counterpart.

Enjoy and comment below if you have any further questions.


INGREDIENTS

For the sponge:

265g self raising flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
300g caster sugar
150g light brown sugar
100g unsalted butter – room temperature
75g cocoa powder
125ml boiling water
100g full fat yogurt
100g sunflower oil
1 heaped tsp instant espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla extract or bean paste
2 tbsp hazelnut liqueur – optional
5 large eggs

For the buttercream:

125g granulated sugar
75g double cream

50g unsalted butter

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp table salt

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

200g unsalted butter – room temperature

250g icing sugar

For the ganache:

100g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

250g double cream


METHOD

For the sponges:

Grease and line the bottom and sides of 3 8” cake tins (you can use 2, but the cooking time will change). Preheat the oven the 180°c fan.

Start by adding the cocoa powder, coffee and vanilla extract together in a heat-proof bowl. Gently whisk in the boiling water and stir until completely combined. Add the oil, yogurt and hazelnut liqueur and mix well. Finally, add the eggs and whisk together, ensuring there are no lumps.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (if you have one), add the flour, baking powder, salt, sugars and butter. Mix this on a medium speed until the butter has been incorporated and the mix resembles wet sand.

On a slow speed, add the wet chocolate mix in 3 parts, ensuring everything is completely combined. Turn off the mixer and stir by hand, with a spatula to get the last of the lumps off of the bottom.

Split the mix equally between your tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 mins for 3 tins, or 30-35 mins for 2 tins.

Cool the cakes in their tins for 5-10 mins before carefully turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely to room temperature.

For the buttercream:

In a medium heavy based saucepan, heat the granulated sugar over a medium heat until it has completely dissolved. Wash the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush to remove any stray sugar crystals.

Heat the caramel to 160°c or when it takes on a dark amber colour. Remove the heat and add the cream (be careful) and stir in. Add the butter, vanilla, salt and cinnamon and stir over the heat until everything in smooth and silky – set aside to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and icing sugar (this can be done with a hand whisk). Cream these together until light and fluffy. Add the cooled caramel and whisk on a high speed until completely incorporated.

For the ganache:

Break the chocolate into small pieces and then use a large knife to cut it into very small pieces. Heat the cream in a medium saucepan until it reaches just below the simmering point, then remove from the heat. Tip the chocolate pieces into the hot cream and allow them to sit for 5 minutes before stirring everything together until silky and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

When it comes to decoration, I like to use piping bags with all sorts of fancy nozzles to create different effects. You can just stack the cakes with the buttercream and ganache with no particular finesse – either way, the combination of sweet and bitter flavours will leave you wanting more!

Coffee, Biscoff and Chocolate Cheesecake

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One of my favourite memories of my Grandmother was her giving me the little Lotus biscuit that came with her coffee when she'd take my sister and me out for lunch. For me, there is not better pairing with those little cinnamon flavoured treats than a cup of coffee. Fast-forward 30 years and some bright spark turned those biscuits into a paste, which tastes like it came from the heavens above! After consuming 3 jars (neat), I felt I needed to create a recipe using this sticky delight that justified me eating it. Add it's best friend, coffee and you've got a perfect cheesecake combo! Just a few notes;

If you've discovered Biscoff paste in your supermarket and were wondering whether smooth or crunchy is best..............it makes no difference! The base flavour is the same whether you get the smooth or crunchy, so go with your heart!

I think by now we've established that I'm not renowned for my healthy approach to baking, so it comes as no surprise that I insist you use full fat cream cheese in this recipe. There is some science behind this reasoning and that is that the lower fat cream cheeses don't have the same structure as their more delicious cousins and you'd be left with a rather loose and sloppy mess! 

Coffee! I unashamedly use instant coffee in this recipe because adding liquid in the form of espresso shots would jeopardise the stability of the mix! However, when I say 'instant', I do mean that posh stuff that looks like dust and comes in a tin, as opposed to a jar! Also, if you can't get the 'espresso' strength then use double the amount of regular instant coffee to keep the flavour levels up!

Lastly, decoration! Whether or not you decide to decorate your cheesecake is totally up to you. However, if you've gone to all this effort then I think a final gilded flourish is the very least you can do! I recommend grating chocolate (or sifting cocoa) over the top to finish this creamy delight. In the picture above, I created this pattern by running strips of sticky tape over the tin (with the cheesecake still in it) to create a criss-cross design. I dusted cocoa over the top and then removed the tin (and tape) to reveal a pattern. The golden balls are nothing more than Maltesers rolled in edible gold glitter (you can get this in supermarkets now). Hint: Remove the cheesecake from the tin, place the sticky tap over the outside ring before placing back over the cheesecake. If you tape up the tin and then try to get the cheesecake out, you'll get into a big mess and end up crying! 


INGREDIENTS

For the base:

250g Digestive biscuits
100g unsalted butter - melted
1 heaped dessert spoon of Biscoff (optional)

For the cheesecake mix:

300ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
400g full fat cream cheese
200g Mascarpone cheese
200g Biscoff
175g icing sugar
2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in a little water
25g dark chocolate – grated


METHOD

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine crumbs. Add the butter and BIscoff and blitz to combine. Spread the mix evenly over the base of a 23cm spring form cake tin and use a spoon to press it down gently. Refrigerate until cool.

Whip the cream to soft peaks.

In a separate bowl combine the cream cheese, Mascarpone, Biscoff, icing sugar, vanilla and dissolved coffee.

Fold the whipped cream into the mix and spread this evenly over the biscuit base, using a palette knife to smooth the top.

Grate over the chocolate and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, or overnight.

To remove from the tin, warm the sides gently with your hands and unclip the latch. Transfer the cheesecake to a serving plate, slice and serve.

Snickers Banoffee Pie

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Another variation on this favourite classic, the addition of peanuts and toffee only add more pleasure to what is already, something beautiful! This decadent treat doesn't do the dieter any favours, but will bring joy to any family gathering, dinner party or bake sale! 

I use 50/50 split of dark and milk chocolate to strike a bitter sweet balance, but you can cut this however you want to - please note that I have a sweet tooth and white chocolate was just too sweet, even for me!

Don't add nuts if you don't want, or can't have them. Alternatively, toasted hazelnuts work brilliantly if that takes your fancy!

Keep watching for low fat recipes, but don't hold your breath


INGREDIENTS

300g digestive biscuits
150g unsalted butter – melted
2 heaped dessert spoons peanut butter – smooth or chunky

75g unsalted butter
75g dark brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g salted peanuts – chopped

4 bananas

200g dark chocolate
200g milk chocolate
300ml double cream

300ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 heaped dessert spoons of icing sugar
Chocolate and peanuts to decorate


METHOD

Start by blitzing the peanuts in a food processor until they are chopped but not powdered – set aside. This is a personal taste, you can leave them whole or leave them out if you want.
Add the biscuits to the processor and blitz to a powder. Add the butter and peanut butter and blitz until everything has come together. Pour this mix into a 28cm (11”) fluted loose bottom flan tin and use a spoon to spread the mix out evenly over the base and up the sides. Compress the mix gently, but do not compact too tightly and put into the fridge for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Add the sugar and butter to a heavy based saucepan and melt over a medium heat for a couple of minutes until melted and combined, stirring all the time. Add the condensed milk to the pan and increase the heat to medium and switch to a whisk. Whisk the mix over the heat until it bubbles and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes until the mix starts to resemble melted toffee.
Remove the toffee sauce from the heat and add the vanilla and chopped peanuts, stirring well. Set this aside until needed.

In another saucepan, slowly heat the cream to just below boiling point. Chop the chocolate and place into a heatproof bowl. Pour over the hot cream and stir the chocolate until it has melted completely and is glossy.

Using an electric whisk, whip the remaining cream in a large bowl with the icing sugar and vanilla – refrigerate until needed.

Start buy pouring the toffee and nut mix into the base of the pie and spreading out evenly with a palette knife (make sure this is cool to touch). Slice the bananas and layer these over the toffee nut mix. Over the toffee and bananas, pour the chocolate ganache and once again smooth this out. The pie will be quite full at this point, but there’s always room for cream. Load the whipped cream into a piping bag with a star tipped nozzle and go to town with decoration. Alternatively, you can just load the cream on top and spread it around to cover the ganache. As a final flourish you can sprinkle over more peanuts and grate chocolate over the top of the cream. Refrigerate until needed and enjoy!

Goodbye Summer Apple Cake

Goodbye Summer Apple Cake

Despite my trying to keep the summer alive with short sleeved shirts and sunglasses, I am slowly starting to back down and give in to the golden season of autumn. I'm always sad to see summer go, but the arrival of a cooler month brings spicy scented air coming from bakeries and the promise of weekly roast dinners (if I can be bothered)!

Banoffee Pie

Banoffee Pie

I often see people online asking what to do with a glut of bananas that are on the turn. A loaf cake is usually the standard response, however, when I think of banana desserts my mind wanders to the classic Banoffee Pie. I’ve been making this dish for many years and I’m not ashamed to say that it started with canned toffee sauce and cream in a spray can! When developing a recipe I start with the dominant flavour and then try to match additional flavours that compliment it. In this case, the humble banana pairs beautifully with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger which subsequently work well with rum and coconut. It took four attempts to get this pie the way I like it, but the beauty of this recipe is you can strip it back to it’s bare minimum, or go to town!