Sweet

Chocolate Guinness Cake with Baileys Frosting

Guinness 5.jpg

If I'm guilty of cultural appropriation, then it will be towards the Irish. From Belfast to Cork, I love the place and all its traditions. One such tradition is the coming together and celebrating of St. Patrick and his day. People across the world enjoy joining in with the celebrations and I love the feeling of connectivity that comes with the 17th March (let's face it, we're all a bit Irish in some way). 

I came up with this recipe to celebrate this day and the two iconic drinks that hail from the emerald isle - unmistakably Guinness and Baileys. The rich and malty chocolate cake pairs beautifully with the sweet custardy frosting, laced with that beautiful liqueur.

Just a few notes from me on the recipe and why I do the things I do;

Sugar - You'll notice the two types of sugar I use are caster and light brown. This is done on purpose to achieve the perfect balance of sweetness with caramel notes. If you only have one or the other, then please use you what you have. I did find that dark brown sugar overpowered all other flavours.

Chocolate - I use cocoa and melted chocolate in this recipe for extra antioxidants (I know, who am I kidding). If you do want to use melted chocolate, then I would recommend a high quality bar with a minimum of 70% cocoa solids. If you don't want to use chocolate as well as cocoa, then just leave it out and increase the cocoa to 100g.

Yogurt - The addition of yogurt is to keep the cake moist for days to come, if it even lasts that long. You can always use buttermilk or sour cream for the same effect.

Frosting - You'll notice the rather intricate and somewhat labour intensive frosting recipe I've provided! This is on purpose and I would highly recommend going all out to achieve this beautiful frosting that is like eating clouds. However, I try to stay in the real world and I know that not everyone has the time, patience or energy to spend an hour on frosting.

If this is the case, then you can achieve an equally beautiful buttercream with 250g unsalted butter, 300g icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla bean paste and 3-4 tbsp Baileys. Whip these together in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer and slather over the cooled sponges.

Nutmeg - This might raise a few eyebrows, but it's my own nod to the Jamaican Guinness Punch which mixes condensed milk, Guinness, nutmeg and sometimes cinnamon. I'm a fan and I would highly recommend trying it, but feel free to leave out the nutmeg if you don't want it or have it.


INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

275g self-raising flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
50g cocoa powder
200g caster sugar
200g light brown sugar
250g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
100g yogurt
4 large eggs
250ml Guinness

For the frosting:

2 tbsp cornflour
200g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 large egg yolks
300ml double cream
2 sheets of gelatin
150ml Baileys
250g unsalted butter – room temperature
100g icing sugar (to taste)
Freshly grated nutmeg
(See notes for alternative recipe)


Guinness+8.jpg

METHOD

Grease and line 2-3 8” round cake tins and pre-heat the oven to 180°c / 350°f.

In a saucepan over a medium heat, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the Guinness, yogurt, vanilla and then the eggs – set aside.

In a large bowl (or food processor) thoroughly combine the flour, baking powder, cocoa and sugars. Stir through the wet chocolate and Guinness mix, ensuring the mix is smooth with no lumps.

Divide the batter equally between your tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the centre of the cake. Please monitor your cakes after 25 minutes as all ovens differ to mine and these cakes can easily under or over bake.

Allow the cakes to cool in their tins for 10 minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack and cooling to room temperature.

For the frosting;

Soak the gelatin leaves in cold water for 5 minutes.

In a saucepan mix together the cornflour, sugar, vanilla bean paste, egg yolks and cream. Cook this over a medium heat for up to 10 minutes (possibly more), stirring continuously with a whisk. The mixture will thicken and take on the consistency of cold custard from a carton; once you’re at this stage, remove the pan from the heat, strain the gelatin and stir this through the custard. Stir through the Baileys and then cover the mix with cling film and allow to cool to room temperature. I transfer the mix to a shallow casserole dish, so it cools more quickly.

In a bowl (or stand mixer) whisk the room temperature butter until soft and fluffy and incorporate half of the icing sugar. Add the custard to the buttercream in 3 stages, ensuring it is fully combined. At this stage the mix will be wet and runny, so refrigerate until it is completely fridge cold.

Once cold, whisk again on high until the mix thickens and takes on a thick and creamy texture. Taste the mix as you go for sweetness and add more icing sugar if necessary. This process can take some time, but keep cooling and whipping the frosting until you have a thick and creamy consistency.

Lastly, whisk through some freshly grated nutmeg and do so to taste.

Stack your cakes with the thick and rich frosting and flurry with a final dusting of nutmeg and grated chocolate for that extra little finish – enjoy!

Bananas Foster Cake with Vanilla Ice-Cream Frosting

bfc12.jpg

You've been watching that bunch of bananas slowly turn brown for days now and you have absolutely no intention of eating them, so what do you do?! You make banana cake (bread) of course! Now, I have friends who are frivolous enough to buy a new car every year, but would never in a million years throw away an old banana! The idea seems preposterous and I couldn't agree more. Once again, I don't just make a simple, low fat cake, but then I think you'd all be upset if I didn't put some calorific twist on my recipe.

Bananas Foster is an incredibly simple, yet delicious dessert that hails from 1950's New Orleans. Typically, bananas were cooked in sugar, butter, cinnamon and then flambeed in rum before being served over vanilla ice cream. The result was a beautiful mix of warm spice, with caramel and bananas with a creamy twist - perfection! I wanted to bring these incredible flavours together in a cake, and the result is below!

Just a few notes before we get started.

Bananas. I mentioned that bananas that are on the turn work best, and I do stand by that. However, because you pre-cook the bananas, you can also get away with slightly newer fruit and even some that may still have a green tinge.

Dark rum only please - I tried white rum and it was disgusting!

Spices. Traditionally, cinnamon was used in the dessert and that was it. I like the warmth of nutmeg as well, but you can omit both, or add more spices - what about ginger?

Light brown sugar in the main body of the cake is a personal preference, but you can use white sugar if you like. I tried dark brown sugar, but I found the flavour very rich and the sponge a little too dense for my liking.

The frosting! I wanted to recreate the taste of vanilla ice cream in a frosting (buttercream) and this was as close as I could get it. Technically you would make a custard when making ice cream, so it seemed a natural starting block. The addition of gelatine seems odd, but it's the right amount to keep it sturdy enough to hold its own, without having a rubbery texture. If you can only get hold of powdered gelatine, then the equivalent weight is 6g or half a sachet.
This is a large quantity of frosting, but believe me it works well on so may other things that you won't mind having some spare.


INGREDIENTS

For the Bananas Foster:

3 large bananas
60g unsalted butter
150g dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tbsp dark rum

For the cake:

100g unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Grating of nutmeg
160g light brown sugar

For the frosting:

20g cornflour
¼ tsp salt
30g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 large egg yolks
225ml whole milk
150g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar

2 leaves of gelatine



METHOD

Grease and line a standard 2lb loaf tin and pre-heat the oven to 180°c.

In a large frying pan (or saucepan) over a medium heat, melt the butter, dark brown sugar and cinnamon until they turn to a bubbly syrup. Peel the bananas and cut up however you want (discs or strips). Add these to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, turning halfway through. Add the rum and cook for a further minute – it’s not necessary to flambé the rum, but you can do so if you don’t value your eyebrows!

Use a slotted spoon to remove the bananas and add these to a bowl along with the butter – reserve the cooking syrup. Mash everything together to melt the butter and to cool the bananas, before adding the eggs and beating together.

Weigh out all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and use a whisk to combine them. Pour in the wet ingredients and use the whisk (or spoon) to combine everything, without over mixing.

Pour this into the prepared tin and cook in the middle of the oven for anything from 45 minutes to 1 hour (my oven takes 50 minutes). Apologies for the vague times, but each oven differs. A skewer will come out clean once the cake is done.

Set aside to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out on to a rack to cool completely. Because of the long cooking time, I find that the outside can have a decent crust, so I wrap mine in cling overnight and use it the next day to make everything a bit softer.

For the frosting;

In a small saucepan, mix together the cornflour, salt, sugar, vanilla bean paste and egg yolks. Add the milk and place the pan on a medium heat. Bloom the gelatine in cold water whilst the custard is cooking.

whisk the custard gently over the heat for 5-10 minutes until it is thick and silky. It may appear lumpy at one point but keep going with the whisk and you will end up with a thick and delicious custard.

Squeeze the water from the gelatine, add it to the pan and return to the heat for a further minute, stirring continuously. Remove the custard from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Whisk together the butter and icing sugar until pale a fluffy. Add the cooled custard (it will be a solid lump) and whisk together until everything has combined and is nice and thick – an electric whisk or stand mixer is recommended for this.

Pipe the frosting over the cooled cake however you like, or you can just smear it on with a palette knife. Pour the cooled syrup over the top and serve.

Note: you can serve this warm as a dessert with the frosting (or actual ice cream) and syrup as sides.

Double Chocolate Cake with a Salted Cinnamon Caramel Buttercream

rsz_choc_cake.jpg

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

Steven_072.JPG

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

IMG_5256.jpg

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)!

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

This classic has been around the block a few times and has had more style changes than Madonna! However, we've all had a love affair with this sweet and warmly spiced treat at some point and if you were very unlucky, then you've had a bad one! Some recipes call for the very basics when listing the ingredients, whilst some will encourage the use of pineapple and or banana to increase the tang and moisture content. I can't say I'm a fan, but I insist that people do whatever works for them in their kitchen.