Vanilla

Drizzly Mess Cake

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You may be wondering why I've decided to call this recipe Drizzly Mess, but the answer is very simple. This summery delight is a mash up between a lemon drizzle cake and an Eton mess; two of my favourite desserts! I make no apologies for the name, it is what it is and if you make it inappropriate, then that's your mind and not mine!

I know that Eton Mess is traditionally made with strawberries, but I've always preferred the tartness of raspberries to cut through that rich cream and sweet meringue.

Just a few notes from me.

The sponge. This is a classic sponge mix with lemon zest, so feel free to use your own recipe if it makes you more comfortable. Please do remember to keep an eye on the sponges as they will bake depending on your oven.

Raspberries. If you just want to use the raspberries to make the drizzling syrup, then you can use frozen (and defrosted) if they're not in season. Please also feel free to use strawberries, if you want to remain loyal to the classic Eton Mess brand.

Clotted cream. A decadent luxury, but not essential if you don't want to use it. Just increase the cream, sugar and vanilla slightly to make up the difference.

Lemon curd. I don't insist on anything when it comes to baking, but I would strongly urge you to try this little addition. By half folding the lemon curd through the cream, you get delicious little pockets of tart sweetness that balance beautifully with the other flavours.

Meringue kisses. Lastly, not a necessity, but oh so cute! If you don't want to make your own meringue, then by all means please buy some; I don't judge anyone in pursuit of sweet happiness, however they get there!


INGREDIENTS

For the Cake:

300g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
Zest of 4 large lemons
6 large eggs
300 self-raising flour
100ml whole milk – if necessary

For the Drizzle:

Juice of 4 large lemons
400g raspberries
100g caster sugar
2-3 tbsp Chambord liqueur

For the Filling:

300ml double cream
225g clotted cream
2 heaped dessert spoons of icing sugar
2tsp vanilla bean paste
2 dessert spoons of lemon curd

For the Meringue Kisses:

2 large egg whites
120g caster sugar
1-2 tsp peppermint extract



METHOD

Grease and line the bottom and sides of two 8” x 2” cake tins and preheat the oven to 180°c.

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time, scraping down the sides between each one.

Sift the flour into a bowl and use a fork to stir through the lemon zest. Fold this into the cake mix in two parts, being careful not to over mix.

Divide the mix equally between the two prepared cake tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 30-40 minutes or until springy to the touch. Please watch your sponges, as oven temperatures do vary depending on the type and age.

Once baked, leave the cakes in their tins whilst you prepare the drizzle.

Add 200g of the raspberries, sugar and the juice of the 4 lemons to a food processor – blitz for 10 seconds. Strain the mix through a sieve (scrape with a spoon) into a saucepan and warm through on a medium heat for 3-5 minutes, being careful not to boil. Add the Chambord if you want to and set the mix aside for a few minutes to cool slightly.

Using a chop stick, or something as equally thick, poke lots of holes in the two warm sponges. Carefully pour the drizzle all over the two sponges, making sure that it goes in the little holes. Allow the cakes to cool further before carefully transferring them to a rack to cool completely. The sponges will be very soft and moist, so I recommend flipping them out of their tins on to a plate before inverting them on to the cooling rack.

To make the filling, simply add the cream, sugar and vanilla to a large bowl and whisk into soft peaks. Scrape the very top layer off the top of the clotted cream (save for a scone) and fold the rest into the whipped cream mix. Finally stir through some lemon curd, but not too much – the pockets of lemon are a nice tangy touch.

For the kisses (if you want to make them), Whisk the 2 egg whites in a grease free bowl until they reach the soft peak stage. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, ensuring it has been whisked in before adding the next. Continue to whisk on high until the sugar has completely dissolved – rub some between your finger and thumb to feel for any graininess. Add the peppermint extract and taste for strength (try to avoid toothpaste).

Heat the oven to 110°c and line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat, or a piece of baking paper stuck down with dots of the meringue mix at each corner.

Transfer the meringue to a piping bag and cut a ½ inch hole in the top. Pipe little mounds of the meringue onto the baking sheet about and inch apart. Alternatively, you can spoon little mounds with a dessert spoon.

Bake for 1 hour and then turn the oven off, leaving the meringues in the closed oven. After 30 minutes, remove the meringues from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble, lay one of the sponges on a serving plate, pipe or spoon over half the cream and dot half of the remaining raspberries. If you want to you can crush up some of the meringue kisses and sprinkle these in the middle – bear in mind that they will dissolve into the cream after a while, so probably best not to if you’re not eating this immediately.

Lay the second sponge on top and repeat the process, adding the little kisses as a final flurry of fancy.

Serve as soon as you can but keep in the fridge (covered) to keep the cream from spoiling.

Enjoy!

Swiss Peaks Cake

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I suppose the first thing I ought to do is explain the name behind this cake. Swiss peaks relates to my favourite chocolate bar; it is triangular in shape, comes from Switzerland and can be found in airport duty free in various sizes. The flavours of chocolate, honey and almond pair so beautifully, that it seemed fitting to get them into a cake.


Just a few notes;


The honey I used in this recipe was mild in colour, but a dark Greek one will only make the flavour stronger, which isn't a bad thing! Please try to use ethically sourced honey - our bees are the knees!

Once again, I'm using dark and regular sugar to achieve a semi-caramel flavour. You can use either or, but the flavour will change quite dramatically.

Chocolate. I'm keen for everyone to make food that they would want to eat, regardless of what the recipe states. Because of this I always add the disclaimer with chocolate that you can eat whatever gives you pleasure. I like half dark and half milk chocolate for balance, but you can swing either way depending on what you prefer.

This cake is extra special because it was tasted and approved by the cast of 'Admissions' being shown at Trafalgar Studios - their faces say it all



INGREDIENTS

For the Cake:

250g unsalted butter
250g clear honey
50g dark brown sugar
50g caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g self-raising flour
50g ground almonds

For the Ganache:

200g milk chocolate
200g dark chocolate
200g double cream
100g clear honey
100g unsalted butter
(300g double cream optional)

For the Praline:

150g granulated sugar
75g flaked almonds


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METHOD

Preheat a fan oven to 140°c and grease and line two 8” cake tins.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter, honey and sugar together. Once melted and combined, increase the temperature and boil for 1-2 minutes ensuring the mix doesn’t burn.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool completely. I immerse the pan in a sink of cold water to speed up this process.

Crack the eggs into a small bowl or jug and beat lightly with the vanilla. Stir the eggs into the cooled honey mixture and mix thoroughly.

Sift the flour and almonds into a large bowl, make a well in the centre and pour the honey and egg mixture in. Stir this with a wooden spoon or spatula until all the lumps have disappeared.

Divide the batter between the two tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes, or until the cakes are nicely browned and a skewer comes out clean. Let the cakes to cool in their tins for 10 minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack and allow them to come to room temperature.

There are various ways to make ganache, but the method I use reduces the risk of the chocolate seizing and going clumpy. Chop the chocolate into small pieces, or you can use a food processor if you don’t mind the noise. Heat the cream, honey and butter in a saucepan until it is just below simmering point, stirring occasionally. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and pour the hot cream mix over the top. Leave the mix for 5 minutes before stirring thoroughly to remove all the lumps.

Allow this mix to come to room temperature, at which point it will be perfect to spread over the cake as it is. If you want to stretch the ganache a little further and to lighten the texture, then whip another 300g of double cream to soft peaks and fold gently into the chocolate. This is an optional step, but worth a try if you want to cover the whole cake instead of just filling it and stacking it.

For the praline, place the almonds on a baking sheet and toast them in the 140°c oven for 10-15 minutes. Heat the sugar in a heavy based saucepan with a tablespoon of water. Swirl the pan until the sugar has dissolved, but do not stir. Allow the sugar to caramelise in the pan over a medium heat, cleaning the sides with a wet pastry brush – this will take 10-15 minutes.

When the caramel turns a deep amber colour, remove it from the heat and stir through the toasted almonds. Pour this mixture onto a heat proof tray lined with either a silicone mat or a sheet of baking parchment. Allow this to cool completely before smashing to shards and dust in between a clean tea towel with a rolling pin or similarly heavy object. If you’re not using this immediately, then store in a cool and dry place in an airtight box – not the fridge.

To build the cake, stack the two layers with half the ganache in the middle and half on top, sprinkling the praline on each layer. If you’ve folded the whipped cream into the ganache (shown in the pictures), then you’ll have enough the cover the whole cake. Good luck trying not to eat the praline before it goes in and on the cake! Enjoy.

Bananas Foster Cake with Vanilla Ice-Cream Frosting

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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.