Saturday, 26 June 2010

Chocolate caramel cake

This cake was inspired by Suelle at Mainly Baking and an unopened jar of Bonne Maman caramel staring at me from the cupboard, asking to be used. Being a fellow Dan Lepard fan, she originally got the recipe from here, and decided to modify it - read about the cake she made here. I thought it looked really lovely, but went back to the original recipe and modified my own version from there. Hazelnuts were obviously a no-go for me, so I decided to use fine semolina instead. I think with hindsight this was not the best decision, I perhaps should have just substituted more flour. I don't think the semolina added anything to the flavour and I found the very slightly crunchy finish to the cake not particularly to my taste. I also added around 100g chocolate, chopped (I used 70% cocoa solids) to the cake and baked it in my bundt tin (love the bundt tin!). I greased the tin well and was pleased to find that the cake came out with only a little encouragement. One small part stuck, but this was where a whole load of chocolate bits had fallen to the bottom and there wasn't enough cake mixture to keep them in the cake, but it was only a tiny bit, and I quickly patted it back onto the cake! No one noticed ;-) Having not noted anything to the contrary I suspect I probably followed Suelle's baking time of around 45min at 180C/Gas 4.

I ran out of time to ice the cake (pitfalls of trying to do too much in one day!) and I think it really would have benefitted from the icing specified by Dan in the original recipe to accentuated the caramel component, or a chocolate glaze to bring out the chocolate flavour. Or both, if you want to be decadent. I don't really have a good chocolate glaze recipe though - if anyone could recommend one I'd be very grateful! It was a good cake, and had a nice flavour, but I didn't think it was anything special. I was also slightly disappointed that the caramel flavour didn't come through more, but suspect this would be rectified with the correct icing. Overall it was an enjoyable light caramel/chocolate cake that I think I'll probably repeat with modifications.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Blueberry lemon yogurt cake

After a couple of so-so efforts (a combination of many things - but mostly me not following the recipe as stated!) this one was really successful and will be made again! It just seems right at this time of year to use some of the abundance of fruit in baking (even though that pretty much negates any health benefit the fruit may have had in its original state!) and so I'm doing just that - this cake and the recent peach and redcurrant cake.

Again, I made this a couple of weeks ago and had no recollection of the recipe I used, but luckily found it scribbled on a post-it note, and it even had the temperature and time of baking on it - how organised am I!!! I do recall having blueberries to use and some greek yogurt that needed to be used too and so I searched for blueberry recipes on the BBC Good Food site, which led me to this fresh fruit cake recipe, which then led me to this vanilla cake recipe. However, I went my own way, as has become more common of late, and decided to incorporate some of the ideas to fit my own requirements. I didn't want such a large cake and to me, blueberry and lemon pair very well so I ended up with the recipe below. The best tip that I took from the summer celebration cake (in the second link) was the idea of mixing up all the batter, spreading half into the prepared cake tin and then folding the fruit into the remaining mixture before spreading this on top. I thought this was a great way of stopping all the berries sinking to the bottom of the cake, and you can see from the pictures that there is a pretty good distribution throughout the cake.

Blueberry lemon yogurt cake
125g softened butter
150g caster sugar
175g self raising flour
100g greek yogurt (I used full fat - yum!)
3 eggs
grated zest of one lemon
100g blueberries (although a few more would have been good)

For the icing
Approximately 100g icing sugar
Lemon juice (from the zested lemon) as necessary

- Grease and line a deep loose bottomed 8" cake tin. Preheat the oven to Gas 4/180C.
- Cream the butter and sugar until pale and well combined.
- Add the flour, yogurt, eggs and beat until well combined and smooth.
- Add the lemon zest and mix in well to distribute.
(I don't add the lemon zest with the other ingredients because I tend to find that it wraps itself around the beaters of my electric mixer and I have to remember to remove it into the mixture specifically instead of just banging the beaters on the side of the bowl)
- Spread half of the mixture into the tin. It doesn't look like there is very much, but it will cover the base.
- Gently mix the majority of the blueberries into the remaining cake mixture, holding a few back to sprinkle over the top.
- Spread the blueberry mixture over the mixture already in the tin, fairly carefully so as not to mix it all up and level off. Distribute the remaining blueberries over the top of the cake and place in the oven.
- Bake for 45 minutes, although you may want to check a little earlier to see that it isn't browning too much. As always, it may take a little longer to cook, it's done when a cake tester/wooden cocktail stick comes out clean (but mind the blueberries!).
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
- For the icing, mix the icing sugar with lemon juice to your desired drizzling consistency. You might want to start with less than 100g icing sugar, I have a vague recollection that it made too much. Drizzle. Artistically if you can/want, or not if you're me!!!


I really enjoyed this cake - the texture was soft and moist and the flavour predominantly lemon, but when you bit into a blueberry you get a lovely blueberry burst of flavour. The icing drizzle added a little sweetness, but not too much and the lemon complemented the cake flavour well. Went well at work, but to be honest I wish I'd kept more for me! To be made again!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Chocolate Berry Cake

This cake was one of Dan Lepard's recent Saturday columns in the Guardian, and when I saw the picture, I was determined to try it as soon as possible (which I did, I'm just behind with posting!). I couldn't resist the combination of jam and chocolate and liked the idea of beating more jam into the icing too - sounded like a good way to give a flavour boost to the icing.

I didn't want a full 8" cake, so decided to halve the recipe and bake it in a deep 6" tin, having done the calculations to tell me that if anything, this would make the cake very slightly shallower. I therefore decided that the cooking time would be about the same. Unfortunately as you can see from the above photo this wasn't really the case. Yes, it's not a great photo, but the top was quite dark, as were the sides towards the top. However, this didn't matter too much as the cake had conveniently cracked around the outside so I decided to lop off the burnt top and discard it before proceeding with the icing. This also had the advantage of providing a more even top for the icing. My fault for halving Dan's recipe, and for not checking sooner.

There we go, all better with lush icing cascading down the sides. I had thought that the inclusion of yogurt and golden syrup in the cake would make for a moist cake, but this didn't seem to be the case. I don't think this was entirely my fault for overcooking the cake slightly, because Suelle over at Mainly Baking also made the cake and she found it on the dry side. However, I didn't share her lack of icing problem. This could be because although I started with the right amount of jam and chocolate I just added icing sugar and water until I felt I had a sufficient quantity of icing to cover the cake thickly and hide the 'overdone' parts and any remaining cracks! I guess this also explains why I couldn't really taste the jam in the icing, although I did use a good quality raspberry jam.

This isn't a cake I'll make again because although I enjoyed eating it (as did my colleagues!) it was on the dry side and the raspberry jam just didn't come through as well as I had hoped. On the plus side, it lasts well in a cake tin and is a great robust cake for carrying about - there is no fear of it crumbling into nothingness in your bag, so a good one for a lunch on the move.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Fruity summer berry cake

Hmm, I struggled to find a title for this. The original recipe is from the Waitrose magazine, and can be found here, titled Summer fruit and almond cake. The picture in the magazine looked so inviting that I couldn't resist making it, hoping to speed the arrival of summer in my corner of the country and the inclusion of a packet of defrosted frozen summer fruits reminded me of the stash of fruit in my freezer. Rather than use a mixture of summer fruits, I decided on exclusively redcurrants and then decided to use a couple of relatively ripe (unusual for this time of year here!) peaches I'd picked up in the supermarket on a whim. Peach and redcurrant seemed an appealing combination, the slightly tart redcurrants counteracting the sweetness of the cake and the juicy peach adding texture. Mmm, I could just taste it!

The recipe was easy to put together, it's one of those where lining the tin is more hassle than making the actual cake and it would have been even quicker if I'd just used a bag of frozen fruit - no chopping of peaches then! I obviously had to change the recipe a little to sub out the almonds (although I'd definitely recommend leaving them in with this fruit combo - peaches and almonds are often paired together and although I'm not in a position to pass judgement, I'm sure everyone else isn't wrong). Instead of using 150g self raising flour and 100g ground almonds, I used 175g self raising flour and 75g fine semolina. I used just over 200g of redcurrants, and 2 small/medium sized peaches, just on the verge of ripeness, but not dripping with juice.

The photo above isn't great anyway, but the cake did catch a little round the edges - I think it was the juices of the fruit caramelising on the outside of the tin, so I'm not sure what I could do about it next time. The actual cake wasn't overcooked.

I think next time, I might be tempted to remove the berries from the stalks whilst still frozen - they made a bit of a mess coming off once defrosted, and I think they might have kept their shape better if they'd defrosted individually.

This was a really delicious cake - I love the inclusion of fresh seasonal fruit in cakes - bursts of peachy sweetness and slightly tart redcurrant, just as I had imagined. The cake was moist and more-ish, it's just a shame there isn't any of it left!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Cherry Cake - perfect for a picnic

I think this cake has to be one of my strongest associations with my childhood - there was often cake in the cake tin, and this cake, along with flapjack (always referred to as 'crunchie' in my house) and tea loaf, was a regular feature. A quick slice on arriving home from school, a sneaky chunk late at night before bed, taken on a picnic to be carried to a (relatively) remote location, this cake is perfect for all occasions. The appeal is many-fold; the cake is easy to make and requires no attention after baking - this isn't a cake to decorate, the lovely bright cherries are visually attractive and the cake is enhanced by the juicy moistness of the cherries.

There are myriad recipes out there for cherry cake, but this is the one I always come back to. Delia recommends including a proportion of ground almonds to help prevent the cherries from sinking to the bottom of the loaf (no good for me!). This recipe by James Martin, published in a recent BBC GoodFood magazine has all the cherries at the bottom in spite of having ground almonds in it - the tip at the bottom suggests that whole cherries will sink, whereas those halved or quartered will 'float' better. J is adamant that the way to make the cherries distribute evenly is to wash them of their syrupy juices before adding them to the mixture. And her cherries are never always stuck at the bottom! This is the method I use; washing them first and I generally then cut them in half. And since I'm actually writing this as the cake is baking I don't know what is happening to the cherries - the suspense is killing me!

Edited (with relief!) to say obviously, from the photos my cherries have stayed suspended, woo-hoo!

Cherry cake (adapted from an old Good Housekeeping cookery book)

225g self raising flour

110g soft margarine (I used this as J always did, I might now use butter, but wanted to keep to the true taste of my childhood - this has the advantage that in cooler weather you don't have to wait around for butter to soften)

110g caster sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

60-105mL/4-7tbsp milk (I used 7tbsp this time)

200g glace cherries, washed and halved

- Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Grease and line the base and long sides of a 2lb (900g) loaf tin.
- Weigh the flour and Stork into a bowl and rub the fat into the flour until you have a coarse breadcrumb texture. Add the sugar and stir to mix.
- In a jug, beat the egg with the milk (start with the smaller amount of milk if you're not sure) and vanilla extract if using (I did this time, because I like the flavour of vanilla, J never does, partly because vanilla flavouring was rather more common than genuine extract until relatively recently, and we all know the one is not a patch on the other....)
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and beat well with a spatula to mix. The mixture should be fairly slack, add a little more milk if you think necessary.
- Fold in the washed, halved cherries and pour/spoon into the prepared loaf tin.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Slice, admire and enjoy!

Ah, cherries the whole way through. This was popular, and disappeared fairly quickly.

J, I now have the recipe written down and won't need to keep phoning you for it!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Owl faced Swedish cardamom rolls

How on earth could I resist making something as gorgeous looking as these lovely buns. Two of the best bakers and bloggers I know, Joanna @ Zebbakes and Celia @ Fig jam and lime cordial, have both made these recently - Joanna first and then Celia added an excellent step by step guide to shaping the rolls. I suggest you check out both of their posts, Joanna's here and Celia's here to inspire you and give you guidance. And also for some better pictures!

Sadly I don't have Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros (although I do have two of her other books and haven't yet managed to peruse them properly) although I may have to get it now. I couldn't look up the method for making the dough, so I literally mixed all the ingredients together and left them for two hours! No kneading required! I'm not sure if this was right, but perhaps Celia or Joanna will be able to comment. There didn't seem to be very much movement in the dough, even after two hours, but it wasn't particularly warm in my house and I always forget how subtle the growth can be (i.e. I've already forgotten the size of the dough when I left it!). However, the yeast was obviously active as they proved well and sprang in the oven.

I halved the recipe and got 15 rolls from it - they're pretty small. I also wanted to try one of the variations Joanna suggests at the end of her post. So I halved the dough again and added about 1/2tsp vanilla extract to one lot of dough, and the traditional cardamom (about 1/2 tsp ground in the pestle and mortar) to the other lot. When it came to rolling out, I used a sugar/cocoa powder (about 3g cocoa powder, 15g sugar) mixture for the vanilla portion, and the cinnamon/sugar flavouring for the cardamom dough. I forgot to spread the dough with butter for the chocolate and vanilla version but remembered for the other. The butter makes the filling stick much better to the dough, I'd recommend it! I also entirely forgot to egg wash the rolls or sprinkle with sugar and I wish I had remembered because the sugar would have added a nice crunch.

The prettiest one!

I will have to make these again to try and get the dough thinner so that my eyes have more circles - most of them are rather lopsided and not particularly owl like, but they all taste good! It feels really decadent to have chocolate for breakfast, but really yummy too! Because the dough is made with soft rather than strong white flour, the finished texture is slightly more cakey than bready, different but nice. I wasn't sure if I'd like the cardamom, but in combination with the cinnamon it's really good. Many thanks to both Joanna and Celia for introducing me to these.


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