Banana and chocolate spice cake

Banana and chocolate spice cake
I wonder if there’s anything else you should do with overripe bananas other than put them in a cake? There probably is, but baking a cake is always going to be my first choice. I ended up making this banana and chocolate spice cake after ending up with three very ripe bananas earlier in the week, and it’s so good!

The recipe is from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen, which I picked up for mere pennies in a sale a couple of months ago. This is the first recipe I’ve tried from the book, and it went like a dream.

Banana and chocolate spice cake
The cake is basically your typical banana cake with spices such as cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. The recipe says you can also add a handful of chopped nuts, but I opted for some chopped milk chocolate instead.

I also substituted the creme fraiche with soured cream, as that was all I had in (and I know from experience that soured cream is a truly magical cake ingredient!), as well as swapping the light muscovado sugar for light brown sugar.

I had to leave the cake in the oven for close to an hour rather than 45 minutes as called for in the recipe, but it was perfectly baked when it did come out.

Banana and chocolate spice cake
Believe me when I say that this is a truly scrumptious cake. The spices and banana go together perfectly (especially the cardamom) and the pockets of chocolate take the cake to the next level.

I’ve mostly been having this cold, but last night I tried it warm with ice cream and that was delicious too! I do have one (nice) problem though: it’s such a big cake that I’m struggling to get through it all by myself. I would recommend baking this when you have a crowd to feed!

The recipe

An adapted version can be found here. To make the same version as mine, make the following substitutions:

  • Swap the golden caster sugar with normal caster sugar
  • Swap the spelt flour with plain flour
  • Swap the unsalted butter for salted butter
  • Swap the creme fraiche for soured cream
  • Swap the nuts for 65g of chopped milk chocolate

Oat, blueberry and honey muffins

Oat, blueberry and honey muffins Now this is a lovely recipe for when you want something that’s sweet, (sort of) good for you and quick to make. These oat, blueberry and honey muffins are really easy to whip up and are delicious – plus there’s no butter in these, just oil and milk instead, so you can fool yourself into thinking you can have more than just one!

Oat, blueberry and honey muffins
The recipe is much like most other muffin recipes – make up the dry and wet mixes, then carefully combine them without overmixing. The original recipe called for raisins, but I replaced these with blueberries as I happened to have some in the fridge.

Oat, blueberry and honey muffins
I also increased the amount of sugar in the mix, as blueberries aren’t quite as sweet as raisins. You end up with a rather wet mix, but that’s apparently what it should be like! Cue lots of messiness as I attempted to spoon the mix into the muffin cases…

Oat, blueberry and honey muffins
The muffins baked in 20 minutes, but I think I would give them a couple of minutes longer next time, due to the extra moisture provided by the fresh fruit. Still, these are scrumptious – not too sweet and lovely and purple inside!

Oat, blueberry and honey muffins
The original recipe says to have these for lunch with cheese or on their own with some butter and extra honey, both of which I might try over the next couple of days. If there are any left after today, that is!

Oat, blueberry and honey muffins
The recipe

Makes 12 muffins

  • 250g plain flour
  • 85g porridge oats
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 100g blueberries
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 200ml milk
  • 75ml vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 5 tbsp honey

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6/fan 180C. Line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases, or butter the holes directly.
  2. Mix the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and blueberries together.
  3. In another bowl, mix the eggs, milk, oil, sugar and honey.
  4. Add the wet mix to the flour mix and stir until just combined. The mix should be fairly runny.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until risen and golden on top.
  6. Leave the muffins to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve alone, with cheese or buttered with honey.

Lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam

Lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam
Well, it’s been a little while since my last post. I haven’t really had the time to bake much recently; I went to Paris the other week (it was amazing) but, unfortunately, my new job didn’t quite work out, so I’m now a freelance copywriter and on the hunt for a new permanent role. It’s all been a bit unexpected and fairly stressful, but I’m past the worst now – so much so that I made this rather lovely lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam earlier in the week!

The recipe is by Chetna Makan of GBBO fame. You may remember that I’m a huge fan of hers and that I successfully made her masala chai baklava a few months ago. This traybake was a tad easier to make and I got to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes in the process – throwing way more coconut into the mix than the recipe calls for.

Lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam
The recipe is really easy to follow. Just make a basic cake mix, stir lemon zest and dessicated coconut into it, bake and then top the cooled cake with jam and more dessicated coconut. The recipe says to use raspberry jam, which is the classic choice when it comes to coconut, but I didn’t have any and used strawberry jam instead.

Amazingly for me, the cake baked perfectly in the time specified by the recipe. It’s a miracle! I’m a fairly impatient person and found it difficult waiting for the cake to cool so I could top it and eat it, but I just about managed it. The resulting cake was delicious – the sponge itself wasn’t overly sweet, but the jam balanced that out and the tang of the lemon zest was beautiful. Just what I needed after an insane few weeks!

Lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam
I would heartily recommend this cake if you’re looking for something really easy to knock up for teatime. I can imagine that it would be a lovely pudding served warm with custard, too!

Lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam
The recipe

Can be found on the Food Network website here.

Dorset apple cake

Dorset apple cake
I’ve had some Bramley apples lying around for a while – I’d bought some to make mincemeat with, but Asda delivered way more than I needed due to their weird substitution rules. I recently acquired a fancy tarte tatin dish thanks to the folks at my old place of work, but I reluctantly decided that I couldn’t very well make a 30 cm tarte tatin just for myself and still keep to a post-Christmas sensible eating regime. Instead, I made this Dorset apple cake.

It’s a delightfully simple recipe (by Edd Kimber of GBBO fame) and contains raisins and cinnamon as well as the apple, making for some lovely flavours. You can serve the cake warm from the oven with custard or ice cream, or have it cold at teatime – it’s equally delicious either way.

Dorset apple cake
The only trouble I had with the cake was (as always) the baking time. Perhaps I didn’t cut the apple into small enough chunks, but my Dorset apple cake took well over an hour to properly cook through, as opposed to 30-40 minutes! Still, it meant that the house smelled rather deliciously of cooking apples for quite a while, which was very pleasant.

The cake was a little fragile while still warm, so if you make this do be careful when releasing it from the tin and slicing it up. It does become slightly sturdier when it’s completely cool, though.

Dorset apple cake
I made the cake yesterday and have so far had it warm with custard and cold on its own. I have one (big) slice left after distributing the rest to my mum, which I’m going to try warm with ice cream in the interests of trying all possible combinations so I can decide which is best. The things I do for this blog! :o)

The recipe

Can be found on the BBC Good Food website here. I used raisins instead of sultanas.

Mincemeat flapjacks

Mincemeat flapjacks
Happy new year to you all! Up until yesterday I hadn’t baked since I made my final batch of mince pies for 2014 on Christmas Eve, but I still had some mincemeat left over, so I decided to make these mincemeat flapjacks to use up the last of it.

If you’re well and truly sick of mincemeat by now, this probably isn’t the recipe for you. However, I have to say these flapjacks aren’t particularly Christmas-y, despite the mincemeat. I think it’s the oats that dilute the festive flavours somewhat, which is perhaps wise in early January.

Mincemeat flapjacks
I found this recipe, which I followed to a certain degree, but I adjusted the quantities to suit what I had (see my recipe below). The flapjacks were a doddle to make (like most flapjacks!) so I imagine this would be a nice recipe to follow with the kids, if you have any who are partial to baking!

If you’re on a January diet, each flapjack is only 174 calories, so they won’t derail you too much…

Mincemeat flapjacks
The recipe

Makes 16

  • 200g mincemeat
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 300g porridge oats
  • 50g glace cherries, halved

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Line a 20cm x 20cm square tun with baking paper.
  2. Place the mincemeat, butter and syrup in a saucepan and melt gently over a low heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the oats, making sure that they’re well coated, then stir in the cherries.
  4. Transfer the mixture to the tin and press it down with a spatula, making sure the mix gets into the corners is and is level on top.
  5. Bake for 25 minutes or until the oats start to brown around the edges.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to completely cool in the tin, then slice into 16 squares.

Sticky ginger cake with ginger fudge icing

Sticky ginger cake with ginger fudge icing
News: I left my job on Friday. I decided to say goodbye to my much-loved colleagues at Axonn by bringing in a bake a day in my last week. Because, you know, I like to keep busy. My week of baking culminated in this magnificent sticky ginger cake with ginger fudge icing, which is probably my all-time favourite ginger cake.

I don’t have any other pictures for you other than the above as blogging was the last thing on my mind last week, but hopefully you can get an idea of the lusciousness of this cake from that single photo. The cake is a beautifully moist sponge studded with pieces of stem ginger (I also threw in some crystallised ginger as I didn’t have quite enough stem ginger) topped with a decadent icing flavoured with syrup from the stem ginger jar. The cake is also soaked in the syrup for extra gingery-ness!

I actually didn’t get to have a piece as I wanted to save as much as possible for everyone at work, but I was very reliably informed that the cake was ace. Which definitely matches up with my memories of the two other times I’ve made this cake!

The recipe is from BBC Good Food 101 Cakes & Bakes – someone kindly posted it on Mumsnet if you fancy having a go. You can use dark muscovado or dark brown sugar instead of molasses sugar, if you can’t find it in the shops. I also make half the icing as you do end up with A LOT.

As for the other bakes from last week, here’s the line-up:

Mince pies (Monday)

Mince pies (Monday)

Porter cake (Thursday)

Porter cake (Thursday)

I’m going from working in an office of 30-odd people to precisely 3 (including myself) when I start my new job tomorrow, so we’ll see whether I can keep up my baking efforts with so few guinea pigs to test my bakes on! I think I’ve managed to fulfill my new year’s resolution of baking more this year, so I’m probably entitled to slow down a little come 2015… but we’ll see whether that actually happens!

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies
I came across this recipe for Ferrero Rocher brownies a few days ago, and couldn’t stop thinking about it. There’s something rather amazing about the thought of a squidgy, decadent brownie with a Ferrero Rocher in the middle! Yesterday, I decided to just go for it and make them, albeit with a little Christmassy twist – hence these chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies.

I adapted a trusty brownie recipe I use a lot to make the cake itself, adding the zest of an orange and replacing 100g of the dark chocolate with some Milka Noisette chocolate I just so happened to have in. I also threw in some chopped hazelnuts at the last minute. Then I followed the suggestion of the recipe I found and put half the mix in the tin, studded it with the Ferrero Rochers, then put the rest of the mix on top.

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies, pre-topping and baking

The brownies took a while to cook – I would say about an hour overall. But they were still beautifully moist and not in the least bit dry when they came out of the oven.

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies
I couldn’t wait for them to cool! When they finally did, I was in chocolate heaven. The orange zest is absolutely lovely with the chocolate, and the chopped hazelnuts and decadent middle add a nice bit of texture. These really are brownies for the serious chocoholic in your life, and could also make a wonderful Christmas treat thanks to the festive orange. You could also omit the chopped hazelnuts and use a dark chocolate orange in place of some or all of the chocolate – the choice is yours!

While I’ve reserved a few of these for myself, I’m going to take the rest with me when I go to visit my boyfriend in a little while – he absolutely loves both chocolate orange and hazelnuts, so I’m thinking these will be a big hit!

Chocolate orange Ferrero Rocher brownies
The recipe

Makes 16 brownies

  • 250g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids)
  • 100g hazelnut-flavoured milk chocolate (or use more dark chocolate, or orange-flavoured chocolate, or whatever you like!)
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • grated zest of 1 orange
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250g light brown sugar
  • 85g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g chopped toasted hazelnuts (optional)
  • 16 Ferrero Rocher chocolates

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/160C/140C fan. Grease and line a 20cm square tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl set above a pan of simmering water. Stir in the zest, set aside and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Whisk the eggs until pale then add the sugar and whisk again thoroughly.
  4. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
  5. Sift in the flour and baking powder, add the hazelnuts if using, and stir until just combined.
  6. Pour just over half of the mix into the tin, embed the Ferrero Rochers into the mix then pour over the rest of the brownie mix.
  7. Bake for about 1 hour, checking the brownies after 40 mins in case your oven is better than mine!
  8. Once the brownies look set on top, remove them from the oven and leave them in the tin to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing them up.

Ginger nut biscuits

Ginger nut biscuits
Well, hello! It’s been a while since my last post, but I’ve finally got my act together to blog about these rather stupendous ginger nut biscuits I baked yesterday.

I have been baking – I’ve actually made three (!) batches of mince pies since I last posted! As I’ve already said pretty much everything there is to say about them, though, I won’t subject you to more of the same.

Back to the ginger nuts. Felicity Cloake of the Guardian wrote a column earlier in the week with a recipe for her perfect ginger nut biscuits, based on extensive research as always and with copious amounts of spices, including two types of ginger, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg. I do love a good ginger nut or five (with compulsory tea dunking) and just so happened to have all of the ingredients in, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

The recipe starts off with a pretty basic method for making biscuit dough. I used my stand mixer, which took a lot of the legwork (or should that be armwork?) out of things. I hit a stumbling block when it came to the rolling and chilling, though.

Ginger nut biscuits

Ginger nut biscuits, pre-baking

The recipe calls for the dough to be rolled out to 1cm thick before being wrapped in clingfilm and refrigerated for a couple of hours. Now, the thought of attempting to wrap a large, fragile piece of flat dough in pesky clingfilm worried me somewhat, so I thought I’d split the dough in two to make things simpler. It was still a faff, though, and the dough kept breaking. Next time I’ll cut out the biscuits first and chill them on the trays to make things a bit simpler.

It was plain sailing from then on. Baking was straightforward and the biscuits were indeed baked to perfection after 25 mins (although you can’t really tell because the dough is already dark by this point, and doesn’t change colour in the oven). This is only if they stay on the top shelf for the duration – I did a bit of swapping of trays across the top and middle shelf to try to get an even bake, but ended up with some slightly softer ones – ideally, the biscuits should have a bit of a snap to them.

Ginger nut biscuits
Regardless of whether they were properly baked or not, the biscuits ended up being absolutely delicious. I found them to be a bit spicier than your average shop-bought ginger nut, which is excellent, and perfect for dunking in a good strong brew. The crystallised ginger really makes these biscuits special, and well worth the effort if you have a craving for a good quality ginger biscuit. All in all, I would most certainly make these again!

Ginger nut biscuits
The recipe

Can be found on the Guardian website here: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2014/nov/20/how-to-make-perfect-ginger-nut-biscuits

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake
As mentioned in my last post, I had to spend a good deal of time breaking into a hefty pumpkin for the sake of 250g of flesh. I had much, much more left over, so I poked around the internet looking for a recipe ideal for using it up until I came across this pumpkin and coconut loaf cake recipe.

You can guess why I seized upon it – yep, it was the coconut that did it. Most of the other recipes I’d looked at were variations on pumpkin pie/bread/pasta in predictable flavour combinations, so this stood out to me for being a little different. And for containing coconut.

One thing I should stress straight away is just how MASSIVE this loaf cake ended up being. There’s no indication of the sheer size of it in the method, but the ingredients list should have tipped me off – 600g of pumpkin? 500g of self-raising flour? Yep, massive. Luckily, it all fit in my standard sized loaf tin (900g/2lb), although there was a fair bit of ‘puffing’ over the sides. I scoff at the recipe’s statement that the loaf serves six people. Six very very hungry people, maybe!

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake

LOOK AT HOW BIG IT IS

During the prep, I did find that the chopped pumpkin wasn’t cooked through within the time specified in the recipe, so I whacked the heat all the way up to gas mark 3 and left it in for a bit longer, which did the trick. Ditto when it came to baking the cake – there was SO MUCH MIX that it took far longer than 50 minutes to cook. I would say it was close to 1.5 hours when it was done (and I had to cover the top with foil to stop it burning at around the 1 hour mark).

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake mix

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake mix

I thought it was a little odd that the recipe calls for relatively little coconut compared with all the pumpkin and flour, but I actually stuck to the recipe for once in my coconut-obsessed life and didn’t chuck in loads more. I should have gone with my instincts, as the coconut flavour ended up being rather subtle for my tastes.

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake

Still, it was a delicious cake, especially with all the spices. I love baking with cloves and truly appreciated the delicious smells wafting through the house while the cake was in the oven!

I would make this again if I ended up with a ridiculous amount of pumpkin to use up again, but I would probably put in at least 75g of coconut, just to make sure…

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake
The recipe

Can be found on the BBC Food website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pumpkin_and_coconut_loaf_07996

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies
We had our office Halloween bake sale yesterday, and I was still dithering over what to make up until last weekend, when I saw these rather lovely-looking spiced pumpkin brownie pies on Sunday Brunch.

I have to admit that I do roll my eyes a little whenever I see a recipe combining two or more things that should really be separate – anyone who’s on Pinterest will know what I mean when I say something like ‘salted caramel brownie cookie cake pie with muffin buttercream’. It’s just overkill and, as much as I like a calorific snack every now and then, those kinds of recipes really do sound like a heart attack waiting to happen.

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies 7
However, I was rather taken with these pies, particularly the spiced shortcrust pastry and the pumpkin puree combined with maple syrup. The recipe was cooked on Sunday Brunch by a chocolatier, so his main focus was on the brownie topping and how to get that exactly right with the best chocolate. He also made a praline with pumpkin seeds to go with the pies, but I didn’t – which I’m rather glad about, because I found the pies time-consuming on their own!

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies

Spiced pastry

I started off by making the pastry the night before doing the rest of the legwork. It’s a rather rich pastry with egg yolks, so it seemed a little too ‘wet’ before I put it in the fridge. However, it was perfectly alright when I took it out of the fridge the next day. The recipe on the Channel 4 website doesn’t tell you when to put the spices in, but I just added them with the flour. I didn’t have any mace so I used ground ginger instead.

Pumpkin puree for spiced pumpkin brownie pies

Pumpkin puree

The next day, I *deep breath* hacked apart an entire pumpkin just to get 250g of flesh, roasted it, pureed it with maple syrup, reduced it in pan to get rid of the excess liquid, made the brownie mix, rolled out the pastry, cut out discs to go into a muffin tin, spooned the puree in the bottom of each pie then added the brownie mix on top. And then I baked the pies. *and exhale*

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies
The pastry looks rather thick in the pictures here, but I actually ended up with enough pastry for 14 pies rather than just 12, so imagine how many pies I would have had if I’d rolled it out any thinner!

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies
One thing I was surprised about was the lack of a raising agent in the brownie mix, but it was actually fine and I didn’t end up with any horribly hard brownie crusts. Phew. I used some posh chocolate with 85% cocoa solids from Asda.

Brownie mix for spiced pumpkin brownie pies

Brownie mix

I thought there was a good amount of pumpkin puree in each pie, but after baking the weight of the brownie crusts flattened the pumpkin layer considerably. I think I would make more of the pumpkin puree next time, and less of the brownie mix (I had some left over even after filling 14 pies with it – but I didn’t let it go to waste!).

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies

Can you see the pumpkin layer?

The baking time specified in the recipe seemed about right. I’m not particularly experienced with pies so I found it hard to tell when they were done, but I trusted that the slight browning around the edges was a good sign! I’m not sure whether they would have passed the ‘soggy bottom’ test, though!

The pies went down very well in the bake sale and I managed to sell all of the 12 pies I brought in. I’ve just tried one of the remaining ones for the first time and it was delicious, particularly the decadent brownie. I think the pumpkin could come through a little more, but the spices in the pastry are absolutely lovely.

Spiced pumpkin brownie pies
I’d like to say I’ll make these again, but I have the rather pressing matter of what to do with all the leftover pumpkin I have in the fridge and I don’t think I can face going through all the different steps again any time soon… a simple loaf cake beckons!

The recipe

Adapted/corrected from this recipe on the Sunday Brunch website:

Makes 12 pies

For the spiced crust:

  • 175g salted butter, softened
  • 75g golden caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 25ml water, at room temperature
  • 250g plain flour
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger

For the pumpkin puree:

  • 250g fresh pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2.5cm cubes
  • 25ml maple syrup

For the fudge brownie topping:

  • 50g butter
  • 40g golden syrup
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 140g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 35g plain flour

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/gas mark 3. For the puree, place the pumpkin on a baking tray, cover with foil and roast for 30 minutes until very soft.
  2. Meanwhile, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth, then add the yolks and beat well, then add the water mixing well.
  3. Mix the spices with the flour and add in 3 additions, taking care not to over mix.
  4. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (you can make the pastry in advance and chill overnight).
  5. Blend the soft pumpkin with the maple syrup, then tip into a saucepan and cook until it reduces, around 5 minutes.
  6. For the brownie topping, melt the butter, syrup and sugar in a saucepan until smooth. Take off the heat and add the chocolate, mixing well until very smooth. Add the eggs and beat well, followed by the flour.
  7. Once the pastry is chilled, roll out the pastry on a floured surface and cut into discs to line all 12 cavities in a greased muffin tin. Tip: cut small strips of greaseproof paper and place them across the middle of each cavity so that when you put the pastry disc in, the ends of the strip of paper are poking out of the top. This will make it easier to get the pies out after baking – you can simply pull the two ends of the paper to lift the pie out.
  8. Place a teaspoon of the puree into the bottom of each pastry case, then top with the brownie mix, covering the puree completely.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes (keeping the oven setting the same as when you roasted the pumpkin), or until golden-brown and set. Allow the pies to cool in the tins then turn out. When they’ve completely cooled, dust with a little icing sugar and serve.