Vegetarian food blog featuring nourishing home cooked recipes, creative baking and luscious chocolate.

Chilli Cardamom Cranberry Upside Down Cake for Clandestine Cake Club

Large Cakes | 8th December 2013 | By

It was the last Clandestine Cake Club of the year and to cheer us up through the dank, dark days of November, the theme was “a splash of colour”. Time was of the essence, I had to leave the house at 8:30 to get to the venue at Truro for 10:00 and I had to do my bake that morning. So not only something colourful, but something simple was also needed. I knew the very thing. I’ve made Nigella’s Cranberry Upside Down Cake from How to be a Domestic Goddess before and it was very well received. However, this time I felt the addition of some warming chilli would not go amiss – so the last vestiges of my Dartmoor Dragon bar winged its way into the mix. Talking of dragons, I’m looking forward to the next instalment of The Hobbit, coming to a cinema near you sometime very soon.

So literally hot out of the oven and into the back of the car, off we headed to Truro. Who needs an air freshener when they have hot cake on board? We had a wonderfully fragrant drive.

This is how I made:

Nigella’s Cranberry Upside Down Cake

  • Melted 50g unsalted butter in a large pan.
  • Added 175g cardamom sugar (golden caster) and left on the heat for a couple of minutes.
  • Removed from the heat and stirred in 200g fresh cranberries. Left to one side.
  • In a large bowl, melted 20g white chilli chocolate (Dartmoor Dragon)
  • Creamed 200g cardamom sugar (golden caster) with 200g unsalted butter until pale in colour and fluffy in texture.
  • Beat in a pinch of rock salt.
  • Beat in 4 medium eggs alternately with a spoonful of the flour (see next line).
  • Sifted in 200g flour (half wholemeal, half plain), 1 tsp of baking powder and 1 tsp mesquite powder (optional).
  • Stirred in 4 tbsp sour milk.
  • Turned the cranberries and sugar into a 23cm cake mould, then piled the batter on top.
  • Baked for 40 minutes at 180C. Left in the mould to cool for a few minutes, then turned out onto a plate.
Though I say it myself, the cake was absolutely scrummy and benefited, I felt, from the addition of white hot chilli chocolate. It seemed to go down well with the others at CCC too. It was moist with a  good flavour and the tartness of the berries offset the general sweetness. Heavens, that naga chilli, even in such a small quantity, still had a bit of a kick to it. It wasn’t as fast acting as my previous bakes, but it crept up on you and left a warm glow in the back of the throat. Cranberries aren’t just for turkeys.

The colour of my cake wasn’t quite as vibrant as some, but it held its own both in looks and taste. A splash of colour was a particularly appropriate theme, given our venue was an art shop in Truro. The name of the cake was also appropriate: CCC for the CCC. Thanks go as always to our splendid organiser Ellie Michell and to Truro Arts Company for the splendid venue.

Coffee at Truro Arts Company

A splash of cakey colour
Loved this red stripy teapot
I’m entering this into Four Seasons Food with Anneli over at Delicieux and Louisa at Eat Your Veg. The theme is Party Food and it just so happens that I baked this yet again yesterday for a friends party. 
I’m also sending it off to Javelin Warrior for his Made with Love Mondays.
Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes is doing a Fresh Cranberry Link Up, so linking up is what I’m going to do.

Hotel Chocolat: The Signature Christmas Collection and a Box of Delights

Chocolate Reviews | 5th December 2013 | By

Signature Christmas Collection

Now there isn’t much that is more likely to get me into the festive spirit than some decadent Christmas chocolates. So when The Signature Christmas Collection from Hotel Chocolat arrived on my doorstep, a rendition of Jingle Bells involuntarily emerged from my throat.

The design of the box is elegant; this immediately sets you up for an expectation of nights of sophistication and indulgence. The box wouldn’t look out of place in a milliners piled on top of all the other hat boxes. However, when I opened it, I was not met by a fascinator but concentric rings of chocolates laid out like gems in a display cabinet.

Signature Christmas Collection

The collection consists of nineteen chocolates with eleven different flavours, which as you might expect are full of spices, nuts and alcohol – the very flavours of Christmas. It’s a diverse mix with something for everyone: dark, white and milk with centres including truffles, pralines, marzipan and caramel. As mentioned, alcohol features too. I’m not much of a drinker, but I do find a drop of something strong combines well with chocolate and adds a pleasant warmth as well as a feeling of decadence. There were some unusual flavours as well, which for me adds to the excitement and allure. If you can no longer fit into your sparkly ball gown, don’t worry, a box of these by the fire alone (or with friends) will provide ample solace.

For the purposes of review, ahem, it was encumbent that I sampled every one. So, in the order in which I tried them:

Mulled Port – a truffle containing Hotel Chocolat’s own ruby port and spiced with pimento leaf and bitter orange was the first to catch my eye. Not only did I like the sound of it, but with my love of warm colours, the bright orange and ruby top drew me in. The inside of the truffle caught me by surprise; I was expecting a dark ganache, but the colour was lilac, which didn’t really make me think of mulled wine. The flavours were all present and correct however and left a warmth in the back of the throat and a spiciness on the tongue. CT particularly liked this one.

Hacienda lara Dark Salted Caramel 90% – Ooh my, this chocolate was amazing. For such a dark chocolate, it was rich like I’d expected, but also smooth and not at all bitter. It melted beautifully in the mouth releasing a sumptuous salted caramel as it did so. Made with organic beans from Ecuador, this one got an extra seal of approval from me. Sadly, there was only one of these in the box. Poor CT.

Pistachio Praline Crunch – there is something so exotic about pistachios, I just can’t resist them; I’m fascinated by their green colour. They have such a delicate flavour, it is easy to overwhelm them and I did feel the addition of cherry pieces and rose here was a little heavy handed.

Christmas Star – this was marzipan flavoured with orange liqueur and wrapped in dark chocolate. I adore marzipan, so I was not going to miss out on this one. I enjoyed it, but felt the dark chocolate shell was too thick and rather overwhelmed the marzipan. However, it did leave a lovely warm taste in the mouth from the orange liqueur which was particularly pleasing.

White Caramel Pralines – an unusual mix of praline and caramel that went surprisingly well together. Both layers were delicious in their own right, but mixed together they were more than the sum of their parts. The heavenly flavour of hazelnut permeated the palate. Nice.

Christmas Mess – filled with four layers of different shades of pink fruitiness and creamy white chocolate ganache in a dark chocolate cup, these were a lovely mouthful and pretty to boot. It was flavoured with strawberries and meringue sprinkles for authenticity but with tart cranberries too for that touch of Christmas.

Caramel Supernova – I just can’t resist a caramel. Salted ones are my absolute favourite, but any liquid caramel is likely to do it for me at some level. This one was delicious despite the lack of salt, with the caramel notes coming out loud and strong. I often find caramel is far too sweet, but this one was not overpowered by sugar and in any case was nicely counterbalanced by the 70% dark chocolate shell.

Rum & Raisin Truffle – now this took me right back to my favourite bar of Old Jamaica when I was young only this really did taste of rum. My mouth not only filled up with nostalgia, but also with a warming melange of alcohol, nutmeg and orange.

Hacienda lara 63% Ganache Milk – a sophisticated and not too sweet truffle this was one of my favourites. Like the first Hacienda, this was made with organic beans from Ecuador and it left a rich chocolate taste in the mouth.

Cranberry Cups – I often find white chocolate a bit too sweet and cloying to eat on its own. Luckily, this one was filled with a tart cranberry ganache that brought out the creaminess of the chocolate rather than its sweetness.

Nutmeg & Almond Pralines – Pralines used to be my favourite chocolate. If ever I was offered a chocolate from a box, it was always the pralines I went far. These days, I generally find them too sweet, which is a real shame. Less sugar and more nuts wouldn’t go amiss. This one, however, was a delight. The chocolate on the outside was sweeter than the almond praline and it tasted nutty. It was also surprisingly smooth and the hint of nutmeg gave it a sophisticated air. You never know, it might rub off on me.

Check this video out to see what’s hiding in the Hotel Chocolat box of delights.

Chocolate Log with a Whipped Dark Boozy Chocolate Ganache – We Should Cocoa #40

Chocolate Log

The name of my blog might assume that I know what I’m doing when it comes to chocolate logs, even that I’m something of an expert. Well I’m not. My efforts at rolling  have been unsuccessful to say the least, as can be testified by my Liskeard Mess and the various other attempts I’ve made at a roulade. I’ve watched Mary Berry and any number of others do it and I’ve tried various techniques, but invariably my rolls crack hideously and have been known to disintegrate entirely. My least disastrous attempt was this Matcha Chocolate Roll.

Thus, when I was asked recently if I would make a chocolate log, my heart gave a little tremble.

Now it just so happened that I was sent one of the most beautifully packaged parcels I’ve received in a long time. A sturdy but elegant black box contained a newly designed 70cl bottle of Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur, dressed in black and hot fuchsia pink. It was accompanied by two special Thorntons chocolate liqueur glasses wrapped in matching paper and a £10 supermarket voucher nestled in a bed of wood straw. The colour scheme was eye catching indeed and the presentation lifted my spirits – so to speak. The premise was to create a recipe using the liqueur. Ding! With chocolate logs very much on my brain, my first thought was to incorporate the liqueur into the ganache that I’d planned to fill my log with and the thought stuck.

But first, I had to try the chocolate liqueur. CT was not going to pass this opportunity up either. We had a glass over ice followed by a glass neat. We could have gone on, it was so moreish, but I had to apply the brakes before we became inebriated. Originally launched in 2011, this liqueur was developed by the Thorntons master chocolatier, Keith Hurdman; it is a vodka based drink with cream and West African cocoa. It’s hard to think of a better combination than cream, chocolate and alcohol and because vodka does not have a strong taste of its own, the chocolate and cream were allowed to speak for themselves. At 17% volume, this is quite a strong drink, so a little goes a long way. It wasn’t quite as dark or as rich as the Bailey’s Chocolat Luxe, but it was nevertheless delicious. And at £13.99, this is an affordable treat.

Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur

If you are able to restrain yourself from drinking this chocolate liqueur just as it is, there are any number of ways you could use it. The bottle came with a recipe card for various cocktails, drinks and desserts. I haven’t tried any of them yet, but I think I’m going to have to, as some of them sound very tempting indeed. With the cold weather now upon us, a hot chocolate with a slug of this could be just the thing after a bracing walk. How about a Thorntons Chocolatini or a Thorntons White Russian to indulge and delight your guests. As for the recipe for Thorntons Fondant, it has my name written all over it.

This is how I made:

Chocolate Log with a Whipped Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • Melted 50g 72% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water, then removed from the heat.
  • Stirred in 2 tbsp Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur.
  • Stirred in 100 ml double cream until just incorporated.
  • Left to cool in the fridge for 1/2 hour whilst getting on with the sponge.
  • Whipped the ganache until light and moussy.
  • Whisked the eggs whites of 3 duck eggs in a bowl with electric beaters until stiff.
  • In another bowl, whisked the yolks of 3 duck eggs with 75g vanilla (caster) sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract for a minute or so until the yolks were pale.
  • Sifted in 30g cocoa powder and carefully stirred in.
  • Folded in the egg white until just incorporated, then scraped the mixture into a 19 x 29 cm Swiss roll tin lined with baking paper.
  • Baked for 20 minutes at 180°C when the sponge had risen and the top was bouncy when pressed. Left in the tin to cool.
  • Covered a clean piece of baking parchment with vanilla sugar. Turned the sponge onto this, then peeled off the backing paper.
  • Spread the ganache evenly over the sponge. Cut half way through the sponge, 1 cm in on the narrow end to help start the roll. Then using the sugar covered paper to help, rolled the sponge up as carefully as I could.
  • Cut about 1/2 cm of either end to neaten.
  • Dusted with vanilla sugar.
Chocolate Log

Well, maybe practice makes perfect, maybe I just got lucky or maybe the glass of Thornton’s liqueur I sipped whilst baking played its part. There were a few cracks, but the sponge held together and I was marginally pleased with the result. I was very pleased with the taste and texture of the chocolate log – thank goodness for neatened ends.

The whipped ganache containing Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur was, though I say it myself, sublime. It was light and moussy in texture with a rich chocolate flavour enhanced by the presence of the liqueur. It was a perfect match for the chocolate log and I’m now wondering why I’ve never tried anything like this before. The ganache is an ideal recipe for the festive season and could be used to fill any number of cakes and biscuits. I will most certainly be making it again.

As I was secretly, or maybe not so secretly, pleased with this chocolate log especially the whipped dark boozy chocolate ganache, I am using this as my entry for this month’s We Should Cocoa where alcohol is the special ingredient.

I am also submitting this to Lets Cook Christmas Party Food over at Simply Food.

Additionally, I’m sending this off to Javelin Warrior for his Made With Love Mondays.

It’s a very tricky letter that’s been picked for Alphabakes this month, but luckily it’s December so X for xmas is allowed. Hooray. I am thus sending my Xmas Chocolate Log to Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline of Caroline Makes.

I’m sending the bottom photo off to No Croutons Required with Jac of Tinned Tomatoes who is looking for Festive Photos this month.

Well it doesn’t get more Christmassy than a Chocolate Log, especially a boozy one, so I am submitting this to Calendar Cakes where the theme this month is Jingle Bell Rocks. This event is co-hosted by DollyBakes and Laura Loves Cakes.

I was sent a bottle of Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur and a supermarket voucher in order to create a recipe. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.

We Should Cocoa – the December 2013 Challenge

We Should Cocoa | 1st December 2013 | By

Biscuits, or should I say cookies got us nicely through the dull days of November, my least favourite month of the year. I’ve really got into making these rather too delightful snacks recently and I blame Rebecca of BakeNQuilt who chose this as the theme and did a great job of hosting last month. If you haven’t yet seen her cookie round-up, do take a look. There are some good ideas there for festive biscuit making and indeed some good ideas for non-festive snacking too.

So finally, tis the season to be jolly – or did I mean merry? In time honoured tradition, I’m going to give you something that’s not only festive for December, but also easy. This is not the time to put my bad cop hat on – goodwill and all that. I’m giving you a good excuse to indulge in your favourite tipple, yes that’s right … alcohol. And I’m not going to be specific here, I’ll leave that for a future date. You can choose whatever alcoholic beverage you like: a drop of rum or brandy, some scented mulled wine or cider or how about a slug of that sloe gin I know you’re all so fond of. So it’s over to you, festive or otherwise – as long as it contains chocolate and the alcohol is a main flavouring ingredient; I’m not sure I’d be willing to accept a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

And as my Christmas present to you all, I am extending the deadline by three whole days – nobody can accuse me of not being generous! You have until midnight on the 28th of this month to get your entries in. So Merry Bakers, I wish you a delightful December and I look forward to seeing what boozy delights you come up with.

You can see the rules etc on the We Should Cocoa page.

Entries are via the linky below.