Chocolate Ale Fruit Cake & Baking Mad

Loaf Cakes | 6th March 2012 | By

In case anyone hasn’t heard, there is a new series of Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard coming to Channel 4; it started yesterday on 5 March at 12:05 and will run every day for 4 weeks. Each 30 minute episode will feature three members of the public who will come to his cookery school, Cake Boy, to demonstrate their baking skills and take part in a “Bake Off”. Our very own Dom of Belleau Kitchen will be featuring on 15 March.


Parsnip and Walnut Chocolate Chip Cake

Having finally got around to digging up our parsnips, we needed to start using them fast – you can see by the photograph below how huge they were, but also somewhat manky. It seemed to me that parsnips would pair well with nuts as they have their own rather nutty quality, so I wanted to use one of the nut oils that I’d recently been given. I’d fancied making a parsnip cake for years and finally I got around to it. I had a trawl through my various cook books and surprisingly enough, I found quite a few recipes. I didn’t, however, find anything that seemed right to go with chocolate, so I got my thinking cap on and came up with my own parsnip cake recipe.

This is what I did:

  • Spent ages cleaning parsnips and chopping out the bad bits!
  • Grated 200g of clean parsnips.
  • Chopped 100g milk chocolate (G&B 35%)
  • Beat 150g cardamom sugar (caster) with 3 eggs until thick and pale.
  • Added a pinch of salt and 125ml walnut oil and beat some more.
  • Sifted in 200g flour (half wholemeal spelt, half white), 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda.
  • Folded this in together with the parsnips.
  • Gently stirred in the chocolate bits.
  • Scraped into a 23cm round cake mould (in retrospect should have used my 22cm one, which would have given a deeper cake).
  • Baked at 180C for 36 minutes.
  • Spooned 60g cardamom (caster) sugar into a jug.
  • Added 3 tbsp orange liqueur.
  • Stirred and poured over the hot cake.
  • Left in the mould to cool completely.

The cake rose well and had a very light but moist texture. I was surprised to find I couldn’t detect the parsnip at all, either by taste or by eye. I can see why this was a good way of bulking out expensive cake ingredients in the past. The cake had a lovely nutty flavour to it, but not distinctively and definitively of walnut; the parsnips no doubt played their part. The chocolate worked well as did the orange sugar topping which was delicious, though had a certain heady alcoholic quality to it. All in all, this was not bad for a first attempt.

If truth be told, I prefer my cakes to be a bit more substantial and I’m not a huge fan of using only oil in a cake. Next time, I think I’d use half butter and half oil. That way, I’d hope to get a better texture but keep the lovely nutty flavour. However, if dairy is an issue, these nut oils make for a good substitute and of course the milk chocolate can be changed to dark or, dare I suggest it, left out all together!

I am submitting this to Ren’s lovely Simple and in Season event found at Fabulicious Food.

Update 5 March 2012 – Charlotte of Go Free Foods adapted this quite significantly and came up with a pumpkin orange & cardamom cake which looks gorgeous.

Cooks&Co Speciality Oils – a Review

As my regular readers will know, I am a big fan of butter, so my baking doesn’t feature oil very often. However, when I was offered the chance to try some speciality oils, it seemed like a good opportunity to be adventurous. R H Amar & Co sent me three 250ml bottles of Cooks&Co oil to review. Produced in France, these would be good for adding a bit of Gallic sophistication to a meal. The bottles were glass, what a relief – I’m really not a fan of plastic food bottles and much prefer to have glass.

Hazelnut Oil (RSP £3.99) – extracted entirely from hazelnuts, this oil is the one I was most excited about and I was right to be so – it’s delicious. It really does smell and taste of hazelnuts.  I added some of this to the chocolate hazelnut cake truffles I made last month and it really did help to bring out the flavour of the hazelnuts in the cake. I’m looking forward to trying this baked in a plain chocolate cake next where I think it would give an added depth and complexity of flavour.

Walnut Infused Oil (RSP £2.85) – made of rape seed, but with an addition of walnut extract, this is another flavoursome oil, though less distinctive than the hazelnut. I used this to make a parsnip and walnut cake, which I shall be posting in the near future. Suffice it to say, I was very pleased with the flavour of the oil; the cake tasted of walnuts, but not overly so. One of the best salad dressings I remember from my time living in Switzerland was one made with walnut oil, so I’m looking forward to the weather warming up and my lettuce seeds germinating – walnut salad here I come!

Roasted Peanut Oil (RSP £3.39) – as the name suggests, this is made from 100% roasted peanuts. And guess what, it tastes just like roasted peanuts. I have baking plans for this one, but haven’t got around to doing anything about it yet. I have used it in a stir fry, however and it worked brilliantly well. I was able to get the oil nice and hot without any sign of burning and the final dish had just enough of a suggestion of peanut to make it interesting without overwhelming the other flavours.

All in all, I was very impressed with these oils. My only quibble, is the usual one – I would prefer them to be organic. They all tasted of the nuts they were made of and all added a distinctive nutty quality to the dishes I’ve made with them so far. I’m looking forward to trying out some more.