For years I’ve raged against the invasion of the very American Halloween and associated trick or treating; in the UK, we have All Hallows Eve, from which Halloween is derived. Just five days later we have our very own Guy Fawkes Night, with its pagan effigy burning associations – OK Guy Fawkes was a Catholic, but never mind. Well, finally I’ve come to the conclusion that if you can’t beat them you’d better join them and this chocolate pecan pumpkin cake seemed like a good start. In fact I had no choice; this month’s We Should Cocoa theme is Halloween.
Harvest festival meets Random Recipes meets Clandestine Cake Club in this post. As we had a hard challenge for August, Dom has gone easy on us this month and it’s back to the basics of picking a random book from our collection and then a random recipe from that book. I used my usual Eat Your Books method of selection and came up with a recipe for a simple chocolate pear upside-down cake in Jennifer Donovan’s book Chocolate. Happily this pick coincided with a Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club gathering on Thursday where the theme was harvest festival. And to tie it all together in a nice little bundle, my mother turned up with a jar of pears that she’d just poached. All sorted.
I had to add my own twist of course, so apart from using poached pears rather than raw ones, I substituted the vanilla for cardamom. The cake was fudgy and chocolatey, but the cardamom and pear stopped it being too sweet and sickly. It was in fact a delicious cake I will be repeating and the good folk at cake club seemed to enjoy it.
This is how I made:
Chocolate Pear Cardamom Upside-Down Cake
- Melted 200g butter with 200g of dark 70% chocolate in a large saucepan over low heat.
- Stirred in 150g cardamom sugar (golden caster sugar) and left to cool a little.
- Beat in three duck eggs (large hens eggs will be fine) with 1 drop of the excellent Holy Lama cardamom extract (or the ground seeds from 1-2 cardamom pods, depending on how subtle you want the flavour).
- Sifted in 120g self-raising flour and stirred gently until just combined.
- Sprinkled 3 tbsp of dark brown sugar over the base of a 9″ round silicon mould.
- Lay 12 pear quarters on top of the sugar then poured the batter over the top.
- Baked at 180℃ for 30 minutes until just done.
- Left to cool for about ten minutes, then turned the cake upside down onto a serving plate.
The harvest festival theme resulted in a bounty of fruit and vegetable cakes. The cake shown here completely stole the show, but they were all very tasty and yes, I did manage to try a piece of each! An independent wine merchant with accompanying champagne and coffee bar, Bin Two in Padstow, was our venue and some of the participants seemed much more interested in the wine than they did in the cake. The shop included a cafe bar, so we all crowded and got up close and cosy. Thanks as always to Ellie Mitchell for organising another splendid cakey gathering.
Bin Two were hosting a Macmillan Coffee Morning the following day, so I also brought along a few oaty ginger biscuits. These were quite fiery as they were not only flavoured with ground ginger but included crystallised ginger too. CT got almost grumpy when he was only allowed to try one.
So this is another success I put down to Dom and his Random Recipes over at Belleau Kitchen – such a fun and interesting challenge – most of the time anyway!
I had a bit of a dilemma trying to decide which of this month’s seasonal recipes should be sent to Simple and in Season – there have been so many good ones. But despite the rather prosaic nature of pear after the colours and flavours of blackberry and plum, this cake deserves recognition. Nazima of Franglais Kitchen is hosting this month on behalf of Ren Behan.
The theme of this month’s Clandestine Cake Club was free as a bird. I have to say, I was somewhat stumped by this and the best I could come up with was a free to make whatever I liked cake. The theme for this month’s We Should Cocoa is gluten free, so that got me wondering. I’d also been sent some coconut oil and coconut nectar to use from Cocofina – review to follow in a later post. Suddenly it all clicked into place and I would do a free from cake – free from gluten, free from dairy, free from eggs and free from sugar (sugar in the everyday sense anyway).
This quick and easy malted hot chocolate cake is not only a frugal one, but it’s delicious too. It’s made with drinking chocolate and Horlicks for flavour and includes both free range eggs and organic sunflower oil. The ingredients cost less than £1 and it produces a decent sized 8″ (20cm) round cake.
This Middle Eastern inspired honey & walnut yogurt semolina cake is dense but deliciously nutty. It’s soaked in a sweet citrus and rose honey syrup and is even nicer when served with a good dollop of clotted cream. The cake’s not only flavoursome, but very simple to make.
A friend recently passed on a recipe for me to chocolatify. He reckoned that not only was this cake unusual, with its inclusion of Jerusalem artichokes, but it was also possibly the best cake he’d ever made. I was intrigued. At this time of year we have no problem getting hold of this particular root vegetable as it grows, almost of its own volition, down on our plot. I adore the taste of artichokes, but do find them a real pain to clean, so I don’t use them as often as I probably should. The cake includes roasted hazelnuts and I could see how well these would work with the nutty flavour found in artichokes.
I had planned to follow the recipe as written, apart from adding chocolate and using my usual half wholemeal, half white flour mix of course, but things went a little awry. I didn’t have any raisins for a start, so had to substitute sultanas. But mostly, I didn’t read the recipe carefully enough. I ended up using a different method entirely and added all of the sugar (50g more than I should have) to the cake rather than reserving some of it for the icing – oops! I also didn’t think I needed to peel the artichokes, which I scrubbed well cutting out any bad bits.
Some time before Christmas, I was sent three lovely bags of Cacao Barry chocolate drops. This is a new range of high quality couverture chocolate they have introduced. It uses a new fermentation method which purportedly gives a more intense taste. The Q-Fermentation TM method uses natural ferments found in the plants and soil of the plantation which is said to give a purer bean with a fuller flavour. I’m looking forward to trying the chocolate out in a few sophisticated recipes where the flavour can shine through. However, I decided as there were so many lovely ingredients in this cake it would be good to use a special chocolate too. From previous experience, I’ve found that milk chocolate chips tend to work better in this type of cake as a very dark chocolate can sometimes take over rather than enhancing. The 41% Alunga milk chocolate seemed ideal. With its strong caramel notes and high cocoa content, I found it hard to stop dipping into the bag as I went along. I’m looking forward to trying the Inaya 65% and Ocoa 70% dark chocolates in due course.
This is how I made:
Jerusalem Artichoke Cake
- Added 1 tbsp brandy to a bowl filled with 120g sultanas and placed it on the heater to soak in for about an hour.
- Toasted 80g hazelnuts in a dry frying pan for a few minutes until the nuts had browned a little and the skins had loosened. Left to cool, then rubbed the nuts in a piece of kitchen towel to remove the skins. Chopped roughly.
- Grated 200g of well scrubbed and trimmed Jerusalem artichokes in food processor.
- Creamed 150g unsalted butter with 200g soft brown sugar (should have been 150g).
- Beat in the brandied sultanas.
- Beat in 3 large eggs, one by one and alternating with a little of the flour.
- Sieved in 200g flour (half wholemeal, half white), 1 level tsp baking powder, 1 scant tsp bicarbonate of soda, a large pinch of rock salt, 1 tsp cinnamon and a good grating of nutmeg (about 1/2 tsp).
- Stirred this in lightly together with the nuts and 50g chocolate drops (41% milk).
- Folded in the artichokes.
- Scraped mixture into a deep 8″ lined cake tin and baked for about 1 hour at 180°C (recipe stated 30 minutes, but mine was still almost raw at that stage) until well risen, brown and an inserted skewer came out almost clean.
- Allowed to cook in the tin for 15 minutes, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Beat 180g cream cheese (should have been 200g, but that was all I had) with 40 light brown sugar.
- Grated in the zest of an organic lemon and squeezed in nearly half of the juice.
- Beat it all together then slathered over the top of the cake.
- Shaved some dark chocolate over the top.
I couldn’t have told you there were Jerusalem artichokes in the cake, but wow, I’m sure they added to the overall nuttiness. This cake was truly delicious: chewy, crunchy, moist and abundant. The Alunga buttons left chocolatey hotspots throughout the cake which contributed nicely to the overall richness of taste. The sharp lemony icing offset the additional sugar I added by mistake and the cake, thankfully, wasn’t too sweet at all. It was similar to a carrot cake, only, dare I say it, much nicer.
How can I put this politely? I didn’t notice any, er, unfortunate consequences to eating the Jerusalem Artichokes in this way, so it got a double thumbs up from us.
This is my offering for this month’s We Should Cocoa. Linzi over at Lancashire Food is kindly hosting and has asked us to combine an ingredient we have never used with chocolate before. I was initially going to send over the paprika and cocoa roasted cauliflower that I made earlier in the month, but in the end decided this was a more unusual and worthy entry. I can honestly say, that I have never until now, eaten Jerusalem artichokes and chocolate together.
I am also using this as my entry to Family Foodies over at Bangers & Mash. The theme this month is Hidden Goodies. These artichokes are very well hidden and I suspect few would ever guess as to what the cake contained. This challenge is co-hosted by Lou at Eat Your Veg.
Not only made from scratch, but some of it grown from scratch too, I’m sending this off to Javelin Warrior for his Made with Love Mondays.
As this is the most exciting recipe I’ve posted this week, I’m entering it into Recipe of the Week with Emily of A Mummy Too.
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|
Blackcurrant Buckle is one of the cakes I grew up with, but I haven’t made it for many many years and indeed I don’t even know where the recipe is – buried in one of my mother’s piles of clippings somewhere I suspect. When I was unexpectedly given a punnet of blackcurrants the other day, I decided on the spur of the moment, now was the time to try chocolate blackcurrant buckle or blackcurrant crumble cake if you prefer.
The task this month from Belleau Kitchen was to select our 30th cookbook and then make the recipe from whatever was on page 30 – this is the 30th RR after all. I always approach Random Recipes with some trepidation as you just never know what you might get landed with, but off I went to Eat Your Books to find my 30th cookbook. In case you’ve missed it, I have a giveway running at the moment for a lifetime’s membership of Eat Your Books – I can’t recommend it highly enough. As it happened, I struck lucky and my 30th book was Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. For many years, this was the only book on my bookshelf dedicated to baking, so I know it well. Now that I have many others, I don’t use it as often; I was glad to be persuaded to renew my acquaintance. It also meant, that with any luck I might be able to enter this into Forever Nigella.
The next task was to go and find the book and turn to page 30 – Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake. Now this couldn’t have been more opportune. I made this cake once before, many years ago, so I already knew it was a good one. I was shortly to be baking for Liskeard’s first pop-up cafe and was wondering what gluten-free bake I could include. With a little tweaking, namely substituting the wheat flour for buckwheat, this would do very nicely, I thought. The addition of white chocolate could only improve things and would allow it to appear on Chocolate Log Blog. I’ve already established that rose and rhubarb make for a fine combination, so I wanted to include some rose syrup here for added interest.
So this is how I made:
Rhubarb and Rose Polenta Cake
- Washed and trimmed the rhubarb, cutting it into ½ cm slices.
- Placed in a bowl and covered with 100g of cardamom sugar (caster) to extract some of the juice. Added 4 tbsp rose syrup.
- Melted 50g white chocolate (G&B) in a bowl over hot water.
- Creamed 125g unsalted butter with 150g cardamom sugar (caster) until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the cooled chocolate.
- Beat in 2 large duck eggs, one at a time.
- Sifted in 150g buckwheat flour, 155g fine cornmeal, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, ¼ tsp salt and 1 tsp ground cinnamon.
- Stirred in 250g natural yogurt alternately with the flour until just combined.
- Gently stirred in the rhubarb and juice.
- Poured into a 23cm cake mould and baked at 180° C for about 50 minutes until the top was well risen and springy to the touch.
- Covered with tin foil after the first 30 minutes to prevent the top burning.
- Left to cool for 20 minutes, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Dusted with icing sugar and scattered with rose petals.
The bake came an honourable second behind the most popular one, the chocolate cake. Sadly, I didn’t get to try any, but I had very good feedback and all of it disappeared. The very first person to try anything was gluten intolerant, so she was delighted to have something tasty she could eat.