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

Fig and Chocolate Victoria Sponge – Random Recipes #31

Cake, Layer cakes | 24th August 2013 | By

This month for Random Recipes we were asked to take 10 seconds to grab one book and run. Dom reckoned with no time to think, we would automatically go for our most useful book. My go to baking book is Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, which coincidentally is the book that featured in last month’s Random Recipes.  If I need a reminder on how to make something or need a reliable recipe, then this is the first book I turn to. This doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best or even most comprehensive baking book I own, although I suspect it probably is, but I’ve had the book for many many years and it is like an old familiar.

The next task was to randomly pick a recipe. When I asked CT to pick a number, he obligingly came up with no. 15 which was Nigella’s Victoria Sponge. I have made a Victoria innumerable times, but I have never used Nigella’s recipe before. She suggests substituting some of the flour for cornflour. I’m always interested in trying different methods and ingredients, so I was keen to see what, if any, difference this made. On the three page spread that this classic took up, chocolate was not even mentioned once – harrumph! With a sponge, this is really not a problem as it can generally be filled with whatever you like. I decided I would fill it with the fig and pomegranate jam I made last year and a chocolate buttercream – chocolate and figs are a good combination I reckon.

This is how I made:

Fig and Chocolate Victoria Sandwich

  • Creamed 225g unsalted butter with 225g vanilla sugar (golden caster) until pale and airy.
  • Beat in 1 tsp chocolate extract.
  • Beat in 4 eggs (2 medium hens eggs and 2 large duck eggs).
  • Sifted in 200g flour (half wholemeal spelt and half white), 25g cornflour and 1½ tsp baking powder. Stirred in as gently as possible.
  • Stirred in 2 tbsp sour milk (ordinary milk is fine, but sour helps with the rise).
  • Divided mixture between two 21 cm cake moulds and baked at 180°C for 25 minutes until the cakes were risen, golden and firm to the touch.
  • Turned first cake out of the mould to cool. And this is where disaster struck. I normally leave the cakes to cool in the moulds for ten minutes before turning out, but in my eagerness I didn’t listen to the warning bells in my head. Large chunks stuck to the bottom of the mould and my first cake was a mess. I dutifully left the second one in it’s mould for 15 minutes before turning out and it was absolutely fine.
  • Melted 15g of dark chocolate (72%) in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
  • Creamed 50g unsalted butter with 100g golden icing sugar until pale and fully incorporated.
  • Beat in the chocolate.
  • Beat in 1 tbsp double cream.
  • Placed all the pieces from the broken cake together to form a round as best I could.
  • Covered this with the contents from a small jar of fig and pomegranate jam.
  • Spread the buttercream over the bottom of the intact cake and placed this, bottom side up on top of the broken one.
  • Dusted the top with caster sugar, then immediately cut a slice to see a) if it would hold together and b) how it tasted.

I am eating that slice now and can attest that despite its rather crumpled look, the cake held together and tastes wonderful. The jam and buttercream are a good combination, but I actually think the jam with whipped cream would have been a better one – less sweet and would have allowed the jam to really shine. I’m not sure I really noticed any difference having used cornflour but it wasn’t a double blind trial.

Espresso & Cappuccino Cupcakes – We Should Cocoa 22

We Should Cocoa | 10th June 2012 | By

With the combined incentives of a visit from a coffee loving friend and this month’s We Should Cocoa ingredient being coffee, it was time to revive a couple of bakes I used to make regularly when hosting a party: Nigella’s Espresso and Cappuccino Cupcakes from How to be a Domestic Goddess. I haven’t made these since I started this blog. I’m not sure why, ahh, is it because I don’t like coffee? If truth be told, coffee is not a flavour I’m particularly fond of. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee I find most tempting, but unfortunately, not the taste. CT on the other hand, whilst not particularly fond of the drink, likes the flavour in bakes & chocolates – guess who always gets passed the coffee chocolates? Lucy blogging at The KitchenMaid is hosting this month’s We Should Cocoa and she has chosen coffee – I could hardly demur!

Although I made a few changes to Nigella’s recipe, I can’t for the life of me remember what I did; it was a few days ago and I foolishly didn’t write it down after baking. I remember using half spelt flour and adding yogurt to the cake mix to lighten them a bit and some maca powder for its health benefits. So I am, sadly, unable to tell you exactly how I made them, but I do remember used lots of dark chocolate as well as white chocolate and I only made six of each.

Anyway, reports were good and despite my lack of enthusiasm for coffee, I did try them both. The espresso cakes were dark and bitter and gave a real jolt from the combination of dark chocolate and strong coffee. The rich espresso ganache topping and chocolate covered coffee bean on top added to the indelible stamp of a good espresso – so I’m told. The cappuccino ones, I found more palatable. They tasted of coffee for sure, but not as strongly and the creamy mascarpone and white chocolate top helped calm things down a bit. The cream and dark coffee colours looked quite spectacular together, although, due to the bad weather, my photographs don’t capture this very well.

The cakes were enjoyed after a session with the bees. Yes, that’s right, bees. Three years after having a top bar hive built for my mother, we have finally sourced some bees. They arrived less than two weeks ago and this was the first time the lid was being taken off to check that all was OK – a momentous occasion. We were somewhat concerned as a) the weather has been atrocious and b) there was the possibility of the comb being built the wrong way. When I say session, I mean CT and my mother; both I and our friend kept a wary distance. As it happened, all seemed absolutely fine. A comb had been built and in the right place too (we think)!


Not having taken part in the Forever Nigella challenge, the brainchild of Sarah of Maison Cupcake, for a while, I thought it was about time I did. So, I was really pleased to find out that this month’s theme, guest hosted by Homemade by Fleur is Afternoon Tea. Well, what a relief for those tea sceptics to find some very welcome coffee! So please find my espresso and cappuccino cupcakes sitting demurely at the Afternoon Tea table – but be warned, they are anything but demure!

Nigella’s Dense Chocolate Cake for Clandestine Cake Club

Large Cakes | 24th May 2012 | By

Less than two weeks after my first Clandestine Cake Club, I was getting ready for my second event. This one was themed A Fairy Tale and was set in a yurt in the middle of a big wood, Cardinham Woods to be precise, not too far from where we live.

One of my go to chocolate cakes, before I started my chocolate blogging adventures, was Nigella’s dense chocolate loaf cake from How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Somehow, this seemed like the right time to make it again. It’s a very simple cake to make and is so delicious it doesn’t really need any adornment. However, as this was a particularly special occasion, I decided to cover it with ganache.

Clever decorating not being a particular forte of mine, I was at a bit of a loss as to how to turn this into a fairy tale. Inspiration finally struck (actually it was CT’s idea) – the Fairy Godmother’s Wand.

This is how I made it:

  • Melted 150g 85% chocolate (G&B) in a bowl over hot water and left to cool a little.
  • Creamed 500g dark muscovado sugar together with 300g unsalted butter until light in colour and texture.
  • Beat in 1 goose egg (about 3 large eggs) until all incorporated.
  • Beat in the melted chocolate and 3 tsp rose water.
  • Folded in 300g flour (half white, half wholemeal) and 1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda alternately with 350ml boiling water.
  • Poured into a 23cm cake mould and baked at 190C for 25 minutes then for a further 20 minutes at 170C until well risen but still slightly gooey inside.
  • Left to cool completely before tuning out.
  • Melted 150g dark 70% chocolate (G&B) in a pan over a low heat with 150ml double cream.
  • Added 15g unsalted butter and 1 tsp of rose water and stirred until smooth.
  • Left to cool until just firm enough to stay on the cake without running down the sides.
  • Spread over the top of the cake.
  • Cut the tops off two chocolate fingers and placed together on the cake to form a wand – that was the idea anyway!
  • Sprayed the top with gold shimmer.
  • Added stars sparking out of the wand’s tip and then dusted the cake with edible gold glitter.

This was as good as I remembered it. Dense and slightly sticky like good gingerbread, it was totally delicious with a smooth mouth feel and just got better as it got older. I bet Hansel and Gretel would have loved it.

As for the other cakes there that night, I was completely wowed and slunk my pitiful effort into a corner out of sight.

Organised by the indefatigable Ellie and hosted by the Woods Cafe, the evening was great fun. There were some familiar faces from my first CCC and many new ones. I was especially delighted to meet a We Should Cocoa regular, the Hungry Hinny, who made a most spectacular castle – a chocolate and raspberry Rapunzel one to boot! My picture wasn’t that great, but you can see it on Nat’s blog. We ate far too much delicious cake and got to take a plateful home with us again – what a wonderful way to spend an evening.

Little Red Riding Hood
The Three Bears
Cinderella’s Pumpkin


Shed in the Woods


What a Fairy Cake

Sadly, I’m not likely to be able to make any more CCCs for a while, but I live in hope I’ll get to another one at some point!

As Tea Time Treats, hosted by Karen this month, has a floral theme, I waved my magic wand and turned this plain old chocolate cake into a floral rose and chocolate delight. TTT is alternately hosted by Kate of What Kate Baked.

Marmalade Cake for Mother’s Day

Marmalade Cake

Large Cakes | 15th April 2011 | By

Having made my first experiment using marmalade in cakes with this chocolate and marmalade cake and been won over by the result, I decided to have another go.


Nigella’s Florentines and Spiced Hot Chocolate

The Tin and Thyme Version of Nigella's Florentines

Biscuits, Gifts | 24th March 2011 | By

This recipe is the Tin and Thyme version of Nigella’s Florentines. They’re easy to make, if a bit messy and they are nutty, chewy and delicious to eat. The dark chocolate creates the perfect foil for the sweet biscuits. They make great gifts for family and friends at any time of the year, but particularly at Christmas.


Nigella’s Chocolate Pistachio Cake

Gluten Free, Large Cakes | 6th February 2011 | By

Having noted that this month’s Maison Cupcake’s Forever Nigella challenge had a chocolate theme, how could I resist entering? I only have one Nigella book, but its a good one, How to be a Domestic Goddess. Hunting through it, I came across this rather decadent sounding cake. I was now in a quandary: having no special occasion to celebrate, this was quite an expensive cake for just the two of us. However, what I did have were some pistachios whose sell by date was fast approaching – the deal was sealed!

Nigella blithely states this is a simple cake to make. Well I guess it depends what you mean by simple. Melting chocolate in one bowl, beating egg whites in another and the batter in a third maybe simple, but it involves a lot of washing up. I don’t have a large enough food processor to make cakes in, so I also had to grind up the pistachios in a coffee grinder. On top of this the butter was rock hard and the house not warm enough to soften it properly, so much arm power was needed. So, actually not that simple after all.

As I have said on a number of occasions, I am almost incapable of following a recipe exactly and this time was no exception. Lacking a suitable food processor meant I had to follow a different method to Nigella even before I started tinkering with the ingredients. I didn’t quite get what the lemon was about, so I didn’t use it. I used unrefined granulated sugar rather than caster. I wanted to cover the top with something, but not smother it so that the pistachio flavour was overpowered. As a result, I only made 1/3 of the ganache from Nigella’s recipe. Instead of the orange blossom water, which I didn’t have anyway, I used a home made liqueur.

This is what I did:

  • Melted 150g 70% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water
  • Ground 150g pistachios with 50g granulated sugar in a coffee grinder
  • Creamed 150g unsalted butter with 50g granulated sugar until very pale.
  • Beat in the pistachios.
  • Separated 6 eggs (1 duck egg and 5 large hens eggs)
  • Beat in egg yolks one by one.
  • Stirred in the melted chocolate.
  • Whisked egg whites with a pinch of salt in a separate bowl until stiff then whisked in 50g granulated sugar.
  • Folded this into the cake mixture one third at a time.
  • Spooned mixture into a 23 cm round cake mould and baked for 15 minutes at 190C then turned oven down to 180C and baked for a further 20 minutes.
  • Turned out onto a rack to cool.
  • Melted a further 50g of 70% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water with 50ml of double cream and 2 tsp of homemade sea buckthorn liqueur (I was looking for something that wouldn’t be too strong and fruity).
  • Stirred together lightly with a small whisk to avoid mixture splitting.
  • Spread on top of cooled cake.
  • Scattered a few chopped pistachios over the ganache.

The cake had risen amazingly high when I took it out of the oven and like a soufflé, it quickly sank! Luckily it sank gracefully to a nice flat top. The texture was mousse like, moist, light and smooth in the mouth – not nearly as dense as it looked. The cake itself was not at all sweet, almost savoury in flavour, but the ganache added a dessert quality.  I was slightly concerned that the delicate flavour of pistachios would be lost in the rich chocolate, but no, they had a subtle but definite presence. The nuts added a slight crunch. The ganache was just the right amount to form a glaze over the top. The liqueur worked well, augmenting the overall effect rather than as a flavour in its own right. I suspect orange blossom water would have been completely drowned out by the rich chocolate. Sometimes it’s good to celebrate, even when there’s nothing specific going on. We both very much enjoyed this cake and it will keep us going for a few days.

Nigella’s Brownies – Forever Nigella 1

Nigella's Brownies

Brownies & Blondies | 15th January 2011 | By

I’ve been craving brownies all week; I’ve been looking forward to the weekend so I could get on and make them and then, more importantly, eat them. Maison Cupcake is running a new monthly Forever Nigella event, so it seemed appropriate to try the brownie recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess, which amazingly I’ve not yet tried. Seasonal Sensations is this month’s theme – well you can’t get much more seasonal than chocolate. Brownies are a real comfort in the dull grey weather we’ve been experiencing over the last few weeks! One of the rules is not to write the recipe down unless you have changed at least two ingredients. Well, as I’m incapable of following a recipe exactly, I should be all right on that count.  Making the rather large batch that Nigella suggested was a little too much, even for me, so I endeavoured to make half the amount as best I could. I used wholemeal flour, dark brown sugar and duck eggs and used my quick one pan method.


Chilli, Chestnut & Chocolate Cake

A celebratory cake was needed for the 1st anniversary of CT’s blog Radix. So, it’s chocolate and chestnuts again! This time with the added bonus of chilli – our own dried and crushed “fatalli”, a particularly vicious yellow variety. I used the already tried and tested Nigella recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess. As I had half a tin of chestnut puree left over from the biscuits, I made only half the quantity, which made quite a nice sized cake for two.

Here’s what I did:
  • Melted 100g 85% dark chocolate and left to cool slightly.
  • Creamed 75g unsalted butter with 25g dark brown sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Mixed in 200g (or thereabouts) of sweetened chestnut puree.
  • Added 3 egg yolks, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 tsp brandy and the chocolate and stirred until combined.
  • Whisked 3 eggs whites until stiff, then added 25g caster sugar and whisked again.
  • Folded egg whites into the cake mix 1/3 at a time.
  • Poured into a 2lb silicone loaf thingy and baked at 180C for 30 mins.
  • Left to cool for 20 mins, then turned out and dusted with cocoa powder.

Usually I serve this warm as a dessert when we’ve got friends over, but I have to say it works pretty well as a cake too. It rose spectacularly, but like most soufflé type concoctions, it sank almost immediately I took it out of the oven – it still tasted delicious though. The texture is distinctly truffle like, rich and dense yet paradoxically light. The taste is more delicate than one would associate with chestnuts, but none the worse for that. As we only used a very small quantity of the fatalli, a pleasant glow resulted rather than the usual meltdown we normally experience when using this chilli.

Chocolate & Cream Cheese Brownies

Brownies & Blondies | 27th September 2009 | By

Last autumn if I had any occasion to make a cake, it was an apple & cider one using my own recipe. The apple season being over, I duly moved on to other things. Having recently come across an apple & cider recipe on Anyone for Seconds and having been given a bag of apples this weekend, I was all set to make an apple & cider cake. At the last minute, I realised I had forgotten to get any cider and with time fast running out and some cream cheese in the fridge, I ended up making something far more decadent – Nigella’s Cream Cheese Brownies.

This is what I did:
  • Melted 125g unsalted butter in a pan with 125g 85% chocolate and 200g dark brown sugar.
  • Sieved 80g flour (wholemeal spelt), made a well in the centre and poured in the chocolate mixture.
  • Mixed this up together with 2 duck eggs and 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Spooned half of this into a buttered 20x25cm tin.
  • Covered this with slices of cream cheese – 200g in total.
  • Topped this with remaining brownie mixture.
  • Baked in preheated oven at 180C (gas 4) for 17 mins.
  • Left to cool then cut into 16 smallish slices.
The tangy saltiness of the cheese cuts through the rich chocolatey confection – somewhat like a cheesecake, which I guess is what it is. That’s what my chief taster says anyway! He also thinks it’s absolutely delicious. The apple and cider cake will have to wait until next week.

Chocolate Marsala Cake

Large Cakes | 26th March 2009 | By

Another birthday, another new cake.  This one, from Nigella, has been calling to me for years, but it’s only now that I have finally got around to it and then made two in two days.  I didn’t think I was going to get a chance to try this one, so cunningily, I made a trial version without the icing so we could get to see what it was like.  Am I glad I did!

Oh the joy – when I looked at the details no creaming was asked of me.  I didn’t have to agonise over “ought I to try it really?” and “does it actually make a difference?”.
This is what I did 1st time around:
  • Melted 100g butter with 100g 85% dark chocolate
  • Whisked 4 duck eggs with 175g brown sugar until thick and mousy
  • Folded in 50g white spelt flour + 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Folded in the cooled chocolate mixture
  • Poured into 22 cm round cake tin and baked in a preheated oven, 180°C (gas 4) for 30 mins.
  • Cooled on rack for 5 mins
  • Spooned 9 tsp of Marsala over as much cake as possible & left to cool in tin
We had ours with clotted cream – having no ganache was our excuse!  Even the clotted cream, however, couldn’t disguise the rubbery texture of this cake.  So, for the actual birthday cake I used the same ingredients, but used the creaming method instead of the whisking one. Then made the following icing.
  • Melted 100g 70% dark chocolate with 100ml double cream and 1 tbsp Marsala
  • Whisked until thick enough to use as icing
  • Poured this over cooled cake.
This worked much better, the cake rose well and (I did get to try a piece after all) the texture was much cakier.  The ganache was really good, but I have to say I found the cake disappointing – maybe I overcooked it a little, it was rather dry.
Let me know if anyone has success with the first method – and then invite me over for tea please!

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