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! In fact I had no choice as this month’s We Should Cocoa theme is Halloween.
Ros chose V for Alpha Bakes this month, oh my goodness! Other than Vanilla and Victoria sandwich, I wasn’t having many ideas and although vanilla is fantastic, it’s such a common ingredient in cakes, I wanted something a little different. I’ve seen Viennese whirls popping up all over the place which is a great idea, but again not quite what I was looking for. So I turned to trusty Pam Corbin in her wonderful book Cakes and there it was at the bottom of the V list, Vinegar Cake. Traditionally made when hens were off lay, this is an eggless fruit cake from East Anglia. I added a few ingredients not mentioned in Pam’s recipe.
This is how I made it:
- Placed 1 tbsp mesquite powder and 1 tbsp maca powder onto the scales than added white flour to make the weight up to 250g.
- Sifted into a bowl along with 250g wholemeal flour and a pinch of salt.
- Rubbed in 200g unsalted butter cut into bits, until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
- Stirred in 500g dried fruit made up of sultanas, raisins, chopped dried apples, goji berries and crystallised orange peel (homemade).
- Stirred in 50g chopped Maya Gold chocolate (G&B dark orange spiced).
- Poured 300ml milk into a large bowl (didn’t have a jug big enough) and added 50ml cider vinegar.
- Stirred 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda into 1 tbsp milk.
- Added this to the milk and watched in amazement as it frothed up and up and up!
- Poured this onto the dry ingredients together with 2 tbsp golden syrup and mixed until just incorporated.
- Spooned into a 23cm cake mould and smoothed the top.
- Sprinkled 1 tbsp demerara sugar over the top and baked at 170C for 50 minutes.
- Left to cool in mould for 20 minutes then turned out onto a wire rack to cool almost completely – couldn’t wait any longer!
Watching the milk and vinegar mixture whoosh up when the bicarb was added was impressive. It reminded me of one those school science lessons which probably no longer occur due to health and safety reasons. Whatever the underlying chemistry of it all, it seemed to work: the cake rose really well. Unfortunately, I took it out a little too soon, so it sank in the middle. Surprisingly, the taste of vinegar was noticeable by its absence. It had a lovely crunchy top and would have been great served warm with clotted cream or ice-cream. I’m not a fan of heavy fruit cakes, but this was just about right, plenty of fruit but plenty of cake too. CT is also not a fan of heavy fruitcakes, which he associates with being dense, dry & and desiccated with bucket loads of horrible mixed peel. This one, he opined, was pleasantly fruity with an unexpected sort of spritliness about it. It had a nice soft crumb and tasted slightly malty which I put down to the mesquite I added. We both felt thoroughly virtuous eating this because of the healthful properties of the maca I had included.
Alpha Bakes is a monthly blogging challenge where a random letter is picked from the alphabet which then inspires the theme of the bake. It’s hosted alternately by Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes.
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 her 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|
|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.
It’s Random Recipe time again and as a tribute to the birth month of this fabulous event, we have been given the task of picking a recipe from the book we used when we first took part in this challenge. I was mightily pleased about this as I was panicking rather at having to use the Valrhona chocolate book which CT gave me for Christmas. There isn’t a single simple recipe in it – in fact they all look way beyond my capability. Divine by Linda Collister is a much more accessible book. Last year I made butterscotch swirl brownies which were a great success; what would this year bring I wondered?
Back along, in return for a product placement, I received a voucher from CSN to spend at their online store. It wasn’t for a particularly large amount, but I decided to treat myself to a couple of things that I would never normally buy. This set of cutters were one of the items I bought. Other than a standard set of three round cutters in varying sizes and a gingerbread man, I don’t have any fun ones suitable for biscuits. It was the teapot in the set that won me over.
The cutters are sturdy and well made, which is just as well as they retail at nearly £11. The shapes and colours are fun, suggesting a tea party, with cake slice, cupcake (that’s the round one apparently) and teapot. The resulting biscuits are quite large though, so not for the faint hearted. I rather feel that my decorating skills might be put to the test at some point.
I was making some chocolate shortbread to line a couple of tart cases so thought I’d make some extra dough in order to try out one of my new cutters. However, I was feeling in a loving mood the day I made it, so it was the hearts I used rather than the teapot. The recipe for these will follow along with the tarts, but suffice it to say, the hearts were tasty and kept well.
Quite some time ago now, I won some tickets from FoodiesSW to go to the Beer Festival at the St Austell Brewery. A beer festival is not something either I or CT had ever attended before and I think it’s rather unlikely we shall ever attend one again. My motivation was the opportunity to sample a chocolate beer that would be featuring there. Chocolate beer? Well I couldn’t resist could I. In my naivety, I assumed that if we turned up early, 11:30am, all would be quiet, we could try a couple of unusual beers, get some chocolate beer to take home and go before it started to get crowded. It didn’t quite turn out like I imagined. The doors had only opened half an hour before we got there, but the place was already heaving and a long queue had formed at the entrance. We eventually got in and were given 3 tickets each to get half pints of any beer we wanted. Having fought our way down to the cellars and through the maze of barrels to get our drinks (I’ve sadly lost the names for these now), we tried to find somewhere to sit and sup our hard won halves. No such luck, all seats had long gone, it was standing room only and not much of that either. There was only one thing for it: to drink our beer. The chocolate beer was actually quite nice, smooth and creamy with definite cocoa notes. Not being much of a drinker, it very quickly went to my head. I fought my way, rather unsteadily, back to the chocolate beer barrel and got another couple of halves. These two were destined, not to be downed immediately, but for the bottle that we had cunningly brought with us to take home and use in chocolate baking. By this time, we had had enough: it was noisy, uncomfortable, dark (the sun was shining outside) and smelt rather too strongly of spilt beer and BO. But we still had two tickets left – what to do? I was just on the point of giving them to the first person who caught my fancy, when I bumped into an old friend who definitely likes his beer. He was more than happy to relieve us of the tickets.
Back in October, I had spotted a recipe for Young’s Double Chocolate Stout Brownies on Andys Kitchen and was just waiting for the right time to give it a whirl. This is how I did it:
- Melted 150g dark chocolate (100g 85% and 50g 70%) in a large bowl over hot water with 175g of unsalted butter.
- Mixed in 200g dark brown sugar.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs until mixture was thick and glossy.
- Folded in 75g sifted wholemeal flour and 50g cocoa.
- Stirred in 200ml chocolate beer as carefully as I could (original recipe stated 250ml, but as mine wasn’t a stout, I didn’t want to make the batter too thin).
- Poured into a 22 cm sq cake mould and baked at 180C for 18 mins.
- Left to cool and cut into 16 squares.
Goodness, did these smell good. They tasted really good too, rich, dark and delicious. They should come with an Adult Only warning though – the malty and bitter notes of the dark chocolate combined with the beer mean these are not at all sweet (well maybe a bit sweet but you know what I mean). Having read somewhere that these would not produce a crisp top, I was delighted to find that mine had lovely crackly ones. The texture inside was smooth, mousse-like and rather moreish. Despite them being moreish, we managed to keep them going for a few days and they seemed to improve with keeping. They even survived me dropping the tin on the floor from a considerable height. I’m beginning to wonder whether I should patent them as the Indestructible Brownies TM.
CT smelt the beer straight off. Is it going to be like a steak and ale pie he wondered? Sadly not. He described it as being a working man’s brownie. The bitterness of the beer gave it a savoury tang and he wondered if he should be eating it in a room with a sawdust floor. It reminded him of Christy Moore’s song about drinking black beer in the same public houses, smelling of smoke and strong whiskey. He also suggested that sticking one of these brownies in the sweet side of a Cornish tin miner’s pasty would make him very happy.
I’m really going to have to stop CT and his free association – he’s getting a bit keen on all this. I suppose it is only his usual round about way of saying that he really enjoyed these brownies.
Tis the season to be jolly, tra la la la la ….. and all that. I chose dates for the December challenge because they seemed suitably festive, but oh what to make? Should I stuff madjool dates with walnuts and dip them in chocolate, make a cake, biscuits, cupcakes or those wonderful date slices I’ve been coveting since first seeing them on Suelle’s blog? I know, I’ll make all of those – hmmmm. Reality set in and I realised I had very few non working days before Christmas and rather too much to do. So, I’ve gone for a cake and if I have time I might have a go at some of the others.
Again, it was a cake I’d seen on Mainly Baking that inspired this one, Dan Lepard’s Hazenut Prune Cake. I was initially going to substitute the dates for the prunes and try and follow the recipe to the letter. As it happened, I had some walnuts that really needed using up, so it turned into something different again. I substituted the nutmeg for mace and added some orange for an extra festive note. The mix itself, I found rather too dry, so I also added some orange juice. Having made some candied orange peel, which I will blog about at some future date, I had quite a bit of orange syrup going free to a good home – a good home was found. And finally, I wanted to make the cake more chocolatey, it is after all a chocolate challenge – a datey chocolate ganache found its way onto the top of the cake. So once again, my version bares little resemblance to the original, but it’s the inspiration that counts. I’ll stop this stream of consciousness now and get on with the recipe.
- Creamed together 100g unsalted butter with 100g dark muscovado sugar and 1 heaped tbsp of golden syrup until pale and fluffy.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs, one after the other and the zest of 1 orange.
- Sifted in 125g flour (100g wholemeal, 25g white), 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of bicarb of soda, 1/2 tsp ground mace and 1 tbsp cocoa.
- Stirred in the juice of 1 orange.
- Mixed n 300g chopped dates and 100g chopped walnuts.
- Spooned into a 23cm silicone mould and smoothed the top down.
- Baked at 180C for 35 minutes.
- Whilst cake was hot, poured over 3-4 tbsp of orange syrup left over from making candied orange peel, then left to cool.
- Melted 100g chocolate (50g milk & 50g Maya Gold), 25g unsalted butter, 2 tbsp date syrup and 1 tbsp orange syrup.
- Stirred until smooth(ish) – couldn’t actually get the milk to melt properly so don’t look too closely as there are a few lumps 😉
- Spread over the top of the cake.
- Decorated with candied orange peel.
PS – this cake was not only moist and very tasty but kept well for weeks.
- Poured 330ml ale (Badger Original) into a large pan and added 50g rolled oats and 25g cocoa.
- Brought to the boil and simmered for 1 minute.
- Removed from heat and stirred in 75g unsalted butter and 100g 70% dark chocolate.
- Added 225g brown sugar (I think muscovado would have worked well here) and stirred well.
- Beat in one duck egg and 2 tsp vanilla extract.
- Mixed in 150g rasins
- Beat in 250 wholemeal spelt and 1 tsp baking powder
- Spooned into a 9″ cake thingie and baked for 30 mins at 18oC.
- Whilst cake was cooling, I melted 100g dark chocolate with 100 ml creme fraiche and stirred gently. I don’t seem to have much success with ganache, it started to split so I very quickly stopped stirring.
- Spread this on top of the cooled cake as best I could and cut into 16 squares.
Having finally located some passionfruit, I went a little overboard and bought quite a few. Then they all needed using up! So I was looking to bake something else after my success with the white chocolate and passionfruit cupcakes. I had brownies on the brain at the time, so brownies it had to be. After hunting around the net, I found this recipe at Scandilicious.
I love marzipan, so I got very excited when I started to see Simnel cake posts appearing on the blogosphere around Mother’s Day this year. This is traditionally served at Easter, although it is also associated with Mothering Sunday where servant girls were given the day off and allowed to take a cake home for their mothers. Not only do you get all that lovely marzipan on top, but you get the most delightful surprise layer of squidgy marzipan in the middle which half melts into the cake mixture as it cooks. The whole is topped off with 11 balls of this delicious almond confection. These balls are there to represent the 12 apostles, minus Judas, for reasons any Christian can explain.
- Creamed 6oz brown sugar with 6oz unsalted butter until pale and well incorporated.
- Beat in 3 large eggs alternately with 6oz sieved flour (4oz wholemeal spelt and 2oz coconut flour) and 1 tsp baking powder.
- Stirred in 1 oz ground almonds, 1/2 tsp mixed spice, 2 tsp ground ginger.
- Added 2oz dried papaya, 2oz dried pineapple, 3oz cherries (halved), 2oz raisins and 100g 70% dark chocolate (broken into small pieces).
- Mixed in 2 large tbsp Greek yogurt (TOTAL 0% fat)
- Spooned 1/2 of the mixture into a 22cm cake thingie, then covered this with 5oz marzipan rolled out into a round slightly smaller than the cake. Covered with remaining cake mixture.
- Baked at 160C for 1 hour until firm and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean (ish).
- Allowed to cool, wrapped well in greaseproof paper and placed in a tin for a couple of weeks.
- On the day of reckoning, rolled out 6oz marzipan into a 22cm round to cover the cake.
- Melted 1 tbsp plum jam (didn’t have any apricot) and brushed over the top of the cake. Placed the marzipan round on top of this and gently pressed into position.
- Divided another 4oz marzipan into 11 equal lumps and rolled into balls. Placed these around the edge of the cake.
- Brushed the whole with a beaten egg and put under the grill for mins to brown slightly. Unfortunately, like King Alfred, I managed to burn the marzipan at this point.
- Decorated with chocolate eggs.