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Blueberry and Orange Breakfast Bread

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I have been desperately trying to find the time to make this recipe for a few months now. I had the idea after my son saw a similar tear and share bread in a book, but I wanted to come up with my own recipe using Gilchester’s Organic Unbleached Flour.

But we have been busy with school holidays and the important business of getting to know our new puppy, Florence.

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The first time I attempted it, I made far to much, and the rolled up dough didn’t come close to fitting in a 10″ tin. So, I reduced the quantities and tweaked the ratios and came up with this. I really hope you like it.

Ingredients

250g of Bread Flour

125g of Milk 

1/2 Teaspoon of Orange Blossom

8g of Dried Instant Yeast (by all means use fresh if you have it but I know many people can’t get hold of it easily)

30g of Caster Sugar

25g of Softened Butter

5g of Salt

1 Large Egg, beaten.

Plus an beaten extra egg to glaze the dough.

For the filling:

40g of Softened Butter

50g of Caster Sugar

Zest of 2 Oranges

100g of Blueberries

To decorate:

The juice of half an Orange

150-200g of Icing Sugar

50-100g of Blueberries (it’s really down to personal choice how many you wish to put on the top).

A few strands of Orange Zest (leave a little of the oranges used in the dough ungrated and grate it now)

  1. Put all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and quickly rub the butter in, but don’t be too precise about it.
  2. Add the milk, eggs, and orange blossom water and start to mix. If you are using a mixer, allow the dough hook to do the work for you (it should take 6-8 minutes). If you are doing it by hand, slowly incorporate the ingredients together using a dough scraper before turning on to a surface in order to work the dough. It will be very sticky but do not add extra flour. Keep working the dough, using the Richard Bertinet method and it will become less sticky. Once it is springy and scraped together in a merely tacky ball of dough, allow it to rest, covered with a cloth, for 45 minutes.DSC_0005
  3. Scrape the dough on to a very lightly floured surface and fold it in on itself, before forming into a ball again and returning to the bowl, covering once more. Leave it to prove and develop for 1 hour.DSC_0001
  4. Flour your work surface and de-gas the dough (bashing it with the flat of your hands to remove any air bubbles). Roll it out to about 12″ by 6/7″.DSC_0828 (1).jpg
  5. Mix the soft butter, sugar and orange zest together and spread it evenly over the dough, leaving a half inch gap along the top (long) edge.DSC_0829
  6. At this stage most people would scatter the blueberries then roll up the dough and divide. But I find it easier to portion up the dough with a pizza wheel, then scatter the fruit and roll. You tend not to get in such a mess and the rolled up dough is more uniform (apart from the edge pieces). Use whatever method you are most comfortable with.DSC_0831
  7. Place the rolled up dough in a greased and lined baking tin. I used a 9″ but an 8″ would also accommodate the bread.
  8. Allow the bread to prove, under a cloth again, for another hour.DSC_0837
  9. Heat the oven to 190C (or 170C fan), glaze the bread with beaten egg and bake for 20-25 minutes. The bread will have risen and filled out the tin and be golden.
  10. Allow it rest in the tin for ten minutes before inverting on to a cooling rack. I then placed it on a serving plate, right way up, but this side is so pretty.🙂DSC_0825
  11. You can leave your bread like this and serve warm. Alternatively, you can allow it to cool a little, make up the orange icing and drizzle it on to the bread with the fresh blueberries and extra orange zest.

The bread is soft and sweet, but not too sweet, so is a perfect breakfast and brunch bread.

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And the texture is light and fluffy (persevering with a much wetter dough and taking more time to allow the bread to prove pays off in this way).

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If you are pushed for time (and not many of us can get all this done for breakfast time, even at the weekend) then start the bread the night before. When you get to the second prove (stage 3) cover the bowl with clingfilm and put in the fridge overnight. In the morning allow the dough to come up to room temperature, 30-60 minutes, then carry on with stage 4.

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My chief taste testers, the kids, loved it, especially Gabriel, who had asked for a Blueberry and Orange bread all this months ago. I hope you like it too.

Pistachio and Chocolate Cake

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I have a confession to make. Well, not so  much a confession but a disclaimer. This recipe isn’t entirely original and mine. To be honest, I am fed up of seeing people posting their alleged “new recipes” when they have clearly been reworked from someone else’s and have not given them credit.

So, I want to be clear, that this cake is a re-working and scaling of other people’s recipes, with a minor element being mine.

The sponges that make up this cake are a scaling up of Annie Bell’s Chocolate and Pistachio cake in her Baking Bible.  I have long been a fan of hers since I picked up a very reduced copy of her Gorgeous Cakes in a discount book shop. To this day I have no idea why she isn’t a household name: the woman knows her stuff and her recipes are great.

I opted to make my own filling of Pistachio Buttercream, mainly because I had some leftover. But I think it really works and adds to the pistachio flavour.

The chocolate icing over the cake is a scaled down version of Nigella Lawson’s icing from her Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake, which is a staple in my house.

As for the decoration on top, it came about by good timing on the part of the delivery guy who brought my first order from Sous Chef. I had ordered a few bits and pieces on top of the magnificent emerald Iranian pistachios (after seeing them on my friend’s Instagram feed), including some edible flowers.

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When the order arrived I had literally just put the chocolate icing on top and had started to cut up my paler, supermarket pistachios. Once opened, I realised that I could use the edible Mallow flowers in my order as a great accent to the vivid green of the pistachios.

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Anyway, enough of that. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients for the Sponge:

6 Medium Eggs

240g of Caster Sugar

1 1/2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder

120g of Pistachios, ground in a blender

250g of Ground Almonds

  1. Separate the eggs and whisk the whites until stiff. 
  2. In another bowl, whisk the yolks and sugar for only a minute.
  3. Fold the whites in to the yolk mixture in two parts, then fold in the baking powder and a teaspoon of Kirsch (or almond extract).
  4. Divide the mixture into one third and two thirds. Add the ground pistachios to the third, and fold in gently.
  5. Add the ground almonds to the two thirds, and fold in gently.
  6. Pour the respective mixtures into lined 8″ tins, at 200C (180C fan) and bake for 20 minutes (for the pistachio cake) and 25 minutes for the deeper cake. They should be springy when cooked and a skewer will come out clean.
  7. Allow to cool.

Ingredients for the Pistachio Buttercream:

40g of Pistachios, ground

75g of Softened Butter

120g of Icing Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Kirsch of Almond Extract

  1. Cream the butter and the icing sugar, tasting to check for a sweetness that is to your taste.
  2. Add the Kirsch and ground pistachios and mix again.

Ingredients for the Chocolate Icing:

50g of Butter

115g of Dark Chocolate

200g of Sieved Icing Sugar

2 Teaspoons of Golden Syrup

85g of Soured Cream

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract or Paste

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain marie.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and golden syrup.
  3. Mix in the soured cream then add the icing sugar. I find it best to use a metal whisk to ensure there are no lumps in the finished icing.
  4. Put it to one side until it has firmed up enough to spread on the cake. Depending on the temperature of the day, this could take 30 minutes.

Whilst the chocolate icing is cooling down and firming up, turn your attention to the sponges. Split the almond sponge in two and place one half on a cake stand or plate.

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Spread one half of the Pistachio Buttercream on it, then place the pistachio sponge on top. Spread the rest of the buttercream on that. Top with the other half of the almond sponge.

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Once you are happy with the chocolate icing’s consistency, spread it around the sides and over the top of the cake. I didn’t bother to be especially careful in creating a super smooth finish on this occasion, as I wanted a more natural finish, but do as you fancy. You may even want to pipe it.

I made a very small amount of water icing with a heaped tablespoon of icing sugar and enough water to make a fairly runny paste. I coloured it a vivid green with some paste food colouring, then put it in a small disposable piping bag. I snipped off the end and swirled the icing in loose circles shapes around the edge of the top of the cake.

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I very carefully cut the pistachios in to slivers, which was actually quite easy given the quality of the ones that had just arrived in the post. I scattered these on top of the green circles of icing. I then sprinkled a small amount of the gold sugar from the supermarket that I use so often. Finally, I added a few of the deep purple Mallow flowers from Sous Chef. I was delighted with how it looked.

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Now, this cake is actually a sponge and has no butter in it. This, of course, means that it is light and airy, but has a much shorter shelf life than a cake made with a fat in it. Therefore, I suggest that this is one of those cakes that you make, assemble and eat on the same day. It really is at its best on the day it is made, and loses a lot of its light texture when left overnight.

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Having said that, the flavours are still great, with a good balance between the rich chocolate and the boozy nutty interior.

I do hope you enjoy making this cake and eating it as much as I did.

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Biscoff Macarons Heaven

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Put your hands up if you like Lotus Biscoff spread? That Speculoos flavoured spread that only found its way in to our supermarkets a couple of years ago. Maybe you have only tried the Lotus biscuits: a sweet and caramelised crunch that dunks very easily in to a cup of tea or coffee.

My daughter likes the biscuits, but *loves* the spread. It’s probably her all time favourite thing. She laughs in the face of Nutella but would give away her last colouring pencil for a spoon of “my favourite spread”.

Last week I made 250 macarons. You would think I would have had enough of the things. In fact, I thought I had had enough of them. But, as the task of producing this massive order was coming to an end, I had this idea of making Biscoff flavoured macarons after seeing an online tutorial to make Oreo macarons. It didn’t take long to work out how I was going to fill them. Last winter, BBC Good Food printed a recipe for a Gingerbread Cake that had the most divine icing made from Biscoff spread. I decided I would adapt that recipe for the filling.

Anyway, the whole venture proved a huge success, so I wanted to share the recipe with you. It makes approximately 22-25 macarons, depending how on big or small you pipe the shells.

Ingredients (for the macarons shells)

110g Egg Whites

75g Caster Sugar

80g Ground Almonds

170g of Icing Sugar

45g of Lotus Biscoff biscuits (about 6 biscuits)

  1. First whizz up the biscuits in a blender until they are fine crumbsDSC_0623 (1)
  2. Add the almonds and icing sugar to the blender and whizz it all up together for another minute or two.
  3. Sieve this mixture, discarding any large crumbs that don’t pass through.DSC_0625 (1)
  4. In a large and clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then add the caster sugar a teaspoon at a time whilst still whisking. Keep whisking until the sugar is all incorporated and the mixture is thick and glossy.
  5. Add half of the dry mixture to the egg whites and fold in with a large spoon or silicone spatula. Add the other half and do the same. Cut and fold gently: do not beat the mixture. It should fall off the spoon without too much encouragement and settle to a smooth mixture after a few seconds in the bowl.DSC_0627 (1).jpg
  6. Fill a piping bag with the mixture and pipe the shells out on to silicone lined baking trays. You should be able to pipe 45-50 shells depending on how big or small you pipe.
  7. Drop or bash the oven trays on the table or worktop a few times to rid the shells of any air bubbles and encourage a smoother top. Don’t worry, you can be fairly rough.DSC_0628 (2)
  8. Allow the shells to become touch dry before baking them. Depending on the temperature and humidity, this can take anything from 30-60 minutes.
  9. I bake them in my fan oven at 150C for 15-17 minutes (they should be firm with their characteristic frilly “feet”) but it will take you a while to work out what temperature your macarons like to be baked in *your* oven. I had to completely change the length of time and temperature for baking them when I moved to the house that I currently live in. The oven was so different from my previous one. So keep a close eye, take note, and don’t be disheartened if you need to alter the timings of temperature to achieve the perfect result.DSC_0635 (1)
  10. Remove them from the oven once baked and allow to cool on the tray for 10 minutes then remove them to a cooling rack.

Ingredients (for the filling)

60g of Soft Butter

50g of Lotus Biscoff Spread

1 Teaspoon of Vanilla 

150g of Icing Sugar, sieved

75g of Cream Cheese (full fat)

  1. Cream the butter, spread and vanilla together, then mix in half of the icing sugar.
  2. Add the Cream Cheese and mix until smooth, then add the rest of the icing sugar and mix until incorporated.
  3. Keep it cool until ready to use (but it will firm up in the fridge, so remember to take it out to soften before piping).

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When you are ready, match up your macarons shells in pairs of the same size (it’s amazing how they can vary when at a glance they all look the same). Pipe the creamy filling on to one side of each pair before gently pressing the partner shell on top.

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Chill to firm up and keep fresh until ready to be eaten. They are best made the day before, chilled, then allowed to return to room temperature.

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And they taste bloody good, even if I do say so myself. But then I do owe a big thanks to BBC Good Food’s Food Editor, Cassie Best, for her Biscoff icing recipe that I adapted for the macarons, and to Lotus for making such delicious biscuits in the first place, then having the decency to turn them into a spread for us to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Macathon

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A few months ago I was asked by a friend of a friend to make some macarons for the evening reception of their wedding. I took on the task, not realising I’d be making 250 of the little blighters, in five different flavours. It also turned out to be the most humid and hot week of the year so far. It was quite the challenge and a macarons marathon.

She chose four flavours that I was familiar with: White chocolate; Pistachio; Chocolate; and Lemon.

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Raspberry and White Chocolate

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Pistachio

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Chocolate

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Lemon Buttercream with a Lemon Curd centre in production.

However, she asked for one I hadn’t made before: Mojito. So, I did my research and tried out a couple of filling ideas.

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Mojito with fresh mint and lime.

I had wanted to make a sugar syrup with real rum, mint and lime, but it just didn’t work. I reduced it to a sticky mess and the rum flavour just wasn’t coming through. In hindsight, I think I should have used a dark rum for a more rounded flavour.

In the end, I used a rum flavouring. This is not the route I wanted to go down, but the real deal was curdling my buttercream the more I added to ensure a good enough hit of flavour. I chopped the mint and mixed it through the buttercream instead of making a syrup with it.

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As always, I used Ruth Clemens’ macarons recipe for the shells, but here is my recipe for the Mojito filling.

Ingredients (fills 25-30 macarons):

75g of Butter, softened

150g of Icing Sugar

Zest of 2 Limes

Juice of 1 Lime

1 1/2 Teaspoons of Rum flavouring

3 Teaspoons of chopped fresh Mint

1 Teaspoon of Lemon Curd (if you have it handy, bit it’s not essential).

Cream the butter and icing sugar until fluffy then mix in the other ingredients.

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I have to say it was a big relief to see the 250 boxed up macarons heading out of the door. But this is a great summer flavour that I will definitely be making again.

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Fresh Summer Berry Cake

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Now that I am back in the blog writing saddle, as it were, it feels good to write this post and share the recipe that I created for this summery cake. It is a Blueberry and Lime cake, flavoured with a Lime and Mint sugar syrup, and I created it for the birthday of my partner’s youngest daughter.

I have been musing over a blueberry and lemon cake for a while. I have seen several recipes online but they all seem overly complicated. I also really wanted to use lime instead of lemon. And then I remembered the lime and mint sugar syrup that I made for my friends’ naked wedding cake two years ago. It’s such a wonderful and refreshing combination: the mint makes the berries zing. I just needed an excuse to experiment.

I usually make a cake for my partner’s children’s birthdays. We try to get together for a big blended family dinner with cake and candles. His youngest didn’t have a preference for what kind of cake she wanted, so I took the opportunity to make something that I fancied. And this is what I came up with.

Ingredients for the Cake 

230g of Butter, softened

400g of Caster Sugar

1 Heaped Tablespoon of Lime Zest (5-6 limes, depending on their size)

5 Tablespoons of Lime Juice

4 Medium Eggs, lightly beaten together

450g of Self Raising Flour

1 Teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda

300g of Buttermilk

400g of Blueberries 

 

Decoration

A punnet of fresh Blueberries and Blackberries

Fresh Mint leaves

Purple and Gold Spinkles, plus gold sugar

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180C (or 160C for a fan oven) and grease and line three 9″ baking pans.
  2. Using two tablespoons of the flour, coat the blueberries (so that they don’t sink in the cake so much) and put to one side.DSC_0623
  3. Mix and sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
  4. Cream the sugar, butter and zest until pale and fluffy.
  5. Add the beaten eggs a little at a time, with the addition of a dessert spoon of the flour mixture to prevent curdling.
  6. Mix through the lime juice.
  7. Add the flour and buttermilk in alternating thirds. [I did this by hand because my mixer is on the blink but a paddle attachment would do the trick if you wanted to use your mixer]
  8. Lastly, fold in the blueberries as gently as you can. I reserved a couple of handfuls to sprinkle on top of the batter to ensure a better distribution of the fruit in the finished bake.DSC_0628
  9. Split the mixture between the three pans and bake for 30-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. I had to rotate the pans in my oven and one was ready before the others, so start checking after 30 minutes. They should also be a light golden colour when baked.DSC_0629
  10. Allow to cool in their tins for 10 minutes before turning them out on to a rack to cool completely.

Lime and Mint Sugar Syrup

80ml of Lime Juice

80g of Caster Sugar

A bunch of fresh Mint leaves

  1. Roughly chop the mint leaves add to the juice and sugar in a saucepan. Gently bring the syrup to a simmer for two or three minutes then take off the heat and allow to cool.
  2. When you are ready to use it, strain off the mint leaves.
  3. Brush the cakes with the syrup once they are cool.

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I decided to put a thin layer of Blueberry Jam, in addition to the Swiss Meringue Buttercream, between the layers, but, to be honest, the cake is so fruity and moist I am not sure it was really necessary. You can decide if you fancy using it or not.

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I also made the decision to make a Swiss Meringue Buttercream because I thought it would allow me to achieve a particular coloured decorative technique on the side of the finished cake. I’ve seen an increasing number of cakes finished in this way and wanted to give it a go. Let me tell you, it’s not as easy as it looks. As with most random or haphazard effects, they actually require a lot of control *and* creativity. I made a double batch of Peggy Porschen’s SMB recipe from her most recent book Love Layer Cakes, colouring a small quantity an acid yellow and another deep purple.

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I covered the cake in the plain SMB and chilled it down in the fridge, then gave it a second coat of plain with some blobs of the coloured SMB dotted around the sides. I then used my side scraper so smooth the sides and blend the colours. I wish I could say it took one swipe around the cake, but I wasn’t happy and touched it up here and there. I think I would definitely get a better finish next time, having tried this technique once before. I think the biggest danger is merging too many colours and ending up with a muddied finish. It was wise to start with two colours the first time, but if you want to see what you can really do with this technique then head over to Katherine Sabbath’s Instagram.

I decorated the top of the cake in a crescent of fresh blueberries, blackberries, mint springs, sprinkles and gold sugar. Edible gold leaf would also look terrific on this kind of cake.

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Unfortunately, the mint had become a little floppy by the time we ate it, so that was another lesson learned.

If you don’t fancy going to the trouble of making Swiss Meringue Buttercream then make regular buttercream or even a Cream Cheese Frosting (as many others pair with their blueberry and lemon cakes). This is a big cake that goes a long way, so save it for a party or other special occasion. Feel free to switch up the toppings: I think a crown of all kinds of summer berries would be equally delicious, in fact, serving extra fresh berries on the side would make for a great dessert and counter the sweetness of the icing a little more.

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I am delighted to have come up with another recipe and hope that someone out there enjoys it too.

And Happy Birthday, Rosie.❤

Well, hello there. It’s been a while.

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I’ve not written a blog post in weeks and weeks. And it’s not because I haven’t been baking: in fact, I was very busy baking in May and June. Then we went on holiday (smashing, thanks for asking) and now we have a new puppy in the house.

So, although I have a couple of bigger celebration cake blogs posts in me, I thought I would ease myself in with one of my favourite recipes. It’s based on a BBC Good Food biscuit recipe and I have adapted and played with it over the years. I thought I’d document and share my favourite version.

I’ve said it countless times: these are such easy and quick biscuits. They are egg free and a great recipe to make with your kids, even toddlers.

Pistachio & Chocolate Oaties (makes between 25 and 30)

250g of Butter, soft

150g of Light Brown Sugar

150g of Self Raising Flour

225g of Oats

80g of Pistachios, chopped

100g of Dark Chocolate chips (or a chopped up bar of chocolate)

  1. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Blend in the flour and oats until you have a thick, but still soft and sticky, dough.
  3. Incorporate the nuts and chocolate.
  4. Scoop out heaped teaspoons and roll roughly into a ball shape and flatten slightly on a lined baking tray.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven 180C (160C fan) for 15 minutes. The biscuits will have flattened slightly, and be lightly golden but still soft. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before moving to a rack to cool completely. They will last for several days in a sealed container, but I think you will find them very moreish and that won’t be an issue.
  6. Remember, substitute the nuts and chocolate for any flavour combos you fancy. My second favourite is white chocolate and dried, chopped apricots.

Raspberry and Rose Celebration

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Well hello there. It feels like years since I last wrote a blog post. The last few months have been very busy in our house but I’ve been baking away just the same, only not writing quite so much about it. If you follow my Instagram feed you’ll see plenty of baking, cooking and the odd bottle or two of wine (francesbakes).

My friend asked me to make a cake for her mum’s special birthday and I just knew you guys would want to see more of the process, so I documented its production to share with you today.

My brief was “she likes Turkish Delight and best to avoid chocolate”…immediately I thought to ask if she likes raspberries: they go so well with rose. Thankfully, she does, and so I started planning what I’d make.

Straight away I decided to use The Pink Whisk’s Raspberry Ripple cake as the basis for the celebration cake. I have used this recipe a lot and it is simply delicious. So many people that I know love it too, so if you haven’t tried it, then I urge you to give it a bash this summer as soon as you can get your hands on some raspberries.

I also knew that I wanted to make my own Turkish Delight. Only recently did I make Marshmallows for the first time. It was a lot of fun and so deeply satisfying to make something that we so easily pick up off the shelves in the supermarket without a second thought. And for the record, homemade, as with most things, is *so*  much better. I searched online for some recipes and decided to use the one on the Good to Know website.

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Only Rose Water, sugar, gelatine and food colouring required.

It was actually very straightforward and required very little for me to do once it was bubbling away for 20 minutes. The tricky part was peeling it away from the paper once it had set. It is still pretty soft and *very* sticky once set, so patience is required.

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Lots of icing sugar and cornflour and a very sharp knife are essential.

But what fun playing with this wibbly wobbly treat.

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I don’t think I can emphasise enough how satisfying this was to make. Or to play with. I even made a video.

Enough of that for now…on to the cake itself.

I baked the cake in two 8″ sandwich tins, as directed by the recipe.

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Then, to add more layers of flavour to what was to be a celebration cake, after all, I soaked the cakes in a Rose water sugar syrup. I made this by warming through 45ml of water in a pan with 45g of caster sugar until the sugar had dissolved, then I stirred through 1/4 teaspoon of Rose water.

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Once cool, I filled the cake with the raspberry Cream cheese filling that Ruth uses, but I mixed the raspberry purée through thoroughly. I also added three drops of raspberry flavouring from Lakeland. This ensured that the cake stayed moist and that the flavour of raspberries wasn’t drowned out by the rose.

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I then chilled the cake right down for a while to allow the filling to firm up a little.

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I made a regular buttercream, but added Rose water to taste and a drop of pink food colouring. I crumb coated the cake, chilled it, then gave it a final smooth and sharp finish before returning it to the fridge to completely set.

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Then, came the fun bit…

I used a stencil to create a pretty pattern on the top of the cake with icing sugar to start with.

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I then began to arrange the cubed Turkish Delight around the top of the cake, adding fresh raspberries (with a little soft buttercream to help them “stick”), freeze dried raspberries, edible rose petals and some pink sprinkles. It can be hard to know when to stop! And when people say how pretty my cakes like these are, I always direct them to how beautiful the ingredients are. How wonderfully beautiful, vibrant and juicy do these raspberries look? How could a cake not look good with these on top?

Here are some of my tips for making and decorating cakes like these: let the best of ingredients speak for themselves; take your time assembling the decoration on top; keep stepping back and turning the cake round to check for balance (both from above and from the side); and think about and consider the balance of colours, textures and shapes that you are using to decorate it with.

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I am very pleased with how the cake turned out. If I was to make this one again, I would maybe cube the Turkish Delight smaller, but that is just a minor detail. If you want to make it, you might want to use Swiss Meringue Buttercream for an even lighter exterior. If you really don’t like the taste of rose (and I never used to but have grown to love it) you could make this simply with the raspberry flavours, even make a thick raspberry syrup to drizzle down the sides of the cake. As I always say, make it your own.

It was a pleasure to make a cake for my friend’s mum: she is a very special and amazing woman.

 

Fun with Friands

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I have been meaning to make Friands for about two years. As far as I can tell they are essentially the big cousins (on steroids) of those tiny, delicate morsels, French Financiers, invented all the way over in Australia.

I do love a Financier. The last time I was in Paris, the first thing I bought and scoffed was a clutch of them at the airport.

And I did invest in a beautiful Friand baking tin some time ago, and though I have used it for Little Pistachio Cakes (you can find the recipe in BBC Good Food Magazine) I have never used it for its original purpose. Until today.

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The recipe for these, from Eat, Little Bird popped up on my Facebook feed a while ago and I saved it for when I had the time. I know that my friend, Jo, at Every Nook and Cranny is also a little obsessed by these little cakes, and I would very much to try one of her recipes in the near future.

Yesterday, on Easter Sunday, I baked a Gâteau à la crème from a recipe that I found by Raymond Blanc in delicious. magazine. The recipe required a lot of egg yolks and I was left with a number of egg whites. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to try out the Friands and to use up some of those egg whites.

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Gâteau à la crème for Easter Sunday dessert

It really is a super simple method and quick to make. I took some photographs of the stages of the recipe.

There was minimum preparation with washing and chopping the rhubarb, then measuring everything else out.

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I whisked the egg whites until firm but not dry.

Once the egg whites, melted butter and mixture of flour, icing sugar and ground almonds were gently mixed together I loaded up the buttered Friand pan and gently pushed in the prepared rhubarb.

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I baked mine for the full 25 minutes and was delighted when they come out of the oven, though I had expected a little more rise. Perhaps my tin size is slightly bigger than Eat, Little Bird’s.

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They tasted fabulous: a great combination of sweet vanilla and tart and fruity rhubarb. They were more dense than I was expecting and a little chewy. I wondered if this was caused by adding the butter after the egg whites or maybe I had over worked the mixture, and Thanh from Eat, Little Bird and I had a good chat about it on Instagram.

Of course, this combination of me loving the taste of them and not being sure if I got the texture correct only means one thing: I shall be experimenting with Friands again, and probably very soon.

 

A Coffee Cake with a kick

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Good morning and a Happy Easter to you.

This isn’t an Easter cake, though it does contain chocolate, nor was it made recently. But I was asked for the recipe from someone over on Instagram, so I felt I should cobble together a blog post with details of how I made this cake (which was in the Autumn of last year).

The cake itself is a simple coffee Victoria Sponge, but it is soaked in a Tia Maria sugar syrup, then filled with an Espresso and Mascarpone cream, then covered completely in a good old fashioned chocolate buttercream. It is finished off with a chocolate glaze drizzle, chocolate bark and various other decorative edibles.

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You should start by making the chocolate bark the day before you need it to ensure it is firm enough to handle, especially if it is warm.

Chocolate Bark

150G of Dark Chocolate

A handful of Coffee Beans

Gold Sugar, sprinkles, bronze honeycomb chunks (Marks and Spencer) or any other pretty gold or bronze decorations you can find that will tone together.

  1. Melt the chocolate gently then spread it in a layer of about 3 or 4mm across a silicone mat to about 15cm by 20cm, then immediately sprinkle with the coffee beans and other decorations.
  2. Allow to firm overnight.

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Coffee Sponge

225g of Soft Butter

225g of Golden Caster Sugar

225g Self Raising Flour, sieved

4 Large Eggs

2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder

2 Heaped Teaspoons of Coffee dissolved in one Tablespoon of boiling water then cooled

  1. Grease and line an 8″ cake tin and pre-heat your oven to 180C (160C fan).
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a scant dessert spoon of flour, and mix well before adding the next one.
  4. Mix the remaining flour with the baking powder and fold in half of it to the butter, sugar and eggs.
  5. Gently mix in the coffee, then add the rest of the flour and baking powder mix and gently fold until incorporated.
  6. Put the mixture in the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 mins until it is springy to touch and a toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out on to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, you can make the sugar syrup and the Espresso Mascarpone filling.

 

Sugar Syrup

4 Tablespoons of water

75g of Golden Caster Sugar

1 Tablespoon of Tia Maria

  1. Put the water and the sugar in a saucepan and heat on medium until the sugar has all dissolved. Once you take it off the heat add the Tia Maria, stir in gently, then put to one side.

 

Espresso and Mascarpone Cream

250g of Mascarpone

25g of Golden Syrup

10g of Icing Sugar

1 Tablespoon of Espresso (or 2 heaped teaspoons of good instant coffee dissolved in one tablespoon of boiling water), cold

  1. Gently mix all of the above ingredients together, cover and put to one side until ready to use. Store it in the fridge if this is going to be for more than half an hour.

 

Chocolate Buttercream

200g of Soft Butter

300g of Icing Sugar, sieved

100g of Dark Chocolate, melted

  1. Cream the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy, making sure all the icing sugar is incorporated. Whilst the mixer is still going, pour in the melted dark chocolate and mix until it is evenly distributed.

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Once the cake is completely cool, level off the top with a sharp knife or cake leveller, then split it into three layers. They will be shallow, so handle gently.

Brush (or pour) each layer with some of the sugar syrup until it is used up.

Place the first layer on your cake board or plate, the add half of the mascarpone and espresso cream, spreading it evenly across the cake. Place the second layer on top, and repeat with the same filling. Then add the top layer. If you feel the filling is a little soft at this stage, then chill the whole cake for half an hour to firm up.

Crumb coat (a thin coat of icing to trap all the crumbs) the cake with a thin layer of chocolate buttercream and refrigerate for an hour. Now cover the cake with the rest of the chocolate buttercream, using a bench scraper to get the sides as smooth as possible. Chill again for half an hour.

At this stage make the Chocolate Glaze and allow it to cool a little. You will get the hang of what temperature and consistency is required the more you use this technique. Too thick and it won’t drizzle beautifully but will clump up; too runny and it will run all round down the sides and onto your board or plate. I leave it to cool for about 10 minutes in the bowl before putting in a disposable icing bag.

Chocolate Glaze

100g of Dark Chocolate

60g of Butter

2 Teaspoons of Golden Syrup

  1. Put all of the ingredients together and melt gently over a bain marie.

Take the cake from the fridge, snip a half centimetre hole in the bottom of the icing bag and start to drizzle it around the top edge of the cake, allowing it to run down the sides, whilst turning the cake slowly at the same time. Here is a video showing you how I do it. As soon as you have drizzled the glaze down the side, quickly cover the top of the cake and spread it out, if necessary, with a spatula.

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Have all your decorations and cut up bark at the ready so that you can get going as soon as the drizzle is done (you don’t want to be forcing the bark into firm glaze or trying to get sprinkles to adhere to it once it has set). Think in advance about how you want to arrange your decorations. A semi circle is very attractive and easy to achieve, but by all means, cover the whole cake or make an arrangement in the centre if that pleases you.

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These pieces of chocolate bark are quite modest in size, but could easily be tall shards if you so wish.

 

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I hope this is of help and you have fun re-creating your own Coffee Cake with a kick.

 

Carrot Gold

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This isn’t a post in which I share a new recipe; but one in which I share an idea of how to decorate a Carrot Cake for a special occasion. As I was saying to my friend earlier, Carrot Cake *is* beautiful with swirls of Cream Cheese Frosting and some sprinkled nuts on top, but sometimes you want one of your favourite, everyday cakes to be a bit more celebratory.

I wanted to show that it is possible to do that without training to be a pastry chef first.

Firstly, let me explain that I don’t use walnuts in my carrot cake, but prefer pecans. I immediately thought about how I could use the pecans on the top of the finished cake by dusting them with gold and bronze lustre and adding small pieces of edible gold leaf to others.

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The cake also contains desiccated coconut, so I felt that using larger shavings of coconut on top would hint at the ingredients inside and add a different texture. After that, it was a case of raiding my box of sprinkles and using all the gold and bronze ones in various sizes. I also happened to have caramel and orange “chocolate” shavings; the kind you find in the sprinkles and ice-cream toppings section in the supermarket.

The pattern on top of the smoothed cream cheese frosting is made using a stencil that came with the last Peggy Porschen book that I bought, entitled Love Layer Cakes. I simply sprinkled cinnamon through a tea strainer to create this look, which I think is very effective.

And whilst on the subject of cream cheese frosting, or icing, I have a confession to make. I am not prone to nervousness in the kitchen, least of all when I am baking (unless I have a saucepan of bubbling sugar!) but I have grown kind of apprehensive about making and using cream cheese frosting over the years. How many times have you made it and then gone a step too far and it has turned from a luscious, rich and thick icing to a pool of watery mess? It has happened to me too many times and it makes me nervous. I tried Peggy Porschen’s recipe (again, found in Love Layer Cakes) this time and it worked a treat. It wasn’t as cheese flavoured as I am used to but it was a blessing to have an icing that held up to the demands of decorating a large, 9″ carrot cake that had a distance to travel.

So, if you want to make your regular cake a little bit more glamorous but don’t want to worry about fondant icing or modelling shapes to decorate it with, then think about what’s inside and take it from there. Is there an ingredient that can by showcased on the top? Have you looked in the baking aisle in the supermarket to see what new sprinkles they have? Walk down the boxed chocolate aisle and consider flavoured chocolate flute shapes or variants of After Eight Mints. And Lindt do a great range of ball shaped chocolates in several flavours that can be dusted with edible lustre to tie in with a colour and taste theme.

Have fun with it: I always do when I am planning how to decorate a cake, and enjoy carefully placing them on the top of the cake once all the baking and icing is complete.

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