Category Archives: Sweets

Chocolate Birthday Cake

Chocolate-Cake-I-(4498)

I couldn’t quite choose what to write about today. However, just now a friend of mine tweeted about chocolate cake and birthdays. Don’t you just love Twitter? I do. It’s nice to be a child: you go to some friends’ birthday parties, and sometimes you get to invite them to yours. And the grown-ups do all the work for you. Smashing. I always say that children have the best social lives. The highlight of a birthday party is of course the cake, even though one might argue that it’s actually the presents! So let’s say that they are equally important. And let’s also say that every excuse is a good excuse for chocolate cake. I tried this recipe quite a while ago; I definitely didn’t wait for my birthday to bake it.

Chocolate-Cake-I-(4496)

In my view, Nigella’s book Feast is one of the books to go for if you want something special for a party. As with many of her books, it’s like an encyclopaedia, and there’s a whole section on chocolate and chocolate cakes. The cakes here can also be quite rich, but is that really a bad thing? Let’s face it, you won’t make it or eat it that often, and what’s a birthday celebration without a smooth chocolate-melt-in-the-mouth cake?

You need sour cream for this. I had a tub of the stuff just sitting in the fridge doing nothing. Classic: you buy one ingredient for a particular recipe, then you almost always end up with extra which ultimately goes bad. What a waste. So I flipped frantically through the books till I came across Nigella’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake. Don’t be fooled by the length of the method. It’s really easy to make. This is totally her recipe.

Some notes before you start: Firstly, this is a sandwich cake, so you need two sandwich tins (with or without a removable bases – mine aren’t). Secondly, I had a lot of leftover icing, a lot more than I really needed. Instead of scaling the amount down I chose to make some quick and easy cupcakes (which I will include very soon) and spooned whatever remained over them. In my experience you will have enough to top another cake if you like. Also Nigella suggests that all your ingredients should be at room temperature.

For the cake you will need:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 175g soft unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150ml sour cream

For the American-style icing (or frosting) you need:

  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 175g dark chocolate, broken into small cubes
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 125ml sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat your oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4. Line and grease well two sandwich tins.
  2. In a large bowl mix the the flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and beat in the butter till you have a soft and creamy mixture. In another bowl whisk the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla extract and eggs together (you can do this by hand), and beat this with the other mixture in the large bowl.
  3. Divide the cake batter into your two tins and bake for about 50 minutes. Every oven is different so start checking your cakes after around 30 minutes with a skewer or knife. When completely baked, remove the cakes from the oven and put them on a rack to cool for about 10 minutes in their tins. When they are cool enough for you to handle turn them out completely and onto the rack again. Any cracks will be covered by the icing later.
  4. Now for the icing. Melt the chocolate together with the butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. (This way is better than melting in the microwave because it is much easier to control and there’s a lesser chance of burning.) When completely melted remove it from over the water and leave to cool. In the meantime, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl.
  5. Add the golden syrup into your melted chocolate mixture which has now cooled. Then add the sour cream, vanilla and the sieved icing sugar. Whisk the lot. Depending on how you want the icing consistency to be, you can now add around a tablespoon of boiling water (for a thinner icing) or some more icing sugar (for a thicker cream). Your icing should be easily spreadable onto the cake so you don’t want it too runny.
  6. Place a piece of baking paper to cover the base of a plate or cake stand (for any access icing that will surely drip) and start assembling your cake: first one cake, then a layer of icing in the middle, then the other cake on top and finally cover with some more icing.

You can either leave the icing as is, or top with some decorations, especially if it’s for a birthday party. Be as creative as you want. I topped mine with colourful decorative sprinkles. I have to remind myself to buy some white sugar daisies next time.

Enjoy!

Rob x

J’s Pancake Recipe

Blueberry-Pancakes-(4418)

I introduce to you my lovely husband J. I’ll be cheating today because this is his recipe! J likes to cook and he takes over the kitchen once in a while to whip up some tasty treats. I hand over the baton very graciously during these moments especially during weekends when I mainly bake anyway. I never regret it.

One of my personal favourites is pancakes. He makes a mean stack and they’re always special. Being a perfectionist, he worked and worked on this recipe till he got it right if I may say so myself. He thinks so too I guess but he’ll never admit it. So without further ado here it is. This recipe makes around 6 large thick American style pancakes, and of course if you have a waffle-iron you can make lovely waffles instead of pancakes.

Just a note before we start: instead of buttermilk, you can use the same quantity of milk and leave it at that. You can also add about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to the milk and let it sit for around 15-30 minutes. Also feel free to leave the salt out completely. I prefer a salt-free batter personally but I know that J likes a slightly salty flavour. For extra taste and colour contrast J likes to add some blueberries.

  • 175g plain flour
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt – optional
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1¼ cups buttermilk
  • 35g butter, melted
  • 250g blueberries – optional

If you don’t have buttermilk start off by preparing the milk as suggested above. If you’re using only milk then read on.

Measure the flour, baking powder, salt (if you’re using it) and sugar and mix them in a bowl.

For the waffles, or for fluffier pancakes, separate the eggs and use some muscle power to beat the whites into soft peaks.

Mix the milk/buttermilk with the egg yolks and melted butter. Pour these into the dry ingredients but try not to mix the batter too much.

Fold the soft beaten egg whites into the mixture and use a ladle to pour a bit of the pancake batter on a preheated and greased griddle (or a good non-stick pan). Sprinkle in some blueberries if you want at this stage.

Cook on one side until you see bubbles forming throughout the surface and the edges have solidified. Then turn the pancake over on the other side. Repeat until you have used all your batter.

Serve alone with some golden syrup or honey, or with fruit. Or however you want for that matter! Enjoy!

Rob x

Lemon Muffins

Maltese Lemons (6893)

Sometimes inspiration comes at the strangest of moments and the strangest of places. The story goes like this: I was on a flight to Malta. I don’t need to tell you what plane food tastes like. I wasn’t really hungry anyway but I had to have something, so I ate some of the bread and lemon cake wrapped up in plastic. I thought it was going to taste like it, but believe it or not…*ta da* it was good!

I can’t help it. When I think of lemons I think of summer. They are so refreshing and go with almost everything, but together with honey they are also very handy during the winter months, for the sniffles! I wish I had thought of baking with lemons earlier – they would have made the cold gloomy days in Surrey so much better!

So what follows is my adaptation of a recipe I found this week and tried today. I love it and hope you do too. For 9-12 muffins you need:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • the zest & juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 150ml milk

Grease/line with paper a muffin tin and preheat oven to 190°C (375 F).

In a large bowl combine flour, 50g sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt. (If you’re using coarse salt make sure to grind it to distribute flavour better.)

In another bowl beat the rest of the sugar, egg, oil, milk and lemon juice.

Combine both mixtures until all is just moistened. (Don’t over beat.)

Spoon the batter into the greased muffin tins and bake for around 20 mins. (Make sure they turn a little golden in colour, especially if you’re lining tin with paper.) Cool completely on a wire rack or serve warm with some ice cream. Why not?!

Enjoy!

Rob x