Tag Archives: Baking Made Easy

Another Chocolate Cake

Birthday Cakes (6987)

I am working at home, cappuccino in one hand and typing with the other. I am aware that there are two slices of cake – chocolate and yogurt respectively – waiting for me in the fridge, perhaps wondering why I did not eat them yet. I think I will in a moment, but this brings me neatly to today’s recipe. The other day some of my friends asked me what I usually bake for my birthday. (It would be nice to get a cake from someone else but somehow if you’re a baker, people expect you to bake your own cake. In Maltese I say “Tajba din!” Loosely translated as “good one!”) This year the only thing I knew was that there was to be chocolate involved, as always, but I couldn’t make up my mind.

Lorraine Pascale Chocolate Cake (6985)

Then I found the perfect recipe. I must admit that I tend to get on people’s nerves with my overuse of that word. “Perfect” recipes are often hard to come by. The ones I come up with are not perfect most of the time, even with loads of testing. They may taste great and look great but it takes years of practice to get something “perfect”. The ones in some recipe books tend to be lovely, but not all of them get the “Perfect” prize from me. However, the most unassuming one got that kind of praise in the past couple of weeks. The winner, you might ask? It might be.

Lorraine Pascale Chocolate Cake (6999)

You can find this chocolate cake recipe in Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy. It’s her (wait for it) ‘I just don’t give a damn’ Chocolate Cake. Now who wouldn’t want to bake something like that? And the name works…because the recipe works…because you measure the ingredients in one bowl all at one go, mix and you’re done. Fantastic. Here’s how I did it, with a slight variation on the quantities.

  • A few drops of vegetable oil (to grease the cake pans)
  • 140g crème fraiche
  • 130g unsalted butter, softened
  • 230g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 180g plain flour
  • pinch of salt*
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 10g baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180 ºC/Gas mark 4 and oil two 20 cm round cake tins. (You don’t need to use the loose-bottomed ones.) Line the bottom with round parchment paper.

Place all the ingredients into one big bowl and mix till everything is combined. (Add just a little pinch of salt. You could avoid it but I think here it does make a difference to the flavour.*) As I always insist (at the cost of boring you to death, I know) it is really important not to overmix the cake batter. You want fluffy, not rock solid here.

Divide the mixture into the two cake tins and place on the same top shelf in the oven, especially if you have an electric one.

Bake for around 30 mins, until the sides of the cakes come away from the tins. Leave the cakes to cool almost completely in the tins; remove and peel off the parchment paper from the bottom. Let them continue to cool on a cookie rack.

Now you can calmly prepare the frosting.

  • 80g dark chocolate
  • 130g soft unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
  • 250g icing sugar

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. When it is completely melted remove it from the heat and let it cool.

In another bowl whisk the butter, vanilla extract and icing sugar till they are light and airy. Add the cooled melted chocolate and fold it gently into the butter mixture.

The cakes should be completely cold by now so spread one of them with some frosting. Place the other one on top and cover with the rest of that gorgeous chocolate gooeyness.

Decorate as you wish. I had loads of pink hearts and sprinkles to do that with. I may be a tomboy, but I am a girl at heart!

Empty (6975)

Enjoy and Happy Birthday to you!

Rob x

(Adapted from Lorraine Pascale’s Baking Made Easy, HarperCollins, 2011.)

Butternut Squash and Rosemary Muffins

Butternut-Squash-and-Rosemary-Muffins-(4400)

Back to baking. This is the first recipe I tried from Baking Made Easy. It’s also one of the reasons I bought this book. Now if you read one of my previous entries you will know the story behind this, so I won’t bore you again with it. What I will say is that recipes on television almost always look better and/or easier than in real life, and this was one of those instances. However I must say that with some little tweaks here and there these muffins will be some of the best you’ve ever tried. I really really like them. They are also the first sweet and savoury muffins I ever tasted or made. I think this is also one of the rare occasions where I used self-raising and wholemeal flours, but you will see more of these in future posts.

The usual note before we start: Lorraine’s recipe calls for pumpkin. Now I guess this will be ideal for my Maltese friends because you can find pumpkin all year round in Malta. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) In the UK it’s only in season in October/November, so I made these muffins with butternut squash instead.

I also would suggest to roast the pumpkin or butternut cubes on a baking tray, whichever one you choose. Please do not boil or steam them because you will end up with soggy muffins (I was about to write “soggy mess” there for a minute.) You want to dehydrate them first. Take my word for it: I really wished I did that for my first batch!

This batter will yield around 12 muffins. Do not worry if they will not rise while baking – they are not being temperamental, they are meant to be somewhat flat. You can substitute the bicarbonate of soda with more baking powder if you like. Ms. Pascale uses fresh rosemary. I had to use the dried version.

  • 180g self-raising flour
  • 130g wholemeal flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tablespoons dried rosemary, finely chopped
  • 240g pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into 0.5cm cubes and dry-roasted
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 100ml plain yoghurt
  • 275 ml milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 60ml vegetable oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6, and insert 12 paper cases into your muffin tin. You could also cut squares of baking paper and push them into each hole. The finished product will look like you bought them from a pastry shop.
  2. In a large bowl sift both flours, the baking powder and bicarb, and stir in the rosemary.
  3. In another bowl put 160g of the pumpkin/butternut cubes, eggs, yoghurt, milk, honey and vegetable oil and stir until well combined.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and use a large spoon to mix: not more than 12 mixes. It’s important not to over-mix as you will end up with a dense muffin at the end. Leave the mixture to stand for 5-10 minutes.
  5. Then pour the mixture into the individual muffin cases. Now sprinkle the remaining pumpkin or butternut cubes and the pumpkin seeds onto the batter. Bake for 25 minutes at which point always insert a skewer at the centre of the muffins to check if they are cooked.

These muffins taste great at any time of the day!

Rob x