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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Chocolate and Ginger Loaf Cake

Chocolate and Ginger Loaf Cake

Sweet and warmly spiced, Chocolate and Ginger Loaf Cake

After a few days of not baking whilst packing, moving and unpacking, I’m back at it. Almost the first thing I did in my new place was bake some bread because it made me feel at home. Need to get used to a different oven – I think this one is a little cooler than my old one so I may invest in an oven thermometer.

After baking a couple of loaves of awesome bread, I decided to further ingratiate myself with my new landlord/housemate by making cake! You can’t go far wrong with chocolate cake, and he’s a big lover of ginger so I combined the two and came up with this rather delicious tea-time number. It’s surprisingly light and you could easily leave off the chocolate topping if you wanted. But who doesn’t want more chocolate?!

Chocolate and Ginger Loaf Cake

For the cake:

  • 150g butter, softened
  • 175g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 150g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa, sifted
  • half tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 20g fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 60g ginger beer

Heat your oven to 170C and grease and line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and syrup until fluffy and much paler in colour. Combine the flour, cocoa and baking powder in a separate bowl. Add a bit of these dry ingredients to your butter and sugar mixture and beat in, then beat in one egg followed by a bit more dry ingredients, then the second egg and the last of the dry ingredients. Stir in the ginger and ginger beer (don’t worry if it looks a bit sloppy or like it’s almost curdled) then pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 45-50 minutes. It’s done when firm to the touch – if you test with a skewer it’s absolutely fine (a good thing, in fact) if there is still just a hint of gunge left on it. Leave to cool in the tin and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the chocolate topping:

  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 50g butter
  • 3 tsp crystallised ginger, finely chopped

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, being careful that no water or steam gets in the bowl as this will make your chocolate go grainy. Once melted add the butter and stir until melted and combined with the chocolate. Stir in the crystallised ginger until well dispersed. Remove the bowl from the heat and allow to cool for a little while; you want it to be thickly pourable.

Place your cake on a serving plate and pour the chocolate topping over, ensuring it covers right to the edges and hopefully drips alluringly down the sides. Leave to set for as long as you can bear before cutting into slices to serve.

Chocolate and Ginger Cake

Chocolate and Ginger Loaf Cake


Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes – a lovely cakey version of the classic dessert

I wouldn’t normally post two cupcake recipes back-to-back, but as it’s been National Cupcake Week I asked people on my Facebook page to tell me what their favourite flavour of cupcake is. I got some great responses but the one that really sparked my imagination was lemon meringue flavour. I already had some egg whites in the freezer, left over from making my Apple Pie with Orange Pastry so I decided to give these a go and try making Italian Meringue for the first time. I’m really pleased with how these turned out, and although making the meringue does mean you need a food thermometer, it was actually much easier than I thought.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • half tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 170C and line a muffin pan with paper cases. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs and beat again until well combined. Add the flour and baking powder and give it a good mix, then add the finely grated zest of both lemons and juice of just one, plus the vanilla and milk; mix it all together and then use a couple of spoons (or an ice cream scoop for perfectly portioned cupcakes) to dollop the mix into the cases until about two thirds full (I got 10 well-filled cupcakes from this amount, but you could certainly make a dozen, slightly smaller ones). Bake for about 20 minutes – they’re done when they’re golden, spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip or a skewer inserted comes out clean. Remove from the oven and take them out of the tray as soon as possible to prevent the cupcake cases peeling away as they cool.

For the filling/meringue topping:

  • about 4 tbsp lemon curd
  • 2 egg whites at room temperature
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 35/40ml water

Once the cupcake are cooled, make little holes in the centre to about half way down the cake; this can be easily done with a teaspoon and doesn’t need to be neat and tidy, but you can buy things called cupcake corers from baking shops if you feel so inclined! Set to one side.

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes – pre-meringue

Naked Lemon Meringue Cupcakes, filled with lemon curd and awaiting their meringue topping

To make the Italian meringue (a meringue made with hot sugar syrup so that it doesn’t need baking), whisk the egg whites in a large (scrupulously clean) bowl until they form soft peaks. Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil until it reaches 121C. Now quickly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream, whisking all the time. Continue to whisk the meringue until it becomes quite cool – this will take a little time. Once cooled, you can either pipe the meringue onto the cake with a piping bag, or mound it on with a palatte knife and then make little peaks with it. If you’re a fancy pants, you may have a little blow torch that I should think you can brown the meringue with, being careful not to set light to the paper cases. If you’re not in the habit of buying all kinds of kitchen gadgetry, just whack your grill on to a high heat and put the cupcakes under the grill for a few minutes until the meringue looks toasted. Whatever you do, don’t wander off! It only takes a few minutes from start to finish, but the difference between lightly browned and burned takes a few seconds so keep and eye on them at all times. Let them cool completely again before serving. A lovely little cakey version of a classic dessert.

Lemon Meringue Cupcake

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes – light, sweet and tangy

These are best the day they’re made, purely because them meringue becomes less stable after a while. You could always make the cupcakes a day ahead and finish them off with the meringue the day you need them.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream Icing

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

Naughty little treat – Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

It’s National Cupcake Week (that’s a real thing, right?) so cupcake baking is happening all over. I used to make cupcakes a lot when I worked in a big office (no squabbling over who gets the biggest slice of whatever treat you’ve taken in), but not so much these days. There’s only one cupcake recipe on here so far, lovely Vanilla Cupcakes that have a secret jam filling; a simple classic. I’m happy to be adding another now, which also has a classic flavour combination of chocolate and peanut butter.

This recipe was born out of wanting to thank a friend for a favour. She sticks (mostly!) to a gluten-free diet, but if you didn’t need to worry about that you could just substitute the gluten-free flour for normal self-raising flour. I have to say, the cakes in this recipe are good, but they’re really a way to justify eating the buttercream, which is (though I say it myself) awesome.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream Icing

For the cupcakes:

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 50g soft dark brown sugar
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 25g cocoa powder, sifted
  • 100g gluten-free self raising flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp milk

Heat your oven to 170C and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until fluffy and the colour of a milky coffee. Add the eggs and beat again. Tip in the sifted cocoa and flour and mix until everything is well combined. Stir in the vanilla, syrup and milk and then spoon (or use an ice cream scoop for perfectly even portions) the batter into the prepared cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes; they’re done when a skewer inserted comes out clean and they have a little spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the cakes from the muffin tray to cool on a wire rack as soon as possible (I use a palatte knife to ease them from the tin); if you leave them to cool in the tin then they have a habit of peeling away from the paper cases.

For the buttercream:

  • 140g butter, softened
  • 280g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp smooth peanut butter

In a large bowl, mix the butter and icing sugar together. I find it helps to mix them with a wooden spoon to begin with as it means the icing sugar is less likely to leave your kitchen like it’s been in a blizzard. Once they’re combined, go at it with an electric whisk and then continue to beat for a good 3-5 minutes longer than you think you need to. Trust me; this will leave you with far smoother, fluffier, creamier buttercream than you thought you could achieve. Then add the vanilla and peanut butter and beat again.

When the cupcakes are completely cool, ice them with the buttercream using a palatte knife, or if you’re any good with a piping bag, give them a pretty swirl. If you feel like it, and you have some knocking around, grate a little chocolate over the top of the finished cupcakes. Feed them to your gluten-free loving friends and bask in the warm glow of their appreciation!

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry

Packed with fruity flavour, inside and out – Apple Pie with Orange Pastry

As I write this, there are 100 days until Christmas. That’s still a way off, but the weather has certainly become more autumnal and so has my baking. Following a visit to Middle Farm last week, where I stocked up on cheese, pear cider and apples, I decided to make an apple pie to take to family lunch at the weekend. I had some oranges that were looking a little sad so I used them to add more flavour to the pastry and I added some spices to my apples. The result was a tasty pie that put everyone in mind of Christmas flavours – this could be a great alternative for anyone who doesn’t like Christmas pudding.

This recipe will make one large pie, enough to feed 8-10 people. If your pie dish isn’t that big you won’t need so many apples. You can always freeze any left-over pastry to use another time (maybe to make some mince pies).

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry or Christmas Apple Pie

For the pastry:

  • 460g plain flour
  • 220g cold butter, cubed
  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • finely grated zest of 2 large or 3 average oranges
  • 4 tbsp orange juice
  • 4 egg yolks

In a large bowl, rub together the flour and butter with your finger tips until you have a breadcrumb texture. Try to do this as quickly and lightly as possible; or if you have a food processor you can pulse the ingredients until you achieve the same result. Into the bowl add the sugar and orange zest, then use a blunt ended knife (butter or dinner knife) to mix everything together by making cutting motions across the bowl and turning the bowl as you go. Lightly beat together the yolks and orange juice and add most, but not all, to the dry ingredients – you may not need all the liquid to bring the dough together, but add more if necessary. Continue to mix the liquid in with the same cutting motions of the blunt knife. If you need to, in the final stages bring the dough together and make sure it’s evenly mixed with a light knead with your hands. Form the dough into a ball and flatten a little into a thick disc (it will make it easier to roll out later), then wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Once chilled, cut off about a third of the pastry to use as the pastry lid; wrap it back up in clingfilm and refrigerate until needed. With the remaining two thirds, roll out on a lightly floured surface until big enough to comfortably line your pie dish with a little overhang. Your pastry should be about the thickness of a pound coin. If you find it breaks or you get gaps, just patch it up with any pieces of pastry that overhang the edge of your pie dish. Cover and chill in the fridge again for at least half an hour.

For the apple filling:

  • About a kilo of apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices (I used a mix of Bramleys and some eating apples from my cousin’s garden, but use whatever kind you like)
  • 60g sugar (I used a mix of dark brown and caster sugar, but any will do)
  • 40g cornflour
  • half tsp cinnamon
  • half tsp mixed spice
  • 10g ground almonds
  • 1 egg and a little caster sugar to glaze the pie

Before you begin prepping your apples, heat your oven to 190C and put a baking tray in the oven. You’ll put your pie dish on the hot tray so the base of the pie heats quickly.

Put the slices of apple in a big bowl and sprinkle over the sugar, cornflour and spices. Mix with your hands until all the apple slices are coated.

Take the pastry lined pie dish out of the fridge. Sprinkle the ground almonds all over the base of the pie – this will help to soak up any juice and prevent the dreaded ‘soggy bottom’! Rather than just tipping your apples in to the pie, try and place the slices in neatly; you’ll end up with a more densely packed pie. The apple layer should come to just below the rim of the dish at the edges, but can be higher in the centre in order to give a nice domed pie. You may find you have sugary, spicy liquid left in the bowl but just discard rather than adding it to the pie – you have all the flavour you need in there already.

Roll out your remaining piece of pastry on a floured surface until it’s big enough to cover the pie (again, it should be about the thickness of a pound coin); it can be helpful to use the rolling pin to pick the pastry up to transfer to the pie. Use a fork or your fingers to seal/crimp the edges of the pastry together. Trim any excess pastry – you can make decorations out of any little pieces, maybe some apple or leaf shapes. Beat the egg and brush the top of the pie, then sprinkle over a little caster sugar. Bake in the oven for 40-50 minutes. Check after about 25 minutes and if your pastry is nicely golden brown, cover it with a little tin foil to prevent the edges browning too much.

This would be delicious hot, cold or warm, served with cream, custard or ice cream.

Apple Pie with Orange Pastry or Christmas Apple Pie

A great seasonal dessert that would be a great alternative to Christmas pudding

With the egg whites left over from this recipe, freeze them in a sealed freezer bag (write on the bag so you know what it is) and use them another time to make a meringue based dessert. Click here for some ideas.

Amaretti Biscuits

If you follow my Facebook page you may have seen that I’ve been a bit obsessed with baking bread this week (currently on my fourth bake in a week from James Morton’s Brilliant Bread book). As I’ve been baking other people’s recipes, my lovely friend and fellow Brighton Baking Bunch member, Hannah, has done a guest blog post for me on her recent adventures in biscuit making. Enjoy!

Amaretti Biscuits

Amaretti Biscuits – fancy dunkers!

With a visit to the in-laws in the diary, I thought I would score some brownie points by baking amaretti biscuits. I don’t have a good track record with small bakes. However, with only four ingredients and a recipe by Mr Gino D’Acampo himself, what could possibly go wrong?

Well first off, instead of baking approximately 20 biscuits like the recipe stated, I ended up with 33. They were also quite chewy when I expected them to be hard. Thankfully, most people who tried them liked the texture. If you want a crunchier biscuit, take them out the oven to cool for a bit then put them back in on a low temperature until they’ve dried out.

Amaretti Biscuits


  • 340g / 12 oz ground almonds
  • 340g / 12 oz caster sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 30ml / 1 fl oz amaretto liquor
  • Butter for greasing

Heat the oven to 170C and grease a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Separate the egg and plop the whites into  a large bowl. Now, if you’re sensible, you’ll own an electric whisk. If you’re a glutton for punishment like myself, you have to beat the egg whites by hand, which takes forever. Beat them until peaks form.

Gently fold in the caster sugar and ground almonds before adding the amaretto. The recipe says mix this to form a smooth paste – I’d argue it forms a sticky mashed potato-like substance but it tasted good (yes, I eat raw biscuit mix).

If you want rustic splats, scoop little piles of the mixture onto the baking tray, allowing enough space for the biscuits to expand.  For a proper biscuit shape, roll the dough into small balls – approximately 2cm in diameter. Place the tray in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the amaretti biscuits are golden brown.