Sticky Date and Coffee Cake 

It’s been far too long since I last shared a recipe with you. I could give you reasons and excuses as to why I have been too busy and distracted to write, but as you are probably aware I am not a fan of waffle so I will just get on with it and share my new favourite thing with you.

A friend and I had a sudden urge last weekend to make sticky toffee pud; mostly because we made a big pot of coffee which we then forgot about, and soaking dates in it seemed like as good a way as any not to waste it. A quick Internet search brought us to this recipe, which we then adapted to make this fabulous cake.

Sticky Coffee and Date Cake

What we changed…

Most importantly, the dates were soaked in coffee, not in water! We soaked them for rather longer than stated in the recipe (overnight is best), which meant that we didn’t need to use the very expensive and wonderfully gooyey Medjool dates; instead we used cheaper dates (no pun intended!) intended for baking instead.

The second adjustment was that rather than making a number of individual puddings we used two loaf tins. This did mean however that it took longer to cook; approximately 40 minutes. I suggest putting a skewer into the cakes at about 35 minutes; if it comes out clean it is cooked, if not put it back for five or ten minutes and then do the skewer test again.

Hannah’s ‘failed cake’ chocolate fridge-cake recipe 

This is a truly wonderful waste-not recipe. I don’t make it very frequently because it uses the crumbs from a failed cake – which doesn’t happen to me very often! However, this week I have been getting used to a different oven and I ended up with a chocolate sponge which was a little too crispy around the edges…

The recipe was handed down to my friend Hannah by her mother. I had to text Hannah in a panic asking for the recipe when my chocolate cake failed, however I have since found my old copy and I think I will leave it to Hannah’s mum to instruct you.

All that I need to add is the decoration. This was done after the cake had cooled in the fridge over night, and was simply melted chocolate with raspberries and flaked almonds scattered on top.  

Gin and Dubonnet Sponge Cake

We are continuing to celebrate Kitty’s Storecupboard Gin Week, so in the words of the lovely Vicky…

I’ve always been one for a spot of baking (next to eating it’s my favourite thing!) and I’ve recently been pondering starting a blog so when Katherine asked me to do a guest post for her blog I was straight on it!

This particular post celebrates two national treasures – Her Majesty the Queen, and Gin. This year is queenies 90th birthday and this weekend it just happens to be World Gin Day. Legend has it that our Liz’s favourite tipple is the classic ‘gin and dubonnet’, so I decided it was only right and proper to use this as inspiration for my latest bake.

I’m always one for an easy life so decided to use a classic (and easy!) Victoria sponge as the basis for the cake. I can safely say the hardest part about it was finding somewhere that sells dubonnet! Sadly it’s not the most popular of drinks so can be hard to track down but definitely worth it – it’s got a light fruity flavour which works really nicely in this cake, and it’s not half bad in a gin cocktail either!

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Ingredients
6oz butter (actually I am a stork devotee but whichever you prefer)
6oz caster sugar
3 eggs
6oz self-raising flour
3tbsp gin and dubonnet (equal measures, so 1.5tbsp of each)
300ml double cream
approx 3tbsp icing sugar (or to taste)
mixed fresh berries
200g white chocolate
optional glitter!

Method
Grease and line two 8″ round cake tins and preheat your oven to around 170oC fan.
As for a normal sponge, you could easily use the all in one technique but I used the traditional creaming method – cream the butter and sugar together until pale and light, then beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a little flour with the last egg to prevent curdling, then gently fold in the remaining flour. Lastly fold in the alcohol then split the batter between the two tins as evenly as possible (you could weigh the tins if precision is your thing but I just guesstimate). Try and spread the batter with a dip in the middle which will offset any ‘doming’ during cooking. Then just bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes.

Now I know most chefs will say baking is an exact science, blah blah, but I’m a bit more freestyle with my cooking…. use whatever size eggs take your fancy, if the batter curdles when you add the booze just give it an extra mix and chuck it in the tins, and the oven time is flexible – just keep an eye on them, after 20 mins check and then leave a bit longer if needed. You can check with a cake tester (or skewer/cocktail stick/knife) which will come out clean when the cake is ready but I prefer to just give it a prod – if the sponge bounces back rather than leaving a massive dent then you’re good to go!

Once the cake is done, leave to cool in the tins for about 5-10 mins then remove and leave on a cooling rack until completely cold. Whilst still warm brush the cakes with a mixture of gin and dubonnet – I used about 1.5tbsp but you could use more if you fancy. For a more intense flavour and an even more moist sponge you could poke holes all over and spoon alcohol over liberally (a la lemon drizzle cake).

Next gently whip the cream, adding icing sugar to taste – make sure not to over whip! A good tip is to keep some cream back and then if you do slightly over mix the cream you can add a bit more and fold through to slacken it off. Unfortunately this won’t work if you’ve gone so far it’s turned to butter! Spread about a third of the cream on one of the cakes (if it’s domed slightly during baking then trim it down so the top is level) then top with your mixed berries. I soaked the berries beforehand in gin and dubonnet and a teaspoonful of sugar, then drained them well before using but this is optional.

Top with the other cake and then cover the top and sides with the remaining cream. To make the white chocolate ‘collar’ measure around the cake (actually it’s much easier to measure around the tin!) and also measure the height of the cake then cut a strip of greaseproof paper to size and lay on a flat surface. For the sake of your kitchen you may want to lay a further sheet of greaseproof or cling film underneath as it does get messy! Melt your white chocolate (in the microwave or over a saucepan, either way remove from the heat once around 2/3 of chocolate has melted then beat until the remainder has melted, this makes sure you won’t burn it) and then simply spread over your greaseproof template. You want a layer a couple of millimetres thick to make sure it holds.

I sprinkled glitter on the greaseproof before spreading the chocolate to give a nice finish, I’ve also done this in the past with 100’s and 1000’s! You can also pipe the chocolate to make a design or use patterned transfer sheets for different effects. Leave the chocolate until it has set enough that it won’t drip or run when you move it but not so hard that you can’t bend it. (I have zero patience so I often cheat and slip a couple of ice packs under to speed this up but it’s a high risk tactic as it can set too hard very quickly). Then simply pick up your greaseproof and wrap around the cake – you need to do this quickly and press tight against the cake to hold so this is easier with two pairs of hands but not impossible to do single handed. Then straight into the fridge to set!

Once the chocolate collar has set hard simply peel off the greaseproof. Finally I decorated the top of the cake with more fresh berries and then glazed them. I used the juice/booze mix which I had soaked the other berries in, boiled until reduced by at least half, but you could use jam thinned down with a little water for a nice finish. Then last but not least I topped the whole thing off with a liberal sprinkling of gold glitter! After all, it’s hardly a celebration without some sparkles around.

And it’s as simple as that 🙂

You can read more about baking in honour of the Queen’s birthday with the Fleet, Farnham & Farnborough group of the Clandestine Cake Club, which Vicky runs, here.

You can also follow Vicky (although I feel I should call her Victoria – rather more regal!) on Twitter @vixyvonshock.

Coconut and Raspberry Fairy Cakes

I made this up at 7.30 this morning – not bad seeing as my brain very rarely kicks into gear until at least 10.00 am!

I needed to bake for the launch of a very exciting project ‘Cake and Conversation’ – an International Cafe for people in Stroud, who are new to the area or feel isolated due their limited English. I wasn’t at all happy with the the flapjack I had made last night (it was not gooey enough for my liking) and, although I had already made my yummy coffee cake, you really can’t have too much cake!

I can reliably inform you that this little invention went down rather well at the cafe.

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Ingredients

  • 5 oz self raising flour (actually, that’s a fib – I had run out of self raising and used Plain Flour with a teaspoon of baking powder, which was fine)
  • 1 oz desiccated coconut
  • 3 oz butter
  • 1 oz coconut butter
  • 4 oz golden caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • a good splash of milk (if I had had any I would have used coconut milk)
  • a handful of frozen raspberries

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Method

Pre-heat the oven to 190oC.

Put all of the ingredients, except for the raspberries and milk, into a mixing bowl and combine well using an electric mixer.

When the mixture is beginning to combine nicely, add a tablespoon of milk and whizz some more. If you haven’t achieved a nice smooth batter add another splash or two of milk. Remember to use a spatula to catch all of the dry bits from around the bowl and then whizz some more. The mixture should be the consistency of Extra-thick Double Cream (if you don’t know what that is, go and get some – it is wonderful stuff!).

Line a cake tin with little cake cases. Put approximately a tablespoon of mixture into each cake case – this should do a dozen cakes with a little batter left over.

If the frozen raspberries are large break them in half (they should just break when you squash them because they are nice and brittle when frozen). Put on the top of each cake and then top with the remaining batter.

Bake at the centre of the oven for about 15 minutes. They should rise nicely and begin to look nice and golden brown on top.

 

Chocolate and Almond Bread & Butter Pudding

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Bread and Butter Pudding is a good old-fashioned frugal recipe, which uses up dry bread which would otherwise go to waste. The traditional recipe uses bread and butter, dried fruit, sugar, eggs and milk.

There are many little twists that can be made to this basic recipe; for this one I used Almond Milk instead of cows milk and mixed coco-powder in with the demerara sugar to make nice chocolatey layers.

Ingredients

  • Dry sliced bread (about 1/2 loaf)
  • Butter
  • 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coco powder
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 or 3 eggs (I only had 2 which was fine, but 3 would have been better)
  • 1 pint almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon flaked almonds
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180oC.

Mix the sugar and coco powder in a bowl.

Place a layer of buttered bread in the bottom of your dish, as closely fitting as possible. Cover with a layer of the chocolate mixture and a sprinkle of raisins.

Repeat until you have at least three bread layers.

In a jug measure out a pint of milk and beat the eggs into it.

Pour the mixture onto the bread layers; all but the top bread layer should be covered. Add more milk if necessary.

Sprinkle flaked almonds and some nutmeg on the top and bake in the centre of the oven for about half an hour.

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Sticky Beer and Ginger Fruit Loaf

I made this recipe up yesterday.

I came back from a lovely wedding at the weekend armed with some delicious Shropshire Ale from Hobsons Brewery left over from the festivities (we were far too well behaved!), which the groom kindly decanted into a pop bottle for me. I used most of the beer on the day I returned home to bribe my neighbour James to cut my lawn and shift some topsoil for me; however, a few days later there was a half pint still remaining which was a little beyond drinking but which I didn’t want to waste.

I had a little brainwave that I could use it to soak fruit in; a little bit like tea-loaf but richer. The muscavado sugar made it richer still and, well, you can’t go wrong with lots of ginger.

Ingredients

  • 500 g / 1 lb of mixed dried fruit
  • 200 g / 7 oz dark muscavado sugar
  • 300 ml / 1/2 pint of Ale (the darker the better)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 250 g / 8 oz self-raising flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground ginger

Method

Put the fruit, sugar and beer into a bowl, cover with a tea-towel and leave for at least 4 hours (overnight if possible).

Stir  the egg, flour and ginger into the soaked fruit mixture and pour into a lined 2 lb loaf tin (or, if like me you are short on time divide it between two tins so that it cooks more quickly).

Bake in the centre of a pre-heated oven at 170oC for 1 & 1/2  hours. To check whether it is done put a skewer in and if it comes out clean it is cooked, whereas if the skewer still has cake mixture on it needs cooking a little longer.

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Easter Nests

Easter nests; a firm family-favourite and as far as I am concerned the only good use of shredded wheat!2016-03-26-18.41.20.jpg.jpeg

This recipe made nine nests.

Ingredients
100 g bar 70% Dark chocolate
1 tablespoon Golden syrup
25 g Butter
150 g Shredded wheat

(at least) 16 ‘mini-eggs’ or similar – I used Traidcraft little speckled eggs which are delicious and ethically sourced.

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Method

Line a muffin tin with paper cases – pretty ones if you have them.

Slowly melt the chocolate, golden syrup and butter in a bowl over boiling water. The bowl shouldn’t touch the water.

When the above is melted and combined, crumble the shredded wheat into the bowl a bit at a time and stir in until well coated with the chocolate mixture.

Spoon into the paper-cases, making a little ‘well’ in the middle for the eggs.

Place in a cool place; try not to scoff them all immediately  so that the has time to chocolate set!