Rich Chocolate Cake

There are certain times when chocolate will only do.  Valentines Day or a birthday are such occasions.  However, I also use this cake as a dessert by adding, cream, ice cream and even custard.  It is one recipe you should master, so that you can use it time and again!  It gets better after a couple of days kept in a dome…. that is if you can keep people away from it that long.

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Ingredients

320 g of very soft butter
260 g self raising flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
260 g caster sugar
3 heaped tbsp of good quality cocoa powder
280 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs beaten
180 g icing sugar
3 tbsp good quality cocoa powder
2 Extra tbsp of milk

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade.  Grease and line a 24 cm cake tin.

Beat only 260 g of the butter and sugar together until pale.  In a separate bowl sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the cocoa powder together.  In a jug mix together the milk, vanilla extract and eggs.  With the mixer running slowly (or by folding if by hand) alternate adding a couple of tablespoons of the dry flour ingredients, and then a good slug of the milk and egg ingredients.  Keep alternating until both sets of ingredients have been used up.  Run a spatula around the bowl, to check everything has been combined.

Pour into the cake tin and place into the oven for around 40-50 minutes.  After 40 minutes just check with a skewer in the middle of the cake, to make sure it is cooked.  If any mix sticks to the skewer just place the cake back into the oven, to cook for a little longer.

Once cooked, leave to cool firstly in the tin and then on a wire rack.  It is important that the cake is cool for the next stage with the buttercream topping…. Or you will end up with a mess.

To make the buttercream topping, whip up the remaining 60 g of butter, 180 g of icing sugar, cocoa powder and additional 2 tbsp of milk.  Whip it up until smooth.  Then you can either divide the cake into two, and input a small amount of the buttercream before sandwiching the two halves together, then use the remaining buttercream to coat the top and sides.  Or, you can leave the cake whole and just coat the top and sides with the buttercream.

I also like to add decorations like more flaked chocolate, sprinkles or with mini eggs at Easter time.  This cake is also great as a pudding and birthday cake.  It is so versatile and delicious.

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Victoria Sandwich Cake

A traditional Victoria sandwich cake is only supposed to have a layer of jam.  However, like most people, I enjoy it better with both the jam, whipped cream or a buttercream layer.  This cake is one of the most made, as it can also be a birthday cake with either a buttercream and decorated topping or with a fondant icing layer on top.

 

sponge cake copy

 

Ingredients

4 eggs in a jug beaten (After you have weighed them see recipe below)
Caster Sugar (the same weight as the eggs)
Butter (softened and the same weight as the eggs)
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
Self Raising Flour (the same weight as the eggs)
(Possibly a little milk)
A couple of tablespoons of icing sugar
Whipped cream & strawberry jam
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
Take a large spring formed, loose bottomed cake tin, grease and line it.

If you want to use buttercream you will need:-

400 g Icing Sugar
120 g of butter at room temperature
3 tbsp of luke warm water
1- 2drops of vanilla extract

Decorations and drops of food colouring and flavourings as you may require in substitution for vanilla icing or you could still use a couple of drops of vanilla extract.

Method

Weigh your 4 eggs – whatever the weight of the eggs, you need to use the same weight in flour, sugar and butter.

In a mixer or with an electric hand mixer whisk the butter and sugar.  Whisk until the mixture goes very white and creamy.  The temptation with a hand whisk is to give in when your arm aches, but trust me it needs to be going for about 4 minutes to achieve this white creamy texture, hence the reason why I use my beloved standalone mixer.

Once this is achieved you will need to add your beaten eggs bit by bit on a nice slow beat.  Go slow with this and do not rush it.  Add your vanilla extract and beat slow again for 3 seconds.

Then you need to add the flour to the mixture.  Sieve the flour over the mixture and gently fold the flour in.  I find my spatula is the best tool for this job as it ensures that no pockets of flour is left over.  If the mixture is too thick that you cannot get it reasonably easy from the bowl then add a tablespoon of milk to the mixture.  However this mix should not be at all over runny.

Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin.  Cook for about 35-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  Wait for the cake to cool before turning out onto a wire rack for further cooling.

Once cooled properly, slice in half.  Its at this point once cool that you can add fresh cream or buttercream (see below) and jam.  Put both sponges together.  You can also decorate this cake for a birthday or other celebration, or simply sieve some icing sugar on top.

To make the buttercream simply whisk/beat the icing sugar, butter and water together.  To get a real good airy whip, make sure you whisk it for about 4 to 5 minutes.  If the buttercream is little stiff just add another drop or two of water a bit at a time.  You can also add a few drops of flavour, like vanilla, and any colouring to suit.

Rhubarb Meringues

I just love it when rhubarb comes into season, and although one of my favourite desserts is rhubarb crumble, I enjoy it with others dishes too.  I always save a little of the stewed rhubarb and have it with yoghurt, a drizzle of honey and granola for breakfast.  Oh it is heavenly.  Technically rhubarb is a vegetable, but it’s sour taste goes so well with sugar, and weirdly enough also with oily fish such as mackerel!

 

rhubarb meringue

 

Ingredients

400g Rhubarb cut into 4cm chunks
110g Caster Sugar
Zest of 1 Orange
1 Tsp Cornflour
1 Tsp of Vanilla Extract
2 Egg Whites

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees centigrade.  Place the rhubarb, half of the sugar and orange zest into a ovenproof dish.  Stir to combine and then cover with foil.  Place in an oven for 35 minutes until the rhubarb is soft.  I like to stir it half way through the cooking process, and then remove the foil ten minutes before the end of cooking.  This helps to thicken the mixture.  If you find that the rhubarb mixture is still a little too runny, then add a heaped teaspoon of cornflour, and stir it in well and just place in the oven for a minute or two more.  One batch of rhubarb can be different from another, in that some contain more juice, so you can never tell whether you need the cornflour until this final stage.  Finally, add the vanilla extract and stir again.

Place the rhubarb mixture into four ramekin dishes and set to one side.  Still keep the oven on for the next part.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Sprinkle over half of the remaining sugar and whisk again. Then gently fold in the rest of the sugar. Pile the meringue on top of the rhubarb to cover it completely. Place the ramekins in the oven for 10 minutes until the meringue is risen and golden. Serve immediately.

Chocolate Fondant Puddings

Apologies if you are on a diet, but I am posting this recipe now so that people can practice ready for Valentines.  I mean how could anyone not fall in love when you eat one of these?  Dariole moulds are available from many good cookware suppliers, and of course online.  You could always use greased ramekins too.  Don’t forget to let me see photos of this recipe that you recreate, on my facebook page.

chocolate fondants

 

Ingredients

Butter and cocoa powder to grease 4 dariole moulds
200g of dark chocolate chopped – make sure the dark chocolate is a good quality and has over 70% cocoa solids
100g butter into cubes
100g Caster Sugar
3 Eggs plus 2 extra yolks
50g Plain Flour

Grease and dust your dariole moulds and place in a freezer to keep cool.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and place a heatproof bowl over the top (ensuring the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl), then add the chocolate and butter.  Immediately take the pan off the stove heat so that the steam from the boiled water, heats the bowl so the chocolate and butter melts.  Stir to combine.

Place the eggs, egg yolks and sugar into a mixer and whisk until you get a thick mousse.  Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture carefully, as well as adding a small amount of sifted flour at a time.  Take care with this, as you have just got all that lovely air into the mixture, and you want to retain as much of it as possible.

Pour the mixture into the dariole moulds leaving around 1cm gap at the top.  Place in the fridge for half an hour or longer until needed that day.

Get your oven to the temperature of 200 degrees C.

Remove the fondant’s from the fridge and place on a baking tray.  Cook in the oven for around 13-15 minutes.  Cooking times do vary depending on your oven, so it is always good to give this recipe a trial run if using for a dinner party or special occasion.  That way, you will properly be able to gauge how long you should cook the fondants for.  What you are looking for, is the outside to be well done and risen, and the centre inside to be all yummy and molten.  Once you have taken the fondants out of the oven, just leave them for a couple of minutes, before turning them upside down onto a plate.

Serve immediately as they are, dust with icing sugar if you like and add cream/ice cream.

Apple & Sultana Bread & Butter Pudding

I am a huge fan of the traditional British puddings that we used to have many years ago.  I have no doubt that this one was thought up, to help stop the waste of bread.  I am passionate about the fight against food waste and bread is one thing we can all make better use of.  If you find yourself with leftover bread, then blitz it in a food processor to make breadcrumbs, place in a freezer bag and then pop it into the freezer until you need to use it in a recipe.  Or, cut into cubes, and fry in a little olive oil to make croutons for soups.  Using it to make puddings like this one, or a summer fruit pudding, is probably my favourite way to reduce bread wastage.

apple and sultana bread and butter pudding

 

Ingredients

Butter for greasing a 1 litre ovenproof dish
60ml double cream
350ml whole milk
30g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1tbsp ground cinnamon
8 slices of white bread, buttered and cut into triangles or shaped for your dish
100g cooking apples, quartered, cored and sliced thinly
60g sultanas
Grated nutmeg optional.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C . Set a saucepan over a low heat, add the milk, cream and sugar and mix well together. Cook until the sugar has dissolved, ensuring it does not boil, then set aside to cool.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and stir in the vanilla extract and cinnamon. Then, whisk into the cooled milk mixture.

Place the bread pieces and apple slices in a ovenproof dish and sprinkle in the sultanas.  I put a couple of layers of this in the dish, ensuring the sultanas are tucked in under the final bread layer.  My reason for this is personal choice, as I am not too keen on sultanas that have dried up from cooking in the oven. Finally, pour the custard mixture over.  Leave the pudding to stand for around 10 minutes before baking, as this helps everything soak in.  Grate over nutmeg before baking if you desire.  Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes.