Sunday, 18 January 2015

Brown butter spice cake

Christmas may be over but winter is definitely here, which is why I was drawn to a spicy cake this week.  This cake had so many lovely facets that appealed to me: tea, spice, treacle, brown butter and even a bit of citrus.  All the flavours were offset by a very simple classic buttercream.

It’s worth taking your time over making the brown butter.  Your nose will tell you without any doubt that there is a huge difference between brown butter and burnt butter!  Gently heat the butter and it will become foamy; let this stage pass and the butter will turn clear and a wonderful dark amber colour…and it smells divine.  It’s also a bit like caramel in that you’re better to take it off the hob just before it’s at the stage you want, as it carries on darkening and you risk taking it too far.

This is such a comforting, homely looking cake but it packs in so much flavour – the best of all worlds.  The tea and citrus lifts what would otherwise be a lovely but ordinary dense gingerbread; I expected the cake to be more sponge-like but it isn’t – it’s definitely in the gingerbread camp.    Not sure what I did but my cakes came out huge!  I had to shave a bit off each one just to get it to a size that would fit in any of my storage tins!  Still, it gave me the opportunity to photograph a whole layer:

This cake is a keeper, by which I mean you’re best off making it a day or two in advance – it gets stickier and more flavoursome.  Bring on the snow – I’m ready for it!


For the cake:
250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g treacle
250ml tea, made using 2 teabags
Grated zest of 1 orange
600g self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon mixed spice

For the buttercream:
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan160C/350F/ gas 4. 
Line two loose bottomed 20cm round sandwich tins with baking paper.
Now make the cakes: melt the butter in a pan until it turns brown (but not burned).  Do this over a gentle heat – at first it will foam, but will brown shortly after.
Strain the butter through a coffee filter or several sheets of kitchen paper into a bowl and leave to cool.
Beat the cooled brown butter into the sugar, eggs and treacle.
Stir in the cooled tea and orange zest (I put the zest in the tea so that it infused the flavour into the tea).
In a separate bowl mix together the flour, spices and baking powder.
Beat the butter mixture into the flour mixture.
Divide evenly between the prepared tins and level the surfaces.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.   Mine actually took a fair bit longer – nearer to 40 minutes.
Cool, in their tins, for 20 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.
Now make the buttercream: beat the butter until it is soft and whippy.
Beat in the vanilla and icing sugar.
Beat in the water.
Place one of the cakes on the serving plate and spread the buttercream over it.
Place the other sponge on top.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015 first novel

From the day I could hold a pen and write, being a writer is the only thing I’ve wanted to be.  In truth, I started this blog over seven years ago because I knew it would give me a regular push to write. My first love has always been fiction so I’ve been quietly working on my novel, telling virtually no one about it, and now I’m ready to put it ‘out there’ which is scary and thrilling at the same time.  I can only equate it to having a friend who you think is utterly brilliant, and then feeling a bit worried before introducing them to another friend in case they don’t get on. 

Please let me introduce you to my novel: Blokebusters 

I hope you love Matt, Georgia and Fiona as much as I do.

Blokebusters is currently available for pre-order from Amazon  and Apple’s iBooks (actual publication date on numerous platforms will be 19 January).  I hope you enjoy it.

NB. The story is not cake related although there is a brief mention of mince pies.  And some muffins may sneak in somewhere.  I’m not sure I could ever write a book over 300 pages in length without a single cake reference!

For those of you worried about my superhero identity being exposed fear not – my novel is published under a pen name ...I’d like to claim it was preservation of my baking identity but it’s actually rather more boring – someone else already is publishing under my real name!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Pandoro cake

Every Christmas I buy a Pandoro cake, sometimes two.  For those of you who haven’t tried it, it’s basically Panettone with none of the ‘bits’ in it.  I buy mine from Tesco and they come with a sachet of icing sugar to sprinkle over the cake; it has a citrus taste to it that is simply lovely.  I’ll often slice up the Pandoro and make it into a posh bread and butter pudding, but this recipe takes that principle and creates a massive cake instead.

The recipe set out below is a blank canvas.  If you so wished you could soak the fruit in rum or brandy.  You could change the mix of fruit.  You could add some nuts.  The world is your oyster....but don’t add oysters; that wouldn’t work.

My personal preference in serving this cake is slightly warmed with some pouring cream.  It’s such a rich, custardy, indulgent cake.  It’s also huge, so make sure you’ve got a big eatership on hand to tackle it!  Here it is ready for the oven; it looks lovely even at this point when it’s uncooked:

This recipe is a cross between a really good bread and butter pudding, and a really good bread pudding.  I believe one should start the year as one means to go on....hence why I picked a recipe that used butter and over half a litre of cream!  Happy new year!


600g pandoro, panettone or brioche – thickly sliced
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
350g sultanas – or a mix of sultanas, raisins and dried cranberries
8 eggs
600ml double cream
250ml milk
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To serve: icing sugar and thick pouring cream


Preheat the oven to 150C/fan oven 130C/300F/gas mark 2.

Line a 23cm cake tin with foil, and line the outside with foil too to catch any leakage.  If you have one large enough, use a deep pie dish instead (still line it with foil as it will help you lift it out) as this will mean the liquid cannot leak.

Butter the pandoro and cut it into chunks so that you can pack it into the dish. 

When you have a complete layer, scatter over handfuls of sultanas.

Continue until the buttered pandoro and sultanas are all used up – try to avoid having too many sultanas sitting exposed on the top as, due to the long cooking time, they may burn (I learned this through bitter experience!).

In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla.  Only whisk until they are combined – you don’t want it to thicken.

Ladle it over the pandoro and sultanas and take your time, so that the pandoro can absorb the liquid.  At first you will not believe all the liquid can be accommodated but patience will prove you wrong!

Leave to sit for 30 minutes.

Place the cake on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 1 ½ hours or until the top is golden and crisp, and there’s a wobble to the cake but no visible liquid.

Completely cool before de-tinning.

Lightly dust with icing sugar.

Serve either warm for dessert with custard, or at room temperature with pouring cream.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Chocolate mint cake

Our new house has emerged from the “total chaos” stage of unpacking to the far more acceptable “annoyingly disordered”.  I think this is progress and it felt a good time to get back to some baking, particularly with Christmas fast approaching.  I’d been cooking dinners every night so felt confident that I understood my new oven enough to tackle a new recipe, totally ignoring Mr CC’s recommendation of baking something I knew inside out like a Victoria sponge.  I could see his logic but I fancied something that reflected the festive season, and what could be more festive than After Eight mints?

Now don’t get me wrong; I like After Eight mints, I truly do.  But would I like them half as much if they didn’t each come snugly filed away in their own little paper sleeve like chocolate records? (Translation for anyone under 40: Records were the iTunes of their day but took up actual rather than virtual storage space and only held about 12 tracks at most).  And is there another chocolate with greater rules of etiquette?  Only a complete bounder takes the chocolate out and leaves the paper sleeve in the box, leaving some poor unfortunate sap to ‘draw a blank’.  This ganache uses a whole box of chocolates:

And here they are melted:

This is a rich, decadent cake and would work as either a cake or a dessert.  If I was serving it as a dessert I might have some extra whipped cream to serve alongside because everyone knows that it cuts through richness….right?  Work with me here, it is Christmas after all…the time of year when all bets are off and it’s perfectly acceptable to drink alcohol before 9am and eat tons of chocolate straight after the biggest meal of the year whilst complaining how full you feel (or at least it is if you’re doing right).

Thanks for everyone who’s stopped by my site this year, and extra thanks to those of you who have left such lovely comments.  Hope you all get the Christmas you wish for and a wonderful 2015!


For the sponges:
170g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate
240g plain flour
280g golden caster sugar
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs
284ml buttermilk
200ml boiling water

For the icing:
300g After Eight mints, plus extra for decoration if you wish
50ml double cream


Preheat the oven to 180C/ fan oven 160C/ 350F/ gas mark 4.

Line two 20cm round loose bottomed sandwich tins with baking paper.

Place the butter and chocolate in a saucepan and melt over a gentle heat.  Put to one side to cool a little.

Place the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda in a large mixing bowl and stir together.

To the dry mix, add the melted chocolate and butter, the eggs, buttermilk and boiling water.

Beat until the mixture is smooth – you don’t want any lumps left in the batter!

Spoon into the two prepared tins and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Mine took a little longer so don’t worry if yours does too.

Leave to cool in the tins for 30 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

The sponges can be made a day in advance and stored in airtight containers.

Now make the icing: place the After Eights and cream in a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat.

Leave to cool until you have a nice spreadable consistency – depending on the weather (or your heating!) you might need to pop it in the fridge for a bit.

Place one sponge on the serving plate.

Spread just over half the icing over it and place the second sponge on top.

Spread the remaining icing over the top and decorate as you choose.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.