Saturday, 17 December 2011

Chocolate Orange Checkerboard Christmas Cake and a Tigger!

The wonderful thing about Christmas is......

Sometimes it speaks for itself....

Then you find yourself right in the middle of all the excitement....

Feeling thankful.

This cake has been bought to you today by:

Ingredients;  chocolate, chocolate oranges and tangy oranges ,  simple orange buttercream and chocolate buttercream. My recipe chequerboard or checkerboard cake, use orange in the first batter, orange and light cocoa in the second and dark cocoa in the third. 

Great smells;  Zest of oranges, melting chocolate

Grrreat Ideas: inspiration from blogger Becky for ' Tigger ' Writing @ Cakes by Becky

Excitement: Only 7 days left 'til Christmas....

Remembering to say thank you to ALL my Worldwide Friends and wish you

'Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas !'

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Bah Humbug Cupcakes !

Bah Humbug Cupcakes ! The Christmas Machine is in full swing here in the UK, in fact with only two weeks to go, the Cadbury's cream eggs are just around the corner, literally. So spend, buy, consume..... Bah Humbug! or have I turned into Ma Humbug? It's funny what sets you off and for the post of most cringe worthy gift..... I would like to nominate the Baa Humbug Candy Pooping Sheep!

Time for a nice cup of tea and a tiny cupcake to lift your spirits up and a calm down. After all 'Misery loves company' but even Scrooge's 'Bah Humbug' couldn't last. So for this penultimate post of the year, the humble humbug has been my inspiration. With it's lovely stripey peppermint coat and a toffee centre, it is a traditional old English candy. Was Scrooge referring to these sweets? Probably not, as the word also meant hoax or jest, maybe he would have been sweeter for one or two?

What I really fancy, is a cake......

I haven't included a full recipe as the flavourings are very simple. Use you favourite cupcake recipe and substitute the white sugar for light brown sugar. Flavour with dark caramel or toffee essence.

 Cut a small teaspoon of cake from the middle and pop some caramel sauce or dulche de leche in and replace the cake piece.

Treat yourself to this from Waitrose. In the States, lots of caramel sauces, you are the King of Caramel sauces! Of course you could make your own.....

Cover the top with a simple buttercream flavoured with a few drops of peppermint essence*.

For the fondant topping; first flavour the fondant with a couple of drops of peppermint flavouring and extra icing sugar to stop it getting sticky, *the idea is not to overdo it but build up the peppermint flavouring on the top. Now you have a choice; you can cut circles out of the fondant and paint stripes on them with black colouring or; roll out thin strips of black fondant, place and roll them into the white fondant, then cut the circles out. You can see the different ones below:

You can make little humbug shapes and add Christmas Decorations if you want to get carried away. Give to anyone who is looking miserable and cheer them up. Meanwhile if you fancy the real thing;

From A Quarter Of

From Amazon USA
Of course, while looking for additional images I got side tracked because Mother Nature has the best stripes courtesy of WebEcoist:

Cor Humbug !

Monday, 28 November 2011

No Cake Please It's My Double Birthday!

Mrs Mulford's Croquembouche - Sugar Spun Caramel Choux
What no cake? Has Marie Antoinette left the building? It was my birthday and my Foodbuzz birthday this November. I decided to combine the two in this blog and do something a little instead of you seeing a round up of my recipes, I thought it would make a change for you see what I actually made from your blogs. And what did I eat for my birthday?
Eric and his Croquembouche

A croquembouche, a wonderful tall tower of light choux pastry; I filled mine with alternate layers of bittersweet chocolate cream and whipped cream, then sweetened the outside with drops of caramel and spun sugar. I used the  choux recipe from Eric Lanlard's Glamour Cakes which I prefer. The online version by Eric for Delicious Magazine  is different but I left the link for you to see. Eric is a very successful chef and we are very lucky to have lured him over to the UK. The best tip in the book; make the caramel in two batches.

Speaking of tips and recipes, I need to say a big 'THANKYOU' to my Foodbuzz friends and list the blogs that I actually baked, even if that meant going on line to get a speciality ingredient or measuring in cups!
I cook at least once a month from Foodbuzz recipes and I find myself using internet recipes more and more, even though I still love my books. Some of the personal stories behind some of the recipes have been sometimes funny, other times heart wrenching and I find myself listening to you.
A birthday card from my sister, is that really me?

So another year older and  here's my 'Big Thank You Blogroll' to the following Foodbuddies from Foodbuzz who inspired me to cook something from their country :

1. Citrakale aka Citra in Turkey. Thank you Citra, I have made this just with mushrooms and also spinach and cheese, now a regular favourite here; Tavuk Mantarlı börek (Chicken Mushrooms Pastry) .

2. Cake Duchess aka Lora in South Florida, USA. Thank you Lora, your whole site is a wonderful cornucopia of temptation and since we don't have these in the UK I had to make Gooey Sticky Cinnamon Buns .

3. Gastronaut Adventures aka Gunnar in Sweden. Thank you Gunnar, I had forgotten how good and easy it is to make real fruit curds and I had to follow you on the Masterchef show, brave man; Lemon and Lime Curd.

4. Amybites aka Amy in Chicago, USA. Thank you Amy for making my addiction to butterbeer worse or should we all be blaming JK Rowling? No, of course not! I was in a real hurry to make these and it was worth every bite; Butterbeer Cupcakes .

5. Dream of Cakes aka Eftychia in Limassol, Cyprus. Thank you Eftychia for sharing all your delicious cakes and sugar craft. What I also enjoy, are your traditional Cypriot recipes especially these very tasty shoes which I made with ground pork ! Papoutsakia .

And it took two people to tempt me into baking macarons:

5. Mad about Macarons aka Jill in Paris, France. Thank you Jill for your ravishing photos of Paris, increasing my envy levels as you enter another hallowed patisserie and generally hitting every taste bud receptor with your lovely flavour combos; To Orange Blossom and Paris Lovers .

6. Eat Live Travel Write aka Mardi in Toronto, Canada. Thank you Mardi for Macarons - Some Tips and Tricks which finally pushed me over the edge to Macaron Home Heaven. Mardi, where do you get all your energy from?

7. Our Adventures in Japan aka Kat and Satoshi in Osaka, Japan. Thank you to Kat and Satoshi for all your lovely recipes. I have gradually acquired many Japanese ingredients over this year but things like fresh daikon are a rare find in the UK but this is such a  tasty and quick recipe: Daikon wrapped Pork

8. The Little Foodie aka Mariko in Hawaii. Thank you Mariko for sharing this lovely family post and now I know what Lilikoi curd  is when I visit Hawaii some time soon ( ;-D ) Sunrise Layer Cake

9. A Culinary Journey with Chef Denis aka Chef Dennis. Thank you Chef for being such a brilliant Foodbuzz ambassador and putting up with some many women in your life! Can't be a bad job after all.....>< Anyway amongst your many lovely dishes  I made Roasted Branzino - Sea Bass. Sea bass is one of my favourite restaurant fish dishes and I guess I was just lazy about cooking it at home, now a firm home favourite, thank you.

10. Sage Trifle via the Hendersonville/Carolina Epicurean aka Rocquie in NW  Carolina,    USA.  Thank you Rocquie, I love food history even the relatively recent stuff and I was really pleased to make this for a valentines dance this year and it was very popular too; Orange Kiss Me Cake .

11. In the Kitchen with Kath aka Kath (and Bob!) in Seattle, USA. Thank you Kath there was just something about your pie..sigh...Blueberry Pie. Blueberries are now readily available in our supermarkets in the UK . Traditionally blackberry and apple were more commonly used here but they have been elbowed out of the way by this pie and the juicier the better. I could cut into that pie crust right now...

And finally:

12. Cakewalker aka Brooks. Thank you Brooks for all your lovely cakes and sugar craft but what I really wanted were your Brown Sugar Burger Buns!  In fact, we didn't put burgers in ours; we just had them with bacon, lettuce and tomato and the rest with lovely fresh butter. I have been trying lots of different breads this year and learning that US flour and other countries flours are not all the same and so yielding different results. This was the first time I had used brown sugar in bread making and there was a nice change to taste. Thank you for the inspiration and it was so much fun watching you and rooting for you in the competition too. Happy baking, my friend.

There are many more waiting on the saved list that I couldn't mention here but it has been a very interesting and tasty year.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Maple Toffee Apple and Chocolate Marshmallow Picnic Cakes

Two for the price of one in this blog! I love toffee apple cake and I love chocolate cake but which is best? There's only one way to find out....with apologies to one of my family's favourite UK comedians,  Harry Hill* ; that's to eat them. This weekend everyone in this house has successfully shared a cold with each other and we are eating these as 'comfort' cakes and watching Harry on TV. The cakes were designed as picnic cakes and are very easy to transport and keep well (I think) but taste just as nice at home, even with colds.

There are lots of caramel apple cake recipes available but what I really wanted was to taste a toffee topping more like a toffee apple than a caramel sauce. However, the toffee on a toffee apple can be very hard and brittle so I've settled for something chewier. I also like the extra depth that maple syrup gives to the toffee with the lovely apple and cinnamon aroma coming from the cake.

The toffee is a little more work but so worth it and is my favourite picnic cake; sweet , moist and still some sharpness from the apples.  Also makes a brilliant pudding cake, heat through to soften the toffee, serve with cream.

The Chocolate Fan Club will insist that the second cake; a rich chocolate chip cake with a sticky marshmallow filling is the best. It's such a cheat and it's so easy you can cook this up in half the time of the apple cake or at the same time and keep everyone happy. Rich organic cocoa powder and 70 % dark chocolate chips in the cake batter for a very chocolatey cake but milk chocolate works just as well. Sweetened with the melted marshmallow filling in the centre make it an 'easy to carry' picnic cake without anyone getting sticky fingers. 


 Shiny Maple Toffee Apple Cake!
Ingredients for :


4oz (110g) Butter
4oz (110g) Demerara (Raw) sugar
1 tbsp Maple syrup
1 tsp Cinnamon powder
1 Large egg
4oz (110g) Self raising flour
1 tbsp yogurt
2oz (55g) Apples ( 1 large Bramley cut into small chunks)


2 tbsp Maple syrup
3 oz (85g) Demerara (Raw) sugar
1 oz (25g) Butter
2oz (55g) Apples ( 1 large Bramley cut into small chunks)


Preheat oven 160c/140c Fan/300F/Gas Mark 2.

Grease and line cake tin. This recipe was made in a 8 inch/ 20 cm square tin.
Cream the sugar, fat and maple syrup together. Whisk in the eggs and cinnamon powder. Fold in the flour and add the yogurt and then the apple chunks. Put into tin and place in centre of oven.

Check after 20 minutes. Cook until risen and a skewer comes cleanly out.
To make toffee and apple topping first weigh out ingredients and then cut apple into chunks and put to one side. Place sugar, maple syrup and butter in a wok or heavy based pan and put on a low heat until butter is melted. Increase heat until toffee mixture is boiling. For this small amount it will not take a long time for the mixture to caramelise, after a couple of minutes it will turn a darker toffee colour and take off heat. You can test the toffee by putting a little on a cold plate to test it's hardness. If you are happy with the result return the pan to the heat and add the apples for another minute stirring well. Pour over top of cake, spread apple pieces evenly with the toffee. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes and ease any grease proof paper away from toffee on the sides of the cake. Mark into squares, cool in fridge completely before cutting.

Text Only Printable Recipe for Chocolate Marshmallow Picnic Cake

Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Picnic Cake - Milk Chocolate Version

Cake :

6oz (170g)  Butter
6oz (170g) Golden caster sugar
1 tbsp Caramel or golden syrup
3 Large eggs
4oz (110g) Self raising flour
2oz (60g) of Dark cocoa powder
3 tbsp milk
3oz (85g)  Dark chocolate cut into small chunks, choc drop size ( Most of a Green and Blacks
 100g bar of 70% Dark chocolate minus one tasting segment :-D)

Marshmallow Filling:

Bag of Marshmallows- about 12 marshmallows for this amount


Preheat oven to a moderate temperature 160c/140c Fan/325F/Gas Mark 2.

Grease and line cake tin. This recipe was made in a 12 x 9 inch ( 30cm x 23cm ) oblong pan.

Cream the sugar and butter together, add the syrup and whisk in. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Mix  in half the flour and cocoa with the milk. Fold the rest of the flour with the chocolate chips.

Put into tin and place in centre of oven. Check after 20 minutes. Cook until risen and a skewer comes cleanly out.

While the cake is still warm turn cake out onto fresh piece of greased baking parchment and remove original parchment from cake. Cut in half and place marshmallows over one half leaving a gap around marshmallow because they will spread. Fold other half of cake on top of marshmallows using parchment to help you.

The marshmallows will begin to spread with the heat of the cake, don't put too close together as you will get marshmallow run out!

If  there isn't enough warmth left in the cake to melt the marshmallows return to the oven for 5 minutes. Cool cake and place in fridge. When cold and marshmallow has reset, cut into squares. You didn't even have to make icing for this.

This cake also works well with a lighter cocoa powder and milk  chocolate chips. A pound cake is used as a denser cake holds together better, especially when rearranging the warm pieces and then finally cutting into squares. Easy to make for any occasion.

Finally, Harry Hill is also fond of TV Cooks as well as food fights and Nigella is no exception. I'm not sure if the US view her in quite the same way as the UK but here is one of Harry's takes on her show to finish this month's blog. I think she's great too.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Fruit and Nut Surprise Picnic Cake ( Gluten and Dairy Free )

I love autumn picnics; wrapping up warm and enjoying the changing scenery and food. To set the scene, here's a beautiful picture taken just a few miles from my home, of the River Wye, dividing England and Wales, providing a wonderful picnic backdrop.

That means cake time too, so this month * I am  providing picnic cake recipes; making the most of some seasonal ingredients and one for chocolate lovers too. The  ideal picnic cake, moist and sweet should be easy to pick up and easy to carry. Let's make it easy to bake too so if you are ready to enjoy the autumn sunshine, we will start with a Fruit and Nut Surprise Picnic Cake.

You may ask what is the surprise? Well it seems that when I am designing recipes 'over here', aka the UK... there are certain food combinations that don't seem to be so acceptable to the general public. Whereas in the US, I would be quite happy to title this as a 'Berry and Peanut Butter Picnic Cake', here the humble peanut is not so highly regarded in cake form. In fact, you would be hard pressed to get the average person to try a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, let alone base a cake on this combination. However, a little move upwards and here we have 'Fruit'; juicy blackberries and blueberries and 'Nut Cake'; peanut butter in the batter. Before you know it, retitled, they have tasted it and actually like it........

I have made several versions of this cake and the one I am really happy with has both the blackberry and blueberry in it and uses organic pure peanut butter with a slight crunch. The original recipe assumed that the blackberries would give out far more juice and I used semolina instead of gluten free flour as a topping and in the batter. That didn't work at all and I have posted a picture in the outtakes, it came out far too dry. I also used a commercial peanut butter that had extra sugar etc added but that didn't work out so flavoursome.   

If you love peanuts you can also add a good crushed tablespoonful with the demerara sugar on top. It's not sticky and not too sweet, just juicy and nutty at the same time, delicious!

Cooling off on the window sill is a Fruit and Nut Surprise Picnic Cake which can be made gluten and dairy free.

* I won't be providing a picture of my new cooker, fridge freezer and dishwasher but last month's lack of posts was primarily due to my main kitchen equipment all dying at once. Very expensive! After some trepidation of using a new oven because they all have slightly different cooking and browning abilities, I am back to baking. My last oven ran very hot and I find that I am still adjusting to the new oven and despite checking it with a thermometer, I would always urge you to adjust the recipes to your oven's preferences!


4oz (110g) Non dairy cooking fat or margarine
4oz (110g) Demerara (Raw) sugar
4oz (110g) Organic crunchy peanut butter
2 tbsp milk
2 Large eggs
4oz (110g) Self raising flour / Gluten free self raising flour

4oz (110g) Blueberries
4oz (110g) Blackberries


½ tbsp  Warmed maple syrup or honey
1 tbsp Demerara sugar
Optional add 1 tbsp crushed salted peanuts


Preheat oven 160c/140c Fan/300F/Gas Mark 2.
Grease and line cake tin. This recipe was made in a 8 inch/ 20 cm by 10 inch/ 25cm oblong tin.
Cream the sugar, fat and peanut butter together. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour and add milk. Place two thirds of the mixture in the tin and sprinkle most of the blueberries over. Cover lightly with the rest of the batter. Place the blackberries around the edge and the rest of the blueberries in the centre.

Place in the centre of the oven. Check after 20 minutes. Cook until risen and a skewer comes cleanly out. Brush top with a little warm maple or honey around the fruit and sprinkle with extra sugar and if desired, crushed peanuts.

Allow to cool before cutting.

Leaving to cool on window sill may mean that not a lot of cake gets to the picnic!