Trés Leches Cake

Lazy river

Lazy canal

Oh, the lovely Trés Leches cake. It started life in Las Iguanas, celebrating Jef’s birthday last year. He ordered their:

CREAMY CARAMEL CAKE

Tres Leches. Layers of soaked sponge & caramelised cream, drizzled with dulce de leche. Topped with more caramelised cream & blueberries. 

It was a big hit and I was immediately charged with recreating it at home! This is my second attempt – I’ve scaled the quantities back to make something we can eat over a weekend rather than a week 😉

IMG_3177

Stephanie’s Trés Leches cake (original recipe here)

Ingredients
For the sponge

  • 2 free-range eggs, separated
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 50 ml milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp caramel sauce

For the pour-over sauce

Swirled caramel

Swirled caramel

  • Half a 400g can sweetened condensed milk
  • Half 400g  can caramel evaporated milk
  • 50 ml caramel sauce – see photo right for the odd, obscure brand I found in the back of my cupboard!

To finish

  • 100ml double cream

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a pyrex baking dish.
  2. In a bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed. Gradually fold in sugar. Fold in the egg yolks one at a time.
  3. In another bowl mix the flour, baking powder, milk and vanilla. Fold this quickly into the egg mix and pour into the baking dish.
  4. Swirl the caramel sauce through the cake.
  5. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes.
  6. For the sauce, beat together the condensed milk, evaporated milk and cream.
  7. As soon as you take the cake out of the oven skewer holes all over the top and pour over half of the milk mix.
  8. Place in the fridge to chill.
  9. Once chilled pour over the rest of the sauce, whip the cream and spread over the top, slice and serve.
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Sesame and Green Tea Biscuits

 

Very, very green tea

Very, very green tea

After the success of the green tea and cherry blossom jam macaroons, I’m always after something else to try with matcha. These looked too good to pass up…

Sesame and Green Tea Biscuits (original recipe here)

Stack of biscuits

Stack of biscuits

Makes 8 biscuit sandwiches

Ingredients

  • 40g sesame seeds, toasted (I didn’t have any black ones to hand :/)
  • 50g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 40g butter, firm but not fridge-cold, cubed
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp jasmine tea (the original recipe called for water but I was in an Oriental mood…) 
  • 40g butter, softened
  • 1½ tsp matcha green tea powder
  • 80g icing sugar
  1. Grind the sesame seeds in a food processor or coffee grinder until they’re reduced to a mealy powder, then set aside. Mix the flour and cocoa powder in a large bowl, then rub the butter in, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Toss in the ground sesame seeds, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  2. Add the tea and use a small knife to cut the liquid into the mixture until all of the flour has moistened. Lightly press the mixture into a flat disc, adding a drop more water if necessary, then wrap tightly in clingfilm and refrigerate for 15‑30 minutes. Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and line a large baking tray with parchment.
  3. Roll out the dough on a floured work surface to around 20x35cm, and 3-5mm thick. Use a 4-5cm round pastry cutter to stamp out circles. Arrange them on the prepared tray (line a second tray if necessary). Reroll the offcuts and stamp out more biscuits, if you want.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven, then leave to cool before carefully peeling away from the baking parchment.
  5. For the buttercream, beat the butter with the green tea powder until smooth (and bright green), then gradually stir in the icing sugar. Add a splash of milk if the mixture is too stiff. Place a teaspoonful of the buttercream on each of half of the batch of biscuits, then sandwich with the remaining biscuits, pressing gently down to help squash the buttercream and bring it flush with the edges of the biscuit.
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Orange Scented Malt Loaf

Where might this spooky path lead?

Where might this spooky path lead?

I saw this recipe the other day and thought ‘that looks like something I really ought to make!’ (Jef being rather fond of Soreen, the One True Malt Loaf.) I bought a jar of malt extract and it hid at the back of the cupboard until I came across it looking for something else. It’s a grey, rainy day today – perfect for some comforting baking!

However, not only had I ran out of wholemeal flour, but when I took a soggy walk over to the little convenience store on the next estates, I found that they don’t stock it either. Hmm. So, the recipe below was born out of a lack of a crucial ingredient and an idea to make a slightly lighter malt loaf. I was going to use Earl Grey to soak the fruit anyway but I found some Lady Grey which is an orange and lemon version of Earl Grey in the cupboard which led me onto the idea of echoing an orange note through the rest of the loaf too. I still want to try the original at some point – of course! – but this is a very nice, summery alternative. Some baked sunshine to tide us over until the real stuff comes back…

Sticky & sliced - 3 days after baking!

Sticky & sliced – 3 days after baking!

Orange Scented Malt Loaf

Sticky, malt, orange-y

Sticky, malt, orange-y

 

  • 9 tbsp malt extract, plus a little extra to glaze
  • 2 tbsp treacle
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 150ml strong Lady Grey tea
  • ½ tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp orange flower water
  • 200g sultanas
  • 250g plain white flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. Stir together the malt extract, treacle, sugar and tea, then add the dried fruit. Leave to soak for 15 minutes. Line a 10x20cm loaf tin with paper and heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark four.
  2. Whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt, then stir into the mixture to make a soft batter. Spoon into the tin and bake for about an hour, until a skewer comes out cleanish (the top will bow, don’t worry!).
  3. Paint the top with malt extract and leave to cool in the tin. Wrap in baking paper once cool, and put in an airtight container for two to three days before eating. Or, at least, try.
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Carrot and Ginger Cakes

Bloom & Wild flowers - beautiful!

Bloom & Wild flowers – beautiful!

One of my birthday presents this year was a subscription to a year’s worth of flowers. Around the middle of the month, I come home to a long flat box full of blooms and have the joy of discovering what they selection is this time and deciding how best to arrange them. (I’m not a natural florist – I do follow the instructions included in the box!) They were a gift from Jef to help brighten up my 37th year. Why am I telling you this, except as an excuse to include a very beautiful picture of yellow and purple flowers? Because it’s one of the many ways in which I’m lucky:I have a lovely and supportive other half who does things like that. In fact, I’m luck to have a small but perfectly formed group of very supportive people, most of whom are reading this.

So, supportive folks, I’d better let you know – I’ve extended the registration for my PhD. I know, I’m sorry. But for various reasons this was again necessary – and the biggest one was time. With all the time I took off last year / early this year, there was just no way I could realistically complete by the end of June without taking the next month off work and that’s not going to happen. So, I’m now planning on completing in October. The OU have been fantastic and they seems as keen to get me to the end of this process as I am to get there – and that’s very, very keen.

So, please put the champagne back on ice if you would, and forgive me for keeping you all hanging around for EVEN longer!

Today’s baking is pretty much a direct lift of a recipe by another blog-writing baker – I feel a bit funny about doing that and copying/pasting the recipe here… it’s different if it’s a more faceless recipe site. Sorry, Butcher, Baker Blog – I hope you don’t mind. Last night’s feedback suggests that these may be some of the best cakes I’ve ever made – and certainly the most moist and unctuous.

The finished items

The finished items

Carrot & Ginger Cakes

Cooling and admiring the view

Cooling and admiring the view

Makes 6 cupcake sized cakes, original recipe here.
The original recipe is brilliant but I can’t resist fiddling with things. The changes to the method and the recipe in italics are mine 🙂

Ingredients
For the cakes

  • 1 egg
  • 70ml rapeseed oil
  • 100g soft dark sugar
  • 150g finely grated carrots
  • 50g raisins
  • 2 tbs ginger liqueur
  • 90g self-raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

For the ginger cheesecake icing

  • 30g cream cheese
  • 30g butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp orange extract
  • 40g ginger preserve
  • 130g icing sugar
  • Carrot decorations to garnish

Method

  1. The day before, soak the raisins in the ginger liqueur.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 150º. Put 6 cupcake cases in a deep cupcake/muffin tin.
  3. In a bowl beat the egg then stir in the rapeseed oil, sugar and carrots then the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and the two gingers. Yes the mixture looks really rather sloppy and unappetising at this stage but stick with it.

    Yup. Sloppy!

    Yup. Sloppy!

  4. Fill each cupcake case 2/3 full with the mixture. Bake for 30min until cakes are risen and cooked through. Remove from tin and allow to cool.
  5. To make the icing beat together the cream cheese and softened butter until well combined then stir in the orange extract and ginger curd. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until you soft, smooth icing. Spoon the icing on to the cakes. Add a sugar carrot to garnish.
  6. As this icing contains cream cheese if that cakes are not being eaten within a few hours of being made it’s worth them being kept in the fridge especially during hot weather.
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Cherry Coke Cakes

Dark and stormy skies

Dark and stormy skies

I was having a clear-out of my essences and flavouring drawer* earlier this week when I found a little bottle of cola flavoured essence that I’ve never used. It still smelled really nice so I started doodling and came up with the idea of a little cherry coke cake.

Vanilla / cola cupcake base studied with glace cherries. Filled with cherry jam. With cola buttercream. Topped with cola bottle sweets. 

And you know what it’s like, once you get an idea like that in your head it really won’t go away. So I made them. However, I wasn’t entirely confident that they would work so as a fallback plan I also made some jam doughnut muffins. And what do you know? The experimental cakes actually worked quite nicely. Oops.

And that, your honour, is how I came to give an entire group of role-players Type II diabetes in the space of one evening. Sorry folks. Listen, if you talk nicely to me, I promise I’ll make the green tea macaroons again next week and we can pretend that they’re actually  healthy and detoxifying?

* I’ve turned into someone who has a SPECIAL DRAWER for little bottles of flavoured essences – and I’ve had some of them so long they’re either almost used up or out of date. Ye gods. Remember, until October 2012 I didn’t consider myself to be a baker at all so this comes as a shock to me!

Cherry Coke Cakes (makes 12, original cake recipe here)

Cherry Coke Cake

Cherry Coke Cake

Ingredients

  • 110g/4oz butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
  • 110g/4oz caster sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 110g/4oz self-raising flour
  • 50g glacé cherries, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp cherry coke
  • 4 tbs morello cherry jam

For the buttercream icing

  • 140g/5oz butter, softened
  • 280g/10oz icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp cherry coke
  • ½ tsp cola flavouring
  • Vegetarian-friendly jelly cola bottles**, to decorate
Tinful

Tinful

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale. Beat in the eggs a little at a time and stir in the vanilla extract.
  3. Fold in the flour using a large metal spoon, adding a little cherry coke until the mixture is of a dropping consistency.
  4. Stir in the chopped glacé cherries.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until they are half full.
  6. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.
  7. Carefully remove a cone of the cooked cake from the centre and fill the hollow with cherry jam.
  8. For the buttercream icing, beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add half the icing sugar and beat until smooth.
  9. Add the cola flavouring.
  10. Then add the remaining icing sugar with one tablespoon of the coke, adding more coke if necessary, until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  11. Spoon artfully on top of the cooled cakes.
  12. Garnish with a cola bottle, and enjoy!
Sweeties

Sweeties

** I was so delighted to find these! 😀 They’re ‘cola breeze‘ sweets, made by a cheerful little brand called ‘Goody good stuff’ and free from just about everything you can think of – no gluten, no alcohol, no gelatine. Available from Ocado and Asda.

Bonus pic! Jam doughnut muffins

Bonus pic! Jam doughnut muffins

Mm, jammy.

Mm, jammy.

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Black Forest Gateaux Cookies

A stormy day at the OU

A stormy day at the OU

I’m taking some tentative steps towards getting back to my old levels of productivity: nothing major to report yet but I’m getting there. And this week, I even got around to some Friday baking before work – or as it used to be known on Twitter  #BakingBeforeBreakfast. It’s been so long since I’ve had the energy to want to get up early to bake or the ‘appetite’ for doing so, this is a good sign.

Anyway, I couldn’t resist giving these a try. Kirsch-soaked cherries, almond biscuit, dark chocolate chunks? They’re *extremely* crumbly – as well as these presentable cookies, I also have a box of shamefully misshapen and broken ones that are really just crumbs held together with chocolate! (Thinks: hmm, they might make a nice cheesecake base if there are any left over.) I soaked the cherries for a bit longer than the recipe suggested but I don’t think that’s made a different to the amount of flavour they’ve absorbed. They smell delicious. And seeing as that little bottle of kirsch was used for a whole batch of 30-odd biscuits, hopefully just one won’t put anyone over the drink-driving limit!

Black Forest Gateaux Cookies (makes 24) (original recipe here)

Not necessarily for breakfast!

Not necessarily for breakfast!

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

You will need:

  • 100g dried cherries
  • 50ml kirsch
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 170g light brown soft sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence
  • 220g self-raising flour
  • 100g dark chocolate chips

Make it!:

  1. Start by soaking the cherries in kirsch for at least an hour.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the egg, vanilla essence and almond essence.
  3. Sift in the flour and gradually fold it in along with the cherries, chocolate and up to 1 tbsp of the kirsch. (Steph note: I’ve saved the left-over cherry-heavy kirsch – it’ll be amazing added to prosecco at some point for a sort of cherry-bellini type drink!)
  4. If you can bear it, chill the dough for two hours as the cookie texture will be better. Otherwise, just crack on and preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
  5. Line two trays with baking parchment (don’t worry if you’ve only got one, just cook them in two batches). Dollop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto the tray, evenly spaced as they will spread.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the cookies are firm and browning at the edges, and the middles are soft and puffy. Leave to cook on the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Beware the buttery biscuits...

Beware the crumbling buttery biscuits…

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Cinnamon Passover Balls

Fallen tree at the Open University

Fallen tree at the Open University

I should admit, I don’t know much about Passover. There’s a murky memory from RE lessons at school about angels marking the houses of the firstborn and lots of half-remembered things about special food only ever eaten at this time of year. I didn’t bake these out of any sense of religious or spiritual or even seasonal appropriateness – just that Lisa mentioned them on Facebook and they sounded absolutely delicious, very straightforward and oh, I happened to have all the ingredients on hand.

I’ve tweaked the instructions slightly because I found the original a touch vague!

Cinnamon Passover Balls

Shown in my new beautiful cherry blossom bowl!

Shown in my new beautiful cherry blossom bowl!

Original recipe here. Made 20 for me, original recipe suggests 24.

Ingredients

  • 115g caster sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 230g ground almonds
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar + ½ tsp cinnamon in a Ziplock bag

Method

  1. Sieve the caster sugar, almonds and cinnamon together into a bowl.
  2. Beat the egg whites until they become stiff and then fold them into the dry ingredients a bit at a time.
  3. Leave the mixture to set for a few minutes, and then roll into about 20-24 balls.
  4. Place the balls on a lined/greased baking sheet and bake for 18-24 mins at 175C (fan oven).
  5. The balls will be soft when you get them out of the oven, but they will harden up!!
  6. To finish, place the still warm balls into the bag of sifted icing sugar and shake to coat them, then place on a wire rack to cool.
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Gingerbread Cupcakes

Bright, bright cherry blossom

Bright, bright cherry blossom

I remember last year that it seemed to take forever for spring to come. The winter was cold, bleak, sad, horrible and very, very long. This year hasn’t felt anywhere near as drawn out, but just looking through a couple of photos has really brought the difference between the two years home to me. These photos were both taken from the same angle, just one year apart:

Cherry tree on April 19th 2014

Cherry tree on April 18th 2014

Cheery tree on April 19th 2013

Cherry tree on April 18th 2013

This year, in fact, is running away with me so fast it’s making my head spin. Already half-way through April? What?! I’d ask how on earth that happened but I know – goodness, it takes a surprisingly long time to put yourself back together after everything comes apart. Naively, I thought a couple of months of dried-frog pills and a bit of time off work would magically make everything better – well, it didn’t. All it’s done has been to press pause on the things I should be getting on with while the rest of the world carried on without me. And now I’m left with nothing to feel proud of, nothing to feel happy about and an overwhelming sense of guilt that I’ve made a mess of everything. (Note to self: never think that things can’t get any worse. They can.)

So, I’m trying to catch up on five months of a strange type of absence. And what better way to get started with that than baking things again? You have to start somewhere, I guess. This afternoon I cranked up 6 Music and started to bake again. Little by little, I think I’m getting myself back.

Gingerbread Cupcakes

"Um... can someone help me out of here?"

“Um… can someone help me out of here?”

 

Makes 8. Original recipe here

I wouldn’t claim I’m an expert on cupcakes but this definitely has an unusual method – I’ve never had to heat up milk and froth baking powder into it to make a cupcake before! I wonder if that emphasises the ginger-y ness of it?

Ingredients

  • 75g butter, softened
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 100ml black treacle (about 160g)
  • 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk
  • 180g plain flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 75g crystallised ginger, chopped into large chunks
  • 100ml hot semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the icing:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 200g full-fat soft cheese
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
  • 400g golden icing sugar, sieved
  • 2 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
  • 8 mini gingerbread men

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Prepare a 12-hole muffin tray and line with 8  muffin cases.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the treacle, followed by the egg and egg yolk, and beat the mixture until well combined.
  3. Sift the flour with the spices, add to the mixture and continue to beat until smooth. Add the crystallised ginger and stir to distribute.
  4. Mix the hot milk with the baking powder, add to the mixture and beat until combined.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cases and place in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until the cupcakes are springy to touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before icing.
  6. For the icing, beat together the butter, soft cheese, cinnamon and icing sugar. Add the milk and beat until light and fluffy. Spoon this icing into an icing bag cut off the end so you have a wide nozzle and use to pipe the cooled cakes. (Or do as I did, and spoon it on top!)
  7. Top with a gingerbread man and serve with a dusting of cinnamon.

Per serving: 634 cals, fat 26.4g, sat fat 16.1g, carbs 93.5g, sugars 75.4g, protein 5.7g, salt 0.8g, fibre 0.7g

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Whisky Christmas Cake

That tree does have a face, doesn't it? That's not just me...

That tree does have a face, doesn’t it? That’s not just me…

It’s been so long since I wrote. Weeks, in fact. I’ve been trying to put into words the reasons why but they all sound rubbish – I came down with a terrible case of the sads, I temporarily forgot how to breathe, I was signed off for a whole month with ‘work-related stress’ – but basically, everything got too much so I went a little bit mad for a little while. But I came back and I’m very, very lucky to still be here and writing this. I’d been pushing myself so hard for so long that it didn’t take a lot to tip me over into a crisis. It’s odd to write about because for a lot of it, “I” wasn’t there, so I just have flashes of memories that I know it’s probably best I try to leave in the past but I do know that several amazing and wonderful people were there for me when I needed them and that’s why I’m here typing this today.

Cold owl

Cold owl

It feels just as odd to be trying to build my life back up, from moment by moment to hour by hour and now I’m back at work, I see stacking one normal day on top of the other as a sort of wall against everything that fell apart. But as everything’s been a bit tricky for a while, for the first time ever, I’ve barely thought about Christmas. I’m usually ready with the festive preparations and excited as soon as the clocks change. This year – I’m writing this on Christmas Eve and it feels as plain and ordinary as any other Tuesday. Some of that might be the shiny new anti-depressants I’m chucking down my throat – some of it might be that after going down so far I need to be numb for a little while.

Eventually, I’m aiming for this level of happy again (August was a lovely month) but I’ll be pleased if I keep hitting ‘ok’ over the next few weeks. Part of that is trying to rediscover things that make me happy and baking and blogging did do that. (Thank you to Sophie for the reminder!) So in this spirit of stacking up the good moments on top of each other, I’d like to share my Christmas cake recipe – it’s a good one this year.

If you’re reading this, be happy and merry and bright. Because I can’t quite, not yet. But I’m working on it. And may 2014 be a hell of a lot better than 2013 was.

~ Steph.

Fibre optics *and* colour shifting balls? Why not?!

Fibre optics *and* colour shifting balls? Why not?!

Whisky Christmas Cake 2013

NB This is based on Delia’s original quantity for an 8″ cake, but for me, this made enough for one 6″ cake + six mini loaf-tin sized cakes as well. We’ve found that a single giant cake can be a bit too much at this time of year! The cake tin was greased and lined, and the loaf-cases I used were these

The marzipan and icing recipes are something of a tradition for us – they’re the ones that Jef’s grandmother used to use, and years ago they were handed down to me by his Dad, carefully mono-space printed on the old-fashioned computer printout paper with holes on each side. They’re described as the 1991 recipes. I’ve been using them for a decade or so now – I like the idea of carrying on a family tradition, but just to note, the original recipe made enough for a cake the size of a small car! This version has been adjusted for the quantities required for this smaller cake and its mini loaf-shaped friends and the original recipe didn’t use whisky in the marzipan!

For the cakes (based on Delia’s recipe here)

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons whisky
  • 175g mixed dried fruit – I used the super-soft stuff from M&S
  • 110 g glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and cut into halves
  • 80g ready-made marzipan, diced small
  • 80g crystallised ginger, chopped small
  • grated rind 1 small orange
  • grated rind 1 small lemon
  • 150 g butter, at room temperature
  • 150 g soft brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 225 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 level teaspoon baking powder
  • milk, if necessary
  • 2 level tablespoons ground almonds

Method

  1. Begin the night before by weighing the fruit and peel into a bowl and sprinkling it with the 3 tablespoons of whisky. Mix well, cover and leave overnight.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C). Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until light and fluffy – or use an electric mixer for more speed. Whisk the eggs separately, then, a little at a time, beat them into the creamed butter and sugar. Next, using a large tablespoon, carefully fold in the sifted flour, spices and baking powder. Your mixture needs to be of a soft, dropping consistency so, if it seems too dry, add a dessertspoon of milk.
  3. Now, carefully fold in the ground almonds and then the currants, sultanas, marzipan, ginger, cherries and orange and lemon zest. Then spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and small loaf moulds, smoothing it out evenly with the back of the spoon. The mini cakes will need around an hour to bake but the large cake will take longer, around 2 hours so make sure you have a timer set for both!
  4. Let the big cake cool in the tin for 30 minutes before taking them out to finish cooling on a wire rack. (The little ones can stay in their cases, they look quite cute.) Then ‘feed’ them – make small holes in the top and base of the cake with a cocktail stick or small skewer, then spoon over a few teaspoons of malt whisky – wrap it in double silicone paper and store it in foil or an airtight container till needed. If you like you can feed it again before icing or eating.

For the marzipan

Marzipanned cakes, ready to ice

Marzipanned large cake, ready to ice – small cakes glazed

  • 85g icing sugar
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 170g ground almonds
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond essence
  • 2-3 teaspoons of whisky
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Apricot jam
  1. Sift the icing sugar into a 10 inch bowl.
  2. Add the sugar to the icing sugar, then stir in the ground almonds.
  3. Stir in the lemon juice, essence and whisky
  4. Lightly beat the egg yolks and slowly stir into the mix
  5. Mix and knead to a smooth paste.
  6. Give the cake a last feeding of whisky.
  7. Heat the apricot jam – I used the microwave but be careful not to over-zap it or it’ll boil and burn.
  8. Spread the warm apricot jam onto the top of the cake.
  9. Divide the paste – ⅓ for the mini cakes, ⅔ for the big cake.
  10. (For the big cake, split the paste up again with ⅓ for the top and ⅔ for the sides.
  11. Roll out a disc for the top and place ono the cake.
  12. Rub the sides with jam. Divide the remaining paste into three or four equal pieces.
  13. Roll each piece into a strip for the sides, trimming one edge and the ends with a knife
  14. Apply with the trimmed edge to the bottom, pinching all joints together and filling where necessary with paste.)
  15. (For the small cakes, split the paste into 6, and roll into rough oblongs. Brush hot jam onto each cake. Press the paste on top of the cakes.)

For the royal icing

  • 400g icing sugar (but you may need more!)
  • 2 egg whites
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon glycerin
  1. Sift the icing sugar into a 10 inch bowl.
  2. Put the egg whites into another 10 inch bowl.
  3. Slowly stir in the icing-sugar.
  4. Add the lemon juice, then the glycerin.
  5. Adjust consistency with more sugar or more egg white until fairly stiff.
  6. When there is little tendency to flow, spread over the cakes.
  7. Leave the cake somewhere with a decent airflow overnight to set the icing.
Close up of cakes

Close up of cakes

Cakes with tree

Cakes with tree

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“Millie’s” Chocolate Chip Cookie Cups

Early morning sunshine

Early morning sunshine

We’re running out of 2013. That’s not a bad thing, per se, it’s a year I’ll be quite happy to see the back of. But I do hate winter so every day when it gets colder makes me a little sadder, makes me feel a bit more bleak.

If you’re reading this, you’ve already cottoned on to the fact that baking makes me happy. Baking these made me very happy indeed.

Chocolate chip cookie cups. Now, these are quite interesting. There are two sources to credit here: my lovely office-mate Jane who introduced me to the originals:

Millie's Original 'Cupcakes'

Millie’s Original ‘Cupcakes’

If you’ve not heard of these before, they’re cookies baked in the shape of cupcakes, filled with flavoured buttercream. Jane suggested them as an exercise for my next baking adventures – I do so like a challenge. And a challenge involving chocolate chips and caramel buttercream definitely sounded fun.

I thought the filling would be easy enough but I wasn’t sure how to approach the cookie base. I took a look at the photos online and thought that my usual cookie recipe would be much too gooey to pass as a cup – I needed something that could be rolled out properly, pressed into a tin and then filled. But still stay a little bit gooey in the middle – that’s a tricky balance. In the end, I fiddled around this this recipe until it seemed the right consistency. The reports from my testers on Friday suggest I got it pretty much spot-on so here you go…

“Millie’s” Steph’s Chocolate Chip* Cookie Cups

I'm getting better at piping!

I’m getting better at piping!

Makes 12, original cookie recipe here.

Ingredients

Cookie base

  • 150g salted butter, softened
  • 80g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 80g granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 250g plain flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 100g plain chocolate chips or chunks

Filling

  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tin Carnation caramel

You’ll need 2 6-hole or 1 12-hole muffin tin(s), a rolling pin, a shot glass or similar sized cylindrical item, a piping mag and nozzle.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Heavily butter the muffin tins.
    Rolled circle of cookie dough

    Rolled circle of cookie dough

    Before baking

    Before baking

  2. Put the butter and sugars into a bowl and beat until creamy. Beat in the vanilla extract and egg. Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt over the mixture and mix in with a wooden spoon. Add the chocolate chips and stir well.
  3. Wrap the dough in cling-film and chill for around half an hour.
  4. Take balls of the dough, roughly 50g each. Roll out on a floured surface until you get a circle large enough to sit in one of the cups of the muffin tin and come just up to the top – this is roughly the diameter shown in the photo on the right.
  5. Gently press the circle of chocolate chip dough into the muffin cup. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
  6. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 9 minutes. This bit is a little alarming because they will puff up in the middle like Yorkshire puddings and you’ll think they won’t be cup-like at all. Don’t panic at this point. When you take them out, have a shot glass ready by your side. While they’re still VERY hot, press the glass into the middle of each cookie-puddle  to make an indentation. This forms the cup shape and also helps the bottom of the cup to stay gooey because you’re compressing the dough back onto itself.

    Cookie shaping technique

    Cookie shaping technique

  7. Leave to get completely cold in the tin.
  8. While they’re cooling, make the buttercream – warm the butter until it’s just starting to melt (about 10 seconds in my microwave) then beat in the icing sugar and 2 heaped teaspoons of the caramel from the tin. It should be a really soft icing or piping is going to be awkward so add a splash of milk if it’s too stiff.
  9. Assembly time! Remove the cold muffin cups from the tins – I found they lifted out without sticking at all but you might need to persuade them out with something pointy like the end of a spoon.
  10. Spread about a teaspoon of caramel inside each cup and then pipe a swirl of icing on top.
  11. I’d keep these in a tin in the fridge, personally… if they last that long!

* There are so many ways you could play with this basic idea by mixing up the flavour in the cookie and what goes into the filling. Here are some initial suggestions made by Jef and Sophie but I’d love to hear any more – if you’d like to put in a request, do so in the comments!

  • Cinnamon & nutmeg infused sultanas, with rum buttercream
  • Oatmeal cookie, mincemeat filling, marzipan buttercream
  • Shortbread cookie, fresh strawberry filling, buttercream with double or clotted cream
  • Dark chocolate cookie, orange jelly, vanilla or orange buttercream
  • A fairly plain cookie, custard filling, and either buttercream or meringue with nutmeg
  • Walnut cookie with coffee buttercream.
Tin full of caramel goodness

Tin full of caramel goodness

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