Sunday, 2 August 2015

Coconut Cream tart

When Mr CC and I have a quiet Sunday at home it will usually begin with the Channel 4 show ‘Sunday Brunch’.  Most of this time is spent asking each other if we have heard of the ‘celebrity’ guests and complaining about the awful music they choose to showcase either side of the ad breaks.  I think we’re getting old! It is, primarily, a cooking show, yet I rarely want to replicate the dishes that are made….until last weekend’s show when this recipe for coconut cream tart cropped up.  They followed the US convention of calling it coconut cream pie but, to me, if there’s no pastry lid in sight….it ain’t a pie!

I have long wanted to make a coconut cream tart but, when I looked up US recipes, they often seem to include ingredients such as ‘pudding mix’ and I don’t know what that is.  This recipe uses custard powder, so I wonder if that’s what pudding mix effectively is – just a cornflower based thickening agent?

This is not a dessert for the diet conscious.  It is rich, creamy, and huge…all things that make it pretty ace!  The creamy mascarpone topping is so much nicer that plain whipped cream as it has a custard-like flavour; indeed, I have used it in the past as both a shortcut for crème patisserie, and custard in a trifle.  It is hard not to eat it all straight from the bowl.  I added a little sugar to the topping (as well as increasing the quantity of topping) as the whole tart is not overly sweet.  When a US guest on Sunday Brunch tried it she commented that it was not as sweet as American versions.  If you want a sweeter tart maybe add more sugar to the custard layer.

There is coconut in the biscuit base and the custard is bulked out with a lot of desiccated coconut.  It means the custard layer is not smooth but the benefit is that it really boosts the coconut flavour.  If, like me, you can never have anything too coconutty then this is heaven!

I suppose you could serve it with some berries in an attempt to make it look a bit healthier but I didn’t bother.  I decided to embrace its creamy, custardy goodness in all its white/yellow/beige splendour!


For the base:
225g digestive biscuits
90g unsalted butter, at room temperature
15g desiccated coconut

For the filling:
3 egg yolks
80g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
475ml milk
225g coconut cream
60g custard powder
30g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g desiccated coconut
For the topping:
150g mascarpone
300ml double cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar
Handful of toasted coconut flakes – I couldn’t find toasted flakes anywhere so toasted some coconut in a dry frying pan; keep it moving and don’t let it burn!


Start by making the base: place the biscuits in a food processor and blitz until you have fine crumbs. 

Add the butter and coconut and blitz again.

NB. If you don’t have a food processor and are crushing the biscuits using the ‘bashing them with a rolling pin’ method, you will need to melt the butter.

Press the damp crumbs into a 23cm loose bottomed tart tin.

Refrigerate for an hour.

Now make the filling: beat together the egg yolks and sugar until smooth and fluffy.  They will puff up in volume.

Beat in the vanilla.

Place the milk, coconut cream and custard powder in a pan and bring gently to the boil.  Stir enough to ensure the custard powder has dissolved and is not clumping in lumps at the bottom of the pan.

Remove from the heat and gradually pour over the egg mix, whisking well the whole time.

Sieve the mixture back into the saucepan (don’t skip this stage – there will be little eggy lumps that you don’t want in your creamy filling!) and simmer, stirring the whole time, until the mix is thick and creamy.  If it coats the back of a spoon it’s the thickness you want.

Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the butter and desiccated coconut.

Spoon into the biscuit base and level the surface.

Press clingfilm over the surface (to stop any skin forming) and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Now make the topping: beat the mascarpone just enough to slacken it a little.

Pour in the cream and beat until the mix is thick enough to hold its shape.

Beat in the icing sugar.

Spoon on top of the tart.

Scatter over the toasted coconut flakes.

Serve in generous slices.

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


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Chocolate yoghurt cake


Sometimes, you don’t ‘want’ or ‘fancy’ cake…you NEED it.  I really needed chocolate cake this weekend; nothing fancy, just a handsome piece of sponge with a bit of icing.  This cake hit the mark – packed with chocolate flavour, it has a lovely light crumb and a simple topping that adds a rich mousse-like texture.

The inclusion of yoghurt created a light sponge; yoghurt’s impact on a cake fascinates me because it makes the cake light and airy but also adds moisture and the two seem like they should be mutually exclusive.  I’m no scientist; I just know it works!

The sponge is flavoursome enough that it could standalone.  It would also be perfect made into a loaf cake, cupcakes or individual sponges for a pudding.  It’s one of those recipes that can be adapted easily and should be filed away in your armoury of ‘awesome bakes’. 

Many years ago, I saw Ina Garten demonstrate a simple tip when you’re icing the cake on its final serving plate/stand.  Place four squares of foil on the plate, then the cake on top.  The foil will catch any drips of icing and you can them whip them away leaving a clean plate.  I use it all the time and always marvel that it’s the simplest tips that are always the most useful!

Served warm for dessert with custard or ice cream, or as a good slab of sponge with a cup of tea, this one is a crowd pleaser.  It’s not too sweet but, at the same time, it’s really cocoa-y without having the grown up bitterness that can sometimes go with that.  Even a bit of whipped cream and a few berries would make it look a rather smart dessert. 


For the cake:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
275g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
175g Greek style yoghurt
225g self raising flour
50g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the icing:
25g unsalted butter
25g cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk, plus extra if needed
175g icing sugar


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Start by making the cake: beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and well combined.  It won’t become really light and fluffy because of the ratios involved.

Beat in the vanilla.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Beat in the yoghurt.

Fold in the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda and mix until just combined – don’t overwork it.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  It’s best to start checking at around the 40 minute mark but don’t worry if it takes longer.  Mine took just over 50 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin for approximately 20 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Now make the icing: place the butter and cocoa powder in a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat, stirring all the time.  It will look a bit icky at this point!

Remove from the heat and beat in the milk and icing sugar; add more milk as required to reach a thick, mousse-like texture.

Put to one side while you prepare the cake for icing.

Place four squares of foil on the serving plate and sit the cake on these so that they will catch the icing drips and keep the plate clean.

Spoon or pour the icing slowly over the cake letting it run down the sides.

When the icing has set a little, gently pull out the foil from under the cake – and voila! A clean plate.  If the icing is very runny pop the cake in the fridge for 10 minutes to make it set.
Serve in generous slices.

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


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Banana and golden syrup cake

I had some bananas sitting around in the kitchen feeling generally unloved.  Mr CC won’t touch a banana once it’s past that green, starchy stage that makes your teeth squeak, so they were headed for the compostables bin until I found this recipe.  It’s from the BBC Goodfood site but I’ve made a tweak and substituted golden syrup for the maple syrup listed in the original recipe.  We’ve tried to love maple syrup but just cannot – it’s that background smoky taste that we struggle with; probably because like any good child of the 1970s/80s we were raised on steamed golden syrup sponges and that has fixed our expectation as to what syrup should taste like!

This is an upside down cake and the bananas bake at the bottom of the tin in golden syrup.  When you turn the cake out you add some more syrup and can then either serve it warm with custard for dessert, or as a tea time treat at room temperature.  It definitely has a stronger banana taste when warm, so that’s the way to go if you ‘need’ a good strong hit of banana!

This recipe makes a handsome size cake – perfect when you have many guests to feed.  My one tip with upside cakes is that it’s always best to turn them out the tin when they’re hot/warm – not only because it’s easier to peel the paper off the fruit at the bottom, but also because if your cake has domed while cooking it settles down nicely when still warm to give a stable, flat base.  If you turn it out when cold the shape is fixed and it will look like a spinning top (or a Beyblade, if you can picture one...maybe that’s too obscure a reference!)

The cake keeps fine but just be aware that over time the bananas lose their colour and look a bit grey.  No impact on the taste but not quite so appealing to the eye!


8 tablespoons golden syrup
3 ripe bananas, and 1 very ripe banana
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g self raising flour
100g ground almonds
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200g natural/Greek yoghurt


Preheat the oven to 160C/fan oven 140C/325F/gas mark 3.

Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.

Drizzle four tablespoons of golden syrup over the bottom of the tin.

Slice the three ripe bananas (either in rings, or in length) and place evenly in the tin.

Mash the very ripe banana and beat it together with the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined.

Fold in the flour, ground almonds and bicarbonate of soda.

Fold in the yoghurt.

Spoon into the tin – take care not to move the sliced bananas around in the bottom of the tin.

Bake for 45 mins – 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake settle for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack and inverting it (i.e. the bananas are now on the top).

Using a skewer, poke some holes into the cake between the bananas.

Drizzle over the remaining four tablespoons of golden syrup.

Serve either warm for dessert with custard, or on its own at room temperature with a cup of tea.

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


Sunday, 12 July 2015

Cornflake biscuits

I am always a fan of a biscuit that can be baking in the oven within 10 minutes of starting the creative process.  I am not a huge fan of cookies – I don’t like the softness and therefore favour a biscuit with crispness and bite.  These have a double crunch in that you get the crunch of the crisp buttery biscuit on your first bite, and then the cornflake crunch when you start chewing.  It is an extremely pleasurable sensation!

I wasn’t too sure on using self raising flour for a biscuit, but it works well – the biscuits puff up while baking and then become thin and crisp on cooling.

In theory any cereal would work with this recipe; I am tempted to make another batch with Rice Krispies, or Cheerios.  If your cereal tastes are a little more grown up than ours then I’m sure muesli or granola would work well too!  Regular readers will know that I favour the 2-for-1 approach with biscuits so I think I need to sandwich them with some jam next time!

Cornflakes work well in biscuits; previously I have made cornflake oaty biscuits which were delicious.  I’d say this recipe produces a lighter biscuit e.g. you can put more of them away in a single sitting.  What I’m saying really is: make a double batch!


125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolk
175g self raising flour
50g Frosties – you can use classic cornflakes but increase the quantity of sugar to 125g)


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

Line two baking sheets with baking paper or non stick foil.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and whippy.

Beat in the vanilla and egg yolk.

Beat in the flour – you will end up with a dough similar in firmness/texture to sweet pastry.

Tip in the Frosties and gently work them into the dough using your hand.  Try not to crush them too much.

Cut the dough into 16 pieces; you can do this by weighing the dough and working out the weight that each biscuit needs to do, or be less exact and cut it into halves, halves again etc to get the 16 pieces. (I did this).

Roll each piece of dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet – 8 pieces per sheet.

Flatten the balls.

Bake for approximately 16 minutes and rotate the trays halfway through cooking time to ensure an even bake.  Don’t be afraid to pat the biscuits down at the halfway mark if they haven’t spread thinly enough.

They are baked when they are an even golden colour.

Leave to cool on the baking sheet before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

They will store well in an airtight tin for at least two days.

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