Sunday, 29 May 2011

Rhubarb and custard cupcakes

It seems a shame to waste the garden rhubarb while it’s still growing, so this week it had to be rhubarb and custard cupcakes. While garden rhubarb will never yield the glorious pink of its forced cousin, it has its own tart beauty and, as I didn’t want these cupcakes to be overly sweet, it was the perfect ingredient.

I left the cooked rhubarb on the tart side – obviously this is a question of taste so I recommend you don’t add too much sugar at the start.

This is my version of the rhubarb and custard cupcakes featured in the Love Bakery cookbook. My ‘tweak’ is to add some of the rhubarb’s poaching syrup to the buttercream – perhaps I should’ve added more to increase the flavour as it did work well; first you got the rich custard taste then an acidic tang, not dissimilar to a rhubarb and custard boiled sweet.

After ‘coring’ the cupcake I filled it with my cooked rhubarb....

....topping this with some custard:

Definitely one of the most popular cupcakes I’ve made in recent times! By the way, if you’re thinking my photos look better this week I owe it all to Mr CC who generously bought me a new camera (an Olympus XZ-1). I’m not the most technologically minded person and cameras panic me a bit if I’m required to do anything other than point and click but I am slowly learning how to get some stunning photos...such as this one (the brilliant ‘food’ setting on the camera should take some of the credit):

Thank you Mr CC!


For the rhubarb (this will be used in both sponge and buttercream):
2-3 sticks rhubarb, washed and chopped into 2-3cm chunks
4 tablespoons water, but add more if the mixture looks dry
2 tablespoons caster sugar (if you’re using forced rhubarb use less sugar initially; I used garden rhubarb which is much tarter)

For the cupcake sponge (this will make 12 cupcakes):
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk

To fill the cupcakes: cooked rhubarb (recipe above), if you wish, you could also fill with some of the ready made custard

For the buttercream (enough for 12 cupcakes):
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
250g icing sugar
1 tablespoon rhubarb poaching syrup
1 tablespoon ready made custard


Start by cooking the rhubarb: place the rhubarb chunks, water and sugar in a saucepan and simmer gently – with the lid on – until the chunks are tender and have released a lot of juice. You don’t want them to collapse completely, although most probably will. Taste, and add more sugar if you think it is too tart.

If you hear the rhubarb sizzling, add more water to the pot.

Strain the chunks from the syrup making sure you retain the syrup.

Put to one side and leave to cool.

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.

Line a cupcake pan with paper cases.

Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, flour and milk.

When the mixture is well combined, spoon into the paper cases.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean. Mine took 15 minutes.

Leave to cool on a wire rack and remove from the tin when cool enough to handle. (You can make up to this point a day before serving – simply store the cupcake sponges in an airtight container. Make the buttercream on the day you wish to serve the cupcakes)

On the day of serving, core the cupcake sponges and fill the cavity with the cooked rhubarb (and custard, if using).

Now make the buttercream: whip up the butter until it is light and fluffy.

Beat in the vanilla and icing sugar.

Beat in the rhubarb poaching syrup and custard.

Pipe the buttercream onto the cupcakes. You can use up any leftover rhubarb chunks by either hiding them under the buttercream i.e. place on top of the cupcake and pipe over them, or by using them as cupcake toppers.

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


Sunday, 22 May 2011

Walnut and date cake with walnut buttercream

If I was sponsored for every time I typed the word “birthday”, then by the end of May I could retire! This cake, for Mr CC’s birthday, concludes the birthday season amongst my nearest and dearest!

Mr CC is most fond of date and walnut cakes and I didn’t struggle to find a recipe. But then he dealt a curve ball and requested walnut buttercream. There are not many recipes for such a thing so I adapted a recipe. Any buttercream with chopped nuts, no matter how finely you chop them, will not be smooth but however much I tried to deter Mr CC from this request he stood firm.

The cake was stunning – it had similar flavour to sticky toffee pudding but was far less sweet, thanks to the walnuts, and had a light texture punctuated with crunchy nuggets of walnut. A big hit.

As predicted, the buttercream was a little gritty (not in an unpleasant way and barely noticeable when eaten with the cake) but the flavour was heavenly. The first hit of flavour was typical buttercream i.e. whippy sugary butter, but then the nut came through and cut away a lot of the sweetness. As with anything containing nuts, the flavour deepened over time.

Happy birthday Mr CC...enjoy this new decade!

Fairy Hobmother update: I’m sure many of you will have seen mentions of the Fairy Hobmother on other blogs. He (yes, confusing isn’t it!) is from Appliances Online [], a major online white goods and appliances retailer, and visits bloggers with lovely gifts. I’m delighted with my Amazon voucher and can proudly state that I do believe in fairies! The Fairy Hobmother is a benevolent fairy (are there evil fairies?) and has promised to pick one person from anyone commenting on this post with an offer of a lovely could be you!


For the cake:
265g stoned dates, chopped
300ml boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
90g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g light muscovado sugar
2 eggs
375g self raising flour
100g walnuts, chopped

For the buttercream:
375g icing sugar
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
40g walnuts, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons milk

To decorate: walnut halves.


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

Line two 20cm round sandwich tins with baking paper ensuring that the paper comes up above the edge of the tin.

Place the water in a saucepan and bring to the boil.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped dates and leave for 10 minutes.

Stir in the bicarbonate of soda and put to one side.

Beat together the butter and sugar until well combined. As it is brown sugar, it won’t go whippy as if you were using caster sugar and also, as there’s not much butter it won’t go creamy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Stir in the dates and their liquid.

Fold in the flour and walnuts and make sure that the ingredients are well combined.

Spoon into the prepared tins and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Mine took 30 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tins, on a wire rack. The cake will be very soft and trying to de-tin it too early may cause heartache!

You can make the sponges a day or two in advance as long as you store them in an airtight container.

When you are ready to compile the finished cake make the buttercream: Place the icing sugar in a bowl and, with the mixer on a slow speed, start to beat in the butter. (Once the butter is mixed in a bit you can up the speed on the mixer).

Add the chopped nuts and enough milk to attain a soft, spreadable consistency.

Place one sponge on the serving plate and spread about 1/3 of the buttercream over the top.

Place the other sponge on top and gently press down to fix in place.

Spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake.

Decorate with walnut halves, if desired.

Serve in generous slices.

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


Sunday, 15 May 2011

Cheesecake balls on a stick

This week in birthday land it’s the turn of the CCB (Caked Crusader’s Brother). My choice of birthday cake for him was shaped by his incontrovertible “Two Food Truths”:

  1. Cheesecake is the best cake
  2. All food tastes better when eaten from a stick

My choice? Cheesecake on stick! Result? Happy brother!

I used my trusted no-bake cheesecake recipe and simply changed the order of doing things. I made the cheesecake topping and put it in a bowl to set, only making the biscuit base when I was ready to roll the cheesecake balls in it.

If the butter was added to the biscuits, as you’d normally do for a biscuit base, I feared that it would be difficult to get an even layer around the cheesecake. So I deconstructed the process – get me! – and melted the butter, dipped the cheesecake ball in it, then in the biscuit crumb. It was very easy and created the desired finish....although I admit they do look a bit like scotch eggs!

Some cheesecake balls skipped the biscuit crumb stage but were rolled in chopped nuts and finished off with some melted chocolate:

I also made some strawberry puree to dip the cheesecake balls into:

It was simply a matter of blending some strawberries, adding sugar to taste, and then sieving out the seeds. If it’s too runny, heat on the hob until it reduces by half.

The key to making cheesecake balls is to work quickly and keep the mixture cool. If at any point it becomes sticky or tricky to work with pop it all back in the fridge for 20 minutes. I’m not sure the stick element was a great success – the cheesecake was too soft to hold firmly to the lovely lolly sticks I’d purchased but I found that cocktail sticks worked; the remedy would’ve been to pop them in the freezer for 10-15 minutes but I hate freezing things unnecessarily (chalk it up as another item on the list of weird things I have strong feelings about).

Finally, a word of caution – when you roll the first heaped teaspoon spoon sized ball of cheesecake you will curse me. Your hands will get covered and you will suspect the whole venture will end in failure. However....once that first ball is out the way and you have a sheen of cheesecake on your hands, the subsequent balls are easy to roll. Just apply gently pressure and work quickly!

Happy birthday CCB!


Make cheesecake topping as per this recipe

Put cheesecake topping into a bowl or Tupperware that you can cover i.e. with clingfilm or a lid, and refrigerate for several hours or, better still, overnight.

Take heaped teaspoonfuls of cheesecake and roll into balls.

Place on baking paper, on a tray, plate, tin etc and put back in the fridge.

Blitz the biscuits (quantity per the recipe link above) in a food processor and tip into a bowl.

Melt the butter (quantity per the recipe link above) and tip into a bowl.

Take the cheesecake balls from the fridge and dip quickly in the butter, then roll in the biscuit crumbs.

Place on a clean sheet of baking paper and, when all are done, put back in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

If you are making a strawberry dipping sauce clean and hull the strawberries then blitz in the food processor.

Add icing sugar to taste.

Sieve to remove the seeds.

If it’s too runny, heat on the hob until it has reduced to a thick sauce.

Chill until required.

So they hold their shape, cheesecake balls are best served straight from the fridge.

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


Sunday, 8 May 2011

Chocolate sticky toffee pudding cake

Birthday season in the Caked Crusader family is well upon us; this week marks the halfway point and it’s the turn of the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma). I asked her what flavour she would like her cake to feature and was surprised to hear the reply of “chocolate or toffee”. I would’ve bet anything on lemon!

Being a good daughter I know the importance of keeping the CCM happy so hunted for a recipe featuring both chocolate and toffee – and here it is! However good you think chocolate sticky toffee pudding cake will be, multiply that expectation by 10... and you’re still nowhere close!

The flavours are clean and identifiable which pleased me; often, when you combine robust ingredients they get lost and the overall taste is indistinct. On a blind tasting you would guess that this was a chocolate sticky toffee pudding. I have to keep typing that – it’s a wonderful collection of words!

I put the toffee sauce in the fridge - this is how thick it became:

Then, I whisked some of the toffee sauce into some whipped cream and piped it on top of the cake to add an extra element of naughty luxury to the dish. It worked really well – I feel that’s somewhat a redundant anyone would read that sentence and say, “well that must’ve been a disaster”!

I had to take a photo of the elaborate candle I got for the cake. You light the centre and a plume of sparklers shoot up and out lighting all the candles on the flower petals which open, and then rotate playing “happy birthday”. Classy? Perhaps not. Crowd pleasing? Oh yes! I think this photo really captures the speed of the rotating candles:

Happy birthday CCM

Footnote: anyone interested in acquiring their own "showstopper" candle can order it from the Talkingtables website.


For the cake:
300ml boiling water
150g stoned dates, chopped
150g dark chocolate – I used Green & Blacks 70%
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g light brown sugar
3 eggs
225g plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the toffee sauce:
275g golden syrup
275g light brown sugar
100g unsalted butter
225ml double cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

To serve: whipped cream


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Place the water in a saucepan and reduce to a simmer.

Add the chopped dates and leave for 10 minutes – still on a low simmer.

Melt the chocolate – I used a microwave – and put to one side.

Beat together the butter and sugar until paler and lighter. As it is brown sugar, it won’t go as whippy as if you were using caster sugar but you should notice the texture lightening.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Stir in the melted chocolate.

Fold in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.

Stir in the dates and their liquid.

Pour the mixture (it will be runny) into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Mine took 55 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin, on a wire rack. The cake will be very soft and trying to de-tin it too early may cause heartache!

Now make the toffee sauce: place all the ingredients into a saucepan (use a bigger saucepan than you think you’ll need as the sauce increases significantly in volume while it’s bubbling away) and heat, over a high heat, until the mixture comes to the boil. Stir regularly.

Let the mixture boil for approximately 5 minutes (still stirring) until the sauce is glossy.

Place the warm cake on the serving plate and pour some of the toffee sauce over the cake, putting the rest in a jug for people to serve themselves.

Alternatively, you can serve the cake at room temperature, also with some toffee sauce poured over the cake, and some whipped up with cream as a decadent extra treat!

Serve in generous slices.

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


Sunday, 1 May 2011

Mocha (chocolate coffee) torte

It is the CCD (Caked Crusader’s Da) and CCU’s (Caked Crusader’s Uncle) birthday; I have mentioned in the past they are twins...and they still are! Recently, the CCD has discovered a love of mocha coffee – the sort that’s more like a dessert with cream and chocolate and a small dash of coffee. So I thought I’d use those flavours for a dessert.

This is the type of recipe that looks intimidating; firstly because I always think tortes seem difficult – even though they’re not; maybe it’s because we’re used to seeing them in patisserie windows that we assume they must be hard work. Secondly, there are three distinct stages to making the dish and, while not remotely taxing, you do have to plan ahead to allow appropriate cooling/setting time between each stage. I broke the dish down into stages and made the biscuit base one evening, the chocolate baked mousse layer the next morning and the coffee cream layer that same evening.

I didn’t taste this one as my loathing for coffee is only equalled by my loathing for lemon, but the feedback was positive with one eater rating it as an all time great bake! A recurring comment was that it tasted like something you’d buy from a high end patisserie.

The hazelnut biscuit base was crisp and crumbly and surprised me by being reasonably easy to cut though: it didn’t shatter all over the work top and stayed in one piece!

The rich chocolate baked ganache middle layer was the most commented on for it’s intense flavour and smooth, velvety texture.

The top layer of set coffee cream was a big hit with the CCM (Caked Crusader’s Ma). It has a strong punch of coffee but is light and whippy in texture.

Happy birthday CCD and CCU!


For the biscuit base:
100g chopped hazelnuts – I bought ready chopped
125g unsalted butter, diced
25g light brown sugar
40g caster sugar
125g plain flour
1 ½ tablespoons cornflour

For the chocolate filling:
400ml double cream
100ml single cream
300g dark chocolate, broken up into squares – I used Green & Blacks
100g milk chocolate, broken up into squares – I used Green & Blacks
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon very strong black coffee (I made up some espresso and used it for this stage and the coffee cream)

For the coffee cream:
2 leaves gelatine
250ml whipping cream
4 tablespoons icing sugar
5 tablespoons very strong black coffee

To decorate:
200ml double cream
75g chopped hazelnuts
Flaked chocolate – however much you choose!


Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C/340°F/Gas mark 3.

Line the inside of a 23cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Place all the ingredients for the base into a food processor and blitz until combined into a crumbly texture.

Pat into the base of the cake tin and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the base is golden. Mine took 20 minutes.

Leave to cool on a wire rack. You can make this a day ahead of the other two stages.

Reduce the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C/320°F/Gas mark 2.5

Now make the chocolate filling: pour the double and single creams into a saucepan and bring just to the boil.

Remove from the heat and tip in the chocolate.

Stir until melted – I used a silicon whisk to do this as I find it is quicker and produces a lovely thick, glossy chocolate.

Whisk in the eggs, vanilla and coffee.

Pour the filling over the biscuit base and level.

Bake for at least 20 minutes or until the chocolate is set but still has a wobble in the centre. Mine took much longer – about 45 minutes so don’t worry if yours needs longer; once it’s had 30 minutes check it every 5-7 minutes.

Leave to cool completely, still in the tin, on a wire rack.

Now make the coffee cream: Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water.

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and fold in the icing sugar.

Heat the coffee until it feels hot but don’t let it boil. Remove from the heat.

Squeeze all the water out of the gelatine leaves and whisk into the coffee.

Whisk the coffee mixture into the cream.

Spread over the top of the chocolate layer and refrigerate to set, ideally overnight.

On the day you will be serving the torte, whip the cream and pipe a border around the top of the torte.

Scatter over the hazelnuts and chocolate.

Serve in generous slices.

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


Chocolate fudge cupcakes and other Royal wedding bakes

Now unless you’ve been living under a rock you might have heard that there was a wedding this week.....I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing, and obviously such a special occasion requires cake.

I didn’t want anything too time pressured so I kept it simple. I made my trusted Victoria sponge recipe but filled it with whipped cream and raspberries, topping it with more cream and a fruity version of the Union flag. I realised afterwards that I should have left more white showing...but that would’ve meant less fruit so clearly wasn’t going to happen!

Having bought a special royal wedding cake stand and cupcake toppers, I then chose to adapt my English Madeleine recipe into cupcakes by halving the quantities and baking the sponge in cupcake cases. The jam and coconut then goes on top. Simple!

The one new recipe was the chocolate fudge cupcakes – rich chocolate sponge with a tangy chocolate topping. A winner for any occasion!


For the sponge:

125g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk

For the topping:

25g unsalted butter
50g golden syrup
15g cocoa powder
125g icing sugar
25g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia

To decorate: fudge pieces


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

Line a cupcake tin with paper cases.

Place all the ingredients for the sponge in a bowl and beat together until smooth and well combined.

Spoon into the cupcake cases and bake for approximately 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean.

Remove from the tin as soon as possible and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Now make the topping: place the butter, syrup and cocoa powder in a saucepan and, stirring all the time, heat until the ingredients are melted.

Leave the pan to cool then beat in the icing sugar and cream cheese.

Spread the frosting over the cupcakes and sprinkle fudge pieces on top.

The cupcakes must be kept in the refrigerator.

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