Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Quick and easy shortbread

The CCMIL (Caked Crusader’s Mother in Law) has a birthday only two days after mine. As she has to be careful about her sugar intake I decided against a cake and, knowing her fondness for a ‘plain’ biscuit, decided on birthday biscuits.

This is such a simple recipe yet the results are amazing. I know some people think shortbread can only be called shortbread if it contains rice flour or similar to “rough” the texture up, but I think this recipe produces a wonderful, buttery, crisp yet crumbly biccie. And surely that’s what we all want?

It was a first outing for my Wilton biscuit cutter and stamp. The ‘happy birthday’ message just about survived baking! I think it would work better on a less buttery biscuit that would hold its definition more on baking – I did try chilling the biscuits before baking to hold the shape more, but it made no difference at all.

This is the type of recipe that works as a standalone biscuit to enjoy with a cup of tea, but would also be a fab accompaniment to a mousse or pannacotta for dessert. You could flavour the biscuit with any extract or alcohol and you could also add dried fruit or chocolate chips. Just think how yummy it would be with dried cranberries for Christmas. It only takes a few minutes to make the dough so is a good recipe to have in your armoury!


125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
55g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinking
180g plain flour


Preheat oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/gas mark5

Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until you have a smooth paste.

Stir in the flour and bring together to a dough.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of clingfilm. You’re aiming for a thickness of approximately 1cm.

Cut into rounds and place on the baking tray; allow a little room for expansion but no need to leave more than about 1cm. NB. The dough re-rolls easily so don’t waste any of it!

Sprinkle with additional caster sugar.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown. Mine took nearer 18 minutes.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container – they will keep for days and days!

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


Sunday, 27 November 2011

Pineapple birthday cake

Sorry for the strange look of this post - blogger is having "a moment" with me and doesn't believe I want any of the formatting I've asked for. Before I combust in rage, I'll call it a day and revisit at a later date!

I always put so much thought and planning into my family’s birthday cakes, yet when my own birthday comes around I leave it all to the last minute and hope that some sort of inspiration will strike. It struck late this year, but I think it was worth the wait!

If it were just for me, my birthday cake would be coconut every year – no deviation. Sadly, some of my family don’t like coconut so it’s never the right cake to pick for a family get together. Everyone likes pineapple though so I came up with the idea of a pineapple sponge sandwich cake...and just kept adding detail. What if I cut each layer into two, making four layers? What if there was pineapple curd between the outer layers? What if I beat some of that curd into the Swiss meringue buttercream? What if I added juicy chunks of pineapple into the centre layer? What if I made some mini meringues for decoration and a nice bit of crunch? It all snowballed into this rather OTT creation:

There are quite a few processes to this cake but none are difficult and can, except for the buttercream, be made in advance. I made each element on a different day so it didn’t take that long. I made them in the order: curd, sponge, meringue, buttercream.

The mini meringues looked so cute on the baking sheet – take care to place them on the cake at the last minute as they go soft quickly when they hit the buttercream.

There is a nice mix of texture in every slice – crumbly sponge, crunchy meringue, creamy buttercream and juicy curd and fruit. Not bad for a last minute creation (I say last minute, but it was actually about 5 days before the event...which for me thinking about cake is total red alert panic stations!)

I’ve had several comments and emails that people find Swiss meringue buttercream an elusive technique to master, so I took photos and made a note of timings while I made it. Here’s the journey:

Start with the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a simmering pan of water. The bowl must not touch the water. Stir the whole time until the sugar has dissolved – you can tell when this has happened as, if you run your finger over the back of the spoon, it will feel smooth. Mine took 6 minutes. It froths a little from the stirring and will look like this:

Next, transfer to a clean bowl for whisking. I used my kitchenaid. Whisk until the egg white is fluffy and stiff and – most importantly – until it is cool. If you add the butter to hot egg you will get a rather yucky mess. Mine took 9 minutes of whisking at a high speed:

Now beat in the diced, soft butter. This is the key stage for whisking. At first the mix will turn sloppy and won’t hold on to the beaters – it will look gloopy, sunken and almost curdled. If you lift the beater all the buttercream will slide off and resemble slop (from the emails I've had I'm guessing this is the point some of you panic and give up):

KEEP GOING! If you keep beating – at a high speed – you will suddenly notice the buttercream firm up and start to look like whipped cream. Mine took 10 minutes. Here it is thick and whipped up:

The next thing to do is beat in any flavouring/jam/curd that you’re using to flavour the buttercream. Don’t add too much as you don’t want to risk making it wet and sloppy. I added my pineapple curd while the beater was still running. I gave the mix a further 5 minutes of beating.

You should now have light, whipped, smooth mousselike cream – the most heavenly of buttercreams! Pipe over cupcakes or use to sandwich together a layer cake. Enjoy!


For the pineapple curd:

2 egg yolks (keep the whites for the buttercream!)
200ml pineapple juice
50g caster sugar
25g cornflour

For the cake:
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
220g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
80ml milk
300g self raising flour
227g can of pineapple chunks – drained and chopped smaller

To decorate: Large can of pineapple rings or chunks

For the mini meringues:

2 egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
60g caster sugar

For the swiss meringue buttercream:
4 egg whites
250g caster sugar – I used vanilla infused caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 teaspoons of the pineapple curd (made earlier)


Start by making the pineapple curd and keep, covered, in the fridge: place all the ingredients into a saucepan and stir, over a low heat, until the mixture thickens and starts to bubble.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then refrigerate until needed. It will thicken further as it chills.

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

Line the bases of two 20cm loose bottomed sandwich tins with baking paper.

To make the cakes: Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage as this is when you get lots of lovely air into your sponge.

Beat in the eggs gradually, add some of the flour if it looks like it might curdle. (NB. If you have beaten the eggs and sugar for long enough the mix should not curdle).

Beat in the milk.

Stir in the flour until the mixture is smooth and well combined.

Gently stir in the pineapple chunks.

Spoon into the prepared tins and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the sponge comes out clean. Another good sign is if the sponge is just pulling away from the edge of the tin.

Leave to cool in the tins for about 20 minutes before turning out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

You can make the sponges a couple of days in advance and store in an airtight tin.

Now make the mini meringues: Preheat the oven to 110°C/fan oven 90°C/230°F/Gas mark ¼ .

Line two baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment.

Place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk until you reach the stiff peak stage.

Keep whisking and add the sugar a spoonful at a time.

Whisk in the cream of tartar.

Spoon the thick meringue into a piping bag and pipe small rosettes no bigger than 2cm across. Leave a little gap between each one.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the meringues are crisp – you’re not really ‘baking’ them, more ‘drying them out’.

Leave to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Do not place on the buttercream until you are ready to serve the cake otherwise the meringue will turn soft due to the moisture in the buttercream.

On the day of serving the cake make the swiss meringue buttercream: Place the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir pretty much constantly to prevent the egg from cooking.

After 5-10 minutes, when the sugar has dissolved (when you cannot see any crystals on the back of the spoon), remove the bowl from the pan of simmering water and whisk until the meringue has puffed up and the mix is cool.

Add the butter to the meringue and whisk until the butter has been completely incorporated into the meringue. At first it will look a disaster – it will collapse and look curdled but don’t worry! Stop when the mixture is smooth, light and fluffy.

Beat in 3-4 teaspoons of the pineapple curd.

Cut both the sponges through so that you have 4 layers of sponge.

Take one of the sponge layers and cover with some pineapple curd.

Place the second layer on top and spread with some buttercream.

Lay the pineapple chunks or rings over the buttercream and cover with some more buttercream.

Place the third sponge layer on top and gently press to ensure it has “stuck”. Cover this layer with some pineapple curd.

Place the final sponge layer on top and gently press to ensure it has stuck.

Spread or pipe the remaining buttercream over the top and outside of the cake.

Decorate as you choose – I used the mini meringues (place these on the cake at the last minute or they will go soggy)

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


Friday, 18 November 2011

Cream buttons

An early update from me this weekend as Mr CC and I are out and about having adventures and thus I won’t be at my computer. These little biscuits are great to have in your armoury – they are lovely just to eat, but you can also serve them on the side of a dessert to “glam it up”, or you can sandwich them with jam, nutella, or whipped cream and fruit. That’s a lot of options from one, rather plain looking, biscuit!

What attracted me to this recipe is that there is no sugar actually in the biscuit dough; the sugar is dredged over the dough once it is rolled out. Not only does this give the outside of the biscuit a pleasing crispness, but it also allows the cream to be the dominant flavour of the biscuit dough.

I wouldn’t make these biscuits any bigger – the ideal size is small enough to pop on your tongue and just feel it melt; the sugary crispness gives way to creamy crumbly biscuit and is divine! The texture is incredible – the biscuits puff a little while baking giving a layered texture like puff pastry.

The biscuits are small so you get quite a lot from a batch. They are also extremely easy to eat – they’re the kind of biscuit that you have with a cup of tea and then realise you’ve eaten half the batch! So save yourself time and heart ache and double the recipe up...but chill it in two bowls so it’s more manageable to roll out.

The aroma while these cooked was of warm cream; it reminded me of a oven baked, creamy rice pudding. Here they are ready to go into the oven – yes it looks a lot of sugar but remember, there’s no sugar in the dough:

Because of the unusual method of preparation and rolling, there is no option to re-roll unused dough. This forces you to be economical with your cutting out. Here’s what I had left over:


100g unsalted butter
2 tablespoon double cream
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g plain flour
6 tablespoons caster sugar


Beat the butter until very soft and whippy.

Beat in the cream and vanilla, then stir in the flour.

Don’t panic – the dough will be incredibly soft!

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/Gas mark 5.

Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

Roll out the dough between two sheets of clingfilm. The dough needs to be thin – about 1/2cm thick.

The dough will soften and be sticky but gently peel the top sheet of clingfilm back and sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of the caster sugar over the dough. The dough should be covered with sugar but so you can still see the dough through the sugar.

Place the clingfilm back over the dough and fold up the clingfilm edges.

Carefully flip the dough and clingfilm so that the sugared side is now underneath.

Peel back the clingfilm and sprinkle 2-3 tablespoons of the caster sugar over the dough. Once the dough is fully sugared you will experience no problems with cutting it and lifting it from the clingfilm.

Using a 4cm round cutter, cut out the dough and place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet. Be economical with your cutting out as the dough does not lend itself to re-rolling.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the biscuits are golden and slightly puffed.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before removing from the tray. Biscuits can be very fragile until they have cooled and you don’t want to risk breaking them.

Store in an airtight container.

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


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Rocky road cupcakes

Unusually for me I was extremely dithery in what to bake this week; normally I know what I want to bake as soon as I’ve posted the previous week’s bake on my blog! I was eventually drawn to this recipe as it contains just about everything – I might as well call them “kitchen sink cupcakes”!

I’ve never had rocky road before although I’ve been aware of it. Reading about it online it seems that you can pick or choose what you want to include – biscuits, dried fruit, coconut, brownies...I even saw popcorn mentioned, but the vital components are marshmallow, chocolate and nuts. So I’ve obeyed the rules but added chopped honeycomb pieces (like you’d get in a Crunchie, not actual honeycomb!) simply because I’ve tidied my baking cupboard and been reunited with them!

These turned out to be substantial cupcakes in size, look and the amount of stomach space they occupy. Or in other words: win, win, win!

The cake is squidgy – almost a halfway between sponge and brownie; the frosting is thick and fudgy. They are a perfect combination. You can see how squidgy the sponge is in this photo, taken when the cakes were fresh from the oven:


For the cupcake sponge:
140g unsalted butter, at room temperature
140g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
150g self raising flour
55g cocoa powder
50g milk chocolate chips
30g mini marshmallows – or diced larger marshmallows

For the topping (this topping is very rich and therefore I recommend piping on a little less than you would a normal cupcake. If you want the normal amount of buttercream, double the quantities as this is quite a mean recipe!):
50g plain chocolate, broken into squares (I actually used ½ dark, ½ milk chocolate)
2 tablespoons water
25g unsalted butter
175g icing sugar

To decorate:
85g mini marshmallows
40g nuts, roughly chopped – I used almonds
50g honeycomb pieces
Optional: 55g milk chocolate ,melted


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

Line a cupcake pan with paper cases.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage as this is what makes the sponge light and airy.

Beat in the vanilla extract

Beat in the eggs, using a little of the flour if it looks like it might curdle.

Gently fold in the flour and cocoa powder.

When the mixture is smooth and well combined, stir in the chocolate chips and mini marshmallows

Spoon the batter into the paper cases.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cupcakes comes out clean. Mine took 18 minutes.

Remove from the tin as soon as possible and leave to cool on a wire rack – removing from the tin is important as the heat of the tin will mean that the cupcakes continue to cook.

Now make the topping: place the chocolate, water and butter in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water.

Stir until melted and smooth.

With the bowl still over the water stir in the icing sugar and beat until smooth and thick. At this point you can remove from the heat and whip further off the heat.

It takes a lot of beating – firstly, until it is cool and secondly, until it’s thick enough to pipe. I mixed it until cool, then popped it in the fridge for 30 minutes before giving it a final whip up.

Pipe the frosting over the cupcakes then decorate with whichever components of a rocky road you have chosen to use.

Optional: Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the top.

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


Sunday, 6 November 2011

Yorkshire parkin

As my love affair with all Yorkshire related baking grows, I chose to make parkin
this week. Parkin is traditionally eaten in Yorkshire on 5th November, Bonfire Night, and as I was heading to a firework display with Mr CC and the CCMIL (Caked Crusader’s Mother in Law) it seemed an appropriate treat to have waiting for us on our return.

Parkin is a true test of willpower as it needs to be allowed to age – you can’t leap on it and gobble it up the minute it comes out of the oven! It needs to be stored, in an airtight container, for at least 4 days so the spice and treacle can mellow and mature; the texture also changes and becomes darker and stickier.

I have to admit that when my parkin came out of the oven I was a little disappointed, because it didn’t look particularly dark or sticky. Here it is, freshly baked:

Now, I understand the need for aging. Just look at the difference after two days in an airtight container. It’s sunk, it’s darker and it’s sticky to the touch. If ever there was a reward for patience, this is it:

After four days it had improved even further:

What makes parkin different to gingerbread is the inclusion of oatmeal. This was a stumbling block as I couldn’t find oatmeal anywhere; so I bought rolled oats and blitzed them to a fine, gritty flour in my food processor. The look and taste of my finished parkin matched those I’d eaten in Whitby, so I’m assuming this is an acceptable substitution:

When a slice of parkin is put in front of you, you have a big decision to make – to butter or not to butter? In the interests of science I tried both and liked both. I think buttering the parkin makes it a more substantial bite to eat, and I liked the salty contrast of the butter with the sticky spiced cake. Remember the rule re:buttering - it must be so thick that you can leave teeth marks in it! My dentist could probably identify me from this photo:


300ml milk
225g golden syrup
225g black treacle
115g unsalted butter
50g dark brown sugar
450g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger – next time I would use more, probably 4 teaspoons
350g medium oatmeal – I couldn’t find this so blitzed rolled oats (i.e. porridge oats) in the food processor until it resembled coarse flour
1 egg

Optional extra: pinch cayenne pepper

To serve: butter


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

Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper that comes up above the height of the tin – this makes it easier to lift the baked parkin out.

Place the milk, golden syrup, black treacle, butter, and dark brown sugar into a saucepan. I placed the saucepan on the scales and weighed the syrup and treacle directly into the pan – it stops the scale’s tray getting icky.

Place the pan over a gentle heat and stir continuously until the ingredients have melted and combined. Do not let the mixture boil.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Place the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger, oatmeal and – if using – the cayenne into a large bowl and mix.

Stir in the egg, then make a well for the wet ingredients.

Stirring all the time, pour in the wet ingredients (from the saucepan) and stir until well combined. It will look a bit gritty because of the oatmeal, so don’t panic.

Pour into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes or, until the surface of the parkin is firm to the touch. The skewer test isn’t great here because you want to retain some squidginess.

Leave the parkin to cool in the tin, until the tin is cool enough to handle.

Remove the parkin from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight tin for at least 4 days before eating. You can eat it plain, or buttered.

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


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Peanut butter cookies with ganache filling

Continuing my love for all baked things using peanut butter, I present to you a work of art – a peanut butter cookie filled with an oozy ganache filling. Oh boy, does this work!

Somewhat perversely, having amassed a collection of biscuit cutters that can only be contained in 12 drawers of storage (small drawers – it’s not like I’m obsessed or anything), I find myself currently favouring biscuit recipes where cutters aren’t required. They are often quicker and easier to make.

Having said that, I found these a bit of a faff – however, they are TOTALLY worth it...if they weren’t I wouldn’t feature them on my site! The problem is moulding the biscuit around the ganache. I tried the approach the recipe said, which was to make a patty then put a spoonful of ganache in the centre, then drawing the sides up:

This was tricky as the dough was prone to crumbling. So I then tried making a patty and pinching the edges to make a volcano – this did work, but the finished bake looked....well, let’s just call it

What worked best for me, was making a ball and using the end of a wooden spoon to make a well, spooning some ganache into it then closing it up. The finished biscuit (shown here uncooked) looked decent enough...

...especially when compared to one of my earlier efforts. Let’s be honest, this one ain’t gonna win no beauty contest ("why, Ambassador, with this biscuit you're really spoil- ugh!"):

The salty peanut butter in the biscuit works so well with the thick ganache – a flavour sensation!

I decided to double the mixture based on this email exchange with the CCB (Caked Crusader’s Brother):

CCB: Do they come in large batches, nothing more disappointing than an epic biscuit that only comes in 24’s ?

Me: The mix apparently makes 18, so I’ll double it up

CCB: Will there be enough to go round? [Author’s note – there were 5 of us for tea, and I was also making a cake]


For the ganache – I found this too much and only needed half. If you’re more confident in your biscuit making (particularly with getting ganache into a biscuit dough!) go for it, but – be warned - you might have some left over:

125g dark chocolate – I used half dark, half milk
150ml double cream

For the biscuit:

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
125g crunchy or smooth peanut butter – whichever you prefer, I used crunchy
4 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoon milk
225g plain flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda


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

Start by making the ganache, as you want this to have time to cool naturally before adding to the biscuits. Best not to refrigerate it as it can set hard, I found placing it by an open window helped. If you’re pushed for time give it a short burst in the fridge. I think my ganache was possibly still too runny so give it time to firm up.

Place the chocolate, broken into chunks, in a heatproof bowl.

Heat the cream to boiling point, then immediately pour over the chocolate.

Leave to stand for a couple of minutes then stir until it is smooth and well combined.

Now make the biscuits: Line two baking sheets with baking paper.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until it is light, whipped and fluffy.

Beat in the peanut butter, followed by the golden syrup and milk.

Add the flour and bicarbonate of soda and knead until you have a smooth dough.

Take a generous tablespoon of dough and flatten it into a patty.

Place a teaspoon of the now firm ganache into the centre of the patty and then pull up the sides so you can seal them i.e. leaving you with a ball of biscuit filled with ganache. If the ganache isn’t completely sealed in it can leak during baking. I found this didn’t always work and it was easier to make an indent (with the end of a wooden spoon) into a ball of dough and then spoon the ganache in before pinching it closed – but you will get less ganache in using this method.

Place the ball on the baking sheet and flatten slightly. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown.

Leave to cool completely, still on the baking sheet, on a wire rack.

Store in an airtight container for several days and eat as and when required.

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