Sunday, 30 September 2012

Red velvet cake

At the recent Cake and Bake Show at Earls Court, I purchased a bottle of Lorann’s red velvet bakery emulsion.  I’ve always liked the look of red velvet cakes but was totally turned off by the amount of food colouring they require (I’ve seen recipes requiring 50 or even 60ml of colouring – yuck!)...and I could always taste it in the finished cake.  This product claimed to produce the required colour with only a single tablespoon.

I find my tastes change over time, so it’s important to revisit things I haven’t liked in the past.  Cream cheese frosting is a good example – although I’ve always loved cheesecake, oddly, cream cheese frosting left me cold.  I revisited it recently and enjoyed here it is again!  My eatership (male, except for me) all said – independently of each other – how much they preferred this frosting to buttercream.  I think it’s because it is less sugary and has a sharp tang.  That said, I have the sweetest tooth in the world and I liked it too!

I think my cakes are red enough to look like a red velvet but without looking radioactive.  The sponge with a light cocoa flavour was nice and worked well with the creamy, tangy frosting.

The cake will also work made in two thicker layers but there is something so pretty about a three layer cake when cut into slices – maybe it’s the more even distribution of sponge and frosting?


For the sponges:
120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
300g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
230g buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Lorann red velvet emulsion – or your preferred red colouring
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the frosting:
180g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
450g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia


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

Line three 20cm loose bottomed sandwich tins with baking paper.  If you don’t have three you can either bake in batches, or use a 20cm round springform tin as the third tin.

Beat together the butter and caster sugar until really smooth and slightly whipped – it won’t go really light and fluffy because of the ratios involved.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Weigh out the flour and cocoa and beat a third into the batter.

Beat in half the buttermilk, followed by a further third of the flour/cocoa.

Repeat so that all the flour, cocoa and buttermilk is incorporated.

Beat in the vanilla and red velvet emulsion.

In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, which will fizz rather dramatically, and add to the batter.

Spoon the batter into the three cake tins – you can weigh them if you want them to be identical, but I did it by eye.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the sponges comes out clean.  Mine took 23 minutes.

Leave the cakes to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack, remove the paper and leave to cool.

Now make the frosting: beat together the butter and icing sugar in a large mixing bowl (I used my kitchenaid).

Beat in the vanilla extract.

Beat in the cream cheese, adding it a spoonful at a time, until your frosting is smooth and well combined.

Use just under half the frosting to sandwich together the three layers of sponge.

Use the ‘bigger half’ of the frosting to cover the top and sides. 

Refrigerate until you wish to serve, ideally removing from the fridge about 30 minutes beforehand.

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


Sunday, 23 September 2012

The cakes of Amsterdam

Mr CC and I are back from our travels to Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands.  I hadn’t expected that much from Amsterdam in terms of cakes and baking and was therefore pleasantly surprised by what we found...albeit most of it coming from one shop!

The star of the show, in terms of baking, is the wacky and rather wonderful De Taart van m’n Tante which is well worth the tram ride out of the town centre to reach it.  Take a No24 tram and you’re there in about 10 minutes.  We went twice and thoroughly enjoyed the quality of the baking and the ambience.  There was a large menu of delights:

Which looked as good as they sounded:

And were enjoyed in a comfortable and eclectic setting:

On our first visit I went for the Dutch apple tart, and Mr CC the chocolate truffle cake.  I loved the generous helping of cinnamon with the apples – a perfect combination.  Note that Mr CC started on his cake before I could get a photo...proof of how desperately he wanted to get stuck in!

On our second visit I chose the Mon Cherie which was a lovely balance of sweet and tart, and Mr CC chose the lemon tart.  They get top marks for the generosity of the portion size:

I had read about Dutch sugar bread (a spicy eggy bread) being a popular breakfast treat and was keen to try it.  We found a cafe serving it along with homemade jam.  It was amazing – like warm and spicy bread pudding but much lighter.  The homemade jam was left quite tart and complimented it perfectly.  I ate this whole plate without drawing breath:

The final Dutch speciality I wanted to sink my fangs into was poffertjes – little puffy pancakes.  I expected these to feature on more menus than they did.  For the first few days we always saw them when we didn’t want them, and then, when I did want them we couldn’t find them!  Luckily, when we visited the Waterlooplein flea market we found this stall selling them:

Poffertjes are small puffy pancakes.  I watched the stall holder to see how he prepared them – after cooking he dabbed butter on them which melted, and then a liberal dredging of vanilla sugar.  Need I say they tasted divine?

This isn’t cake related but amused me.  When we walked through the Chinatown region of Amsterdam we spotted a fixed price all-you-can-eat buffet.  What set this apart was the time limit.  I’d never seen a buffet limited to an hour and wondered how they policed it – does each table come with an alarm clock?  I liked how it added a food challenge, Man v Food element to the meal.  And no...we didn’t try it!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cake and Bake show Earls Court

This weekend sees the first Cake and Bake Show at London’s Earls Court.  Mr CC and I went today (on the Saturday).  Mr CC came along, in good spirits, in his three-pronged role of favoured companion, bag carrier and photographer.  Needless to say, all the photos in this post are his...I was too busy cooing at cupcake cases.

I’m not really a demos person – I have no patience in being shown what I already know how to do, and never think you get a good enough view to learn something that is new to you.  However, I must admit I got a little excited to see the tres magnifique Eric Lanlard in person and kept nudging Mr CC squeaking, “take a photo, take a photo” until he obliged.  Mr Lanlard drew quite an audience:

The reason I wanted to visit the show was to see the retailers’ stalls and buy stuff.  I don’t live near any shops where I can buy baking wares so most of my purchases come from the internet; the possibility of being able to touch things and peruse large displays was most alluring.  As you can see, I wasn't the only one who thought so:

I have grouped my purchases into three groups.  Here’s the first comprising of a whisk, some lovely muffin and cupcake cases, biscuit cutters, textured mini rolling pins, cupcake sprinkles and a bottle of red velvet emulsion, which gives the deep red velvet colour from only one spoonful of the emulsion and should – hopefully – eliminate the taste of food colouring from my next red velvet sponge:

My second grouping comprises of the show programme, and silicone and plastic moulds.  The build a house out of chocolate kit looks most interesting and can, of course, be reused.  I particularly fell in love with the afternoon tea mould on the right:

My final purchase was this rather snazzy cupcake carrier.  It holds 24 cupcakes at its largest but the layers separate should you only need to carry 12:

Here are my observations/tips for anyone going tomorrow (and as an aide memoire for myself next year):

1. Aim to get there 11am and spare yourself the grief of queuing for the 10am start.  We got there at 10.20am and it was chaos - the doors had only just opened (why is nothing punctual?) and there was the mother of all queues snaking around the whole of Earls Court.  The security then moved many of us to a holding area in the car park at the rear, although the security at the other end of the queue didn’t know about this and were giving conflicting advice.  After ten minutes of chaos and bad feeling, most people in the holding bay broke free and headed straight to the doors.  Whether this was the fault of Earls Court or the Cake and Bake show I don’t know – but it was ugly.

2. Take your own packed lunch, snacks and beverages.  There were nowhere near enough catering staff on hand.  Mr CC needed a break from my feverish shopping and joined the queue for coffees while I continued around the show.  When I rejoined him ALMOST ONE HOUR LATER he had only just been served.  Two sandwiches, a coffee and a diet pepsi cost nearly £15.  This is a photo of barely a quarter of the queue for refreshments (photo taken at about 11.30am):

3. If you are a lady, drink nothing before the event- dehydrate yourself like a Formula 1 driver preparing for a Grand Prix.  God forbid you need the loo when you are there.  If you think you might need the loo, start queuing a good 10 minutes before the need arises and you should be alright.  Alternatively, pack a false beard in your handbag and walk into the gents where no doubt you will be the only one in there! (I tried to get Mr CC to photograph the queue for the ladies loo but he feared he might be reported to officials for pervy practices and refused)

4. If you have a padded coat or jacket wear it.  It will help protect you against the sharp elbows that most people have no problem in deploying to try and push you out the way should you be standing anywhere near something they wish to look at.

5. Take all the above as advice from someone who is known for being grouchy and don’t let it spoil your enjoyment of what is actually a fab show.  I loved the stalls and the wares available – and I will book to visit again should the show return next year.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Ginger and almond slices

Ah, ginger and almond – two of my all time baking faves, but (and I’m willing to be corrected!) I don’t think I’ve ever baked something using them both.  I know!  Shock or what?

These slices use crystallised ginger – not stem ginger.  I point that out because I have in the past tried substituting stem for crystallised and it doesn’t work because the stem ginger is hard and doesn’t get soft on baking.  Crystallised ginger is soft and almost melts in your mouth.  Use crystallised only for this recipe as you want the soft ginger to complement the squidgy almonds.

This sort of bake holds a special place in my heart; I have an immense fondness for anything that is a perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.  I love tea nearly as much as I love cake and biscuits.

The recipe takes a moment of minutes to complete and put in the oven and there’s no additional work required – no toppings or fillings.  Just cut into slices, make a cup of tea (or a pot if you’re a purist), put your feet up and enjoy!   (NB. It keeps really well too – I had a slice with my tea on subsequent days and it stays beautifully crumbly and flavoursome)

Apologies for the very early update this week - Mr CC and I are heading off for a well deserved holiday! 


175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
220g caster sugar
1 egg
225g plain flour
2 tablespoons milk
100g ground almonds
1-2 teaspoons ground ginger – depending how much you like your ginger!
125g crystallised ginger – chopped into small nuggets
70g flaked almonds


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

Grease a 30cm x 20cm tin.  I used a disposable foil traybake tin from Lakeland.

Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.

Beat in the egg.

Beat in half the flour, followed by a tablespoon of milk.

Beat in the remaining flour, followed by the second tablespoon of milk.

Stir in the ground almonds, ground ginger and chopped ginger.

Spoon into the traybake tin and spread out into an even layer.

Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top.

Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin then cut into fingers.

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


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Plum sponge slices

This was my attempt to recreate one of my all time favourite cakes – the plum slice I had in the Fortress cafe in Salzburg

The cake is a sponge base topped with a cream cheese concoction and sliced plums.  The recipe I was going to follow used a fat free sponge.  I am totally willing to accept it is me, but I hate fat free sponges.  Not because they’re fat free (ok, maybe a tiny bit because of that) but because they taste so eggy.  Is it me?  Have I had bad examples?  What’s the secret to making a fat free sponge which doesn’t taste like scrambled eggs?  Teach me!

Anyway, I used my standard cupcake sponge recipe instead and it worked well.  When I looked back at my Salzburg photos, I think they used a similar type of sponge too so I felt vindicated!

The tang of the cream cheese with the fruit and the sponge is a heavenly combination.  There is no sugar in the cream cheese topping other than the jam.  The apricot jam worked well but next time I might try to match the jam to the fruit on top – I think that would be nice. 

You will notice that my plums aren’t submerged in the topping (oo-er.  It’s impossible to refer to plums without sniggering – maybe this is a British thing?).  This is because I thought that, in using tinned plums, there wouldn’t be a need to stew them first and they would break down in the oven.  As we can all see...they didn’t.  It had no effect on the flavour but does look a little curious.  Next time I would cook them a bit to soften them up.


For the plums:
250g fresh plums, halved and stoned
50g golden caster sugar
100ml boiling water


250g tinned plums in syrup, halved and stoned

For the sponge:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
125g self raising flour
1 tablespoon milk

For the cream cheese:
200g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
3 tablespoons apricot jam


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

Grease a 30cm x 20cm traybake tin.  I used a disposable foil one.

Start with the plums: if you’re using fresh stew them with the sugar and water for 5-10 minutes or until the plums are soft.  Leave to cool in the syrup.

If you’re using tinned plums, put the plums, along with their syrup in a saucepan and just warm through enough to soften them. (I didn’t do this, which is why mine are sitting proud out of the looks a bit silly, but didn’t change the flavour)

Now make the sponge: beat together the butter and sugar until soft and whippy.

Beat in the vanilla.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Fold in the flour and the milk.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the sponge comes out clean.  Don’t overbake as the tin will be returned to the oven later.

Put the sponge to one side to cool.

Now make the cream cheese layer: beat together the cream cheese and apricot jam until smooth and runny.

Spread over the sponge and sit the plum halves, skin side down, in the cheese.

Spoon over about 3 tablespoons of the syrup.

Return to the oven for 10 minutes or until the top has taken on a light golden colour.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Serve in squares, with thick cream.

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


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Chocolate and peanut butter tart – 5th bloggiversary celebration

This tart is possibly one of the most professional looking things I’ve made.  I think it’s the marbling on top of the peanutty white chocolate through the dark.

The peanut butter and white chocolate melted together was a test of my willpower, in that I wanted to eat it by the spoonful straight from the microwave!

Usually, when a recipe calls for dark chocolate I use a mix of dark and milk to sweeten it.  I didn’t here because this tart is all about the dark chocolate/salty peanut contrast.  The white chocolate adds some sweetness but this is a rich, dark tart which packs a sophisticated punch of flavour.  In this shot I think you can see the three layers of pastry, white choc/peanut butter, dark chocolate:

I had my doubts about the pastry when I made it, and even when I took it from the fridge to roll.  It is dry, and it is a little crumbly, but once you start rolling it behaves.  There is just enough pastry to line the tin so don’t panic – it’s thin and biscuity.

Five years.  I’ve been blogging for five years now.  Those five years have changed my life beyond measure – when I started blogging I hadn’t even met Mr CC, now I can’t imagine life without him.  The five years have contained extreme highs and devastating lows but the constant thing in my life has been baking – however silly that sounds.  My routine of Friday or Saturday bake, Sunday blog has pretty much been set in stone barring holidays and work travel, and even then I’ve tried to post, just maybe on a different day. 

Thank you for visiting my site and leaving your lovely comments; I hope you find enjoyment in what you find – whether it’s using the recipes to create your own delights, or merely treating it like a cake shop and window shopping!

I suppose it is a bit weird to photograph everything you bake (and then assume other people will want to see it!).  All I can say is that I’ll know it’s time to stop when a photo like this doesn’t excite me any more:


For the pastry:
200g plain flour
80g unsalted butter, cold
40g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1-2 tablespoons cold water – I needed 2

For the dark chocolate filling:
200ml double cream
250g dark chocolate, broken into chunks – I used Green & Blacks 70% dark chocolate
1 tablespoon golden syrup
50g unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 egg yolk

For the white chocolate filling:
100g white chocolate, broken into chunks
100g smooth peanut butter


Start by making the pastry: Place the flour, butter and sugar into the food processor and blitz until you have fine crumbs.  Alternatively, use the rubbing in method i.e.  rubbing the butter and flour through your fingertips until the ingredients incorporate into crumbs.

Add the egg yolk and blitz again.

Add the water, a tablespoon at a time, and pulse the processor until the mixture forms wet clumps.

Tip out onto a sheet of clingfilm and – handling as little as possible – form into a ball.

Flatten into a disc, wrap in the clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  (I made it the night before and left it in the fridge – it’s fine!)

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of clingfilm.  At first it will seem too crumbly but persevere and, as the pastry warms, it will behave.  You will need to roll it thin to line the tin.

Take a 23cm loose bottomed flan tin and line it with the pastry.  Patch as needed.

Prick the bottom several times with a fork and return to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/390°F/gas mark 6.

Line the pastry with baking paper or non stick foil, and weigh down with baking beans.

Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.

Remove the beans and foil and return the exposed pastry case to the oven for a further 5 minutes, or until it is a light golden brown.

Leave to cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C/ fan oven 140°C/320°F/gas mark 3

Now make the dark chocolate filling: place the cream, chocolate, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan and gently heat to melt the ingredients.

Stir frequently and don’t wander off and leave it!

When all the ingredients have melted i.e. you can’t feel any more lumps of chocolate, remove from the heat and leave to cool a little.

When cool, beat in the eggs and yolk and stir with gusto to incorporate.  At first the chocolate will refuse to accept the eggs but suddenly you will feel the mix thicken and come together.
Put to one side.

Now make the white chocolate filling: place the ingredients in a dish, cover and microwave.  I gave it 30 second bursts and stirred after each.  In total, it only took just over a minute to melt.  Alternatively, you can melt them in a bowl, over a pan of simmering water.

Spoon 2/3s of the white chocolate mixture into the bottom of the pastry case.

Pour the dark chocolate mixture over it taking care to be gentle – you don’t want to disturb the white chocolate layer.

Level the surface then spoon over the remaining white chocolate.

Using a skewer swirl the white chocolate so it is evenly distributed across the dark chocolate.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until set.  Mine took 25 minutes.

Leave to cool.

Refrigerate until you wish to serve.  I served with thick cream.

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