Thursday, 26 December 2013

Trifle cheesecake

Trifle or cheesecake?  Surely, one of the toughest decisions the dessert menu can pose.  Well, fret no more because nature has found a solution: trifle cheesecake.  All the flavour and texture of cheesecake with all the bells and whistles of trifle.

As soon as I saw this recipe in the BBC Good Food Christmas magazine I knew it was what we’d be eating after Christmas lunch.  If I was in a romcom, I could tell the BBC they had me at “trifle cheesecake”.

Christmas would be much more drab without sprinkles:

When you think about it, some cheesecakes already have a thick fruity layer on top but more of a set coulis than jelly.  The jelly works really well and lightens the whole dessert.  It was definitely a crowd pleaser.

I thought I had lined my tin pretty thoroughly, and also thought I had spread out the cheesecake layer to close off any holes.  Wrong.  That liquid jelly is a terror and I say this to prepare you for the likelihood of leakage.  Take precautions in advance – lots of kitchen paper under the tin will prevent it looking like a jelly massacre took place shortly before you opened the fridge door.  Also have a spare packet of jelly to make up for the jelly lost in leakage; it looks a bit weird if your raspberries are left poking out the top! (Not a sentence I ever thought I’d type)

Apologies for the poor quality photos; the light wasn’t great and, by this point in events, I had roast potato-fuelled inertia.  In other words....a typical Christmas!  Hope you all had a good one!


For the base:
250g digestive biscuits
100g unsalted butter

For the cheesecake layer:
3 gelatine leaves
3 tablespoons Bird’s custard powder
200ml milk
100ml double cream
900g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
200g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the jelly:
1 x 135g pack raspberry jelly cubes (You might want a spare pack on standby, should you lose jelly to leakages – I did!)
175g raspberries

For the cream:
300ml double cream
Cadbury’s Flake
Sprinkles of your choice


Line a 23cm round springform tin with foil or clingfilm.  It needs to be completely lined.  Also wrap the outside of the tin with foil – because the chances are the jelly will leak!  If you’re a pessimist (I am) then place some kitchen paper under the tin inside the foil as it soaks up any leaks.

In a food processor blitz together the digestive biscuits and butter (no need to melt) until it resembles wet sand.

Press the biscuits crumbs into the base of the prepared tin and refrigerate.

Now make the custard for the cheesecake layer: place the gelatine leaves into a bowl of cold water.  Put to one side.

Spoon the custard powder into a bowl.

Pour the milk and cream into a saucepan and then take three or four tablespoons of this to stir into the custard powder and make a thick paste.

Heat the milk and cream in the saucepan until almost at boiling point.

Pour over the custard paste and stir to ensure no lumps.

Return to the saucepan and heat, stirring all the time, until the custard thickens.

Remove from the heat.

Squeeze all the water from the gelatine leaves and whisk into the warm custard.

Pour into a bowl and press clingfilm onto the surface to stop a skin forming.

Leave to cool.

When it is cool, you can make the cheesecake layer: beat together the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth and well combined.

Stir the custard to loosen it a bit, and then beat into the cheesecake mix.

Spoon over the biscuit base and return to the refrigerator for 4 hours.

Now make the jelly layer: Make half the packet of jelly and leave, in the jug to cool for 30 minutes or so.

Pour over the cheesecake and place the raspberries in the jelly.  At this point, they won’t be covered.  There might be some jelly leakage at this point but if you have prepared your tin adequately it shouldn’t cause any fridge-carnage!

Refrigerate for an hour.

Make up the remaining half pack of jelly and pour over the raspberries.

Refrigerate for an hour or until the jelly is totally set.

Whip up the cream and pipe over the jelly on top of the trifle.

Sprinkle over crushed Flake or almonds, or any sugar decoration you have.

Remove from the refrigerator about 10 minutes before you wish to serve.

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


Sunday, 22 December 2013

Pistachio and almond cake with cranberries

So, you need a last minute Christmas cake?  You want something that will keep for days in a tin so it’s available when anyone decides they have digested a suitable amount of sausagemeat stuffing to have space for a slither of cake? You don’t have any time to decorate or beautify your baking?  Here’s your recipe!

It’s hard to imagine how a cake could look any more naturally Christmassy than this one – the cranberry and pistachio topping is a feast of festive colour and the sponge, made predominantly with ground nuts rather than flour, means it gets better and better with age. And it tastes delicious – I should mention that too!

Now, I can’t promise this because I haven’t tried it, but the recipe only uses 50g of flour – I suspect you could replace that with 50g more of ground almonds and make it gluten free.  Happy to hear any thoughts or comments on that idea.

This cake looks like a lot of work has gone into it, but it takes only about 10 minutes to get it oven-ready.  When I put the cranberries on top I thought it looked like an awful lot of berries but they bake down so don’t panic!

I served the cake at room temperature with some thick cream, but it would also be lovely served warm as dessert with cream, custard or ice cream.  So many options!  It might have come late in the year but this would easily make my top 3 cakes of the year – it is that good!

Wishing all my lovely readers a wonderful Christmas – eat, drink and be merry...but most of all eat cake!


For the cake:
125g shelled pistachios – must be unsalted!
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g caster sugar
4 eggs
100g ground almonds
50g plain flour

For the topping:
200g cranberries – I used fresh, but if you use frozen make sure they are fully defrosted
3 tablespoons caster sugar
25g shelled pistachios (unsalted), roughly chopped


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

Line a 20cm round springform cake tin with baking paper.

Blitz the pistachios in a processor until they are finely ground (and look like a green version of the ground almonds!).  Put to one side.

Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Don’t skimp on this stage as it’s the only opportunity to get air into the cake.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Fold in the ground pistachios, almonds and flour.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Toss the cranberries in the sugar and scatter over the top of the cake.  It will look like a lot of sugar but don’t worry – the berries will remain a little tart.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

As soon as the cake comes out the oven, scatter the roughly chopped pistachios over the top and very gently press into the cake.  (If you put the pistachios on before baking they will lose their lovely greenness.) Don't worry if the nuts don't press in, as the cake cools and releases the nutty oils it will naturally becomes a bit sticky and hold them in place.

Leave to cool for 30 minutes before removing the tin and leaving the cake to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container and it will keep for several days – the high nut content means it will stay lovely and moist.

Serve with a cup of tea or warm for dessert.

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


Sunday, 15 December 2013

Chocolate chestnut cupcakes

The greatest cake I have ever eaten was the maronischnitte (chestnut slice) from Cafe Sacher in Salzburg. It had everything one could hope for in a cake – it was light, creamy, indulgent, delicious, beautiful...and sitting in front of me, waiting to be eaten.  I was thinking of it only the other day and decided I needed to bake something with chestnut puree.

I teamed my ‘go to’ chocolate cupcake sponge with a tribute to the famous Mont Blanc dessert where the chestnut puree is piped in a mad wiggly way over the whipped cream.  The chocolate batter looks like a decadent ganache and it’s always a struggle not to eat too much of it on the way to the oven!

What a combination chocolate and chestnut is!  So rich and decadent – perfect for winter and perfect for Christmas.  The cream plays an important role too and lightens the texture and flavours. 

I did think about topping the cupcakes with a festive decoration but then asked myself the important question: what is a better topping for a chocolate cake than crumbled Flake?  The answer is, of 
course: nothing.  So I went with crumbled Flake.  To thine own self be true.

So here they are: my perfect Christmas cupcake.  Lovely to eat and a lot of fun to make.  Enjoy!


For the chocolate cupcake:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self raising flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons milk
50g chocolate chips – I used milk chocolate

For the chestnut cream:
284ml carton whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g sweetened chestnut purée

To decorate: flake chocolate bars


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

Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper cases.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, flour, cocoa and milk.

When the mixture is smooth and well combined stir in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the paper cases.

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

Now make the chestnut cream:  beat the cream and vanilla extract until just stiff.

Spoon or pipe a generous dollop on the top of each cupcake. If you pipe use a round rather than star nozzle.

Beat the chestnut purée to loosen.

Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 3mm plain nozzle and pipe wiggly lines over the cream and meringue.  Don’t be tempted to use a thinner nozzle as the puree may have little bits of chestnut in it that will block the I found out to my cost!

Sprinkle crumbled flake over the top.

Refrigerate until 20 minutes before serving.

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


Sunday, 8 December 2013

Carrot sandwich cake

I love carrot cake but it dawned on me recently, in one of my ‘thinking about cake’ moments that you don’t usually see it served as a sandwich cake.  It’s usually a traybake or cupcake.

The thought was tucked away in the part of my brain given over to storing cake related matters (about 3/4s of my brain) and resurfaced when I was browsing in a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern grocery store and came across carrot jam.  It’s a sweet jam for spreading on toast or teacakes, not a savoury sort you’d serve with cold meats or other words, perfect for being the filling in a sandwich cake.

Personally I love a carrot cake with raisins but, as I was serving this when raisin-haters were present, I stuck with walnuts.  You can easily substitute raisins for walnuts, or use a mixture of the two.

A classic cream cheese frosting is all that’s required to cover the cake.  It is the perfect accompaniment for carrot cake so why change it?  The sponge is incredibly light and carries the satisfyingly thick and tangy frosting perfectly. 

It’s a good time of year to make carrot cake – it has Christmas spicing but no Christmas connotations so the ‘bah humbug’ brigade cannot object to it or moan about Christmas starting too early.  I think of it as Christmas by stealth!


For the sponges:
225g self raising flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon (not a typo) mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
200ml sunflower/vegetable/light olive oil – any oil suitable for baking
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50g walnuts – finely chopped (You can use raisins instead if you prefer)
225g carrots (about 3 medium carrots) –grated
To sandwich: carrot jam, or apricot if you prefer

For the frosting:
350g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
160g icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To decorate: walnut pieces


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

Line two 20cm round, loose bottomed sandwich tins with baking paper.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, mixed spice, ginger and sugar in a large bowl.

Add the eggs, oil and vanilla and stir until well combined.

Stir in the walnuts and grated carrot.

Spoon into the prepared baking tins.  The mix will be quite runny and will find its own level.  It won’t look like a lot of batter but don’t worry, it rises considerably during baking.

Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes, before turning the cakes out and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

The sponges can be made a day ahead and stored in an airtight tin.

Now make the frosting: beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth and whippy.

Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat again until smooth.

Place one sponge on the serving plate and spread over the jam of your choice.  You can also use a little of the frosting too, if you wish.

Place the other sponge on top.

Spread the icing over the top and sides of the cake.

Decorate as desired with walnut pieces.

Store in the fridge until required – take out of the fridge 20-30 minutes before you wish to serve.

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


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Ginger beer cake and the Movember Nordicware winner

Now this cake really couldn’t be simpler.  You put all the ingredients in a bowl, beat and then bake.  It took about five minutes to get it ready for the oven!

It’s such a versatile cake in that you can serve it warm with custard or ice cream for dessert (perfect for wintry evenings!) or at room temperature with a cuppa.  Like many ginger cakes it improves with age so I’d recommend making a couple if you’re entertaining over Christmas.

I decided I wanted to make a cake to celebrate the end of Movember
 (thanks to everyone who donated, by the way – winner of the Nordicware bundt tin is announced below!) and then I saw this ginger beer with its moustache theme and the decision of what cake to make was made for me!  I had to include the bottle cap in the picture - look at its little 'tache!

You could, if you prefer, use non-alcoholic ginger beer.  I think it’s the fizz and the flavour that’s important, rather than the alcohol.  It does bake for over an hour in the oven so there probably isn’t much alcohol left, but I know it’s important to some people.

We had the cake on the day it was made for pudding with custard, and then on subsequent days as a slice of cake.  It’s lovely both ways.  If you’re heating it I recommend only heating the slices you want hot – don’t warm the whole cake.  I put the slices in a piece of foil as I find this stops it from drying out during re-heating.

The cake has a close, dense texture but isn’t heavy.  We preferred it warm with custard than at room temperature but that was personal preference; it has a lovely flavour either way.

And now....drum roll please...the Movember donor who was drawn out of a hat (literally) by Mr CC and is the winner of the Nordicaware heritage bundt pan: Jo Hill!  Congratulations Jo – please email me your address (you can email me via the button on the right hand side of my website) and I’ll pop your prize in the post.  Thanks to everyone who donated and helped Mr CC raise so much money.


260g plain flour
170g caster sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground  cinnamon
170ml ginger beer
80ml vegetable oil – I used olive oil suitable for baking
260ml golden syrup
3 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper- if you have one of those paper cases that looks like a giant cupcake case, use that, as the batter is very liquid.

Place all the ingredients in a bowl.

Beat together until smooth and well combined.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 1 hour 1o minutes, but check it after 45 minutes just in case your oven is quicker than mine.

When a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean the cake is done.  Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack, leaving to cool.

You can serve the cake warm with custard for dessert, or have it at room temperature with a cup of tea.

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