Sunday, 30 March 2014

Almond, amaretto and raisin cupcakes

There are many ways to induce me to buy something but one of the quickest is to make the small bottle a replica of the large therefore making it look cute in comparison.  I realise on reading this some of you will be thinking ‘what on earth is she on about’ whereas others will be nodding, thinking, ‘yeah, I totally get that’.  To cut a long story short I bought a miniature of Disaronno on a whim in a supermarket. (The egg in the photo is to illustrate how tiny and cuuuuuuuute the little bottle is!)

Having purchased my cute miniature I had to come up with a way to use it.  For those that haven’t tried it, Disaronno is a brand of amaretto, an almond liqueur.  Instantly I started thinking about an almond based cupcake so adapted my orange and almond cupcake recipe by losing the orange and replacing it with liqueur soaked raisins. I do have a fondness for booze soaked raisins and see no reason why they should only feature in Christmas baking.

Mr CC always announces loudly, lest I forget his views on the matter, that the best frosting/buttercream is cream cheese based.  Seriously.  He says this whenever the subject comes up on cookery shows or in conversation.  I get it: he likes cream cheese frosting.  All the (not so) subliminal messages must have worked because what’s on this cupake?  Cream cheese frosting!  It works well here as it holds it own against the bold flavour of the cupcake whilst adding another flavour and texture.  A lighter buttercream could get lost.

The cupcakes took on a little more colour than I’d normally like due to being overbaked by 3 minutes (which didn’t thankfully affect their taste or texture).  How can I be so precise?  Because I was hoovering and didn’t hear the timer; when I did it had been beeping for 3 minutes!  That’ll teach me for trying to multitask.  Kids – don’t be like me.  Don’t hoover and bake; it isn’t worth it.  This is actually one of the things Mr CC mocks me for over any other: refusing to accept that some items are designed to be mobile.  Hence, our cordless phone sits in the base unit and is never anywhere near me when it rings and, why our kitchen timer – with a clip on the back so it can attach to anything – was in the kitchen beeping away while I was hoovering the bedroom.  I’d like to say I’d learned my lesson, but.......

While the Disaronno is a dominant ingredient of the cupcake it’s worth noting that the entire 18 cucpakes use only one a miniature bottle, so if you’re not keen on alcohol please don’t be discouraged from this recipe.  Also, there is only 1 tablespoon of alcohol that isn’t cooked.

The Disaronno plumped up the raisins and made them much juicier, almost like berries.  One of my eaters, who didn’t know the method for making the cupcake, commented on this; I always think if someone notices without prompting then it must be true! 


For the sponges:
150g raisins or sultanas
4 tablespoons amaretto liqueur – I used Disaronno, but you could use rum or brandy if you prefer
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
225g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
190g plain flour
75g ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder

For the frosting:
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
450g icing sugar
200g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
1 tablespoon amaretto (Disaronno) liqueur


Preheat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C/340°F/gas mark 3.5

Line two cupcake pans with 18 paper cases.

About an hour before baking, or the night before if you remember, soak the raisins in the amaretto.

Now make the sponge: beat together the butter and sugar until light and pale.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Beat in the flour, almonds, and baking powder.

Gently stir in the raisins, including any liquid that has not been absorbed.

Spoon into the paper cases.

Bake for approximately 22 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Leave to cool.

Now make the frosting: beat the butter until soft.

Add the icing sugar and cream cheese and stir together manually before going back to the stand mixer – this stops the icing sugar clouding up!

Beat until well combined.

Beat in the amaretto.

Spoon into a piping bag and, if the frosting is very soft, don’t be afraid to chill it for ten minutes before piping.

Pipe over the cupcakes.

Refrigerate until 30 minutes before serving.

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


Sunday, 23 March 2014

Chocolate sandwich cake

This recipe came about as I was thinking how I could make a classic Victoria sponge but dress it up differently enough so it felt like a new cake.  Making it into a chocolate cake was an obvious idea – most sponges will adapt to a chocolate sponge by replacing some of the flour with cocoa; as long as the flour and cocoa equal the original flour weight it should work.

The sponge manages to be rich and intensely flavoured whilst light in texture.  I opted for a three rather than four egg mix as the thick layer of ganache adds some height to the cake and I wanted a slice to fit on a plate!  I know the sensible option would’ve been to stick with a bigger sponge and just serve it on dinner plates but I had a rare moment of restraint and downsized my mix!

I love the classic method for making a Victoria sponge as it’s so simple: weigh the eggs in their shells and whatever they weigh is the amount for the other ingredients i.e. butter, sugar and flour (or flour + cocoa if making a chocolate sponge).  It guarantees a perfect sponge every time and is satisfyingly old fashioned.

The whipped cream is a lovely filling for the cake as it lightens what could otherwise be rather too much richness.  OK, you’ll know me well enough by now to understand that I don’t ever think anything can be too rich, but I’m trying to sound like a normal person and that’s the sort of thing I hear people say!


For the sponge:
3 eggs – weighed in their shells.  Mine were 218g therefore the remaining ingredients should all be 218g:
218g Unsalted butter
218g Caster sugar
180g Self raising flour – 180g +38g cocoa = 218g
38g Cocoa powder
2 tablespoons milk

For the ganache filling:
90ml double cream
175g milk or dark chocolate, or a mix of both, chopped
25g unsalted butter

For filling:
150ml double cream


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

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

Weigh the eggs in their shells and note the weight.  Mine weighed 218g.

Weigh out the butter so it equals the weight of the eggs and beat in a bowl.

Weigh out the same amount of sugar and add to the butter, beating until the mix is light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Fold in the flour and cocoa (which should, as a total, equal the egg weight).

Stir in enough milk to ensure the sponge batter is of dropping consistency.

Spoon into the prepared tins and level the surface.

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

Leave to cool in the tins for about 20 minutes, then de-tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

You can make the cakes a day in advance and store in an airtight container overnight.

Now make the ganache: heat the cream until it is bubbling but not boiling.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate.

Stir until you have a smooth melted chocolate, then stir in the butter.

Leave to cool and thicken – this may take a little while, so I put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

When it is thick enough to spread and hold its position, spread over the bottom layer of sponge cake.

Whip the cream until it holds in peaks and spread over the ganache.

Top with the other layer of sponge.

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


Sunday, 16 March 2014

Coconut and pineapple tart

This recipe is adapted from a lime and coconut tart in the current edition of Delicious magazine.  I adore coconut but find that lime can overpower it, so made a few switches and this incredibly tasty tart was born!

Mr CC came home from work with something rather wonderful this week; one of his colleagues keeps chickens and brought in a spare box of eggs.  I have never baked anything before where I have known the names of the hens who laid the (beautiful) eggs – well done ladies, keep up the good work!

When this tart is baking the smell is divine; pineapple and coconut is a combination where their aromas make it impossible to think of anything other than sunshine and warmth.  Luckily it was a sunny day....but perhaps a few degrees off a Caribbean climate!

It had such a wonderful colour when baked, although I can't help feeling my efforts are wasted.  Mr CC told me how much he liked the pastry (aka biscuit base) and, when asked what flavours he could detect, the CCD guessed 'egg and lemon'.  That well known combination.  How often have you heard someone say, 'ooh, I couldn't half fancy a slice of egg and lemon tart'?  Mr Kipling is probably rushing to his development kitchen as I type.

The recipe said to bake the tart in a loose bottomed flan tin.  I made the executive decision to use a disposable foil tin because I was worried how ‘watertight’ the biscuit tart shell would be.  If you use a loose bottomed tin I recommend wrapping the outside in foil, unless you fancy a few hours cleaning sticky tart filling from the bottom of your, albeit wonderfully tropical smelling, oven!


For the tart shell:
250g digestive biscuits
50g desiccated coconut
140g unsalted butter

For the filling:
160ml coconut milk
250ml coconut cream – I couldn’t find this so used more coconut milk, this may have been why mine took longer to cook
397g condensed milk
140ml pineapple juice
2 large eggs, and 5 yolks

For decoration:
300ml whipping cream
1 small tin pineapple chunks
Optional: coconut shavings


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

Blitz the biscuits and coconut in a food processor.

Add the butter and blitz again until it’s the consistency of wet sand.

Tip into either a 23cm loose bottomed flan tin that is 5cm deep, or – as I used – a disposable foil 25cm deep pie dish.

Press the crumbs over the base and up the sides of the tin making sure there are no holes.

Refrigerate for about 15 minutes.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until it is golden and smelling toasted.

Leave to cool completely.

Reduce the oven temperature to 130°C/fan oven 110°C/260°F/gas mark 3/4.  (This is what the recipe said, however I don’t think my tart would ever have set at this temperature so, after about 40 minutes I increased it to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and my tart set after a further 15 minutes.  Next time I would start it with this temperature and maybe check after 25-30 minutes.  I know all ovens are different, so I thought it best to share my experience.)

Now make the filling: Whisk together all the ingredients then pour, through a sieve, into the biscuit base.  Don’t be tempted to overfill it.  I did and spent the next 10 minutes wiping sticky filling from my kitchen counter, cupboard doors and floor.  It wasn’t fun.  Any leftover filling can be poured into an oven proof dish and baked alongside the tart.

Bake for approximately 50 minutes or until there’s just a hint of wobble in the centre of the tart – note my observations re oven temperature above.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.


Just before serving, decorate the tart with whipped cream and pineapple chunks.  I piped my cream but it would look as nice spooned on.

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


Sunday, 9 March 2014

No-bake chocolate tart

Seriously – this recipe only requires the hob, no oven at all!  I know it’s hard to believe.  This is an incredibly rich and indulgent dessert and is so simple to make I predict it will become a much loved and trusted recipe to fall back on when you need to rustle up something special at speed.

The chocolate filling is basically a thick ganache that has been allowed to set in the fridge.  It is so creamy and rich that even I couldn’t manage a huge me, I tried!

The biscuit base is similar to the traditional cheesecake biscuit base but with a twist – the addition of golden syrup; this adds a sweet note and works well with the unsweetened ganache.

This is one of my rare recipes where everyone in the family had a second slice – it seemed to suit all tastes, preferences, age groups!


For the biscuit base:
200g biscuits – hobnobs, digestives or shortbreads will all work
100g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon golden syrup or honey

For the ganache:
200ml whipping cream, plus a further 200ml for whipping and piping on top
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
To decorate: raspberries or chocolates – I used Twirl pieces


Place the biscuits, butter and golden syrup in a food processor and blitz until you have moist crumbs.  If you don’t have a food processor, place the biscuits in a bag and beat to crumbs with a rolling pin.  Then put in a bowl and add the butter (melted) and golden syrup.

Press the crumbs into a 36cm x 12cm rectangular loose bottomed tart tin.  Alternatively, you could use a 23cm round loose bottomed tart tin.

Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Now make the filling: Place the cream in a saucepan and add the vanilla.

Bring the cream to up to boiling point, without actually letting it boil, and then remove from the heat.

Break up the chocolate and add to the cream.

Let it stand for a couple of minutes before going in with your whisk and ensuring that the cream and chocolate are fully combined.

Leave to cool for 15-20 minutes.  Whisk occasionally to thicken up the ganache.

Remove the tart base from the fridge and pour the ganache into it.

Return to the fridge and leave to firm up – once it is firm, wrap it in clingfilm (if you try and do this straightaway you will get a mess and the clingfilm won’t pull away easily).

Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before you wish to serve and decorate with whipped cream and either raspberries or chocolates.

Serve in slices.

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


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Famous Faces’ Favourite Fancies - Genoa cake


Can you believe the last ‘Famous Faces’ post was April 2013?  Why have I left it so long?  I have no answer to that as I do have a stash of them to post.  For those of you (all of you I’d imagine, given my tardiness!) who’ve forgotten what this is all about, basically I wrote to a bunch of celebrities I liked and asked them to tell me their favourite cake.  Which I then bake and post the recipe for.

I thought I’d kick start my Famous Faces posts with a national treasure – June Whitfield.  Hard though it is to believe, June started her career on the radio in the 1940s!  To me, she’s one of those utterly timeless people who never appears to age.  I remember her in my childhood from TV shows such as ‘Terry & June’ but perhaps my favourite role of hers, and I suspect the one most known to non-UK readers of my site, was as Edina’s mother in ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ where her seemingly innocent yet withering put downs were delivered with brilliant ease.

June has selected Genoa cake although she caveats that with ‘not too often’.  Maybe we’ll have to politely disagree on that one....!

Genoa cake is a British classic and is based on
the Pandolce cake which originated in 16th century Genoa as a Christmas cake. It’s lighter than a traditional Christmas heavy fruitcake (think more the texture of a tea loaf) and has no icing.  The top is decorated with cherries and almonds. It seems, based on all the pictures I’ve seen, to be more commonly baked in a loaf tin rather than a round tin.  I have no problem with that – it is so much easier to cut a loaf cake!


115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
75g light brown sugar
2 eggs
225g dried fruit – I used a mix of sultanas, raisins and currants
75g glace cherries, chopped in half
Grated rind of 1 orange
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
175g plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
50g ground almonds
50ml milk

To decorate:
Handful of glace cherries chopped in half
Handful of whole almonds


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

Line a 900g (2lb) loaf tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy.  You will notice the mix turns paler – always a good sign you’ve beaten it enough!

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Add the fruit, cherries, orange rind, cinnamon, flour, baking powder, almonds and milk and stir well to ensure all the ingredients have been incorporated evenly.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Gently press the decorate cherry halves and almonds into the top of the cake.

Bake for approximately 1 hour, but don’t worry if it needs longer, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve in generous slices with a cup of tea.

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