Sunday, 26 July 2015

Chocolate yoghurt cake


Sometimes, you don’t ‘want’ or ‘fancy’ cake…you NEED it.  I really needed chocolate cake this weekend; nothing fancy, just a handsome piece of sponge with a bit of icing.  This cake hit the mark – packed with chocolate flavour, it has a lovely light crumb and a simple topping that adds a rich mousse-like texture.

The inclusion of yoghurt created a light sponge; yoghurt’s impact on a cake fascinates me because it makes the cake light and airy but also adds moisture and the two seem like they should be mutually exclusive.  I’m no scientist; I just know it works!

The sponge is flavoursome enough that it could standalone.  It would also be perfect made into a loaf cake, cupcakes or individual sponges for a pudding.  It’s one of those recipes that can be adapted easily and should be filed away in your armoury of ‘awesome bakes’. 

Many years ago, I saw Ina Garten demonstrate a simple tip when you’re icing the cake on its final serving plate/stand.  Place four squares of foil on the plate, then the cake on top.  The foil will catch any drips of icing and you can them whip them away leaving a clean plate.  I use it all the time and always marvel that it’s the simplest tips that are always the most useful!

Served warm for dessert with custard or ice cream, or as a good slab of sponge with a cup of tea, this one is a crowd pleaser.  It’s not too sweet but, at the same time, it’s really cocoa-y without having the grown up bitterness that can sometimes go with that.  Even a bit of whipped cream and a few berries would make it look a rather smart dessert. 


For the cake:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
275g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
175g Greek style yoghurt
225g self raising flour
50g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the icing:
25g unsalted butter
25g cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk, plus extra if needed
175g icing sugar


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Start by making the cake: beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and well combined.  It won’t become really light and fluffy because of the ratios involved.

Beat in the vanilla.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Beat in the yoghurt.

Fold in the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda and mix until just combined – don’t overwork it.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  It’s best to start checking at around the 40 minute mark but don’t worry if it takes longer.  Mine took just over 50 minutes.

Leave to cool in the tin for approximately 20 minutes before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Now make the icing: place the butter and cocoa powder in a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat, stirring all the time.  It will look a bit icky at this point!

Remove from the heat and beat in the milk and icing sugar; add more milk as required to reach a thick, mousse-like texture.

Put to one side while you prepare the cake for icing.

Place four squares of foil on the serving plate and sit the cake on these so that they will catch the icing drips and keep the plate clean.

Spoon or pour the icing slowly over the cake letting it run down the sides.

When the icing has set a little, gently pull out the foil from under the cake – and voila! A clean plate.  If the icing is very runny pop the cake in the fridge for 10 minutes to make it set.
Serve in generous slices.

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


Sunday, 19 July 2015

Banana and golden syrup cake

I had some bananas sitting around in the kitchen feeling generally unloved.  Mr CC won’t touch a banana once it’s past that green, starchy stage that makes your teeth squeak, so they were headed for the compostables bin until I found this recipe.  It’s from the BBC Goodfood site but I’ve made a tweak and substituted golden syrup for the maple syrup listed in the original recipe.  We’ve tried to love maple syrup but just cannot – it’s that background smoky taste that we struggle with; probably because like any good child of the 1970s/80s we were raised on steamed golden syrup sponges and that has fixed our expectation as to what syrup should taste like!

This is an upside down cake and the bananas bake at the bottom of the tin in golden syrup.  When you turn the cake out you add some more syrup and can then either serve it warm with custard for dessert, or as a tea time treat at room temperature.  It definitely has a stronger banana taste when warm, so that’s the way to go if you ‘need’ a good strong hit of banana!

This recipe makes a handsome size cake – perfect when you have many guests to feed.  My one tip with upside cakes is that it’s always best to turn them out the tin when they’re hot/warm – not only because it’s easier to peel the paper off the fruit at the bottom, but also because if your cake has domed while cooking it settles down nicely when still warm to give a stable, flat base.  If you turn it out when cold the shape is fixed and it will look like a spinning top (or a Beyblade, if you can picture one...maybe that’s too obscure a reference!)

The cake keeps fine but just be aware that over time the bananas lose their colour and look a bit grey.  No impact on the taste but not quite so appealing to the eye!


8 tablespoons golden syrup
3 ripe bananas, and 1 very ripe banana
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g light muscovado sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g self raising flour
100g ground almonds
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200g natural/Greek yoghurt


Preheat the oven to 160C/fan oven 140C/325F/gas mark 3.

Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper.

Drizzle four tablespoons of golden syrup over the bottom of the tin.

Slice the three ripe bananas (either in rings, or in length) and place evenly in the tin.

Mash the very ripe banana and beat it together with the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined.

Fold in the flour, ground almonds and bicarbonate of soda.

Fold in the yoghurt.

Spoon into the tin – take care not to move the sliced bananas around in the bottom of the tin.

Bake for 45 mins – 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Let the cake settle for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack and inverting it (i.e. the bananas are now on the top).

Using a skewer, poke some holes into the cake between the bananas.

Drizzle over the remaining four tablespoons of golden syrup.

Serve either warm for dessert with custard, or on its own at room temperature with a cup of tea.

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


Sunday, 12 July 2015

Cornflake biscuits

I am always a fan of a biscuit that can be baking in the oven within 10 minutes of starting the creative process.  I am not a huge fan of cookies – I don’t like the softness and therefore favour a biscuit with crispness and bite.  These have a double crunch in that you get the crunch of the crisp buttery biscuit on your first bite, and then the cornflake crunch when you start chewing.  It is an extremely pleasurable sensation!

I wasn’t too sure on using self raising flour for a biscuit, but it works well – the biscuits puff up while baking and then become thin and crisp on cooling.

In theory any cereal would work with this recipe; I am tempted to make another batch with Rice Krispies, or Cheerios.  If your cereal tastes are a little more grown up than ours then I’m sure muesli or granola would work well too!  Regular readers will know that I favour the 2-for-1 approach with biscuits so I think I need to sandwich them with some jam next time!

Cornflakes work well in biscuits; previously I have made cornflake oaty biscuits which were delicious.  I’d say this recipe produces a lighter biscuit e.g. you can put more of them away in a single sitting.  What I’m saying really is: make a double batch!


125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg yolk
175g self raising flour
50g Frosties – you can use classic cornflakes but increase the quantity of sugar to 125g)


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

Line two baking sheets with baking paper or non stick foil.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and whippy.

Beat in the vanilla and egg yolk.

Beat in the flour – you will end up with a dough similar in firmness/texture to sweet pastry.

Tip in the Frosties and gently work them into the dough using your hand.  Try not to crush them too much.

Cut the dough into 16 pieces; you can do this by weighing the dough and working out the weight that each biscuit needs to do, or be less exact and cut it into halves, halves again etc to get the 16 pieces. (I did this).

Roll each piece of dough into a ball and place on the baking sheet – 8 pieces per sheet.

Flatten the balls.

Bake for approximately 16 minutes and rotate the trays halfway through cooking time to ensure an even bake.  Don’t be afraid to pat the biscuits down at the halfway mark if they haven’t spread thinly enough.

They are baked when they are an even golden colour.

Leave to cool on the baking sheet before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

They will store well in an airtight tin for at least two days.

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


Sunday, 5 July 2015

Strawberry drizzle cake with clotted cream ice cream

I am such a clichĂ©; it’s Wimbledon weekend so it has to be a strawberry cake!  This cake appealed to me for several reasons:
  1. It’s really quick and easy to make
  2. The way the strawberries sink into the cake during post-bake cooling leaving crispy edged cake batter in their wake
  3. I have never seen a drizzle cake for anything other than a citrus fruit

This is not the cake for you if you want to produce something perfect-looking that will cut into clean patisserie-style slices.  If that’s your requirement, step away from this one!  I can say it because I made it: it looks a bit of a mess.  The weight of the fruit means it sinks a little as it cools; the strawberries become sticky and jammy and mean that the sponge gets juicy pockets in it and breaks when you cut it.  But if you can get past the delivers 10/10 on the deliciousness scale.

The sweet jam texture of the strawberries was an unexpected bonus – imagine the purest, most freshly made jam...and you’re getting there!  It was one of the loveliest textures I’ve come across in a cake for a long time.

Needless to say, but when you are making a simple cake like this it relies on the quality of the strawberries.  Tasteless strawberries will not become tasty just because they are baked.  I always think you should buy strawberries that have travelled the least distance, for me this means strawberries that speak with a Home Counties accent; I will seek out Jubilee or Elsanta varieties if I can as these seem reliably sweet.

I pushed the boat out in serving this cake with homemade clotted cream ice cream.  As sinfully delicious as it sounds – any ice cream that has the word ‘cream’ twice in its title has my full attention!  The cake would be lovely on its own, or with cream, but with ice cream it is an impressive summer dessert.  I dabble in ice cream but don’t post the recipes on my blog.  For this one I have made an exception!


For the cake:
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g golden caster sugar, plus 2 tablespoons extra for sprinkling
1 egg
120ml milk – whole or semi skimmed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g self raising flour
600g strawberries – washed, hulled and halved (take 6 and put them to one side for the icing)

For the icing:
6 strawberries – taken out of the 600g above
50g icing sugar, plus extra if needed

For the clotted cream ice cream:
2 eggs
125g caster sugar
454g clotted cream
250ml whole milk


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until well combined; it won’t go light and fluffy because of the ratios involved.

Beat in the egg and the milk.

Beat in the vanilla.

Fold in the flour.

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

Arrange the strawberries, cut side down, over the batter.  I had to pile the strawberries on in two layers – it will seem like you have too many, but it will all be fine!

Sprinkle the two tablespoons of sugar over the top.

Bake for approximately 50 minutes – 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Mine took just over an hour.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for approximately 15 minutes, before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.  Do not worry when you see the cake sinking as it cools – it does this!

While the cake is baking start making the icing glaze: chop the retained strawberries and sprinkle with one teaspoon of icing sugar.

Leave for approximately 15 minutes and then press the strawberries through a sieve to extract their juice.  As it’s a small amount of fruit the back of a spoon should do the job.

Take one tablespoon of the strawberry juice and mix with the icing sugar until smooth and thick.  If you need to add extra icing sugar or extra strawberry juice, do so.

Drizzle the icing over the cake and leave to set.

To make the ice cream: whisk the eggs until they become thick and frothy.  This will be quite noticeable so don’t stop before you see them become rich and velvety looking.

Gradually whisk in the sugar.

Add the clotted cream and milk and whisk well until the mix is well combined.

Chill in the fridge for at least two hours before churning in your ice cream machine per the manufacturer’s instructions.

NB. If you don’t have an ice cream machine simply spoon the mixture into a 2 litre tub and freeze for three hours.  Remove from the freezer, whisk until smooth, then refreeze for three hours.  Repeat this process a further three or four times before leaving to set for two hours and then serving.  The repetition of whisking is to break down any ice crystals and create that smooth texture which is so important.

Serve the cake in generous slices with cream, or ice cream for a summer dessert.

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