Thursday, 16 October 2014

Honey, Ginger and Beer Cake

We've just returned from a glorious weeks holiday in Greece. 

I write that with such longing for the warmth tickling our skin, the azure-blue skies, the hot sun and the swimming in the clearest of seas. As we swam, bathed in the sun or drank very quaffable local wine into the late, balmy evenings we (yes, rather nauseatingly) kept reminding ourselves 'This is October!...Can you believe we're in October?'.  

As memories of a daily diet of moussaka and baklava (or Balaclava as they became after a generous glass of Ouzo) begin to fade, I thought to bake a Greek-inspired recipe. The local store was sold out of filo pastry - clearly I'm not the only baker thinking of baking baklava as sales have shot up by 100% in Waitrose since featuring on the Great British Bake Off a couple of weeks back - so I thought a cake featuring the pot of Greek honey I secreted back in our suitcase would remind us of our wonderful week away.

Honey, Ginger and Beer Cake

For the cake:

225g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon ground mixed spice 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
115g unsalted butter at room temperature (I used Lurpak Cook's Range Baking)
125g caster sugar
100g soft brown sugar
1 egg
150ml pale ale/beer 
150g honey 

To decorate:
100g icing sugar
Honeycomb pieces 

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/Gas Mark 4. Spray a 22cm square cake pan with Lurpak Cook's Range Cooking Mist spray and line it with baking paper. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, the spices and a pinch of salt. 
3. In a second large mixing bowl beat together the butter and sugars for several minutes until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg followed by the honey. 
4. Fold in a third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the beer and stir to combine. Fold in a further third of the flour mixture and the remainder of the beer and stir. Finally fold in the remainder of the flour mixture. Avoid overmixing.
5. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for thirty minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clearn. 
6. Allow to cool in the tin for ten minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
7. For the icing: sift together the icing sugar with enough water to form a thick icing and pipe over the cooled cake. Decorate with the honeycomb pieces

Baker's notes...
  • I used Lurpak Cook's Range Cooking Mist sent to me by the folk at Lurpak to test. It worked well for greasing the pan and can also be used to glaze and baste.
  • Pilfering my husband's stash of beers, I used an American pale ale for this recipe. I'm more familiar with using Guinness in baking. I reckon each different beer or ale would impart a different flavour. The Brooklyn beer I used gave a biscuity, toasty smooth flavour to the cake, perfectly complimenting the honey.
  • The honeycomb pieces are available from any large supermarket

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Bloomin' Brilliant Brownie Cake

I'm going out on a bit of a limb here by saying this is the most decadent, chocolately cake you're likely to taste this year. It is one hundred percent gooey, fudgy, brownie brilliance. The far more civilised equivalent of dunking your entire head, mouth wide open into one of those chocolate fountains you find at fancy functions. A forkful is on par with a supermarket sweep of the finest artisan Parisian chocolaterie. It would score 'brownie' points when served at the end of any dinner party and, forget a shot of espresso, this cake is the best mid-afternoon pick-me-up in town.

Have I sufficiently sold it to you yet?

Bloomin' Brilliant Brownie Cake

150g Billington's Unrefined Dark Muscovado Sugar
100g golden caster sugar
200g unsalted butter
300g 70% dark chocolate, chopped into pieces
2 large eggs
75g self-raising flour
40g cocoa powder

1. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas Mark 5. Line a 23cm/9inch round tin with baking parchment
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring regularly
3. Whisk the eggs until pale and fluffy. Add the sugars and whisk until the mixture thickens. Fold in the melted chocolate
4. Sift in the flour and fold until the mixture is smooth
5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes. There should be a light, springy crust on top but avoid overcooking; the centre should remain gooey. 

Baker's notes...
  • Optional extras for this recipe could include a handful of juicy cherries, chopped hazelnuts or some nuggets of honeycomb
  • For more traditional, brownie squares simply bake in a 20cm square tin
  • The cake is inspired by Billingtons. Last month, to celebrate the launch of their #bakeface campaign I attended a rather fun little partee involving a photobooth, props and an awful lot of cake and cocktails. Not a bad combination at all I'm sure you'd agree. Here was my contribution, add yours to be in with the chance to win lots of lovely baking prizes.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Nutty Blackberry and Apple Cake

Last weekend I partook in my biannual Spring/Autumn clean. This usually involves playing loud, cheery music to housework dance around to, a large bottle of bleach wine, attempting to file bin six months of paperwork and carting several bags of clothes to the local charity shops. Although the clear out of my summer wardrobe was rather premature this year; as I write this it's a balmy 23C and the summer is stubbornly refusing to fade into autumn. 

Buoyed up with a very rarely seen enthusiasm for a big clear out I turned my attention to our kitchen store cupboards and my various boxes and tins of baking paraphernalia. In long forgotten boxes I found dusty equipment from when I went through a bit of cake pop phase, enough cupcake cases to open an online emporium and more decorative sprinkles and sparkles than an extra celebratory episode of Strictly Come Dancing. If randomly and excessively decorated cakes and bakes start appearing on What Kate Baked in the near future you know for why. 

As a reward, a bit of a treat and to encourage Autumn along** I baked this very seasonal cake. Albeit, in my flip flops. A fluffy, light sponge is dotted with juicy blackberries and sweet British apples with a crunchy nutty topping. 

** I've a lot of lovely new recipes I'm keen to try out; fluorescent, floral sprinkles optional. 

Nutty Blackberry and Apple Cake

175g butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
125g Self raising flour
50g ground almonds
1 tsp cinnamon
2 eating apples
150g blackberries
20g soft brown sugar
50g toasted almond flakes
50g toasted chopped hazelnuts

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C Fan/Gas Mark 3. Grease and line an 8 inch loose bottomed round cake tin. Beat together the butter and sugar for several minutes until light and fluffy. 
2. Gradually add in the eggs, adding a spoonful of flour if the mixture is curdling
3. Fold in the flour and ground almonds. 
4. Stir through two thirds of the apples and all of the blackberries. Scrape into the prepared tin and dot the remainder of the apples on the top and sprinkle over the brown sugar
5. Bake for 50-55 min or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and scatter over the toasted nuts

Baker's notes...

  • I used hazelnuts and almonds as these were the half packs I unearthed during the Big Clean Out. Any combination of nuts would taste delicious 
  • I'd love to say these blackberries were foraged from a beautiful hedgerow but I'd be lying; they were foraged in Waitrose.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Salted Caramel Pecan Kouign Amann with Stork

Kouign what ... I hear you say?

Unless of course you were glued to your telly screen last night with this week's episode of The Great British Bake Off, you would be forgiven for thinking the Kouign Amann was the name of a piece of flat pack furniture from IKEA. But no. As the Bake Off contestants discovered, a Kouign Amann is a delectably decadent buttery, pastry cake from the Breton region of France. Yes, there is a lot to like about this bake. 

Now normally each Wednesday night will find me, feet up, cuppa and cake to hand, captivated by Mel-n-Sue's innuendos, Paul's judgments and Mary's fashion choices. Oh, and the baking 'course. But this week I baked-along-a-bake-off with Stork as I tried to recreate the technical challenge, the Kouign Amann.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sticky Plum and Ginger Upside Down Cake

For some people the end of the summer is marked with prepping the kids for a return to school, brand new squeaky, shiny shoes and the latest Disney lunch boxes in tow. For others, it's Saturday evenings on the sofa with Strictly and X-Factor as the nights draw in. And for me, it's delving into the deepest recesses of our cupboards for darker sugars and warming spices, ingredients that herald a return to Autumnal baking. The dregs of the summer fruits, the tart raspberries and tasteless strawberries, are finally put aside in favour of juicy plums, ripe blackberries, dusty blue sloes and crunchy British apples. Recipes for summery, frozen puds discarded for the next ten months as taste buds turn to wholesome, comforting cakes and bakes.  

Monday, 25 August 2014

Blueberry and Coconut Crunch Cake

I don't half love the August bank holiday. It's the grown-up equivalent of six glorious weeks of school holidays as a child. Except, obviously, far shorter, with fewer Screwball ice creams, Wagon Wheels and sandy tuna paste Mighty White sandwiches.

With the exception of my husband forgetting to switch off his usual Monday morning work alarm which merrily rang out at 6.20am this morning (we had to have very strong words), today has been a day of doing nothing. I've read the paper, flicked through a few recipe books, drank endless cups of tea. Oh, and baked this. Marvellous.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

'Purple Pansies' at The Peggy Porschen Academy

Not unlike a small child seeking your approval and praise after learning a brand new skill for the first time, I'd like to present these Mini Violet Chocolate Pansy Cakes.

To utterly misquote Thomas Edison, these beautifully elegant little chocolate cakes were 15% perspiration and 85% terrific tuition from Penelope, Masterclass Tutor at the Peggy Porschen Academy. I was invited to join one of the new floral classes, 'Purple Pansies' hosted by the Academy in celebration of the Peggy's new book 'Cakes in Bloom'.