Monday, 23 November 2015

Thanksgiving Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Icing with

The USA has given the world Cheerios, Coca-Cola, Peanut Butter Cups and Oreos. It has also given us the first man on the moon, the polio vaccination, Thanksgiving and the world's very first speed dating event (Peet's Cafe, Beverley Hills, 1998, fact fans). are pairing Thanksgiving with Speed Dating this November, with a specially themed 'Short and Sweet' event in London on 26th November, serving our favourite American desserts. And the caterers will be baking this sweetly spiced pumpkin cake from yours truely. Not only do I love the thought of couples falling head over heels over a shared slice of cake but I really like the idea of a Thanksgiving celebration. AKA 'Christmas Day Practice Run'. More food and family, less commercialism and Christmas No 1s from the X Factor. Perhaps we could adopt Thanksgiving! Just like we've embraced Halloween in recent years but with treats all round.

Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Icing 

Serves 8-10


For the cake:
175g light muscovado sugar
175ml sunflower oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
140g grated pumpkin flesh
50g roughly chopped walnuts
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Zest of 1 orange
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

For the icing:
100g softened unsalted butter
300g full fat cream cheese
100g sifted icing sugar
Zest of 1 orange
Walnut halves to decorate 


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan 160C. Grease and line the base and sides of an 18cm square cake tin with baking paper
2. Place the sugar into a large mixing bowl, pour in the oil and add the eggs. Mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Stir in the grated pumpkin and walnuts 
3. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, zest and spices. Lightly mix all the ingredients – resulting in a quite liquid mixture 
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40- 45 minutes, until it feels firm and springy when you press it in the centre. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing from the tin and leaving to cool on a wire rack. 
5. For the cream cheese frosting: beat together the butter, cream cheese, icing sugar and orange zest until soft, smooth and fluffy. Spread over the cooled cake and decorate with halved walnuts

Baker's notes...

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Raspberry and Amaretti Biscuit Cake

Hands down, this is my favourite time of year. Mainly because an awful lot of celebration is involved. In 34 sleeps it is of course Christmas but this weekend also sees my sister and brother celebrate their birthdays. As a child, in order not to feel left out, my phenomenally kind parents would buy me a present too. It took me until the age of eighteen to stop feeling like the Queen with two birthdays a year, my official birthday in May and my unofficial one each November.  Spiffing stuff, as I'm sure Her Majesty said when she too realised she'd get to have two birthdays a year.

This year we've moved to the same city as my brother and sister. Hurrah, I get to bake them each a cake that hasn't spent two hours sweating in a tin precariously balanced on a pile of luggage on the Great Western Railway London to Cardiff train. I baked my brother a Chocolate and Coffee Battenburg Cake (his fave). It turned out to be more of a Leaning Tower of Battenburg as the baby choose the exact moment of construction to enter what we *fondly* refer to as 'The Milk Rage'. This cake was more successful, a bake that has become very much a family favourite in recent years. Its rather a perennial cake as not only is it super in the summer with fresh berries but it is the perfect cake baked with frozen fruit to use up any leftover amaretti biscuits from a festive glut.

Originally, a BBC Good Food recipe, I've adapted it somewhat over the years to the recipe below. I'm also entering this into the Tots 100/Clover #NothingArtificial challenge. With half the saturated fat of butter and simply made with buttermilk, Clover naturally adds flavour to family meals. And of course the great thing about home baking is that you know exactly what goes into your cake- no artificial nasties, no fancy E numbers or synthetic ingredients, just like Clover.

Raspberry and Amaretti Biscuit Cake

175g Clover
100g golden caster sugar
75g soft brown sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
225g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp almond extract
100g amaretti biscuits
150g frozen raspberries or summer fruit
Icing sugar for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 140C fan/160C/Gas Mark 3. Grease with Clover and line a loose bottomed 20cm round cake tin.

2. In a large bowl, place the Clover, sugars, eggs, flour and extract and beat together until thoroughly combined

3. Spread half of the mixture in the prepared tin and scatter with half of the biscuits and half of the fruit. Dollop over the remainder of the mixture and sprinkle with the rest of the biscuits and fruit.
4. Bake for 75-80 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean
5. Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out. Once cooled, dust with icing sugar (or see below)

Baker's notes...

  • Depending on your oven, it may be worth checking the cake after 60 minutes and you may need to cover with foil to avoid the fruit catching for the remainder of the cooking time
  • Serve warm with single cream or amaretto ice cream. Alternatively, the cake can be stored for 48 hours in an airtight container
  • Frozen fruit works brilliantly this time of year in this bake
  • For more details on the Clover challenge please visit Tots 100

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Chocolate Orange Mousse

 Our local coffee shop* has, this very week, introduced its festive range of hot drinks, including a choc-orange hot chocolate.  I have thoroughly tested this new addition to the menu and can confirm this timeless classic combination of flavours is really rather marvellous in a hot drink. Thick, creamy hot chocolate, tick;  zesty, sweet orange flavour, tick; lashng of cream and chocolate sprinkles, tick.

And as I was enjoying my third drink in as many days, it seemed very fortuitous that the folks at chocolate truffle experts Monty Bojangles got in touch to ask if I'd like to sample their Orange Angelical Cocoa Dusted Truffles. Of course I bloomin' well would.

Warming choc-orange hot chocolate in one hand, a delectable, orange truffle in the other. Now that's what I call food pairing.

Monty Bojangles also suggested using their truffles to create decadent dinner party desserts. Perfect for the festive season.

* I am currently enjoying maternity leave and I reckon the baby and I spend more time in said coffee shop than I do in my own kitchen at the moment

Chocolate Orange Mousse with Monty Bojangles Truffles

(recipe courtesy of Monty Bojangles)

Makes 20 Mousse Shots or 8 ramekin mousses


300g Monty Bojangles Orange Angelical Cocoa

Dusted Truffles, roughly chopped

Pinch of salt

8 eggs, separated

100g caster sugar

1 tbsp Cointreau or triple sec

2 tbsp cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting

300ml double cream

4 oranges, zest only for dusting

  • Place the Monty Bojangles Truffles in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Melt over a low heat and add a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat and put to one side. 
  • Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and add the caster sugar, liqueur and cocoa powder. Beat until smooth. 
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add this whipped cream to the yolk mixture and whisk again. 
  • Now add the melted Monty Bojangles Truffles and stir. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture as gently as you can. Don’t beat it or you will take all the air out!
  • Use a small spoon to drop the mousse into the shot glasses and chill for two hours.
  • Dust with cocoa powder and sprinkle with a little orange zest before serving.

Disclaimer: Monty Bojangles sent samples of their truffles to enjoy and bake with