Friday, 31 January 2014

Devil's Food Cake

Grey days deserve roaring fireplaces, comfy sofas, snug slippers, a mug of steaming hot tea, and cake.  

An absolutely splendiferous cake. 

This is mine.

For a cake that contains a mahoosive amount of chocolate, sugar, cream, and cocoa, it balances the flavours perfectly. Moist chocolate sponge, with a fudgy frosting. 

It's not overly sweet, but is very rich, so if you are calorie conscious, the merest sliver will satisfy the cravings of the chocolate deprived.

If, on the other hand, you're a complete greedy guts, *ahem*, you will still get a significant number of portions out of it (think at least 12).

Devil's Food Cake* (makes one 9 inch cake)


330g plain flour
90g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tspn baking powder
1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tspn salt
185g unsalted butter at room temperature
500g (yes, that's 500g!) soft light brown sugar
2 tspn vanilla extract
4 eggs, each around the 60g mark 
375ml buttermilk at room temperature

375g plain chocolate (around 70%), finely chopped
430ml double cream
125g sour cream
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 Conventional 350 F / Gas 4.

Grease, baseline and flour three 9 inch (23cm) sandwich pans.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarb and salt. Set aside. 

In a jug, lightly beat the eggs, and then stir in the vanilla. Set aside. 

In another bowl (or stand mixer using the paddle and at medium speed) beat the softened butter until smooth. Gradually add the brown sugar and continue beating until fluffy.

Gradually, add the egg and vanilla mixture, beating well after each addition.

Add a third of the flour mixture and mix on low, then add half of the buttermilk, then a third of the flour then the second half of the buttermilk, and finish with the final third of the flour. Mix gently after each addition.

Divide the batter evenly between the three pans, smooth the tops level,tap them gently on the counter (to dispel any air bubbles - as the mixture is a little runnier than most cake mixes) and then place in the oven. 

Bake for around 20 - 25 minutes until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. 

Place on a wire rack to cool, and then after about 10 - 15 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the pans, and turn out the cakes. Gently peel off the baking parchment and allow to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the chocolate and cream in a bowl and melt gently over a saucepan of hot water (ensure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl).

Remove from the heat, and stir to ensure that it is fully blended. Allow to cool a little, then add the soured cream and salt, stirring until just blended. When it has cooled to room temperature, whisk briefly until lighter in colour and thick enough to spread.

Assemble the cake, by sandwiching the layers together with frosting, and then apply frosting over the outside of the cake.

This is not something to be fussy about decoration with.

And there is something rather sinful about sinking your teeth into swirled, thick ganache.


Susie xx

*Adapted from 'The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book'

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Raspberry Buttermilk Sponge - The Cake That Saved My Baking Mojo

That probably sounds a bit dramatic, after all this is only a cake. But it is one of the few cakes that I have made over the last six months. And it's so simple (easy to remember), and so delicious that I've made it repeatedly. As it's New Year's Eve, and tomorrow is supposed to bring the promise of new starts, I thought it was the perfect way to get back to baking on here.

When I didn't really feel like doing anything, let alone heading into the kitchen, it's been my comfort food stand-by, and has been something that Mike and I have regularly enjoyed with an afternoon cuppa. It's helped me focus on something, and its simplicity when it delivers such great results, feels like it is one of the keys to getting me back into baking more often.

The recipe is adapted from one in the Great British Bake Off Everyday book, but having made it once with the original blackberry filling, I then tried raspberries, and have made it that way ever since. The raspberries are deliciously tart against the sweet, soft, fluffy sponge. A sprinkling of demerera sugar over the top before baking gives it a lovely crunch.

I guess you could use any kind of berry, depending on your preference.

Raspberry Buttermilk Sponge


125g softened unsalted butter
175g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
100 ml buttermilk
200g self raising flour, sifted
150g fresh raspberries
2 tbspns demerera sugar.

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 conventional / 350 C / Gas 4.

Grease and baseline an 8 inch / 20cm spring-form cake pan.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together until pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs slowly, and then when mixed in, add the vanilla. Then add a third of the buttermilk, then a third of the flour. Continue until both have been fully incorporated.

Turn the mixture out into the pan, and level. Dot the raspberries around and gently push them into the batter a little way. Sprinkle the demerera sugar over the top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 40 minutes, until risen and golden, and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Leave in the tin for 10 minutes to cool slightly, then run a knife around the edge. Remove the spring-form and allow to cool completely.

This can be enjoyed when completely cold, but in my view is best when still slightly warm. You could even dress it up a bit with some ice cream or cream on the side. The picture below doesn't do it justice unfortunately, as I had to take it in artificial light before the cake totally disappeared.

Be warned though, it's best eaten the day it is made, but will keep for another day if necessary. After that, if there was any left, I've found it had gone past its best.

Hope you have a fantastic New Year's Eve, and that 2014 brings you all you wish for,

Susie :) xx

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Dare to Bare - Random Recipes #35

I know this is not exactly a baking post, but being the complete nosey parker that I am, I couldn't resist this month's Random Recipes challenge, hosted by Dom over at Belleau Kitchen. He dared us to bare our pantries, so that the voyeurs among us can have a good gander. I've really enjoyed reading the posts circulating so far, and as sorting out my kitchen cupboards has been a project of mine over the last few months (I'm afraid I'm turning into an organisation junkie), I thought I could join in on this one.

Although I would love to have one of the traditional walk-in pantries, our kitchen does not have enough space for that. We do have quite a few cupboards, and so supplies are spread out between a few of those.

This first one is where I keep breakfast cereals and some baking ingredients like nuts, chocolate, yeast, extracts etc. You get the idea that I am addicted to Kilner jars, yes? To put my addiction into perspective, I've been collecting them for nearly 30 years :-) ! 
This next one is all about spices, sauces, oils, vinegars and other condiments. I cook a lot, so there is a lot. Especially Indian spices after I did an evening course a few years back.

Next is my basics cupboard, with pasta, tins, and some bulk jars of nuts and berries (I get some of these from Costco but it means they need larger storage - just as well I love cranberries!).

There are a few other stashes dotted around (like snack-y type things) which I haven't pictured, but the one useful one which I've built up recently is the hot beverage shelf located right above our coffee maker and kettle (you an also see my cake dome which is usually occupied with something handy for elevenses!).

This contains teas, coffees (and whole coffee beans), and our increasing collection of different makes of hot chocolate (Mike and I have begun a ritual of a night-time cup, and we have tried a few different ones to find one we like - strangely, we keep gravitating back to Cadbury's. If you can recommend any, or suggest any recipes, please do!)

Finally, there is my baking drawer. This is full of essentials like flours, sugars and the compulsory (at least in our house) chocolate chips.

Right - I shall leave it there for now.

Hope you've enjoyed this peek into my kitchen.

Susie xx

Friday, 27 December 2013

Well that was a year that was ...

... pretty horrendous.

I cannot believe that I'm sitting here typing this more than six months after my last post. My apologies for my silence since June.

By way of explanation, all I can say is that I have been ill. The stresses and strains of the last few years finally took their toll, and in a way I never expected, I was literally knocked for six within the space of a weekend. While things are slowly improving, the last six months have felt like an ordeal just existing, never mind blogging.

So I must admit that I will be glad to see the back of 2013, and hope that 2014 can see me start to move forward a bit more. Getting back to baking, and blogging, I hope will be part of that process.

I hope that you've had a great Christmas, and that the New Year brings all that you wish for.

I'll be back pretty soon with some baking.

Until then, take care,

Susie xx

Friday, 21 June 2013

Classic Victoria Sponge with Rhubarb and Custard

I suppose that's a bit of a misnomer for a start.

After all, a classic Victoria Sponge, as beloved by the Queen it's named after, is filled with raspberry jam and cream.

But I had some rhubarb lurking in the fridge that I wanted to find a use for. I'd bought it at the weekend. An impulse buy. Partly initiated by the fact that I'd never actually prepared rhubarb myself before.

I remember my mum cooking it when I was little. My granddad used to grow it on his allotment, and so at this time of year, some of the crop would find its way home on the back of his bike.

Sometimes it would go into a crumble. More often than not, though, it would simply be stewed to an inch of its life alongside the Sunday roast. The rosiness of the rhubarb would glow against it's usual companion of pale golden custard.  

As a child, I didn't really enjoy the taste. Now, though, I can appreciate its tartness, especially when tempered with a light sweetness of sugar.

This cake takes a classic sponge and pairs it with rhubarb and some sweetened whipped cream, flavoured with a hint of custard powder. For me, it was just the right balance of sweet and tart. It's adapted from a recipe in Rachel Allen's Cake.

Something I'll definitely be making again.

Classic Victoria Sponge with Rhubarb and Custard


175g softened unsalted butter
175g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
175g plain flour
1 tspn baking powder

For the filling
100g sliced rhubarb
50g caster sugar
100ml water
150ml double cream
1 tbspn custard powder
1 tbspn icing sugar

A little extra icing sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 conventional / 350 Fahrenheit / Gas 4. Grease and baseline two 7 inch / 18cm loose bottomed cake tins.

First, prepare the rhubarb by placing it into a saucepan with the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently until softened (about 10 minutes). Turn the heat up a little and boil until it has thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.

To make the sponges, cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle, until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg a little at a time, until it has mixed in. Sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and gently fold it in until the mix is just incorporated but smooth.

Divide between the tins and smooth the surface. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 20 minutes, until risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and allowing to cool completely.

To complete the filling, beat the double cream with the custard powder and icing sugar until it is thick, but still spreadable. Swirl through some of the rhubarb, and then spread over the top of one of the sponges. Add a thin layer of the rhubarb (see picture), and then place the second sponge on the top. Dust with a little icing sugar.



As the theme for this month's Alphabakes Challenge is 'R', I'm sending this over to Ros at the More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline at Caroline Makes. This month's host is Ros and the round up will appear on her blog at the end of the month.

As it's clearly rhubarb season, I'm also entering it into Simple and In Season, run by Ren at Ren Behan.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Lemon and Lime Poppyseed Loaf

Sometimes, the simplest things are the best.

Nothing fancy.

Just something fairly plain, made with love.

Something that sometimes gives back to you in ways you least expect.

But you're probably thinking, this is only a cake, after all.

I should explain. I was surprised by how much Sam enjoyed this cake.
Given that he has now launched headfirst, it seems, into his toddler  days, getting him to sit in one place for longer than a minute or two is an achievement in itself.

Yet he was very happy to clamber up and sit snuggled on the sofa with me, sharing a slice.

A few precious moments stolen from an otherwise hurly-burly kind of day.

And that made it really special.

Although I have made loaf cakes before, the results have been a bit hit and miss. I don't know why.

The last one I tried (Primrose Bakery's Lemon Drizzle) I simply binned, as although I followed the recipe exactly, something happened and it just didn't turn out right. It sank disastrously in the middle and didn't taste right.

This one was a dream, though. Zingy lemon and lime, in a soft fluffy sponge, with the subtlest crunch from the poppy seeds. The icing glaze on the top added just the right amount of tangy sugariness.

Sometimes, that's all you need.

Lemon and Lime Poppyseed Loaf

Ingredients (for one 2lb loaf)

175g softened unsalted butter
175g golden caster sugar
finely grated zest of one lime and one lemon
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tbspn lemon juice
175g self raising flour
2 tbspns poppy seeds

For the glaze
1 tbspn lemon juice
1 tbspn lime juice
100g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180 Conventional / 350 Fahrenheit / Gas 4. Line the base and sides of a loaf tin (I used a ready made liner).

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the lemon and lime zest and mix in. Beat in the eggs a little at a time until they are incorporated. Then add the lemon juice. Gently sift and then mix in the flour, just until you have a smooth batter. Fold in the poppy seeds, until they are evenly distributed.

Spoon into the liner and smooth the top. Bake for about an hour, until risen and golden, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the glaze, sift the icing sugar into a bowl, and then add the lime and lemon juice to make a runny icing. Place the wire rack over some greaseproof paper (to catch the drips) and then spoon the icing over the top. Leave to set.
*Adapted from Everday Easy Cakes and Cupcakes by Dorling Kindersley

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Simple Focaccia with Rosemary and Flaked Sea Salt

In a fairly off hand way the other day, Mike commented to me that he loved bread and he didn't think he would ever want to give it up. It might've helped that at the time, he was chomping on several squares of this.

But it made me think.

Every so often, Mike and I indulge in one of our favourite little treats: a loaf of freshly baked bread. 

Purely for convenience, and because we tend to fuel this urge as it strikes, we tend to rely on our local supermarket for this (it's a great ploy to have in-store bakeries and while there are a few artisan bakeries in and around Cardiff they're, sadly, not easily accessible for us). 

Sometimes it's a simple Farmhouse loaf, sometimes it's one of those fancy flavoured breads the supermarkets have started to introduce. 

One of my favourites is a Rosemary Focaccia. Freshly baked, it's heady aroma is irresistible. 

It's on the days when I fancy something savoury, rather than sweet.

Perhaps when it's a bit wet, grey and windy, and when you just want to curl up with a bowl of something comforting.

Sometimes that's soup.

Other times (for me anyway) it could be a pasta dish, with a rich, creamy sauce.

Either way, something that's just perfect for mopping up with some ciabatta or focaccia.

I'd never thought of making Focaccia myself though.

In the past I haven't tended to make too much bread at all. But now, since learning how to make Sourdough properly last October, I have a weekend ritual of making my own. 

It's been miles better than anything I have managed to buy locally, after I have tweaked the dough and baking to fit in with my preferences.

So emboldened by this, I decided to try something else. And therefore what better to try than my own Focaccia?

This recipe is easy (especially using a stand mixer) and for bread, (I think) fairly quick. It produced a lovely loaf which disappeared faster than I had anticipated.

I think you can safely anticipate that I'm going to be experimenting some more.

Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia

500g strong white bread flour
7g fast action dried yeast
6 tbspns  extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
300ml warm water
2 tspns fine salt
1 tbspn coarse sea salt [I used Maldon as I love the flaky texture]
2 tbspns fresh rosemary, chopped

You'll need a large bowl and a baking tray, both brushed with a little of the oil.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, place the yeast, flour, salt 3 tbspns of the oil and the water. Turn the mixer onto slow, and gradually, as the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium-slow. Leave to knead for about 5-6 minutes, until you have a soft, smooth dough. If it's really sticky, add just a little extra flour.

Turn out the dough, and fold the edges down on themselves a few times to try and form a smooth, rounded ball. Place, seam side down in the bowl, brush with a little oil and cover the bowl with cling film. Leave to rest in a warm place (not too hot though) until doubled in size (about an hour).

Place the dough on the oiled baking tray and press out gently to flatten to about 3 cm deep, using your fingertips to make little indentations. Brush over a little oil and then cover with cling film.

Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size again (about 45 minutes). Preheat the oven to 200 Fan / 220 conventional / Gas 7.

Remove the cling film, and then using your fingertips again, press some more indentations into the dough. Sprinkle over the rosemary (tucking some small sprigs, if you have them, into the dough gives a nice touch), and then some of the sea salt. Drizzle over the remaining 3 tbspns of oil.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes until golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Serve while still warm and enjoy the simple pleasure of freshly baked, home made bread.


* Adapted from Italian Home Baking by Gino D'Acampo