Give me cake or give me death cookies.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Suitcase Cake- Poppa's 90th Birthday

It was my grandfather's 90th birthday party today- I was appointed cake maker, and made a cake for forty people. Grandma decided to have me make it into a suitcase, because my Poppa used to sell luggage and he's very well-travelled.

Everything you see is edible- except for the string on the Happy Birthday tag.

Candles: also not for eats.

A normal Victoria sponge usually only needs two eggs. My Victoria sponge, which is a little more generous on the sponge, takes three eggs. This forty-person cake took ten eggs- which means twenty ounces of everything else. It had to be baked in two separate layers, and each layer took just over 45mins each to bake through. I filled it with strawberry jam and fresh cream, and assembly/ decorating alone took three hours.

Now that's a lot of cake.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas Dinner

I figured since you sort of bake Yorkshire puddings, this post counts as a bake (at least in part).

Instead of the usual lemon-and-herb roasted chicken, I did an orange-and-spice one, essentially stuffing my chicken with a pomander of a small orange, cloves and cardamom pods, and threw in some cinnamon, nutmeg and a star anise. It was definitely a crowd-pleaser.

Also featuring: mini Yorkshires (baked in my mini cupcake tin), sprouts, honey and rosemary roasted carrots and parsnips, mini chicken Viennas, sage and onion stuffing (made by Paxo, beefed up with various things by me) and roasted taters (Sainsbury's Taste the Difference... sometimes life's just too short).

Followed by filter coffee and my chocolate chestnut log (see below).

Hope everyone's enjoying Christmas with their loved ones!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Chocolate Chestnut Bûche de Noël- Recipe

The combination of chocolate, cream and the subtle nuttiness of chestnuts is perfection. When I made the vanilla chestnut cream to fill the bûche, I had a hard time making myself not eat it with a spoon.

I decorated my yule log with icing sugar, coconut mushrooms and chocolate leaves. I made the leaves but not the mushrooms- cut me some slack, I have a ridiculous amount of baking and cooking to do this holiday! You can use what you like- holly and berry decorations, snowflake sprinkles, robins (not real ones obviously). Whatever you feel like- go for it!

Ingredients for the 'Log':

- 5 eggs
- 4oz caster sugar
- 3oz self-raising flour
- 2oz cocoa powder

Ingredients for Simple Syrup (or 'Soaking Syrup'):

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup caster sugar
1tbsp brandy

 Ingredients for Filling:

- 300ml double cream
- 2oz caster sugar
- 200g sweetened chestnut purée
- 1tsp vanilla bean paste (or just the extract/ flavouring)

Ingredients for Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

- 4oz softened unsalted butter
- 250g icing sugar
- 3-4tbsp milk
- 1tsp vanilla
- 100g dark chocolate, melted and cooled (70% cocoa)


1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and line a 34cm x 24cm (about 13" x 9") pan- I just used a shallow roasting pan, I don't own a dedicated swiss roll tin.

2) Remember I said once how you can't whip up egg whites all fluffy with egg yolks in? I lied. (Well, I didn't lie- just over exaggerated- but for several recipe you do need to keep whites and yolks completely separate). Place the whole eggs in a bowl with the sugar, and whip up until thick and fluffy, until when you lift out the whisks a thin ribbon of egg trails behind and takes a few seconds to sink back into the rest of the mixture.

3) Sift in the cocoa and flour into your whipped eggs, and fold in carefully until the colour is even- don't do this for longer than you have to, you want to keep in as much air as possible.

 4) Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan, and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes (or until the sponge springs back when poked, or a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean).

5) Take out your sponge, and whilst it's still hot flip it onto a separate sheet of baking parchment, which has been dusted with icing sugar to stop the sponge from sticking (make sure there is a bit of parchment sticking out towards you). Remove the parchment that you baked the cake on, and fold the sticking out bit of parchment that the cake is now on over the end of the sponge facing you, and roll the still-hot sponge up inside the parchment tightly and carefully. This will both help make it 'remember' the tightly rolled shape you've made it into as it cools, and make it easier to roll with the filling.

6) Let it cool COMPLETELY whilst rolled up. It might feel cold on the outside after a while, but carefully check inside the roll too- if it's warm, it'll melt the filling. Whilst it's cooling, you can make everything else.

7) To make the soaking syrup, place the sugar and water in the pan and bring it up to the boil, and boil for about three minutes. (Only add the brandy last minute when you want to use the syrup- you'll brush it on the inside of the cake roll to help moisten it. This cake has no butter or oil in it, so it dries out more easily.)

8) Make the filling by whipping up the double cream and sugar until reasonably thick (but not scoopable- don't overbeat it), and stir in your chestnut purée and vanilla. Leave this out whilst the roll cools- putting it in the fridge will harden it and make it pretty much impossible to spread later.

9) Make the frosting by whipping the butter, sugar and milk again until fluffy, then adding the chocolate and vanilla. Cover this with clingfilm to stop it from crusting over while you wait for the roll to cool.

10) Once cool, gently unroll the cake- it might split a bit, but don't worry- you'll be covering any imperfections with the frosting later.

11) Brush liberally with your soaking syrup.

12) Fill right to the ends with your vanilla chestnut cream, and roll it back up again (I've shown a gap at the end in the picture, which was my mistake- for this one, you do need to spread the filling right to the end to help the log stick together).

13) Place your newly rolled-up log on whatever you're going to serve it on, and lop a bit off one of the ends at an angle. Stick the chopped off bit on the side of the main log to create a bit of a branch (I used a bit of leftover chestnut cream to do this).

14) Spread on your chocolate buttercream frosting- I piped it on, but spreading with a knife and then running a fork over it to create a wood grain effect.

15) Have fun decorating.

Have a kickass Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Chocolate Christmas Pudding

I made this pudding in October and let it mature until last week- when I turned it out, doused it in whiskey and set it on fire.

And ate it.

Yes I ate Christmas pudding before Christmas. What of it? (I have a bûche de Noël planned for the actual day, anyway.)

It was just an experiment, really- I originally wanted to make Paul A Young's 'Three Chocolates Christmas Puddings' from his book Adventures with Chocolate, but I only wanted to make a small one, and some ingredients you can only buy in a certain quantity- like Guinness. I hate beer, and I'd only need a dash of it in a scaled-down recipe, so I'd be stuck with most of a bottle of beer. In the end, I just used the recipe as vague guidelines.

The texture was beautiful- moist and surprisingly light for a Christmas pudding, but not fluffy and lacking substance. The chocolate worked really well with the fruits and spices.

I just wish I hadn't drowned it in booze.

In the original recipe, you feed your pudding with a tablespoonful of brandy once a week- this should also be enough to stave off mould. Unfortunately I lost my nerve and started doing it every day, resulting in a pudding that could get you sozzled before you even opened the drinks cabinet after dinner. It did taste good, but it was quite... potent. It would have definitely tasted better without about half of the alcohol that went into it.

On the upside, it burned like a beauty.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Gingerbread Tree

See my other blog for the story of my first Christmas tree. Yes, this is my first Christmas tree ever, which I won in a raffle today. It seemed only right to stick some edibles on it, so I rustled up and decorated some gingerbread.

I hate using silver dragées with a passion. They're so fiddly- but so pretty! At least Dr Oetker makes soft ones now, which don't shatter your teeth quite like the ones I was used to as a child. This was also my first time using royal icing- I think I managed a smooth enough finish.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

No Bakes This Week?

Not so- there have indeed been bakes. However, as they are seasonal gifts, there'd be no fun in letting on what they are, would there?

Join me soon for a flaming chocolate Christmas pudding, and a recipe for a chocolate chestnut log!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Souffléed Spice Cake- Recipe

I got back from my 10-day holiday/ family reunion in Australia a couple of days ago and I'm still shattered- but that won't stop me from baking! Everywhere you go in Oz and the UK alike there are Christmas trees, decorations, carols and Christmas pop music- even our aeroplane cabins on the journey home were decked with faux pine garlands and red ribbons- and I came home ready to make something vaguely Christmassy.

This isn't really 100% my recipe, rather an adaptation of Nigella Lawson's snow-topped spice cake recipe from her book 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' (but then again aren't all recipes, like music, based on pre-existing models?) The changes I made were to suit my tastes, or because I thought some things were unecessary/ didn't add anything to the end result, or because I found there was a stage that did add to the end result.

It's light, fluffy and moist thanks to whipped egg whites and oil instead of butter, and aromatic without being overpowering. Nigella touts it as 'the perfect replacement for the standard Christmas cake' for those none-too-keen on the dense and often dry fruited versions.

Ingredients for Cake:

- 5 eggs, separated
- 125ml vegetable oil
- 125ml water
- 1tsp golden syrup
- 1tbsp black treacle
240g dark muscavado sugar
- 200g plain flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- Pinch salt
- 1 + 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1tsp nutmeg
- 1tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- zest of 1/2 a big orange
- 75g caster sugar

To Decorate (optional):

- thick royal icing
- icing sugar
- sprinkles


1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and grease a 10" bundt pan well.
2) In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and oil, then whisk in the water, syrups and muscavado sugar (but NOT the caster sugar).

3) Pass the mixture through a sieve to get rid of any little rock-hard lumps of muscavado sugar, and put it back into the large bowl.

4) Stir in the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and zest, mixing thoroughly (don't worry about being too rough at this stage).

5) Whip up the egg whites in another large bowl until white, stiff and fluffy (you should be able to tip the bowl upside-down over your head and stay clean), then whisk in the caster sugar- the mixture will turn glossy but still be white and fluffy- like marshmallow fluff.

6) Take a large tablespoonfull of the egg whites and beat it into your spice batter to help loosen it up, and then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites, using cutting and scooping motions. You don't want to be rough at this stage as you want to avoid beating the air bubbles out.

7) Fill your bundt tin until about 3/4 full with your cake batter (use the leftover batter to make little cupcakes- but don't be tempted to fill your bundt pan any more of it'll overflow when it rises during baking: I've learnt this the hard way) and bake for 45 minutes, until the cake springs back when you poke it. Cupcakes will only take about 20mins.

8) Take your cake out of the oven to cool thoroughly- let it be for 25 minutes before tipping it out of the pan. It'll shrink back down a bit, but this is normal.

9) Once it's completely cold, if you like you can ice it with royal icing: make sure it's thick though, or the spongy cake will just suck it up.

10) Decorate as you like. I've used white crystal sugar, silver dragées and edible glitter. Because it's Christmas and it's okay to be a little gaudy.