Fudgy Chocolate Brownies: infinitely adaptable

Experimenting with peanut butter and salted caramel brownies.
Experimenting with peanut butter and salted caramel brownies.

Recently, I was asked in an interview, “what do you contribute to a team?” The first thought that popped into my head was brownies. However, perhaps that wouldn’t be such a professional way to answer the question? So, instead I answered something about how I am a really good team player and the many different skills I’d bring to the team, rather than saying that my contribution is a baked sugar high laden with chocolate. I meant to mention my excellent brownies at the end as an aside, but I forgot.

Immediately once the interview was over and as I reflected on how it went, I wished that I had led with the brownies though because it would have revealed more of my true self. My flatmate and colleague concurred (now assigned to the status of previous flatmate and colleague: that teaching job contract having just ended and we’ve moved out). Though, we then agreed in the next breath that my crack cookies are my best work. So, another time, I’ll be that little bit braver, relax and say, “brownies and cookies.”

The first time that I made these during lockdown was at the beginning of marking many, many student essays whilst living at my sister’s. I’d broken a personal record and spent 5 hours on a paper, checking for plagiarism and looking up citations, and still hadn’t finished it when thoroughly fed up and discouraged, I decided to put it down until the next day. A WOD (workout of the day) with 100 burpees and an evening spent singing, baking these brownies put me in a better mood. I left it out on the side to cool down and develop even more flavour overnight. My sister said that her contribution to my happiness was not diving into them that night. I shared a photo of them on a work group chat and subsequently made friends with a colleague who wanted the recipe.

Pretty Raspberry Brownies
The raspberry burst brownies which fuelled the essay marking

Awkwardly, I didn’t have the recipe at hand to share. It lived in the form of an excel spreadsheet, a hangover from my baking business days. Instead, I sent her a link to my raspberry burst brownies and made a mental note that it was time to publish this recipe.

I created this recipe in Cambodia whilst supplying brownies for a cafe because I wanted to create a brownie with more height and volume that I could adapt with a variety of fillings, such as cheesecake and salted caramel. In addition, my usual go to, very easy brownie recipe which the raspberry burst brownies are adapted from suddenly stopped working for me after I upgraded my oven. They were coming out cakier. Some people prefer their brownie consistency like that but I much prefer them to be fudgier with that delightful cracked top. The timing of it might have been purely a coincidence and have nothing to do with me switching from one of these electric toaster ovens to a standing oven cooker. I’ve shared the only decent photo that I appear to have of my toaster oven for you. If you’ve always lived in the UK, then you may have no concept of what I’m talking about. In most parts of S.E Asia, ovens do not come standard in a furnished kitchen. This is the oven in which I began my baking business and I used it for the first 2 years. It only allowed me to do one tray of cookies, a cake or brownies at a time and by the end it wouldn’t heat above 150°C. When I moved and invested in a new oven, it was a game changer.

My toaster oven that lived on the floor
My toaster oven lived on the floor. I’m piping coconut churros.
my new oven
I moved apartment and my new oven fitted into this space perfectly. This was taken the day the oven was delivered and fitted. If you look carefully you can see I had to buy extra long wiring because the power socket was on the other side of the room.

Anyway, it gave me an excuse to try out a new brownie making method for me that I’d seen Ed Kimber use in this video in which you mix the eggs and sugar for about 10 minutes until they form into a ribbon stage (I’ve explained what ribbon stage is in step 4 of the method) and then add the melted chocolate and butter. Mixing the eggs and sugar for that long, creates volume and structure and I deduced, would help me create that dense fudgy consistency and crinkly top each time. It did. At the bottom of the post, I’ve also included for you, a few photos of the different flavours that I’ve played with and how I’ve adapted them.

I played around with the sugar quantity. Most brownie recipes ask for larger quantities of sugar, but I’ve always liked the challenge of seeing how little sugar I can add to baking and it still taste good. From experience, 150g is too little but anything between 200-230g is perfect. I’ll adapt it depending on the additional flavours I want to add. For example, with salted caramel, I use less because of the added sweetness from the caramel. With raspberry I use more to counteract the tartness of the raspberries.

Brownies components ready to mix together
All the components ready to mix together

I prefer to make these in a stand mixer using the whisk attachment because it is easier to leave the stand mixer running during the egg and sugar whisking part whilst getting on with other tasks, rather than holding an electric hand mixer for 10 minutes.

Top tip 1: if using an electric hand mixer, place a tea towel underneath the bowl to keep it stable and stop it moving around.

Top tip 2: once baked, leave these to cool down completely, cover and place in the fridge overnight. Not only will they taste better as the flavours mature and deepen, but they will also be cold. Cut them with a sharp knife and you’ll get those beautiful clean lines.

So here’s the recipe for the Infinitely Adaptable Fudgy Chocolate Brownies. They’ll make between 12-16 brownies or 20 mini brownie bites.

Ingredients

  • 150g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 150g dark chocolate (at least 60%), broken up, roughly chopped
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200-230g caster sugar (depending on how sweet you’d like them and the additional flavours you want to add)
  • 100g plain flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of instant coffee granules (optional) – I use it because it helps bring out the chocolate flavour
  • And then whatever flavours* you’d like to add, or not.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/355°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a deep tin. For this quantity a 20cm square tin or a rectangular 27×20 or 28×18 will work.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together and just after it has melted, add in the salt, vanilla extract and the optional instant coffee granules and leave it on the side to cool down. There are various ways you can melt chocolate and butter.
    • The more cautious, ahem proper, approach is to use a bain marie, that is put the butter and dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl that can sit on top of a saucepan with simmering water. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the hot water in the saucepan. Slowly melt the chocolate and stir regularly. This way you won’t burn the chocolate.
    • Another easier way is to use the microwave. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, place a paper kitchen towel on top of the bowl so that butter won’t pop out as it melts. Melt it in 20 second bursts, stirring each time.
    • My way, is to use a heavy bottomed saucepan. I put the chocolate and butter in it and melt it at a low heat, stirring regularly. I take it off, just as the last few chocolate/butter bits aren’t quite melted because they will melt in the residual heat of the saucepan.
  3. In the meantime, measure out the flour and cocoa powder into a small bowl. Sieve it if there are lots of lumps in the flour and cocoa. Otherwise, use a whisk to loosen and mix them together.
  4. As soon as the chocolate/butter mixture is off the heat, crack the eggs into a medium sized bowl and add the sugar. Use a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer on high speed to start whisking the eggs and sugar until they are at a ribbon stage. Ribbon stage is when the egg and sugar mixture are a pale yellow colour, doubled or even tripled in volume and when you lift the whisk over the mixture, the batter will fall slowly and leave a trail like a ribbon that will hold its shape for a few seconds. It will take about 10 minutes. I still use a timer to make sure I beat them for long enough. Don’t start beating the eggs/sugar until the chocolate/butter has melted because the chocolate/butter mixture needs this time to cool down.
  5. When the eggs and sugar have reached a ribbon stage, reduce the speed to low and add the melted chocolate and butter mixture to the eggs and sugar. Whisk until it all appears to have mixed together. If you are using an electric hand mixer, you may need to turn off the mixer, add the chocolate/butter and then switch it back on again to avoid a mess. I speak from experience, haha.
  6. Now fold in the flour and cocoa powder using a spatula, or a spoon until it is well combined.
  7. Pour into the baking tin.
  8. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes. They should be firm to touch at the top but still wobble when you shake it. Leave to cool completely in the tin and if you can bear it, cover them and leave them overnight in the fridge. They will be easier to cut and the flavours will have deepened.

*You can add various flavours to this, or not if you want them plain. I’ve given you a few of suggestions and photos below. Do let me know how else you adapt them.

For raspberry burst brownies 2.0, I add 90g of raspberries. I mix in half before I pour it into the baking tin and then scatter the remaining half where there are spaces.
For raspberry and white chocolate, do the above and add 100g of chopped white chocolate. Mix half the chocolate into the batter with the raspberry and then fill the spaces with the remaining 50g.
Walnut Brownies
For nutty ones, I use 100g of nuts. For this one, I’ve used walnuts. I pick out 12-16 walnut halves to place on top for evenly then roughly chop and mix in the rest to the mixture before I pour into the baking tin and then place the remaining walnut halves on the top.
Salted Caramel and Hazelnut Brownies
For hazelnut and salted caramel. I made these to use up leftover ingredients as I was packing to return to the UK. Use 100g of roughly chopped hazelnuts and 100g of salted caramel. I mixed in half the hazelnuts into the mixture, then after I poured it into the tin, I blobbed salted caramel with a teaspoon evenly and scattered the rest of the hazelnuts over the top.
Swirls of cheesecake in brownies
Swirled cheesecake brownies, but I’ve realised that the salted caramel and the cheesecake ones are a little more complicated, so I’ll post those recipes another day.

What happened next with that interview? How many points have I accumulated? In this current job hunting cycle, I racked up 103 points. Incidentally, I got offered that job, even without the promise of these brownies. So, I’m currently in the throes of transition once again and relocating down to the Midlands.

Raspberry Burst Brownies

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Raspberry Burst Brownies

I don’t understand why I’ve never put raspberries in a dark chocolate brownie before.  The flavour combination is ingenious!  These brownies have quickly become my signature bake since I decided to bake them 7 weeks ago, popping out my oven week in-week out.

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I meant to follow BBC’s Good Food’s Best Ever Chocolate Raspberry Brownies and duly noted that they suggested mixing half of the raspberries into the mixture and reserving half of the raspberries to scatter at for the end.  However, I couldn’t quite understand why I’d want to put milk chocolate into the batter and dilute the intense dark chocolatey-ness that I wanted to couple with the raspberry flavour.

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IMG_9677

So, I reverted back to my default brownie recipe.   This time, I have no microwave.  (However, I’ve kept the microwave bit in the instructions, in case you do).  I really wanted to demonstrate how the brownies can be made using one pot.  In all honesty, I never expected that this brownie would have it’s own post.  But when Sarah and I bit into one, the first occasion I baked them, a raspberry just burst in my mouth.  I laughed, said that they were amazing and promptly named them, Raspberry Burst Brownies.

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Ingredients for Raspberry Burst Chocolate Brownies adapted from Usborne First Cookbook.

  • 4oz/100g dark chocolate
  • 4oz/100g butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 4oz/100g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 6oz/160g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 or 2 tbsp of milk if the mixture is too firm.
  • 85g-100g frozen or fresh raspberries (I find that 85g is enough)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.  Line a square baking dish with baking paper. I use a 20x20cm baking tin.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter together on a gentle heat, in a heavy bottomed pan.  Alternatively zap them in a heatproof bowl in the microwave.

3. As the chocolate and butter is melting, or being zapped in the microwave, measure out the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder into another bowl.  Sift the flour if you want to, but it’s not necessary.

4. Add the vanilla extract, salt and sugar to the chocolate melted goodness and mix well.

5. Add the beaten eggs and keep mixing to combine it all.  Don’t worry – they won’t scramble.

6. Gradually add in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder so that the whole mixture is well combined.

7. Mix in half of the raspberries now.  With the remaining half, scatter them over the top to fill in any deficit spaces before you put it into the oven.

8. Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins.  The secret is to take them out when the top is firm to touch but still wobbles when you shake it.

Verdict?  They are amazing!  Sarah actually told me off for not telling her how amazing they were, when she ate one a few weeks later.  (But we’d taste tested them together that first time…) They are that combination of sweet but sour, and a perfect flavour partnership between the dark chocolate and the raspberry.  But what I love best about them is that the whole raspberries burst in your mouth as you eat them.  Bliss!
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Claire’s cookie: Raspberry, White Chocolate and Oat Cookies

Raspberry, White Chocolate, Oat Cookies

Over Christmas and New Year, I visited my friend Claire in New Zealand.  It was my first trip to a first-world country, since I’d moved to Cambodia.  And boy, could you tell!  If you know the story of country mouse (moi) visiting town mouse (Claire).  Well, that says it all really…  The first night that I got there and I was snuggling into my bed under my duvet after a hot shower, I was beaming.

I also enjoyed:

1. Larking about with Jen and Claire.

Fish and Chips at the famous Mangonui Fish Shop with Claire and Jen
Fish and Chips at the famous Mangonui Fish Shop with Claire and Jen

2. Drinking in the greenery, mountains and sheep!!!

Reminds me of Scotland. Mount Maunganui - 10 minute cycle from Claire's house.
Reminding me of Scotland. Mount Maunganui – 10 minute cycle from Claire’s house.

3. Claire’s hospitality.

Claire baking the cookies in NZ
Claire baking the cookies

One evening we were having quite a frank discussion together with her housemates about what can hold us back from doing things or giving it a go.  I’m not referring to procrastinating doing the ironing or filing away the bank statements.  You know what I mean: shying away from ‘that’ conversation, not putting your hand up to ask the conference speaker a question, refusing to speak a foreign language.  So, what is it for you?  Is it the fear of losing, the dislike of being in the limelight, the discomfort of your brain cells having to work so hard, the embarrassment of looking like a fool?   We all owned up to at least one of those things.

Ingredients for raspberry, white chocolate and oat cookies

Then Claire very matter-of-factly put out there, that one of the things that helps her to just give things a go, is that she gets a kick from doing something but not doing it well.  She gave her own example that she’ll never be a pro-surfer but nevertheless, she keeps surfing and enjoys it a lot.   Is she slightly kooky for owning such an attitude?  Or is that one of the secrets of relishing life and taking hold of opportunities when they present themselves?  I leave that to you to mull over.

Frozen raspberries

Undoubtedly, her philosophy contributes partly to her willingly trying new ingredients, techniques and recipes.  But let me just say – there is nothing not good about her food.  In fact, her chocolate cookie recipe got me published in a magazine.  She inspired me with how she’s embraced the Kiwi food culture whilst she’s been there.  The Paleo diet, the almond milk…

And Jo Seagar.  I’d never heard about Jo before but she’s a big star in the Kiwi culinary world.  Claire and her housemates love her recipes, and I’ve taken note of her name now.  Claire adapted this cookie recipe from one of Jo’s recipes and now it’s known as ‘Claire’s cookies’ by her friends.  Perhaps because she makes them a lot, and they are incredibly deliciously and more-ish.

white chocolate shards

I know because she made them when we got back from our camping trip in Russell. Her housemates and I pretty much gobbled up the whole batch in one sitting. (I hasten to add that she did halve the recipe.)  Even so, she was amazed that they went so quickly.  Seriously?  They go down so well with a cup of tea.

Claire’s genius was replacing the glacé cherries in the original recipe with raspberries.  White chocolate can be sickly-sweet sometimes.  The sharp, sweetness of the raspberry cuts through this and complements the white chocolate beautifully.  The oats provide texture and bite.

Stir in the dry ingredients

When I made these cookies back home, I made the mistake of stirring in the raspberries too vigorously, breaking up the raspberries so that the mixture turned pink.  Pretty, but not tasty.  The flavour of the raspberries dissipated and they weren’t nearly as nice as I’d remembered them to be.  The two photos below illustrate the difference.  The photo on the left was my first batch of cookies and I broke up the raspberries too much.  The second batch (photo on the right) was much better.  Take note, gently mixing in the raspberries is the secret to the having bursts of raspberry in your mouth.

Raspberry, White Chocolate and Oat cookies attempt 1Raspberry, White Chocolate, Oat Cookies attempt no. 2

I also found out that in Phnom Penh a) frozen raspberries are difficult to source and b) cost $22 per kilo from Thai Huot!  So, when you make these in a temperate climate where raspberries grow naturally, remember $22 and just how lucky you are.

Raspberry, White Chocolate and Oat Cookies adapted from It’s easier than you Think by Jo Seagar

Makes 30 large cookies or 40 slightly smaller-medium sized cookies

Ingredients

  • 250g butter
  • 175g sugar – Claire uses ordinary white granulated sugar and they turn out amazing. I used a combination of white and light brown sugar and they were also good. Moral of the story – use whatever sugar combination that tickles your tastebuds.
  • 3 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 140g oats (jumbo oats are even better, but I only had normal rolled oats)
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 250g white chocolate chopped
  • 150g raspberries, fresh or frozen

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 170°c/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Line baking trays.

2. Beat the butter, sugar and condensed milk together until the mixture is pale and smooth.

3. Stir in the vanilla, rolled oats, flour and baking powder until the dry mixture has just combined with the wet mixture above.

4. Gently mix in the white chocolate and the raspberries.  Be careful not to break up the raspberries too much.

5. Place a tablespoonful of mixture on the baking trays and press flat with a wet fork.  They will spread out slightly so leave a couple of fingers width between each tablespoonful of mixture.

6. Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins until golden brown. Allow to cool for 2-3 mins on the trays and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Apparently they will keep in an airtight container for 10 days to 2 weeks.  They lasted less than 5 days in mine.

 Mmmm... bringing back memories of kiwiland

A Twist on Cranachan: Raspberry, Oatmeal and Whiskey Roulade


Demolished Cranachan
Cranachan – pronounced ‘cran-ah-hkun’ (the ‘ch’ being the soft, guttural, scottish ‘ch’ sound, as in loch’). The scrummy, scottish dessert made with raspberries, whiskey, honey blended with cream and sprinkled with oats. I’d like to appease the purists in cyberspace by letting them know that I had planned to serve it up in the traditional way at my Haggis, Neeps and Tatties in 3 ways Dinner Party.

Until Friday. At 10pm, I had this hankering to make it into a roulade because I’d never made a roulade before. You see, I don’t have a swiss roll tin and previously, that has been the one barrier that has stopped me from baking a roulade. However, as I was in an inventive mood, I improvised with a suitably sized baking tray and it all worked out. Hurrah 🙂

Well, there was more improvising in store. I know that you can make the roulade base purely with egg whites and sugar; there were too many online recipes demanding that I add in some sort of flour or flour substitute. So, that’s when I came up with the idea of using toasted oatmeal. And as I couldn’t find a recipe for an oatmeal meringue online, I made it up. So, as the hand beater is whisking the egg whites, balancing somewhat precariously on the bowl, I measure out the oats, scatter them across a baking tray and carefully toast them in the oven until a wonderful nutty smell wafts around the kitchen. As you can imagine, I had more moments of K-mix envy as I stood attached to my electric mixer, passing it from one hand to the other as I waited for stiff peaks to form. I can only imagine the freedom of leaving the egg whites to whisk in the stand mixer, while I line the tin, toast and ground the oatflakes… Admittedly, not that it stopped me but that procedure wouldn’t have held the same amount of trepidation.

Naturally, I wanted to omit the cream to create a healthier, lighter dessert and I replaced it with full-fat greek yoghurt. If you’d like to do this, then wait until it’s almost time to serve the dessert before you start spreading the greek yoghurt onto the base. It’s much runnier and wetter than whipped cream so will seep through the base, softening the structure.

(Incidentally Friday was Burns Night. Perhaps the scottish bard inspired me to take artistic license with this dessert.)

whisky cake to go with the roulade
My guests really enjoyed the cranachan roulade on Saturday night. The raspberry, honey and whiskey combination is sweet but not overpowering. Those who like oats particularly enjoyed the nutty, oaty flavour of the base. So I’d make this again with a few tweaks (see below).

My own invention of Cranachan Roulade, serves 6-8 people

Ingredients for the meringue base

  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 50g toasted oatmeal or finely ground oatflakes

Ingredients for the filling

  • 500g greek yoghurt or 250g lightly whipped double cream
  • 2 tbsp whiskey
  • 3 tsp runny honey, preferably of the heather honey variety. I didn’t have any so I used a Thai honey instead and it was good.
  • 350g raspberries

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 23x33cm swiss roll tin (or a similar sized baking tray with raised sides) with tin foil or baking paper, folding the sides up so that you create a raised 4cm border and squeeze the corners together. Lightly spray or brush with vegetable oil.

2. If you are using a stand mixer, then you can do step 2 after you begin the whisking of the egg whites described in step 3. Measure out the oat flakes and spread them on a baking tray and pop it in the oven for 4-5 minutes. Then take them out, turn them over and pop back into the oven for a few more minutes. The oats should be a very light brown colour and smell deliciously nutty. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then grind them up in a food processer until they are the texture of ground almonds, at the very least. I think that I created oat flour, I ground the flakes so fine.

3. Whisk the egg whites until they have a firm peak. Then add the caster sugar in 4 stages if you are using an electric beater, or all in one go if you’re using a stand mixer, continuing to whisk for 5 minutes until stiff peaks form. I used an electric beater and made the mistake of adding all the sugar in one go. The resulting base was fine but it took at least 15 minutes before anything vaguely resembling stiff peaks formed.

making meringue
4. Now add the ground oatmeal to the meringue mixture. Fold it in using a metal spoon until it is just mixed in, making the utmost effort not to knock out the volume in the meringue mixture.

5. Spoon out the meringue mixture onto the prepared tin and evenly smooth it out using a palette knife. Now pop it into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until it is firm to touch and ever so slightly brown on top. In the meantime, prepare an additional sheet of foil or baking paper that is just larger than the size of the tin and sprinkle it with icing sugar or caster sugar. I didn’t do this and in hindsight I think that it’s a good way to further ensure that the base doesn’t stick to the foil.

6. Take the roulade base out of the oven and allow to cool for about 3 minutes. Here comes the slightly scary part, akin to when you flip pancakes, so do it with confidence. Quickly invert the baking tin onto the prepared sheet of foil, so that the lining is on top. Leave for a few minutes, then gently remove the foil on the base. Don’t worry if a few bits come off. No one will see it anyway. Leave to cool completely.

*You could make it up this point the day before and leave the base out on the side, like I did.

oatmeal rouladeSpread the cream on the roulade
6. For the filling, empty the yoghurt into a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix in the whiskey and honey. Spread the mixture evenly on top of the base but leave 2cms round the edges cream free. Sprinkle a thin layer of raspberries on top, reserving a few raspberries to decorate the roulade.

7. Now to roll. This proved trickier than I anticipated. Not helped by the fact that I chose to roll with the longer edge and my hands are too small to do it. When you’ve finished rolling, leave the foil around the roulade so that it is easier to gently transfer the roulade onto the serving dish. Or, if you are using cream, then you can store the roulade in the fridge for a couple of hours with the foil tightly wrapped around it before serving.

Enjoy and cheers!

Here are my top tips on rolling:

1. Sprinkle the foil with icing sugar or caster sugar before inverting the base onto it. This helps prevent the roulade base from sticking to the foil.

2. Make a cut along the edge of the roll, about 2 cms in, that you’re going to begin rolling with so that you are only cutting halfway into the base. This will help you create a roll, as opposed to a circle. Just so that you know, unlike moi, most people use the shortest edge.

3. Use the foil to create tight roll by firmly pulling the foil horizontally away from you with one hand and at the same time gently pressing down on the foil with the other. Do it slowly to start off.

4. Here’s an online video tutorial.

Variations on the theme: I’d like to experiment with a few tweaks to this recipe. Next time, either make a raspberry sauce by crushing raspberries and adding sugar to it or make a raspberry compote. Spread the raspberry sauce on the base. Substitute mascapone in place of the greek yoghurt or cream so that there’s a firmer mixture before adding the raspberries, rolling it up, sprinkling with icing sugar et voila!

Cranachan Roulade

Raspberry and Buttermilk Cake

 

raspberrybuttermilkcake
I really like discovering delicious new recipes, especially when you weren’t looking for them. It feels like stumbling across some hidden treasure. This cake is exactly that. I found this one in Smitten Kitchen as I was googling for a recipe that I could use up the buttermilk that I had leftover from a banana cake baking session. Fortuitously, I happened to have all the ingredients at hand. Winner! So, I just got up and started baking the cake 🙂

raspberries
If you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute it with natural yoghurt but it doesn’t quite taste the same. Better yet, I have since learned how to make my own buttermilk, the cheat’s way. The proper way requires either churning butter and using the leftover milk (hence the name, buttermilk) or shaking a pot of double cream for a l.o.n.g time for the same effect.

The raspberries all sank to the bottom the first time I made this (the cake still tasted scrumptious). I had a hypothesis that the fruit wouldn’t sink if I first lightly powdered them with flour before I added them to the cake batter. So, I tested this out the second time I made this cake. I poured the batter into two cake tins and scattered in one, lightly floured raspberries, and the other with bright, red raspberries. When both cakes turned out beautifully with raspberries floating dreamily on top, I was flummoxed as to why the first time round had been a disaster. However, now I’m remembering that I forgot to preheat the oven and so the batter was left out for a while, so maybe the raspberries sunk then… *sigh* Basic common sense, Miss Cha – remember to switch on the oven and turn on the cooker at the mains so that the oven can actually preheat.

 

raspberrybuttermilkcake2twotypesofraspberriesoncaketwotypesofraspberrycake1
 

Raspberry and Buttermilk Cake, adapted by yours truly from Smitten Kitchenand Gourmet Magazine

List of Ingredients

  • 55g/2oz unsalted butter
  • 135g/5oz caster sugar (for the cake) + 1 tbsp of caster sugar (to sprinkle on top of the raspberries)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • grated zest of half a lemon
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 130g/4.5oz plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 125ml/4fl oz buttermilk, stirred
  • 140g/5oz of raspberries

Top Tip: you can substitute the raspberries with other berries. I imagine that blueberries would taste heavenly, or cherries with almond flakes on top…

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F or Gas Mark 5 and line a 18-20cm cake tin, or alternatively dust it lightly with flour.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together for about 2-3 minutes with an electric mixer (I finally got one!) or 5-7 minutes by hand.
3. Mix in the vanilla extract, the lemon zest, and then finally the egg.
4. In a separate bowl, measure out the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
5. Slowly add 4. and the buttermilk to the wet mixture. I’d recommend adding the flour in three batches, alternating each time with the buttermilk. This way, it will be easier to mix and the mixture won’t curdle. If you’re doing this with an electric mixer, do it at a low speed.
6. Spoon the mixture into the tin, smooth the top, then scatter the raspberries evenly on top of the mixture. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of caster sugar over the raspberries.

raspberrybuttermilkcake2scatterraspberries
7. Pop it into the centre of the oven and let it bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the tester/knife comes out clean.
8. Let it rest in the tin for about 10 minutes, and then cool on a wire rack.

The verdict? Well, this cake is a winner in my eyes. Its simple to bake and you can make this cake and eat it within an hour. It is wonderfully moist from the buttermilk and the raspberries lend a lovely freshness to it. Also, the cake tastes delicious, even when the berries have sunk to the bottom. If that happens to you (and I don’t think it should as long as you remember to preheat the oven) here’s how I remedied it – by serving the cake, turned upside down. You could also sprinkle lots of icing sugar on it.

remedyraspberrybuttermilkcake
p.s. The cake freezes well too. Wrap it up twice with foil and a plastic bag to freeze it. Just take it out the freezer the night before and leave it on the side to defrost it – simple.