Spiced Autumnal Orange Drizzle Cake with Dark Chocolate Embers

 

spiced autumnal orange drizzle cake
 

It’s autumn on campus. I love going for walks with friends around the fields on the beautifully bright days that we’re lucky to have. And with the dark nights drawing in and the leaves falling off the trees, it is the perfect time to brave your face to the brisk night at a bonfire, or turn in early and watch the flames lapping the wood in the fireplace.

leaves falling off treesleaves turning yellowsilhouettes
When I came up with this cake 2 years ago, I had both types of fires in my mind as inspiration. I had also been watching Masterchef and one of the contestants had created a dish using charcoal to recreate the fiery taste of a bonfire. I decided to use dark chocolate, not feeling quite knowledgeable enough about charcoal flavouring (perhaps leave that for another time). My idea being that the chocolate would visually recreate the burning embers of a fire, and the orange and spices would add the warmth in the flavour.

I used the Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe as my starting point for bringing to life a perfect autumnal treat.

Ingredients for Spiced Autumnal Orange Drizzle Cake with Dark Chocolate Embers

  • 125g/4.5oz butter
  • 75g/3oz caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 150g/5oz self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp mixed spice
  • zest of one orange* see top tip.
  • 2 tbsp (or 30 ml) of Cointreau or milk if you don’t want to use alcohol
  • 85g/3.5oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Top Tip: wash the fruit with a wee bit of washing up liquid to take the wax off, unless you can buy unwaxed oranges (I find them harder to source compared to lemons and limes). It will make the zesting of the orange much more effective and easier.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and line a 2lb loaf tin.

2. If you don’t have an electric whisk, like me, then mix the butter, sugar, orange zest together first before adding in the eggs, then the flour, spices and baking powder. If you have an electric whisk, then add in all of the above ingredients and whizz them up until the mixture is smooth.

3. Stir in the Cointreau/milk so that the mixture falls softly off the spoon – that’s my interpretation of ‘a soft, dropping consistency’.

4. Stir the chocolate into the cake mixture. I wanted the chocolate to sink to the bottom of the cake, so didn’t coat the chocolate with flour.

5. Spoon the cake mixture into the loaf tin and smooth the top. Pop it into the oven and let it bake for about 40 minutes, or until the tester/knife comes out clean.

6. While the cake is in the oven, prepare the orange drizzle. (if you prefer it a bit sweeter, then increase the sugar)

Ingredients for Orange Drizzle

  • Juice of one orange
  • 1 tbsp of Cointreau
  • 30g golden caster sugar

7. I normally use a chopstick to poke wholes in the cake for the drizzle to pour into. This time I experimented with a cocktail stick in case they make smaller holes. Nope. I’ll return to the chopstick next time.

8. Slowly pour the drizzle evenly over the cake when it is fresh out of the oven. Ta da!

Verdict – Mmmmmmmm…. Moist and flavoursome. The chocolate, orange and spice mix is a winner with adults and children alike. The added bonus is that this is a simple and quick cake to bake (especially if you have an electric whisk).

My first solo Bramble (and Apple) Jelly

This is my first solo attempt at making any kind of fruit jam or jelly.  As a child, I’d picked brambles with my family and been involved in the jam making process.  So, I had a vague memory of what was involved:

A big pot.

Simmering sugar and fruit.

Prodding the liquid to see whether the jam has reached setting point.

Fresh bread to mop up the residue in the pot.

So, naturally I had lots of questions.  Lots and lots… and lots. 

While I was in Coventry market, I got chatting to one of the stall holders and discovered someone who reputedly makes scrummy blackberry and apple jelly.  I asked her a lot of my questions.  I hope that she found it all rather amusing.  I’ve promised her a small jar of what I make.  My mum and Delia online answered the remaining questions.

Well, this is what I started with:




the raw ingredients



and this was the finished jelly:




the finished jelly


6 jars of it in fact, of all different shapes and sizes.

I’m definitely not a jam making guru.  Tee hee… But I’ve got a taste for it and answers.

What kind of sugar should I use?

I was making bramble jelly and I used granulated sugar

What’s the sugar to fruit ratio?

1:1

I washed my fruit, can I start when they’re still wet?

My mum suggested that I wait for the fruit to dry first and pat them dry with a kitchen towel.  I considered patting dry 2kgs of brambles and decided that I’d wait for them to sort of air dry.

How long do I need to let the concoction simmer for?

As long as it needs to…. my mum said 15 minutes.  Perhaps the rarified air in Scotland causes the sugar/fruit mix to turn into jam quicker.  Not in my case.  They were simmering for at least an hour.

Do I need to use a muslin cloth?

No, I used a metal sieve and it was good enough.

What quantity of apples do I want to put in for 2kgs of brambles?

Probably equal.  I put in 1.5kgs.

How do I know when the jam is done?

When the liquid has a thin film that bunches up when you touch it gently with a sharp metal implement.  

Like so:

jam set

In contrast to this:

cimg4861.jpg

And the most important question of all, how did it taste?

It tastes a wee bit tart.  Next time I’ll add in some more sugar.  I like it and I hope that Coventry market stall lady likes it too.

ps. Growing up in Scotland, bramble jelly is what we called blackberry jam.  Jelly because the seeds have been strained out of the jam.  I didn’t make a jelly out of the thorns and bushes… but I have plenty scratches on my arms from my summer of picking brambles.

Courgette (or Zucchini) and Walnut Cake: a ‘don’t–have–enough–of, so–how–about–kinda’ cake

2 courgette and walnut cakes

This is a cake recipe that I adapted out of a “not enough of” so “how about” moment. Have you had any of those moments? I had quite a few of those “uh-oh” moments on a summer’s evening last year. Sarah, my then-housemate, and I had a baking evening in the midst of the bumper courgette season. Oh, we laughed A LOT

and somehow ended up… with a yummy cake.

This is the original List of Ingredients for Zucchini and Walnut Cake. I’ve included it so that you know what the original plan was. If you’d like to, why not try them both out and tell me what the differences you come across. A year on, during another bumper courgette harvest, I’ve finally gotten round to baking the original recipe (below in italics) with a few modifications below. At the end, I’ve written a wee note about the differences I came across between each of the recipes – but the cause of yummy cake is not lost in either one.

245g walnuts (separated into 185g walnut pieces / 60g walnut halves)
500g zucchini – grated (500g is about 2 medium sized courgettes)
250ml canola oil – I couldn’t find this in Sainsburys so used sunflower oil
330g raw sugar – I halved it to 170g demerara sugar
3 eggs
310g self-raising flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg

I mean, who normally has canola oil, and what is raw sugar? I had no idea until I saw it in this recipe. My google search tells me that demerara sugar is one type. Ah… a sigh of relief. I have some of that. But not enough walnuts, or self-raising flour… ho hum.

So, here’s my List of Ingredients for my ‘Don’t-have-enough-of-so-how-about’ Courgette and Walnut Cake. Oh, I might as well write courgette instead of zucchini, since I’ve changed so many of the ingredients already.

245g mixture of walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts and hazelnuts
500g courgette, grated
250ml vegetable oil (lighter than olive oil)
170g demerara sugar
3 eggs
310g wholemeal self-raising flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
a splash of milk, if necessary

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3
  • Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  • Weigh out 185g of the nuts, saving 60g of the other nuts to decorate on top of the cake mixture later.
  • I grated the courgettes in a food processor that had the grater option and finished the end bits by hand. It’s the easiest way to get through 500g.
  • Mix together courgettes, oil, sugar, eggs so they look like this
courgette and walnut cake mix1
  • Add the chopped nuts.
  • Gradually add the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg to this mixture.
  • Add a splash of milk to the mixture to add a bit more wetness to the mixture. If the mixture looks and feels gloopy once you’ve mixed it, then it’s right.
gloopy courgette and walnut cake mixture
  • Pour the mixture into the tin and use the remaining nuts to decorate the top of the cake.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for about 1 hour 10 minutes, until a cake tester (or knife) comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.
    NB. If you bake them as muffins, then they need 30-35 minutes, but check them with a skewer to ensure that they are done.)

    Top Tip: Check on the cake at 55 minutes. If the nuts look very brown as if they’re likely to burn, then cover the top with a sheet of baking or greaseproof paper.

  • Let the cake cool in the tin.
  • Enjoy and smile as you ask those around you to guess the mystery ingredient 🙂

So, what are the differences?
When I was used white flour, I had too much mixture for my 2lb loaf tin. Therefore, I also made 5 muffins, which I then decorated with chocolate frosting and finished it off with a walnut. I’ll be enjoying them as a treat with my mum later. As for the verdict on the flavour? Both cakes have a lovely nutty, spiced taste because of the nutmeg, cinnamon and nuts. The wholemeal version somehow, just tastes… more wholesome. I like it. My photos of the wholemeal cake are currently stored on Sarah’s camera, so I’ll add them on at a later date.

p.s. I discovered that this cake freezes well. This is entering a new territory in baking for me because I had never frozen a cake before. What I did was double wrap it with foil, once the cake had completely cooled down. Then wrapped it again in a plastic bag before popping it into the freezer. I defrosted it simply by putting it out on the side. The cake was yummy to eat.

Happy Courgette Season!

Chocolate Chilli Brownies

It has almost been a year since I started this blog and I began it with a poem.  Coincidentally, I’m celebrating it’s first anniversary with another one.

I put up a twitter post asking people to guess the mystery ingredient in one of my brownies.   They came back with chestnuts, courgettes, chillis… all great ideas… but incorrect.   (it was maltesers).  The chilli suggestion, however, reminded me of the time I experimented with brownies by adding in chillies.  My friend Jen ate one.  This was her reaction.

Jen spits it out. Eugh!

“What did you put in this one?”

Chilli Brownies.

chocolate_and_chilli

Zingy Lemon and Ginger Cheesecake

lemon and ginger cheesecake 1

So, when you hold
the hemisphere
of a cut lemon
above your plate,
you spill
a universe of gold,
a yellow goblet
of miracles,

Pablo Neruda – Ode to the Lemon

I love lemons. My friends will testify to my love affair with lemons. ‘A yellow goblet of miracles’ beautifully describes my imaginations of what I could create with them. I particularly love that zing that lemons add when I use it in baking.

My timing of trying out this recipe was a bit silly really. It was three days before the removal men were coming. My two tubs of soft cheese in my fridge were almost at their expiry date, the sun was out and I needed an excuse to do something other than pack boxes! This lemon and ginger cheesecake seemed like the perfect summer dessert.

the inspiration for lemon and ginger cheesecake

I’ve since made two versions of this cheesecake. Version One lacked the lemony zing. It may appeal to the finer palette; I love robust flavours. So, I cheated the second time and added lemon curd to the mixture, which brought out the lemon and complemented the ginger perfectly.

Lemon and Ginger Cheesecake adapted from the Good Food Channel

Ingredients and Method

Ideally use a 25cm springform cake tin and double wrap the outside of it with foil. This is to protect the cheesecake when baking it in a water-bath. I didn’t have a big enough cake tin at the time of baking the cheesecakes. Instead, I made a 20cm and 10 mini cheesecakes. Very cute!

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4/350F

lemon and ginger mini cheesecakes

…For the biscuit base

225g digestive biscuits (or if you really like ginger, then substitute it all or partly with ginger biscuits)
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp caster sugar
75g unsalted butter, melted

  1. Pulse the biscuits in a food processor until they resemble fine crumbs, or bash them up in a bag with a rolling pin. Whichever method suits your mood.
  2. Add the ground ginger, caster sugar and the melted butter and mix it all up. I’ve already reduced the amount of butter from the recipe so that there is enough butter for the biscuit base to stick together.
  3. Transfer the biscuit mixture to the cake tin and press it down firmly. If you would also like to make mini ones too, then use a tablespoon of biscuit mixture per cupcake case. I discovered that my mini-tart shaper is perfect for pressing down the biscuit base.

…For the filling
570g cream cheese
100g caster sugar
1 tbsp cornflour
4 large eggs, beaten
grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons
380ml sour cream
2 tbsp lemon curd, beaten so that it’s a little bit runny, optional but highly recommendable

  1. Beat the cream cheese and the caster sugar together until smooth in a big bowl.
  2. Mix in the cornflour.
  3. Slowly mix the eggs into the mixture, one at a time, so that they are thoroughly mixed in. Don’t worry that the mixture always looks a wee bit peculiar at this stage.
  4. Pour in the sour cream and add the lemon zest. Gently mix them into the mixture.
  5. Lemony zing lovers could also add the lemon curd into the mixture at this stage. I put blobs of it on top of the mixture once I had poured the filling into the cake tin. Then I worried that the lemon curd would burn in the oven if it was left on top, so I took a metal chopstick and mixed the lemon curd into the mixture. I’ve since thought about putting 3/4 filling in, putting in a layer of lemon curd, then topping it with cheesecake filling. Essentially you can do whatever you like with it, and I’d really love to hear what worked for you.
  6. For the mini cheesecake fans – I used 2 teaspoons of the filling for each case.
  7. Pop it into the oven for about 45 minutes. I think that I baked the mini cheesecakes for 20 minutes. Bake until the middle of the cheesecake is just set. I test it by gently resting my finger on it and the cheesecake is ready when there is no (or barely any) mixture sticking to it.

Top Tip! Cheescakes are best when baked in a moist oven. To achieve this, you can bake the cheesecake in a water-bath by placing the cake tin in a roasting tin and filling the roasting tin with enough hot water so that it reaches about half way up the cake tin. Alternatively you can place a small oven-proof bowl full of hot water on the bottom level of the oven. I’ve used both methods and haven’t noticed any difference to the texture of the cheesecakes. But perhaps a more experienced cheesecake baker could enlighten me?

…Meanwhile, start the topping
250ml sour cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
80g stem ginger, drained and finely chopped
grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon mixed with 1/2 tbsp of sugar

  1. Mix the sour cream and the caster sugar together.
  2. Take the cheesecake out of the oven when it’s ready and pour the topping on, arrange the stem ginger on top. The mini cheesecakes appreciate a thin layer of sour cream topping.
  3. Pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes, so that the sour cream topping can set.
  4. When it comes out, immediately run a knife round the edge of the cheesecake. This will help stop the cheesecake from cracking. Also, helpful for when taking the cheesecake out of the tin when serving it up.
  5. Let the cheesecake cool down for about an hour before popping it into the fridge overnight.
  6. Sprinkle the sugary lemon zest on top before serving.

Verdict – The combination of lemony zingyness with gingery warmth produces lots of ‘Mmmmms’. It does take some effort but it is a really simple summery dessert to make that is a crowd-pleaser. I’m pleased to say that my friend’s children ate some and then asked for seconds. Winner! The cheesecake is best eaten a day or two after it is made so that it stays soft. But I always seem to make too much cheesecake in one go, so I’d appreciate any tips on freezing it.

Banana Loaf with Granola Topping

banana loaf with granola topping

The mixing bowl is the perfect resting place for black, mushy, overly-ripe bananas: they redeem themselves in a cake.

A friend of mine fed me this cake. It was a weightwatchers recipe. Of course, this meant that you could eat ALL of it without feeling any ounce of guilt. I was hooked by the cinnamon granola topping and the cake’s wholemeal goodness. I’ve since wondered about transferring its cinnamon granola goodness to other recipes, like an apple cake.

The first time I made the banana loaf, I stuck to the original recipe and used one banana, 1tbsp runny honey and margarine. The result was on the dry and unsatisfying side. The kind of cake that needs a cuppa. So, I made a few variations to it. This version may just scrape through into the weightwatchers recipe book, that is if you replace the butter with margarine. (I ended up using butter because I finished off the margarine on the previous attempt. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmmm…)

Since baking Nigella’s Clementine Cake and brownies, I’ve learnt that some cakes are best left a day or so in order to allow the flavours to mature. I guess this cake could be eaten warm out of the oven, but the flavours really came out when I left it for a day.

This variation on a Weightwatchers Banana Loaf with Granola Topping recipe will make one banana loaf using a 2lb loaf tin.

Ingredients

Cake Mix

125g butter (or margarine if you’d like a lower fat version)
75g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 overly-ripe, mushy, black bananas, mashed
1½ tbsp runny honey
225g wholemeal self-raising flour
splash of milk

Granola Topping

15g chopped walnuts or hazelnuts (I’d run out of hazelnuts)
2 heaped tsp oats
3tsp demerera sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon

Banana Cake Ingredients

    Method

      1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
      2. Line the tin with baking paper.
      3. Make the granola topping first – combine all the ingredients together in a small bowl and leave it to one side.
      4. Whisk the butter and sugar together in a bowl until soft and fluffy (I discovered that an electric whisk makes this process much, much easier.) Then gradually add in the beaten eggs.
      5. Mix the mashed bananas and the honey together and then add them to the butter, sugar, egg mixture. On my first attempt, I was slightly concerned about the appearance of the resulting mixture. The mixture didn’t want to combine into a smooth mush. My second attempt had the same result, so I’m thinking that this look is normal.
      6. Slowly add in the flour to the mixture and mix it until it achieves a ‘soft, dropping consistency’. It’s a phrase that I picked up from my lemon drizzle cake recipe and perfectly describes how the mixture should drop off the spoon. I added a wee splash of milk at this point to reach this consistency.
        cimg4053.jpgcimg3976.jpg

      7. Spoon the cake mixture into the tin, brush the top with milk to help stick the granola topping to the cake (good tip, Lucy!) then evenly sprinkle the granola mixture on top. The recipe suggested making a small furrow down the middle of the mixture. Is the result is a more even loaf?
      8. Bake for 50mins in the middle of the oven, until the skewer comes out clean. Remove the cake from its tin and move it to a wire rack to cool.

      Not a dry crumb at the end! Enjoy.

      granola topping banana loaf

        Cryfield 3: the start of the pudding competition

        Perhaps it was inevitable? … that food would be involved in my scheme for breaking down cultural cliques, sharing British culture and encouraging social integration and between UK and international students. I discussed it with Lucy, the resident tutor in Cryfield 1, last night who came up with this and the action plan. Tonight I mooted the idea of a pudding competition with several groups of residents in my block and they loved it. So folks, it is definitely ON!

        The rules are relatively simple (but not yet set in stone so suggestions welcome).

        1. The competition will happen on the same evening in the next fortnight (an evening that the Cryfield resident tutors will choose).
        2. There are seven kitchens so there will be seven types of puddings. Each kitchen makes a pudding – or several of the same version.
        3. I’ll give them each the name of the pudding to make and a recipe for it, which they can either choose to follow or adapt. We need to be able to recognise what pudding it is once it’s finished.
        4. Each kitchen must involve all the people (who would like to take part) in the making and baking of the puddings.
        5. At a certain time the puddings are to be brought down to the common room where the judging will take place.
        6. There will be a criteria for how the puddings will be judged – to be revealed later.
        7. I’m mulling over the idea of giving extra points to kitchens if they involve 3 or more international students in the process.

        Currently, I am thinking that judges will be the Cryfield Resident Tutors. I haven’t discussed it with anybody else yet.

        I’ve also given them some more suggestions to think about:

        Everyone who would like to take part contributes 50p and the proceeds go towards their favourite charity (as a block) and covering the costs of the food.

        Or – they could choose to cover costs of food amongst their kitchens and make it a social event.

        So, I need seven suggestions of british puddings. And if you’d like to be a judge then it can be considered…

        Lemon Drizzle Cake with Sunken Dark Chocolate Chunks

        Lemon Drizzle Cake with dark chocolate chunks

        This was the first, and only, cake that I baked to be entered into a baking competition. One of the subwardens at Leicester was raising money for a good cause related to cancer research and ran a cake bake sale. I was really excited about contributing a cake towards it and got to enter the competition too.

        I think that this was the moment when I started to realise that I could bake cakes that tasted yummy enough to win prizes. Being a tad competitive, I set my eyes on 2nd place – a bottle of wine. (First prize was some sort of subwarden duty cover, I think, and didn’t interest me. Now, I’d consider that prize slightly differently. How things have changed!) I wanted to try out a new recipe from Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes because it is such a good recipe book. I haven’t yet found a dud recipe in there yet. The Lemon Drizzle Cake with it’s sunken dark chocolate chunks sounded so moody yet light that it stood out to me (and won me 2nd prize – hurrah!)

        So, when I was making it again tonight, I was reminded about how easy this cake is to make. You pretty much whisk all the ingredients together, add chocolate, add it into the oven et voila.

        So, Lemon Drizzle Cake with sunken dark chocolate chunks, adapted by yours truly from the amazing Green and Black’s ‘Chocolate Recipes book.
        Ingredients
        125g/4.5oz unsalted butter
        60g/2.5oz caster sugar
        2 large eggs (except this time I used one egg and the vinegar + bicarb of soda trick)
        150g/5oz self-raising flour
        1tsp baking powder
        grated rind of 1 large lemon
        3 tbsp milk
        75g/3oz dark chocolate, chopped

        Method
        1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line the loaf tin with baking paper.
        2. Whisk the butter, caster sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and lemon rind together for about 2 minutes with an electric whisk, longer if you’re doing it by hand.

        Zest and Batter. Prepare

        sift, sift, sift

        3. It says in the recipe book to ‘Whisk in the milk to make a soft dropping consistency’. When do you know it is a soft dropping consistency? I pretty much guess each time and kept adding a bit more milk in. The original recipe says 1 tbsp of milk by the way. However, I’m sure that I ended up adding in 3 to achieve that ‘soft dropping consistency’.
        4. Stir in the chocolate.

        stir in the chocolate

        5. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin. I always use my pampered chef spatula now for this part. It gets all the cake mix out of the bowl so that I can eat that wee bit more cake. Smooth the surface and bake for 40 minutes or until the centre of the cake springs back when gently pressed. Remove from the oven.

        I love Lemon Drizzle it does make the cake. Mmmm…
        Mix 50g/2oz golden granulated sugar and the
        Juice of 1 lemon

        Prick lots of holes in the cake where you’d like the lemon drizzle to soak into the hot cake to make it refreshing and moist. I use metal chopsticks to do this but you could also use a cake testing skewer or bamboo skewers.

        using metal chopsticks to prick the holes

        Then pour the lemon drizzle over the cake when it is just out of the oven. I find it useful to use a teaspoon towards the end to ensure that the sugary syrup spreads evenly on the cake and into the little holes. Remove the cake from its tin and place it on a wire rack to cool. Ta da!

        ta da

        Beetroot and Hazelnut Cake

        Once upon a time, when I lived with two very lovely former housemates in my previous abode, we liked to discover ways of cooking with ‘new’ vegetables. Actually you could either blame one of my housemate – or give credit to her – for why I got sidetracked from my ultimate chocolate brownie recipe quest. She told me that she had abandoned some beetroot in the fridge when she went away. So I decided to bake a cake with them.

        When I was younger, I didn’t know that beetroot could come in any other way than sitting in a jar of pickle. And I wasn’t very keen on it. Now, i’ve tried it roasted and crisped (i love the latter) but making a cake with it? I was in a very adventurous mood when I set my mind to it. The only two criteria that it had to meet was that it was a Good Food Channel recipe (so that I could enter their photo competition) and I had the ingredients in my cupboard. Here’s the result!

        Beetroot and Hazelnut Cake

        Beetroot and Hazelnut Cake adapted from the Good Food Channel

        I’ve adapted the recipe slightly. I use less sugar and made my own judgements where the recipe was a bit vague about what flour to use and what to do with the beetroot. Also, I didn’t have any apricot jam so I couldn’t glaze the cake as the recipe suggested. It was yum yum.

        Ingredients
        200ml vegetable oil
        150g golden caster sugar
        150g raw beetroot, grated
        100g chopped walnuts, plus extra for decoration
        100g chopped toasted hazelnuts
        3 eggs, separated
        1 tsp baking powder
        2 tsp mixed spice
        3 tsp milk (I used unsweetened soya milk)
        200g plain flour

        Method

        • Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6 and grease a 20cm cake tin.
        • Grate the beetroot into a large bowl. Be careful not to stain anything. Beetroot juice is very red. At one point, I wondered whether the redness on my hands was blood or juice when I accidently grated my thumb.
        • Add the oil, sugar, walnuts, hazelnuts, egg yolks, baking powder and mixed spice to the beetroot and mix it well.
        mixing with grated beetroot
        • Mix in the milk and plain flour.
        • In a different bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form firm peaks.
        • Fold the whisked egg whites to the beetroot mixture.
        • Pour the cake mixture into the cake tin and decorate with the nuts. (it looks very very pink!)
        pink cake
        • Bake in the oven for 30 mins (or until the tester skewer comes out clean).
        • Leave to cool for 5 mins in the cake tin and then take it out to cool on a wire rack.

        Verdict? This was such a moist cake (courtesy of the beetroot) and once the beetroot was grated, it was a really simple cake to put together and bake. Colleagues at work enjoyed eating this. But it generated a fair bit of controversy… tee hee. If I bake another beetroot cake, I’d like to partner beetroot with chocolate. I think that it’ll be a killer combo!

        ps. I’m so excited. On the Good Food Channel website, you can see my photo for this recipe. The competition was probably their ploy of increasing their range of food photographs!

        Chocolate Brownie Hunt: Coco and Me’s Luxury Chocolate Brownie

        Before I got distracted by baking with vegetables, I was on the hunt for the ultimate chocolate brownie recipe.

        As a child, I really disliked brownies until the day I tasted one baked by some American friends. Since then, it’s all about baking fudgy brownies. As I’ve discovered the world of food blogs, my interest has grown into a preoccupation about trying out and hunting down the ultimate chocolate brownie recipe.

        What I love about brownies is the sheer simplicity of the recipes that produce such gorgeous mouthfuls of gooeyness. So on top of that, I’ll also be considering the incredible fudginess, intensity of the flavour and the moistness. Mmmm… So, let the ultimate brownie challenge begin!

        Coco and Me Luxury Chocolate Brownie

        The first one I’m trying out is Coco and Me’s luxury chocolate brownies recipe and I’m definitely learning a few tips from the expert on the baking front. She has a fabulous brownie recipe and guide which I won’t copy out here (just follow the link above). Instead, some snippets from my thoughts whilst trying it out.

        • Coco’s luxury one’s take much longer prep time than my usual recipe mostly due to the fine chopping of the chocolate. However, I’m liking the step of melting the butter in a pan and then adding sugar. Just realized that if I kept at it then I’d be making some sort of caramel. Question – does that add to the fudginess?
        • Coco wants me to add the eggs into this hot mixture – won’t they scramble..? No, they don’t! Then I add it to the chocolate so that it melts it all. Hmmm… that worked really well. I’ve changed my method to do this now for my recipe.
        • Coco also uses, proportion wise, almost double the amount chocolate and butter to flour…. My normal recipe is same amount of butter, chocolate and flour. Will this reflect in the intensity of the flavour?
        • Coco asks for a mixture of nuts. For good measure, I’ve added brazil nuts, walnuts, hazlenuts and pistachios with pecans to decorate the tops.

        So, prep wise – Coco’s took longer to prepare. But the real test will be in the testing.

        So MMmmm-ometer (all out of 5Mmm’s)
        Simplicity – MMMm (i think that with practice this will go to 4.5 Mmmms)
        Fudginess – MMMM
        Intensity of Flavour – MMMM
        Moistness – MMMMM
        Reviews from tasters/testers – won lots of votes this one, especially because of the mixture of the nuts and the moistness.
        Verdict – A definite contender with 16.5/20 (possibly 17.5)

        I’m interested to hear your verdicts too on this recipe.

        There’s a wee ps. to this entry. Coco and Me has a stall in London’s Broadway Market and she sells these brownies and more chocolate delights there. Sadly, each time I’ve been down to visit, she has been away… 🙁 If you get the chance to go down there – please taste a brownie for me.