Sunday, 26 August 2012

Almond spice cake

This cake is so almondy and flavoursome it’s a nut-lover’s dream.  The almond in the cake comes predominantly from the marzipan layer baked into the batter.  I made the cake square and, whether pastry or marzipan,  I am totally unable to roll things out into anything but circles.  Don’t panic if you’re the same – simply cut the curvy edges off and use for patching!

The fudgy glaze sets to a crisp shell and adds lovely texture and flavour.  It was hugely popular with my eatership and I will definitely use it again on future cakes.

If you’re not mad on cinnamon, use another spice of your choice – nutmeg or even ginger would work well; as would simply increasing the mixed spice.

I had a couple of slices of the cake left over (this should indicate that it’s a BIG cake!) so, on a subsequent evening, gently warmed them in the oven and served with custard for dessert.  Hardly a shocking newsflash but, guess what, it really worked!

For the marzipan:
115g ground almonds
55g icing sugar
55g caster sugar
1 teaspoons almond extract
1 egg, separated

For the cake:
260g unsalted butter, at room temperature
260g caster sugar
5 eggs
340g self raising flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon mixed spice
115g flaked almond

For the topping:
75g unsalted butter
150g light brown sugar
3 tablespoons double cream
50g flaked almonds
To serve: thick cream

Start by making the marzipan: Place the almonds and both sugars into a bowl and stir until combined. I did this in my Kitchenaid mixer.
Add the egg yolks and almond extract and mix until well combined.
Add a spoonful of the egg white and beat, continue to add tablespoonfuls of egg white until the marzipan forms into a firm ball.
Roll the marzipan out to a 20cm square between two sheets of clingfilm  – this means you don’t have to add any more icing sugar to it, plus peel off only one sheet of clingfilm when you wish to position on the cake – you have far more control over it while the clingfilm supports it (obviously put it face down on the cake i.e. so the clingfilm is on top!)
Peel off the clingfilm.
Trim the marzipan to size then put to one side.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper.

Place all the cake ingredients, except for the almonds, into a large mixing bowl and beat together until smooth and well combined.

Fold in the almonds.

Spoon just over half the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Gently place the rolled marzipan onto the batter and smooth it down if it’s crinkled or curled up anywhere.

Place the remaining batter on top of the marzipan and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool, in the tin, for 20-30 minutes before removing the tin and leaving the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

Now make the topping: heat the butter, sugar and cream in a saucepan over a medium heat until they are blended – stir regularly.

Bring the mix to the boil then remove from the heat.

Place a sheet of foil or kitchen paper on your work top, then stand the cake on a wire rack directly above the paper (to catch any drips).

Drizzle the topping over the cake then sprinkle the almonds on top.

Leave to set for approximately 20 minutes.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created. 


Sunday, 19 August 2012

White chocolate ricotta cheesecake

Anyone in the South East of England will know that we are in the midst of a mini heatwave and, with temperatures exceeding 32° this weekend, it is not a time to be standing in the kitchen with the oven firing on all cylinders.  Hence, my gelatine set cheesecake!

This cheesecake has a lot of good things in large quantities.  It is as rich and delicious as the ingredients suggest and probably best to make when you have company as even I could only manage a thin slice.  OK, when I say ‘thin slice’ it’s probably what most people would call a large slice...but it’s all relative. 

I must confess I prefer the chilled or gelatine set cheesecakes to their baked cousins.  I know in many parts of the world a statement like that amounts to heresy but I can’t help it; I just find them lighter and texturally more pleasing. 

A time saving tip I have discovered with making biscuit bases is that if you make them using the food processor, there is no need to melt the butter.  If anything, it’s better not to as you don’t get that greasy/oily seepage as the base sets.  I always put this in the method but, am so pleased at cutting out a stage of the process, that I thought I’d mention it here too!

The cheesecake can be decorated however you wish – chocolate curls or sprinkles, a fruit garnish, or maybe left plain and served with a fruit coulis.  I had some gorgeous English cherries in the fridge, so dipped them in white chocolate – voila, a beautiful and healthy decoration (what do you mean the chocolate cancels out the fruit???  Who makes these rules?)


For the base:
200g digestive biscuits
50g unsalted butter

For the topping:
5 leaves gelatine
200g white chocolate – I used Green & Blacks with a hint of vanilla
6 tablespoons milk
500g ricotta
300ml double cream
50g icing sugar
2 eggs, separated

To decorate – anything you choose!  White chocolate curls, fruit, fruit dipped in chocolate...or nothing at all!  If you make chocolate dipped cherries like me, you’ll need 100g additional white chocolate.


Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/390°F/gas mark 6.

Line the sides of a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.  I used a different shape tin – a rounded rectangle measuring 30cm x 11cm but a standard round tin will work just as well and hold the same amount.

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor until you have crumbs.

Add the butter and blitz again until you have the consistency of wet sand.  If making the base this way, there is no need to melt the butter.

If you make the base by bashing the biscuits into crumbs with a rolling pin, you will need to melt the butter to incorporate it.

Press the crumbs into the prepared tin and bake for 5 minutes.

Put to one side to cool.

Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water – the volume of water is irrelevant as it’s not used in the recipe; just make sure that you can submerge the leaves.

Place the chocolate and milk into a dish and cover.  Microwave in 20 second bursts and stir after each go, until you have melted chocolate.  You can place a bowl over a simmering pan of water if you prefer, but I find the microwave perfect for tasks like this (and less washing up!)

Squeeze all the water out of the now soft gelatine and whisk into the hot, melted chocolate.

Put to one side.

Beat together the ricotta, double cream, icing sugar and egg yolks until smooth and creamy.

Pour in the melted chocolate and stir in until fully incorporated.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.

Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mix.

Pour (it will be runny) over the cooled biscuit base.

Cover the tin with clingfilm and refrigerate until set – ideally overnight.

Serve in slices with more chocolate, fruit, coulis etc – the choice is yours!

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 12 August 2012

Coconut biscuits


I’m writing this as the biscuits are baking in the oven – the smell of toasting coconut is driving me mad!  Why won’t they bake faster????  Coconut is one of my all time favourite baking ingredients. 

When I looked at the method for these biscuits I expected them to be like the oaty melting moments biscuits I remember making at school.  While the method is similar i.e. roll dough into ball, roll in coconut, the result is quite different.  These are not shortbread-like in texture – they are a cross between a biscuit and a macaroon (note the ‘oo’ there – I’m talking about those big flat coconut macaroons you used to find in bakeries).  Slightly chewy and satisfyingly filling.

I’m limited in my opportunity to bake with coconut as the CCB and Boy Wonder (Caked Crusader’s Brother and my nephew) hate it; so I can only use it on weekends I won’t be seeing them.  In truth, the Boy Wonder doesn’t hate coconut at all and likes anything with it in...until you tell him its coconut!  Men, huh?

The quantity below yielded 25 biscuits for me.  According to the recipe it should’ve been 32.  I have never yet got the recommended number of biscuits out of ANY recipe I’ve made.  I don’t know why – I used the teaspoon measurement, like they said but my heaped teaspoons always seem a little more heaped than anyone else’s.  Maybe you’re not meant to see it as a challenge as to how much dough you can pile up onto the small spoon?

You can decorate the biscuits by placing half a glace cherry in the centre of each biscuit before baking but, seeing as the first thing I do is pick it off, I didn’t bother!

News just in – I’ve had a decadent about spreading the flat side of the biscuit with a little raspberry or strawberry jam – a sort of biscuit version of a Madeleine?  
Ever eager and dedicated to my research (ahem), I have scuttled to the kitchen and tested my theory:

Oh yes, it tastes even better than it looks!  This is the BEST way to enjoy these biccies!


120g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250g caster sugar
2 eggs
150g desiccated coconut – you may need a tablespoon or so extra
300g plain flour
Optional: Jam to spread on the biscuit (strongly recommended!)


Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Line three baking sheets with baking paper.

Place the butter, sugar and eggs into a bowl and beat together until you have a custardy looking cream.

Measure out the coconut then take four rounded tablespoons of it and place on a plate for later. 

Add the rest of the coconut to the butter mix and stir in.

Stir in the flour – you should have a firmish and sticky dough.

Take a rounded teaspoon of the dough and roll into a ball – it won’t be as sticky as you expect and will handle easily.

Roll the ball in the reserved coconut. (I found I needed an extra tablespoon of coconut to ensure all the balls got a nice even covering)

Place on a baking sheet and flatten so that you have a thick disc of approx 4cm across.

Continue to do this with the remaining dough.

Place the biscuits a little apart as they do spread on baking.  I was too cautious and put 8-9 per baking sheet; they could’ve gone closer!

Bake for approximately 18 minutes or until golden.  I turned the trays around halfway through to ensure even colour.

Leave to cool on the baking sheet before storing in an airtight container.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Marshmallow fluff cupcakes


Certain words just get me every time; if something has one of these words in the title I am opening my purse before my brain has even questioned whether I need the item.  'Vintage' is one.  'Plush' is another.  I can now add 'fluff' to the list.  I’m still not really sure what turns marshmallow into marshmallow fluff, but before I could find out I owned a couple of jars of the stuff and wondered what to use it for!

What I can say is that it is the stickiest, sweetest substance I have encountered.  It stuck to the spoon so I used a knife to scrape it off.  It then stuck to the knife so I used a spatula to scrape that off...can you see where this is going?  It even made the baked sponge sticky.  Until I got it under control I had visions of Mr CC getting home and finding me stuck in the middle of a marshmallow fluff web in the kitchen.

Now, all of this might make you think that I didn’t bond with it (actually, I bonded rather too well – sticking two of my fingers together!) but it does have one thing in its favour – it is delicious!  I can forgive it all its ‘handling issues’!

These cupcakes are very sweet and simple looking.  I think what makes them, is the texture – that mallowy sticky sweetness.  They are sweet, I cut down on the icing sugar in the buttercream from the original recipe and they are still very sweet.  If you know anyone on the cusp of diabetes maybe steer them away from this recipe!

NB.  I bought my marshmallow fluff from Amazon
, but I have noticed that some ‘old fashioned’ sweet shops also stock it.


For the sponges:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 tablespoons marshmallow fluff
175g self raising flour
2 tablespoons milk

For the buttercream:
150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g marshmallow fluff

To decorate: sprinkles of your choice

How to make:

Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper cases.

Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until pale, fluffy and whippy – almost like whipped cream.  It will take a good 5-10 minutes so don’t skimp.

Beat in the vanilla extract.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding some of the flour if the mixture looks like it’s curdling.

Beat in the marshmallow fluff.

Fold in the flour and the milk.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tray.

As soon as you can safely handle, remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Now make the buttercream: Beat together the butter, icing sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth.

Beat in the marshmallow fluff gradually, large spoonfuls at a time, until incorporated.

Pipe over the cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 5 August 2012

Blueberry bakewell tart

Mr CC is a curious chap in that he prefers pastry to cake.  I love both, but cake will always be my main love (after Mr CC, of course).  I’ve been dabbling more in pastry recently and find blueberries and pastry to be a lovely combination, probably textural – the juicy blueberries offsetting the crumbly pastry.  Yum.

The bakewell/frangipane filling is extra rich as it contains no flour at all; usually the recipe contains both ground almonds and flour, but this one uses only the almonds.  The taste is noticeably richer than a normal bakewell and has a good, firm texture.

I often find that anything with almonds is always better to eat the day after baking.  The almonds need time to settle and release their nutty oils and scent.  It is horrible having to ignore such a tempting treat but – if you can wait – it’s worth it!  It’s why I often store my baking in metal tins rather than transparent plastic...out of sight, out of mind!

The pastry for this tart is crumbly, light and buttery.  It is best to roll it out straight from the fridge while it is at its firmest.  If you let it get too soft it will fall apart, but it does patch well so it’s not all lost.

Mr CC has asked that I highlight the crumbly pastry and the pleasing contrast of the tart berries (they weren’t tart – he’s just trying to be like a Masterchef judge!) with the rich almond.  He has departed the room with the words, ‘and you can quote me on that’.  So I have.


For the pastry:
225g unsalted butter – straight from the fridge
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
275g plain flour
2 egg yolks

For the filling:
200g unsalted butter – at room temperature
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
200g ground almonds
1 teaspoon almond extract
250g blueberries
two handfuls of flaked almonds
To serve: thick cream, dusting of icing sugar


Start by making the pastry: place the butter, sugar and flour into a food processor and blitz until you have buttery crumbs.  It won’t be as crumbly as some pastries at this stage. (You can use the rubbing in method if you don’t have a food processor, but as it’s so buttery you might find it tricky).

Add the egg yolks and pulse until the ball of dough is starting to come together.

Tip out onto a piece of clingfilm and work (touching as little as possible) into a fat disc of pastry.

Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or an hour if you can.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C/375°F/gas mark 5.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of clingfilm until it can line a 25cm loose bottomed flan tin.

Leave the overhanging pastry in place.

Line the pastry case with a sheet of baking paper or foil and weigh down with baking beans.

Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and beans and bake – uncovered – for a further 6 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool. 

Cut off any excess pastry; most will have fallen off during baking.

Lower the oven temperature to 180°C/160°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Now make the filling: beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Don’t worry if the mixture starts to curdle.

Beat in the ground almonds and almond extract.

Spread the filling over the pastry case and level the surface.

Sprinkle the blueberries over the top and press down lightly.

Scatter over the flaked almonds.

Bake for approximately 35-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the filling comes out clean.  Don’t worry if it takes longer.

Leave to cool, in the tin, on a wire rack.

Serve either warm, or at room temperature, with thick cream.  Dust with a little icing sugar before serving.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.