Sunday, 28 July 2013

Raspberry and gooseberry cake


Up until about an hour before making this cake it was going to be a raspberry cake, but then I saw some irresistible purple gooseberries in my local greengrocers and decided on adding them to the cake.  It was a good decision even if the weight of them did cause the fruit to sink a bit – maybe next time I’ll cut them in half.

Berries are one of the wonders of baking; they make every cake they’re in a delight.  I love the way they add so much colour and flavour, but most of all I love the little pockets of squidginess they add to the sponge.

The Chambord liqueur is an extravagance!  It’s one of my favourite liqueurs as it’s so fruity.  I often find fruit liqueurs taste more of raw alcohol than fruit but this one is delicious.  It adds a fruity pep to the batter and I will be using it in other baked goods – I’m thinking it would work well in buttercreams, mousses and cheesecakes as it doesn’t have a harsh alcoholic sting.

A beautiful cake deserves a beautiful mould and look at this one!  It’s the I Heart Cake mould from Mustard.  They very kindly offered me one to try out.  If you cut it correctly (in extremely pleasing large slices!) every slice is a are literally offering someone your heart.  Who knew heart tasted so good?

But best of all – and to continue the theme of sharing the love – Mustard offered me a second mould.  They will send a free I Heart Cake mould to the winner of my competition.  The winner will be drawn at random on Saturday 3 August and the closing date for entries is midnight on Friday 2 August.  The competition is open to anyone in the UK and to enter, all you have to do is leave a comment to this post telling me who you would like to serve a slice of heart shaped cake to.


350g unsalted butter, at room temperature
350g golden caster sugar, plus 2 tablespoons extra for sprinkling on top
2 tablespoons Chambord liqueur – you can you any other liqueur or milk if you don’t want any booze
6 eggs
350g self raising flour
300g raspberries
100g purple gooseberries – you can use any other berry or soft fruit

To serve: clotted cream


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

Use cake release spray in the silicon heart cake mould.  If you are using a more standard tin then I suggest a 23cm round springform tin – don’t use a 20cm one, this is a BIG cake!

Place the butter in a bowl and beat until soft.

Add the sugar and beat together until pale, light and whippy.

Beat in the Chambord.

Beat in the eggs one at a time, if it looks like the mix will curdle add some of the flour.

Stir in the flour.

Spoon a generous half of the batter into the prepared mould and level the surface.

Scatter half the raspberries over the batter.

Cover with the remaining cake batter and level the surface.

Scatter over the remaining raspberries, along with the gooseberries and gently press into the batter – don’t be too heavy handed, they will naturally sink into the batter during baking.

Sprinkle the remaining golden caster sugar over the top.

Bake for 50 minutes before checking; if the edges are browning quicker than the centre cover them with a strip of foil.  Don’t be surprised if it takes comfortably over an hour to bake.  Mine took 1 hour 15 minutes.  It’s done when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 30 minutes in the tin on a wire rack before attempting to turn out – cakes with lots of berries are squishy and tender from the oven.

Serve with clotted cream.

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


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Chocolate mousse cake and a trip to York

For me, this cake is a wish-list of all the best things baking with chocolate can provide.  Chocolate biscuit base? Yep.  Layer of rich brownie? Yeah, it’s got one of those. Chocolate mousse? Of course! Whippy cream to set it all off? Mai oui...and even some chocolate pigs frolicking on the top!  Somebody pinch me; I must be dreaming.

Now this looks pretty fancy and you do need to organise yourself to get the stages done (with waiting time between them) but there is nothing complicated here at all.  If you can whisk and fold then you can make what is a very sophisticated looking dessert.  Also, in this heatwave, it doesn’t require a lot of oven time.

I kept the brownie all dark chocolate but used a mix of dark and milk chocolate for the mousse, simply because I prefer a less bitter mousse.  But you can tinker and tailor it to your tastebuds!

Often with recipes that use a 23cm tin, I’ll ignore the instruction and use my 20cm tin as I prefer a taller cake.  Don’t try that with this recipe as it is a huge cake even when made in the 23cm tin.  This could happily feed a large gathering for dessert and perhaps even leave you some for the next day...I must admit it is rather rich, even though I feel feeble for saying so.

Mr CC and I had a lovely long weekend in York.  We went there for a daytrip last year and realised that the City needed more than that to discover all the gems it has to offer.  It is a truly historic town with wonderful architecture wherever you look.  Here’s the Minster (I wasn’t drunk, I went for an arty angle to omit the scaffolding around the top of the left hand tower!)

Right that’s the travel guide over with – now to the important stuff!  To visit York is to fall in love with Bettys the famous tea rooms; I use the plural because in York you have big Bettys:

And little Bettys (it hurts me not to use an apostrophe but that’s how it is!)

Being keen to immerse myself in local culture I had to try both.  I had a quick cup of tea and a fat rascal in little Bettys while Mr CC was off looking at trains in the National Railway Museum (I think I got the better of that particular deal!).  I have read much about the legendary fat rascal – a cross between a scone and a rock bun, and the window display only got me more excited:

What I didn’t know is that they are served warm and eaten with butter (it just gets better!)

We visited big Bettys for the formal afternoon tea.  Even the menu was beautiful and in-keeping with the art deco style of the tea room:

The afternoon tea was classic and elegant – no putting savoury herbs in sweet tarts here; rather a lovely selection of tried and tested combinations such as lemon meringue, chocolate and caramel...I wish other afternoon tea venues would take note.

It wasn’t all about Bettys though; we found a lovely little cafe – Bennett’s - right by York Minster (on High Petergate) and thoroughly enjoyed their Yorkshire classics of gingerbread and curd tart.

To prove we didn’t live off cake for the weekend here’s a plate of wholesome goodness from Wackers (on Gillygate), York’s biggest and best loved fish and chip restaurant.  The fish and chips is fried in beef dripping....mmm, beef dripping!


For the base:
300g oreo biscuits – I used one packet normal filling, one packet chocolate filling
150g chocolate digestives – use milk or dark, whichever you prefer (I used milk)
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the cake:
200g dark chocolate – 70% cocoa solids
50ml dark rum
100g unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon fine salt
150g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
50g golden syrup
30g plain flour (this is not a typo – it is only 30g)

For the mousse:
250ml double cream
250g chocolate – I used a mix of dark and milk
4 eggs, separated
30g icing sugar

For decoration:
300ml double cream
50g icing sugar
Chocolate decorations of your choice – I used tiny chocolate pigs!


Line the sides of 23cm round springform tin with baking paper of re-usable silicon liner.

Place the biscuits and butter into the food processor and blitz until you have claggy crumbs.  If you use a processor there is no need to melt the butter.  Alternatively, you can melt the butter and beat the biscuits to crumbs in a plastic bag then mix together.  As the biscuits are chocolate and filled with cream I think the processor is the way to go, if you can.

Press the base into the prepared tin and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160°C/fan oven 140°C/325°F/gas mark 3.

Put the base in the oven (straight from the fridge) and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

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

Now make the cake layer: place the chocolate, rum, butter and salt into a saucepan and melt over a very gentle heat, stirring often.

When the chocolate has all melted add the sugar and stir rapidly.  At first the mix will look and feel gritty but then you will feel the sugar crystals dissolve even though the mix will still look granular.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the eggs one at a time.

Whisk in the golden syrup.

Whisk in the flour.

Your batter will be very thick and runny – like a brownie batter.

Pour the batter over the biscuit base and cook for 30-35 minutes or until the cake looks baked but still has a little squidge in the centre.

Leave to cool completely – in the tin – on a wire rack.

Now make the mousse layer: heat the cream in a saucepan until it is at scalding point i.e. almost but not quite boiling.

Remove from the heat and place the chocolate, broken into squares, into the cream.  Leave for a couple of minutes before stirring.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes or so before whisking in the egg yolks.  If the mix is too hot the eggs might start to cook and the mix will look ugly.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites with the icing sugar until they are stiff.

Take a spoon of the whites and whisk into the chocolate mix – this will slacken the chocolate and make it easier to fold in the remaining whites.

Fold together the chocolate and egg whites making sure you stop as soon as they are combined – over folding will knock air out of the mousse.

Spoon over the cake and chill for a minimum of 2 hours but ideally overnight.

On the day of serving whip the cream and icing sugar and spoon into a messy blob on top of the mousse.

Decorate as desired with chocolate.

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


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Lakeland Christmas preview

I may have mentioned once or twice (or a thousand times) how much I love Lakeland, so being invited to their Christmas preview press launch is one of the highlights of my year (seriously – I was practically ticking off the days on the calendar!).  Here are my picks of the show - it was hard to narrow it down but my quickly dying phone battery made me focus (all pics were taken on my phone so apologies it the quality isn't as strong as usual).

For the Christmas-phobes or just normal people who don’t like thinking about festive matters in the middle of a July heatwave, I can understand that immersing yourself in tinsel and holly and having Michael Buble’s Christmas CD playing might not be a treat...but for me it’s heaven!

So many Christmas things that I loved but also many that would be great all year round.  For the Doctor Who fans, there’s a fab new range; we all thought the Dalek’s came to earth to destroy us – turns out they just wanted some good home-baking:

These will be a must have come Movember:

How gorgeous is this new ‘vintage’ enamel range?

The deco spoon makes presentation a doddle.  You use it like a fountain pen and can achieve really detailed and fine work.  That flower and squiggle was all my own work...and on my first attempt!

The most fascinating item for me was the icing powder.  You mix it up with water and then scrape it across the delicate mould ending up with something I can only describe as a tiny edible doily.  It was so fine and pretty – I can’t wait to have a go myself!

The benefit (and curse) of seeing the Christmas range early is that I now know I need to start saving so I can buy all the lovely things that I need (NB.  not want, but need).  Or maybe Father Christmas will step in and help out, after all I have been an exceptionally good little girl this year....

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Coconut oat biscuits


It’s boiling hot and I didn’t want to spend ages baking in the kitchen...but I did want some home baking – obviously.  This is the time for biscuits!  This recipe took under 10 minutes to get into the oven and then only 15 minutes to bake.  Home-made delicious biscuits in under 30 minutes – result!

I love oaty biscuits and the addition of coconut makes them crunchier and flakier; a perfect accompaniment for a cup of tea (I know it’s hot but I cannot forsake my cuppa!).  You’ll notice in the ingredients that you can use either maple syrup or honey in this recipe.  I used maple syrup and it added a strong, almost smoky flavour that I liked, but Mr CC wasn’t sure about.  If you’re not mad about maple syrup definitely opt for the honey instead.

The perfect blend of crunch and chew; these are as close to a hobnob-flapjack hybrid as you’ll probably get!  I was particularly delighted that, after saying I could never get biscuits to spread and bake flat, these did!  Hurray!  Here they are pre-bake:

Here they are post bake:

No blog update from me next week as Mr CC and I are off on a very well deserved (if I say so myself) long weekend away.


75g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
75g rolled oats (porridge oats)
75g plain flour
50g desiccated coconut
75g caster sugar


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

Line one large, or two smaller, baking sheets with baking paper or non stick foil.

In a small saucepan melt the butter and maple syrup together taking care it doesn’t boil.

Remove from the heat.

Stir the bicarbonate of soda into the boiling water until it dissolves.

Stir it into the melted butter – it will bubble up but not terribly, so no need to stand back!

Place the oats, flour, coconut and sugar into a large mixing bowl and stir together.

Stir in the butter mix until you have a warm, shiny dough.

Take heaped teaspoons of the dough and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Use the back of the teaspoon to flatten and shape into discs.

Leave space for the biscuits to spread as they bake.  I got 12 biscuits.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the biscuits are golden.

Leave to cool on the baking sheet before transferring to the wire rack – if you transfer them too soon they will be soft and break.

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