Sunday, 27 October 2013

Blueberry cream cheese tart


This is what happens when you spend too much time thinking about what to bake!  I planned to make a blueberry tart or pie – nice and simple...but then I saw blueberry cream cheese tarts and my attention was well and truly grabbed.

My ‘baking with cream cheese’ vista has expanded recently as, after years of claiming he didn’t like it, the CCD (Caked Crusader’s Da) has discovered that he does.  Just thinking of all those years he’s erroneously denied himself cheesecake makes me want to weep.  If we were in a Doctor Seuss book he would be the unnamed character and I would be Sam I Am...and the tart would be green eggs and ham...which doesn’t sound quite so good for a baking site!

Anyway, back to the tart!  I loved making this one – the pastry looked like it was going to be a nightmare but then behaved impeccably; the filling looked scant but, when I dropped the blueberries in, filled the pastry case.  Blueberries never disappoint!

The cream cheese filling has a lovely acidity to it due to the addition of soured cream.  It works well against the juicy blueberries and the crumbly, biscuit pastry.  Surprisingly, the overall effect is light and easy to eat – it’s not like a heavy slice of cheesecake.  It tasted really fresh as the blueberries soften but don’t turn mushy and pop deliciously in your mouth.

I served it as a dessert with pouring cream (Mr CC thinks it’s not a dessert unless there’s pouring cream or custard on offer) but it would work just as well as a tea-time treat.  And it keeps for several days in the fridge so there’s no excuse not to make one and eat it all by yourself!


For the pastry:
175g plain flour
85g unsalted butter, cold
30g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon cold water

For the filling:
115g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
60g soured cream
3 eggs
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
70g caster sugar
450g blueberries – washed and dried


Start by making the pastry: place the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs.

Add the egg and pulse again then – only if it’s needed to bring the crumbs together – add the water. [NB. If you don’t have a food processor rub the butter into the flour until you have crumbs, stir in the sugar, then the egg then the water]

At this point, you will have claggy clumps – not a uniform ball of pastry.

Tip the clumps out onto a work top and bring together into a ball using your hands.  Only handle the pastry as much as is necessary to form a ball.

Roll out the pastry between two sheets of clingfilm until it is large enough to line a 25cm loose bottomed flan tin.  Don’t grease the tin – the pastry is buttery enough not to stick.

If the pastry tears, patch it carefully as you don’t want any holes for the filling to leak out of.

You will have just enough pastry to line the tin and patch – don’t expect any leftovers!

Prick the bottom of the pastry case several times with a fork – this will stop the pastry rising during baking.

Place the pastry case in the fridge for approx 30 mins.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/400°F/Gas mark 6.

Line the pastry case with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the paper and beans and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes or until pale golden.

Put to one side while you make the filling.

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

Now make the filling: Beat together the cream cheese, soured cream, eggs, nutmeg, vanilla and sugar until thick and well combined.  It’s easiest to use the whisk rather than paddle attachment.

Pour into the pastry case and then scatter the blueberries over the top – some will disappear into the liquid, others will remain visible.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the cheesecake element is set, but retains a bit of a wobble.  It will continue to set during cooling.

When completely cool, refrigerate until you wish to serve.

Serve either as dessert with pouring cream, or on its own as a tea-time treat.

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


Sunday, 20 October 2013

German bee-sting cake


I begin with a confession: traditional German bee-sting cake (Bienenstich) is usually a yeasted batter, but regular readers will know my fear/horror/dislike of using yeast, so when I found this non-yeasted version I made a bee-line for it (pun intended).

Like many traditional cakes the origin has been lost.  One legend claims that a bee was attracted to the honey topping and stung the baker who made it (I don’t like dissing legends but that one is quite lame, as legends go).  Another legend claims that 15th century German bakers successfully fended off raiders by throwing bee-hives at them and celebrated their victory by inventing this cake (this is more like it – I choose to believe this one!).

This cake uses popular flavours – honey, almond and vanilla – but has a twist in its method that makes them seem fresh and new.  When you spoon the cake batter into the tin you add a thick layer of runny honey on top over which you scatter a lot of flaked almonds.  The weight of all this suppresses the rise of the sponge but what your reward for this is a sticky spongy topping with lovely toasted nuts. It’s not dissimilar to the lovely bit of sponge that’s absorbed all the syrup on a steam sponge pudding.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the cake is then sliced and filled with vanilla custard cream.  I almost wept with happiness when I read the recipe!  I began with a confession but I must also end with another one – I messed up.  Big time.  To create the filling you make the custard and let it set in the fridge, then whip some cream and fold them together.  Stupidly, I added the custard to my whipped cream and let the kitchenaid whip them together which made it far too runny to sandwich the cake with.

Even more stupidly, asI was adding the custard to the mixer I thought, ‘I’ve done this before and it didn’t go well’.  Doh!  So, I didn’t cut the cake into layers; I left it whole and served my custard cream on the side.  Just as delicious but tinged with shame!  Please don’t let my idiocy put you off because this is a gorgeous cake.


For the cake:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
225g self raising flour
6 tablespoons milk
125ml runny honey, warmed
150g flaked almonds

For the filling:
50g caster sugar
2 tablespoons cornflour
3 egg yolks
125ml milk
75ml double cream


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  It won’t go pale and creamy because of the proportions, but you will notice it become lighter.

Beat in the vanilla.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Beat in 1/3 of the flour followed by 2 tablespoons of milk.

Repeat until the flour and milk are fully incorporated.

Spoon into the prepared cake tin and level the surface.  Make a good attempt at levelling it so that the honey doesn’t pool into one side when you pour it on.

Pour the honey over the unbaked sponge and use the back of a spoon to gently guide it over the cake.

Sprinkle the almonds over the cake ensuring the cake and honey is completely covered.  It will look like a lot of almond.

Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin before turning out.

The cake can be made a day in advance and stored in an airtight container if you so wish.

Now make the filling: whisk together the sugar, cornflour and egg yolks until smooth.

Gradually whisk in the milk.

Pour into a saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring all the time.

When the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon remove from the heat and pour into a bowl.

Press clingfilm onto the surface of the mixture to stop a skin forming. 


Whip the cream until firm peaks form before folding in the chilled egg yolk mixture.  Do this by hand – don’t be tempted to let the mixer do it – it will make it runny!

To serve, slice the cake in half horizontally and place one half on a plate.

Spread the custard cream over the cake and place the nut-topped layer of cake on top.

Dust with icing sugar if you desire.

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


Sunday, 13 October 2013

Coconut carrot traybake


I’m always drawn to recipes that are familiar but with a new twist to them – this is a perfect example; it’s a carrot traybake but unlike most carrot cake recipes it’s a butter cake rather than an oil based recipe.  It also has a crunchy coconut topping rather than cream cheese frosting.  Both were really good ‘tweaks’.

This is such a light cake, amazingly so.  I thought the whole point of using oil in carrot cakes was to achieve lightness of sponge but this recipe produced the softest, fluffiest carrot cake I’ve ever eaten.  Without a doubt it will be my ‘go to’ carrot cake recipe from now on.

I added sultanas because, frankly, everything’s better with sultanas but you could replace them with nuts or simply omit them if they’re not your thing.  Sultanas add such a sweet, juicy little pop of joy to everything and it works very well against this cake’s crunchy topping.

The topping turns crunchy and toasted in the oven and adds a new texture to carrot cake.  I didn’t even miss the cream cheese frosting...and that’s saying something!  It definitely gave the whole cake a lighter feel.

Grating carrot has to be one of my least favourite tasks in baking.  I see people grate things on TV and it looks so easy, but my carrot was spraying everywhere and I couldn’t get a proper grip on it.  Of course, my food processor has grating discs, and I even have a plug in kitchen grater.  But did I use them?  No.  I used my metal grater so I could moan about it!


For the cake:
250g unsalted butter
300g light muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
200g self raising flour
50g desiccated coconut
200g grated carrot (about 3 medium carrots)
2 teaspoons mixed spice
Optional: 150g sultanas

For the topping:
50g unsalted butter, melted
85g desiccated coconut
25g light muscovado sugar


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

Grease a 30cm x 20cm traybake pan or roasting tin.

Start by making the cake: melt the butter gently in a large pan (it needs to be big enough to take all the cake ingredients); take your time with this as you do not want the butter to brown.

Leave to cool for five minutes.

Beat in the sugar, vanilla and eggs.  Make sure the mix is smooth and the eggs are well incorporated.

Stir in the flour, coconut, carrot, spice and sultanas (if using).

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30 minutes (or until virtually baked).

Meanwhile, make the topping: melt the butter and stir the coconut and sugar into it.

If it dries out while you’re waiting for the cake to cook, a dash of milk will moisten it up – but only a tiny amount; less than a teaspoon.

Take the cake from the oven and gently spread the topping over it.  I found the best way to do this was the back of a wooden spoon and my fingers.

Bake for a further ten minutes until the topping is golden.

Leave in the tin to cool before cutting into squares.

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


Sunday, 6 October 2013

Black forest gateau

 I have a theory (actually I have a few, but we’ll save those for other times) that thin chocolate always tastes better than thick chocolate.  I’m sure this is why we all pay large amounts of money for small amounts of chocolate come Easter time – thin chocolate tastes too good to resist!  It is why I have always been a fan of buttons – they are like portable versions of Easter eggs.  When one of my favourite chocolate companies, Lily O’Brien started making buttons, I obviously got excited!

My discovery of Lily O’Brien buttons coincided most fortuitously with Mr CC noting that I never made gateaux.  He is a big fan of gateaux and can put creamy cakes away in a far greater capacity than a non-creamy cake.  I think it might have been The Hairy Bikers we saw making a black forest gateau and we both got nostalgic for the time when, being children of the 1970s, a Sara Lee defrosted black forest gateau was a Sunday highlight.

I decided to use the dark chocolate buttons melted and added to the cake batter, and milk chocolate buttons for decoration.  Normally I find dark chocolate too bitter to eat on its own but these buttons had the dark richness without a bitter edge.  Solves the problem of what to do with the kilo bags.....! (Don’t you just love it when the only option is to buy a kilo bag!)

For an impressive dessert this is actually pretty simple – the only baking requirement is the sponge and that is a very straightforward recipe.  I piped the cream for decoration around the edge,  in an attempt to look neat, but if you are handy with a palette knife it would look just as good.

I know the black forest gateau is derided as naff but I cannot fathom why when it tastes sooooo good.  The chocolate sponge moistened with kirsch, the cherries, cream and more chocolate...if that’s naff then bring me my metallic shell suit cos I don’t want to be cool!


For the sponge:
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
100ml milk (whole or semi skimmed)
200g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
200g dark chocolate (I used Lily O’Briens buttons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To assemble:
900ml double cream
1 jar of cherries in kirsch – mine were Opies, and I found them in Waitrose
Chocolate buttons or curls (I used Lily O’Briens milk chocolate buttons


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

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together until they are pale and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage – give the mixture a good beating.

Add the eggs, flour, baking powder and milk to the bowl and beat until thoroughly combined. The mix will look deliciously creamy.

Melt the dark chocolate either in the microwave (it will require approximately a 1 minute 30 seconds, in 30 second bursts) or in a bowl above a pan of simmering water on the hob.

Stir the melted chocolate into the batter.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 40-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took roughly 50 minutes.
Allow to cool in the tin for 20 minutes before removing and leaving to cool totally on a wire rack. Once cool, the cake can be stored in an airtight container for a day or so before assembling the cake.

When you wish to assemble the gateau cut the sponge into three even layers.  It’s important the layers are flat, so you might need to sacrifice any dome on the top of the sponge. (NB. ‘sacrifice’ means cut off and eat!)

Whip the cream until it is almost at stiff peak stage, but not quite.
Take a disc of cake and place on a plate.   Brush over some of the kirsch from the cherry jar – how much depends on you and how boozy you want it to taste.

Pipe a scant ¼ of the cream over the disc and dot with some cherries.

Place the second disc of sponge on top and repeat the kirsch, cream and cherries.

Place the final disc of sponge on the top.

Pipe the remaining cream over the top and sides of the gateau.

Decorate with chocolate around the sides and some more cherries on the top.

Refrigerate so the cream firms up and you will be able to cut nice slices.  Take out of the fridge about 10 minutes before serving.

Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.