Tag Archives: chocolate

Festive chocolate coconut macaroons…

I’m sure at this time of year, Google is swamped with people looking for festive baking ideas or inspiration for handmade gift to ply their loved ones with. I’m happy to admit that I am one of those people…eagerly looking for THE recipe that’ll make the perfect present!

Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, look no further, I thought I’d share one such recipe with you…these chocolate coconut macaroons are easy to make, delicious and if you fancy getting creative, you can even follow my lead and make them look like little Christmas puds :)…

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To make about 24 chocolate coconut macaroons all you need is…

120g dark chocolate, chopped (I used 70%)

3 egg whites

25g cocoa powder

150g granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

220g dessicated coconut

200g white chocolate for decorating (optional)

Some green and red writing icing for your holly leaves and berries (optional)

In a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the dark chocolate (make sure the water isn’t touching the bottom of the bowl). Once it’s melted set it to one side to cool a bit.

In a large bowl, lightly whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the cocoa powder, sugar, salt and vanilla extract and whisk in until combined. Stir in the dessicated coconut and melted chocolate, making sure that every little bit of coconut has a chocolatey coating. When you’re happy that there are no escapees, cover the bowl and pop it in the fridge to cool for about an hour until it’s firm.

Now, preheat your oven to 165 degrees and line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Remove your coconut mixture from the fridge and taking a heaped teaspoon at a time, roll into balls between your hands. Lay each ball on the prepared tray a couple of inches apart so that they’ve got a bit of room to spread in the oven.

Once you’ve used all of the mixture, put them in the oven and bake for 13-15 minutes or until the macaroons are shiny and just set. Remove them from the oven and leave them to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes. When they’re cool enough to handle you can transfer them gently to a wire rack to cool completely. At which point you can either tuck in or…get decorating!

To make your macaroons look like little Christmas puds you will need to use the same method of melting chocolate that you used earlier, but this time with the white chocolate. Once it’s melted  you need to work quite fast and spoon a little onto the top of each macaroon before it hardens. Leave the white chocolate to set and then you can get creative with the writing icing to create your holly leaves and berries.

The icing needs a while to set before you can package them up…this is the most dangerous part of the whole process…a true test of your self restraint…can you resist eating them all before they make it to their intended recipient? 😉

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Chocolate beetroot cake…1 of your 5 a day…

I’ve recently made it my mission to seek out and trial some new chocolate cake recipes…it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it 🙂

One recipe recce led me to this little chocolate and beetroot number on the Delicious Magazine website. To date I haven’t baked a cake using beetroot but if the success of using carrot in a cake is anything to go by I thought it was worth a try and either way, I’d definitely be getting one of my five a day :). 

I’m happy to report that the recipe was a good’un and produced the most amazingly moist chocolate cake. The only hint that it contained beetroot was when I came across little pockets of sweetness whilst tucking in.

Just check out that crumb…

If you fancy giving it a go yourself you need…

250g plain chocolate (I used 70%)

3 eggs

200g light brown sugar

100ml sunflower oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

50g ground almonds

250g raw beetroot

For the icing you need…

150g plain chocolate

100g icing sugar

100g soured cream

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees (180 if it’s not a fan) and grease and line the base of a 20cm or 22cm round cake tin with greaseproof paper. I used a 20cm tin, so if you’re using the larger size just bear in mind that it won’t need quite as long in the oven.

Break the chocolate into a bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water to melt. When it’s smooth remove the pan from the heat and set the bowl aside to cool.

Put the eggs, sugar and oil into a large bowl and beat using a hand held or stand mixer until smooth and creamy (approx 3 mins).

Stir in the vanilla extract and sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and gently fold in, along with the ground almonds. 

I highly recommend donning a pair of rubber gloves for the next stage as beetroot has the nasty habit of staining your hands bright pink!

First you need to peel them (aren’t they pretty!?)…

and then grate them…

before squeezing the excess liquid out. 

Now, fold the beetroot into your cake mixture along with the cooled melted chocolate until thoroughly incorporated…

All that’t left to do it pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin…

The recipe says to bake it for 50 minutes to 1 hour, however I recommend checking it after about 45 minutes and testing it by inserting a skewer into the centre, if it comes out clean it’s ready, if not then just pop it back in the oven for another 5 minutes and then test it again. Repeat this process until you are happy that your cake is cooked to perfection! If you notice that your cake is browning a little too quickly just cover it loosely with some tin foil.

Leave it to cool in the tin on a wire rack for a few minutes before removing it from the tin and letting it cool completely.

To make the icing, break 150g plain chocolate into a bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water to melt, as before. Once smooth, set it aside to cool before beating in the sifted icing sugar and soured cream until you have a thick and creamy but spreadable icing. Don’t over-beat it! The first time I made it I think I overdid it and was left with icing that just wanted to set quite quickly and was hard to spread. When you’re happy with it’s consistency (it should look like the pic below) spread it over the top and sides of your cake…

I took my cake into work to test on my colleagues and I have to say…it went down a treat!

My Riverford veg box arrived,whilst I was writing this post and I was very excited to dicover that it contained a good few beetroots…I know what I’m going to be making again this week!

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Chocolate, marmalade & hazelnut cake…serious chocoholics venture forth!

Due to my recent Seville orange marmalade escapades (blogged here) I have 10 jars of the wonder stuff sitting, looking up at me from my bedroom floor (maybe not the standard place for marmalade storage but let’s face it, not many people are lucky enough to have a larder like Nigella’s!). They serve as a constant reminder that there’s so much baking I’d like to be doing but, frustratingly, not enough hours in the day to do it!

I treated myself to a relaxing Saturday morning holed up in bed, under the duvet, perusing cook books and deciding what was next on my baking agenda. I eventually settled for a chocolate, marmalade and hazelnut cake from Rachel Allen’s ‘Bake’ book…

It appealed to me because, not only would I be able to use my yummy marmalade but also for that fact that it’s a flourless cake, which is something I’ve not really experimented with before. Little did I know that it’d turn out to be the gooey-est, squidgy-est, richest and most intensely delicious cake ever! The kind of cake that shakes awake your taste buds, gives you a head rush and sends you into a food coma simultaneously! If you think you’re hard enough to give it a go you’ll need…

175g butter

175g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

5 eggs, separated

175g caster sugar

150g hazelnuts (with skins on) ground up in a food processor. I used a handheld stick blender, it was a bit messy but got the job done.

200g marmalade

Zest of 1 orange, grated finely

For the topping you’ll need…

75g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)

75ml double cream

Zest of 1 orange, grated finely

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and grease and line an 8 or 9 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together with a handheld electric beater or some muscle power and a good old fashioned whisk until they’re light and have a mousse-like consistency.

Once the chocolate and butter have totally melted, add in the ground hazelnuts, marmalade and orange zest and stir well.

The final component of the cake mixture is the egg whites. Whisk them until they form stiff peaks. You need to make sure there is no yolk in with your whites and that the bowl you use is spotlessly clean or they’ll never reach the right consistency.

Now to put everything together…fold the egg yolk and sugar mixture into the chocolate and hazelnut gloop until well combined. Then, in 3 batches, add the egg whites, folding them into the mixture very gently so as to retain as much of their light, fluffy, airiness as possible. 

Pour the finished cake mixture into the prepared cake tin and cook in the oven for 20 minutes, before turning the temperature down to 170 degrees and cooking for another 35-40 minutes. I tested mine at 35 minutes by inserting a skewer into the middle of the cake and seeing whether it came out clean…it didn’t, so I popped it back in for another 5 minutes and repeated this process at 5 minute intervals until the skewer came out clean and I was satisfied that it was ready..

Leave the cake to cool for a few minutes in the tin before removing it and letting it cool completely on a wire rack.

When it’s cool, it’s ready for icing. Melt the chocolate, cream and orange zest in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. As before, be very careful that the bowl isn’t actually touching the water.

Something went a bit awry for me at this stage…my icing was very thick! The recipe told you to put the cake on a serving place and to pour the icing over, letting it drip down the sides. My icing, however, was far from pouring consistency! A taste test told me that although it didn’t look quite right, it tasted amazing, so I decided to make the best of a bad situation and used a pallette knife to coat the top of my cake with what was in essence, thick, chocolate ganache…

I couldn’t wait the recommended 30 minutes to 1 hour for it to set and instead, put the kettle on, made a cuppa and got stuck in…

My eyes were bigger than my stomach and the flavours so amazingly intense that I savoured it very slowly and had to pause for a rest midway. It’s most definitely not a cake for the lily-livered…only serious chocoholics should venture forth!

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They’re not Terry’s…they’re my chocolate orange cupcakes…

If you’re a Terry’s chocolate orange fan, you’ll absolutely love these cupcakes from The Hummingbird Bakery ‘Cake Days’ book…

The added bonus being that you don’t need to battle with the sphere of chocolatey orange goodness to enjoy the taste! Is it just me or is it ridiculously difficult to segment a chocolate orange in a ladylike fashion?

To make your own chocolate orange cupcakes you’ll need…

70g unsalted butter, softened

210g caster sugar

105g soft light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp finely grated orange zest

255g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

240ml whole milk

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a cupcake tin (or two) with cupcake cases. This recipe is quite generous, it made me 16 cupcakes.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one, followed by the zest and vanilla extract.

Sift the remaining dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt) into the butter and sugar mixture on a slow speed, alternating with the milk until everything is incorporated. Then give it a medium speed whizz until smooth.

Fill the cupcake cases with the cake batter until they are two thirds full, don’t be tempted to overfill them or your cupcakes will end up with an unsightly ‘muffin top’!

Bake them in the oven for about 18 minutes or until the sponge springs back when pressed gently. I always err on the side of undercooking as opposed to overcooking and checked mine after about 15 minutes.

Once you’re happy that they’re cooked, remove them from the oven and leave to cool before frosting. 

For the frosting you need…

600g icing sugar

100g unsalted butter, softened

250g full fat cream cheese

60g cocoa powder

3 tsp finely grated orange zest

The recipe suggested using some candied orange peel, thinly sliced for decoration. Needless to say my local Tesco didn’t stock such a delicacy so I just did without.

Whisk the icing sugar and butter (try popping your butter into the microwave in a bowl for 30 seconds first) in an electric mixer on a slow speed until it has the consistency of coarse sand and there aren’t any big lumps lurking. Add the cream cheese and cocoa powder and turn the speed up to medium, mixing until the frosting is smooth and light. Finally stir in the orange zest by hand.

Smooth the chocolate orange frosting onto your cupcakes with a palette knife and if you were lucky enough to find candied orange peel you can use it to adorn each one. I hope that you’ll agree that they look sufficiently tempting without! 🙂

I didn’t think such a small amount of orange zest would provide such a delicious orangey taste…and as with all Hummingbird Bakery recipes…they are moist, light and deliciously more-ish!…


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The best laid plans of mice and men…last minute brownies & my trip to Playgroup Festival

When I wrote my last post I thought I was completely organised and ready for my weekend away at Playgroup Festival with only the final task of a baking a couple of batches of banana bread to complete. That was, until I spoke to my friend (and recent birthday girl therefore one of the main reasons I was taking cake to a festival!) and discovered the severity of her hate for banana’s doh! You know what they say about the best laid plans!? So in the last few minutes before leaving the office I changed tack and decided to make brownies instead I mean everyone loves brownie’s right?! I opened my dilemma up to my community of food lovers and bloggers on twitter, asking for brownie recipe recommendations and oh man they did not disappoint!

I was recommended these sea salt caramel brownie’s from the Baked Cookbook by @1mgoldstars, these from @yummly, @beaniebright told me to try Nigella’s flourless chocolate brownies which did look amazing but in the end I decided to follow a tip off from @newmassaros for these ‘ultimate very chocolatey brownies’ from The British Larder…

To make these amazingly gooey, deliciously chocolatey morsels you will need…

300g unsalted butter

300g dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa)

5 eggs

450g caster sugar

Seeds from 1 vanilla pod or 1 tsp vanilla extract

150g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

1tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a baking tray (approx 34 x 25cm x 6cm deep) with baking paper.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and put it in a bowl with the butter over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until fully melted.

In another bowl beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until they become thick, creamy and pale (don’t panic it doesn’t take long, even with a hand whisk and some elbow grease!).

Add the melted chocolate and butter mixture to the egg mixture slowly, whisking continuously to make sure it doesn’t curdle.

Finally sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into the mixture and fold it in carefully.

Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared tin and smooth it over.

Bake for 20 minutes before checking on it. The aim is for it to be gooey in the middle but as the recipe says it ‘should not wobble’. If it’s still a bit wobbly when you shake it just pop it back in the oven for another 5 minutes and then check again.

Once you’re happy, leave it to cool (bear in mind that it carries on cooking as it cools). Then slice it into as large or small a sections as you fancy…

As I was cutting mine I panicked that I’d been a bit hasty and taken it out of the oven prematurely and that it was too gooey in the middle, however I was assured by @lexeat that it’s impossible to have an over-gooey brownie and lo and behold my fears were allayed when I offered it to my festival friends and they all fought over the gooeyest pieces from the middle J 

I can also confirm that it got even better after 2 days in a warm tent…I kid you not! Perfect festival baking!

Now a bit more about Playgroup…as I mentioned before it’s a very small, independent festival only in its second year. We were told there were only about 2000 people there, which made it wonderfully intimate and friendly and even I couldn’t get lost! J 

Everyone had thrown themselves into the spirit of the woodland animal fancy dress theme and my friends, who love an excuse to dress up, were no exception…

Due to its size the number of food stalls was minimal but it was very much a case of quality not quantity as the ones that were there were pretty darn good. One of my faves, which I stumbled across on the Saturday morning in my search for a good coffee was ‘Shitehawkes Coffee & Doughnuts’…

Where I was served by a man wearing a dressing gown and serenaded by a waistcoat-clad, shaven headed ukelele-er and funnily enough they served coffee…

and little French style doughnuts…

I also sampled a delicious vegetarian breakfast of scrambled egg, mushrooms cooked up with thyme, fried new potatoes with chilli flakes, grilled tomato, veggie sausage and a doorstep slice of soft granary bread and salted butter from the Lounged out Lizard tent and a great cuppa from Grannys Gaff but for me,the winner had to be Smokey Joe’s Caribbean Barbecue…

The pulled pork roll with salad and mojo mayonnaise was unbelievably tasty and worthy of some silent, eye closed savouring… 

Smokey Joe himself was a bit camera shy but I managed to pap him in the end (with his consent of course J)…

My friends also tried the jerk chicken and judging by their rave reviews I’d say Joe’s range of sauces may well be worth a try…

I also indulged in a fair amount of ‘Badgers Brew’ a light, hoppy, lager, which was brewed and named especially for the festival and of which we somehow managed to drink the bar dry!

We left the 3 day Playgroup extravaganza totally sated…with delicious food and drink, good music, an amazing pretension free atmosphere and great friends…how can you go wrong!

I’d just like to leave you with one of my favourite pics of the weekend…

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Not just any old millionaire’s shortbread…

This fine specimen of home baked goodness isn’t just your common or garden millionaire’s shortbread…No!…nestled between the layer of gorgeous, dark chocolate and the thick, gooey layer of homemade caramel is a sprinkling of flaked maldon sea salt just waiting to get your taste buds going!

I’m a self confessed salt fiend as documented here, so this recipe for salted caramel millionaire’s shortbread is right up my alley! Salted caramel in both desserts and chocolates seem to be all the rage at the moment and all I can say is, if you haven’t tried it…you’re missing out! The salt acts to balance out the super sweetness of the caramel, blending into the overall taste. However in this case I consider it very lucky to come across one of the little nuggets of saltiness, the way it zings and melts on your tongue really is something special! Don’t just take my word for it though…try it for yourself!

Here’s how to make it…

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees and line a 30 x 22cm (12 x 9in) tin with greaseproof paper to make it easier to get the shortbread out later.

For the shortbread layer you’ll need…

300g plain flour 

325g butter 

80g caster sugar 

3 tsp cornflour 

1/4 tsp salt

The recipe I was following told you to put the shortbread ingredients into a food processor and whizz it up until the mixture comes together in a ball. However, I don’t own a food processor so I just rubbed the butter into dry ingredients by hand…don’t worry if, like me, you’re sans snazzy kitchen equipment…it’ll turn out just as good but will just take a little longer. Whichever method you use, once the ingredients have come together into a ball, take the shortbread and press it into the bottom of your prepared tin, making it as even a layer as possible. Prick it all over with a fork. Bake it for five minutes before turning the oven down to 150 degrees and cooking for a further 30 minutes, or until pale golden. Remove it from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin.

For the caramel layer you’ll need…

115g butter 

400g tin sweetened condensed milk 

4 tbsp golden syrup 

1 tsp Maldon sea salt flakes 

225g good-quality dark chocolate (for the topping)

Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat then stir in the condensed milk and golden syrup. Bring the mixture to a simmer…

Try to keep the temperature even and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring continuously…

You’ll know it’s ready when it’s thick and golden-brown…

Pour your gloopy caramel evenly over the cooled shortbread. Leave it to cool a little and when it’s formed a slight skin sprinkle over the magic sea salt flakes! Now leave it to set for about half an hour…

Finally, break the chocolate into pieces and melt in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave it to cool for five minutes before pouring it over the caramel. The recipe gave me a great tip to ‘create a nice smooth surface by tilting the tin so that the chocolate runs into the corners’…perfection…

Leave it to cool in the fridge for an hour or more if you have time. Apparently you can also sprinkle a little more salt on the surface of the chocolate before it’s completely set, I wasn’t sure my chosen guinea pigs were quite as in to their salt as me so I decided not to overdo it!

When the surface is completely set and cold you can lift it out of the tin…

and cut it into squares…

Not only does the addition of the salt add a whole new delicious dimension to this millionaire’s shortbread but the cornflour in the shortbread layer makes it just melt in the mouth…all in all a raging success, even if I do say so myself! 🙂

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My Easter cardamom coffee mud (alternative wedding) cake

With the long weekend stretching ahead of me, I finally had time to do a bit of baking. I’ve got a vast collection of food magazines with post it notes sticking out of them marking ‘must bake’ items. A cake in a back issue of Olive magazine has been playing on my mind recently so the decision of what to bake for my family this Easter was a real no-brainer…the cake of choice…a very naughty looking cardamom coffee mud cake…

In my opinion you really can’t go wrong with a cake that contains strong cardamom infused coffee and no less than 600g of dark chocolate!

To make it you need…

12 cardamom pods, seeds removed and pods discarded

200ml strong coffee

200g dark chocolate

200g unsalted butter

3 eggs

80ml soured cream

400g golden caster sugar

170g plain flour

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

30g cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin with greaseproof paper.

Lighty crush the cardamom seeds in a pestle and mortar before adding them to a saucepan with the strong coffee. Simmer this fragrant concoction for about 10 minutes until it has reduced down to 120ml.

Melt the chocolate and the butter and add in the reduced coffee and cardamom mixture.

Beat the eggs, soured cream and sugar together. Add this to the chocolatey, coffee goo and stir until combined.

Finally sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa into the bowl and fold it in before pouring the complete mix into the prepared tin.

Bake for 1 hour, check whether it’s cooked by inserteing a skewer or sharp knife into the centre of the cake, if it comes out clean, it’s ready, if not, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.

Whilst it’s cooling you can prepare your ganache mud icing…beware…reading any further may cause hardening of the arteries!

To make your mud frosting you need…

400g dark chocolate

100g unsalted butter

1tbsp golden syrup

Melt the chocolate in a saucepan and then add the butter in small lumps so that is melts into the mix. Add the golden syrup and stir until smooth. Leave the mud to cool until spreadable. This requires patience, which I don’t have, in my haste I made the mistake of trying to hurry the process along by putting it in the fridge…this accelerated the process too much and when I tried to spread the icing onto the cake it hardened into a big unspreadable blob! PANIC set in but with the help of my Mum, a spatula and a jug of boiling water I managed to avoid total disaster! You should learn from my mistakes but if you happen to have this issue too, all you need to do it warm a metal spatula or knife in boiling water and gradually smooth the icing over the cake, do a bit at a time and then reheat your implement and work on smoothing another section of icing. I’ve learnt my lesson…next time I’ll just leave the mud to cool gradually (out of the fridge) it would benefit from still being fairly gooey for optimum spreading consistency.

Cut the cake in half and spread a layer of mud in the middle before sandwiching it and coating it all over with a thick layer of amazing, so bad it’s good for you, muddy ganache!

and hey presto…it wasn’t a complete disaster and was still a goregously dense chocolate cake with a cardamom coffee twist and a coronary inducing coating…mmmmm!

I got a bit carried away with my decorating and as if the chocolate ganache frosting wasn’t enough I decided to kitsch it up with some Easter decorations and a huge gold bow so it ended up looking like some kind of alternative wedding cake :)…

As a perfectionist, I wasn’t 100% happy with the finished appearance of the cake but it turned out to be absolutely delicious. It only contained only the tiniest amount of flour, which meant that it was amazingly dense and fudgy, even my sister who doesn’t like cake, loved it!

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