Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Chocolate Christmas Cake ~ Sweet and Simple Bake!

It’s our monthly-round up again over at Sweet and Simple Bakes and this month I chose this Chocolate Christmas Cake, perfect in the run up to Christmas. This fruit cake offers a tasty alternative to the traditional Christmas Cake, it is dark, rich and moist and is always popular with chocoholics - the addition of the chocolate doesn't dominate but it gives the cake a lovely rich flavour. I decorated my cake with white fondant, gold edible stars, gold dragees, gold disco edible glitter and finally a gorgeous gold ribbon.

Chocolate Christmas Cake

Preparation time: 20 minutes + cooling
Cooking time: 1¾ -2 hours

150g (5oz) soft butter
150g (5oz) light muscovado sugar or soft brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
185g (6½oz) self-raising flour
40g (1½oz) cocoa powder
400g jar of luxury mincemeat
80g (3oz) each of sultanas and raisins
50g (2oz) blanched almonds, chopped
100g packet of white chocolate chips

For decoration (decorate as you wish!)

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3/electric 160ºC/fan oven 140ºC.
Line a 20cm (8inch) cake tin (see below for instructions).

Lining the cake tin: One of the keys to success when baking a fruit cake is the preparation of the tin before you start mixing the ingredients. Because of the length of cooking time, you need to use two sheets of greaseproof paper or baking parchment inside the tin.Lightly butter the inside of the tin.Cut out a strip of paper about 2.5cm (1inch) longer than the outside of the tin and 5 cm (2inches) wider. (Measure using a piece of string).Fold in about 2 cm (¾ inch) along the long edge of the strip. Then make diagonal cuts along the folded edge at 2.5 cm (1inch) intervals.Fit the long strip of paper inside the tin with the folded edge sitting flat on the base. If you have a square tin fit the paper tightly into the corners. Place the tin on two sheets of greaseproof paper of baking parchment and draw around the base of the tin. Cut two pieces of paper to fit snugly into the base of the tin. Before baking, tie some thick brown paper or newspaper, which comes above the tin by about 10cm (4inches), around the edge of the tin.

Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and beat together for a minute or two until all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Spoon into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 1¾-2 hours until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. You will probably need to cover the cake with foil towards the end of cooking to prevent the top from browning too much. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Chocolate & Apple Cake with Pink Chocolate Drops

It feels like ages since I last baked a chocolate cake and this cake is one of our all time favourites. I have blogged this cake before and personally I don’t see anything wrong in making your favourites and blogging them again. The sponge is beautifully moist due to the chunks of apple and the butter cream icing is just heavenly. I did however make the cake in a round tin this time and couldn’t wait to use the gorgeous pink chocolate drops that I acquired at the BBC Good Food Show in London last Sunday! It was my first time at one of the shows and hubby and I had a fantastic time, bought lots of lovely goodies, and watched Annabel Karmel doing a live show and bake her edible Christmas Cookies. The highlight of the day had to be meeting the dreamy James Martin (his even better looking in person) who signed my book! I would have loved to have seen and met my idol Nigella Lawson but her live show was sold out, however I am sure there will be other opportunities and other shows and if you’ve never been to one of the Good Food Shows, I would definitely recommend it. It’s a great day out!

Chocolate & Apple Cake

250g (9oz) Plain Flour
25g (1oz) Cocoa
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Bicarbonate of soda
100g (4oz) Butter
250g (9oz) Caster Sugar
2 Eggs
A few drops of Vanilla Extract
175 ml. (6fl oz) Milk
2 Cooking Apples or Eating Apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped or grated

450g (1lb) icing sugar, sifted
25g (1oz) Cocoa
50g (2oz) Butter, softened
90ml. (3fl oz) Milk

Preheat oven to 180/350F/Gas 4. Grease a 20cm (8 in) square or round cake tin. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate. Put the sugar and butter into a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla extract. Whisk in the flour mixture and lastly add the chopped apples and milk. Spoon into tin and bake for 1 hour or till cooked...When cake is cold, make icing by beating all ingredients together, spread over cake and make a swirly pattern and pop on some chocolate drops.

Serves: 12

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Christmas Edible Gifts ~ Part 1

Anyone can buy a present from a shop, but if you want to go the extra mile, why not make something yourself? Homemade gifts make really thoughtful and often better value presents. So imagine my excitment when I received my copy of Nigella Christmas and came across the great section in the book with recipes and ideas for edible gifts. Since then I’ve been looking forward to making a start on the Christmas Hamper for my in laws and also our home. As of last week I made a start on my gifts. I started with the Christmas Spiced-Salt, which reminds me of holly berries in the snow. This salt is perfect sprinkled on steak or chicken to add some oomph! The delicious Cranberry and Apple Chutney is a perfect gift as chutneys mature with age. This chutney is wonderful with cheeses, pates and cold meats. I always make the traditional mincemeat every year but this truly delectable Cranberry-Studded Mincemeat really caught my eye and the recipe only makes 600ml, not a huge amount, so you won’t have jars left over after Christmas. This is part 1 of my edible gifts, so there is more to follow shortly!

Happy Cook at My Kitchen Treasures is hosting a great event of Home Made Christmas Gifts and she kindly invited me to join. If you are you interested in joining, the event is running until the 20th December. Please visit her blog for further details. My Kitchen Treasures

Cranberry-Studded Mincemeat

Makes approx. 600ml – enough for 50 mince pies

60ml ruby port
75g soft dark brown sugar
300g cranberries
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
75g currants
75g raisins
30g dried cranberries
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 Clementine/Satsuma
25ml brandy
1/8 teaspoon or a few drops of almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 x 15ml tablespoons honey

In a large saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the ruby port over a gentle heat. Add the cranberries to the saucepan. Then add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves, with the currants, raisins and dried cranberries and the zest and juice of the clementines.

Simmer for 20 minutes or until everything looks pulpy and has absorbed most of the liquid in the pan. You many need to squish the cranberries a little with the back of a wooden spoon to incorporate them.

Take off the heat and, when it has cooled a little, stir in the brandy, almond and vanilla extracts and honey and beat once more, with your wooden spoon to encourage it to turn into a berry-beaded paste.

Spoon the mincemeat into sterilized jars.

Cranberry and Apple Chutney

Makes about 1 litre

750g cooking apples, peeled, quartered, cored and chopped small
250g dried cranberries
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
350ml cider vinegar
200g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoon Maldon salt or 1 teaspoon table salt

Take a medium-sized (not too big) saucepan and chuck into it all the ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon and then put the pan on the heat.

Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat a little to let the pan cook, uncovered, on a fast simmer for about 45 minutes, or until the chutney has thickened slightly and the fruit is soft.

Spoon into your warm, prepared jars and seal them.

Christmas-Spiced Salt

Makes enough to fill 1 x 500ml jar

250g good-quality sea salt or Maldon salt
2 teaspoons red/pink peppercorns
2 teaspoons crushed dried red chillies
4 star anise

Sterilize your jar and leave to cool.

Put the salt into a bowl with the peppercorns, dried chillies and star anise.

Toss everything about, then carefully tip into your cooled, prepared jar and seal tightly.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Rosemary Remembrance Cake ~ In memory of Pistachio

"There's rosemary; that's for remembrance. Pray, love, remember." Shakespeare, Hamlet

I have baked this Rosemary Remembrance Cake in memory of our dearly departed friend Pistachio. I thought it would be fitting that all her friends over at The Pantry should cook or bake something from Nigella’s Feast, Food that Celebrates Life. So we are celebrating Pi’s life, love of food and memory in a way she would love and be pleased about.

I have never made the Rosemary Cake and was intrigued but the thought of rosemary in a cake put me off. I decided to take the plunge and I am so glad I did but sorry I didn’t try it sooner. The rosemary is very subtle against this madeira buttery cake, made with stewed apples. I will definitely make this cake again!
Rosemary Remembrance Cake

Makes approx. 10 slices

1 eating apple (approx. 180g in weight)
1 small sprig and 1 long sprig rosemary
1 teaspoon caster sugar
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
1 teaspoon butter

For the cake batter
225g butter
150g caster sugar plus 1 tablespoon
3 eggs
300g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Peel, core and roughly chop the apple and put into a saucepan with the small spig of rosemary, the teaspoon of sugar, the lemon zest and juice, and butter. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for 4-8 minutes until the apple is soft. How long this takes really depends on the variety of apple you’re using. Coxes cook the fastest, and are good here. Leave to cool, and fish out the rosemary sprig when it is cold.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170oC. Line a 450g loaf tin with a loaf tin liner, or butter and line the bottom with baking parchment.

Put the cooled apple into a food processor and blitz to a pulp. Then add the butter, 150g sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder and process to a smooth batter. Spoon and scrape into the loaf tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle the surface with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and then lay the long sprig of rosemary along the centre of the cake. On baking, the rosemary sheds its oil to leave a scented path down the middle of the cake.

Bake the cake for 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean, then leave to cool on a rack. Slip the paper-lined cake out of the tin once it is cool.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Farewell Pistachio

Do not stand at my grave and weep I am not there I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain, I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush, I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight, I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom, I am in a quiet room.
I am the birds that sing I am in each gentle thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there. I did not die.
Yesterday was a very sad day, we lost our darling Pistachio. I knew her originally from Nigella.com but more recently she helped run The Pantry, a foodie forum. She was a wonderful, kind person and I feel lucky to have known her. Please take the time to visit Pi's lovely blog, Pistachio en la cocina, it is a testimony to her love of wonderful food. Pi you are at peace now but you will be sorely missed! Sleep well.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Parkin ~ Happy Bonfire Night!

"Remember, remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot."

It’s Guy Fawkes Night here in the UK, also known as Bonfire Night and Fireworks Night. It is an annual celebration on the evening of the 5th of November. It celebrates the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of the 5th of November 1605 in which a number of Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London, England. In the United Kingdom, celebrations take place in towns and villages across the country, they involve fireworks displays and the building of bonfires on which traditionally an effigy of Guy Fawkes is burnt. The 5th of November is a great chance to cook some good old-fashioned comfort food to keep you warm and fill you up. Parkin is a traditional Yorkshire recipe for a Bonfire Night treat. This yummy ginger cake recipe will get you fired up. I love this delicious, sticky parkin served with a mug of hot steaming Horlicks! Happy Bonfire Night!


Serves: 8-10

oil, for greasing
225g self-raising flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
115g caster sugar
60g butter
115g golden syrup
225ml milk

Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas 2. Grease a 25 x 18cm cake tin and line with greased greaseproof paper. Sift the flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Stir in the egg and then the caster sugar, mixing well. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and the golden syrup, stirring to mix. Remove from the heat and stir in the milk. Gradually stir the milk mixture into the flour and egg mixture. Stir until smooth, then pour into the prepared tin. Bake for about 1 hour or until the mixture starts to shrink away from the sides of the tin. Remove from the oven and turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Cut into squares and serve, preferably after about 3 to 4 days when the parkin will have become nice and sticky.

Hope your night goes off with a bang!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Frosting

I know Halloween is over but the plan was to bake these cute cupcakes last week but due to me being unwell a lot of my baking plans didn’t happen. I purchased the candy corn and Libby’s Pure Pumpkin from a reputable online store based here in the UK that sells American produce (American Sweets). So this morning I thought better late than never and was up early and in my kitchen! I found the cupcake recipe on Lori’s blog, The Recipe Girl and if you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting her blog then I urge you to, she makes the most wonderful bakes. The Cinnamon Cream Frosting recipe I came across on Reeni’s blog, Cinnamon and Spice and Everything Nice, another drool-worthy blog. I love to mix recipes together and both recipes worked beautifully here. These spicy, moist, sweet pumpkin cupcakes with a cinnamon cream frosting represent all the wonderful flavours of autumn. Perfect for Halloween, Thanksgiving and autumn!

Monday, 3 November 2008

White Chocolate & Cranberry Muffins

First of all I would like to apologise for my lack of blogging lately but I will be doing the rounds and visiting all your blogs very soon. I have been unwell for the past 2 weeks with a cold and bad cough but I’m finally on the mend, thank god! I’m such a lousy patient and can’t stand feeling ill and useless. Today was my first batch of baking since coming down with that dreadful cold and it feels so good being able to get into my kitchen again and bake! I have missed my kitchen and my boys have missed my baking. I decided to treat my boys, who have been so good to me whilst I have been unwell and bake one of their favourites, White Chocolate & Cranberry Muffins. I adore the white choc and cranberry combo and these muffins are a mix made in heaven. These would make a luxurious Christmas breakfast treat! I promised to post some more pics of Ollie and below are some recent pics of Ollie which I took a few weeks back, his grown a little more since then but his still as gorgeous and cute as ever!

White Chocolate & Cranberry Muffins
Serves 12
150g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
50g caster sugar
60g packet dried cranberries
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
1 large egg
50g butter, melted
125ml semi-skimmed milk
Preheat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan/Gas 6. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper muffin cases. If you don’t have a muffin tin, double up the paper cases and put them on a baking tray. Sift the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the caster sugar, dried cranberries and white chocolate. Whisk the egg, melted butter and milk together. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg mixture. Mix until the egg is just combined - don’t over mix or the result will be muffins with a tough consistency - it doesn’t matter if the mixture looks a bit funny.Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until risen and springy to the touch. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Spooktacular Halloween Cupcakes ~ Sweet and Simple Bake!

This month at Sweet and Simple Bakes Rosie presented the perfect fun bake for Halloween, Spooktacular Halloween Cupcakes! I really had fun making my cupcakes and opted for a star theme, decorated in black, orange and white fondant with gold lustre and gold glitter. Happy Halloween!

You can find the recipe for Spooktacular Halloween Cupcakes here.