Re-bake: chocolate orange cookies and triple chocolate muffins

Chunky chocolate orange cookies

It’s a double header this week! It was my turn to bake some goodies to raise money for charity at work a few weeks ago. As I’d just spent a couple of evenings concentrating on my diamond jubilee cake, I decided to make something quick, easy and utterly delicious – these chocolate orange and pecan cookies.

I’ve made these a fair few times now, and they always turn out brilliantly. The huge chunks of orange-flavoured chocolate and the generous pieces of pecan work fantastically together, but I’ve also used other combinations, including white chocolate and hazelnut and milk chocolate (Milka chocolate, specifically!) and hazelnut. Walnuts would also work well in this recipe.

Chunky chocolate orange cookies

Chunky chocolate orange cookies (or cookie!)

The method itself is very straightforward – chuck everything in a bowl, mix and then bake. I managed to place my cookie dough balls a little too close together, resulting in one giant cookie (see above). Not really a bad thing if you’re going to eat them all yourself anyway, but I had to carefully slice them up on this occasion!

Earlier this week, I made another BBC Good Food favourite – triple chocolate chunk muffins. As you might expect, they contain milk, white and dark chocolate – as well as some cocoa powder! The chocolate hit is incredibly intense, which is perfect for a chocoholic like myself.

Triple chocolate chunk muffins

Again, the recipe is very simple. It uses a little butter, but gets most of the fat from a tub of soured cream – which makes for a beautifully soft texture. I absolutely love the massive chunks of chocolate in these muffins, so much so that I generally don’t bother to snap the bars into neat little pieces, preferring to break them roughly so some bits are rather larger than the others! I also put in a little more chocolate than the recipe says (I see little point in measuring 85g of chocolate when I buy them in 100g bars) and make 12 instead of 11 muffins.

The muffins are best eaten while they’re still gooey and warm. No need to eat them all straight from the oven (although I probably could!); you can put cooled muffins in the microwave for a few seconds to get the same effect.

Triple chocolate chunk muffins

I tried one of the muffins myself; the others went to my family and also to my boyfriend to take with him on a boozy canal boat holiday. Here’s hoping the crew manage to eat them without dropping them in the canal first…

The recipes

Both from BBC Good Food 1o1 Cakes & Bakes. The muffin recipe can also be found online here.

Adventures in cake decorating (part 3)

Mexican paste lily

A few weeks ago we tackled what was probably my favourite part of my cake decorating course (which finished this week) – creating a lily with a sort of 3D effect out of Mexican paste.

First, we made the round base for the flower to go on and crimped it around the edges. Then, we used a lily patchwork cutter (this one) to make a slight imprint on the base to show us where to place the petals and leaves.

Next, we rolled out some Mexican paste mixed half and half with sugarpaste. It had to be really thin to create a delicate flower effect. We used the patchwork cutter to cut out the entire image and stuck the different parts to the base, which was a little fiddly – especially the pollen! We then used some dusting colours to lightly colour the lily.

The final bit was cutting out some more of certain of the petals and leaves to create the 3D effect. These were stuck to the flower already on the base, but we only put glue along one or two of the edges of the petals/leaves and kept some rolled up tissue under the loose parts to make sure they dried in the right way (if we hadn’t propped them up with tissue, they would have just dried flat). Finally, we brushed on another coating of colour.

Mexican paste lily

Mexican paste lily close-up

I’m really pleased with my effort – it was by the far the best thing I did on the course! I really liked using the dusting colours and will definitely be looking to do something similar again soon.

Re-bake: carrot, apple and raisin cake

Carrot, apple and raisin cake

Do you ever buy so-called ‘healthy’ cakes and other snacks aimed at weight watchers and end up disappointed at how flavourless they are? They might only contain 0.0000000000001g of saturated fat per serving, but they’re usually rubbish when it comes to taste. The solution? Make your own healthy cake – like this vegan-friendly carrot, apple and raisin cake.

I absolutely love this cake – it’s packed with fruit and, most importantly, flavour. Orange juice and zest give it an uplifting zinginess, while pumpkin seeds add a little crunch (and are also low GI). The fat comes from vegetable oil rather than butter (although I used sunflower oil) and there are no eggs – the moisture in the carrot and apple is more than enough to hold it all together.

Cut into 12 pieces, the cake has 1g of saturated fat and 207 calories per serving – which I think is brilliant considering how tasty it is! So if you are trying to lose weight, are vegan or generally don’t get on with dairy products, this is the cake to go for when you want to treat yourself.

Carrot, apple and raisin cake

The recipe

Taken from BBC Good Food 1o1 Cakes & Bakes, and also available online here (obviously grease the tin with something other than butter if you’re vegan or dairy-intolerant!).

First bake: mango, banana and coconut cake

Mango, banana and coconut cake

The Indian mango season is well underway, so I thought I’d make the most of the current crop with this cake, another stroke of genius from BBC Good Food. Indian (and Pakistani) mangoes are, in my opinion, the best mangoes you’ll ever try, and certainly far superior to the ones you get in the supermarket thanks to their incredible sweetness and juiciness.

You can buy these mangoes over the summer (May to July, roughly) from pretty much any Indian grocer/cash and carry – cities and large towns are your best bet. They start importing them fairly early on, and sell them by the box, but they’re usually cheapest in the middle of the season. My mum bought a box of these a couple of weeks ago, and we spent a good few evenings gorging ourselves on them. She saved one for me to use in my baking, and by the time I got round to doing so it was incredibly ripe – perfect for a cake!

As may have been mentioned before, I’m also a huge coconut fan – and I love bananas too, making this a rather excellent cake for me to try. As with most BBC Good Food recipes, this is a doddle to make. The faffiest bit was pulping the raw mango, which only took a few minutes to do anyway, as it was so ripe and soft.

The bananas I used weren’t particularly ripe, unfortunately, but it doesn’t seem to have detracted from the overall flavour of the cake. Texture-wise, the crumb is quite large and dense – much like you’d expect from a tealoaf or a traditional fruit cake. For me, the coconut could have been a stronger flavour, but I suspect that’s just because I can’t get enough of it! My sponges were thicker than those in the picture in the book, but I think my tins were 18cm in diameter, rather than 20cm – but this didn’t make any difference whatsoever to the final result.

Mango, banana and coconut cake

The winning element of this cake is definitely the cream cheese filling. Half of the mango pulp goes into the cake, while the rest goes into the filling, making for a wonderfully moreish concoction. The mango flavour is definitely stronger in the filling than in the cake itself, so it’s wise not to skimp on the puree in the filling.

Mango and cream cheese filling

Mango and cream cheese filling

Overall, this cake is fantastic. Using Indian mangoes as opposed to the stringier, less flavoursome ones that are available all year round definitely makes a difference – I can’t imagine it being as good using the latter. If I make this again (and I probably will!) I’ll up the amount of dessicated coconut I put in, or even use fresh grated coconut, to completely and utterly satisfy my tastebuds. I can’t recommend this recipe enough – this cake is definitely the perfect summer dessert.

Mango, banana and coconut cake

The recipe

Taken from BBC Good Food 1o1 Cakes & Bakes.

Diamond jubilee cake

This week’s cake decorating class required us to bring in a cake to cover with sugarpaste and decorate with a diamond jubilee theme. I made the raspberry and almond madeira cake I baked for my birthday the other week – Victoria sponge would have been my first choice, but my tutor said it would probably be too soft to take the weight of the icing.

I had to trim the top of my cake because it was a bit bumpy. The surface needed to be as smooth as possible to ensure the sugarpaste can lie flat. I then spread the top and sides of the cake with buttercream to help the icing stick to it. Next came the tricky bit – rolling out the icing and covering the cake with it. I managed to roll it out to the right size, but had a bit of trouble smoothing it out once it was on the cake, so I ended up with a few uneven bits that you might be able to see in the picture above.

Then came the hardest part of all (for me, anyway) – piping the lettering on to the cake. We practiced this last week, but I quickly discovered that I’m not very good at it. As I went away for a few days towards the end of last week, I hadn’t had time to practice at home, so this ended up being my second ever attempt at piping lettering. It ended up okay; the ‘Diamond’ was a bit wobbly, but I’d got better by the time I started on the ‘Jubilee’. Still, it could have been a bit neater!

Next, I affixed a crown I made from coloured Mexican paste last week to the cake with royal icing, then made a long sugarpaste ‘sausage’ to go around the base of the cake and textured it with a crimper all the way round. Then I made the bunting, which took the form of a smaller sausage and red and blue triangles attached to the cake with a dab of water (I can’t remember whether the triangles were sugarpaste or Mexican paste, but considering how easy it was to cut into the cake the next day, I think they were sugarpaste).

The whole thing took two hours, plus baking and the time spent the previous week on making the crown. I was quite proud of my effort, although I think it could have gone better (and quicker – again, I was way behind everyone else!). I’d like to practice piping lettering and covering cakes with sugarpaste more, so hopefully I’ll have some time to do so soon.

The cake seemed to go down well at a jubilee lunch I organised at work the next day, although there was quite a lot left over because other people had brought lots of cake themselves! Still, that was no bad thing, as I could take it home and enjoy what was left myself!