Baking round-up: coffee and walnut cake + chocolate flapjacks + upside down blueberry cake + snake pie!

I can’t believe it’s been over 5 weeks since I last posted! Did you miss me?! I haven’t been away or anything – just lazy about updating the blog, and I also seem to keep losing time to playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild (it’s seriously, seriously great).

I have, however, been baking…

Coffee and walnut traybake


This is a Mary Berry recipe (of course) that is very similar to the coffee and walnut cake recipe used on Bake Off a while ago. The only difference is that this is a single layer traybake as opposed to a two-layer round cake.
The recipe calls for coffee essence, which I’d never heard of and couldn’t find in the supermarket, so I made up a small quantity of very very strong coffee instead, and stirred that in.

The coffee flavour ended up being somewhat subtle, but it didn’t seem to matter because the sponge was just beautiful – exceedingly light and fluffy and very more-ish. It didn’t last long, I can tell you!

Double chocolate flapjacks

I had a strangely specific urge for exceedingly chocolatey flapjacks a couple of weeks ago, so I dug around the internet until I found this recipe.

I tinkered with the recipe a little by pouring the melted chocolate on top of the flapjacks instead of dipping each one into it. I also (rather randomly) chopped up a couple of Penguin bars and threw them into the flapjack mix for extra crunch and chocolateyness.

The flapjacks ended up slightly overbaked, but they were still delicious! I can’t say I particularly noticed the Penguin bits in there, but I’m sure they didn’t hurt.

Upside down blueberry cake

Confession: I made this so long ago that I have no idea where I got the recipe from – sorry! However, it was pretty straightforward and very similar to pretty much any other upside down cake. The cake itself contained ground almonds, which added a nice summery flavour to the proceedings.
It was a delicious cake; I only wish I could remember the recipe so I can make it again…!

Moroccan snake pie

My husband and I (mainly my husband!) made this for a Moroccan-themed meal at his mum’s house recently. Also known as m’hanncha, snake pie is basically a lot of filo stuffed with a sugary, buttery, almondy mix that is then rolled up and coiled around to form a ‘snake’, before baking.
It was a little labour-intensive and there was a panic when the pie started leaking in the oven, but it turned out really well and was warmly received by all! The recipe is a Jamie Oliver one and can be found here.

Save

Chocolate tiramisu cake

Chocolate tiramisu cakeMy fiancé finally returned from more than 2 months away at work last weekend, so I decided to make a celebration cake to, er, celebrate. And what could be more celebratory than a massive pile of chocolate sponge, mascarpone, double cream and sugar, AKA chocolate tiramisu cake?!

I found this recipe on the Delicious magazine website, and followed it to the letter as much as I could. It was slightly faffy, but not as much as you might expect for what is essentially a four-layer gateau – bake two chocolate almond sponges, make an espresso and amaretto syrup, whip up a load of dairy products into icing and squish the whole lot together. That’s it!

Chocolate tiramisu cake
I cannot stress just how decadent the icing is. It called for 500g of mascarpone (!), 225ml of double cream, amaretto and icing sugar – and that’s in addition to the butter and buttermilk that went into the sponge! Basically, if you’re allergic to ANYTHING or would like to avoid diabetes/a heart attack, this cake isn’t for you.

Chocolate tiramisu cake
But my, is it delicious! The syrup is perhaps the star here – it soaks into every layer of the cake and adds a nice contrast to the super-rich icing. You really can’t eat much more than a thin sliver of this cake at a time, but that means you savour the flavours all the more.

Chocolate tiramisu cake
If you know someone who’s a fan of tiramisu, you really can’t go wrong with this cake as a wonderful surprise!

Pear, chocolate and almond cake

Pear, chocolate and almond cakeI bought some pears a while ago with the vague intention of using them in a bake. When I finally remembered that they were still knocking about, I did a bit of research and decided to amalgamate two recipes to create this promising-sounding pear, chocolate and almond cake.

The two recipes I found were from Good Housekeeping and Tinned Tomatoes, which both looked excellent. I mainly followed the method from Tinned Tomatoes, while incorporating the almonds using Good Housekeeping’s method.

All went relatively well – I had to leave the cake in for longer than the recipe said, of course, but that’s nothing new for my oven! I only got a chance to properly taste it the next day, and was impressed by how fudgy the cake looked when I sliced it up.

Pear, chocolate and almond cake
However, the taste wasn’t quite what I expected. The almond flavour came through so strongly I could only just about taste the chocolate, and the pear was hardly anywhere to be seen! It was a bit disappointing, although it was still a lovely cake. I think perhaps my almond extract was overly strong (I used 1 tsp of it), and the pears weren’t ripe enough.

If I make this again, I’ll use a lot less almond extract (if any) and riper conference pears rather than the not-so-ripe dessert pears I actually used. I might also try adding dark chocolate to the mix or, failing that, serving the cake with a rich chocolate sauce!

The recipe below takes the above into account – it’s worth going slowly with the extract and tasting the mix as you go along.

Pear, chocolate and almond cake
Pear, chocolate and almond cake recipe

From Good Housekeeping and Tinned Tomatoes

Serves 8-10

  • 50g cocoa
  • 150ml hot water
  • One-quarter to half a teaspoon of almond extract, depending on its strength
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 very ripe conference pears, peeled and sliced lengthways
  • 25g flaked almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan/gas mark 4. Grease a round 20cm springform tin and line the base with baking parchment.
  2. Dissolve the cocoa in the hot water and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugars and almond extract until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the ground almonds, eggs, cocoa mixture and flour, and beat until smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into the tin and place the pear slices on top. Scatter the flaked almonds on top.
  6. Bake for at least an hour. Check the cake with a skewer (it’s ready when the skewer comes out without any mix on it) and leave for 10 minutes a time, checking with a skewer each time, until the cake is cooked in the middle.
  7. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely before serving.

 

Basic baklava

Basic baklava
Another week, another Paul Hollywood recipe. This time, I made a very basic baklava from How to Bake. I must stress that this really is a simple recipe, but one that can be customised to create your own dream baklava!

Baklava is one of those desserts that be really, truly, utterly scrumptious when it’s made right. There’s something about the combination of thin flaky pastry, flavoursome nuts, lots of butter and a fragrant sugar syrup that ticks all the boxes for me.

Paul Hollywood’s recipe calls for pistachios only, but as I didn’t have enough, I made up the difference with almonds and walnuts. As this is a basic recipe, nothing goes in with the nuts, but I was sorely tempted to add some cardamom or another warm spice to them. However, I chose to stick to the recipe as closely as possible!

The baklava was easy to assemble – it’s pretty much just layering lots of filo on top of each other, brushing each layer with butter, then scattering the nuts on top and adding more filo and butter on top. The whole lot then goes into the oven, and you make the sugar syrup to pour over when it’s cool.

The sugar syrup is the other part of the recipe where lots of flavours can be added, but Hollywood opts for just lemon juice. Again, I had to fight the urge to add *something* else! Once the syrup was poured over the baklava and the whole lot had cooled, it was ready to eat.

Basic baklava
It was very nice – the star of the show for me was the richness of the butter paired with the trio of tasty nuts. However, the syrup felt a little but too simple – the pure lemon made it almost stark, if that makes sense, even for what is supposed to be a basic baklava recipe.

Hollywood admits himself that this is a very simple baklava and that you could add rose water or orange flower water to the syrup, which I would strongly recommend that you do. I would also experiment with different spices in the nuts, as I do think the right combination can make for an excellent baklava (see my gushing praise of this masala chai baklava by GBBO’s Chetna Makan). This is a great base recipe to start from, but don’t be afraid to add to it!

Blackberry, raspberry and almond cake

Blackberry, raspberry and almond cake
My favourite thing about summer is definitely the abundance of lovely produce we get here in the UK, especially the type of produce that I can bake with! Summer berries offer a foolproof way to incorporate a splash of sunshine into baked goods, and it doesn’t get much easier than this blackberry, raspberry and almond cake.

Blackberry, raspberry and almond cake
I’ve made similar cakes before (see my blackberry and almond cake, raspberry and almond madeira cake and cherry Bakewell cake, among others!), but I just can’t get enough of the combination of summer berries and almonds.

This really was very easy to make. The main thing to get right is the distribution of the berries to avoid them all sinking to the bottom. I chose to coat half of the berries in flour and stir them into the cake mix, then plop the rest on top of the mix in the tin – and it seemed to work a treat!

Blackberry, raspberry and almond cake
I also threw a few whole almonds on top (I picked them out of a packet of M&S St Clements cashews and almonds, which are coated in orange and honey – yum!) but you could top the cake with flaked almonds instead, or just leave them out altogether – the main almond flavour comes from the ground almonds and almond extract in the cake mix.

Blackberry, raspberry and almond cake
The cake really is delicious – the tart berries and tangy lemon zest go so well with the sweet, almond-y sponge. I think it works perfectly as a dessert with a generous dollop of cream, but it’s lovely on its own as well. I would perhaps recommend incorporating fewer berries if you choose to eat it on its own, just to get a slightly firmer texture that’s easier to hold.

Blackberry, raspberry and almond cake
This truly is summer on a plate – go and make this before the sunshine disappears!

Blackberry, raspberry and almond cake
Blackberry, raspberry and almond cake recipe

Serves 8-10

  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 0.5 tsp almond extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g self-raising flour, sifted, plus a little extra for the berries
  • 75g ground almonds
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 100-150g raspberries (use 150g if serving as a dessert with cream; less for eating the cake on its own)
  • 100-150g blackberries (as above)
  • handful of whole or flaked almonds (optional)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of a round 23cm cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and almond extract until light and creamy.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour with the second egg to limit curdling (but don’t worry if it curdles anyway).
  4. Add the rest of the flour to the mix, along with the ground almonds, lemon zest and milk. Fold gently until combined.
  5. Toss half of the berries with a little extra flour until they’re thinly coated, then stir these into the cake mix.
  6. Transfer the mix to the tin and level the top. Scatter the remaining berries and whole/flaked almonds (if using) on top.
  7. Bake the cake for 45 minutes, or until it springs back when lightly pressed in the middle.
  8. Let the cake cool in the tin for 15 mins then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely (or serve warm with cream or ice cream).

Masala chai baklava: my first GBBO bake!

Masala chai baklava
I am, of course, a huge fan of the Great British Bake Off. This year’s series featured perhaps my favourite contestant of all – Chetna Makan. I really admired her inventive approach to baking, often combining the classics with some amazing Indian flavours, and I pretty much drooled whenever the camera panned to her creations on screen – including this divine masala chai baklava.

This is actually my first attempt at a recipe from the show. There have been many GBBO recipes over the years that I’ve bookmarked for a later date, but I’ve never quite got round to trying them! Then my boyfriend and I started planning an informal Indian-themed dinner party for some friends a couple of weeks ago, and we thought of this baklava for dessert…

I’ve never made baklava before, but it was pretty simple in the end – and OF COURSE I didn’t make my own filo pastry, you crazy people. If even Mary Berry thinks the idea of making your own filo is a silly one, then I’m never even going to think about attempting it (those poor contestants, though!).

Masala chai baklava
The filling is just cashews, almond and cardamom ground in a food processor. The filling is then wrapped in butter-soaked sheets of filo, rolled up and twisted round to make a spiral shape The whole lot is then baked and soaked with the masala chai syrup, left to stand for a bit and soaked with some more syrup for good measure. As you can see from my pictures, that’s a LOT of syrup! I ended up with a fair bit of the nut filling left over, so I simply decorated the baklavas with it.

I did toy with the idea of deviating from the recipe and using my mum’s tea masala mix in the syrup (see my one attempt to incorporate it into my baking here!), but I’m glad I didn’t, because the flavours of the baklava were absolutely amazing. It’s so easy to go wrong with cardamom, but the recipe has just the right amount and goes so well with the nuts, ginger, tea and bucketloads of sugar.

The baklava went down a storm with our guests, and it was nice to be able to have some leftovers for breakfast the next day (what?). I would very definitely make these again, and soon! Well done, Chetna – you may not have won the series, but you’ve definitely won at baklava!

Masala chai baklava
The recipe

Can be found on the BBC Food website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/masala_chai_baklava_33678

Blackberry and almond cake

Blackberry and almond cake

I bought a load of blackberries at the weekend, thinking that I’d *definitely* make a cake with them. Then I saw them in the fridge a few days later and realised I had no idea what to bake with them, nor for whom, as my boyfriend had been and gone in the interim! Undeterred, I flicked through my recipe folder and found this little gem for blackberry and almond cake.

Blackberry and almond cake

This is a rather delightful cake to make – very easy yet extremely scrumptious, and perfect as either a cold teatime treat or a warm dessert with lashings of cream or ice cream. I didn’t have a big enough square tin, so I used a 20 cm x 30 cm rectangular tin instead, and added a splash of almond extract for an extra almond-y flavour.

Blackberry and almond cake

The rectangular tin resulted in 15 pieces, most of which I distributed to friends and colleagues – but I kept a few for myself and am very much enjoying them! I’m particularly impressed by the rise, considering I only used self-raising flour and no extra baking powder. A good rise = more cake for all, which is surely a good thing…

The recipe

From the September 2012 issue of Asda magazine:

Makes 15/16 pieces

  • 175g butter, softened
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 150g blackberries
  • 50g flaked almonds

 

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line either a 23 cm x 23 cm square or 20 cm x 30 cm rectangular tin with baking paper.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract (if using) until light and creamy.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the floor between each one.
  4. Fold in the remaining flour, ground almonds, milk and lemon zest.
  5. Fill the cake tin with the mixture, level the top and press the blackberries into the surface until they’re level with the top of the mixture.
  6. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top and bake for 35 minutes, until the top springs back when pressed.
  7. Leave to cool on a wire rack and serve either warm with cream or ice cream, or cold with a lovely brew!