Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake
As mentioned in my last post, I had to spend a good deal of time breaking into a hefty pumpkin for the sake of 250g of flesh. I had much, much more left over, so I poked around the internet looking for a recipe ideal for using it up until I came across this pumpkin and coconut loaf cake recipe.

You can guess why I seized upon it – yep, it was the coconut that did it. Most of the other recipes I’d looked at were variations on pumpkin pie/bread/pasta in predictable flavour combinations, so this stood out to me for being a little different. And for containing coconut.

One thing I should stress straight away is just how MASSIVE this loaf cake ended up being. There’s no indication of the sheer size of it in the method, but the ingredients list should have tipped me off – 600g of pumpkin? 500g of self-raising flour? Yep, massive. Luckily, it all fit in my standard sized loaf tin (900g/2lb), although there was a fair bit of ‘puffing’ over the sides. I scoff at the recipe’s statement that the loaf serves six people. Six very very hungry people, maybe!

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake

LOOK AT HOW BIG IT IS

During the prep, I did find that the chopped pumpkin wasn’t cooked through within the time specified in the recipe, so I whacked the heat all the way up to gas mark 3 and left it in for a bit longer, which did the trick. Ditto when it came to baking the cake – there was SO MUCH MIX that it took far longer than 50 minutes to cook. I would say it was close to 1.5 hours when it was done (and I had to cover the top with foil to stop it burning at around the 1 hour mark).

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake mix

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake mix

I thought it was a little odd that the recipe calls for relatively little coconut compared with all the pumpkin and flour, but I actually stuck to the recipe for once in my coconut-obsessed life and didn’t chuck in loads more. I should have gone with my instincts, as the coconut flavour ended up being rather subtle for my tastes.

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake

Still, it was a delicious cake, especially with all the spices. I love baking with cloves and truly appreciated the delicious smells wafting through the house while the cake was in the oven!

I would make this again if I ended up with a ridiculous amount of pumpkin to use up again, but I would probably put in at least 75g of coconut, just to make sure…

Pumpkin and coconut loaf cake
The recipe

Can be found on the BBC Food website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/pumpkin_and_coconut_loaf_07996

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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

Honey and coconut flapjacks

Honey and coconut flapjacks

It’s an odd time of year at the moment – not quite summer, not quite autumn, at least weather-wise! These honey and coconut flapjacks I made a couple of days ago are quite a nice expression of this seasonal limbo, with the oats being decidedly autumnal/wintery and the coconut and honey adding a splash of sunshine.

It was a very easy recipe to make, which is just what I wanted after a long day at work. It was just a case of melting the honey, sugar and butter together, then stirring in the remaining ingredients. I didn’t have quite as much as demerara sugar as called for in the recipe, so I used half demerara and half golden granulated sugar.

Honey and coconut flapjacks

Oddly enough for me, I refrained from adding more coconut than specified. I KNOW. I felt that this would overwhelm the honey flavour somewhat, so I managed to hold myself back.

I used a slightly smaller tin than the recipe asked for and you can see this from the height of the flapjacks. They were definitely done within the specified cooking time, though.

I really like these flapjacks – the honey flavour is fairly delicate but definitely there, while the coconut is, of course, a lovely addition. The original recipe says you can use dried fruit or nuts in place of the coconut, and I can imagine this would work well too.

The recipe

Adapted from this recipe on BBC Food.

Makes 15

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 100g golden granulated sugar
  • 200g honey
  • 400g porridge oats
  • 50g dessicated coconut

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a 8 inch x 12 inch tin (I used a 7 inch x 11 inch tin and it was still fine).
  2. Melt the butter, sugars and honey in a very large saucepan, stirring frequently.
  3. Stir in the oats and coconut and mix well. If your saucepan isn’t very big, transfer the melted butter mix to a large bowl before adding the other ingredients, as there are a lot of oats to stir!
  4. Spoon the mix into the tin and flatten the surface, making sure it’s relatively even.
  5. Bake the flapjacks for 15-20 minutes. They should be golden around the edges but still pale and a bit soft in the middle.
  6. Cool the flapjacks in the tin then cut into 15 squares.

Chocolate porter cake

Chocolate porter cake

It struck me a few days ago that it’s been a while since I’ve made a good ol’ chocolate cake. Not one to settle for any old chocolate cake recipe, I hunted for something a little bit different and came across a rather wonderful recipe for chocolate stout cake.

This promptly became chocolate porter cake due to the availability of said drink in my house (there is a difference between the two). I’ve baked with porter before with great results. I was a little worried that the rich chocolate would overpower the flavour of the porter, but that was very much unfounded.

Chocolate porter cake

The cake was very easy to make. The porter is infused at both the cake and icing stages – you melt the dark chocolate with the porter for the cake, and then the milk chocolate with the porter for the icing. I didn’t have any light brown sugar so I made do with a mixture of golden caster sugar and dark brown sugar.

I did have to bake the cake for about 20 minutes longer than the recipe states, so be warned! I would also recommend sifting the flour – the recipe doesn’t specify this and I ended up with a slightly lumpy batter.

Chocolate porter cake mix

Chocolate porter cake mix

Do be sure to leave the cake to cool in the tin for a while before turning it out – I didn’t leave it for long enough and ended up taking lumps of the underside of the cake away with the base of the tin!

The icing was similarly easy to make and spread very easily without being overly runny. I would say that the recipe makes a lot of icing and you could probably get away with making two-thirds or even half the amount.

Chocolate porter cake

The cake did turn out beautifully in the end. The sponge was light and very chocolaty, but with a distinct porter flavour, while the icing was, er, the icing on the cake. I would heartily recommend this recipe if you want to make a chocolate cake with a difference for a special occasion!

Chocolate porter cake

The recipe

Can be found on the BBC Food website here (I substituted the stout for Asda Extra Special Porter).

First bake: tres leches cake

Tres leches cakeA few weeks ago I posted about some Spanish bread I made as practice for my much-delayed Spanish-themed housewarming do. The big event took place the other week and the bread was indeed a success – as was this traditional Spanish dessert, tres leches cake.

I first saw this being made by Simon Rimmer on Something for the Weekend (RIP) years ago and have always wanted an excuse to bake it. Look away now if stodge makes you squeamish, as this is the kind of dessert that clogs up your arteries when all you’re doing is thinking about it!

The cake is basically a vanilla sponge soaked in a quite frankly amazing sauce made purely from double cream, evaporated milk and condensed milk – hence the name, as ‘tres leches’ means ‘three milks’. The cake is chilled and then served with even more of the sauce on top!

Apologies for the lack of pictures, but we were so busy cooking many, many tapas dishes for the party that I only remembered to take a picture after I’d served up the cake! It did taste absolutely amazing – a little bit like rice pudding in cake form. I served it cold but we had the leftovers hot the next day – even more amazing and really nice and comforting on a cold evening.

I would thoroughly recommend making this if you’re planning a Spanish-themed meal, or simply just because. It really is a lovely treat – just be prepared to spend a loooong time working off the calories…!

The recipe

On the BBC Food website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/tres_leches_cake_52393

First bake: Viennese whirls

Viennese whirlsMy boyfriend has been pestering me to make Viennese whirls for YEARS. Then he bought me a biscuit maker as a ‘housewarming present’, so I had to make them. Of course. But I’m glad I (or we – he did at least help) got round to it – these lovely little treats are absolutely divine!

The biscuit dough was pretty easy to make – the recipe I used (from the Hairy Bikers) called for everything to be mixed in a food processor, but I had to use an electric hand whisk due to the tiny proportions of my food processor. We reached a slight sticking point when attempting to use the biscuit maker for the first time – it took a bit of trial and error, but we managed to go from producing weird little lumps to churning out lovely star-shaped beauties.

Viennese whirls, pre-baking

Viennese whirls, pre-baking

My biscuit maker. Put the dough in, choose the right attachment and push down on the handle

My biscuit maker. Put the dough in, choose the right attachment and push down on the handle.

Viennese whirls, fresh from the oven

Viennese whirls, fresh from the oven

They only took 13 minutes to bake, although we ended up baking many, many batches so it took a bit longer than that! Once they’d cooled, we sandwiched them together with buttercream and seedless raspberry jam. And ate about a hundred during the process, for, erm, testing purposes.

Viennese whirlsI cannot emphasise enough just how lovely these are. The biscuit is beautifully rich (and I should think so, what with a WHOLE BLOCK OF BUTTER going in the mix) and is set off perfectly by the sweet buttercream and fruity jam. It’s really, really hard to eat just one, or three, or ten. So be warned!

Viennese whirls

The recipe

On the BBC Food website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/viennese_whirls_78348

First bake: ginger sponge cake

Ginger sponge cake

It looks like autumn has well and truly arrived – and what better way to keep warm than with a piece of ginger cake? This is a wonderfully quick and easy recipe for when you want a ginger fix pronto, courtesy of The Hairy Bikers’ Mums Know Best programme.

Ginger is one of my favourite spices to use in both sweet and savoury cooking. I’ve used it in various forms – fresh, in syrup, crystallised, ground – and usually more than one type at once, so I was slightly dubious when I saw this particular recipe called for just 1 tsp of ground ginger, and no other type. How gingery could the cake be?

Ginger sponge cake mix

Fortunately, my doubts dissipated on my first bite. That might have *something* to do with the fact I may have added a teensy bit more ginger than called for, but I also think the simplicity of this recipe really lets the pure ginger flavour come through. I was also pleasantly surprised by the texture; it’s a pretty low fat recipe (even though I used butter instead of margarine, as specified) yet the cake is pretty similar to a Jamaican ginger cake, although not quite as dense or spicy.

Ginger sponge cake

Overall, this is a brilliant little recipe that I would definitely make again. I think the cake would also be lovely warmed through, drizzled with syrup from a jar of stem ginger and served with custard or cream as a dessert. Yum yum yum!

The recipe

From the BBC Food website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/ginger_sponge_cake_51697