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.



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!

First bake: tiramisu brownie cake

Tiramisu brownie cakeA friend of mine celebrated her birthday the other week, but I rather shamefully only got round to baking her a cake a few days ago. I hoped the fact that it combined two of her favourite things (as much chocolate as humanly possible and tiramisu) would persuade her to forget its belatedness.

Tiramisu brownie cake mix

Tiramisu brownie cake mix

This was actually a little bit of an experiment – I’ve been meaning to make BBC Good Food’s brownie cake for bloody ages (a massive brownie??? Genius, I say!), and only made ‘normal’ tiramisu (albeit with a white chocolate spin) a few weeks ago. I do love the combination of coffee, chocolate and almonds, but just don’t seem to indulge in it that often!

Tiramisu brownie cake 7

Anyway. I followed the Good Food recipe pretty much to the letter, but tweaked it a bit to add a dash of coffee to the mix. I can’t say I really tasted the coffee in the brownie, but that was ok, because the icing very definitely had a distinctive coffee flavour.

Tiramisu brownie cake 6

This was more of my own concoction – mascarpone, amaretto, very strong coffee and a mixture of brown and icing sugar. It did end up a little wet and had soaked through the brownie cake after a day or so, but I don’t think that was a turn-off for the recipient! However, next time I make this (and there WILL be a next time) I’ll make the icing more like a buttercream so it’s a little more stiff and doesn’t seep through the cake.

Tiramisu brownie cake 4

All in all, this was a HEAVENLY cake. The brownie cake was dense, chocolatey and decadent, and the coffee mascarpone icing was just mmmnfgh. It really was. Apart from adding more icing sugar to the icing and maybe sprinkling over some flaked almonds as a finishing touch, I don’t think any major changes are needed to the actual flavours. Huzzah.

The recipe

For the brownie base, follow the recipe on BBC Good Food here – you can add some instant coffee granules to the mix if you like:

While the cake is cooling, make the icing by beating together the following until smooth:

  • 250g mascarpone
  • 50ml very strong coffee, cooled
  • 3 tbsp light brown soft sugar
  • 2 tbsp amaretto (or a teaspoon of almond extract)
  • 3 tbsp icing sugar (I would recommend adding a lot more and omitting the brown sugar if you want a drier icing)

Spread the icing in one deliciously thick layer on top of the cooled cake and sift a little cocoa powder over the top. I decorated my cake with edible silver balls, but flaked almonds and/or grated white chocolate would also work well.

First bake: alchemist’s chocolate cake

Alchemist's chocolate cake

It’s been a bit of a funny weekend baking-wise. I made some salt caramel millionaire’s shortbread yesterday that didn’t turn out quite right, so I thought I’d blog about it the next time I make it (when it will hopefully be better!). I was desperate to bake something else this weekend, though, so I settled on this rather lovely chocolate cake recipe from Dan Lepard.

I think it’s called alchemist’s cake because it uses seemingly innocuous ingredients to create something rather decadent – it’s actually a low fat cake, but manages to be wonderfully moist and tasty despite the fact there’s no butter in it! The fat comes in the form of walnut oil, while the moistness comes from a bit of an odd ingredient – tinned pears.

You can’t taste the pears at all, though – it’s just a damn good chocolate cake. One of the things that probably elevates this over most other low fat chocolate cakes is the cocoa I used. I unexpectedly ran out of my usual bog standard cocoa powder and only had 25g of it left, so I topped it up with… *drum roll* … some Valrhona cocoa powder.

Valrhona cocoa powder

Valrhona cocoa powder

This is a top-end cocoa powder from a very highly regarded chocolate brand – Google it if you’ve never heard of it. I’ve never had Valrhona’s chocolate bars (apparently some aren’t as good as you might expect, but others are very good), but I bought this cocoa powder quite a while ago with the vague intention of using it in something special.

You can tell it’s of the highest quality – in the below photo, you can see the gorgeously dark, fine Valrhona on top of the paler standard cocoa powder I mixed it with.

Cocoa powder for alchemist's chocolate cake

Cocoa powder for alchemist’s chocolate cake

Anyway, the recipe was pretty easy, even though it involved a saucepan AND a blender! The result was a fantastic looking cake – you’ve got to admit it doesn’t look like a healthy option!

I decided to make things a bit more exciting by inventing a coffee and almond buttercream to layer it with (the original recipe just suggests serving as is, or with cream/melted chocolate). This was easy too – I gradually beat 70g of icing sugar into 50g of softened butter and 4.5 teaspoons of strong coffee (made with a couple of teaspoons of instant coffee dissolved in a splash of boiling water). Then I mixed in a drop of almond extract.

Alchemist's chocolate cake

Alchemist’s chocolate cake

Et voila! One formerly healthy and now slightly fattening alchemist’s chocolate cake with coffee and almond buttercream. I haven’t had a whole piece yet, but I’ve, erm, ‘sampled’ enough of the cake mix and buttercream to know this is going to be delicious! The team I manage at work will probably be delighted to know I’m going to bring some pieces into the office tomorrow for some impartial opinions…

Update: I have now sampled a piece of this cake. I honestly can’t believe how good it is for a low fat bake! It’s really very chocolaty and moist. I would recommend this recipe if, like me, you’re keeping an eye on your weight (6 WeightWatchers ProPoints per piece when cut into 10 pieces without buttercream, 8 ProPoints with the buttercream).

The recipe

From Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard, and also in his column for the Guardian (this version is slightly different though – the book recipe I used called for 3 medium eggs instead of 1 large egg!).

First bake: mocha fudge cake with coffee icing

Mocha fudge cake with coffee icing

Oops... mocha fudge cake with runny coffee icing

My boyfriend set me the challenge of baking everything from the wonderful BBC Good Food 1o1 Cakes & Bakes book a while ago. The 13th recipe, mocha fudge cake with coffee icing, is one I’ve been looking forward to making for a looooong time.

It’s a pretty traditional concept – chocolate + coffee + lashings of butter and sugar = heavenly. The method for this one is a bit more complex than the chocolate cakes I’ve made previously, though. It involves a few things I’ve either never done before (making a meringue mix) or have only done rarely (separating eggs). I found it quite time-consuming to make, as there were lots of little tasks to do, but sticking closely to the recipe seems to have worked on the whole.

I say on the whole, because the one bit of the recipe that simply did not work for me was the icing. The picture in the book suggests the icing should be very thick in consistency, but mine ended up pretty runny – as you can tell from the messy photo above (my extremely amusing brother suggested I record a video of it, rather than take a photo, because of all the icing dripping from the edges). It was quite runny before I put it in the fridge, but I assumed the three to four hours of chilling time would help thicken it up a bit. Wrong! I think I’ll add more butter/less coffee if I make this again to ensure I end up with icing I can spread, rather than one I have to pour.

Mocha fudge cake with coffee icing

Despite the icing disaster, the cake really is delicious. All the faffing to make the sponge was worth it; it’s delightfully light yet moreish. It is extremely sweet, though (apparently there’s 77g of added sugar per serving!) – after my recent dental troubles I don’t think I’ll be having any more of this cake for now!

The recipe

From BBC Good Food 1o1 Cakes & Bakes, and also available online here (where you can see what the icing should look like!).

First bake: mochachino brownies with white mocha sauce

Mochachino brownies

I went to visit my boyfriend yesterday and took a batch of mochachino brownies with me at his request for something sweet to follow his wonderful Raymond Blanc beetroot risotto (this isn’t his blog, but it’s the same recipe). These are from an M&S brownie recipe book I received in a work Secret Santa a few years ago and contains some particularly delightful brownie desserts perfect for wowing a dinner party.

These brownies manage to make use of all three kinds of chocolate; milk chocolate chips and dark chocolate in the cake and white chocolate in the sauce. Despite this (and the fact I used dark chocolate with 72% cocoa solids) they aren’t overly chocolatey and you still get a strong sense of the cinnamon, walnut and coffee flavours that run throughout, which I find very pleasing indeed! That being said, I do think the recipe could stand a little more of the dark chocolate, so I would recommend trying this if you’re a real cocoa fiend.

Overall, I found these very quick and easy to make and well-received by everyone who tried them. I think this recipe is a good one to have on standby for when you need to whip up an impressive dessert at short notice – I would estimate a total prep/cooking time of a little over an hour. The portions are very generous and the dessert is pretty rich overall, so bear this in mind when planning your menu.

I didn’t have any golden caster sugar, so I substituted it for 200g of standard caster sugar and 50g of golden granulated sugar, which worked fine (I probably could have stuck 250g of the granulated stuff in a spice grinder, but didn’t really have time). I also used instant coffee in the cake as I’d run out of coffee for my cafetiere. This may have slightly diluted the coffee flavour, but it was still there as a background note, and I managed to get some ‘real’ coffee into the sauce when I whipped it up at my boyfriend’s house anyway.

A note on the ‘white’ mocha sauce: the picture in the book suggests the sauce should be white/cream in colour, but after adding the coffee I found it turned the chocolate-brown shade you can see in my pic. It still tastes very much like white chocolate, though, so I wouldn’t worry if you experience the same effect.

Mochachino brownies in the tin

Mochachino brownies in the tin

The recipe

From Blissful Brownies, published by M&S

Makes 8-9

  • 115g/4 oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 115g/4 oz plain chocolate
  • 2 tbsp strong black coffee
  • 250g/9 oz golden caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 85g/3 oz plain flour
  • 55g/2 oz milk chocolate chips
  • 55g/2 oz toasted walnuts, skinned and chopped, plus extra to decorate

For the sauce:

  • 100ml/3.5 fl oz double cream
  • 85g/3 oz white chocolate
  • 1 tbsp strong black coffee

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Grease and line a 23 cm/9-inch square baking tin.

2. Place the butter, chocolate and coffee in a medium saucepan over a low heat and stir until just melted and smooth. Cool slightly.

3. Whisk in the sugar, cinnamon and eggs. Beat in the flour, chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour into the prepared tin.

4. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until just firm but still moist inside. Cool in the tin and cut into squares or bars.

5. Meanwhile, make the sauce by placing all the ingredients in a small pan over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth.

6. Place the brownies on individual plates and spoon the warm sauce on top. Decorate with chopped walnuts and serve.