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.

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Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf After some weird is-it-or-isn’t-it to-ing and fro-ing with the weather, it’s definitely autumn now – which means it’s time to bake with lots of spices and dried fruit! I decided to make this fig, orange and star anise tealoaf from Ruby Tandoh’s Crumb recipe book a few days ago. It’s her favourite recipe in the book – and I can certainly see why.

This is very much a tealoaf as opposed to a cake – there’s no butter in the recipe, only milk, but the lovely dried figs do much to add some moisture to the loaf. The other magic ingredients are orange zest and star anise. I don’t think I’ve ever baked with star anise before – I only have it in the house because it’s goes well in certain Indian curries – but it really is the star of the show with its warming aniseed flavour.

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf
The tealoaf was very straightforward to make, and even baked in the time specified in the recipe (praise be!). It rose a lot more than I was expecting it to, mainly because I have a history of making loaf-shaped things that refuse to rise. All in all, this was a bit of a miracle already, and I hadn’t even tasted it yet by that point.

I made this after work on Wednesday night, so I pulled it out of the oven *just* in time for GBBO. We had slices of the tealoaf warm with lashings of butter on top, which is just the perfect way to have it! There’s still some left, so I’ve been toasting and buttering slices of it as it gets a little staler.

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf
The flavours are amazing – I prefer dried figs to fresh, so I loved them anyway, but the slight tang of orange zest and that beautiful star anise really help this tealoaf to shine. I would thoroughly recommend this recipe if you fancy baking something autumnal in the coming months.

Fig, orange and star anise tealoaf
As I said, the recipe is in Ruby’s excellent cookbook, but you can also find it online here.

Strawberry and white chocolate muffins

Strawberry and white chocolate muffins 1My love affair with strawberries is still very much in swing, as evidenced by these strawberry and white chocolate muffins that I made a few weeks ago. I reckon I’ve probably eaten about 2kg of lovely British strawberries so far this summer… it’s a good job they’re healthy, isn’t it?!

Strawberry and white chocolate muffins 3
I was lazy and found a recipe online to use, rather than adapting one of my existing ones. I used vanilla extract rather than a vanilla pod and chopped up a white chocolate bar instead of using buttons (I actually think the recipe can stand a bit more chocolate, to be honest).

I don’t think these are quite as rich as they could be (I found the mix to be fairly runny rather than nice and thick), but they’re still delicious thanks to the use of fresh, in-season strawberries.

Strawberry and white chocolate muffins 2
I did find that I had to bake these for a lot longer than the recipe said, which made me worry that they would turn out all tough and horrible, but I kept a beady eye on them and took them out of the oven as soon as they looked lightly browned on top.

Strawberry and white chocolate muffins 4
The muffins were wonderfully soft and fruity, and went down a treat in my perpetually sugar-starved office, which is always nice!

Now, confession time: I’ve been in a bit of baking slump recently. I think I overstretched myself a while back when I did three lots of baking in a week… oops.

I’m also trying to get a handle on my eating habits while I recover from a hip/lower back injury I sustained in the Manchester 10k back in May. I haven’t been for a run since June and my waistline definitely knows it.

I’m going through physio at the moment, which seems to be going well, so hopefully I’ll be back on the baking wagon before long. No doubt the Cake Olympics (AKA Great British Bake Off) will whet my appetite for cakes again and I’ll be desperate to get the oven on come the 24th!

So if it’s a bit quiet around here, you’ll know why, but I might pop up with a curry recipe or something at some point!

Banana and cumin cake

Banana and cumin cakeAs promised, I’ve had a go at making one of the desserts we had in Sri Lanka. My husband cooked a wonderful Sri Lankan rice and curry feast for his family the other week, so I decided to make banana and cumin cake to serve as the dessert.

Banana and cumin cake
I couldn’t find any recipes for this online, so I adapted a banana and walnut loaf recipe from my Delia book, swapping out the walnuts for cashews and adding more in the way of spices.

The main sticking point was the question of how much cumin to use. The cake we had in Sri Lanka offered up a burst of cumin with the occasional bite, so it wasn’t packed with the stuff, but I didn’t want to under-spice it, either.

Banana and cumin cake
I decided to use a teaspoon of cumin seeds, but as it turned out, I should have followed my husband’s advice and used more! I only got a hint of cumin when I tasted the cake, which was slightly disappointing, but the cake was delicious anyway and at least I know for next time!

Banana and cumin cake

Banana and cumin cake recipe

Makes 1 loaf, serving 8-10

  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 80g butter, softened
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 55g dark muscovado sugar
  • 55g jaggery, crumbled (you can buy this from Asian grocers)
  • 4 very ripe bananas
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • seeds of 3 green cardamom pods, ground
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (I used 1 tsp and got a very very subtle flavour)
  • 50g cashews, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Whisk in the butter, egg, sugar and jaggery until you get a sandy texture, almost like large crumbs.
  4. Mash the bananas in another bowl and whisk them into the flour mixture, along with the ground cloves, ginger and cardamom.
  5. Fold in the lemon zest, cumin seeds and cashews.
  6. Transfer the mix to the loaf tin, level the top and sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top.
  7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  8. Let the cake cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve on its own or warm with ice cream.

Orange and date muffins

Orange and date muffinsI had a sudden urge one night to bake something reminiscent of sticky toffee pudding. After looking through some of my saved recipes, I decided to adapt a recipe for prune muffins by making a few tweaks to create these orange and date muffins.

I’m going to be upfront here: they went a bit wrong. I managed to completely forget about the sugar until the muffins were in the oven! Luckily, I realised only a few seconds after I put them in, so I quickly whisked them out again and attempted to mix the sugar into each muffin case.

I wasn’t completely successful – it was difficult to make sure the sugar was completely mixed in, so when they came out, they had slightly caramelised tops from the sugar that didn’t dissolve into the mix. It sounds a bit weird, but (much to my relief) the caramelised tops actually meant the muffins were rather nice!

Orange and date muffins
There were still little pockets in each muffin that were a bit more… savoury than the rest, but the dates really helped to add some sweetness, and the orange zest and cinnamon was a nice distraction.

I took the muffins into work, and no one would have known I’d had a disaster in the kitchen if I hadn’t told them, so I think I got away with it!

I would recommend that you do actually beat the sugar into the muffin mix *before* spooning it into the cases, but if you also want some nice caramelised tops, all you have to do is sprinkle a bit more sugar on top – I think demerara would be perfect for this! See my recipe below for full details…

Orange and date muffins

Orange and date muffins recipe

Adapted from this recipe.

Makes 12 muffins

  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 250ml milk
  • 125ml sunflower oil
  • 80g soft dark brown or dark muscovado sugar
  • 285g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Zest of one orange
  • 115g pitted dates, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp demerara sugar (optional)

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases, or grease thoroughly.
  2. Mix together the egg, milk and oil in a measuring jug, then mix in the sugar. Set aside.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl. Stir in the orange zest.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the flour mix and pour the liquid mix into it. Stir until just combined (do not overmix, otherwise you’ll end up with horrible, rubbery muffins).
  5. Fold in the dates.
  6. Spoon the mix into the muffin tin. Sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top of the mix in each case, if using.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes until risen and browned on top. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Fresh blueberry flapjacks

Fresh blueberry flapjacksI was feeling a little bored last Sunday evening, so, of course, I decided to bake something. I just wanted to make something quick and easy, but also something vaguely good for you. As I had some blueberries in the fridge, I decided to go with these incredibly simple but delicious fresh blueberry flapjacks.

I found the recipe online on the Vegetarian Living website, and followed it to the letter – sort of. I didn’t have quite enough oats, so I made up the difference with oatmeal. I don’t think the substitution made much of a difference to the flavour or texture of the flapjacks!

Fresh blueberry flapjacks
I really like the use of lemon zest in this recipe – lemon and blueberry is such a classic combination, and goes really well with the sweet oats.

Fresh blueberry flapjacks
My fresh blueberry flapjacks went down a storm when I took them into the office the next day. Ok, so this recipe is only half healthy – fresh fruit and oats and oats are all very well, but when you sugar, butter and golden syrup the bad-for-you foods seem to cancel out the good-for-you ones… oh well! The flapjacks are still super tasty and very easy to make, and surely they’re still a better option than a sponge cake bursting with cream and jam…?!

Spiced honey tea loaf

Spiced honey tea loafAfter a few weeks of making lots of little things, I fancied baking something nice and large last weekend. After flicking through some recipe books, I settled on this rather lovely spiced honey tea loaf from Luis Troyano’s Bake It Great.

It’s incredibly easy to make – if you remember to soak the dried fruit in the tea and honey the night before! I ended up soaking it for around 6 hours during the day, and this seemed to be just about long enough, as I could taste the tea in the fruit when I had a warm slice just after removing the tea loaf from the oven.

Spiced honey tea loaf
The recipe calls for the fruit to be soaked in Lady Grey, but as my teabags were looking a bit old, I used loose leaf Earl Grey instead. For the fruit itself, I used raisins, chopped prunes and dried cranberries. Once most of the tea and honey has been soaked up, all you have to do is add some flour, an egg and mixed spice before tipping the lot into a loaf tin and baking. Once it’s out of the oven, glaze the top with some more honey.

Note that there’s no butter in this recipe, making it more like a loaf of bread than a loaf cake!

Spiced honey tea loaf
I was a bit concerned that my tea loaf didn’t seem to rise very much, but it was definitely cooked in the middle, so I was happy. I had my first slice with butter and it was LOVELY. Luis also suggests trying some with cheddar and chutney (like you might with a fruitcake), but it was good enough with butter for me!

Spiced honey tea loaf
Unfortunately, the recipe doesn’t seem to be online anywhere for me to link to, but it’s well worth buying Bake It Great anyway – there are so many fantastic recipes, and this one is actually in a chapter dedicated to honey! There’s also another section on Spanish baking with some intriguing-looking bakes. If that sounds like your cup of tea, consider making the investment.