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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Masala chai cake

Masala chai cakeWell, it’s been rather longer since my last post than I originally anticipated! But I have been baking, so fear not. My first bake of 2017 was this rather delicious masala chai cake.

The recipe is from The Cardamom Trail, the book by one of my all-time favourite GBBO contestants, Chetna Makan. It’s a lot simpler than the recipe I came up for my own sort-of successful tea masala cake five years (!) ago – and a lot more successful at replicating the flavours of traditional Indian chai, too.

Masala chai cake
I’m a huge fan of Chetna’s recipes – they’re usually not too complicated, but they still deliver on both the flavour and texture fronts every time. This masala chai cake recipe is no exception; the sponge is beautifully soft and light, while the gorgeous combination of cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and ginger really comes through.

I chose not to make the frosting because, like many other people, I’ve been trying to eat a little less fat and sugar in the aftermath of the excesses of Christmas. I think the cake is beautiful without the frosting, but I can also see how it would add a bit more oomph if you were making the cake for a less diet-conscious crowd. Without the frosting, the cake comes in at around 150 calories per piece if you cut it into 20 pieces, which I think is very reasonable for such a delicious cake!

Masala chai cake
The recipe isn’t online, but I would strongly recommend that anyone who’s a fan of using spices in baking buy The Cardamom Trail – it’s a fantastic book and I can’t wait to make something else from it!

Fig, pear and ginger flapjacks + other bakes + an odd October

I can’t believe my last post was at the start of the month. A lot has happened since then! See below or skip straight to the bottom for my fig, pear and ginger flapjacks recipe.

Also, happy Diwali to everyone who celebrates!

Literary stuff

I had a great time going to three events at the Manchester Literature Festival. I’ve never been before, but there were quite a few interesting events on this year.

I went to events for The Good Immigrant (a collection of essays about what it’s like to be a second-generation immigrant in Britain); an anthology of short stories inspired by Jane Eyre called Reader, I Married Him and edited by Tracy Chevalier; and an examination of writing about the Lancashire coastline, featuring Andrew Michael Hurley (The Loney) and Jenn Ashworth (Fell). They were all really inspiring and gave me a lot to think about as someone who would like to write a book one day!

I also nabbed a free, signed copy of Jenni Murray’s A History Of Britain In 21 Women as part of a festival giveaway, which I’m rather chuffed about!

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Outside of the festival, I also went to see the wonderful Becky Chambers talk about her two books – The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet (READ IT NOW IT’S SO GOOD) and the newly released A Closed And Common Orbit (I’m waiting for the paperback to come out before I read it, but also READ IT NOW). She’s a really funny, intelligent woman, and it was a pleasure to hear her talk about video games, science and what it’s like to write a novel.

Goodbye, Bake Off

I did, of course, watch GBBO to the end, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried a little at the end of the final (it’ll never be the same without Mary, Mel and Sue).

I was originally rooting for Benjamina to win (that pina colada roulade… oof!), but I’ve also loved Candice throughout, especially since That Pub, so I threw my support behind her when Benjamina left.

Credit: Radio Times

Credit: Radio Times

I’m thrilled that she won in the face of a stupid amount of abuse on social media over her looks, as well as the fact that *gasp* she obviously wanted to do well in the competition – rather than being all British about it and pretending that it didn’t matter if she won or not. OF COURSE it matters when you take months out of your life to practice making ever more complicated baked goods in an effort to please Paul and Mary. Let’s not pretend that it doesn’t.

I’m rather gutted that there’s no GBBO at all next year, but I’m hoping that the BBC will film Candice and Jane’s baking road trip and screen that instead next summer!

As an aside, the final technical challenge was brilliant and exactly what a technical challenge should be (none of this ‘make something you’ve never heard of’ malarkey).

The horrible bit

The biggest low this month was being mugged on my way home from the Becky Chambers event earlier in the week. I wasn’t hurt, but was rather shaken up by having my bag snatched and being pushed over by two blokes bigger than me who could just jump out of and into a car and speed off.

It’s made me quite anxious about leaving the house and getting home from work, especially as the nights are drawing in, but I’m hoping that I’ll get over it soon. I can’t very well stay indoors for the rest of my life!

The thing I’m most angry about is that they took things that wouldn’t have had any value for them (although they did manage to squeeze £45 out of my bank card), but meant a lot to me. I also resent going through the long and expensive rigmarole of having the locks changed, replacing my phone and other things that were in my bag, notifying the relevant people, etc. All so some low-lifes can no doubt buy some cheap booze and fags before doing it again to another unsuspecting soul.

Baking!

I have also been baking this month, so don’t worry! Unfortunately, all of the photos were on my stolen phone, so I’ve only got some snaps from Instagram to share.

Mary Berry’s lemon and poppy seed traybake

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This was a really easy cake to make. I settled on this after my husband requested something lemony for my next bake.The sponge was wonderfully light and soft, with plenty of flavour. I deviated a little from Mary’s recipe and put the zest of two lemons instead of just one into the mix – it really made a difference to the flavour, I think.

The recipe is on Mary Berry’s website.

Banana, raisin and rum drizzle loaf cake

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This is pretty the same as the banana, rum and raisin loaf I’ve made before, except that I made a rum drizzle (50g icing sugar mixed with 2-3 tbsp of dark rum) to pour over the top of the warm cake. This seemed to make the cake exceptionally boozy, which I’m sure Mary Berry would approve of!

Fig, pear and ginger flapjacks

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Last week I really wanted to bake something, but couldn’t be bothered going to buy particular ingredients, so I made do with what I had in – dried figs, a pear from my mother-in-law’s garden and my trusty store cupboard. I pretty much just jazzed up a basic flapjack recipe, with good results!

The flapjacks were wonderfully autumnal, if not a little soft due to the fruit – but still very nice if you don’t mind bits of flapjack falling everywhere! The recipe is below.

Makes 16 flapjacks

  • 1 pear, peeled and diced
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 175g soft brown sugar (I used 40g golden caster sugar and 135g dark muscovado sugar)
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup (I used 2 tbsp plus 2 tbsp of syrup from a jar of stem ginger)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 0.25 tsp ground cloves
  • 325g porridge oats
  • 100g dried figs, chopped
  • 1 ball of stem ginger, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment.
  3. Toss the diced pear in a little lemon juice and sugar, and set aside.
  4. In a saucepan, melt together the butter, sugar, syrup, ground ginger and cloves, stirring frequently.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the oats, figs, drained pear pieces and stem ginger.
  6. Press the mixture into the tin and bake for 40 minutes, or until golden. It may still be soft in the middle at this point, but it should firm up as it cools.
  7. Cool completely in the tin, then turn out and slice into 16 squares.

Here’s to a more normal November!

Ginger and coconut flapjacks

Ginger and coconut flapjacksI made these ginger and coconut flapjacks on a bit of a whim, when I knew I wanted to bake *something*, but couldn’t be bothered with anything complex. With ginger and coconut being two of my favourite flavours, I thought I couldn’t go wrong with this recipe!

Flapjacks are incredibly easy to make, and these were no exception. I used this recipe from the Domestic Gothess, and followed it pretty much exactly. I didn’t have any stem ginger, so I swapped it for roughly 35-40g of chopped crystallised ginger.

Ginger and coconut flapjacks
The only slight problem came in the baking (I really need to get a new oven!). They took AGES to bake, and I think the recipe calls for a bit too much butter, because I could actually see it bubbling away in the tray – not something I’ve experienced with other flapjack recipes!

The mixture did harden upon cooling (thankfully), but there was a lot of liquid butter still in the bottom of the tray, and it kept oozing out of the flapjacks as they cooled – it was a bit like resting meat to prevent the juices from spoiling the plate!

Nevertheless, the flapjacks were delicious. They were very gingery and the coconut was in the background a bit – I think next time I would drastically reduce the amount of butter and add a little coconut cream to let the coconut compete a bit more with the ginger.

Ginger and coconut flapjacks
They went down well at work, at least, which is always a good sign!

Coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cake

Coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cakeI’m going to go so far as to say that I think this coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cake is one of my best ever baking inventions.

I’ve been on a bit of a ‘winging it’ kick recently, what with the muffins that nearly didn’t have any sugar in them and last week’s lovely lemony scones. But this recipe beats those two into a cocked hat!

I sound like I’m tooting my own horn, but I’m not: the idea for the flavour combination is mine, but the base cake recipe is an adaptation of a Chetna Makan recipe that I made a while ago. So well done to both of us!

Coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cake
The lime is present in the cake mix (the zest) and the drizzle (the juice), while there’s both dessicated coconut and coconut cream in the cake itself. The cardamom could have been overwhelming, but it’s not! The flavour of this cake is very much reminiscent of the barfi I made for Diwali last year, except with the tang of lime cutting through the sweetness.

The texture of the cake is excellent – incredibly light, airy and moist. I’m eating a piece of this cake as I type, and it’s still really fresh-tasting even 3 days after baking it! I took this cake into the office, where it got a great reception. I’m very thankful that I thought to save myself some pieces at home.

I don’t think think there’s much else that I can say except… make it now!

Coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cake

Coconut, cardamom and lime drizzle cake recipe

Adapted from this recipe.

Cuts into 15 pieces, or 12 big ones

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 50g desiccated coconut, plus extra for decorating
  • 50g sachet of coconut cream (I used Patak’s)
  • 4 green cardamom pods
  • 50g caster sugar (for the drizzle)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C. Grease a rectangular baking dish (mine was 11″ x 7″ x 1.5″) and line it with baking parchment.
  2. Put the sachet of coconut cream in a small bowl and pour hot water over it. This will soften the cream and make it easier to mix into the cake batter.
  3. Beat together the butter, sugar, eggs, flour and lime zest, using an electric whisk or stand mixer, until light.
  4. Release the seeds from the cardamom pods and grind in a mortar and pestle or by crushing the seeds with the back of a wooden spoon on a chopping board (I tend to find that spice grinders don’t work well with tiny quantities of cardamom seeds).
  5. Fold the cardamom, desiccated coconut and coconut cream into the flour mix.
  6. Spoon the mix into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden on top. A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean.
  7. Make the drizzle by mixing the lime juice with the 50g of caster sugar.
  8. Poke holes into the cake using a skewer (don’t go all the way to the bottom, though!) and pour the drizzle all over the top, while the cake is still warm. The drizzle will sink into the holes and create a crunchy top when set.
  9. Sprinkle over some more dessicated coconut to decorate, if you like.
  10. Leave the cake to cool in the tin, then release it and cut into squares or rectangles.

Bakewell slices + an epic afternoon tea

Bakewell slices
A few weeks ago, my fiancé and I hosted a celebratory afternoon tea for some friends to belatedly mark our engagement. If you know us, you’ll know that we do love to throw a bit of a do, and this was definitely a do and a half! One of the many things we made was these Bakewell slices.

Before I go on, I do apologise for the quality of the photos – I’ve never been great at taking pictures, but in my defence, we did happen to have a magnum of prosecco on the go at the time!

Anyway, the Bakewell slices were the one thing I hadn’t made before, so I suppose it was a bit of a gamble. However, I used a Mary Berry recipe for these, and she rarely puts a foot wrong, so I was pretty confident that they’d turn out well. And turn out well they did!

It basically just involved making some pastry, lining a tin with it and topping it with a layer of raspberry jam, some almond sponge mix (flavoured with almond extract rather than ground almonds, which surprised me a bit) and flaked almonds. Then the whole thing went in the oven. And that was it!

They were truly scrumptious, and got thumbs up from the guests. They’re great to make if you want to impress with something easy to make, and are easily made in advance (I made mine the day before and they kept well in the tin).

Afternoon tea
So, what else did we make? We also had the following on the menu…

  • Finger sandwiches (savoury cheese and beetroot; egg mayo and cress; cucumber, dill and cream cheese)
  • Plain and fruit scones (recipe from BBC Good Food; I made two batches and put sultanas in one of them)
  • Viennese whirls (recipe from the Hairy Bikers and previously blogged here)
  • Victoria sponge (recipe from BBC Good Food and previously blogged here)
  • Lemon tart (recipe from The Best-Ever Mediterranean Cookbook)
  • Dark and white chocolate eclairs (recipe from Raymond Blanc)
  • Assorted afternoon cocktails (hic!)
Viennese whirls, scones and finger sandwiches

Viennese whirls, scones and finger sandwiches

Victoria sponge

Victoria sponge

Lemon tart

Lemon tart

All in all, it was a great do and all of the food was lovely (even if I do say so myself). We made far too much as usual, but it’s always better to make too much than too little. Especially when it means you can basically have afternoon tea for breakfast AND lunch the next day…

Lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam

Lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam
Well, it’s been a little while since my last post. I haven’t really had the time to bake much recently; I went to Paris the other week (it was amazing) but, unfortunately, my new job didn’t quite work out, so I’m now a freelance copywriter and on the hunt for a new permanent role. It’s all been a bit unexpected and fairly stressful, but I’m past the worst now – so much so that I made this rather lovely lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam earlier in the week!

The recipe is by Chetna Makan of GBBO fame. You may remember that I’m a huge fan of hers and that I successfully made her masala chai baklava a few months ago. This traybake was a tad easier to make and I got to indulge in one of my favourite pastimes in the process – throwing way more coconut into the mix than the recipe calls for.

Lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam
The recipe is really easy to follow. Just make a basic cake mix, stir lemon zest and dessicated coconut into it, bake and then top the cooled cake with jam and more dessicated coconut. The recipe says to use raspberry jam, which is the classic choice when it comes to coconut, but I didn’t have any and used strawberry jam instead.

Amazingly for me, the cake baked perfectly in the time specified by the recipe. It’s a miracle! I’m a fairly impatient person and found it difficult waiting for the cake to cool so I could top it and eat it, but I just about managed it. The resulting cake was delicious – the sponge itself wasn’t overly sweet, but the jam balanced that out and the tang of the lemon zest was beautiful. Just what I needed after an insane few weeks!

Lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam
I would heartily recommend this cake if you’re looking for something really easy to knock up for teatime. I can imagine that it would be a lovely pudding served warm with custard, too!

Lemon and coconut cake with strawberry jam
The recipe

Can be found on the Food Network website here.