Frosted walnut layer cake + peanut butter cookies + Oreo brownies

Frosted walnut layer cakeNo, I didn’t go on the baking bender to end all benders in one night. I made these three recipes – frosted walnut layer cake, peanut butter cookies and Oreo brownies – over the course of the last few weeks, but haven’t had a lot of time to blog about them what with planning a wedding, organising my hen do, training for a 10K and, of course, just normal everyday life!

I thought it would help to blog about all three recipes at the same time, rather than labouring over three separate posts. And, hey, you get to drool over even more baked goods than usual!

Mary Berry’s frosted layer cake

I made this cake (pictured above) for my fiancé, who has been begging me to bake it ever since it turned up in a technical challenge on last year’s Great British Bake Off. It was fairly challenging, so I can only imagine how difficult it is without a full recipe to follow!
Frosted walnut layer cake 2
This is basically three layers of walnut sponge sandwiched with a big pile of buttercream and smothered with an even bigger pile of icing. There’s so much sugar in this recipe – be warned if your teeth tingle at the merest hint of sweetness!

The icing was quite tricky, and didn’t seem to completely set (I can’t remember from the show whether it’s supposed to, though), but I was pleased with my caramelised walnuts. I think my favourite bit of the cake was the buttercream, to be honest!

You can find the recipe on BBC Food here.

Peanut butter cookies

Peanut butter cookies
I made these when I found myself without any baked goods in the house, which really isn’t a great situation to be in. The recipe is from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet. I followed it to the letter, using spelt flour rather than the other option of wholemeal, but added a chopped up Twirl (milk chocolate fingers for the international readers out there!) at the last minute, just for the hell of it.

The cookies were gorgeously peanutty, but also ridiculously sweet! I don’t know if that’s down to the brand of peanut butter I used (think it was the ultra cheap stuff from Asda), the addition of the chocolate, or because Dan really does call for too much sugar, but just be warned! I’d tone it down next time by reducing the overall amount of sugar from 325g to about 200g.

Peanut butter cookies
The texture was rather interesting – they weren’t soft like a traditional cookie, but had more of a biscuit-like crunch, and also had distinct layers, which I assume is down to the bicarb. You can find the recipe on the Guardian website here.

Oreo brownies

Oreo brownies
Finally, I made these Oreo brownies after almost a year of a colleague asking (begging!) me to make them. I made them a few days ago for his birthday, and I think I met expectations!

The recipe is just my usual brownie recipe, with a packet of roughly chopped Oreos thrown in:

Makes 16 brownies

  • 320g dark chocolate
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 125g dark brown sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 85g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 154g packet of Oreos, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/160C/140C fan. Grease and line a 20cm square tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a pan or in a bowl set above a pan of simmering water. Set aside and leave to cool slightly.
  3. Whisk the eggs until pale then add the sugars and whisk again thoroughly.
  4. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
  5. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir the Oreos in to coat.
  6. Add the flour and Oreo mixture to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.
  7. Pour the mix into the tin and bake for about 1 hour, checking the brownies after 40 mins in case your oven is better than mine!
  8. Once the brownies look set on top, remove them from the oven and leave them in the tin to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing them up.

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!

Soured cream and walnut brownies

Soured cream and walnut brownies

We held a bake sale at work to celebrate the start of the Great British Bake Off a few weeks ago (any excuse, eh?). I probably should have planned something elaborate from the show, but instead I faffed for a bit and then decided to rustle up some completely unrelated soured cream and walnut brownies at the last minute. To be fair, brownies have popped up on the show before!

The brownies are pretty simple – they’re basically chocolate and walnut brownies with a moreish frosting made from melted chocolate and soured cream.

As always, I adapted the recipe I had quite a lot to accommodate the ingredients I actually had in the cupboard. There was a worrying shortage of dark chocolate, but I had more than enough of my lovely Milka chocolate and some white chocolate to make up the difference.

Apologies for the lack of pictures and very short post, but I only just remembered to take the single photo above seconds before my hungry colleagues descended on the table! Rest assured that these are some seriously amazing brownies – definitely a treat for adults to keep hidden from sugar-starved little ones…

The recipe

Makes 16

For the brownies:

  • 55g butter
  • 115g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp strong coffee, cooled (I used good quality instant, if there is such a thing)
  • 85g plain flour
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 30g walnuts, chopped
  • 50g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  • grated white chocolate, to decorate

For the frosting:

  • 115g milk chocolate (or plain if you prefer!), broken into pieces
  • 150ml soured cream

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to gas 4/180C. Grease and line a square 20cm brownie tin.
  2. For the brownies, melt the plain chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, being careful not to let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Set aside to cool.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs together until pale and thick. Fold in the chocolate and butter mixture and the coffee, and mix well.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt, and fold in.
  5. Fold in the walnuts and white chocolate.
  6. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes, until set. Leave the brownies to cool in the tin.
  7. Make the frosting by melting the chocolate and beating in the soured cream until thoroughly combined.
  8. Spread the frosting over the cooled brownies and grate some white chocolate over the top to decorate.
  9. Leave to set in a cool place (half an hour in the fridge should do!) and cut into squares.

First bake: banana and walnut teabread

Banana and walnut teabreadA few days ago, I found myself in the same situation as the other week, where I had some rapidly ripening bananas to finish off one way or another. So, I had a flick through my trusty BBC Good Food book and found this recipe for banana and walnut teabread – not exactly a traditional Easter bake, but as my family doesn’t really ‘do’ Easter, that didn’t really matter!

Banana and walnut teabread mix

Banana and walnut teabread mix

As always, I had to slightly adapt the recipe according to what I actually had in. I didn’t have enough walnuts so only put two-thirds of what was required in the mix, and topped the teabread with chopped shelled pistachios instead of the remaining walnuts. I think it looks rather good this way, don’t you?

Banana and walnut teabread

There are walnuts in there, honest!

The mix was easy enough to knock up, but it seemed to take far longer to bake in the oven than the recipe suggests – around an hour and a half as opposed to 55 minutes. Still, it wasn’t burnt when I finally took it out, which was a very good sign!

Banana and walnut teabread
All in all, this is a delicious, moist teabread with the right balance of flavours – the savoury walnut threatens to overwhelm at first, but then the sweet banana and sugar kick in at *just* the right moment to provide a rather agreeable treat to have with your afternoon cup of tea.

The recipe

From BBC Good Food’s 101 Cakes & Bakes.