Cookies & Cream…. And Cake

 I’ve waited a really long time to make the Cookies and Cream cake from the Hummingbird Bakery Home Sweet Home recipe book.  Apparently I have very few friends who have a sweet enough tooth to handle this dynamic duo.  Thankfully, my friend from work had a birthday coming up, and has a seriously sweet tooth (even sweeter than mine!) so I shot-gunned cake duty and went all out on this cake.Read More »

Chocolate Victoria Sponge

Chocolate Victoria Sponge

It’s been a while since I’ve baked anything – the thought of having to turn the oven on and create a sauna out of my already ‘too-hot’ kitchen gives me the shivers. So when I was asked to bring something to a girly night in, I gritted my teeth and made the quickest, the simplest and the girliest cake possible: the good old chocolate Victoria sponge.Read More »

Last Minute Lemon and Poppyseed Ring Cake

During Easter, I went a bit anti-Easter related baked goods.  I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m kind of tired of all the Easter eggs, bunnies, and bird nests.  We’ve all had our fair share of chocolatey goodness and enough is enough.

So when I was told that we had guests coming for cake and tea two hours before they were due to arrive – I refused to bake anything Easter-related I got out the trusty old Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and picked a recipe that reminds me of spring: the Lemon and Poppy Seed Ring Cake.Read More »

Maple and Walnut Streusel Cake

Right. I got my brand-spanking new beautiful Hummingbird Bakery Recipe book, which meant: a lot of jumping up and down, countless hours spent pouring over the pictures trying to decide what to bake first; and five seconds of baking time to spill something on it.  I guess the sign of a good recipe book is one with numerous stains?! At least, this is what I tell myself instead of admitting that I’m just a messy cook.Read More »

Marbled Chocolate Ring Cake

I saw the photo of this cake in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible and thought – ‘it looks fit, I must try it’. Yes people, I described a cake as fit. I’m sorry, it had to be done.

I needed a reason to try out this marbled chocolate cake and luckily, my neighbours were due to come round for dinner; technically not a dinner party, but excuse enough for dessert.Read More »

Apple and Cinnamon Cake

I had planned to make this cake for Christmas day, but my Gingerbread Mansion took up a lot more time than expected so I had to make it later on.  I was making my first ever Iranian meal and decided that we would also have to have some sort of dessert as well.

I chopped up the walnuts and peeled, cored and grated the apple ready to go into the mixture.  The recipe is pretty easy: essentially you throw everything except the cinnamon and apples into a bowl and whisk it together until it is thoroughly blended.  Then you pour half the mixture into the cake tin, spread the apple and cinnamon on top of that, and then spoon the remaining cake mixture on top. That’s, literally, how easy it’s meant to be. I put the cake into the oven and carried on with the main courses while it baked.

We have a new oven in our kitchen, a beautiful double oven that I adored, until now.  During the first attempt at this cake (yes – there were two attempts!), I did what I always do: set the timer and go off to do something else until the alarm goes off.  Usually an extra few minutes is needed but generally, this method has always worked for me.

 This time, I smelt something that wasn’t that beautiful baking scent and went back to the kitchen 15minutes earlier to investigate.  The cake was burnt – not just a little burnt – a lot burnt! I had no idea what went wrong: the temperature was right, the time was right – I couldn’t explain it.

With a broken heart I took the cake out and dejectedly popped open the tin to look at the damage.  My mum, who was teaching me how to cook the Iranian main course ate some and deemed it edible, but I refused to serve it – I’m the cake queen; I was determined to try again.

Apple and Cinnamon Cake

Thankfully I was at a point in cooking the main course where I could stop; I had planned to have a cup of tea in front of the telly but I resorted to a glass of wine and a grim-faced second attempt at the cake. This time I turned the temperature down slightly and set the timer for 30 minutes.

I quickly checked the cake once the alarm went off and thankfully, it wasn’t burnt … but it wasn’t cooked either. I quickly slammed the door shut and set the timer for 15minutes at a time until it had cooked. I left it to cool while I made the rest of the food.

Recipe 65 - 3

The rest of the meal went really well and everyone was amazed that I managed to not only cook so much, but make it taste almost as good as my mums (lets be real – no one can cook as well as her!). When it came to serving the dessert, I was so happy that it hadn’t burnt that I completely forgot to sprinkle a little light muscovado sugar and icing sugar on top before cutting everyone a slice.

Recipe 65 - 4

The cake was beautiful – not too sweet, not too cinnamon-y, the layer of apple in the middle also made it beautifully moist.  I’m not the biggest fan of sultanas so would probably cut them out if I made the cake again.

Recipe 65 - 5

Iced Chocolate Traybake

This was the last ‘advent present’ I had to make for my team advent calendar and this recipient was the easiest to bake for, as he beats me on the sweet-tooth front. I figured, what could be sweeter than an Iced Chocolate Traybake???

I set about getting all the ingredients together and was pretty surprised when I realised that I needed apricot jam for the cake. Would apricot jam really go with chocolate cake and chocolate icing? Well I guess I was about to find out.

I mixed the cocoa powder and water to make a thick paste and put it aside to cool for a while before dumping all the ingredients in a bowl and whisking them together.  Yes people – it is, literally, that easy!

I poured all the ingredients into my baking tray and put it in the oven for around 40minutes.  Once out, I left it to cool and made myself a cup of tea before starting on the icing.

 Iced Chocolate Traybake

The icing was made up of chocolate melted with 6 tablespoons of water, which is then beaten in with the icing sugar (yum!).  Once this was ready I spread the apricot jam over the cake and then the icing over this.  I actually found it quite difficult to spread the icing evenly; the apricot jam made the icing difficult to work with.

Recipe 64 - 3

I finally got a (almost) smooth look before I gave up. All that was left to do was to cut the traybake into squares, eat any stray crumbs, and pick the nicest-looking squares to go into the ‘advent present’; the rest of it got boxed up and carted off to family, friends and my tummy!

 Iced Chocolate Traybake

I absolutely loved this cake, as did the ‘advent present recipient’ and anyone else who managed to grab a slice from the kitchen before it disappeared.  It is very sweet and might not be to everyone’s taste but personally, I found it scrumptious! I’m not the biggest chocolate cake fan but I absolutely loved this, the apricot jam went really well and the chocolate was not overpowering at all.

Dairy-Free Blueberry and Coconut Cake

Continuing with the advent theme, my second advent present went to a colleague who is lactose intolerant.  I was determined to make her something dairy-free, as she normally just takes the bullet and eats my cakes regardless.

I found this recipe on the BBC goodfoods website and had to give it a go. It seemed pretty simple to do, whisking the ‘wet’ ingredients in one bowl and the ‘dry’ ones in another – all you have to do is alternatively fold in the flour and soya milk into the ‘wet’ ingredients.  I didn’t use soya milk for this recipe but stuck to coconut milk instead.

Dairy-Free Blueberry and Coconut Cake

Then a quarter of the mixture went into the tin before adding the blueberries into the rest of the mixture.  Then everything went into the tin and into the oven for around an hour and 15 minutes.  Once cooled, I sliced up the cake and wrapped it for her present (unfortunately at the time I only had black ribbon – which isn’t the most festive colour but I had to work with what I had!)

Dairy-Free Blueberry and Coconut Cake

The rest of the cake went into the office kitchen for whoever else was feeling peckish that day.

I have to admit, I’ve always been a bit wary of dairy-free cakes, as I feel like it wouldn’t taste as good but this recipe is gold.  The coconut works amazingly well with the blueberries and there isn’t that ‘oily’ aftertaste you usually get with oil-based cakes.  A definite new favourite of mine and one that I will make a lot more in future.

Dairy-Free Blueberry and Coconut Cake

The All-in-one – Victoria Sandwich

Have you ever wondered why it’s called a ‘Victoria Sandwich’? Apparently, it’s named after Queen Victoria, who favoured a slice of this sponge cake with her afternoon tea.  As for the sandwich bit – well I guess that part’s pretty obvious!

Now that my family have finally accepted that baked goods are to be a permanent feature in their lives – they’ve started to get quite demanding.  Any dinner parties that take place are now required to have one of my cakes as dessert – regardless of whether I am attending or not.

In the same way, I am now expected to bring dessert to any dinner parties I am invited to.  I’ve argued that, as it is someone else’s dinner party, surely they should get a chance to bake but – apparently – this form of logic is completely lost on them. And as there is absolutely no argument that I can ever win with my family, I tend to go with the flow (it also gives me an excuse to get some baking done for the blog so I shouldn’t complain!)

This particular time I was baking a cake to take to a dinner party. I actually wasn’t asked to bake until a few hours before we had to leave so I panicked and went for the trusty Victoria Sandwich. The ‘large’ and ‘all-in-one’ parts of the title bode well so I went with it.

 Once again Mary Berry went for the ‘throw it all together’ method of baking but I didn’t follow the exact instructions and went for something different.  I whisked together the butter and sugar (as always) and then added the eggs.  Instead of whisking in the flour and baking powder, I decided to go old-school and fold it in.  Why? I have no idea – maybe with a 2 hour time limit (which included getting myself ready) I decided I had way too much time on my hands. I don’t know.

Once the batter was ready, I split it between the two cake tins, attempted to make it even, gave up and put it in the oven for 25 minutes. They came out golden, even and springy to the touch – perfect! If only all my cakes would come out this way.

After a few minutes cooling time, I took them out of the cake tins and peeled off the baking parchment.  I kept the nicest looking cake the right way round but turned the other one (which was also nice – just not as flat on the top) upside down.  This would become the bottom layer so I figured this technique would make it as flat as possible.

Once cooled. I spread strawberry jam on the top of the flattened cake before placing (i.e. accidentally dropping) the second layer on top.  Thankfully it didn’t break! Just before leaving I sprinkled caster sugar on top – et voila!

I had packed the Victoria Sandwich into my trusty cake tin and got in the car ready to leave.  Somehow (and I blame this completely on my father’s driving skills), between us leaving the house and getting to the dinner party, the top layer of the cake slid half off the bottom … AARGH!

OK, so it was fixed really easily (I, quite literally, slid it back into place and cleaned off the excess jam) but it’s one of those things that only ever manage to happen to me.

Thankfully there were no other mishaps and the cake went down a treat – two guests even tried to ‘judge’ it in the same way as Paul Hollywood and Marry Berry from The Great British Bake Off – thankfully that feedback was positive (although they did say ‘no soggy bottoms’ which I believe refers to pastry and not sponge cake!).

There’s not much to say for the taste of this cake, everyone knows what a good Victoria Sandwich should taste like – and this is definitely a recipe that will create that perfect sponge!