Monday, 13 December 2010

Christmas Carrot Cake...

This cake is not just for Christmas...However, it seems the combinations of spices, winter vegetables and dark sugars means that it lends itself to this festive season.

This cake is dark, moist and decedent - not unlike other fruit based cakes that are stacked high in the local shops and supermarkets throughout december.  The difference is that this cake doesn't need to be made weeks, months or even years before it is consumed.  It isn't seeped in alcohol and therefore it is wonderfully refreshing to consume alongside some of those heavy Christmas meals - when over-indulgence is so often on the menu.  Unlike light sponges and chocolate cakes, this cake will keep for a good period of time - provided it isn't all devoured within the first few hours!  If you want to keep it for a couple of weeks - or perhaps over the christmas period - then I would suggest not making the topping all at once, but in smaller portions and serving it as an accompniament to the cake, on the side, rather than on top.

Ingredients for the Cake
8 oz (225g) Self-Raising Wholemeal Flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
seeds from 5 cardomom pods, crushed 
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 medium free-range eggs
8 fl.oz (240ml) of vegetable or sunflower oil
4 oz (115g) dark brown soft sugar
2 oz (60g) light brown soft sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
12 oz carrots, grated
Zest and juice of one orange
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 oz pecan nuts, roughly chopped

Ingredients for the topping
5oz (150g) Mascarpone cheese
Zest of one orange
2 tsp lemon juice
50g icing sugar

Pre-heat your over to Gas Mark 3 (160C).  You need two bowls.  Once Large mixing bowl and one smaller bowl.

Bowl 1 - the smaller bowl : Sieve the flour, cinnamon, groung ginger, crushed cardomom seeds and bicarbonate of soda into the bowl.  Add any rusk, that doesn't sieve through, into the bowl with the sieved flour.

Bowl 2 - the large mixing bowl : crack the four eggs into the bowl and lightly whisk.  Add the oil, sugars and golden syrup and whisk for 2 minutes to get as much air into the mixture as possible.

Add the dry flour mix from bowl one into bowl two, a couple of tbsp's at a time, and fold into the mixture until the contents of both bowls are combined in the larger mixing bowl.  This mixture should become dark and glossy, like a pale treacle.  Delicious!

Grate the carrots into the mixture, add the orange zest, juice and lemon juice and mix.  Roughly chop the pecans and add them into the mixture.  Stir to combine.

Line the base of a 23" round, loose based clip tin. Any loose base tin will do but if it is smaller and deeper then the cake will take longer to cook in the centre.  Pour the mixture into the tin and place the tin on the middle shelf of the oven for around 45 minutes.  After the 45 minutes, check to see if the cake is done by inserting a sharp knife, or skewer, into the centre of the cake.  If the knife, or skewer, comes out clean then the cake is done.  If it comes out wet then leave the cake in the over for a further 5-10 minutes.

Whilst the cake is in the oven you have plenty of time to make the topping, do the washing up and clean your workstation!  To make the topping simply put the mascarpone cheese into a small mixing bowl.  Add the lemon juice and orange zest and stir.  Sift in the icing sugar (suggested 50g, but really it is to your own personal taste - I would say no more than 100g).  Mix all the ingredients together and place in the fridge to cool and semi-set.  This will make it easier to spread without dripping down the cake.

Allow the cake to completely cool in the tin.  This may take a couple of hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  Once cooled, spread the mascarpone topping onto the cake top, using a palette knife (a butter or standard knife will suffice)! Absolutely decilious and wonderful with a glass (or two) of mulled wine.

> ok so maybe we had a few slices before I remembered to take a photograph - it's not a crime!

Katie x

Monday, 22 November 2010

chocolate ganache tart....

not for the fain' tarted.... terrible I know.

The recipe for this tart is based on a complete experiment, part success, part disaster.... I consulted many of my recipe books before deciding on the method and then it struck me...'should I bake it or let it set'...and truth be told, I still don't know.  All I know is that this tart is serious - It's intense, and despite the fact that it would traditionally serve 10-12 people, I actually think that, given how rich it is, it has the potential to serve as many as 80!  and all 80 would be completely if this sound like your kind of tart, then read on.  I would suggest avoiding participating in this tart if you have any kind of heart condition - not that I am any kind of medic - but i wouldn't want to be held responsible for any consequential misfortunes....

250g digestive biscuits
100g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
200ml double cream
3 medium free-range eggs
275g golden caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to Gas Mark 4.  Have a 23" loose base fluted tin at the ready (also previously used for the pumpkin pie recipe).  Process the digestive biscuits and the butter.  If you don't have a food processor then leave the butter out at room temperature for an hour or so.  Then, in a mixing bowl, cream the butter so it is smooth.  Place the biscuits into a freezer bag, loosely holding the bag shut, and bash the biscuits, through the bag, with a rolling pin.  Make sure you bash from the bottom of the bag upwards so as not to burst the bag with pockets of air.  Once the biscuits are all crumbled up, like fine breadcrumbs, add them to the butter and beat to a smooth, but probably slightly crumbly consistency.  No doubt you will want to gorge on this biscuit mixture before it has even met the tin, but rest assured, the wait will be worth it.  Patience is a virtue.  pour the biscuit mixture into the fluted tin and press into the base and sides of the tin, making sure there is a relatively even level across all sides - although i'd favour less accuracy and more passion in the end product.  Place the tin on a baking sheet (this primarily stops me from putting my hand through the loose base and allowing the ingredients to great my kitchen floor).  Place in the freezer whilst you make the filling, or, if you have not got a freezer (or like me, your freezer is full of pre-pay day rations), then place the tart base in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

This tart base is truly traditional and much like a pastry base, it is adaptable to be use for many different fillings.

Now for the filling.  Gird your loins...

Break or chop up the 200g of dark chocolate and place in a saucepan.  Add the cream and warm over a low heat.  Once the chocolate has melted, encourage the mixture to merge with a wooden spoon.  Once combined remove from the heat and whisk frantically for no more than a minute until the mixture is thick, creamy and glossy.  You will almost definitely want to dip a pinkie in this creation - and who am I to deny such a pleasure!  This is now a basic ganache mixture.

In a separate bowl, and perhaps whilst the chocolate and cream are initially over the low heat, whisk up the eggs, add the sugar and continue to whisk like a madman until the mixture is thick, pale and almost double in size.  If you have an electric mixer, then this would be an advantage over a traditional bowl whisk.  Unless you are working on developing your upper body strength.

Pour the chocolate ganache mixture into the whisked eggs and fold in until the two mixtures are combined.  This produces a dar, intense yet light chocolate filling for the tart.

Remove the base from the freezer (or fridge) and pour the chocolate mixture slowly into the centre of the biscuit base allowing it to fill every nook and cranny - it won't need much encouragement, but you may require a spatula to draw the last few moments from the mixing bowl.

Still on the baking tray, transfer the tart to the oven and bake for 30 minutes on Gas Mark 4.  Refrain from opening the oven during baking.  Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack.  The tart may have risen above the level of the biscuit base and it should have developed a hard, meringue like, top.  Leave the tart on the rack and in the tin until it has completely cooled.  Do not worry if the mixture appears unset in the centre, this will all take care of itself as it cools.  As the tart cools the centre will set further and as the heat escapes the top will settle back down onto its base.

Serve when completely cool with single cream.  A crumbly biscuit base and a smooth, rich, melt in the mouth filling.

Katie x

Monday, 15 November 2010

Chocolate and Beetroot Cake

Sometimes there is nothing I enjoy more than visiting friends and baking with them.  I know I can always rely on one such friend, Linda, to have a baking cupboard stocked as well as mine - with the necessities, such as four types of flour, and luxuries, such as glitter sprinkles.

So, this weekend we took to the kitchen, in Linda's Glasgow flat, and prepared a Chocolate and Beetroot cake - which I have never attempted before!  And what a treat it was!  Few ingredients, simple to make and delicious with creme fraiche.... I highly recommend it.

We found the recipe online, and after tasting I have adapted it slightly.  Enjoy!


1 oz cocoa powder
4 and 1/2 oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of Salt
6 oz caster sugar
8 floz. of corn or vegetable Oil
1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
3 free-range eggs lightly beaten
9 oz cooked beetroot, pureed (cook from fresh if possible - if not, buy pre-cooked in 'natural juices')
4 oz plain dark chocolate (no more than 70% Cocoa Solids)


Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5 (190C).
Line the base of a 7" loose base cake tin and grease the sides.
Into one bowl, sift the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the sugar and stir together lightly.
In another bowl mix together the pureed beetroot, oil and vanilla essence.  Add the eggs into this mixture, a little at a time, folding between additions to blend the mixture together.  By the same method, of a little at a time, add the dry ingredients from the other bowl, folding between additions to bring it all together.  You should have a dark red, velvety looking mixture, thick and glossy... 
Chop up the dark chocolate into small pieces and stir them into the mixture.  Don't worry about the exact size of the chocolate pieces as they will completely melt into the mixture once in the oven.
Pour the mixture into the lined tin and then pop it onto the middle shelf of the oven.  After 45 minutes, check to see if it is cooked through, by inserted a skewer into the centre of the cake.  If the skewer comes out clean then the mixture is done.  If the skewer is wet, or if the cake wobbles as you remove it from the oven, place it back in for another 5-10 minutes.
Allow to cool for around 20 mins in the tin before sliding it out and placing it on whichever piece of crockery you think it best suites - I would recommend something pink or red.  Best served warm with cream or creme fraiche, however, also lovely with a cup of tea of an afternoon.

Katie x

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

midweek musings...

Whilst I find other things to occupy my weekends this month (a hen party, a trip to glasgow and a wedding) I thought I would share some of the intended sweet things that I am excited to bring to life in the coming months....

pasteis de nata
portugese egg custard tartlets made with puff pastry

chocolate brownies
absolute chocolate heaven made with dark, milk and white chocolate

carrot cake
dark, moist and utterly satisfying

lemon and lime drizzle cake
sharp, bitter, sweet and delightfully moorish

gluten free chocolate cake
served with whipped cream, berries and preferable a glass of port

On another note, I intend to visit a couple of my favourite places when I return to Glasgow next week...The Pig and Butterfly tea rooms, as well as Kember and Jones in the West End and I'm sure I'll be popping into Felix and Oscar at some point too....

Katie xx

Monday, 1 November 2010

pumpkin pie revised

So...after baking and eating pumpkin pie for the first time I would like to make a couple of minor amendments to the recipe.  Firstly, I think there is probably too much cinnamon and that the sugar quantity needs to be split between two types of sugar and more of it - the dark sugar on it's own makes the mixture quite bitter and heavy.  I also think that as far as eggs are concerned, the less faffing about separating them, the better.  Here are the revised ingredients and quantities:

450g / 1lb pumpkin flesh (no skin and cubed)
3 free-range medium eggs
2oz / 60g soft dark brown sugar
2oz / 60g soft light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg (1/4 of tsp if using ground nutmeg)
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
300ml double cream

Instead of using ground cinnamon you could incorporate a cinnamon stick into the mixture when heating the cream.  Remove the stick before combining the warm ingredients with the whisked egg.

Katie xx
(P.S the original method worked well and therefore remains unchanged)

Friday, 29 October 2010

pumpkin pie...part 2....

(above) pastry base, ready for the oven!
see previous blog for recipe... for the filling....


450g / 1lb prepared pumpkin flesh (no skin and cubed)
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
3oz / 75g soft dark brown sugar
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
300ml double cream


Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4.

Dice the pumpkin into small(ish) cubes and steam for 15 minutes or until completed soft and easy to mash.  Drain any excess water and mash to a puree.

In a large mixing bowl lightly whisk the eggs for 2 minutes.

Put the cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and ginger in a pan over a medium heat.  Bring the ingredients to a simmer, whisking as it thickens into a delicious and glossy mixture!  Whisk and simmer for 2-3 minutes until all ingredients are combined and smooth.

Pour the contents of the hot pan into the eggs and whisk again briefly.  Using a spatular bring the ingredients together and mix well for 3-4 minutes.  Add the pureed pumpkin and mix well.

Pour the mixture into your pastry case (which should still be in the tin) and place in the middle shelf for 35 minutes.  At this point the pumpkin should be puffed up around the edges.

Remove from the oven and served either warm or cold with cream or ice cream! xx

(above) fresh out the oven

(above) with a few extra leaf additions made with the left over pastry 

Thursday, 28 October 2010

pumpkin pie...

Not something i've made before but, since Halloween is approaching, I thought I'd give it a go!  Here is the pastry recipe to get things started...You can of course use pre-made shop bought sweet crust pastry as an alternative...
Ingredients for the Pastry
6oz (175g) plain flour
1 1/2 oz (40g) icing sugar
3oz (75g) softened butter
pinch of salt
1 large free-range egg, seperated
Pastry Method
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl.  Cut the butter up and add to the flour.  Combine the flour and butter together by rubbing them lightly between your fingers.  The two are combined when the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (note - this may seem like it will never happen, but be pateint.  It should take 5-10 minutes)
Sift the icing sugar into the flour and butter mix, add the egg yolk and salt.  Beat well until combined.  The mixture should now appear as a light dough.  Bring the mixture together with your hands and place on a floured surface.  Knead the dough lightly for 2 minutes, then wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4.
After 30 minutes, place the pastry dough on a floured surface and roll out to about 3mm thick, so that it will line the base and sides of a 23" loose base fluted quiche tin as one continuous piece.  Press the pastry base into the base and sides of the tin and prick the base with a fork several times.
Fill the base with ceramic pie beads to ensure that the pastry does not fall in on itself and that it bakes consistenly across the surface.  Place in the middle shelf of the oven for 20 minutes.

23" loose base quiche tin

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

soundtrack to today's tea break...

music player on shuffle... the next five songs to enjoy a cup of cup tea with - yummy!

Any Direction by Fyfe Dangerfield
My Moon My Man by Feist
Under the Sheets by Ellie Goulding
Complaint Department by Lykke Li
Boy's Don't Cry by The Cure

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

lets start at the beginning...

I always think my signature cakes are butterfly cakes, but it has been nearly a year since I baked a batch.  In that time I have worked on a number of recipes which, in time, I would like to share.

Sponge cakes are certainly the cakes I bake most often.  They're undeniably simple.  Four ingredients, a tin and an oven.  Cream the butter, beat in the sugar and eggs, finally sift the flour and fold it into the mixture.  On occasion I suppose there can be a fifth ingredient, depending on what you're intentions are for a mixture - I like to add a few drops of vanilla extract if i'm making a plain sponge or perhaps some lemon juice and zest for a drizzle cake....

What you do with the mixture is up to you!  Individual cupcakes, Victoria Sponge, Lemon drizzle....the list goes on.

So here is my first post.  Some cakes made for a local art fare back in the summer.  I think the doily setting on the blue plate is pure sophistication....haha

P.S the scones are not mine - they belong to another excellent baker - Miss Montgomery (including her home made jam)

(above) lemon zest icing half cupcakes 

I call them half cupcakes because they aren't large overwhelming cupcakes to fill your tummy between meals.  I like to think of them as the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

Katie x