Sunday, 30 March 2014

Chocolate Pinata Cake

I made this cake a couple of weeks ago for a few of my friends in work! I wanted to make something that was a little bit crazy so pretty much just put as much chocolate as I could in one cake.

I  adjusted Donal Skehan's Ultimate cake to make a three layer cake. Then I sandwiched and filled it with chocolate buttercream. I surrounded the cake with lots of Kit Kats and topped it with Malteesers. There's also some M&Ms hidden inside the cake. Seriously, you will probably need the dentist after this one!!

To make the Pinata part of the cake, I cut a circle out of the middle layer and filled it with M&Ms before stacking. I was hoping they'd fall out when the cake was cut, but they kinda just sat there. Maybe there was too much buttercream? But the element of surprise was still there! And the cake was demolished quicker than any cake I've ever made!

Chocolate Fudge Cake
(adapted from Donal Skehan)
265g self-raising flour
3 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
225g caster sugar
225ml sunflower oil
3 large eggs, beaten
3 tbsp golden syrup

Preheat your oven to 180ºC and line three baking tins. Sieve the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb into the biggest bowl you have. (Or if you're lazy, like me, put them into the bowl and give it a good whisk). Add in the sugar and mix well. In a jug, measure in the wet ingredients (oil, milk, eggs, syrup) and mix. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and gradually add in the wet ingredients until you have a smooth (and quite wet) mixture. Pour evenly between your baking tins and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool slightly in the tins, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp boiling water
150g unsalted butter, softened
225g icing sugar
Blend the cocoa powder and water to a paste and leave to cool slightly. Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add in the icing sugar until well combined. Add in the cocoa powder paste and beat once more.
To assemble the cake, cut a circle out of one of the cakes. I used a plate and cut around it. Place one cake on a cake board and spread a thin layer of buttercream on top. Place the cake with the hole on top spread a thin layer of buttercream on top. Fill the hole with M&Ms and place the final cake on top. Cover the whole cake with buttercream. Gently place the Kit Kats around the side and the Malteesers on top. Tie with a bow to help keep the Kit Kats in place.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Chocolate Pavlova

The other day, something very strange happened. I had a whole box of eggs in the fridge that were about to expire. I needed something to use up all six eggs, that I could make relatively quickly so I turned to my favourite dessert: Pavlova.

I have loved pavlova for as long as I can remember. It is, without a doubt, my favourite thing to eat. But, I am very picky. The outside has to be crisp and the inside has to be gooey.

One of the girls in work made Nigella's Chocolate Pavlova a few years ago, and I was instantly obsessed. I went home and tried it out straight away for myself and since then there has been no looking back. It is meringue just as I like it: crisp and gooey. But the best bit has to be the hidden chocolate chunks folded through the meringue.

I made this for my friend once, who was quick to inform me that she doesn't really like pavlova. I left the room for five minutes and when I came back half the thing was gone. That has to be a good sign, right?!?!

Chocolate Pavlova with Whipped Cream and Strawberries
(adapted from Nigella Lawson)
6 large egg whites
300g caster sugar
3 tsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
50g dark chocolate, chopped
500ml double cream
300g strawberries
10g dark chocolate, grated

Line a baking tray and preheat the oven to 180ºC. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, until fully combined and the meringue is stiff. (You should be to hold the bowl upside down over your head without the meringue falling out!) Add the cocoa, balsamic and chocolate and gently fold through. Mound the meringue onto your lined baking tray, making the edges a little bit taller. (This will hold in your cream and fruit.) Place in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 150ºC and cook for approximately and hour. The meringue should be crisp to the touch, but you know that if you press too hard it will crack. Leave the meringue in the oven, with the door opened slightly, to cool completely. (This part is very important!) When it is cool, whisk the cream until thickened and gently spread it on top of the meringue. Either scatter or place your strawberries on top and sprinkle over the grated chocolate.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I'm not one to turn down an occasion to bake for, and Paddy's Day is no exception. Although I point blank refused to do something green. Instead I went with another stereotypical image of Ireland: Guinness. 

After a bit of Googling, I decided to go with Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake recipe, but in cupcake form. Nigella's recipe makes one single layer 9" cake, so I figured I'd get 12, maybe 16 cupcakes. I actually got 36 and ran out of icing after 12. So I've adjusted the recipe below to make 16 cupcakes, with icing. 

I was skeptical of how these would turn out, because I absolutely hate the taste Guinness. But, I was really surprised with the results. The cupcakes were light and fluffy, and they had a slight bitterness to them which went lovely with the cream cheese frosting. Maybe it wasn't such a bad thing that I accidentally made too many cupcakes!!

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
(adapted from Nigella Lawson)

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
125ml Guinness
125g unsalted butter
40g cocoa powder
200g caster sugar
70g sour cream
1 large egg
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
135g plain flour
1 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat your oven to 180ºC and line a cupcake tin. Pour the Guinness into a saucepan and add the butter. Heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream, egg and vanilla together and add to the mixture. Finally, whisk in the flour and bicarb. Pour into your cupcake cases, filling about 3/4 of the way up and bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting
450g cream cheese
225g icing sugar
185ml double cream

Beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually, add in the icing sugar until completely incorporated. Add the cream and beat until it makes a spreadable consistency. 

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Lemon Meringue Pie

Last week I introduced you to Cake Thursday. As well as bringing in that GIANT of a cake, I tried to make a slightly more sophisticated dessert. Was it sophisticated? Probably not! But was it tasty? Most definitely.


In true Jennifer style, this dessert included many firsts. My first time making pastry from scratch and my first time making lemon curd. What's life without a bit of experimenting, eh?

My oven did it to me again!! Burnt half of the bleedin' meringue!! But in the end, it didn't matter. The pastry was buttery and crumbly, the curd was nice and tart, and the meringue was gooey in the middle with a crisp outside. I was insanely proud of this one. Go me!!

(adapted from Donal Skehan)

200g plain flour
150g cold butter, diced
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp cold water

Rub the flour and butter together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir through the caster sugar and water until the mixture comes together to form a ball. Press into a flat oval and cover with cling film. Rest in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Dust the work surface with flour and roll out pastry to approximately 3mm. Line the tin with the pastry and press into the sides before trimming the edges. Prick the base with a fork all over and line with foil, shiny side down. Fill with baking beans and blind bake for about 15 minutes until the pastry is a light golden brown. Remove from the oven, lift out the beans and foil and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Lemon Curd
300g caster sugar
100g cornflour
Grated zest of 4 lemons
120ml lemon juice
450ml cold water
4 large egg yolks
60g butter, diced

Place the sugar, cornflour, lemon juice and zest, and water in a large saucepan and whisk to combine. Add the egg yolks and mix thoroughly. Place the saucepan over a medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring continuously until thickened. When it is thick, stir through the butter, then remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.

4 large egg whites
250g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually add the sugar until it is fully combined and you can hold the bowl over your head without the meringue falling out, then add the vanilla extract.

Place the cooled pastry, in its tin, on a baking sheet. Fill with the lemon curd and then spoon the meringue mixture on top. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool slightly before serving.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Chocolate Orange Checkerboard Cake

Let me introduce you to Cake Thursday. It happens once a month. We have a rota in work, and the last Thursday of every month four or five people bring in cake and we stuff our faces until we can't eat any more. It's a very special day.

This month was my turn. I've been dying to try out a checkerboard cake for ages, so thought that this was the perfect time to experiment! I found a great recipe online, that just happened to include my two favourite flavours: chocolate and orange. I've never been so nervous about a cake, but I'm actually really pleased with how it turned out. And the GIANT cake disappeared by the end of the day, which is always a good sign!!

Orange Cake
2 1/2 cup self-raising flour
1 3/4 cup caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
100g butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Zest and juice of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 170ºC and line two round cake tins. Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out soon. Leave to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Cake
2 1/4 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 3/4 cup caster sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cup milk
100g butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Zest and juice of 1 orange

Preheat the oven to 170ºC and line two round cake tins. Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out soon. Leave to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting
375g butter
45g brown sugar
3/4 cup boiling water
600g dark chocolate, chopped

Combine the butter, sugar and water in a large saucepan and cook until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until all the chocolate is melted. Chill until spreadable.

To assemble the cake, you can use this template. I actually used a saucer and a cutter and found it surprisingly simple. From your four cakes, you should have four large circles, 4 medium circles and 4 small circles. Then you need to slot them together. Have a look at this tutorial. Take a large chocolate circle and spread chocolate frosting on the inside. Place a medium orange circle inside and spread on more chocolate frosting. Then place a small orange circle inside that. Repeat with all cakes, alternating the colours. Stack the cakes on top of each other, sandwiching with chocolate frosting and alternating the colours. Cover the top and sides with chocolate frosting.