Chocolate Guinness cake

Chocolate Guinness cake
Chocolate Guinness cake

I was always going to love this combination because I’m a huge Guinness and ale fan.

It may sound a bit odd, but the Guinness provides extra depth of flavour and also moistens the cake.

You can’t taste the beer as such, but there is certainly something a bit different to the usual chocolate base cake.

I topped mine with cream cheese icing to provide a bit of tartness, but also love the fact that it resembles a frothy pint of Guinness.

You can use dark ales as well if you prefer such as in Tom Kerridge’s chocolate and ale cake.

I noticed that Tom’s uses cocoa as well as melted chocolate which is something I’d like to test as well.

Another great recipe is John Whaites’ Guinness and black battenberg using blackcurrant jam to sandwich the cake together and recreate this classic drink.

Chocolate Guinness cake (Hummingbird Bakery recipe)

  • 250ml (9fl oz) Guinness
  • 250g (9oz) unsalted butter
  • 80g (3oz) cocoa powder
  • 400g (14oz) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 140ml (5fl oz) buttermilk
  • 280g (10oz) plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 50g (1¾oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • 300g (10½oz) icing sugar
  • 125g (4½oz) full-fat cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F)/gas mark 3, then line the base of the tin with baking parchment.
  2. Pour the Guinness into a saucepan, add the butter and gently heat until it has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the cocoa powder and sugar into the warm liquid. Mix together the eggs, vanilla essence and buttermilk by hand in a jug or bowl, and then add this to the mixture in the pan.
  3. Sift together the remaining sponge ingredients into a large bowl or into the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer. Using the mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand-held electric whisk, set on a low speed, pour in the contents of the pan. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to mix thoroughly until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Set aside to cool, and then remove from the tin on to a wire rack, making sure the cake is cold to the touch before you frost it.
  5. Using the electric whisk or the freestanding mixer with paddle attachment, mix the butter and icing sugar together until there are no large lumps of butter and it is fully combined with the sugar in a sandy mixture. Add the cream cheese and mix in a low speed, then increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
  6. Place the cooled cake on to a plate or cake card and top generously with the cream cheese frosting. The cake can be decorated with a light dusting of cocoa powder.

Red velvet swirl cake

Red velvet swirl cake
Red velvet swirl cake

I’ve been playing around with a few basic cake recipes lately, so wanted to have a go at a swirl cake.

You can use two types of cake batter e.g. chocolate and vanilla, or in a case like this one add a different texture like cream cheese.

I always top red velvet cakes with cream cheese icing, so it made sense to try the technique on a red velvet cake.

A friend from work makes amazing cakes and recommended this recipe by Marian Keyes.

There are lots of other recipes around such as Eric Lanlard’s cream cheese brownie and Anna Olsen’s pumpkin swirl cheesecake squares.

The technique itself is quite simple and just involves cutting the two layers together with a metal skewer or a bread knife.

Red velvet swirl cake
Red velvet swirl cake
Red velvet swirl cake
Red velvet swirl cake

It’s hard to know how far to go before it just becomes a mess but I think I got this one right.

Red Velvet Cupcake Swirl (Marian Keyes, Saved by Cake)

  • 110g butter, melted
  • 170g caster sugar + 40g caster sugar for cream cheese layer
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract + half teaspoon vanilla extract for cream cheese layer
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon red food colouring
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 3 eggs
  • 160g self-raising flour
  • 200g cream cheese, softened

Preheat oven to 180C and line cake tin with baking paper.

Cream cheese layer

  1. Beat together the cream cheese, 1 egg, 40g caster sugar and ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract in a bowl, and place to one side.

Red velvet mixture

  1. Beat melted butter and sugar together.
  2. Add the following in this exact order, mixing well between each addition
  • vanilla extract
  • cocoa powder
  • salt
  • food colouring
  • vinegar
  1. In a separate bowl, beat eggs with a fork and then add to mixture
  1. Sieve in flour and gently fold through until just combined
  1. Spread red velvet mixture into cake tin (it will be very thick) and then dollop cream cheese layer across the top. Try and keep the cream cheese away from the edges of the tin, or it will stick to the sides and be annoying to cut. Give a quick swirl with a butter knife to bring the two mixtures together, but don’t overdo it.
  2. Bake for 25-30min at 180 degrees – cake is done when it springs back in the centre. Allow to cool in tin.

NOTE – this makes either 12 cupcakes, or one smallish cake (27 x 17cm small slice pan).

Blueberry crumb cake

Blueberry crumb cake
Blueberry crumb cake

We are big blueberry fans in our household.

In fact, blueberries are one of the only fruits I can get my husband to eat voluntarily.

The problem is that for half the year they are prohibitively expensive – around $7 a punnet.

So I’m always chuffed when they are in season and I can start baking with them again.

One of my favourite recipes is Ina Garten’s Blueberry Crumb Cake. I have long been an admirer of Ina, aka the Barefoot Contessa, and envy her life in the Hamptons with her gorgeous husband Jeffrey.

Her whole journey from being a budget analyst to the White House, to running a beautiful café/store by the beach resonates with me (not the finance part) and I often dream about giving it all up to move somewhere beautiful and bake all day.

This recipe is essentially a butter- and sour cream-based tea cake with a few extra elements – the fruit provides extra flavour and moisture, but the streusel is the crowning glory.

This spicy, buttery mix makes your whole kitchen smell like Christmas as it bakes.

There are really no tips and tricks with the recipe, because it’s been perfect for me every time. I guess the only thing I would say is that you end up with a lot of leftover streusel, but that’s just an excuse to make a fruit crumble or some muffins to use it up.

Also, it’s a bit awkward tipping out of the tin so make sure you line your pan well and be prepared to spill some streusel all over your bench.

Ina Garten’s Blueberry Crumb Cake

For the streusel
¼ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
115g unsalted butter, melted1⅓ cups all-purpose flour

For the cake
6 tbsps unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp grated lemon zest
⅔ cup sour cream
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup fresh blueberries
Icing sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 175C.

Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan. Combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl. Stir in the melted butter and then the flour. Mix well and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on high speed for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Reduce the speed to low and add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread it out with a knife. With your fingers,
crumble the topping evenly over the batter. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve sprinkled with icing sugar.

Chocolate olive oil cake (gluten free)

Chocolate olive oil cake
Chocolate olive oil cake

I was inspired to go looking for a chocolate olive oil cake after checking out Jocelyn Hancock’s Cake and Baked Instagram account.

She is testing out recipes for her new shop, due to open next month, and I saw a picture of a chocolate olive oil bundt cake.

I’ve made cakes and muffins using vegetable oil in the past and always enjoyed the springy, light texture it creates.

But this is all about richness and density, maximising the fruity flavour of the extra virgin olive oil. If you find extra virgin too strong you could always split it 50/50 with regular olive oil.

The texture is incredibly smooth and is a nice change from the usual butter-based, flourless chocolate cakes.

Interestingly, I couldn’t find a single recipe using melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder, and I’m interested to know why – any thoughts?

This is a Matt Moran recipe and very easy to make. Plus, in my mind, it must be more healthy to use olive oil rather than butter right?? 🙂

Matt Moran’s chocolate olive oil cake

3 eggs
200g caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
150ml extra virgin olive oil
50g cocoa powder
150ml water
160g almond meal
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch sea salt

Pre heat the oven to 175C.

Grease a 25cm spring cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.

In an electric mixer whisk together the eggs, caster sugar, vanilla and olive oil for 3 to 4 minutes or until the eggs have doubled in volume and are a little pale in colour.

In a separate bowl whisk the cocoa and water together to a make a paste, add this to the eggs along with the almond meal, baking powder and salt. Fold together and pour the batter into the prepared cake tin. Bake in the pre heated oven for about 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 20 minutes before removing from the tin.

Serve with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

Chocolate éclairs

Chocolate eclair
Chocolate eclair

Over the past couple of months I’ve been focusing on learning to make bread and I feel like I’ve lost my way a little bit.

While I recognise that bread is a baking necessity, it’s not really what I started out wanting to achieve.

By learning bread basics I’ve taken my eye off the prize a bit, so have decided to go back to my first love – pastry.

Even after two years with this blog, I still don’t feel like I’ve fully mastered all the basic techniques so this week I wanted another crack at choux.

Choux for me has been pretty hit and miss, and I’m yet to find a foolproof technique.

I now feel confident in getting the consistency of the dough right, but there are just so many baking techniques out there and they all make it sound so easy.

So, back to basics with choux – the water in the dough is designed to steam in the oven and produce perfect, aerated shapes just waiting to be filled.

The dough should be wet enough that it slowly drops back into the bowl when you hold up a spoonful, but not so runny that you can’t pipe it.

You need to make sure you that you don’t dry out the dough before adding the eggs or you’ll remove too much of the water, but also need to ensure that you cook the flour off.

Piping itself can be varied – you can make éclairs, Religieuse, profiteroles – whatever you desire. And then cram full of crème pâtissière, crème Chantilly, mousse or savoury fillings.

But how do you get the perfect crispy shell that doesn’t deflate when taken out of the oven?

I turned to Raymond Blanc this time and he recommends baking at 180C for 30 minutes. His dough included milk as well as water which means that you need to bake for longer at a lower temperature.

One batch was great, the other didn’t rise at all so I still have no idea how to beat this thing.

I made éclairs this time and filled them with chocolate crème pâtissière which is simple made by adding a few squares of dark chocolate to your warm custard mixture.

I topped with chocolate ganache for the ultimately chocoholic treat but unfortunately my camera chose that exact moment to die so I don’t have any photos to upload. I’ll get charging and hopefully upload a piccie soon.

In the meantime, perhaps we let Raymond’s perfection be our inspiration?? http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2011/mar/09/raymond-blanc-chocolate-clair-recipe

Chocolate éclairs

1 quantity pâte à choux
1 quantity crème pâtissière
20g dark chocolate
1 quantity chocolate ganache

Mix one batch of pastry and pipe out onto a lined baking sheet around 15cm long using a 1.5cm plain nozzle. Make sure to leave enough room between each one.

Bake at 180C for 30 minutes or until golden and crisp. Remove from the oven, and pierce each one to allow the steam to escape. Lay on wire rack to cool.

Make the crème pâtissière, adding the chocolate as the custard is cooling. Cover with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Make the ganache and leave to cool.

When ready to assemble, pipe the custard into the éclairs using a 5mm nozzle. Dip each éclair into the ganache coating one side, and remove any excess with your finger. Alternatively, you can pipe the ganache across the top of the éclair.

Leave to cool and set before serving.