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??

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.

Pear frangipane tart

Pear frangipane tart
Pear frangipane tart

With the weather heating up again, this is one of the last opportunities l have to make a pastry dough.

I was also hosting a dinner party, so wanted to make a dessert that I could prepare in advance but also look impressive when served.

I love frangipane tarts and I think the inclusion of the pear is not only tasty but kicks it up a notch in terms of presentation.

I’ve made this before using stone fruit like cherries, peaches and nectarines, which I honestly think work better.

The pear didn’t quite soften up as much as I would have liked, and I have seen recipes where the pear is poached first. I think in retrospect this would have been better or perhaps my pears weren’t ripe enough.

Another cheat version is to use tinned fruit which is already full of flavour and will soften much quicker in the oven.

Overall, this was delicious and the pear definitely created some texture. But if you want to make your own version, I’d poach the pears in syrup beforehand or choose very ripe fruit.

Pear frangipane tart

1 portion pâte sucrée
1 portion frangipane
2 ripe, Beurre Bosc pears
¼ cup apricot jam, warmed and sieved

Prepare the pastry dough and leave to rest for two hours before rolling out into a 28cm fluted tart tin. Refrigerate for a further 30 minutes.

Blind bake at 200C for 15 minutes, then remove the baking beads and bake for a further 8 minutes or until the pastry has dried and is starting to turn a golden colour. Leave to cool.

Prepare the frangipane and then pour into the cooled pastry shell.

Peel, halve and core the pears, then slice them thinly while trying to keep their structural shape.

Place them on top of the frangipane, using a knife under the fruit to hold its shape. Fan out slightly, and press down into the frangipane filling.

Bake at 180C for 40 minutes or until the frangipane is set and the fruit has softened.

Brush the fruit (not the frangipane) with apricot jam for a nice sheen.

Olive and rosemary breadsticks

Olive and rosemary breadsticks
Olive and rosemary breadsticks

My poor husband is recovering from getting four wisdom teeth removed, and is on a diet of yoghurt, custard and jelly.

I knew I couldn’t torture him by making a loaf that he wanted to eat, so decided to include olives which he hates.

I also wanted to have a crack at breadsticks, which seem to be made using two main methods – one is using a basic loaf recipe, and one uses a pizza-based dough which generally has olive oil in the dough.

I did a regular dough recipe but added some wholemeal flour for extra flavour as well as olives and chopped, fresh rosemary.

The only real difference in making bread sticks is the shaping and baking time which is only 20 minutes.

These are quick and easy to make, and I’m looking forward to serving them with dips at dinner tonight!

Olive and rosemary bread sticks

400g strong white flour
100g wholemeal flour
10g salt
7g fast-action dried yeast
375ml tepid water
2 tbsps olives, halved
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

In a large bowl, rub together the flours, yeast and salt. Make sure you keep the yeast and the salt at separate ends of the bowl so they don’t directly touch (remember, the salt will kill the yeast).

Add the water, then mix together until you have a wet dough. Cover and leave for 20 minutes.

Once rested, tip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until you have a soft, stretchy dough.

Cover and rest for 1-1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.

Once rested for the second time, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and mix in the olives and rosemary.

Cut the dough into 8 pieces and then roll out into long sticks. Cover and prove for a further 10 minutes.

Pre-heat the oven to 220C and then bake the sticks for 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Paris-Brest with coffee and walnut praline


Paris-Brest was first invented in 1910 by a pastry chef honouring the Paris to Brest cycling race. Apparently the calorific dessert became very popular with the cyclists because it gave them a much needed energy boost.

The traditional Paris-Best is a ring (wheel) of choux pastry, filled with praline cream and topped with sliced almonds and powdered sugar.

The big challenge is always going to be getting the choux pastry perfect, but fortunately the assembly of this cake is pretty forgiving because you can patch it up as you go.

To help with the piping, draw a circle about 25cm wide on some baking paper and use this for your first ring. Do another ring outside it, and the third needs to be piped on top of the two in the crevice where they join.

As with all choux, make sure you let the steam out of the cooked pastry by piercing small holes in a number of places.

I used John Whaite’s recipe which is based on the principles of a Paris-Brest but has replaced praline filling with coffee and walnut flavoured cream.

I found it really useful that he provided the egg quantity in grams because this can sometimes be where the mixture falls down – it ends up being too wet or too thick.

I also really liked including chunks of walnut praline because it gave a delicious texture.

John warns that you may want to use decaf coffee if this is for the whole family because you could keep the kids wide awake for hours!

Coffee and walnut praline choux ring (based on recipe from John Whaite Bakes)

1 quantity choux pastry (John uses ratios of 220ml water, 80g butter, 125g plain flour and 220g beaten egg)
400ml double cream
6 tbsp icing sugar (I only used 5)
2 tbsp freeze-dried coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water (I used 1 shot of espresso)
250g mascarpone cream
150g caster sugar and 1 tbsp water
100g walnut pieces
For the icing – 125g icing sugar and ½ tbsp water

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.

Make the choux paste according to the recipe, and pipe a ring of pastry onto a baking sheet. Pipe another ring directly next to it, and a third ring on top of the first two using the line where they meet as a guide.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until dark golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.

Make the cream by whipping together the cream with the mascarpone, sugar and coffee.

Make the praline by mixing together the caster sugar and water in a saucepan. Place it over a high heat and allow to boil until it turns a light golden colour.

Remove from the heat and stir in the walnuts, then tip onto a lined baking sheet and leave to cool.

Once the choux ring is cooled, slice it in half horizontally with a bread knife. Use a star piping nozzle and pipe the cream onto the bottom half of the choux ring.

Chop up the praline into small chunks, then sprinkle ¾ of the praline on top of the cream. Place the top half of the choux ring on the cream.

Make the icing by mixing the sugar and water together, then drizzle over the top of the ring. Sprinkle across the remaining praline.