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Sunday, 24 August 2014

Mr Puck-Tastic Chocolate Cake

Let me introduce my friend Kate's new puppy pug - Puck (or Mr Puck as he is now called)  He is one tough little solider, only weeks in to young life he developed a problem in his eye that caused it to cloud over and restrict his vision.  The vets worked really hard and at one point it looked like his eye might have to be removed.   With lots of love and support his eye slowly started to return to normal and it all seemed like he was getting better when Kate noticed his other eye (the good one) had started to develop similar problems.  A quick rush to the vets resulted in very bad news - it would be very unlikely that this eye would return to normal.  A few days later he was undergoing an operation to remove his eye...  

Thankfully he is now a very happy puppy and is always fighting with his sister and his eye seems to be healing well and his vision, although poor, is getting better.  

As a thank you to the vet Kate ask my help in baking a cake.  She had already researched online and came across a number of 'Pub Cakes', some much better (and less creepy) than others.   We decided to use a selection of ideas and build our own version, with eye patch.

The cake in the picture is a chocolate cake covered in a rich chocolate ganache and then decorated with fondant icing.  Not bad for a few hours work.  

The cake is from Great British Bake Off winner 'Jo Wheatley'.  In her book she simply tops with cake with crushed Malteasers.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Apple Tart with Salted Caramel and Hazelnuts

This tart is a bit of an experiment.  I had a bag of apples in the fridge that really needed using up and I couldn't be bothered to juice them.  I flicked through a couple of cookbooks and located a simple recipe of apple tart.  Simple being - make a pasty case, slice apples and arrange, bake, spread with apricot jam, eat.  I was just about to start making it when I remembered I had some hazelnuts that needed using up.  While hunting through the cupboard for the hazelnuts I knocked over the box of sea salt and I suddenly thought - salted caramel!

I had never made salted caramel before but I had tried it a number of times and liked it.  I think the last time was a salted caramel latte from Costa Coffee.  Anyway, it didn't take long to find a suitable recipe online for salted caramel sauce and after a little bit of playing around with the recipe I came up with this.

The tart was better the next day after the caramel had time to set.  Straight from the oven the apples had released quite a bit of juice and cutting the tart resulted in a puddle of sauce.  The next day however the caramel had set more and the juices soaked back in to the apple.

The pastry for this tart is baked along with the apples, but I brushed the uncooked pastry with egg to form a seal.  After an initial bake to soften the apples I poured over the caramel and baked for a further 20 minutes.

Salty and sweet...I didn't use any special apples for this, actually I was worried they would be too sweet, it worked and I am happy with it.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Strawberry Cupcakes

I love strawberries and these cupcakes contain 1 punnet of fresh strawberries, both in the cake itself and the frosting.  This recipe comes direct from Martha Stewart 'Bake' and all I have done is adapt the ingredients to sub the 'cake flour' Amercian's use so much and also slightly reduced the amount of strawberries due to comments left by other bakers about the cakes being a little too wet due to the strawberry moisture.  I converted all the measures from cups to gram for us UK bakers - that is why you my wonder why the amounts are not rounded up like most recipes.

The recipe I give below is based on Martha's Yellow Cake recipe and on the show she shows three different uses for it - a simple orange chocolate cake, fruit topped cakes and these strawberry cupcakes.  The recipe makes 30 cakes, yes I know lots!!  And I did find the I had quite a bit of frosting left over, maybe I should have used more on the cakes?  I have not changed the amounts she suggests due to the fact I had already played around with the cake flour sub and I didn't want to introduce another element that could mean these went wrong.  However, now I have baked them and am happy with the outcome I believe you could quite easily half the amounts for both cake and frosting and make about 18-20 cakes instead of the bumper 30.

It is important that all the cake ingredients are at room temp - butter, milk, eggs, etc.

You WILL need a stand mixer to make the frosting, I really do not think a handheld would cut it.

You can store these at room temp until needed or in the fridge, but its best to remove a good hour before serving otherwise the buttercream sets solid.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Clementine Cake

This is a very summery cake.  Quick and easy to make, well easy to make, it does take 2 hours to simmer the oranges but thats hardly work.  This cake is made with ground almonds and if you use gluten free baking powder its totally gluten free.  Made with clementines this cake is dense yet light, sweet but tangy, perfect for afternoon coffee.

You could make the cake with lemons instead and add a little more sugar to compensate the sourness.  Or mix lemons and oranges to create a citrus style cake.  Everything is whizzed up in the processor and it takes about 1 hour to bake slowly in a medium heat oven.  It really is that easy and uses minimal ingredients.  

Served warmed from the oven is nice or cold from the fridge.  This cake actually gets better with age and will always stay moist.  You could say FAT FREE to, since it contains no fats, but actually I don't think this makes it healthy to eat since there is natural oils in the almonds, lots of eggs and plenty of sugar.

It takes about 3 large clementines to make this cake, don't stress too much about the weights although I do give them below.  When I placed three on the scales it went well over the recommended amount but don't worry, 100g over won't be the end of the world.  Of course, be sensible, don't use four clementines when three would do or you may end up with far too much mixture.