Red Velvet Cake

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Red velvet is seriously good. If you haven’t tried it yet, just…I don’t care what you’re doing right now, I mean RIGHT NOW, get your butt to a shop and get baking, ok?

Our baking ancestors would use agents such as bicarbonate of soda and vinegar or buttermilk to make cakes light and fluffy, as the acidic latter ingredients would react with the bicarbonate of soda to form bubbles, thus fluffing cake appropriately to make a light and delicious treat. However, the acidity wouldn’t only react with the bicarb, ohhh no. The red part of the name comes from the fact that the anthocyanins in the cocoa powder of olden times would turn redder in the lower pH, hence the sponge would turn out red.

 

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Unfortunately, we have to add red food colouring to get the desired effect, as modern cocoa powder is manufactured with alkalinising agents which counter this reddening process. Fear not, you can still knock up a scrumptious sponge with cream cheese icing which will both taste and look stunning.

Ingredients

240g unsalted butter, softened

600g caster sugar

4 large eggs

40g cocoa powder

80ml red food colouring (such as Dr Oetker)

2 tsp vanilla essence

600g plain flour

2 tsp salt

480ml buttermilk

2 tbsp white vinegar

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

200g unsalted butter, softened

900g icing sugar

500g full fat cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)

 

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Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), Gas mark 5, and grease two 20cm round cake tins.

Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition and mixing in the scrapings from the sides of the bowl.

In a separate, small bowl, stir together the cocoa powder, food colouring and vanilla essence to form a paste. Add the paste to the batter, mixing thoroughly until the paste is completely incorporated.

Sift together the flour and salt in another bowl, then add the flour to the batter in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk and mixing thoroughly after each addition. Lastly, in another bowl, mix the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda together by hand and add it to the cake batter, mixing it in until it is fully incorporated.

Divide the batter between the two tins. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed. Allow the sponge to cool completely before you start frosting.

Meanwhile, using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment, and mixing on a low speed, beat the butter and icing sugar together until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is sandy in texture. Add the cream cheese and mix together slowly until everything is incorporated, then increase the speed to medium and beat the frosting until it is soft and fluffy.

Once the sponge has completely cooled, sandwich the two together with plenty of frosting, then proceed to cover the whole thing with frosting, or just the top if you prefer. If you like, you can slice a very thin layer of sponge off one of the cakes and whizz it up in a food processor, then sprinkle the crumbs over the top.

 

 

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Stem Ginger Cookies

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Cookies are my favourite thing right now. Working shifts full time means that I often don’t have the time or the energy to make something technically challenging or long and laborious. Instead, I can knock up a cookie dough in 15 minutes and have them all baked and ready to eat within the hour. Find a good cookie dough recipe to have to hand whenever you’ve had a bad day – it’s the best remedy and this cookie recipe will never fail you. Rich, spicy and gorgeously chewy, they’re lovely to eat still warm from the oven but do actually taste better cold.

This recipe is adapted from The Great British Book of Baking and makes around 24 cookies.

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Ingredients

350g self raising flour

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

100g caster sugar

100g light brown sugar

115g unsalted butter

85g  golden syrup

1 medium egg, beaten

35g (2 pieces) stem ginger, drained and finely chopped

Method

Preheat your oven to 170ºC (Gas Mark 3) and grease three baking sheets with butter.

In a bowl, sift flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and two types of sugar together.

Melt the butter and golden syrup in a small non-stick pan over a gentle heat. Allow to cool before proceeding so as to avoid cooking the egg before the mixture goes in to bake.

Pour the butter mixture, chopped stem ginger and beaten egg in with the dry ingredients and mix until combined to form a dough.

Roll the mixture into walnut sized balls and place onto your prepared trays. They will spread so aim to leave 4-5cm between each ball.

Bake until golden brown on top – this will take between 10 and 15 minutes. Leave to cool and firm up slightly on the trays, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Rocky Road Cookies

 

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This, my first gluten-free recipe, are beautifully ooey and gooey and downright delicious. In fact, they’re so gooey that I actually couldn’t get them off the greaseproof paper that I had baked them on, as you may be able to tell from the photos; I had to cut around them and then scrape them off into a bowl to eat! Nevertheless, they tasted absolutely perfect, with the right combination of crunch and chew that rocky road should have.

The marshmallows on top are my favourite part – they soften and caramelise on top like they would if you toasted them over an open fire. Putting a few on top of each cookie before they go in to bake rather than mixing them in means that they don’t disappear into the batter.

Ingredients

  • 365g icing sugar
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 65g almonds
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 220g chocolate chips (milk or dark depending on your preference)
  • 65g toasted flaked almonds
  • 60g mini marshmallows or marshmallows cut to size

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Recipe

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the icing sugar, cocoa powder and salt.  Lightly beat the egg whites, add the vanilla and whisk until combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips and almonds.

Spoon out small mounds of the mixture on to the parchment paper, then top each cookie with 4-5 marshmallows.  Putting them in the freezer for a few minutes at this stage will help them to not spread too much in the oven – this mixture is very runny so don’t expect perfectly round cookies!

Bake for 12-13 minutes until the marshmallows are golden brown.  Let the cookies sit on the paper for a few minutes to set, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Salted Browned Butter Cookies

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This week, I’ve been a bit tight for time so I wanted a recipe that was quick yet different. I hadn’t actually tried anything with browned butter before so I was quite excited to try it – it’s very easy to do and so effective! It gives the cookies a really distinctive deep flavour and these are definitely going on my list of favourite easy bakes. The most time-consuming aspect of this recipe is leaving the butter and then the dough to cool. I was a bit apprehensive about putting salt on these when I first saw these – I was scared of ruining them, but I think they give them that extra little lift and make them taste that much better.

This recipe is from the blog Bake or Break and gave me about 20 cookies.

Ingredients

  • 210g unsalted butter
  • 290g plain flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 160g light brown sugar
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • coarse salt

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Method

Preheat oven to 170°C and line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

Heat the butter in a  saucepan over a medium heat, making sure to stir frequently so as to prevent the butter from burning.  The butter will melt and begin to foam; heat until you see brown specks forming underneath the foamy layer and you can smell a nutty aroma from the pan. Err on the side of caution the first time you try this – the butter can burn very quickly and you’ll end up with blackened butter cookies and a nightmare of a saucepan to scrape clean. Remove from the heat and leave to the side to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together while you wait for the butter to cool.

Beat the two kinds of sugar into the butter until combined.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix well.  Add the flour mixture in three parts, mixing until all the ingredients are just incorporated.

Leave the dough to rest in the fridge or a cool place for 30 minutes.

Roll small pieces of dough into balls approximately 3-4cm wide and press gently on the tops to flatten slightly.  Sprinkle coarse salt on the top of each ball.  Again, err on the side of caution when you try this the first time – I used about six to eight grains on each cookie and this was perfect for me.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the middles are set.  Leave to cool for a few minutes before transferring onto wire racks to cool completely.

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Earl Grey Cupcakes

Sooo…it’s been a while.

However, I have a halfway decent excuse for not posting for half a century this time: I’ve been trying out a new recipe and it just hasn’t been cooperating with me. When I finally master it, I will be sharing it with you on this blog but in the meantime, you’ll just have to make do with this.

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These cupcakes are very subtly flavoured with Earl Grey teabags and the sponge is lovely and light, despite there being no creaming involved. You can use any kind of teabags you want; herbal or fruit teabags can be used if you aren’t a fan of Earl Grey. I have some peppermint and liquorice teabags in the cupboard at the moment so I might have another go at this recipe using those.

I’m starting a new full-time job on Monday so I’m not sure what the frequency of my posts will be like in the next few weeks but I will try my best to keep posting once a week.

Makes 12-16 cupcakes

Ingredients

For the sponge:

3 Earl Grey teabags

3tbsp just-boiled water

80g unsalted butter, softened

280g caster sugar

240g plain flour

1tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

200ml whole milk

2 large eggs

For the frosting:

50ml whole milk

500g icing sugar

160g unsalted butter, softened

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Recipe

  1. Place the teabags in a bowl and add the just-boiled water, then leave to brew for 30 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 190°C and line a muffin tin with muffin cases. Use a hand-held electric whisk to mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed until the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Pour the milk into a jug, add the eggs and whisk by hand. Add the brewed tea, squeezing every last drop from the teabags into the milk mixture, then set the teabags aside for the frosting.
  4. Pour three-quarters of the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on a low speed to combine. Then mix on a medium speed until smooth and thick. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the remaining milk mixture and beat until all the ingredients have come together and the batter is smooth.
  5. Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling each two-thirds full. If there is batter left over, spoon it into more cases in a separate tin. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until risen and springy to the touch, then leave to cool slightly in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.
  6. While the cupcakes are cooking, place the used teabags in a small bowl with the milk for the frosting and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the teabags and give them a good squeeze to extract maximum flavour.
  7. Using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with paddle attachment, whisk the icing sugar with the butter on a low speed until no large lumps of butter remain and the mixture is still powdery. Pour in the tea-infused milk while mixing slowly, then increase the speed to high and whisk until soft and fluffy.
  8. Divide the frosting between the cold cupcakes, smoothing the tops and swirling with a palette knife.

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Black and White Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

 

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Happy New Year!!! Since it’s not New Year without an ill-fated resolution or two, I decided to firstly, improve my post-uploading frequency and secondly, I chose the old favourite of eating healthier and keeping fit. Unfortunately, the post below shows how short-lived that was – I succumbed within twelve hours. We all knew it was going to happen though, right? So better late than never. This recipe was completely worth it though.

It’s a traybake with a chewy, dense chocolate base, almost like a brownie, with a white chocolate cheesecake topping and extra dollops of the chocolate dough spread liberally over the whole thing. It needs a few hours to set, so leave yourself plenty of time to put it together. From past experience, it still tastes really good after a couple of days stored in an airtight container. This serves well as an indulgent teatime snack or as a dinner party dessert.

This recipe yields 12-15 bars. Use a 23x30cm (9x12in) baking tray.

Ingredients

For the base:

  • 250g (90z) unsalted butter
  • 420g (15oz) caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 380g (13oz) plain flour
  • 60g (2oz) cocoa powder
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the topping:

  • 80g (3oz) white chocolate chips
  • 300g (10.5oz) full-fat cream cheese
  • 60g (2oz) icing sugar
  • 1 large egg

 

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Method

Using a hand-held electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure every bit of the mixture is incorporated.

Sift together the remaining ingredients, then add to the batter into two batches, mixing in the freestanding mixer or folding in by hand.

Cut off approximately one-quarter of the dough, cover with cling film and place in the fridge. Line the baking tray with baking parchment, then press the remaining dough into the tray. Create a lip around the sides of the tray to hold the cheesecake mixture once it’s poured in and try to make this base as even as possible. Allow it to set in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170°C (325F), gas mark 3.

Remove the base from the fridge and bake for 20-25 minutes. Don’t worry if it sinks in the middle – you’ll be covering it with cheesecake later anyway so it won’t make a difference. Allow to cool completely in the tin before adding the topping, but keep the oven on for cooking the finished cheesecake.

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Using the electric whisk, mix the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and mix thoroughly, then stir the melted chocolate into the cheesecake mixture by hand.

Spread the mixture on to the cooled base, then remove the reserved dough from the fridge and crumble in large pieces over the cheesecake.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the cheesecake has set, then allow to cool completely before placing in the fridge for a few hours to set. Once set, cut the cheesecake into squares or rectangles to serve. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before you plan to eat it.

 

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Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

 

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I made this a few weeks when some family friends came to visit us from London. I wanted to bake something which wouldn’t be too heavy or sickly as we were going out for a meal shortly afterwards; I’m happy to say that this fit the bill perfectly. This cake is made with egg whites and less butter than you would usually use in a cake, which makes it wonderfully light and airy. You don’t have to put the glaze on if you’d prefer it too be less sweet, but it does make the cake look more appetising.

This is another Hummingbird recipe and serves about 12-16 people.

Ingredients

85g unsalted butter

245g caster sugar

grated zest of 1 1/2 lemons

15g poppy seeds (plus extra to decorate)

165ml whole milk

235g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 a teaspoon of salt

3 egg whites

For the lemon syrup:

juice and zest of 1 lemon

50g caster sugar

For the glaze:

Juice of 1 lemon

250g icing sugar

 

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Recipe

Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease and dust your ring mould with flour.

Cream together the butter, caster sugar, poppy seeds and lemon zest in a large bowl. Slowly add the milk and beat well – it’s perfectly normal for it to look slightly split at this stage.

In a separate bowl, sieve the flour, salt and baking powder, then add to the butter mixture in three stages, beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and fold gently into the mixture.

Pour the mixture into the mould and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden on top. The sponge will bounce back when pressed once it is done.

Whilst the cake is cooking, heat the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest in a saucepan until boiling and reduce to a thin syrup.

When the cake is cooked, prick the top with a fork all over and pour the syrup over it – this what makes the cake so moist. Leave the cake to cool for a while before turning out onto a wire rack.

Make the icing whilst the cake is cooling by mixing the icing sugar and lemon juice together until smooth and glossy. Once it has cooled, spoon over the glaze over the cake and let it run down the sides. Sprinkle with a few poppy seeds.

 

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