Thursday, April 15, 2010

Simnel Cake

Simnel cake is a British fruit cake that is served at Easter.

Traditionally it should have 11 marzipan balls placed around the rim to symbolise the apostles (Judas excluded)

As I'm not religious, but do love cake, I replaced the apostles with Pac-Man chasing ghosts. I then realised I could give it the pun-tacular title of a Pâques-Man cake (Pâques is French for Easter) and giggled for longer than was necessary at my own joke.

The cake is tasty and light, the marzipan layer in the middle really lifts it above mere fruitcake.


175g butter
175g soft brown sugar
3 eggs, beaten
175g plain flour
pinch salt
½ tsp ground mixed spice
400g mixed fruit (raisins, currants, sultanas and mixed peel)
2 tbsp apricot jam
1 packet of yellow marzipan
1 free-range egg, beaten for glazing

Preheat oven to 140C. Grease and line a 18cm cake tin.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.

Gradually beat in the eggs until well incorporated and then sift in the flour, salt and mixed spice a little at a time.

Finally, add the mixed dried fruit and stir into the mixture.

Put half the mixture into the prepared cake tin.

Take a third of your marzipan and roll it out into a circle 18cm in diameter. Lay this circle on top of the cake batter in the cake tin.

Add the rest of the cake mixture and smooth the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1¾ hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes away cleanly.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool on a wire rack.

Brush the top of the cooled cake with the apricot jam.

Divide the remainder of the marzipan in half; roll out another circle to cover the top of the cake with one half and use the remaining marzipan to decorate your cake, either with balls or Paque-man.

Place the circle of marzipan on the jam glaze and set the decorations round the edge. Brush the cake topping with a little beaten egg.

Preheat the grill to high. Place the cake onto a baking tray and grill until the top of the marzipan begins to toast.

You can also use a blow-torch to toast the marzipan if you are lucky enough to have one!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Chocolate Cake with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

This cake is amazing. Moist, chocolatey, with a hint of the olive oil and sea salt that just brings it to another level and makes it a very indulgent, adult cake.


200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
175g unsalted butter
4 eggs
150g caster sugar
60g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the ganache -

400ml double cream
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa)

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Grease and line a 19 cm round springform cake tin with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in saucepan on a low heat, stirring constantly until completely melted.

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy. Add in the flour, a tablespoonful at a time, along with the baking powder and sea salt.

Fold in the melted chocolate and butter mixture and the olive oil until no streaks of flour are visible.

Bake cake for 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes away cleanly. Cool on a wire rack before removing from the cake tin.

While the cake is cooking you can prepare the ganache.

Place the cream in a saucepan and heat it just to a simmer, don't let the cream boil. Then, remove from heat and add the chocolate but don't stir it until the chocolate has melted. It will help the chocolate melt if you break it up into pieces first.

Place in the fridge for an hour or so to cool and thicken.

When the cake and the ganache have cooled, cut the cake horizontally so you have two equal discs.

Put half of the ganache on the bottom half, spreading carefully with a palette knife to make it even, and place the other half cake on top.

Put the rest of the ganache on top of the cake and spread evenly down the cake’s top and sides.

Keep the cake in the fridge, taking it out about an hour before you want to serve it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lime Meringue Pie

This was my contribution to Pi Day this year.

It's a very tart lime base with just a little meringue around the edge to provide a little sweetness.

When browning the meringue, I realised that I really need a kitchen blowtorch to be able to do these things well as the heat from the grill made my lovely, smooth lime curd surface blister. So that has been added to the birthday wish-list!


115g salted butter, cut into pieces
180ml freshly-squeezed lime juice (from about 5-6 limes)
150g sugar
zest of two limes
pinch of salt
3 large egg yolks
3 large eggs

For the meringue -

2 large egg whites
75g sugar
pinch of salt
a few drops vanilla essence

You also need one pre-baked Sweet Tart Crust

Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the butter, lime juice, sugar, zest, and salt.

In a jug, whisk together the eggs and the yolks.

When the butter has just melted and the mixture is warm, gradually pour some of the lime juice mixture into the eggs, whisking constantly. Scrape the warmed eggs back into the saucepan and cook the mixture over low heat.

Stir the mixture constantly over low heat, using a whisk, until the filling thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Do not let it boil. It will take at least 30 mins at a low temperature to thicken sufficiently.

Remove from heat and scrape the filling into the pre-baked tart shell.

Bake for 10 minutes until set and then remove and cool slightly.

Now make the meringue. Whip the whites on high speed in a mixer to soft peaks. Next, gradually add the sugar and the salt, while whipping on high speed, until the meringue is shiny and stiff. Beat in the vanilla last.

Scrape the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe a ring around the edge of the tart.

Pop the tart under the grill (or, as I would recommend, use a blowtorch on the meringue), watching carefully, as it will brown quickly.

When the meringue begins to darken, remove the tart from the oven and cool completely before slicing.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sweet Tart Crust

This tart crust is wonderful and foolproof! The end result is a crisp, buttery crust that takes no time to pull together with no fuss.

It's adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe.


90g salted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp caster sugar
150g plain flour

Preheat oven to 210C.

In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.

Place the bowl in the oven for 15 minutes, until the butter is bubbling is starting to brown around the edges.

When done, remove the bowl from oven and add in the flour and stir quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball which pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a 9-inch (23 cm) tart mold with a removable bottom and spread it a bit with a metal spoon.

Once the dough is cool enough to handle, pat it into the shell with the heel of your hand, and use your fingers to press it up the sides of the tart mold. Reserve a small piece of dough, about the size of a raspberry, for patching any cracks that will appear once baked.

Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork, then bake the tart shell in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and if there are any sizable cracks, use the bits of reserved dough to fill in and patch them.

Let the shell cool before filling.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are what I think of as grown-up chocolate chip cookies. They have a lovely, rich flavour from the browned butter and the sea salt stops them from being too sweet.


250g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
1 tsp sea salt
200g butter
220g soft dark brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
200g dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 160C.

In a saucepan, melt the butter and continue to cook until it has gone a nutty brown colour and has a toasted caramel smell. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Beat together the sugars and the melted butter in a large mixing bowl. Add in the vanilla and the egg and egg yolk and beat until well mixed.

To this mixture, add the flour and bicarbonate of soda and mix until just combined. Sprinkle the sea salt and chocolate chips into the cookie dough and mix again.

Place the cookie dough mixture into the fridge for 5 minutes to cool.

When you're ready to bake the cookies, take about 3 tbsp worth and form into a ball in your hands. Place on a cool, ungreased baking sheet. Keep the cookies 3 inches apart as they will spread.

Bake for 13-15 minutes in the oven until the edges are crisp but the middle is still slightly soft.

Carefully transfer them while hot to a wire rack to cool.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lemon Drizzle Cake

I love lemon in cakes, I think it's just the right combination of fresh and sweet. This is my favourite lemon cake recipe as it contains lemon curd, making it really moist and tender.

You can add in poppy seeds to add a bit of variety if you like.


140g self raising flour
112g butter, softened
112g granulated sugar
3 tbsp lemon curd
2 eggs
1 small lemon, juice and zest


2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 175C.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light.

Add in the eggs, lemon zest and juice and lemon curd. Beat to incorporate.

Lastly, add in the flour and mix until there are no visable lumps in the batter.

Pour cake mix into a buttered loaf tin (400g/1 lb size).

Bake for 30 mins, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes away cleanly.

Allow to cool, then make up the icing and drizzle artistically on top.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Toasted Coconut Cake

This cake is a dream. It actually came about as a bit of a mistake as I wanted to make a plain sponge, but realised I had no normal milk so added a small can of coconut milk instead.

It's light, fragrant and not too overpoweringly coconutty. If you wanted a stronger flavour, you could swap the vanilla essence for coconut essence but personally I prefer a more natural coconut taste.


2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup cake flour
1 cup dessicated coconut, toasted
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup coconut milk
3 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

Preheat oven to 175C.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together. Add in the flour, toasted coconut, baking powder, salt and vanilla and mix well.

Finally, add the coconut milk and butter to the mix and stir until you have a thick batter.

Pour the cake batter into a buttered 8 x 8 square cake pan and bake for 20 minutes or until light brown.

Cool in the pan and cut into squares.