Red Velvet Brownies

Well, It’s been a pretty long time since I last posted as I’ve been somewhat busy having a baby! The Boy was born in February this year, so unfortunately I have had my hands pretty full and haven’t had much chance to do any baking. Not having the opportunity to spend much time in the kitchen has made me realise just how much I enjoy getting to bake and therefore I am hoping to prioritise a little more time for myself as baking is a bit of a meditative exercise for me and I always feel happy and refreshed after I’ve baked. Also, now the Boy is weaning I am going to be able to experiment with baby appropriate bakes which is going to be fun. I’m sure I will post some recipes in the future.

This weekend it was my friend’s birthday and she was having an ‘Afternoon Tea’ party, the perfect opportunity to try out one of the recipes I’ve had my eye on for a while in the new Hummingbird Bakery book ‘Life Is Sweet’. There are some fantastic recipes in there, I particularly was pleased to see an entire chapter dedicated to pancakes. Pancakes make me very happy!

It wasn’t too hard to decide what to bake first from the book, Red Velvet is a fantastic cake in my opinion, whether in cupcake format or a 2 or 3 layered cake the chocolately, rich sponge next to the creamy cream cheese frosting is just a delightful taste combination. I think anything Red Velvet always looks pretty impressive too! So when I saw that Hummingbird had devised a Red Velvet Brownie recipe, I was sold before I’d even tried them!

I found that the recipe was quite involved, but that’s to be expected with something which has 2 different layers, but the result was lovely. The brownie was moist and rich and the cream cheese layer complemented it perfectly.They sliced really cleanly and held their shape very well, sometimes I can find brownies to be quite gloopy and messy but these were perfect little brownie bars. The swirl effect on the top also looked pretty impressive. Using the 23x32cm tin means that this makes LOADS of brownies! They are quite rich so I cut them into sensible standard brownie squares and this made 25 brownies!

Recipe: Makes one 23x32cm (9x13in) tray, to slice as desired. Requires one 23 x 32cm (9x13in) tin.

Ingredients:

For the Brownie Layer:

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 390g caster sugar
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 55g cocoa powder
  • 1tsp red gel paste colouring, mixed with water to make 1 1/2 tbsp liquid
  • 2tsp white vinegar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the cream cheese layer:

  • 390g full-fat cream cheese (eg Philadelphia), softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C (350F/Gas mark 4). Line the tin with non-stick baking parchment.
  2. To make the brownie layer, melt the butter in a medium sized heatproof glass bowl set over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water, then stir in the caster sugar and vanilla. Beat by hand until the mix is slightly thickened, then remove from the heat.
  3. Using a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand-held electric whisk, mix the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vinegar with the sugar and butter mixture and beat until incorporated. Add the eggs and beat until nice and smooth, then fold in the flour & salt.
  4. Pour the red velvet batter into the prepared tin, saving about 60ml of the batter for the top and setting this aside.
  5. To make the cream cheese layer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth.
  6. Spread/pour the cream cheese over the RAW red velvet layer, carefully smoothing it evenly. Dollop bits of the reserved red velvet batter onto the cream cheese layer and, using a skewer, swirl to make patterns.
  7. Bake for about 30-35 mins, or until the top is firm to the touch and just starting to go golden at the edges. Remove from the own and allow to cool before cutting.

 

 

 

Chocolate Orange Chess Cake!

Everyone loves a birthday party! It’s the perfect occasion for a big ol’ celebration cake. So for the Bolton Clandestine Cake Club’s Second birthday event I wanted to make something a little special. I love a cake with a secret hidden pattern, and having made a chocolate & vanilla chess cake once before, it seemed the perfect opportunity to do one again. This time, I wanted to try something different with the flavour combination, chocolate orange is a match made in heaven, so I figured, why not? I free styled slightly with the recipe, using the base sponge recipe and chocolate ganache to coat the cake from the GBBO Showstoppers Recipe book for their Chess cake, however I adapted the recipe slightly by adding orange zest & extract to the plain cake mix, and using an orange butter cream to sandwich the sponges. I was very pleased with the results, there was a lovely balance of the chocolate and orange flavour which is what I was hoping for.

The recipe may seem really involved and long winded, but it’s actually much simpler than it seems (I promise!). Definitely worth having a full read through and get yourself familiar with the steps before you begin though.

Equipment required:

  • 3 x 20cm sandwich tins, greased and base lined with baking paper
  • 2 piping bags each fitted with a 1 or 1.5cm plain nozzle (they must be the same size!)

Ingredients:

For the sponges:

  • 350g unsalted butter, softened
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs at room temperature, beaten
  • 350g self-raising flour
  • good pinch of salt
  • 50g cocoa powder (for the chocolate mixture)
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract (for the orange mixture)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 4 tablespoons of milk

For the Orange butter cream

  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • 80g unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
  • 25ml whole milk

For the dark chocolate ganache/decoration

  • 300g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 1 Terry’s Chocolate Orange (Or any other chocolates you want to use to decorate the top of the cake)

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 degrees F/Gas mark 4. Put the butter into a large mixing bowl or free-standing mixer. Beat until very creamy. Gradually beat in the sugar, then the vanilla extract. Keep beating and scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the mixture is much lighter in colour and very fluffy in texture.

2. Gradually add the eggs, a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 1 tablespoon of the weighed flour with each of the last 2 portions of egg to prevent the mixture from curdling.

3. Sift the remaining flour and the salt into the bowl and gently fold in using a large metal spoon until you can no longer see any streaks or specks of flour.

4. At this point you need to split the mixture. I do this by weighing the full quantity and transferring half to another bowl. Sift the cocoa into one of the bowls and add 2 tablespoons of the milk. Fold in until completely blended. Spoon the mixture into one of the piping bags. Add the orange extract and orange zest and 2 tablespoons of milk into the mixture in the second bowl, mix thoroughly, then spoon into the other piping bag.

5. Pipe a ring of chocolate mixture around the inside edge of one tin. Then pipe a ring of the light mixture inside the chocolate ring. Repeat with alternate chocolate & light rings until the tin is filled. Repeat with a second tin. Then for the third tin, start with an outer ring of the light mixture, so this tin is the reverse of the other 2 tins.

6. Bake for 22-25 minutes until well risen and springy when lightly pressed in the centre. Run a knife around the inside of each tin to loosen the sponge, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

7. Whilst the sponges are in the oven/cooling you should make the butter cream filling and the chocolate ganache. To make the orange butter cream beat together the icing sugar, butter and orange zest with an electric mixer (free-standing or handheld), on a medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Turn the mixer down to a slower speed. Slowly add the milk a little at a time (you may not need all the milk to get the consistency you’re after so don’t worry if you don’t add it all). Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes.

8. To make the ganache, put the finely chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a pan until hot but not boiling, then pour in a slow, steady stream over the chopped chocolate. Leave it to stand for a few minutes without touching it, then stir gently until the chocolate is all melted and smooth and glossy. Leave to cool and thicken slightly, then stir gently, but don’t over beat or the mixture could separate. It’s best to leave the mixture to cool somewhere for a while before trying to cover the cake, otherwise the consistency will be too runny to hold over the cake. I usually leave for at least 20 minutes.

9. Once the sponges are fully cooled it’s time to assemble the layers. Place one of the sponges with the chocolate outer ring upside down on a cake board or your serving platter. Spread the top with half of the orange butter cream then set the the sponge with the white outer ring on top. Spread the rest of the butter cream on top and then top with the third remaining sponge with the browned top uppermost. Cover the top and the sides of the cake with the chocolate ganache. I use a palette knife to smooth out the ganache on the sides of the cake. I find it best to do one layer first to get the coverage over the cake and then when that has set slightly to go over with a second layer over the top. The ganache should have a lovely shiny finish. Before the ganache has had chance to set on the top, use the Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments (or whatever you have chosen to decorate the cake with) to decorate the top. Leave the cake in a cool spot (not the fridge though) to set. I tend to make the cake the evening before I want it so the ganache has overnight to set.

Et voila! It’s a very impressive looking cake on the outside with the beautiful glossy ganache finish. It becomes even more impressive when you slice into it. It can be a little nerve wracking as to whether the chess board pattern will have worked, and you won’t know until you cut into it, however I can guarantee you that it will draw some ‘oooh’s’ and ‘aaaaah’s’ when the cake is sliced! Hidden patterns within a cake always get a great reaction, and the method for creating such an impact is actually pretty simple, so why not give it a go?!

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Oreo Cupcakes!

As you may have seen from my earlier Oreo Cookie Brownie post, I heart Oreos. A while ago it was one of my work colleague’s birthdays, who is also an Oreo lover so I was eager to bake something appropriate for her. The brownie has become a staple ‘go-to’ bake for me, so I fancied trying something different, ideally cupcake based. I had a browse online and came across a lovely post for Oreo Cupcakes on Sweetharts Cakes & Bakes. It seemed a pretty simple recipe and the photos of the finished articles looked really lovely so I gave them a go.

You can see the recipe on Sweethearts page linked above, but I’ve detailed
below as well:

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes:

  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 2tsp vanilla extract
  • 16 whole Oreo’s

For the Frosting:

  • 175g softened unsalted butter
  • 350g sifted icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2tbs milk
  • 3 or 4 crushed Oreo’s – Crushed in a food processor or in a sandwich bag with a rolling pin
Instructions:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or gas mark 4. Line a cupcake baking tray with cupcake cases. Place a whole Oreo cookie into each case.
2. Sift the flour,cocoa powder,baking powder and salt into a bowl give it all a mix
3. In a separate bowl cream the butter and sugar together either with a handheld electric whisk or a free standing electric mixer until it is light and fluffy then add the vanilla extract and the eggs 1 at a time whisking them in slowly.
4. Alternate between adding the milk and flour mixing between additions to bring the batter together,adding any remaining flour at the end.
5. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases (I use an ice-cream scoop),covering the Oreo’s and filling the cases about 3/4 full. Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes. The cakes are ready when a cocktail stick or skewer comes out of the centre clean.
6. Set on a cooling rack to cool completely.
7. To make the frosting, beat the butter and icing sugar together for a few minutes until it becomes smooth & fluffy. Add the milk a little at a time if the consistency is a bit thick.
8. Mix in a spoonful at a time of the crushed Oreo’s just until you get a speckled frosting. I like to hold a little back to be able to sprinkle the crumbs over the top of the finished cupcakes.
9. You can then top the sponges with the buttercream, either with a palette knife or using a piping bag and star nozzle. I finish by sprinkling Oreo crumbs over the top of the buttercream.
When I did them for my friend’s birthday I didn’t use a piping bag to frost as I was doing them on a ‘school night’ so used a palette knife to top them, which was pretty quick and easy. I have made them a second time and piped the frosting. What I would say, is that if you are going to pipe, ensure that you have quite a large open star nozzle. Because of the oreo crumbs in the buttercream they can get stuck in the nozzle which results in a wobbly uneven swirls.

Both times I made these cupcakes they went down an absolute storm! The sponge is really moist but surprisingly not too chocolatey or sickly. So if you are a fan of Oreos, I would absolutely recommend them! Thanks very much to Sweetharts, Cakes & Bakes for the fab recipe! The whole Oreo in the bottom of the cake is a real cheeky treat!

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My Favourite Carrot Cake

When I was growing up, I couldn’t get my head around carrot cake. Vegetables in cake? What’s that about?  I’ve also never been a fan of cake with fruit in it, and very often carrot cake would have sultanas in which I just couldn’t get on board with (still can’t!). Carrot cake was a particular favourite of my Nana’s, and if we’d go out on family trips anywhere and we stopped for a tea break she would always be after “A lovely bit of carrot cake” (said in her Irish accent!). Me, I’d be the typical kid and always steer towards the richest chocolate option on offer, a vegetable based cake was never going to get a look in. When my Husband (then boyfriend) told me carrot cake was one of his favourite cakes, I figured I should find a good recipe to make one for him, I thought maybe my tastes would have changed so I should give it a go myself! Being a big fan of Hummingbird I guessed their carrot cake recipe would be a good place to start. Turns out I was right, and not a sultana in sight, thank goodness!

This recipe offers a perfectly moist, slightly spiced carrot cake which is offset by the yummy cream cheese frosting. I made a tiny tweak to the recipe for the frosting to add the zest of one orange which gives it a fresh zing which stops it being a little to rich or sickly. This recipe has become a particular favourite in our household, it’s pretty versatile and can be decorated simply without the sides covered with some walnuts on top, or you can go a little fancier, coat the sides to fully cover the cake and put aside some of the frosting, colour it orange and green and pipe little carrots on top. Below are a few different versions I have done using this recipe.

So here’s my favourite, ever reliable carrot cake recipe:

Equipment – 3 x 20 cm cake tine, base lined with greaseproof paper

Ingredients:

  • 300g soft light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 300ml sunflower oil
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 300g carrots, grated
  • 100g shelled walnuts, chopped, plus extra, to decorate

For the Frosting:

  • 600g icing sugar, sifted
  • 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 250g cream cheese, cold
  • Zest of 1 orange

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (325 degrees F/Gas mark 3)
  2. Put the sugar, eggs and oil in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until all the ingredients are well incorporated (don’t worry if the mixture looks slightly split.
  3. Slowly add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, salt and vanilla extract and continue to beat until well mixed. I find at this stage the mixture looks like gloopy peanut butter!

 

4. Stir in the grated carrots and walnuts by hand until they are all evenly dispersed.

 

 

5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins and smooth over with a palette knife.

6. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and the sponge bounces back when touched. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

7. To make the frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on a medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go, as well as the orange zest and beat until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to a medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Don’t over-beat as it can quickly become runny.

8. When the cakes are cold, put one on a cake stand/plate and spread about one-quarter of the frosting over with a palette knife. Place the second on top and spread another quarter of the frosting over it. Top with the last cake and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides. If you don’t want to cover the sides, then you should use a little more of the frosting when doing the layering. You can finish off by decorating the top with walnuts and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

 

If you want to do little carrots, put some of the frosting aside before you cover the cake, colour some orange and some green with colouring gel, I use sugarflair,I’d recommend this over liquid colouring which will make the frosting too runny. Use a small circular piping nozzle used for writing and put the orange frosting in, then pipe a line for the top of the carrot triangle, then come back under the line in the opposite direction doing a slightly shorter line and repeat reducing the width of the lines down to a point to create the triangle shape of the carrot. Then using the same nozzle and the green frosting pipe little lines fanning out from the top of the carrot to create the green sprouts of the carrot top! I found it was best to do a couple of practice tries on a plate before piping onto the cake just to get the technique how I wanted it.

I find this cake so versatile, if you didn’t want a 3 tier cake and just wanted a traditional sandwich cake then just reduce the quantities down by a third.

 

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Slimming World Pancakes!

I love pancakes! It’s ridiculous to me that they should be confined to being eaten one day a year. When looking at this recipe which I found online I figured they wouldn’t taste like pancakes, but just like a sweet omelette. However, I was wrong! These pancakes are really tasty and genuinely taste like pancakes. It may have helped that I served them up real pancake style with bananas, blueberries and a drizzle of maple syrup (for a few syns!), but these really felt like a treat breakfast. They used to be classes as syn -free but the recent changes to the syn value of sweetener would make these 3 syns in total.

If you’re not a fan of sweetener or are looking for something with a lower syn value then check out my half syn pancake recipe:

Ingredients (makes 2 pancakes)

  • 6 tbsp sweetener
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • Fry Light

 Instructions

  1. Separate the egg yolk and egg white into separate bowls
  2. Add 3 tbsp of sweetener to the egg white. Using an electric mixer, whisk up the egg white until it makes stiff peaks
  3. Add the vanilla extract and the rest of the sweetener to the egg yolk and mix well.
  4. Fold the egg yolk into the egg white mixture
  5. Spray a pan with Fry Light and pour half the mixture into the pan. After a few minutes flip the pancake over,
  6. Take the pancake out a few minutes later, and repeat the cooking process with the rest of the mixture.
  7. Serve them up with your favourite pancake topping and enjoy!

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Zebra Cake!

I recently bought Lorraine Pascale’s new recipe book. I have her other 2 and the recipes are really yummy, both savoury and sweet. Her Oreo cookie brownie is a particular favourite in our household! So when I bought the new one I was excited to try some of her new baked goodies!

The ‘Crouching tiger, hidden zebra cake, stood out to me, as I have been hooked on this year’s Great British Bake Off, and the hidden design episode was brilliant and sparked a desire for me to try something with a cheeky surprise inside.

The finished cake looks so impressive, and while it take a little time to do the step which creates the zebra stripes, it’s actually a pretty simple recipe!

The recipe makes 12 slices and requires a 23cm springform sandwich tin.

Ingredients:

  • 250ml sunflower (or other flavourless) oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 100ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 4 medium eggs (at room temperature)
  • A few drops of vanilla extract
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1 orange

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (fan 160 in a fan oven), 350 degrees F, gas mark 4. Grease the bottom of the sandwich tin with a little oil, line with baking parchment and oil again. Set aside on a large baking sheet.
  2. Put the oil, sugar, milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat everything together well. It is best not to use an electric whisk as it will introduce too many bubbles, which are not needed for this cake.
  3. Pour out 400ml of this mixture (or 400g as it is the same weight) into a medium bowl
  4. Sift 175g of the self-raising flour into one bowl along with 1/2 teaspoon of the baking powder. Mix well and set aside. This is your vanilla mix.
  5. Sift the remaining 125g of self-raising flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder into the other bowl along with the cocoa powder. Finely grate the orange zest in. mix everything together well and set aside. This is your chocolate mix.
  6. Now, put a tablespoon of the vanilla mix in the middle of the tin. Then, using a clean tablespoon, put a blob of the chocolate mix in the middle of the vanilla one. Keep doing this, alternating between vanilla and chocolate, so you form a type of ‘bulls eye’   look.

7. Each time you dollop a blob in, the whole mix will spread out on the base. By the time you have used up both of the cake mixes, they should have just reached the edge of the tin.

8. Bake in the oven for 35 minute

9. Check the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre. It should come out clean. If not, then return to the oven for another 5 minutes or so until cooked. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes in the tin. Then carefully remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

It’s a really yummy cake, and the slight orange zesty taste is lovely! It’s particularly good when it’s still slightly warm from the oven! It’s really moist & perfect with a brew!

Black & White Chocolate Cheesecake Bars


This recipe is one that immediately stood out for me from the Hummingbird Cake Days recipe book, so has been on my ‘to bake’ list for a while! However, it was seeing a post on one of the blogs I read by Little Miss Hungry (http://littlemisshungryuk.blogspot.co.uk/) that prompted me to finally get baking it.

It’s a really simple, but pretty impressive brownie/cheesecake combo. Lovely for either a treat with a cuppa or as a dessert, it would be gorgeous with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, although, in my opinion, most things are great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

I would say, that while it’s a simple recipe, it is quite time consuming as it needs chilling time between a lot of the steps, so it’s not one that you can quickly pull together, so ensure you leave yourself plenty of time.

The recipe makes 12-15 bars and uses one 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

Ingredients – For the topping:

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

Instructions:

  1. Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the effs 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.
  2. Sift together the remaining ingredients, then tip these into the batter into two batches, mixing in the freestanding mixer or folding in by hand.
  3. 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, it’s useful if you create a bit of a raised lip around the edge of the tin to hold in the cheesecake mixture when this is poured in later. Allow it to set in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (325F), gas mark 3.
  5. Remove the base from the fridge and bake for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely in the tin before adding the topping, but keep the oven on for cooking the finished cheesecake.
  6. 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 or freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment, 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.
  7. Spread the mixture on to the cooled base, then remove the reserved dough from the fridge and crumble in large pieces over the cheesecake.
  8. 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.

This is best served when it’s been removed from the fridge and been able to come up to room temperature a bit. It’s quite hard when it comes straight from the fridge so I would take out at least half an hour before you intend to serve.