Five of our Favourites from 2016!

It is hard to believe that another year has passed! We have had a wonderful year of baking and creating cakes and are incredibly grateful for having the opportunity to work with our amazing clients. A big thank you to all who have supported us in 2016 and wishing you all a lovely festive period!

For our last post of the year we decided to have a look back at five of our favourite cakes from 2016.

1. Opulence

What started as a delicious towering blank canvas became a rich and sumptuous cake with the help of some beautiful deep blooms from Appassionata Flowers, gilded fruits and a splash of gold leaf. Set up in one of Virginia Park Lodge‘s cosy rooms, this cake formed the centrepiece for a delicious evening wedding buffet.

2. Blush Buttercream Roses

Sometimes simplicity speaks for itself. Classic smooth blush buttercream adorned with the most gorgeous of avalanche roses by Unique Flowers became one of our summer wedding favourites!

3. Dark and Decadent

Our client had a wonderful vision for this wedding cake, dark and rich to reflect the wild wintery surroundings of Connemara where the wedding took place. Three tiers of Guinness Chocolate cake coated in chocolate ganache, trimmed with gold leaf and adorned with dark winter fruits. This one begged to be eaten!

4. Rustic White and Green

This cake epitomises the effectiveness of a simple palette, a perfect setting and beautiful styling. A rustic white iced cake adorned with fresh greenery and accompanied by marshmallows and macarons, was surrounded by foliage and soft candlelight. Set against a rustic stone backdrop with those amazing floral hoops by the Wedding Festival, this cake table formed a classically beautiful centrepiece for the wedding reception.

5. Floral Monogram

I may be displaying a little bias in choosing this one, as this cake was made for my brother-in-law and his beautiful bride who were married in 2016. Designed around the monogram of their wedding invitations, I loved how the floral semi-wreath turned out. And I got to eat some of this one..!!!

Chocolate Gingerbread Mini Bundts with Irish Whiskey Orange Caramel Glaze

 

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As many know I am a huge fan of mini bundt cakes. Often requiring little in the way of adornment they are the perfect individual treat for guests. I wanted to make a festive version and this Chocolate Gingerbread cake recipe is deliciously light and fluffy so not too heavy for a Christmas dessert. Adapted from a recipe by Supergolden Bakes, I have paired it with an Irish Whiskey Orange Caramel glaze for a little extra indulgence!

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The recipe makes 10 mini bundt cakes but if you prefer to make one large cake, double the quantities for a large bundt tin and increase the baking time to 40-45 mins. The caramel recipe makes more than is needed but store any leftover in a clean jar in the fridge and feel free to pour over ice-cream, cakes and desserts over the festive season!

Chocolate Gingerbread Mini Bundt Cakes with Irish Whiskey Orange Caramel Glaze

Ingredients for the chocolate gingerbread bundt cakes:

  • 75g dark chocolate
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 75 soft brown sugar
  • 60g self-raising flour
  • 30g ground almonds
  • 2 medium eggs, separated
  • 1/2 tbsp black treacle
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

Ingredients for the Irish Whiskey Orange Caramel:

  • 75ml cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g cold butter, cubed
  • 2tbsp Irish (or other) whiskey
  • finely grated zest 1 medium orange

Step 1: To make the cake, preheat the oven to 160°C/315F.  .

Step 2: Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water and leave to cool.

Step 3: Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.

Step 4: In the meantime whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Set aside

Step 5: Beat the egg yolks into the creamed butter and sugar mixture.

Step 6: Add the cooled melted chocolate and treacle and beat until combined.

Step 7: Fold in the flour, ground almonds, spices and bicarbonate of soda.

Step 8: Add a spoonful of egg whites to the mixture and fold in gently with a metal spoon before folding in the remainder of the egg whites

Step 9: Divide the batter between 10 silicone mini bundt moulds. Place on a tray in the oven and bake for approximately 15 mins or until top is springy to the touch. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 15mins before carefully turning out of the moulds.

Step 10: To make the caramel sauce, heat the cream gently in a saucepan.

Step 11: Put the sugar in a larger saucepan and heat on medium heat until the sugar starts to dissolve. Swirl to ensure it heats evenly.

Step 12: When all the sugar has dissolved add in the butter a cube at a time and stir until smooth.

Step 13: Slowly pour in the cream and stir again until smooth.

Step 14: Finally add the whiskey and orange zest and stir.

Step 15: While caramel sauce is still runny, pour over the mini bundt cakes. The cakes taste best warm but to my family taste testers they were also equally delicious cold!

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Image Brides Alchemy Editorial Shoot

Having always been a fan of the chic Irish fashion and lifestyle magazine, Image, it is no surprise that it’s sister magazine, Image Brides, has become my go-to read for following trends and finding inspiration in the wedding industry. It was hence a delight to have been invited to design a cake for an editorial in their current Winter/Spring edition.

The shoot took place at one of Ireland’s most exclusive wedding venues, Clonwilliam House, a gorgeous country house set amongst wooded hills in the Vale of Avoca in Co. Wicklow. Meticulously renovated and decorated, Clonwilliam exudes contemporary glamour in stunning period surroundings…I had serious house envy! (Image courtesy of One Fab Day).

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The theme of the shoot was ‘Alchemy’, with styling by Ciara O’Halloran of Style Serendipity, who specialises in beautiful wedding, interior and food styling.  Her brief and mood board were tantalising.  With inspiration taken from the earthy magic of crystal and mineral stones, the look was about capturing the simplicity and beauty of natural elements, with delicate jewellery , large blooming flowers and bohemian gowns in shades of ‘rose quartz, rich cream, shimmering gold and crystal grey’ creating an ‘effortlessly luxe’, romantic, mysterious and enchanting mood.

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The photographer for the shoot was the talented Christina of Brosnan Photographic. Having admired her light, relaxed photography for some time I was thrilled to finally get the opportunity to work with her. It was a delight to watch Ciara and Christina at work throughout the morning and the final photos from the shoot were undoubtedly stunning!….

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Love the colours and relaxed style of this flower arrangement by The French Touch!

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Beautiful amethyst rings by Juvi Designs

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And for the cake….Ciara briefed on a ‘luxe bohemian’ style, suggesting dripping caramel, fruits and blooms with additional elements such as gold leaf and macarons for added decadence. We opted for a natural blush buttercream finish, contrasting a smooth base tier with semi-naked upper tiers. A luscious caramel drip was complimented with simple yet elegant styling: gorgeous roses by The French Touch Flowers offset by contrasting blackberries..and of course those gold macarons for some luxury!

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Top cake view! Some detail of those roses, that drip and our macarons…

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It is always nice to see the different elements of the shoot come together and I think all credit to a great team who created this contemporary, romantic luxe beauty!

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Stylist: Ciara O’Halloran

Photographer: Christina Brosnan

Model: Sarah Tansey at Andrea Roche Model Agency

Hair: Inch Hair Design

Make-up: Elysian Brows

Jewellry: Juvi Designs

Flowers: The French Touch

Stationary: Kerry Harvey Designs

Cake: ME!

See more of this shoot and indeed lots more inspiration, supplier guides and real weddings in the gorgeous Winter/Spring edition of Image Brides, on shelves now!

 

Book Review-Clean Cakes

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I am a bit of a hoarder of cookbooks, finding it difficult to pass by the aisle in the bookshop. My mantra is you can never have too many, and since the start of my cake business I have now amassed cake books in equal measure to my general cooking books. I am particularly drawn to those that have something a little bit different, be it in style or in particular, flavours.

I discovered Henrietta Inman through her Instagram account, which showcases her cakes and desserts decorated in a colourful array of pretty flowers and berries. All of her cakes and bakes are made free from wheat, dairy and refined sugar. Her book ‘Clean Cakes’ was released earlier this year and while the name initially held me back (I don’t believe in classifying food as ‘clean’ or otherwise!), the delicious flavour combinations showcased on her blog left me too tempted!

The book gives an excellent introduction into alternative ingredients to make your bakes ‘free-from’ and is subsequently divided into chapters on cakes; muffins, loaves and breads; biscuits, brownies and bars; tarts and pies; raw desserts; and finally, chocolates and little treats.

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I was most tempted by the Courgette, Basil, Lime and Pistachio Cake with Avocado Lime Cream and Raspberry Jam. Yes, you did read all those ingredients together! It was an unusual combination which I tested on some dinner party guests. Although the recipe denotes making layers I made a single larger cake for simplicity.  Made with coconut flour and sugar, the cake was deliciously moist and incredibly nutty from the ground pistachio. The icing was a combination of avocado, lime juice, coconut yogurt and coconut sugar. Underneath the icing was a layer of raspberry jam. This was an unusual addition I thought, but actually added an amazing dimension to the final flavour.  To say the cake tasted divine was an understatement…it got a resounding thumbs up from my dinner party guests and the flavours and ingredients became a lovely talking point too! img_4231

Other recipes in the book which caught my eye were the savoury Roasted Root Vegetable Tarts with Spiced Sesame Crust, Purple Haze Loaf with Super-Berry Cashew Yogurt, and the Chocolate Hazelnut Torte with Honey Praline Ganache.

I did find that some recipes in the book had ingredients that were not readily available (despite me living in a capital city well-served by delis and speciality shops). Items such as palmyra nectar (which I had never heard of before!) and teff flour were not available in my local health food shop. However I did substitute honey for the coconut sugar in the icing of the Courgette cake and I imagine other simple substitutions are also possible.

For a baker interested in free-from cakes and treats and who likes to source and experiment with different ingredients I would highly recommend this book!

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Marshmallow Love

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Deliciously light and fluffy, and with endless flavour possibilities, homemade marshmallows make perfect additions to a wedding cake table  as well as beautiful guest favours. We have been having some fun experimenting with flavours and are delighted to share some of our favourites.  With so many options we would as always be delighted to customise flavours as required!

Champagne or Raspberry Rose

Our favourite flavours which taste so good independently or combined. We couldn’t decide which to choose so will leave it up to you! Here we have layered fresh raspberry and rose with deliciously decadent real champagne mallow. Flecks of freeze-dried raspberry between the layers add a little surprise!

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Bourbon Vanilla Bean, Roasted White Chocolate

Sweet and caramel-like, our roasted Belgian white chocolate is delicious swirled through vanilla bean marshmallow.

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Cinnamon Spiced Irish Apple

Made with pure local Irish apple juice, this lightly spiced marshmallow is a real taste of Autumn.

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Pure Coconut

Fragrant Malibu marshmallow coated in textural dessicated coconut.

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Fresh Blueberry Swirl

Visually beautiful and equally delicious, this blueberry swirl marshmallow can also be made with other summer fruits.

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Earl Grey Chocolate

Belgian chocolate marshmallow infused with the subtle Bergamot fragrance of Earl Grey Tea

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Real Wedding-Natural and Elegant Wedding Cake Styling

It is always a delight when a finished wedding cake display exceeds all of your expectations. Such was the case for a recent cake table we styled in the gorgeous garden room of Powerscourt House. Our client had a beautiful vision for her cake and the finished display exemplifies how a little thought and some simple yet considered styling can really give your wedding cake the wow factor.

Our client chose a simple textured white iced cake adorned with fresh greenery and lisianthus, in keeping with the green and white scheme of the gorgoues wedding flowers by The French Touch. Delicious cake flavours of Guinness Chocolate with Caramelised White Chocolate, and Lime White Chocolate and Pistachio were accompanied by fluffy Coconut Marshmallow and Pistachio Macarons.

With a stone wall backdrop and flooded with natural light from the grand windows overlooking Powerscourt Gardens, the garden room was the perfect spot to create a stunning wedding cake centrepiece. A natural stone-coloured linen tablecloth complemented the rustic stone walls. Cakes and treats were displayed on pristine white stands and plates, surrounded by natural greenery interspersed with hurricane and antique votives. The final flourish was the floral gold hoops by wedding planners The Wedding Festival. I had no idea these were part of the display until I arrived, and oh my they were just fabulous!

Props used in this table styling and more are available to hire from Cove Cake Design. Contact us to discuss your wedding cake styling!

Cascading Peonies and Ballyfin

 

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Every once in a while a cake deserves a little more attention than a photo and quick mention on Facebook and Instagram. I’m sure all cake decorators can recognise the delight when the loveliest of clients walks through your door with a fabulous vision for their wedding cake, a stunning venue and a dream team of suppliers lined up. Such was the case for a recent order for a peony cascade cake at Ballyfin.  

The design and stature of the wedding cake was in no doubt influenced by its final setting in the palatial surroundings of Ballyfin Demesne. Built in the 1820s, Ballyfin is probably Ireland’s finest regency mansion and I have to confess that I had been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to visit due to a little bit of personal interest…for much of the 20th century Ballyfin was run as a boarding school which was attended by my father in the 1960s. The eventual closure of the school led to a state of disrepair before an eight year restoration project resulted in it’s reopening as a luxury 5 star hotel in 2011. And it is not hard to see where the eight year’s went….the interior is breathtaking. From stunningly restored architectural detail to sumptuous furnishings and fine artwork, it is a luxurious step into another time and place. Quietly exclusive it caters to around only 10 weddings per year.

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(Images courtesy of Ballyfin.com)

The cake itself was from an original design by the fabulously talented Peggy Porschen, a design that my client had fallen in love with on a visit to the famous cake parlour in London. Four tall tiers were swathed in a sugar peony cascade matching the shades of pink in the bridal bouquet.

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Being displayed in the Rotunda room at the heart of Ballyfin, the cake was to be a centrepiece to be viewed while guests mingled over welcoming drinks (before of course being tucked into later!). A key to this design was therefore to ensure that the cake was of equal beauty when viewed from all angles, hence the continuation of the floral cascade around the back of the cake and neat little bows to hide the joins of the ribbon. The final flourish was to be a base of fresh roses and peonies by the amazing Joeanna McCaffrey flowers, sadly I had to leave before seeing this final detail in situ so I can’t wait to see the final photos!

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People have asked how many hours it takes to make sugar flowers and to be honest I lost track of these! Made over several weeks whenever I had time, over 700 peony petals were cut, veined and shaped, along with an array of peony buds, stephanotis, buds and leaves. Fixing the flowers on the cake took nearly four hours! It was my first time working with this many flowers and I was thrilled at the outcome of the challenge.

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My final glimpse of this cake  through the ornate doors of the Rotunda would be the first view seen by the bride and groom and their guests. I hope that this view, and the luscious layers of Guinness Chocolate and Lemon Coconut Raspberry cakes to be served later that evening, were well received!

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Macaron Menu

With the unsurprising popularity of macarons as wedding favours or pretty additions to cake tables, we are delighted to launch our first macaron menu.

Macarons – Rose and Raspberry Recipe

I have always had a little love for macarons. For many years my husband has flown for work with Air France which has meant regular routings via Paris.  Whilst I was still a poor student, and long before macarons had made a major appearance in Ireland, he would bring me home beautiful little packages of pastel-coloured goodness from the airport’s branch of Ladurée.  Such a treat!

When I started my cake business, macarons became something that I wanted to make myself. They are so beautiful as wedding favours, or as additions to a cake table, and the flavour combinations are endless!

Macarons are however notoriously difficult to make.  There are many variables that can affect the ability to get perfectly identical macarons with a smooth top, nice feet, crispy shell and soft chewy middle.  These variables range from underwhipping to overwhipping the egg whites,  under-resting or over-resting, baking temperature, under-baking or over-baking, the weather, phase of the moon..(!)..etc.

My biggest stumbling block was collapsed insides. The macarons would look perfect, with shiny tops and nice feet, but inside was just a large airpocket. I discovered that this was due to them not being completely cooked inside which caused them to collapse when taken out of the oven. After some experimentation I found that a change in the baking temperature solved the problem!

Having found what methods work for me in my kitchen I am now addicted to making macarons and playing with flavours! So here I have decided to share some of what I have learned and what methods I use as well as a favourite recipe.

French or Italian

Macarons can be made by the French meringue method whereby the egg whites and caster sugar are whipped into stiff peaks of meringue before adding the almond meal mixture, or the Italian method in which a hot sugar syrup is added to whipped egg whites to make the meringue. Having experimented with both I now prefer the Italian method, as it gives smoother shinier tops and is also more consistent due to the meringue being more stable.

To age or not to age

Many recipes say to age the egg white before use which dries them out whilst maintaining the protein structure, hence making them more elastic and better for whipping. I sometimes age the egg white and sometimes don’t depending on my time constraints. I have never found a difference so don’t see it as critically important for success.

Silicone or baking parchment

I started off using baking parchment but found that I got lopsided macarons at the edges of the tray. I believed this was because the parchment wasn’t completely flat having been taken off a roll. I moved to silicon mats and no longer had lopsided macarons.  My mats aren’t specifically for macarons so don’t have a template. I hence just count to 3 when I am piping the mixture. With the pressure that I use this gives me the size of macarons that I want. I do find that macarons take a little longer to cook on silicon than on parchment.

Trays

In the early days I invested in a beautiful large heavy duty baking tray to maximise the chances of macaron success. However when in need of extra trays I now also use some older cheaper ones and don’t see a difference in results dependent on the type (or cost!) of tray I use.

Resting

This I have found is essential. The theory behind resting your macarons is that a skin forms on top and when they are put in the oven and begin to rise the air is forced out at the bottom creating those lovely feet. There have been times when the weather has been damp or for some unknown reason my macarons have taken too long to form a skin. When I put these in the oven I get little/no feet and burst tops as the air escapes from the top instead. To speed up skin formation I sometimes put my trays under the light of my extractor fan which gives off a little heat or in a room with my dehumidifier. I also try to plan my macaron making for dry days!

Temperature and baking time

I started off baking at 150°C for 14-16mins, removing the macarons when they no longer had a ‘wobble’ which shows they were cooked (or so I thought). However, they were collapsing completely on cooling which I discovered was due to the fact the insides weren’t actually cooked enough. I experimented with different temperatures and found that by baking my macarons at 170°C for approx 15mins they came out perfect! Any longer and they started to brown on top, any less and they weren’t cooked. I do however think that the temperature and cooking time is something that needs to be tested under each baker’s tray/oven conditions.

 

And finally…a recipe for one of the first flavours I worked on and a really lovely one, Rose and Raspberry!

Rose and Raspberry Macarons

Ingredients:

  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 40ml water
  • 2x40g egg white (not pasteurised)
  • Red paste food colour
  • 1/2 – 1tsp of rosewater to taste
  • Good quality raspberry conserve (I make my own but there are so many good brands out there too!)

Step 1:  Grind the almond meal and icing sugar in a food processor for 1-2 mins until powdery. Sieve into a clean metal bowl and discard any larger pieces. Add 40g egg white,  the rosewater and some red food colour and mix using a spatula until a paste is formed and the colour is evenly distributed. The colour will lighten on addition of the meringue and also during baking so make sure the colour is darker than required for your finished macarons.

Step 2: Place the caster sugar in a small saucepan and add the water. Bring to the boil without stirring but swirling now and then to ensure even heating. Make sure there are no sugar crystals around the edges of the saucepan and if so, use a pastry brush dipped in a little water to brush the sugar back down into the syrup. Use a sugar thermometer to ensure the temperature of the syrup does not pass 115°C.

Step 3: Meanwhile, begin to whisk the second 40g egg white to soft peaks in a spotlessly clean metal bowl. Increase the speed of the mixer as the temperature of the sugar syrup passes 105°C. When the syrup reaches 115°C remove from the heat and slowly pour the syrup in a steady stream into the egg whites. Take care to pour the syrup onto the whites and not onto the whisk or edge of the bowl. Continue to whisk on high speed for 5-10mins until the bowl is cool to the touch and the meringue forms stiff peaks.

Step 4: Using a spatula, incorporate a third of the meringue into the almond paste mixture to loosen the paste a little. Then add the rest of the meringue. Work the batter by sweeping the spatula around the edges towards the centre and scraping from the bottom up over the top. This is called ‘macronage’. The batter is ready when it has a ‘flow’. Test by making a small peak in the batter and seeing if it begins to disappear back into the mixture.

Step 5: Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm or similar round nozzle. Line 1-2 baking trays with a silicone baking mat or baking parchment. (If using parchment, stick down on the tray at the four corners with a little of the macaron batter). Pipe out regular circles of batter leaving a little space in between each one. When finished lift the tray and drop onto the countertop to release air bubbles and help settle the macarons. If any air bubbles are visible that haven’t popped use a small cocktail stick to do so.

Step 6: Leave the macarons to rest to form a skin on top. They are ready when you can lightly touch the surface with your finger and no mixture comes away.

Step 7: Meanwhile preheat the oven to 170°C. When the macarons are ready to be cooked place in the oven and bake for 14-16mins turning the tray midway through. They are cooked when they no longer wobble when you gently try to move one from side to side.

Step 8: Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before removing from the tray. Store in an airtight container until ready to be filled.

Step 9: To assemble the macarons, first match them up in pairs. Using a teaspoon or piping bag put some raspberry jam on one half of each macaron and sandwich the other on top. Take care not to overfill. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a day before enjoying!

Vegan Chocolate Pistachio Cake with Raspberries

My children love a family birthday and never let one pass without having candles on a cake! With my birthday falling just a few days after Easter this year I decided to bake a cake which was a bit more wholesome after the chocolate-laden weekend my children had experienced the week before. This cake is gluten, dairy and refined-sugar free. The natural sweetness of the banana and syrup satisfied the desire for a treat while the dense nutty texture made a small slice sufficiently filling. Although this recipe is for a tiny 5″ cake it easily serves 8-10 deliciously rich slices. This was deemed a winner by my children, so much so that it was gone before I got to take a photo of a cut slice! (problems of a food blogger!).

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Vegan Chocolate Pistachio Cake with Chocolate Ganache and Raspberries

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g shelled pistachios
  • 25g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • Sea salt
  • 2 flax eggs: 2tbsp ground flaxseed and  6tbsp of water (or two large eggs if not vegan)
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 80ml melted coconut oil or rapeseed oil
  • 120ml maple or other syrup
  • 1tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients for the chocolate ganache:

  • 125ml full fat coconut milk (you can use more or less milk depending on whether you prefer a softer or stiffer ganache)
  • 275g dark chocolate (dairy-free if vegan)

Step 1: To make the cake, preheat the oven to 150°C/315F.  Grease and line two 5” cake tins

Step 2: Make the flax eggs by combining ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl. Set aside for 5mins to thicken.

Step 3: Put the pistachios in a food processor and blend to a fine powder.

Step 4: Put the ground almonds, ground pistachios, cocoa powder, baking powder and a pinch of sea salt in a mixing bowl and stir to combine.

Step 5: In a separate bowl mix together the flax eggs, mashed banana, maple syrup and vanilla extract.

Step 6: Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared tins and bake for 20-30mins until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Step 6: To make the chocolate ganache, heat the coconut milk and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, stirring until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Place mixture in the fridge for 30mins-1hour until chilled and firm. Scoop into mixing bowl and beat on high speed for several minutes until light and fluffy.

Step 8: To assemble the cake, level the cakes. Place the first cake layer on a plate or cake stand. Spread some of the whipped ganache over the cake and cover with fresh raspberries. Place the second cake layer on top and repeat. Simple but oh so delicious!