Chocolate Gingerbread Mini Bundts with Irish Whiskey Orange Caramel Glaze

 

chocolate-gingerbread-cake-2_edited-1

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!

img_4991_edited-2

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!

chocolate-gingerbread-cake-1_edited-1

Book Review-Clean Cakes

lead-image_edited-1

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.

img_4238

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!

img_4227_edited-1

Marshmallow Love

img_4657_edited-1

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!

img_4833_edited-2

Bourbon Vanilla Bean, Roasted White Chocolate

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

img_4872_edited-3

Cinnamon Spiced Irish Apple

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

img_4884_edited-2

Pure Coconut

Fragrant Malibu marshmallow coated in textural dessicated coconut.

img_4637_edited-1

Fresh Blueberry Swirl

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

IMG_3802_edited-2

Earl Grey Chocolate

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

img_4865_edited-2

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!

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!).

IMG_2673_edited-1

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!

Earl Grey, Lemon and Lavender Cake

 

Earl Grey Tea is a black tea blend flavoured with bergamot orange. Its citrusy aroma naturally lends itself to flavouring cakes and confectionary and it pairs well with floral accents such as lavender. I have always been wary of using lavender as a cake flavour, too much and it can be reminiscent of soap which is never pleasant to eat! However this recipe is the perfect combination. The earl grey-infused milk adds fragrant moistness to the cake and pairs beautifully with subtle lavender icing and a contrasting tangy lemon curd.  This cake was a winner when taste tested by my family, so much so that I plan to add it to our wedding and celebration cake menu, perfect for something a little different!

IMG_2514_edited-1

Earl Grey, Lemon and Lavender Cake

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 250ml whole milk
  • 4 Earl Grey tea bags
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 360g plain flour
  • 2.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp ground Earl Grey tea leaves
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 medium eggs

Ingredients for the lemon curd:

  • 75g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • Juice and zest of 3 lemons
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk

Ingredients for the lavender buttercream:

  • 60ml milk
  • 1 tsp culinary lavender flowers
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 450g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Purple food colour (optional)
  • Lavender flowers to decorate (optional)

Step 1: To make the cake, preheat the oven to 150°C/315F.  Grease and line two 6” cake tins (or for a shallower 2-layer cake use two 8” cake tins).

Step 2: Place the milk in a small saucepan over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the tea bags. Cover the pan and leave to infuse for around 30mins. Remove the teabags, squeezing out any excess liquid. Measure the remaining milk and ensure that there is 250ml. If it has reduced slightly add more milk to bring it up to 250ml.

Step 3: Cream together the butter, vanilla paste and sugar by hand or in a mixer.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, ground tea leaves and salt.

Step 4: Pour the flour mixture into the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with a third of the milk each time and mixing gently after each addition.

Step 5: Pour the batter into the prepared tins and bake for approximately 40-45mins until springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tins for 10-15mins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 6: To make the lemon curd, melt the butter with the sugar, lemon zest and juice in a small pan over a low heat. Beat together the eggs and the egg yolk in a bowl and add to the lemon mixture. Stir gently over a low heat until the mixture has cooled enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and pour into a sterilised jam jar. Leave to cool and store in the refrigerator until needed. Any leftover curd will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Step 7: To make the lavender icing, place the milk and lavender flowers in a small saucepan over a low heat. Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat and leave to infuse until cool. Beat together the butter and icing sugar in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy (approx. 10mins). Strain the lavender from the milk, add the milk to the buttercream and beat again. Add a few drops of purple food colour if desired.

Step 8: To assemble the cake, level the cakes and cut each cake in two to create 4 layers (if an 8” cake simply sandwich the two layers together as follows). Place the first cake layer on a plate or cake stand. Pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of the layer and fill the centre with buttercream to a shallower depth than the ring. Place some lemon curd in the centre and spread around the layer keeping it inside the piped ring. Repeat with two more layers and top with the final cake layer. Spread the top with icing and sprinkle with lavender flowers if desired.

Dark Chocolate Tonka Bean Cake with Raspberry Glaze

Bundt cakes are my go-to style for beautiful looking cakes for gatherings of family and friends when short on time. With a little bit of baking and a drizzle of icing you have something that looks amazing and easily forms a centrepiece for any table.

This Dark Chocolate Tonka Bean cake with Raspberry glaze is a new bundt cake favourite! I recently came across Tonka bean whilst browsing one of Dublin’s many fine delis. It comes from Brazil and has a fruity and somewhat spicy flavour. Used in a similar way to vanilla, a small amount grated into cakes, cupcakes or macarons lends a subtle flavour. Indeed if you are unable to find Tonka bean simply substitute with vanilla in this recipe.

This chocolate cake is an adaptation of a beautifully moist chocolate cake recipe which I regularly use for our wedding and celebration cakes. It hence also works well baked in a normal tin and layered with your favourite buttercream. For this bundt cake I finished it with a raspberry glaze for a sharp colour and flavour contrast!

Happy Baking!

Dark Chocolate Tonka Bean and Raspberry

 

Dark Chocolate Tonka Bean Bundt Cake with Raspberry Glaze

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 200g unsalted butter plus extra for greasing
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 160ml natural or greek yogurt
  • 55g good quality cocoa powder
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 3 medium free-range eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tonka bean finely grated

Ingredients for the raspberry glaze:

  • 150g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1-2tsp freeze dried raspberry powder (or if unavailable use raspberry juice instead of the water below)
  • 50-75ml warm water

Step 1: To make the cake, preheat the oven to 160°C/320F/gas mark 3. Grease a 2.4l bundt tin very well with butter.

Step 2: Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl.

Step 3: Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water and stir to melt.  Remove from heat and sift in cocoa powder. Add yogurt and 80ml hot water and stir to a smooth paste.

Step 4: Meanwhile, beat together the butter, sugar and tonka bean until light and fluffy.

Step 5: Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Step 6: Add chocolate paste and stir to combine.

Step 7: Finally stir in flour mixture taking care not to overmix.

Step 8: Pour the mixture into the bundt tin and bake for 40-45 mins until cake is springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Step 9: Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 30 mins before gently turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 10: To make the raspberry glaze, dissolve the raspberry powder in the water (or use raspberry juice) to give the desired colour and flavour. Add to the icing sugar to give a thick but runny consistency. Spoon over the cake allowing it to drip down the sides.

Clementine Cake with Star Anise and Cinnamon, Cranberry Curd Meringue Buttercream and Pistachio

IMG_0752_edited-1

With Christmas around the corner we are inundated with images and recipes for all sorts of delicious  baking so I thought I would add to the mix with this seasonal spiced Clementine Cake with Cranberry.  I think it looks so beautiful with the subtle orange and pink tones from the clementines and cranberries further contrasted with some green pistachio macarons! It has a lovely moist texture and paired with the silky meringue buttercream, would make a lovely light alternative to some traditionally heavier seasonal cakes.

The recipe has quite a few components and in its entirety is aimed at the experienced baker, but for the novice baker please don’t let this put you off! The cake itself is so easy to make and would look fabulous simply sandwiched together with the icing and decorated with a smattering of cranberries and pistachios, obviating the need to attempt to make notoriously difficult macarons! Furthermore, should you wish for a simpler buttercream recipe, simply add some of the cranberry curd to this buttercream.

Clementine Cake with Star Anise and Cinnamon, Cranberry Curd Meringue Buttercream and Pistachio Macarons

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 3 clementines
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 275g self-raising flour
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • 275g caster sugar
  • 225g butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon

Ingredients for the cranberry curd:

  • 225g cranberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 140g caster sugar
  • Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 3 egg yolks (keep the whites for your macarons)
  • 1 egg
  • 60g unsalted butter

Ingredients for the cranberry swiss meringue buttercream:

  • 150g egg white (can be from a carton)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 340g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3-4 tbsp cranberry curd to taste
  • pinch salt

Ingredients for the Pistachio Macarons

  • 65g icing sugar
  • 45g ground almonds
  • 20g shelled pistachios
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 50g aged egg white (approx two egg whites)
  • Green paste food colour

Step 1: To make the cake, preheat the oven to 160°C/320F/gas mark 3. Grease and line two 6″ round cake tins.

Step 2: Place the whole clementines (including skin) in a saucepan with the star anise and cinnamon stick, cover with boiling water and simmer for approx 20 mins until skins are soft. Leave to cool slightly and infuse. Remove clementines from the water, cut in half, remove any pips and then process in a food processor until pulpy.

Step 3: Add the remaining cake ingredients to the clementines in the food processor and process until smooth and well mixed. Avoid overmixing.

Step 4: Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and bake for 30-40 mins until cake is springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 5: To make the pistachio macarons, process the icing sugar, ground almonds and pistachios in a processor until fine. Sieve into a clean bowl and discard any larger particles.

Step 6: Wipe the inside of a metal bowl and an electric handheld whisk with some lemon juice and paper towel to remove any traces of grease. Weigh the egg white into the bowl and whisk on low speed until foamy. Increase speed and whisk until you see trails in the egg white. Add the caster sugar in thirds, whisking well after each addition. Continue whisking until just before stiff peaks form. Add desired amount of green food colouring before continuing to whisk to stiff peaks.

Step 7: Add half the almond mixture to the egg white and fold in before adding the remaining half. Gently fold the mixture (it’s called macronage) to remove some of the air until it has a flow and consistency of lava.

Step 8: Pour into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Fix some baking paper onto a tray with a dot of the mixture (or use a silicone baking mat) and pipe rounds. You should get approx 30 macaron shells. Bang tray firmly on the counter to remove any excess air bubbles. Leave to form a ‘skin’, this takes approx 30mins depending on humidity. To test for this simply lightly touch the top of one of the macarons and check that your finger comes away clean. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 160°C .

Step 9: Bake macarons for 14-16mins turning the tray around half-way through. The macarons are cooked when you can lightly a shell and the top doesn’t move from the feet. Leave to cool on the tray before removing.

Step 10: To make the cranberry curd, place cranberries and water in a saucepan, cover and heat until cranberries have burst and liquid bubbles. Pour through a sieve into a clean bowl and press through cranberry pulp. Return the pulp to the saucepan and stir in sugar to dissolve. Add the lemon and orange zest if  and allow to cool slightly.

Step 11: Whisk the egg yolks and whole egg together and pour into the cranberry mixture, whisking until combined. Stir over a medium heat using a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened and easily coats the back of a spoon (approx. 8-10mins). Pour into sterilised jars and place in the fridge once cool to set. This will keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge to use any leftovers as you see fit!

Step 12: To make the cranberry swiss meringue buttercream, wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice. Add egg whites and sugar and place over a pan of simmering water whisking constantly until it reaches 160°F. If you do not have a sugar thermometer heat until sugar has completely dissolved and mixture is hot.

Step 13: Place the bowl on an electric stand mixer and whisk until the meringue is thick and glossy and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch, approx 10mins. Change to a paddle attachment. Slowly add the butter in cubes one at a time until incorporated. Continue to beat until it has reached a smooth silky texture. Add cranberry curd and mix to combine. If buttercream is too runny place in the fridge to firm up slightly before remixing.

Step14: To assemble the cake, level each cake using a cake leveller or sharp knife. Cut each cake in two so you have four cake layers. Place the base of the first cake on a cake card (or a cake stand or plate) and using a piping bag cover with the buttercream icing. Smooth the icing with a palette knife. Add the second layer and repeat, finishing with the inverted base of the second cake.  Before coating the outside of the cake, place in fridge to firm up slightly first. Crumb coat the cake by spreading a small amount of buttercream over the cake and scraping off any excess before refrigerating again until firm. Now feel free to ice in your favourite texture, rough, smooth, patterned! I have finished with a smooth buttercream. For this I placed the worked on the sides of the cake first, adding buttercream so that it was up over the top of the cake, scraping with a metal scraper, refrigerating until firm before repeating the process until perfectly smooth. For the top, use a palette knife to level the buttercream at the edge before filling in the centre.

Step 15: Fill the pistachio macarons with some of the buttercream (or your preferred buttercream) and fix on the cake with a dot of buttercream. I decorated with some pistachios and sugared cranberries but feel free to get creative!

Chai Spiced Apple Brown Sugar Cake, Brown Butter Icing and Blackberry Jam

IMG_0394_edited-1

I have been experimenting for some time with apple cake recipes in a quest for one that has a clear autumnal flavour, is traditionally moist, but also cuts cleanly, a stringent requirement when making wedding and party cakes.  Whether this Chai Spiced Apple Cake makes it to my menu or not I adored the flavour combination, and after much interest when I posted this picture on social media I thought I would share the recipe!

My persistence in finding the right apple flavour for my menu stems from the fact that we are lucky enough to buy what I think are the best apples around at our local Sunday market in the People’s Park in Dun Laoghaire. A far cry from the waxy, and often imported supermarket varieties, these are tart, crisp, and only available in season.  They are now the only apples I will eat.

IMG_7736

This apple cake recipe sort of evolved having found some beautifully aromatic Wall and Keogh loose leaf chai tea  in Robertson’s Deli in Dalkey. Wall and Keogh have established themselves as one of Dublin’s leading loose leaf tea wholesalers, supplying prominent cafes and delis. Their loose leaf chai is amazing, with the traditional spicy aroma of cardamon and cloves, a perfect pairing for apple.

IMG_4886 (2)

I filled and iced this cake with brown butter icing, something which I had never made before..how did I miss it! Brown butter takes on a subtle nutty, toffee flavour, making a delicious buttercream which is a perfect pairing for apple. I also filled the cake with some blackberry jam, because blackberries are a natural partner for apple and I had some homemade Wexford Blackberry Jam lurking in my cupboard from my apple and blackberry cupcake recipe.

The quantities in this recipe can be made in two 7″ round tins to create two cakes which can each be divided in two to make four layers. Alternatively, the recipe can be baked in one 8″ tin for a two-layer cake or three 6″ tins for a super tall cake 6 layer cake.  I iced it ‘semi-naked’ style. The icing quantities are enough to fill the cake but you may need a second batch if you choose to coat it. I also decorated with blackberry macarons..a blog post on macarons is to follow soon!

IMG_0380

Happy baking!

Chai Spiced Apple Brown Sugar Cake with Brown Butter Icing and Blackberry Jam

Ingredients for the cake:

  • 225g unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
  • 225g light soft brown sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 125g plain flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 60ml whole milk
  • 2 tbsp loose leaf chai tea (I used Wall and Keogh, beautifully aromatic but a chai tea bag will also do)

Ingredients for the brown butter icing (this is enough to fill the 4-layer cake but you will need to increase quantities if you are making more layers of cake and/or coating the cake):

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 200g unsalted butter
  • pinch cinnamon

Ingredients for the blackberry jam:

  • See our blackberry jam recipe here!

Method:

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 160°C/320F/gas mark 3. Grease and line two 7″ round cake tins.

Step 2: Place milk and chai tea in a small saucepan (if the quantity of milk is too small for your saucepan use a little more and measure out 60ml of chai-infused milk later for your cake). Heat gently to infuse the milk. Set aside.

Step 3: Sift together flours and cinnamon. Grate apple and gently squeeze out excess juice.

Step 4: Cream butter and brown sugar together in mixer until light and fluffy.

Step 5: Beat in eggs one at a time, adding one tablespoon of flour with each egg.

Step 6: Fold in remaining flour followed by the grated apple and strained chai-infused milk.

Step 7: Pour into greased tins and bake for approx 40-50mins Cake is cooked when well risen, springy to touch and skewer comes out clean.

Step 8: Meanwhile make the brown butter for the icing. Melt butter in saucepan over a low heat, bring to a simmer and continue to stir until it has turned a golden colour and smells toffee-like. Pour into a bowl, leave to cool and place in fridge to firm up a little.

Step 8: When cooked, remove cake from oven and leave to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Step 9: Make the icing by beating together the brown butter, icing sugar and cinnamon until fluffy.

Step 10:  Trim the top off each cake to level and divide each cake in two to create four layers in total. Fill each layer with the brown butter icing and blackberry jam. I decorated it in ‘semi-naked’ style with blackberry macarons, gilded berries and bay leaves but feel free to get creative at this point!