Lemon Raspberry Hibiscus Loaf Cake Recipe

 

I recently came across dried Hibiscus flowers on one of my many compulsive deli wanderings. Ruby red in colour, it is consumed as a tea, with a tart berry-like flavour, often requiring the addition of sugar to counteract this. I love using teas to flavour cakes and decided to try Hibiscus in a loaf cake, paired with the classic combination of lemon and raspberry. This cake recipe is deliciously moist due to the addition of natural yogurt, and the hibiscus flavour is introduced as a drizzle syrup, and in a tangy cream cheese icing. I decorated with candied hibiscus flowers, pistachio praline crumb (I do like to add pistcachio to all things possible!) and thyme flowers, but would be equally as good just with a smattering of fresh raspberries. Enjoy with a cup of your favourite brew!

(Note: If hibiscus flowers are hard to find this recipe is delicious as a simple lemon raspberry loaf cake. Simply substitute lemon juice for the hibiscus water in the syrup and omit the hibiscus syrup in the icing. Or ice with a simple mix of icing sugar and lemon juice!).

Lemon Raspberry Hibiscus Loaf Cake

Ingredients for the Lemon Rasberry Cake:

  • 190g unsalted butter
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 190g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • Finely grated zest 2 lemons
  • 25g natural yogurt
  • Handful of frozen raspberries

Ingredients for the Hibiscus Syrup:

  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g boiling water
  • Handful dried hibiscus flowers

Ingredients for the Hibiscus Lemon Cream Cheese Icing :

  • 100g cream cheese
  • 2tbsp natural yogurt
  • 1tbsp icing sugar
  • 2tbsp hibiscus syrup
  • Finely grated zest 1 lemon

To decorate (optional):

  • Candied Hibiscus flowers (you can buy these in a syrup in some good delis)
  • Thyme flowers
  • Pistachio crumb
  • Other options include fresh raspberries, candied lemon peel and edible flowers!

Step 1: To make the lemon raspberry cake, preheat the oven to 170°C/315F.  Grease and line a loaf tin.

Step 2: Cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer (or hand mixer) until pale. Scrape down sides regularly.

Step 3: Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Step 4: Sift together the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.

Step 5: Add the flour to the butter and sugar mixture and mix on slow speed until just combined.

Step 6: Add the natural yogurt and mix again until combined.

Step 7: Pour the batter into the lined tin. Push the raspberries about half way down into the cake so they are dispersed throughout the loaf. Smooth over the top and bake in the preheated oven for approximately 50 mins or until the top is springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Step 8: To make the hibiscus syrup, add the hibiscus flowers to the boiling water and leave to steep for 10-15 mins.

Step 9: Drain the hibiscus water into a small saucepan and add the sugar. Heat until the sugar is dissolved and a syrup formed.

Step 10: To make the hibiscus cream cheese icing, mix together the cream cheese, yogurt and lemon zest until combined. Add the hibiscus syrup a little at a time until the desired consistency and taste is achieved (you don’t want it to be too runny).

Step 11: To assemble the cake. When the cake is cooked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10mins before turning out onto a wire wrack to cool further.

Step 12: While the cake is still warm, poke holes in the top with a skewer and pour the warm hibiscus syrup over the top.

Step 13: When the cake has cooled completely, cover with the icing and decorate as you see fit! I used candied hibiscus flowers, pistachio praline crumb and thyme flowers. Some fresh raspberries would work equally well!

Storage: Due to the cream cheese icing this cake needs to be stored in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before serving and consume within 1-2 days.

Hazelnut Chocolate Orange Macarons

I made these macarons as my edible Christmas gifts last year. The combination of chocolate and hazelnut is a well renowned match made famous of course by Nutella! The addition of orange zest adds a fresh twist and the decoration of dipped chocolate coated in crunchy hazelnut praline adds an additional layer of flavour and luxury….the perfect gift and indeed luxurious teatime treat! Enjoy!

Hazelnut Macarons with Chocolate Orange Ganache and Hazelnut Praline

Ingredients for the Hazelnut Macarons:

  • 50g hazelnuts
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 x 40g egg white

Ingredients for the Chocolate Orange Ganache:

  • 110g 70% dark chocolate
  • 100ml pouring cream
  • 10g caster sugar
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • finely grated zest 1 orange

Ingredients for the Hazelnut Praline Decoration:

  • 100g 70% dark chocolate, melted
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g skinned toasted hazelnuts, chopped

Step 1: To make the hazelnut macarons, preheat the oven to 170°C/315F.  .

Step 2: Place the hazelnuts on a baking tray and place in the oven for approx 10-15mins, shaking every few minutes to turn. Take care  not to burn. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before placing in a clean tea towel and rubbing to remove the skin.

Step 3: Place the skinned hazelnuts, ground almonds and icing sugar into a blender and grind to a fine powder. Sieve into a clean metal bowl, discarding any large particles. Add 1 x 40g egg white and mix to form a paste (called the tant pour tant). Set aside.

Step 4: Clean the inside of the metal bowl of a food mixer and the whisk attachment with lemon juice or boiling water to remove all traces of grease. Wipe with paper towel. Place the second 40g egg white into the bowl.

Step 5: Place the caster sugar and water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, swirling now and then to ensure even heating.

Step 6: Meanwhile whisk the egg white to soft peaks. When the temperature of the sugar syrup reaches 105°C, increase the speed and whisk to stiff peaks. When the syrup reaches 115°C, remove from the heat and pour the syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites. Whisk for approximately 10mins until thick and glossy.

Step 7: Add about a third of the meringue mixture to the hazelnut/almond mixture and fold in to loosen. Then add the rest of the meringue mixture, folding in until it has a ‘flow’ similar to consistency of lava.

Step 8:  Fit a piping bag with an 8mm round nozzle and pour in the batter. Pipe small well-spaced rounds of batter approximately the size of  a walnut onto a silicone baking mat on a baking sheet (if you don’t have a silicone mat use baking parchment and attach the corners to the tray with a small blob of the batter). Tap the trays on the counter 3-4 times to remove air bubbles. If any fail to pop use a cocktail stick to do so. Leave to form a ‘skin’ for approx 25-45mins depending on ambient temperature and humidity (test by touching gently with the tip of your finger, if skin has formed your finger should come away clean).

Step 9: Bake in the oven for 12-15mins, turning the tray half-way through. Leave to cool completely on the tray before removing.

Step 10: To make the chocolate orange ganache, place the orange zest and cream in a saucepan and heat gently until warm. Remove from the heat and allow the orange to infuse for 1hr. Pass through a fine sieve to remove the orange zest.

Step 11: Add the sugar to the cream and reheat.

Step 12: Meanwhile place the chocolate into a mixing bowl.

Step 13: Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted.

Step 14: Finally add the butter and stir to combine. Allow to cool and refrigerate for approximately one hour before filling the macarons

Step 15: To make the hazelnut praline, heat the caster sugar in a small saucepan until dissolved. Swirl gently to ensure even heating. When the syrup is a golden brown colour, remove from the heat and add the chopped hazelnuts. Stir with a spatula before transferring to a piece of baking parchment to cool. When cool, break into a food processor and pulse gently to form a medium coarse powder.

Step 16: To finish the macarons, dip half the macaron shells in the melted chocolate and place on a piece of baking parchment. Sprinkle with the hazelnut praline and leave to set.

Step 17: Using a piping bag fitted with an 8mm nozzle, fill the other half of the macaron shells with the chocolate orange ganache and place the chocolate praline coated shells on top. Place the macarons in the refrigerator. They are best eaten after 24 hours and within 72 hours of filling.

Mother’s Day Recipe-Orange Blossom Pistachio Shortbread with Pomegranate Glaze

I always love to have some cookie recipes up my sleeve, something that can be made quickly for an edible gift, or when expecting guests for an afternoon cuppa. For this recipe I adapted a simple shortbread base to incorporate the delicate flavour of orange blossom combined with pistachio, pomegranate and a sprinkling of rose petals..a favourite flavour combination! Delicate and pretty these would be perfect for Mother’s Day!

Orange Blossom Pistachio Shortbread with Pomegranate Glaze

Ingredients for the Orange Blossom Shortbread:

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g cornflour
  • 300g soft unsalted butter
  • 1tsp orange blossom water (or use finely grated zest 1 orange if you don\’t have this)
  • 100g shelled pistachios
  • 1 egg, beaten

Ingredients for the Pomegranate Glaze:

  • Juice from one pomegranate
  • Approx 300g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water (optional)
  • Rose petals to decorate (optional)

Step 1: To make the shortbread, Place the pistachios on a baking tray and place in the oven for approx 10-15 mins until lightly toasted, shaking every few minutes to turn. Take care  not to burn. Place in a processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Scatter the ground pistachios over a baking tray or sheet of greaseproof paper. Set aside.

Step 2: Sieve the icing sugar, flour and cornflour together and transfer into a food processor. Add the butter and orange blossom water and process until the mixture forms a ball of dough.

Step 3: Remove the dough from the processor and divide into 3. Roll each piece into a log shape approx 4cm in diameter.

Step 4: Brush each of the shortbread dough logs with beaten egg and roll in the ground pistachio to coat.  Wrap tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 mins to chill. (Note: the dough can be stored in the fridge at this stage for up to 24 hours before proceeding with the next step if you wish to prepare in advance)

Step 5: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160°C/325F.

Step 6: Remove the shortbread from the fridge and unwrap the cling film. Using a sharp knife cut the dough into rounds. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a silicone baking mat. Bake for approx 15 mins until lightly golden. Remove the tray from the oven and leave to cool for approx 5 mins before gently removing with a palette knife to a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 7: To make the pomegranate glaze, sieve the icing sugar into a medium size bowl. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and pour any juice into a separate bowl. If the pomegranate is not particularly juicy simple pulse the pomegranate seeds in a small food processor and pass the pulp through a sieve, collecting the juice and discarding the seeds.

Step 8: Slowly add enough pomegranate juice to the sieved icing sugar to make a smooth icing that is spreadable but not too runny. Add the orange blossom water and mix.

Step 9: To finish the cookies, spread the pomegranate glaze over each of the cookies using a palette knife. Sprinkle with rose petals and any leftover ground pistachio. Store the cookies in an airtight container. Best consumed within 2 days.

Storage: The cookies keep well in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

 

Vegan Banana Bread with Miso Caramel

Banana bread is a firm favourite in our house, delicious for a lunchbox or teatime treat and also a great way to use up those overripe bananas! For everyday family baking I prefer to opt for this healthier version over traditional banana bread recipes, which are often laden with sugar.  Made with spelt flour, vegan and free from refined sugar, it is not too sweet and comes with a little less guilt….just what is needed in January!

This bread can be enjoyed on it’s own but I discovered a recipe for vegan caramel on Gather and Feast  and thought that it would be a lovely addition. The vegan caramel was delicious, with the coconut sugar adding a toffee-like flavour. Obviously in an experimental mood, I decided to try adding miso to the caramel as an alternative to sea salt to counteract sweetness. I first came across using miso in sweet dishes after seeing Nigella Lawson‘s miso ice-cream recipe in her book Simply Nigella. Having fallen in love with Japan and its cuisine on a family trip there last year, I jumped at the chance to extend my use of Japanese ingredients to  my baking.  If you don’t regularly use miso however, feel free to add a pinch of sea salt to the recipe for the same effect! For a final flourish I topped with toasted pecans….enjoy!

Vegan Banana Bread with Miso Caramel

Ingredients for the Banana Bread:

  • 250g wholemeal or plain spelt flour (or you can use regular flour)
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 80ml milk of choice (I used almond milk)
  • 2tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 120ml maple syrup
  • 1tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 large ripe bananas

Ingredients for the Miso Caramel:

  • 35g coconut sugar
  • 15g coconut oil
  • 80g coconut cream
  • 1tsp white miso paste
  • handful of toasted pecans, chopped

Step 1: To make the banana bread, preheat the oven to 180°C/350F.  Grease and line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

Step 2: Place the bananas in an oven proof dish and roast in the oven for 10-15 mins while you are preparing the other ingredients. The roasting increases the sweetness and flavour of the bananas but if you don’t have time for this simply mash the bananas as they are.

Step 3: Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl

Step 4: In a separate bowl, mix the milk, vanilla bean paste, maple syrup and lemon juice.

Step 5: Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Add the roasted/mashed banana and mix again.

Step 6: Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 mins.

Step 7: To make the miso caramel, place the coconut sugar, coconut oil and coconut cream into a small saucepan. Heat gently until ingredients are combined. Continue to heat for approximately 5 mins until the caramel has thickened enough such that it begins to coat the back of a spoon.

Step 8: When cooked, remove the banana bread from the oven and place on a wire rack. Using a skewer, pierce several holes along the top of the banana bread. While the bread is still warm, pour over the caramel sauce. (If sauce has cooled and thickened too much, either add a little boiling water or heat again gently). Top with chopped toasted pecans.

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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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!

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!

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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.

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

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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!

Caramelised White Chocolate

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I can’t remember where exactly I first came across caramelised white chocolate but having heard of it needless to say it was something that I had to experiment with. I mean the words alone: caramel, white chocolate, caramelised white chocolate…what could there be not to love! And my first batch did not disappoint!  Unlike caramel or white chocolate itself which can have a sometimes over-sugary sweetness, the process of caramelising the chocolate creates a more delicate sweet flavour, rather like a silky and light dulce de leche.

To make it requires little skill, just a little love and time to intermittently stir the white chocolate in the oven while it slowly caramelises.  I used the method described by the acclaimed pastry chef, David Lebovitz.  He recommends using Valrhona 34% white chocolate, but I have successfully caramelised Green and Black’s 30% white chocolate as this was all I had to hand on my first attempt. I do believe the key to this is to use the best quality white chocolate you can, with a minimum % cocoa butter of 30%. The other important factors are patience and perseverance. Slow cooking is required, and at some points the chocolate becomes lumpy, chalky and frankly quite disastrous looking, but if you continue to stir it it will smooth out (please see my quick iphone progress shots below).

I used a low oven temperature and it took around 70 minutes to caramelise. You may wish to experiment with a slightly higher temperature if you wish to speed up the process. Also, ovens temperatures may vary so it is best to keep an eye on it and judge when it is done when it has turned a light brown colour, similar to caramel.

It can be stored in sterilised jars so I make a batch that lasts me for several weeks. As it hardens it can look streaky but can readily be returned to a smooth caramel texture again by melting in the microwave or bain marie.

I use my caramelised white chocolate to flavour buttercream to pair with my Guinness Chocolate Cake, a divine combination! For this I simply add a few tablespoons of melted caramelised chocolate to my normal buttercream recipe to taste. Although I haven’t tried other pairings I imagine it would work well in any situation where a caramel or dulce de leche flavour is called for. Alternatively, while contemplating possible flavour combinations feel free to savour the fruits of your labour with a spoon (!).

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Caramelised white chocolate

Ingredients

400g white chocolate min 30 % cocoa solids

Pinch sea salt

Method

  1. Preheat  oven to 120.
  2. Break chocolate into chunks and place in a baking tray
  3. Heat until melted.
  4. Stir and return to oven.
  5. Continue checking and stirring every 10mins (persisting through the ugly chalky, lumpy phase!) until chocolate has turned a golden brown colour and is caramelised.
  6. Add a pinch of sea salt and stir.
  7. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

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