Category Archives: sweet

Choccywoccydoodah, Brighton

We went to visit friends in Brighton and they first whetted our appetite for Choccywoccydoodah, an arty chocolatier, by taking us in to their shop. It was all decked out for Halloween and was quite simply incredible – it was also utterly packed which is why we didn’t take a picture [edit: I’ve just found their Halloween Album on Facebook]. There were towering cakes, sculpted with all sorts of adornments (apparently a tall wedding cake with all the fancy theming would set you back around £2000) and it just smelt divine.
We were then taken to the café (or the ‘Bar du Chocolat’ as they call it). The inside was so kitch, and again absolutely packed (though it emptied momentarily for us to take a quick snap). Much to our surprise, none of the cakes on offer took our fancy so we had to ‘settle’ for a chocolate sundae.

You remember the diner scene from Pulp Fiction? And the $5 shake? Well this is what a £5 sundae looks like:


And by golly, it was good. From top to bottom: raspberry and strawberry coulis (with whole chunks of fruit, a vanilla-y custardy cream with banana slices, thick melted belgian chocolate with chunks of chocolate, more melted chocolate with chunks of biscuit and some chunks of tiffin, topped by chocolate ice cream, covered in cream and drizzled in chocolate sauce.
It was so rich and so stuffing that we had to retreat to the beach (luckily it’s just a stone’s throw – ho ho!) and lie with our bellies up for some time.
Once we’d recovered, it was time for fun and frolics on the pier, and a good time was had by all!


Car Birthday Cake

When you will go and make an outlandish, rainbow-coloured UN-birthday cake for your own party, it seems only polite to oblige when your beloved asks for something equally as ridiculous and time consuming for their birthday.

My brief was simple: a red car cake. With jam.

I scoured the internet for car cake tins (thought I could cut a corner – ho ho – here) but was thoroughly unimpressed at the 20-odd-quid price tag. They would also mean no jam, unless I were to start slicing it up which would sort of defeat the point of buying a cake mould. With a bit of inventiveness surely I could do it with what I had in already?

Using a remote-controlled car as a template and two slightly differently sized loaf tins I set to work. I used the same recipe as the UN-birthday cake, but only used 1/2 the sponge batter and 3/4 of the icing.

I poured 2/3 of the sponge batter into the larger loaf tin, and 1/3 into the smaller one. (Pictured below is the ‘squodging‘ stage where I pressed the larger cake down when it was nearly cooked so it would be flatter to work with).

While I waited for my sponge to cool, I assembled my icing accessories (lights, number plates, wheels, wing mirrors, car badge), cake board with finishing line, chequered flags (made from cocktail sticks), trophy and candles (for the exhaust pipe).

I sandwiched the sponges with jam (only the top sponge needed a little cutting with a very sharp knife).

Then smothered the whole thing in a LOT of red icing, and started to add the pre-coloured roll-out icing accessories.

And TLM had three slices of it for birthday breakfast.

Passionfruit, Mango and Raspberry Mess

As much as I love Eton mess, there comes a time in summer when it’s just a bit too sickly. Strawberries? Again?

With the recent boiling hot weather, I decided a tropical twist on the English classic was the way forward. There is nothing more to this ‘recipe’ than great ingredients and very gentle folding (blitzed meringue just makes for a load of sweet cream rather than chewy texture variation). I used raspberries, shop-bought meringue (shhh), lovely Westcountry double cream and some of this lovely-jubbly passionfruit and mango coulis that I got at the Cheltenham food festival. (I tried the damson, blackberry, strawberry, raspberry…) I spoke to the chap, Nick, who own the company and apparently they regularly win taste awards. I’m not surprised, it is delicious. If only I can wangle some free bottles…

I whipped the cream, crumbled the meringue in large pieces in with it, added a touch of coulis and folded it over twice with a large spoon. Scooped out, daub of cream and a drizzle of coulis on top, raspberries sprinkled on top. Yum. Yum yum yum.

Back to the gym…

Croissants, by the light of the silvery moon

TLM has been working some extremely unsociable hours recently (two months down, two to go) and we often pass like ships in the night. We live in a perpetual time-delay, asking how the ‘day’ of work went some 18 hours after it happened. He arrives home after I’ve left for work and I wake him at 6pm as I return. We make the bed for each other, leaving the corner turned down and PJs for the other person folded up neatly (and, of course, Dr Cuddles who takes the place of the ‘spoonee‘). It’s only right when the bed is in near 24-hour use.

When he’s not working nights, he’s working all weekend as long days (7am-10pm) and so I am left to my own devices. For a while I spent some fantastically self-indulgent days sitting in the park, cycling, getting my hair cut, shopping, wedding-scheming… and then I decided to try new, labour-intensive recipes that are not possible when you have to think about other people.

So I made croissants, using the recipe from the new River Cottage Bread Book. Lordy. They were everything they promised to be (waiting for dough in large bin liners, pounding butter between cling film, endless rolling, precise isosceles-triangle cutting) and more. They tasted fantastic, and I was overwhelmed with pride that they actually looked like croissants. They were soft, moist, crackly and endlessly giving. One was filling enough (TLM usually eats three, and a few pain au chocolat to boot). They really rewarded the effort that went into them.

Will I be bothered to do them again? Probably not. I just don’t see how so much attention can be lavished on any meal, let alone a breakfast pastry. Also, I’m clearly terrible at cutting them as I had about 200g of wasted pastry (this I cannot tolerate) and so it’s probably more economical to buy them. But to have a croissant with substance was a pleasing change. And they did work lovely as a 7pm dinner/breakfast for me/him.

Malta-eser Cake

Every year I watch Eurovision and every year I flounce out of the room at around midnight, fed up having wasted three hours of my life watching it.

This year we’re going to friends’ for dinner and to watch the show, hopefully in better humour. I will be taking a Malta-eser cake (geddit, geddit?) in honour of the country that always gives us some points. [[it’s the Chocolate Malteser Cake from Nigella Lawson’s Feast book]]. I’ve been wanting to make it for some time and had a practise during the week and it was so good – I’ll definitely be making it again! I promise to make it for my dad who is such a fan of Maltesers (Whoppers, apparently in the US) and will find this not at all too chocolatey!

Festive Fanices

I got the recipe a few months ago, and have made them every couple of weeks since – for my work colleagues, for his work colleagues, for our parties, to take to parties – and they are by far my most successful offering. Having cooked them about 6 or 7 times means that I’ve finally got the recipe and method to work perfectly. Everyone comments on how lovely they taste and, after much tweaking, they now look the part too! The cakes themselves are cooked in the teeniest of petit four cases so noone can get away with the old ‘you’re going to make me fat!’ quip. If you eat 10, it’s not my fault. They are quick to make, but do require a piping bag but I think that’s a price I’m willing to pay. This recipe makes about 30ish.

Ingredients
for the cakes
  • 55g butter
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 55g self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp milk
for the icing
  • 100g plain chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • a couple tbsp icing sugar 
How to make it
After much experimentation, this is the best method. Preheat the oven to 190 celcius.
Start by making the icing so that it has plenty of time to cool. Microwave the chocolate and cream together on a low heat for a couple of minutes. It’s best to have it under-melted and leave it to melt a little than to have it zapped to death. Leave to one side to cool.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Beat in the egg, then fold in the sifter flour and cocoa. Stir in the milk. This should be quite a sloppy batter.
Lay out your mini petit four cases on a baking tray (you don’t need anything fancy) so they’re easy to handle. I used a silicone tray first time. Not recommended!
Spoon the batter into a piping bag with a medium sized nozzle (it can be plain or fluted, it doesn’t matter)  and pipe a little mixture into the cases – they should be about half full. Cook the cakes in the top of the oven for 10 – 14 minutes. No longer. After cooking, put them on a rack to stop them cooking any further. The secret about these delicious cakes is that the sponge is not dry at all. Leave the cakes to cool.
Using a whisk, beat together the cold chocolate and cream mixture for a good 5-8 minutes until it starts to thicken. As it starts to thicken, add the icing sugar as needed until the mixture becomes very stiff. The reason I add icing sugar and make the icing very stiff is that I’ve made it slippery before and it fell from a glorious glossy pile on the mini-cake to a flat ganache. It was most disheartening.
Once the cakes have cooled (it won’t take long but they must be cool otherwise the icing will simply slip off – voice of experience here!) you can pipe the icing on top.
Now I’ve used mini-smarties, fancy dragees and even crunchie nuggets to go on the top of these, but a raspberry is the perfect topping. It cuts through the rich cake and really is the best topping (even if out of season at Christmas…)

Christmas Fruit and Carrot Cake

This cake needs some tinkering still, but was deliciously Christmassy with some mulled cider.

Due to my poor maths skills, I miscalculated the amount of fruit I’d need for my Christmas cake and pudding by around 250 g (I don’t know quite how). My Christmas fruit was a mixture of glace cherries, candied peel, dried cranberries, currants, raisins and sultanas steeped in cherry brandy, Cointreau and Amaretto.

I’d been hankering after a carrot cake for a while, so I thought I’d combine the two ideas and cook a fruity carrot cake. Unfortunately, the only recipe I liked the look of was in American cups and had some spices I didn’t have in (ground cloves, nutmeg) so I altered, substituted and below is my metric rendering of the cake:

Ingredients

  • 175g brown sugar
  • 85g butter
  • 200 ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 140g carrots
  • 250g steeped Christmas fruit

How to Make it

Cream the butter and sugar together (the better you do this, the better a cake seems to come out)
, then add the milk and eggs alternately with the flour and dry ingredients. Then add the carrots and Christmas fruit, pour into a 8 or 9 inch tin (I had a 9 inch which is why it’s a bit flat!) and bake for 45 mins to an hour.

For the icing – I used 100g cream cheese and 100g butter and just added icing sugar until it looked like the icing I’ve seen before on carrot cakes. Not precise, I know, but it worked OK.

When I make this cake again I’ll likely cut the quantity of milk. I thought it looked a rather wet batter and after an hour of cooking, the cake still came out a little damp for my liking.


Quadrelli’s Gelateria, Sandbach

During our last week in Manchester, we made an effort to visit everything we either hadn’t visited for a while or that we’d yet to visit. We went to museums, galleries, markets and stately homes.
We also managed to get to the much-hyped-amongst-our-circle-of-friends gelateria: Quadrelli’s in Sandbach. Tales of molten chocolate or syrup in the bottom of cones were enough to secure a visit. We made our way to Sandbach – a small but busy town about 45 minutes outside Manchester – on a Tuesday morning to sample their wares. It’s a sweet little shop open completely at the front, as they do on the continent, and with a view of some old houses and municipal flowerbeds. It offers all sorts of Italian fare, but we were just in it for the gelato.

I’ve never much liked icecream (partly to do with my sensitive teeth, partly because I prefer to indulge in savoury) but it’s accurate to say that icecream is TLM’s one true culinary love. What can I say? This was delicious. TLM had a hefty two-scooped waffle cone, with raspberry and strawberry gelato. I had a lick, and it was vividly fruity and sweet.

I had a brownie sundae with caramel and chocolate/hazelnut icecream (“we don’t usually do that, but because it’s quiet…”). It was divine with at least three hunks of brownie. I actually had to concede defeat and leave some at the bottom. Unheard of.

So if you’re ever in the neighbourhood and need a fix of delicious gelato with embellishments I would highly recommend it. Remember, chocolate filled waffle cones …

Rhubarb and Orange Sponge

I promised to make TLM a cake for graduation. He grew up in Yorkshire and munched rhubarb straight from the garden, sometimes dipped in sugar. When he saw the rhubarb in the greengrocer’s he knew he wanted some sort of rhubarb cake…

I’ve been wedded to my Marguerite Pattern sponge recipe for many years, as it provides a very light but modest Victoria sponge. I was tempted to switch to Nigella Lawson’s skyscraping Victoria Sponge as it claimed to work well with sugary, orangey rhubarb. I needed no more convincing. I cooked down 400g of rhubarb, chopped into pieces roughly an inch long, with 100g of sugar (I baulked at the amount, but apparently it was necessary) and the juice of a very big orange. The rhubarb was strained, the syrup cooked down further and then all set aside to cool.

Ingredients – makes two 21cm sandwich tins

  • 225 g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 200 g self raising flour
  • 25 g corn flour
  • 225 g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs

I added a tablespoon of Cointreau so the orangey zing would go through the sponge too.

How to Make it

Cream the butter and sugar (this is why it helps for the butter to be very soft) and then add the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour and corn flour mixture between each. Divide the mix into the two tins and bake for 25 minutes at 185 Celsius, or until the cakes begin to come away from the edges. and a cake tester comes out clean. (I found this to be slightly too long, and would change it back to 200 degrees for 20 minutes myself)

Assemble the sponge and rhubarb when everything is suitably cooled. The recipe called from cream in the middle, but we dolloped it (with some of the reduced rhubarb syrup) on the side.

TLM was given a bran spanking new Canon 400D digital SLR camera (phwoar!) as a graduation gift, so I have purloined it already and am trying to get to grips with it. These are my first pictures, taken on the first day with it. Hmmmm, still lots to learn (especially keeping it straight, as the other camera projects little lines on the LCD screen)

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake

One of the main reasons I like food blogging is the potential to experiment and still feel that something productive came out of something that didn’t go perfectly. This entry to A Slice of Cherry Pie’s In The Bag event (this month’s ingredients: strawberries and white chocolate) was one of those imperfect, but valuable cooking experiences.

I knew I wanted to cook a cheesecake, but I wanted to not follow a recipe strictly as it seems all the cheesecake recipes I try to follow don’t work. This is probably due to differing oven temperatures, but many times I’ve found the cooking times specified to be either far too short or far too long, with me having to slice a burnt top off. So today I wanted to try one that has been much hyped, Nigella’s London Cheesecake, but I wanted to do it a bit differently. You can find the original recipe here.

I started my departure from the recipe by doubling the amount of biscuit and butter required in order to make a cheesecake with a base and walls. (Probably more accurately termed sides, but I think they look like a rather craggy fortress myself) Although working against gravity to create the walls, they didn’t cave in and it was all A-OK.

I then made up a strawberry syrup from a punnet of berries, some caster sugar and a touch of water. I boiled it up, then down, then mushed it and spread all over the biscuit base and let the whole lot cool. So far, so good.

The white chocolate was simply melted and stirred in with the cream cheese of the original recipe, and I adjusted the cooking times up a little to make up for the 200g of white chocolate I’d added but cooked it in a vat of water just as with the original. Well, I evidently didn’t adjust enough because it was still wibbling at me after a good hour. I can’t quite tell with cheesecake how much it’ll firm with cooling (once I had a rather amazing disaster where I undercooked a cheesecake and took it out of its tin without letting it cool. Result: cheesecake avalanche, followed by a number of spoons scooping and eating from the table and a mortified me!) so I bunged it in for another half hour. I eyed it suspiciously once more, removed it from the water, let it cool.

As it was cooling, I fanned some strawberries for the top (apparently very retro, but novel for me).

Unfortunately the slice of cake itself was not pretty enough for a full-frontal (boo hoo) as the strawberry layer, though tasty, looked a little tired (well it must have been after all that time sat under the cheesecake filling). The walls went down very well with TLM, but I think next time they could be thinner, and hopefully with today’s knowledge I will be able to judge them better. Something inside me felt the strawberry syrup needed whizzing for a more event texture, and maybe even something to made it redder – more appealing I suppose? However, it tasted fine so maybe I should keep it organic.
I will want to add more vanilla next time (pod maybe?) because that would really bring out the white chocolate softness. It had flecks from the vanilla sugar and flavour from the vanilla extract but I think a pod is the way forwards for this one.

A very interesting challenge. Cheesecake, not yet mastered. I predict with us moving (again) and me having a new kitchen and cooker the battle will continue…
(any tips – welcome!!)