Halloween Spiced Pumpkin Cake

halloween pumpkin cake shaped fondant recipe and decoration with leaves decoration

Last week my dad brought round some of the harvest from his allotment – in the form of 3 huge pumpkins, the largest of which weighed a whopping 5 stone!

giant homegrown pumpkins largest weighing five stones

We went through one of the smaller ones last week, which Rob carved into a cat:

homegrown pumpkin carving cat face

We wanted the monster pumpkin to display outside at Halloween. A whole evening of carving and scraping and everything-else pumpkin-y later, our fridge and freezer was full to the brim with a whopping 10 kilos / 1.5 stone of pumpkin flesh! And this is not even half of it…

giant pumpkin homegrown allotment five stone weight halloween
inside of giant pumpkin kilos of thick flesh halloween recipe usage
kilos of pumpkin flesh from carving use in cake recipe

This week was also our Halloween Nottingham City Clandestine Cake Club, and given the volume of pumpkin in the kitchen there really was no choice on what to make!

The recipe is adapted from several sources, you can add more or less spice depending on your tastes. It’s very moist on its own, or you can add a cream cheese frosting for an indulgent treat. Or dress up in its own costume as I did! There were a lot of recipes that called for delicate folding and sieving yada yada… I made it straight in one bowl, mixed carefully, no mess, no fuss, perfect cake 🙂

Ingredients

225g plain flour
175g light brown sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinammon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ginger
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 eggs
120ml vegetable oil
200g pureed pumpkin (pop it in the blender or mash)

Method
– Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl
– Add the eggs, oil and pumpkin, and mix until just combine (it doesn’t need to be smooth).
– Pour into a well-greased tin (8 inch square or similar, approx 2 litre capacity), and bake at 180 degrees for 45 – 60 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

I’d planned ahead for this bake an invested in a medium hemisphere tin from Lakeland.

lakeland medium hemisphere tin usage and recipe review

At £6.99 it was a good price for a sturdy new tin, and I’m already plotting more uses! They do recommend you buy a baking tin to hold it upright while you’re baking, but I was sure there’d be something in the kitchen cupboard I could use. Lo and behold, my amazing number and letter pan came into use once again!

semi circle half sphere tin from lakeland balanced upright in letter and number cake tin

I made 2 batches of the above batter and baked 2 half-sphere cakes, trimming them once cool to give a slightly flatter base and top, and ensuring the middles fitted together well.

two half sphere cakes made with spiced pumpkin trimmed into shape

sphere pumpkin cake two halfs together and trimmed into shape

After a quick coat and fill of lemon buttercream, I covered the cakes in orange fondant. And you thought a normal round cake was difficult! There were a few lumps and bumps but thankfully this is a normal pumpkin characteristic 🙂

sphere cake spiced pumpkin covered in orange fondant for halloween

To create the ridged sections of the pumpkin, I simply pressed lines from the top to the bottom using the back of a thin paintbrush.

carving details into halloween pumpkin cake marking lines and ridges with paintbrush

To finish, I added a brown stalk, and some assorted green leaves around the base (mostly to disguise my bad fondant covering!)

fondant stalk and leaves on halloween pumpkin cake recipe

leaf decorations on halloween pumpkin cake shades of green

The completed cake, intentionally wonky and bumpy, of course!

halloween pumpkin cake orange fondant and spiced vegetable recipe decorated with green leaves

And of course the pumpkin was suitably carved to adorn our doorstep this evening – being such a monster it literally eats baby pumpkins for breakfast!

20131031-205438.jpg

GBBO Final – Salted Chocolate Pretzels

great bloggers bake off british pretzel recipe dipped in dark and white chocolate finished with rock salt flakes

All good things must come to end – and this week was sadly the last in the series of The Great British Bake Off. As much as the finalists creations looked fab, sadly I had neither time nor occasion to make a 3-tier wedding cake this week! Instead I opted for pretzels, using Paul Hollywood’s recipe, adding my own chocolate finish.

Paul’s pretzel recipe was simple and easy to follow. I halved it to make my batch of size, substituting brown sugar for the malt extract. However many tutorials I read on the throw-in-the-air-twist-and-flip pretzel shaping, it was never going to work. Fortunately it’s just as easy to create the right shape with the dough laid out on a work surface.

how to make a pretzel twist without throwing in the air u-shape loop and finish on worktop bench

Throwing the carefully shaped dough into the boiling water seemed a bit counter-intuitive, but very necessary to create that golden chewy outer. It was actually quite satisfying to see the dough float up to the surface after its 5-second dip!

cooking pretzels paul hollywood bread recipe boiling for five seconds in bicarbonate of soda

Baking the pretzels was very easy – adding a few salt flakes whilst they were still wet before putting straight into the oven. They came out a lovely golden brown colour, but absolutely welded to the baking sheet! Paul Hollywood has yet to reply to my tweet on how to avoid this problem, so I spent a good 15 minutes carefully peeling the paper off the bottoms…

freshly baked salted pretzel browned chewy outside rock salt flakes

The finished pretzels as per Paul’s recipe – pretty tasty at this point, a lovely chewy texture…

paul hollywood recipe pretzels great british bake off 2013 gbbo bloggers

… but of course I wasn’t finished! Once cooled I dipped the rounded ends of the pretzels into rich dark and white chocolate:

dipping salted pretzels in rich dark chocolate

– before finishing with a final sprinkle of rock salt flakes.

salted pretzel dripping with dark chocolate finished with rock salt flakes

The finished dark chocolate pretzels – a contrast between the salty chewy dough and the rich cocoa of the chocolate.

salted dark chocolate pretzels recipe display slate mat

And the white chocolate – salty versus sweet, a smooth silky outer and chewy bread inner. My personal favourite!

salted white chocolate pretzels gbbo

Needless to say I’ve hugely enjoyed taking part in the Great Bloggers Bake Off – thank you to Jenny and Helen for organising! These pretzels were a particular favourite, so easy to make, very tasty, and incredibly versatile. My brain is already whirring away thinking cheese pretzels, maybe cinnamon and raisin…

GreatBloggersBakeOff

The Walk Cafe Nottingham – Reopened and Reviewed

A few weeks back I learnt that one of my favourite tea rooms in Nottingham had been taken over and reopened – of course I had to go and see for myself!

Located on Bridlesmith Walk, the cafe is right in the centre of town, but tucked away in an unassumingly serene little arcade, providing welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Heading up Bridlesmith Walk, from Bridlesmith Gate:

bridlesmith walk nottingham shopping arcade leading to the walk cafe reviews

And arriving at The Walk Cafe!

the walk cafe nottingham outside on bridlesmith gate hidden gem

On walking through the door a host of delicious delights greeted us, the choice was not an easy one.

the walk cafe nottingham lemon and carrot cakes all homemade in glass cake stands

We got talking to one of the owners, Laura, who told us that the kitchens were too tiny to bake everything onsite, instead she roped in on of her neighbours, who makes makes all the cakes from scratch each week. As well as classics like lemon, chocolate, coffee, etc., she likes to try something different every week, such as this seasonal apple and elderflower cake.

chocolate apple and elderflower homemade cakes at the walk cafe tea room nottingham review

And those with special requirements needn’t miss out! These gluten free cakes looked equally as delicious.

gluten free chocolate and lemon drizzle cakes at the walk cafe nottingham

Aside from the cakes, The Walk also offers a range of other sweet and savoury items, and we pored (and drooled) over the wonders in the big glass fridge. Macarons! Cupcakes! A chocolate SHOE! What more could a girl want?

bright macarons at the walk cafe nottingham

cupcakes and white chocolate shoe the walk cafe nottingham reopened 2013

Finally for us to dote on, a beautiful range of cake stands and loose leaf teas.

afternoon tea cake stands and loose leaf teas and the walk cafe tea room nottingham

The tea menu is no less extensive, there are some wonderful blends and flowering teas to choose from.

extensive loose leaf tea menu at the walk cafe nottingham

Eventually making our way to sit down, we were pleasantly surprised to find the decor has been brightened up a little, with fantastic hand=painted floral artwork on the walls:

the walk cafe nottingham hand painted wall artwork

reopened the walk cafe nottingham review hand painted flowers antique furniture

Whilst still maintaining the quirky with beautifully mis-matched furniture, a mix of old and new.

vintage furniture at the walk cafe nottingham tea room decor tables and chairs

the walk cafe nottingham 2013 chandelier above purple themed dining table and chairs

I opted for some coffee and walnut cake (later followed up with a toasted tea cake, what a greedy pig!), both of which were well-portioned and very tasty.

carrot and walnut cake slice tea room afternoon tea the walk nottingham

Everything was served in vintage china – cups, teapots, and plates.

vintage fine china teapots and teacups at the walk nottingham

As you can tell we had a lovely time – I for one am very glad this great venue has finally re-opened and restored to its former glory, and beyond! Laura and her staff were friendly and attentive, despite a busy Saturday rush. They’ve only been back open for a couple of months but I’m hopeful many more to come, and am already looking forward to going back.

Caramel and Apple Opera Cake

caramel apple opera cake recipe white chocolate topping gbbo great bloggers bake off british

This week my parents came over for dinner, providing a perfect opportunity to try out another dessert from The Great British Bake Off, as part of The Great Bloggers Bake Off. The choices from the semi-final program were a Charlotte Royale ‘brain cake’ from the technical challenge, or a rather more appealing layered Opera cake. Easy choice.

The Opera cake recipe is pretty much the same all over the web – for the basic Joconde (almond) sponge at least. My recipe was based on this one over on BBC Food. However on reading through, my baking tins were not 18 x 13 inches as they’d used – so I scaled it down to 2/3 to fit with my 14 x 11 inch tins, which are your standard kitchen baking trays.

Ingredients – Joconde sponge

4 egg whites (you can use the yolks in a french buttercream, see below)
18g sugar
150g ground almonds
150g icing sugar
4 eggs
55g plain flour
58g butter, melted

Method

– Beat the egg whites to a soft peak stage, and add the sugar to form a stiff peak meringue mixture
– In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, ground almonds and sieved icing sugar for about 5 minutes, until roughly double the size
– Fold the egg whites gently into the almond mixture, before folding in the melted butter, a couple of spoonfuls at a time
– Spread the mixture into 2 tins – approx. 14 x 11 inches, lined and well greased. Ensure it fills up the corners
– Bake at 220 degrees for 5 – 7 minutes, until lightly golden on top and springy to the touch
– Remove from the oven and carefully peel off the paper. I found cooling on top of another sheet of baking paper helped move them around during assembly. Slice in half and fill.

opera cake method joconde sponge recipe meringue mixture ground almonds melted butter

opera cake joconde sponge mixture in prepared trays 11 by 14 inches

joconde sponge for opera cake sliced into two for layers

To fill

Buttercream – french or otherwise! My attempts at French buttercream weren’t great, but it’s a great way to use the leftover egg yolks, and is the perfect complement to the almond sponge.

Syrup to moisten the sponges

Ganache, or caramel in my case

Chocolate, to top

I borrowed some great tips from Joe Pastry for this bake as a whole. One of the best ones being covering the bottom sponge white another layer of chocolate, so it wouldn’t stick to the plate and would be easier to slice. Cool with the chocolate face down on a layer of greaseproof paper.

To moisten each layer of sponge, I made a caramel apple syrup. 2 apples, chopped (I didn’t peel them, the red skin added to both the colour and flavour), boiled in a saucepan on a medium heat with 1 tablespoon of water and 60g brown sugar, stirring to prevent sticking and burning, for 5-10 minutes, until the apple turns into a mushy puree. I added a couple of tablespoons of amaretto and left to cool, sieving, and spreading on each layer before adding the fillings. Another good tip I picked up was to have the cake facing upwards as it had baked, as the top is more porous than the bottom.

caramel apple syrup puree simple sieved for use on joconde sponges in opera cake

spreading apple caramel syrup on joconde sponge in opera cake layers

For the bottom layer of my cake, I used a spiced apple buttercream. Chopping the apple into small pieces, I microwaved it for a few minutes to remove most of the water, and soften to a stiff puree. When cool this was beaten with 30g butter and about 75g icing sugar – enough to make a stiff paste, and flavoured with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch each of ginger and nutmeg.

dehydrated apple puree for making spiced apple buttercream

In the centre – a gooey caramel. I used about half a can (200g) of ready made dulce de leche, available in the supermarket, or you can make your own.

dulce de leche tinned caramel layer on cake with palette knife opera cake recipe

And the top section, some caramelised, spiced apple chunks for a bit of texture – 2 apples chopped and heated in 30g brown sugar, a teaspoon of water and a little cinnamon, for just a few minutes to soften.

crunchy caramelised fruit pieces in caramel apple opera cake recipe

I topped these with my no-so-great attempt at French buttercream. Made using egg yolks, a boiled sugar syrup, and butter, all whipped to (supposed) perfection, I think my problem came with not testing the sugar syrup temperature / texture, so it may not have been cooked enough. I followed this lovely recipe and simple steps, it looks so easy in the pictures!
Nevertheless whilst building my other layers, I found it was starting to set in the fridge, so chanced using it on this top layer. It was a bit thin but did add a certain something taste wise.

thin french buttercream spread over applie pieces in opera cake patisserie

Finally, my chocolate topping. Having a tableful of guests waiting for dinner I had no time to temper it, but honestly don’t think it mattered! I used around 150g of white chocolate although could have got away with a bit less.

white chocolate topping on caramel apple opera cake layered

At this point the cake was a little oozy – mostly from the French buttercream – but half an hour in the fridge did wonders!

oozing layers of caramel apple opera cake french butter cream dulce de leche

And to finish – decoration with more white chocolate.

opera cake white chocolate writing and swirls topping

The edges needed a quick trim to neaten them up – this is best done with a hot knife (run under hot water and dry), so as to get a smooth cut and not stick to any of the layers. This end wasn’t so straight – Paul Hollywood wouldn’t be pleased!

opera cake trimmed layers buttercream caramel dulce de leche apple white chocolte

And finally ready to serve – some websites suggest edible gold, I opted for a sprinkle of iridescent edible glitter for that shimmering touch.

opera cake great bloogers bake off gbbo caramel apple with white chocolate recipe

Again sliced with a hot knife, and I was so happy with how the layers looked inside!

opera cake perfect slice four layers joconde almond sponge buttercream dulce de leche caramel spiced apples french recipe

It was a lovely showstopper of a dessert, quite rich, but very well received. As for the 4+ hours spent in the kitchen making and assembling – lovely as it was, I think this might be a one off!

See more attempts at this weeks GBBO challenges over at the Great Bloggers Bake Off with Helen and Jenny.

GreatBloggersBakeOff

Malory Towers Castle Cake

malory towers castle cake for enid blyton derby clandestine cake club october 2013 recipe and how to using silicon shaped mould

Yesterday was the latest event for Derby Clandestine Cake Club, with the brilliant theme of Enid Blyton, sprung up from a conversation about Mr. Moonface at the summer’s event!

I was a big fan of Enid Blyton books when I was little – from the Magic Faraway Tree and Wishing Chair series, to the Famous Five and Secret Seven, and, of course, the Malory Towers books. I’d be wanting to re-use my castle mould for a long time, it’s only had one bake since I bought it – see my Chocolate Lego Castle Cake from last year.

This time I was determined to make a good, stable, and plentiful recipe – it’s a huge mould so does need quite a big mix. I seem to remember last time never quite having enough mixture, and having to keep mixing up more batches to add to the top! I started with a bundt cake recipe, as this has the same kinds of volume and lightness I was after, and scaled it up to fit the capacity of the mould, which was about 3 litres.

Ingredients – to fit 3 litre castle silicon mould or similar

340g butter
450g sugar
4 teaspoons good quality vanilla extract
9 eggs
525g plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
375ml low fat yoghurt

Method

– Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla, until light and fluffy. Sieve the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a separate bowl
– Beat in the eggs, one at a time, with a teaspoon of flour each time to prevent curdling
– Add half the yoghurt and half the remaining flour, mix, add the remainder, and mix again.
Technically you should fold in the flour and yoghurt but I found this to be a bit challenging with so much mixture! Even my Breville mixture was struggling by the end – but the texture wasn’t affected by beating instead of folding.

breville stand mixer full to the brim with bundt cake batter

– Prepare your mould/tin by greasing it very well. I used a cake release spray to get in all the corners and crevasses, and made sure it all had a good, thick coating. Then, dust with a layer of flour, and turn upside down to shake off the excess

grease and flour silicon tin castle mould to ensure cake doesn't stick very detailed intricate

– Pour the mixture in the tin, no need to spread it out as the weight will make it flow into all the corners. You’ll see that this recipe didn’t quite fill up the mould, I didn’t get the steps to the castle, if you wanted this you’d need to scale up the recipe by another 20% or so.

silicon castle cake mould bundt style recipe how to use

– Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Cover the top of the mould in greaseproof paper – this will stop the top from cooking too quickly and burning, and also prevent the middle from rising too much and giving you an uneven base

covering silicon castle cake mould in greaseproof paper for long baking time to ensure no burning

– Overall my cake too around 1 1/2 hours to cook. After 45 minutes, check to see how it is getting on. The top will look cooked but if a skewer or similar is inserted you’ll see the inside is not done.
Return to the oven and check back every 10-15 minutes, again inserting a clean skewer (I use the back of thin teaspoon) to see if it’s done. If it comes out completely clean, the cake is cooked, if not, it’s not! Be sure to test a different part of the cake every time, and push your skewer down into the very centre of the cake as this is the bit that will cook last.

perfectly cooked bundt cake recipe in silicon castle mould how to and method

– Leave to cool for at least an hour before gently easing out. It may be tempting but the cake is more likely to break when it’s hot. After leaving mine for a couple of hours and it turned out perfectly – I was so happy! The excess flour you can see in a couple of parts brushed off easily the next morning.

silicon castle cake mould recipe freshly baked and cooled cake turned out of the tin perfectly

perfect intricate detailing from silicon castle cake mould recipe brickwork turrets and door

The texture of this cake was perfect and I’d definitely use again – easily changing the flavour with some cocoa powder; orange or lemon rind and juice; spices such as ginger, cinnamon; coconut… the list is endless!

To ice, I wanted a flavour that would complement the vanilla, but also a look that would go with the brickwork effect of the castle.

I’ve used the Primrose Bakery‘s caramel icing recipe many times, it bubbles up wonderfully to a delicious sugary brown and cools to a lovely smooth texture. I adapted it slightly here to thin down slightly so it would flow into the intricate design of the cake a bit better.

Ingredients

75g butter
150ml milk
350g soft brown sugar
350g icing sugar

Method

– Put the milk, butter and brown sugar in a saucepan, and heat on high until boiling. Stirring constantly, allows to boil for one minute.

primrose bakery caramel icing easy recipe and how to

– Take off the heat and beat in half the icing sugar, sieved. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before beating in the remaining icing sugar.
– Continue cooling until it reaches the consistency desired for your cake. If it cools too much and gets too thick to pour or spread, simply heat up again for a few seconds at a time.

boiled caramel icing recipe and how to perfect for drizzling over cakes and desserts

I covered my cake using a combination of pouring and spooning over and into the detailed sections, all with the cake on a wire rack over a cling film-covered baking tray, to catch any drips. It was quite a sticky job so no in-progress photos!

rear of malory towers castle cake back door and windows made out of black chocolate foundant caramel icing

For the finishing touches, I added black gel colour to some chocolate fondant, and cut out the required shapes.

Windows for the towers:

black chocolate fondant details windows doors and archways castle cake malory towers enid blyton

…archways:

black chocolate fondant archway on castle cake brickwork detail sticky caramel icing frosting

… and of course a suitably grand front door!

malory towers enid blyton castle cake with black chocolate fondant details front door surround and windows

castle cake birthday party ideas full recipe instructions and method vanilla bundt with caramel frosting icing and fondant details

And for a final finishing touch, well, no castle is complete with flags!

malory towers flags on castle cake caramel icing turret tower enid blyton

enid blyton's malory towers castle cake recipe and method using silicon mould vanilla bundt with caramel frosting

And, flags or no, I think it’s a pretty good replica of Lulworth Castle, which the Malory Towers books are rumoured to be based on.

Lulworth_Castle_in_1999 Malory Towers possibly source goodreads dot com

This months cake club was held at the lovely Kay’s Tea Room in Willington – a delightful little venue and one I’ll definitely be returning to.

kays tea room willington derbyshire villages cake club venue

And the selection of cakes was equally as fab – with lashings of ginger beer of course!

derby clandestine cake club october 2013 enid blyton theme magic faraway tree famous five lashings of ginger beer and lemonade

How amazing are these Famous Five figurines?

famous five crabbies ginger beer cake icing figures clandestine ccc

And the castle went down such a treat! Out of that huge cake there was just a lone tower left for me to take home to Rob.

perfectly baked inside from castle cake made using silicon mould vanilla recipe

Silver Spoon Designer Icing – Review

Last week the lovely folks at Baking Mad contacted me to ask if I’d like to test out some of their products, and no sooner than I’d sent them and emphatic yes, the postman brought me a great package the very next day.

bakingmad gift set silver spoon designer icing colour creator choco beans recipe book

I decided to start on with the Designer Icing – big, toothpaste-sized tubes, filled with ready mixed, pipeable icing.

silver spoon colour create ready to use icing review chocolate and blue piping nozzles

Each pack comes with a set of three piping nozzles, so you have everything needed in the one kit.

silver spoon icing nozzles designer ready to use writing reivew

The nozzles are very easy to use, and simply screw onto the end of the tube once the lid is removed. They fit tightly and snugly so there’s no chance of any leaks or splodges, even for messy bakers like myself!

silver spoon blue designer icing fitting piping nozzle easy twist on review

First up I tried the slatted nozzle which had a slight cross shape.

silver spoon slanted cross piping nozzle italic calligraphy lines effects icing

This was great for making slanted and angular lines:

silver spoon blue designer icing slanted nozzle review lines

And also for calligraphy style writing:

silver spoon blue designer icing review creating calligraphy letters J

Moving onto the star nozzle, which I used to pipe ridged lines and waves – this blue colour would be perfect for depicting the sea!

testing silver spoon designer writing icing review star nozzle lines waves sea effect

The star nozzle is also perfect for creating that perfect swirl for cupcakes or biscuits alike.

piping with silver spoon designer icing ridged swirl using star nozzle

Last but definitely not least, the thin round nozzle can be used for all kinds of intricate detail, spots, stripes and patterns…

silver spoon thin round pointed nozzle testing on biscuits icing polka dots and lines

…and making your own mark with careful lettering.

silver spoon designer icing review using to write on biscuits cookies and cakes

Because the icing comes out of the tube fresh and sticky, you can easily add extras to it – such as these sugar sprinkles / nonpareils.

bake writing on cookie adorned with sugar sprinkles using silver spoon blue writing icing

To test out the chocolate icing, I whipped up a quick back of cupcakes.

Again the pack came with the same three nozzles, however I found the texture of the chocolate to be a bit more sticky (such is the nature generally, of chocolate icing!), and as such did not hold its definition as well. You can see the centre of this cake didn’t hold the design as well –

chocolate cupcake swirl icing baking silver spoon designer icing review

It certainly didn’t detract from the flavour though – a thick fudge icing. Yum!

biting into cupcake with thick chocolate fudge icing ready made from silver spoon

Allowing some time to set in between layers (using the fridge to speed things up), an intricate swirl pattern is still more than possible.

chocolate swirl icing on cupcake

Or, using a combination of the nozzles, an intricate pattern out of spots and stars.

flower decorated chocolate cupcake easy how to using silver spoon designer icing

With the small round nozzle – an abstract pattern:

abstract design chocolate cupcake icing using thin piping nozzle and silver spoon designer icing

Or more text – not that explanation is needed!

cake writing on cupcake in chocolate icing silver spoon decorating

So how would I rate these kits? Well they are a fantastic pick-me-up to have on standby, icing quickly and easily with no mess whatsoever. What’s more you can easily rinse out the nozzles and screw on the cap so it will keep for use another time.
The only downside I found was the consistency of the icing; it was quite thick to squeeze out of the tube in the first place, even after some considerable kneading – after all that piping my hands were positively aching! I do think that having them in a warmer kitchen may help a little.

Nevertheless they are perfect for kids and adults alike, and coming in a rainbow of different colours would be great for all kinds of different projects – Halloween cakes and biscuits and Christmas bakes too!

Disclaimer: The products featured in this post were provided to me by Baking Mad for the purpose of review. However the designs and opinions are completely my own.

Low(er) Sugar Chocolate & Cognac Cake

low sugar chocolate and cognac cake made with prunes diabetic recipe iced with sprinkles sugar strands

A couple of weeks back we were very kindly invited to spend the weekend in a holiday cottage Rob’s parents had rented. Never one to turn down a free holiday, we kindly accepted, and I set thinking about a cake that would survive the 4 hour drive (as if I could turn up empty handed!)

Rob’s dad is diabetic, although this never seems to stop him eating huge slices of my latest creation, I wanted to try something that would be a little healthier, and perhaps he could eat even more of 🙂

The recipe came from Diabetes UK originally (the link for which keeps changing, so I’m adding this UKTV one as a backup). I won’t lie, it was an instant yes when I found it because I could finally use some of the cognac that’s been sat in the cupboard for over a year!

courvoisier cognac cake recipe chocolate how to use up

As for the recipe itself, I’m afraid I wasn’t very sold on the taste when I did a taste bake of a little of the batter. The squidgy texture was definitely there, but the sweetness was definitely lacking. Not wanting to completely undo my diabetic-friendly work, I amended the recipe slightly with the use of some Tate & Lyle light at Heart, which is 50% sugar and 50% sweetener – it is sweeter than normal sugar so if you’re baking using regular brown sugar I’d added about a third more. For those on a really strict diet you could just use sweetener.

tate and lyle light at heart brown sugar stevia blend diabetic cake recipe

Oh and my other minor amend? More alcohol! 2 tablespoons didn’t seem like nearly enough cognac, especially to soak the pound of prunes I’d chopped. The batter does taste strong, but by the time it’s baked into the cake it’s quite a subtle tangy kick.

soaking prunes in cognac for low sugr diabetic cake recipe

Ingredients

125g chopped prunes
50ml cognac (approx. 3 tablespoons)
225g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
40g cocoa powder
200ml buttermilk (or normal milk + 2 teaspoons lemon juice, see below)
100g butter
150g light at heart brown sugar, or alternative equivalent in sweetener
3 large or 4 medium eggs

You’ll note from above I didn’t have any buttermilk to use, but normal milk is perfectly fine as you just need to add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice to get it to curdle and thicken as required.

how to make buttermilk from normal semi skimmed milk and lemon juice for cake recipe

Method

– Soak the chopped prunes in the cognac for a couple of hours. If you’re short of time pop them in the microwave for a few 10 second bursts and you’ll soon find they plump up
– Cream together the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy, before beating in the eggs and prune mixture, with two tablespoon of the flour
– Sieve in the rest of the flour, along with the cocoa and baking powder, adding alternately with the buttermilk, and folding in with a metal spoon between additions
– Spoon into a tin, minimum of 20cm square / 8 inch round, or equivalent, and bake for 35 – 50 minutes at 180 degrees. Test to see if it’s done by inserting a skewer or the handle of a thin teaspoon. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready, if not, return to the oven for 5 more minutes and check again

I chose to bake mine in my Ikea Sockerkaka cake tins – I have big plans to use them stacked up but haven’t found the right occasion yet. One day…

ikea sockerkaka silicon cake moulds review usage

In any case the big silicon mould was a dream to work with, it held the cake perfectly and was easy to release when ready.

chocolate cognac and prune cake made in ikea sockerkaka mould diabetic recipe low sugar

Due to a lack of ingredients in my new-house cupboards, sadly I struggled to keep up the low-sugar ethos when it came to the icing. Suggestions are rife to top with coconut, low-sugar jam glazes, or even eat plain with ice cream. I caved to a simple chocolate icing (175g icing sugar, 25g cocoa, water to form a stiff paste), complete with chocolate sugar strands/sprinkles.

dripping chocolate icing on prune and cognac cake low sugar diabetic chocolate sugar strands sprinkles

And as for our weekend in Norfolk? Sunny, relaxing and far too busy to capture any pictures of the cake’s inside (which, by the way, was beautifully moist and chocolately, and highly recommended).

Walks with Tammy the dog on Walcott beach:

german shepherd alsation dog on norfolk beach summer 2013

And a fantastic 40’s weekend we stumbled across in Sheringham – complete with dancing in the streets, over half the town in fancy dress, and war-plane fly bys.
sheringham norfolk 40's weekend clock tower wartime recreation