Date, Ginger & Chocolate Cake

Lockdown baking continues and we had all the ingredients ready to make an old recipe, my Sticky Date, Treacle and Ginger Cake. A certain little voice piped up however wanting some chocolate – so a new recipe was born! It’s so good that we’ve made it twice in the last month, and as it’s so moist is a great one to switch in gluten free flour if your diet needs. 

Ingredients

350g chopped, stoned dates 
350ml boiling water
140g butter (substitute for dairy free spread if you fancy) 
140g light brown or golden caster sugar 
2 tablespoons of honey 
2 teaspoons ground ginger
40g crystallised ginger, chopped
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
4 large eggs 
50g cocoa
265g plain flour (substitute for gluten free if needed)

To top

2 tablespoons gingerbread caramel or ginger jam (see note at the bottom of the recipe) 
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Method

  • Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees C / 180 fan. 
  • Put the dates and boiling water into a saucepan and heat gently until the dates have broken down enough to be mashed with a spoon. 
  • Add the butter, sugar and honey and mix well. 
  • Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the bicarbonate of soda. Mix well and expect some bubbles! 
  • Sieve in the flour, ground ginger and cocoa, add the eggs and crystallised ginger and mix until well combined.
  • Grease and line an 8 inch square tin or similar and pour in the mixture. 
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes until springy touch, and an inserted skewer comes out clean. 
  • Leave in the tin, cool for 5-10 minutes before adding the topping. 
  • To top – simply spread the caramel over, ensuring you get all the way to the edges (if using jam heat gently in the microwave first so it’s easier to spread). Either sieve or sprinkle the cocoa over the top to finish.  

We’ve had this jar of gingerbread caramel in the cupboard for ages awaiting a use, and it makes a perfect topping for this cake. But, don’t be put off if you don’t have any. You can use ginger jam, apricot jam, or even just a quick mix of icing sugar, cocoa and water. If you can get hold of some caramel however… you won’t regret it! 

sieving cocoa powder over the cake

Once cooled completely, carefully remove from the tin and serve. 

date, ginger and chocolate cake

Big wedges recommended! The inside should be light, fluffy and moist. Enjoy!

glistening slice of date, ginger and chocolate cake

Starring Mrs Lovett’s Meat Pies – as Cupcakes!

mrs lovetts meat pies fom sweeney todd cupcakes made using chocolate chunks red icing and painted fondant topping in silver cupcake foil case

Last weekend Rob and I were invited to a fabulous “Musicals and Theatre” themed fancy dress party. You may have already seen the Sound of Music cake pops I made for the party as well. My biggest challenge, and on request from the hosts, was to create some ‘meat pies’ for Mrs. Lovett’s kitchen, from Sweeney Todd. Never one to refuse a request I spent the past couple of weeks scheming to come up with these baked beauties!

I wanted the base of the cake to be dense and chocolatey, with different textures to give the effect of a chunky pie filling. I started off with 2 whole bars of milk and white chocolate, bashed and broken into thick chunks.

milk and white chocolate chunks home baking cupcakes

The main sponge of the cupcake was a rich chocolate, and they baked up beautifully with chocolate oozing out of the top. (I coated the chunks in a little flour before mixing in so they didn’t all sink to the bottom).

chocolate cupcakes with white chinks freshly baked oozing

Next up – a gooey ‘meat juice’ – aka a thick, sticky red velvet buttercream, lightly flavoured with chocolate and vanilla, and coloured a gross blood red!

blood red icing buttercream meat juices for mrs lovetts meat pies sweeney todd

I used this to fill the cupcakes…

chocolate cupcake meat pie chunks oozing red red blood meat juice icing halloween

… and cover the tops:

chocolate cupcake in silver foil pie case blood red icing topping sweeney todd mrs lovett meat pies

Any good pie needs a pastry lid, and these were certainly no exception… or were they? This pie was covered in a coloured fondant, using a highly technical mix of yellow, orange, peach, ivory and even black food colouring.

making a cupcake look like pastry pies fondant topping silver foil case

To get the proper meat pie look, the edges were crimped with the edge of a fork, and little pastry leaves added to the centre.

mrs lovett meat pies from sweeney todd fondant pastry crimping edges with a fork leaf decoration

Fresh meat pies, ready to ‘bake’!

fresh pastry meat pies actually are chocolate cupcakes with fondant topping and silver foil case

And bake they did – with the careful help of my lovely painter and decorator Rob. He used brown food colouring diluted with water, and stippling with a paint brush to create a fantastic baked pastry crust to the pies.

meat pie cupcake for musical theme sweeney todd mrs lovetts meat pies entirely edible and sweet

Get them while they’re hot!

freshly baked meat pie lookalike cupcakes made with chocolate and fondant topping paint effects and pastry

And Mrs. Lovett’s pies wouldn’t be complete without a few (fondant) extras:

mrs lovetts meat pies from sweeney todd for musical theme party fondant topping and gory body parts eyes nose bloody finger halloween cupcake baking ideas

We arrived at the party to find the kitchen amazingly transformed into Mrs Lovett’s pie shop, completely bedecked with fake brickwork all around the normal white walls. And, as the birthday boy works down in Leicestershire, he’d picked up a huge haul of pork pies from Melton Mowbray. My how this confused people!

mrs lovetts pie shop musical themed party singing in the rain pork pies cupcakes that look like pies brickwork background

fleet street bloody sign against brickwork mrs lovetts pie shop sweeney todd musical theatre fancy dress theme party

We gave them half a chance by putting the cupcake ‘pies’ on cake stands, but there was still a lot of surprise when they bit in! I didn’t get to try one (don’t worry I stocked up on birthday cake), but received a rave review that they tasted “like a bite of a dream”. Result! Look gross but taste great 🙂

mrs lovetts meat pies kitchen baking cupcakes on stand fondant made to look like pastry nose

I couldn’t help but share some more photos from the party as so much effort had gone into decorating the house.

The conservatory morphed into The Little Shop of Horrors, complete with a handmade Audrey 2:

little shop of horrors front audrey 2 plant built at home musical theatre fancy dress theme party

Recognise the chandelier from Phantom of the Opera? Again, all handmade!

phantom of the opera chandelier built at home gold beading white half face mask and rose musical theatre fancy dress theme party

And the pièce de résistance – a giant Clock of the Time Dragon from Wicked. Complete with moving clock hands and smoke from the dragons mouth. AMAZING!

wicked musical clock of the time dragon built at home fancy dress theme party

To finish – my rock star and I in our costumes!

mamma mia abba and beatles costumes musical fancy dress theme party jen and rob electric guitar

Father’s Day Double Chocolate & Guinness Cake

A good friend mentioned a Guinness chocolate cake recipe to me a few weeks back, and father’s day seemed like the perfect excuse to try it out!

The recipe she’d used was Nigella’s Guinness chocolate cake, and, not having cooked with beer before, I was happy to stick with the pro’s. So – here is my take!

The recipe itself is amazingly easy, basically stick everything in a big saucepan and set the electric mixer loose. I did substitute the sour cream for some fat-free vanilla yoghurt, as the sheer volume of sugar seemed like more than enough unhealthiness for one cake! It also makes an awful lot of the gorgeous gooey mixture; when I’d suggested making a half batch poor Rob’s face had fallen, so cupcakes it was too.

The mixture cooked beautifully and came out a lovely rich, dark chocolate colour, almost like a mini glass of Guinness itself.

For the icing I also went against Nigella’s advice. A whole pot of real cream? I wanted to give my dad a treat, not a heart attack! My icing was white chocolate cream cheese frosting – a tub of extra-light cream cheese, a bar of white chocolate, melted, and enough icing sugar to whip it up to a pipe-able consistency.

The cake I piped with a narrow, slanted nozzle, going in lines across and up and down the cake, to give a ribbon like effect. I love the way it looks like foam around the edge, like the head on a pint of the black stuff.

The cupcakes had the same frosting – smoothed across the top then piped into a swirl to finish:

I finished the cupcakes off with a small abstract swirl of dark chocolate; piped onto greaseproof paper, chilled, then gently place on top of each cake – all the same yet beautifully individual.

For my dad’s cake, I wanted to add a father’s day message. When it comes to letters, my piping skills really aren’t so hot. Plus, I didn’t really think this one needed any extra chocolate!

I took my letter stencils and pressed them lightly into the icing…

…before carefully filling in each letter with some silver lustre, to make them really stand out!

Boxed up, it was ready to go with the rest of my gifts (some yummy fresh cheeses from lovely local deli Delilah).

It looked fab and hopefully tasted so too – Happy Father’s Day dad!

 

— Edit—

In preparation for my first Photo Friday, I took some extra photos of the cupcakes with some fresh strawberries. There were too many to put on the other post, but too good to go to waste!