Monday, 26 October 2009

Rich Indulgent Chocolate Cake

Cake is the answer to all problems. There is nothing that cake can't make you feel better about (except maybe feeling sick from too much cake...but let's not focus on that). And when cake is on the cards, why do it half-heartedly? I baked the most rich, indulgent, and completely over the top chocolate cake this weekend. It was another Hummingbird recipe, like the cupcakes I made a few weeks ago. The sponge is so rich yet not heavy, and the frosting will completely blow you away!! It is creamy, buttery, chocolatey heaven, and teamed with the sponge it's a chocolate hit that really hits the spot!

When freshly baked the sponge was delicious on it's own, add a lashing of frosting which slowly melted with some seeping into the cake, and it was comfort food perfection! Obviously, my impatience got the better of me and I iced the cake slightly too early...but it led to the lovely warm icing bleeding into the sponge, which, whether or not it looks perfect, tastes divine. Obviously we demolished a wedge right away with a cup of tea, and after it had cooled later in the evening I couldn't resist another sneaky slice with a glass of wine - complete and utter heaven!!

This is definitely my absolute favourite sponge recipe. You whisk the dry ingredients and the butter until they resemble a sandy texture, then add the egg and milk to make a batter. So easy, yet so successful. So you go from this...

To this...!!

The cupcakes take about 12 minutes, and the large cake took about 25 minutes - however, my oven is pretty bizarre and I think is hotter than usual, so a normal oven at 180 degrees may take a little longer!

Considering how big the cake was, it was pretty impressive how quickly it disappeared!! Between very few of us, a considerable amount was devoured over the weekend, and I brought some back to Bath for my housemates which went down pretty well, leaving a satisfyingly small wedge at the end of the weekend. If ever there was proof of a delicious cake, it's a plate covered only in crumbs a mere 48 hours after baking!!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Carrot Cake Extraordinaire!

Trust me when I say, you need not try another carrot cake once you've tried this one. Immodest, I know, but honestly, this is the god of all carrot cakes. My quest for the perfect carrot cake came to an end when I was given the recipe for this delight when I was working at Michael Caines' restaurant in Exeter. Soft and moist in texture, dense yet not overly rich...that is, it's quite easy to reach for another slice. A quality I truly respect in cake.

I can never have too much cake.

It doesn't really rise that much, there is a small amount of bicarbonate of soda, but you don't want it to rise like a sponge, or you sacrifice the moist texture that makes this carrot cake so spectacular. You need to keep an eye on the cake when it's coming to the end of it's baking time, and take it out as soon as a knife comes out just about clean when you skewer it. Be brave when you take it out of the oven, it's ok if a few crumbs stick to the knife, better to be slightly underdone than over done in my opinion.

The cake itself is something to salivate over, but add the indulgent and rich cream cheese frosting, and you've got something truly special in your kitchen. A mix of butter, cream cheese and icing sugar, this is not for those looking to keep an eye on their waistline...that said, I think this cake is probably worth a little restraint the next day to even out the balance!

So here's the recipe:

Carrot Cake
120ml vegetable oil
160g caster sugar
2 eggs
large pinch of salt
110g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
140g grated carrot
handful chopped walnuts

Beat the oil and sugar until it's thick.
Add the eggs gradually.
Then add the salt, flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon.
Lastly mix in the carrots and walnuts.
Transfer the mix into a cake tin, at bake at 160 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, checking regularly.
Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting
75g soft butter
110g icing sugar
150g Philadelphia

Beat butter and icing sugar together until smooth, then add the cream cheese.
Generously dollop on the cake, and spread to the edges.

So there you have it, the perfect carrot cake. Try it, trust me, you'll thank me.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Stuffed Butternut Squash and White Chocolate and Strawberry Cupcakes

Well, I have had a goooood food weekend!!

It was a busy Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday I had some time to indulge my culinary desires, and decided to welcome the autumnal delights with a stuffed butternut squash. I can't tell you how much I love this dish, I look forward to October when the golden leaves which crunch and crackle as you stomp through them, and the crisp cool mornings also spell the beginning of a new food season, and one of the most exciting vegetables for me is butternut squash. It's soft sweet flesh is utterly comforting, and roasted and stuffed is a lovely start to Autumn. It's warming yet not overly stodgy, and works as a great accompaniment to a dish, as well as acting as the base for this particular recipe.

I sliced the squash in half, and scooped out the seeds as well as hollowing out some of the flesh to create a squash 'bowl' as it were, with a deep enough cavity to hold a decent amount of filling, but a thick enough wall (about 1.5cm) to support the filling and hold up during roasting.

Then I softened some onion, garlic and mushrooms in a pan and threw in some lardons until they were just cooked, and allowed to cool in a bowl. I then chopped up some of the squash into a fine mush (or as fine as you can get it!!), and added this to the onion mix, along with a handful of basmati rice, some mixed herbs, and salt and pepper. Mix all this together then spoon into the butternut squash.

Put both halves together and rub all over with some olive oil. Wrap in foil and place on a baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven at about 180 degrees for about an hour and a quarter. Then unwrap the silver blanket and I served it with some grated cheese. Delicious!!

For dessert, we had vanilla cupcakes with white chocolate and cream cheese frosting topped with fresh strawberries. They were amazing!!

I made a basic sponge mixture for the cupcakes and for the frosting I melted 150g white chocolate and set aside to cool. In a separate bowl I beat 150g of cream cheese with 50g of soft butter and 5 tablespoons of icing sugar. Then add the white chocolate to the mixture and leave to cool and set slightly.

To be honest, as usual I was too impatient and tried to ice the cupcakes before the frosting had set a little, so it was still quite runny. Instead of scooping the frosting on the top of the cupcake, I hollowed out a little of the cupcake and filled it with the runny frosting before adding sliced strwaberries. It tasted amazing slightly warm but just didn't look quite as nice. Turns out patience really is a virtue. Wonder when I'll finally learn my lesson.

After about half an hour or so in the fridge, the frosting had set and was the perfect consistency for icing the cupcakes for a cleaner and more professional look. Totally indulgent and a perfect end to the weekend!!