Sunday, 4 January 2015

Coconut Snowman Cake

Coconut Snowman Cake

I hope everyone has had the happiest of festive periods and done lots of Christmas baking. Before you all go on the New Year health kick, I thought I’d share my most recent endeavour. Being a massive baking nerd, I organised a Christmas Bake Off at work to raise money for Crisis – helping give homeless people somewhere to stay over the holidays. Not only was it a really great cause, but it was an excuse to make a ridiculous cake…

12oz butter
12oz caster sugar
6 Eggs
15oz self-raising flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
6oz desiccated coconut (plus extra for decorating)
4-6oz evaporated milk
Pinch of vanilla bean paste
For the decoration
Icing sugar
Desiccated coconut
Coconut essence
Royal icing

Preheat the oven to 150⁰C/Gas Mark 5 and grease a medium-sized pudding basin and small hemisphere pan.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together until fluffy.

Lightly whisk the eggs with the vanilla bean paste. Add a little at a time with a small spoonful of flour, mixing as you go, until all of the egg has been added in.

Sift in the remaining flour and baking powder and mix until smooth.

Stir in the desiccated coconut and evaporated milk, a little less for a wet mixture or a little more for a dry one. 

Fill the pudding basin ¾ full and the hemisphere pan, keeping some mixture back for a second hemisphere pan.

Bake until cooked through and spongy to the touch. The basin will take at least an hour and a half/two hours and the hemisphere pans about an hour each. Cool the sponges on a wire rack.

To make the butter icing, cream butter and icing sugar together and add a very small drop of coconut essence. Cover the basin in icing, and use the jam and a long cocktail stick through the top of the two hemisphere pans to make the snowman shape. Cover the head entirely in icing, then press desiccated coconut all over and use a fork to fluff it up and create the texture.

Roll out some royal icing to make a scarf and carrot nose and use chocolate buttons for eyes…and there you have yourself a ridiculous (but tasty) snowman.

Happy baking everyone x

Monday, 6 October 2014

Sugar-Free Carrot Cupcakes

Well I could spout excuses for why I haven’t blogged in ages until the sun don’t shine, but let’s be honest: It was my first summer working in London. I was far too busy having fun. That said, nothing jolts you into realising that life is too short not to do the things you love like illness. My dad’s unwell and is the source of inspiration for these sugar-free cupcakes, because he needs to stay away from the evil stuff for the foreseeable future. And let’s be honest, it won’t do anyone in my house any harm to cut down on the addictive white crystals (no not meth, you naughty lot).

So we went to the Cake and Bake Show at Earl’s Court on Saturday and my dad was thrilled to find a stall selling Xylitol, a natural sugar alternative with a low GI which can be used to make healthy (ish) sweet treats. I was a bit worried that these cakes would be stodgy and tasteless but I was pleasantly surprised by the fluffy texture. Obviously they just don’t taste as sweet as the sugar-laden alternative. You don’t get that buzz that we all crave, but I guess that’s the point.

Ingredients (makes 18)
225g plain wholemeal flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
4tsp ground cinnamon
3tsp ground ginger
75g Xylitol
2 large carrots, grated
Juice and zest of 2 oranges
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
90ml mild cooking oil
90ml milk
For the topping
2tbsp Xylitol
3tbsp lemon juice
200g low fat cream cheese
Ground cinnamon, for sprinkling
18 walnut pieces

Prepare two baking trays with paper cases. Preheat the oven to 150⁰C.

In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, bicarbonate, cinnamon and ginger. I was a bit concerned that that seemed like a lot of spices for a small mixture, but it doesn’t taste overpowering in the slightest.

Add the Xylitol, grate the carrots and orange zest and then add the orange juice, beaten eggs, oil and milk. I used olive oil for ultimate health benefits.

Mix until thoroughly combined.

Carefully and evenly distribute the mixture between the cases.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through. Cool on a wire rack.

Now I have mixed feelings about this topping. In a way I think the cakes perfectly nice nude, but we do like to trick ourselves sometimes and it just doesn’t look like carrot cake without it. For obvious reasons it’s just not very sweet and kind of tastes just like…cheese. Try it for yourself though, but I think I’m going to experiment with some alternatives.

Stir the Xylitol and lemon juice together until completely dissolved. Mix the cream cheese in.

Smooth evenly over the cakes, sift the cinnamon (I did a fantastic job of that, I think you’ll see) and plop a walnut piece on top to finish. Ta daaa.

P.S. Bake off final this week. Richard to win all the waaay.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Mini Rose Éclairs (& a few profiteroles)

It’s been a busy old time but no matter how hectic things get, there always seems to be time for cake in my house. On the last May bank holiday, for no apparent reason, we decided to host a ridiculous and over-indulgent afternoon tea. When I say host I mean make an absurd amount of food and consume it all between the five of us. This quite obviously happened ages ago and I apologise for my complete tardiness in blogging something about it, but I’ve been a bit caught up doing silly things as usual. Like going to Japan. Everyone should do that by the way, if you can. It’s an exceptional place and if someone asked me to go live in Tokyo tomorrow I would go, no question.

Now my role in this afternoon tea faff was to make some kind of petit fours. I fancied making some choux pastry so this is what I came up with. I made half of them mini éclairs and the other half profiteroles because…I don’t know really, I just wanted to. These are delicious if I do say so myself but incredibly sweet so I recommend eating them with something savoury to try to offset diabetes.

100g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
75g unsalted butter
3 eggs, at room temp, beaten
Icing sugar
Rose water
Pink food colouring
Whipping or double cream

Heat the oven to 200⁰C and prepare two baking trays with parchment.

Sift the flour onto a piece of greaseproof paper that you’ve folded in half to create a crease.

Put the salt, butter and 175ml of water into a pan and heat gently until the butter has completely melted.

Quickly bring the mixture to the boil, then tip the flour in all in one go.

Remove the pan from the heat and beat furiously with a wooden spoon. Expect the mixture to look like a vile lumpy mess to begin with, but eventually it should turn into a smooth dough.

When it looks smooth put the pan back onto the beat and beat for a further 2 minutes until it looks like a glossy ball.

Tip the dough into a mixing bowl and leave to cool (otherwise it will cook the eggs when you add them).

Use an electric mixer to gradually beat the eggs into the dough. It should make a shiny paste-like dough that falls away from the spoon when lightly shaken.

Pop the dough into a large piping bag. To make this easier I stand the mixing bag up in a tall cup.

Snip the end off of the piping bag and pipe whatever shapes you want onto your prepared baking trays, remembering that different sized shapes will take different lengths of time to cook. I did about half as mini éclairs and half as profiteroles, mainly just to see which would come out better.

Bake for 15 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 180⁰C. Quickly open and close the oven to let out steam and bake for a further 5-10 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Remove the trays from the oven and then using a small toothpick, make a small hole in each one to let out steam. Then return to the oven for a final 3-4 minutes or until firm. Cool on a wire rack.

While they are cooling whip up the cream with a spoonful or two of icing sugar- remembering that the topping will be very sweet. The cream should be whipped until it holds its shape.

Make the topping by combining icing sugar with a few drops of rose water and some pink food colouring. The brightness/flavour intensity is up to you, but I usually think f**k it and go neon.

Spoon or pipe the whipped cream into the éclairs and smear a line of pink icing on top.

Then put on a tiered stand with a bunch of other ludicrously over-the-top home baked goods and you have yourself an afternoon tea party.

Well we’ve certainly never been accused of not knowing how to have a good time…