About my baking challenge

I discovered the joy of baking for the first time ever in 2013, shortly after my dear mum passed away from cancer. During 2014 I tried to bring these two things together in a positive way , have fun and raise some money for Ashgate Hospice in Chesterfield where my mum passed away. Throughout the year I tried out new techniques and recipes from time to time ... and then sold some of my bakes for charity in my workplace. Since then I have continued to bake with some ups and downs .. and this blog charts my baking experiences, good and bad!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Nigella's chocolate Guinness cake + Baileys cream cheese frosting

I recall a colleague making a chocolate Guinness cake at a previous work event and it generated a lot of interest; so I decided to have a go at baking one for my charity cake sale a couple of weeks ago. 

I Googled around for a recipe and found this one by Nigella which seemed to have got rave reviews ... Nigella also describes it on her blog as "magnificent in its dark majesty", which sounded pretty tempting to me.

I made the cake exactly according to Nigella's recipe, but I adjusted the frosting slightly as I wanted to incorporate Baileys, and I also wanted a classic cream cheese frosting (whereas Nigella's includes cream - some reviewers said it was a bit runny).

Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake (with Pauline's Baileys cream cheese frosting)

From Nigella's website - also featured in Feast

250 ml Guinness
250g unsalted butter
75g cocoa powder
400g caster sugar
142 ml sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
275g plain flour
2.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the frosting:
300g cream cheese
150g icing sugar
A good glug of Baileys

1 * 9" (23cm) springform or loose-bottomed cake tin.

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/ 160C (fan)/Gas mark 4; and grease and line the cake tin.
2. Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, add the butter and heat until the butter melts.

3. Then whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl and then pour in to the butter mixture. Finally whisk in the flour and bicarb of soda.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45-60 minutes.

5. Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.

6. Whip the cream cheese until smooth, then beat in the sieved icing sugar. Add the Baileys to taste and beat until light and frothy. Spread over the top of the cold cake.

This cake was easy to make, but I didn't get on too well with beating everything together in the pan - I actually transferred my beery mixture into my K Mix stand mixer bowl before beating in the rest of the ingredients. I also found that it needed a good hour to bake.

I changed the icing and have to admit that it went rather runny so didn't look the best ... though that is not the reason why there is no picture of the iced cake. As the icing was dairy I took it to work in a cool bag to spread on the cake immediately before serving in my cake sale ... and people were queueing up to sample a slice so I never got chance to take a photo!  I never got to taste this cake at all, but the feedback was very complimentary with one colleague describing it as "exceptional", so it appears to have turned out alright!


Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas isn't Christmas without ... Terry's Chocolate Orange Cake

Almost everyone loves a Terry's chocolate orange at Christmas, so I decided to incorporate one into my pre-Christmas charity cake sale.  This cake went down an absolute storm at my cake sale, to the extent I could be tempted to start up a new sideline :-)

I love the idea of chocolate orange cake and have previously made one with orange buttercream; but this time I decided to go for chocolate orange sponge filled with orange curd with cointreau, and also filled and topped with chocolate orange ganache.

The main problem with chocolate orange baking is the scarce availability of orange flavoured dark chocolate ... most available makes eg. Lindt are filled with crunchy orange pieces rather than suffused with orange flavouring. Terry's chocolate orange is definitely the way to go; but the dark ones are only available in the shops in the run up to Christmas, and even then are not that easy to find. In my opinion milk chocolate would be too sweet in combination with orange for baking ...lovely for eating, but when it comes to frosting a cake dark is definitely required! So if anyone from Terry's reads this ... PLEASE make your dark chocolate oranges available all year round - they are fab both for baking and eating!!

Anyhoo I hunted around and did manage to find some supplies (in Superdrug and Wilko of all places), so I was on my way.

Terry's Chocolate Orange Cake with cointreau

Adapted from Mary Berry's Very Best Chocolate & Orange Cake in Delicious Magazine

100g unsalted butter, softened
50g cocoa powder
90 ml boiling water
3 large eggs
4 tbsp milk
175g self-raising flour, sifted
1 rounded tsp baking powder
300g caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 orange

For the filling and icing:
150g dark Terry's chocolate orange, broken into small pieces
150ml double cream
Several tbsp of orange curd (I used Welsh Roots orange curd with cointreau)

2 * 8" (20cm) round cake tins,greased and with the bases lined with baking parchment.

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/160 C (fan)/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line the baking tins.
2. Measure the cocoa and boiling water into a large bowl and mix to a paste. Add the rest of the cake ingredients and beat again until combined.
3. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared cake tins. bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until the sponges are well risen and shrinking away from the sides of the tins.
4. Leave in the tins for approx 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
5. To make the chocolate ganache, put the chocolate and cream into a heat-proof bowl, then stand over a pan of simmering water for about 10 minutes, stirring until the chocolate is melted (don't let the bowl touch the water in the pan). Set aside to cool until it thickens to a spreading consistency.
6. Spread the top of one songe thinly with orange curd, then spread with slightly less than half the chocolate ganache. Place the second sponge on top then spread with the remaining ganache. Use a palette knife to swirl the icing evenly.
7. You can add more grated Terry's chocolate orange, or alternatively orange Matchmakers or any chocolate decorations on top. (I didn't bother with this last step as I wanted to keep my costs down while baking for charity).

This was easy to make and was extremely popular ... I never managed to grab a slice for myself as it all went extremely quickly. In fact several people mentioned to me after the event that they were disappointed to have missed out on it, so clearly it fired my colleagues' imaginations! The best I managed was to hoover up a few crumbs off the plate, and a friend took pity and gave me a small forkful from her slice ... on that limited basis  I thought it tasted pretty good.

I am now thinking I may try making some mini versions using my Lakeland mini-Victoria sandwich tin!

I would like to enter this into the following challenges:

Casa Costello

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Cranberry and white chocolate cupcakes

Whilst putting together my "menu" for my charity bake sale last week, I decided that I wanted a couple of different flavours of cupcakes as they are easy to bake in larger batches (to raise more money!! :-) ). I was really tempted by this recipe I saw on the Hummingbird Bakery blog as it seemed nice and Christmassy, and at the same time allowed me to offer a different flavour from the predominantly chocolate cakes in my repertoire.

I made a slight adjustment to the frosting recipe, but that was primarily for a practical reason as I had some "leftover" white chocolate ganache (see below!)

Cranberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Blog

For the cake:
70g unsalted butter, softened
210g plain flour
250g caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder (the recipe said 1tbsp but I was bit nervous of that!!)
1/2 tsp salt
210 ml milk
2 large eggs
60g dried cranberries
1 tsp grated orange zest

For the frosting: (this differs a bit from the Hummingbird recipe)
2-3 tbsp white chocolate ganache
300g icing sugar, sifted
160g unsalted butter, softened

2 * 12 hole deep muffin tins

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150 C(fan)/Gas Mark 3, and line the muffin tins with cupcake cases. The recipe says it makes 12-16 based on using large American-style muffin cases. I wanted to use Christmas style cases and only had medium ones - my mixture made 21 of these in the end!
2. Mix the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder and salt together using a hand-held or free standing mixer until they form a crumb-like consistency.
3. Whisk together the eggs and milk in a separate jug.
4. Gradually pour half the liquid into the crumb mixture with the mixer on low speed and mix thoroughly until combined. Then turn up the mixer to medium and beat until batter is smooth and thick with no lumps. Then turn down the mixer speed and gradually add the rest of the liquid, continuing to beat until the batter is smooth and combined.
5. Add the cranberries and orange zest, and mix until evenly distributed.
6. Spoon batter into prepared cases, filling each one approx. two-thirds full.

7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when lightly touched.  Leave the cakes to cool for a few minutes in the tin, then place on a wire rack to cool completely.
8. Beat the butter for the frosting until light and whippy, then gradually add in the icing sugar, beating until smooth. Add in the white chocolate ganache (or melted chocolate - approx 60g), then turn up the mixer to high speed and beat until light and fluffy.
9. When the cupcakes are completely cold, smooth a generous amount of frosting onto each one and smooth with a palette knife. Decorate each cupcake with a dried cranberry and sprinkle with a little orange zest.

I have always previously made cupcakes using a Victoria sandwich-type recipe, so this was quite different both in the proportions of ingredients and the method of combining. I was a little nervous, but it seemed to work really well. The cupcakes baked really evenly, and rose evenly to give a nice rounded appearance but not too much of a "dome", so they were also easy to decorate.

Personally I though the amount of icing sugar in the original recipe (500g) was a bit excessive so I toned this down, and instead of using melted chocolate I used some chocolate ganache (50% white chocolate, 50% double cream). This was simply because I had originally intended to decorate these with white chocolate ganache, but when I made it it was quite "yellow" in colour and very runny, so I thought I'd better revert to buttercream ... and incorporate the white chocolate flavour so as not to waste it all!!

Overall I was very pleased with these cupcakes - one of them had its wrapper tear in the tin so it was the only cake from my whole charity bake which I kept  back to taste and didn't sell ... I frosted it and then my husband and I split it between us.  The sponge was very light and soft and the flavour yummy .. clearly some of my colleagues agreed as they soon got snapped up!

I would like to enter these Christmas treats into the following challenges:

(hosted this month by Kat at The Baking Explorer, and alternately by Stuart at Cakeyboi)

AlphaBakes (December) - X is for Xmas
(hosted this month by Caroline Makes and alternately by The More Than Occasional  Baker)

Love Cake (December) - December Delights
(hosted by JibberJabber UK)

That's all for today.