Category Archives: chocolate

sms: chocolate caramel mousse tart

This week’s  SMS challenge – Chocolate Pie crust – offered us the chance to get creative using a filling from outside the book.  Based on comments from a few of the other bakers suggesting the crust lacked flavour, I doubled the cocoa powder as well as the amount of sugar called for in the recipe.  In a bid to spare the ol’ waistband after the gob-stuffing marathon I’ve indulged in over the past few months, I also opted to make it into a 7 inch tart filled with chocolate mousse made from tofu and agave syrup (from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World). That said, I went ahead and annihilated any health benefits by adding a chocolate caramel base layer with toasted hazelnuts (using my leftover caramel ‘sauce’ from last week). To be honest, the crust probably still lacked sweetness, but luckily my filling was so deadly rich that it worked out quite well.

Big thanks to Donna of L’Amour de Tarte for this one! Please check out what the other SMSers came up with too xx

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the great malt ball debate: a clash of cultures

“What do you mean malt balls? What are malt balls?”
“Malt balls.. you know, powdered malted milk balls covered with chocolate…”
“Nope, doesn’t ring a bell…”
“What? Of course you know malt balls.. like maltesers, you love maltesers!”
“Yeah, I know maltesers. But not malt balls. No one calls them malt balls.”
“What??! But that’s what they are! Maltesers ARE malt balls. Like kleenex are tissues!”
“That’s crazy talk.” (or something like that).
“What?! You’re crazy! That’s exactly what they are, what else would you call them?!”
“Maltesers. But anyway, she’ll like the cake, whatever it is.”
“That’s not the point now! And some people DON’T like them! Just ask her, she’ll know.”

This was the conversation that ensued when I asked my British other half to find out if his sister liked malt balls.  It was her birthday and a cake was called for, but as usual, I was paralyzed with indecision as to which underused cookbook/impulse buy to draw on.  I’ve managed to make one recipe out of Baked before – and although that cake put me through hell, it was damn good.. So I figured their Malt-ball Cake deserved a go too.  Having read a few reviews by parties claiming to be less than keen on the malt flavour after all, I just wanted to be sure the birthday girl would appreciate my pick…

[phone call made]
“She doesn’t know what malt balls are. But she said she’ll like whatever you make.”
Argh.

i need a spirit level

The cake turned out beautifully – pure white with a meltingly soft texture and what I’d describe as a tight (but certainly not dense) crumb.  While the Baked boys opt for a simple chocolate ganache frosting, I decided to double up on the malty magic by using a malted milk chocolate frosting from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book.  Be warned, it’s very rich.  But very good. The texture threw me a bit actually, as it seemed slightly.. tacky (if that makes sense to anyone?).. in the bowl, but that might have been the milk chocolate I used and it tasted delicious nonetheless.

And the combination was killer.

You can find the recipe for the Baked cake here, but in respect for the SMS enterprise, I’m going to hold out on posting the Sweet Melissa frosting recipe.. (I’m happy to email it though if anyone is in desperate need!) xx

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holiday catch up: thanksmas leftovers

After stuffing my face for the past two months with cakes, pies, cookies, crumbles, crisps and cheesecakes, I seem to have come away with very few pictures to show for it (and all too many pounds..dammit). What follows are the only souvenirs I could find of some memorable bakes served at a ‘Thanksmas’ dinner we hosted for friends (on Dec 12th, hence the name..otherwise it was my 4th annual Thanksgiving do here in the UK) and at my family’s Christmas Day meal.  First up, a beautifully moorish sour cream pumpkin pie from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking, followed by a sweet & gooey pecan pie made with Lyle’s Golden Syrup.  I can only offer the ‘before’ picture for that one because unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap the finished product before it was devoured.  Next up is an adaptation of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Gascon Apple Pie from the Pie & Pastry Bible.  This boozy treat is actually my You Want Pies With That? entry for December.  I got to choose the theme this time, woohoo!!! So please have a look at what the other lovely piemakers have offered up as their ‘holiday spirit‘ pies.  And the final picture is really the only  snap I’ve got of two phenomenal cheesecakes: my celebration stalwart, a luscious White Chocolate (Orange-) Cranberry Swirl number, and the Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book (with an oreo cookie crust, whipped cream piping and a gorgeous blackberry compote topping).

i suggest adding any leafy embellishments before you've got just 10 mins left on the timer.. ahem

pecan pie beginnings


Boozy Cran-Apple Pie

chocolate espresso cheesecake & white chocolate cranberry swirl cheesecake ...and another duck face pose.. i need a new look

You can find the recipe for the pumpkin pie here – this is the fourth time I’ve made it, and it won’t be the last.  Rose’s Pecan Pie can be found on page 302 of the P&P Bible and I think it’s earned it’s place as my new Go2, although (as I always find with pecan pies) I had to bake it about 20 mins longer than recommended.  Luckily my pie shield saved the crust from overbrowning.  The Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake was a recent SMS bake and you can find the recipe here on Shandy’s lovely site.  It cratered on me the first time around so I didn’t post in time (shame on me).  The one pictured above also cracked and fell slightly (I covered that up with piping and blackberry compote), but I think I figured out the culprit – I love crumb crusts so much that I always do enough to coat the sides of the tin too and that’s never been a problem with my stalwart.  But I’m pretty sure thatcheesecakes (without side crusts) usually pull away a bit from the tin, so I’m betting that with a crust and without the *give* offered by a fruit swirl for example, the poor cheesecake could do nothing but crack.  At least, that’s my guess…  I promise to post the YWPWT apple pie recipe after we get back from Dorset, as  I made some changes to Rose’s original based on what my liquour cabinet (haha, I wish) had to offer and what the holiday season called for – cranberries.

*RECIPE UPDATE*

Boozy Cran-Apple Pie

Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Gascon Apple Pie

4 medium apples – peeled, cored and sliced 1/8 inch thick

1 cup cranberries

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

5 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup brandy (or cognac)

1/2 tsp orange extract

3/4 cups walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

7 tbs unsalted butter, melted

12 sheets of filo

powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

In a large bowl, gently toss the apples and cranberries with the sugars, salt and alcohol.  Cover tightly and allow to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hrs (or overnight – in which case, refrigerate them).  Drain the fruit, reserving the juice.  You should have about 1 cup.  Using a small saucepan, reduce the liquid until you have approximately 4 tablespoons.  Add the orange extract then pour the liquid over the fruit and mix in the walnuts.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  With a pastry brush, lightly coat the bottom of the pie pan with some of the melted butter.  Place the filo sheets between two sheets of plastic wrap and cover with a damp towel – re-cover each time you remove a sheet to stop the rest from drying out.  Remove 1 sheet and quickly brush it with unsalted butter (don’t worry about coating every inch, too much butter will just result in a greasy texture anyway).  Drape the filo sheet in the pan, molding it to fit and letting the excess drape over the sides.  Repeat with 7 more buttered sheets.  Empty the fruit mixture into the filo-lined pan, bringing the overhanging bits up and over to enclose the filling partially.  Brush another 2 sheets with butter and fold them crosswise in half.  Butter them again on both sides, then place them on top of the filling, covering it completely, and tuck the ends into the sides of the pie pan.  There will be a depression in the center.  Butter another sheet of filo and cut it in half.  Gather up each piece in loose ruffles and arrange it toward the centre of the pie to partially fill the depression. Butter the final piece of filo and fold it in the long way into thirds.  Coil it loosely to form a rose and place it in the center.  Bake the pie for 50 to 60 mins or until the filo is golden and a skewer inserted into the fruit filling meets with little resistance.  Allow the pie to cool to room temp as the moistened pastry can be a bit tough when warm.  Dust lightly with powdered sugar before serving.

This was the perfect end to my family’s Christmas Day meal. Biting into the crisp pastry to find deliciously caramelized apples & cranberries made for a lovely treat – and the boozy kick made things all the more merry. Enjoy!

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Filed under cheesecake, chocolate, fruit, holidays, pies & tarts, sweet melissa sundays, You Want Pies With That

sms: the cake from hell

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This week’s SMS bake, Devils Food Cake, turned out to be a *%$£ing nightmare.  Yes folks, a big, fat, sticky, gooey, creamy, acrid, prolonged torturous nightmare.  Don’t get me wrong – Melissa’s cake itself was heavenly.  It’s a simple enough recipe yielding moist, dark chocolate layers..which, in my case, baked up a bit unevenly because I failed to scrape the bottom of the bowl as religiously as I should have.. the centres shot skyward, only to sink the minute they came out of the oven.  Thankfully, this just seemed to result in slightly denser, more level cakes though, so I wasn’t particularly worried.  Now, sticking with the suggested peanut butter frosting at this point would have saved much blood, sweat and tearful cursing.  But, having done peanut butter frosting to death before (I fell in love with a cream cheese version and refuse to stray), I decided to take this opportunity to conquer my caramel demons by making the Sweet & Salty Cake from Baked.

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Known as their signature creation, it consists of chocolate cake slathered with salted caramel sauce and whipped caramel ganache frosting.  After reading a few negative reviews of the Baked cake itself, in contrast rave rants about the phenomenal frosting, I figured Melissa’s devils food cake would be the ultimate base.  Now, I’m not even a huge fan of caramel taste-wise, but making caramel is something I swore to conquer after my first two attempts went up in smoke a few months back.  literally.  Unfortunately, things got smokey this time round too.  In fact, I ended up having to make 4 – yes, 4 – batches of caramel this time..!!  As I said, the first went up in smoke. The second survived to become a luscious whipped ganache which turned into an impenetrable mass after an overnight stint in the fridge.  So clever me decided to try softening it in the microwave, and – you guessed it – pulled out a liquid mess after getting distracted for a few crucial minutes.  Devil cake 2, June 0.  Back to the Coop for more butter. and chocolate.

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I finally scored a win in round 3 (which I did NOT put in the fridge), but still had to play out round 4 to make the salted caramel sauce.  The whole process took about 4 days and  I’m out a hefty load of sugar, butter and chocolate, but I finally know how to make caramel.  Unfortunately, I had planned to share this devil child with friends, but the dinner date came and went before batch 3… So at the moment, I’ve got a big fat chocolatey waste sitting in my fridge. It’s cursed, I swear.

Despite all my whinging dramatics though, I have to admit that the whipped caramel ganache is phenomenal. Paired with the salted caramel sauce and Melissa’s gorgeous chocolate layers, this is one deliciously evil cake.  I recommend you roll up your sleeves and get sugar-cooking.  You can find the cake recipe on Holly’s lovely site and check out how the other SMSers got on this week

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Tea & tofu champs

I WON!!!!??!

Remember that matcha frosting I posted about a while back?? Well.. it took me a few weeks of research, plus a bank holiday weekend of baking to find the right cake & filling recipes to match – but all the blood, sweat and tears were worth it in the end!! (and no blood really, that would’ve been gross  + unhygienic)

I won Iron Cupcake London!!

This post comes a bit late – it’s been waiting in the wings because I’m stupidly superstitious and I figured I should hold off until the fantastic Caked Crusader posted the results..just to be sure.. I came away with some lovely prizes and a massive (sugar/win/champagne) high on the night, but you never want to jinx things..  We can all breathe a sigh of relief now though, because I’m happy to report that my little bakes are in fact listed as the champs. woohoo!

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1st place champs

The challenge was ‘World’, so I chose to go with a Japanese theme (which seems less than original in retrospect, as there were at least 3 other beautiful Japanese-themed entries..doh).  Mine consisted of a two-tone matcha chocolate cupcake (marbling just seemed like too much effort) filled with sweet adzuki bean paste and tofu chocolate mousse, topped off with matcha cream-cheese frosting.  Er, ignore the wonky shape of the cake please.. frosting hides many sins..  Unfortunately, not flower paste sins – I bought little cherry blossom cutters but it was my first go at sugarpaste work and things didn’t work out so I had to improvise..

my attempt at sugarpaste cherryblossoms..hmmm

pretend they look like cherry blossoms...go on..

I used my favourite chocolate cake recipe and adapted another recipe found here for the matcha layer.

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake
From Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman & Peter Wynne

Makes an 8-inch triple-layer cake; or about 30 cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

4. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before turning out of pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.

*I’ve made the layer-cake version before with peanut butter frosting, as recommended in the book, and the combination is PHENOMENAL. try it. seriously.

Moist Matcha Cake adapted (slightly) from this recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablesoons matcha powder

1 ¼ cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 inch round pans, or line two 12-cup muffin pans.

2.  Sift together flours, baking soda, salt and matcha powder. Set aside.

3.  In large bowl, beat together sugar, oil and eggs until smooth.  Stir in vanilla.  Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the sour cream, mixing until just combined.

4.  Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes before turning out of pans.

After the cupcakes were cool, I used the cone method to fill them with Chockylit’s sweet bean paste (below) and a tofu chocolate mousse from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  The double filling was down to indecisiveness to be honest.  When I was testing combos out, my boyfriend swore the bean paste tasted better, but I preferred the mousse filling – so I just went with both in the end.

Sweet Bean Paste adopted from Cupcake Bakeshop

1-1/4 cups red adzuki beans

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

1. Cover beans in cold water and soak uncovered, overnight.
2. Drain, transfer back to the pot and cover in 5 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
3. Drain and puree with a hand blender or in a food processor.
4. Press through a metal sieve. Note: This is time consuming work. The pureed beans become a thick paste and it takes some time to press through the sieve, clean off the underside, continue pressing until most of the bean puree passes through and the skins are left behind.
5. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pureed beans and sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to cool.
6. After the paste has cooled, scoop out 1/2″ balls. Cover loosely with plastic wrap so they won’t dry out.

Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting inspired by Cupcake Bakeshop and adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman & Peter Wynne
(I doubled the recipe  and ended up with tons – enough to cover 30 for ICL and about a dozen more since…)

4 ounces (1 stick) of butter

8 ounces (1 package) of full-fat cream cheese

4 cups powdered sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp orange extract

~3 tablespoons matcha powder

Blend cream cheese and butter in a blender, pulsing until combined.  Add half the powdered sugar and again pulse until combined.  Add the remaining powdered sugar, along with the vanilla, orange extract and matcha powder.  You may want to add more sugar if you’re like me and prefer a firmer consistency that holds up to piping..and car journeys across London during rush hour.  Decrease the amount of sugar if you have any sense and hope to live a long, healthy life.

I also entered these coconut cupcakes with mango frosting and guava jam filling as my ode to Mexican paletas, but I’ll save the recipes for another day.

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SMS: Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake

Retomber comme une souffle

This edible idiom , which I found on Clotilde’s beautiful blog Chocolate & Zucchini, literally translates as “falling back like a souffle”.  It describes an abrupt loss of interest after an enthusiastic start, which sort of sums up my experience with this cake.  It’s not a bad recipe by any means, just not for me…plus umm I think I made some bad baking calls, which probably added to the disappointment.  Firstly, I think I overwhipped the egg-whites and, having opted for a 9-inch springform pan instead of the recommended 10-incher, I added about 5 minutes to the baking time because I was worried the middle would be undercooked.  I was wrong.  The end result was a very good looking cake with a perfect fallen centre.  The texture was light and fluffy, but not really my cup of tea.  I like my chocolate cakes to be rich and fudgy – just over the brownie/cake border – so this didn’t really deliver in my opinion.  My tasters, on the other hand, swore it was delicious – so don’t let me put you off..

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I took the cake to my friend’s fabulous housewarming party, where it made a perfect centre piece, all dressed up with fresh blueberries & strawberries soaked in syrup… We had it with ice cream and..er.. some of us also spooned on hefty globs of leftover cream cheese frosting. Because everything tastes better with cream cheese frosting.  (Don’t judge me).

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It was a fancy dress do (meaning everyone threw on their tackiest bling) and that cocktail was the first of MANY.. so by the end of the night, the cake was just as tarted up as the rest of us..

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Even though I didn’t love this one, I’d consider giving it another shot and reducing the baking time to see if that adds more moisture.  In any case, I’m really happy to have finally tried making a souffle – so big big thanks to Sarah, the Blue Ridge Baker, for choosing this one!! Head over to her lovely blog for the recipe, and check out the SMS blogroll to see how others have fared!

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blinged-up tasting posse (and me in the leopard print)

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