Fig and Almond Cake with Coconut-Honey Glaze

Fig birthday cake

The thing with birthday cakes is that they are always compared with the cake you made the previous year so there is a certain amount of pressure on you to create an even more fabulous cake.  This year for C’s birthday I wanted to make something that was both dramatic and exotic. I am a ‘more is more’ kind of girl, I don’t think you’ll find many pared back cake recipes on this site. I was lucky enough to find two different varieties of fresh fig. Unfortunately, the ones on my tree won’ t be ready till much later in the summer. I wanted to fit as many fresh figs as possible on to the top of the cake for that wow factor. C loved the cake; how could he not? The sponge has dried figs and marzipan, making it beautifully moist. The mascarpone filling adds just the right amount of sweetness, and the fresh figs on top of the cake are just to die for.  I found this recipe on the following site: http://hungryrabbit.com/2014/10/fig-almond-tea-cake-w-coconut-honey-glaze, but it was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen who incidentally do a great podcast which I listen to regularly.

Fig birthday cake with candle

 

Ingredients:

Fig-Almond Filling

  • 225g dried figs, stems removed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons slivered almonds, chopped
  • 125g marzipan

Sponge

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 130ml canned coconut milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • 300g, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature

Coconut-Honey Glaze & Assembly

  • 3 tablespoons canned coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 60g white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6-8 fresh figs for garnish (optional)
  • Toasted flaked almonds

Mascarpone Filling

  • 200g mascarpone
  • 100g icing sugar

 

Directions      

 Filling

  • Roll the marzipan into a 2cm diameter rope, cut rope into 2cm size pieces.
  • Bring the figs, sugar and water to simmer in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and figs are very soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Stir in chopped almonds and marzipan pieces and cool until ready to use.

 

Cake

  • Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Grease a 20cm round spring form tin and line the bottom with baking paper.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Whisk coconut milk and both extracts.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of coconut milk mixture. Mix on low until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  • Remove mixing bowl, add the fig mixture in chunks of various sizes. Using rubber spatula, fold until mixture is evenly distribute throughout the batter.
  • Pour batter into prepared tin and smooth top. Place cake in cold oven. Adjust oven temperature to 190C/180C fan/gas 5 and bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 65- 80 minutes.
  • Cool cake in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool completely. (Cooled cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.)

Coconut-Honey Glaze & Assembly

  • Bring coconut milk, honey and salt to a simmer over in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Turn off heat and whisk in the white chocolate until fully combined. Add the cream cheese, one tablespoon at a time and whisk until glaze is smooth and creamy. Cool for 20-30 minutes until it thickens.

Mascarpone filling

  • Mix the mascarpone and the icing sugar
  • Cut the cake into two horizontal layers and spread a layer the mascarpone filling on the first half of the cake. Place the second half of the cake on top so that the flattest side is on top and ready to be decorated.
  • Drizzle the glaze over the top of cake and let it drip over the sides. Decorate with fresh figs (if using) and sprinkle with toasted flaked almonds to serve.

Fig birthday cake with candle

 

Matcha and Pistachio Energy Balls

IMG_1507 (Edited)

So, I haven’t posted in a while as I’ve been trying my best to lose weight. However, as part of my cutting the calories, one of the things I’ve enjoyed making are these energy balls. They are surprisingly filling and incredibly tasty and they only take 15 minutes to make. I usually have then as a pre or post gym snack. They are also sweet enough to satisfy cravings when you are out and about when usually only a coffee and a piece of cake will do. I have to say that these particular energy balls are in the ‘deluxe’ category with their premium ingredients. I do however, also love the peanut butter energy balls on the Deliciously Ella website. The original recipe for these energy balls comes from: http://www.cookrepublic.com/pistachio-matcha-energy-snack-bliss-balls-cacao/

IMG_1506 (Edited)

Ingredients

75g raw cashew nuts

75g raw pistachios

8 Medjool dates, pitted (140g)

2 teaspoons matcha powder

¼ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

2 tablespoons desiccated coconut

pinch of salt

raw cacao powder (or cocoa powder) to dust (optional)

Directions

Place all ingredients (except cacao powder) in the small bowl of a food processor. 

Process to a coarse or fine consistency, based on preference.

Roll into balls. You can optionally roll the balls in cacao powder for a chocolate coating.

 Energy balls will keep in an air tight container in a cool part of your kitchen for up to 4 days.

IMG_1505 (Edited)

Rhubarb Friands

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I love rhubarb; I love its tartness and it’s just so pretty.  So now this season’s forced rhubarb is in the shops I’m extremely happy. It’s a sign that winter is coming to an end and there is hope! Of course, with the cold weather, a rhubarb and ginger crumble is a must, but I also wanted to make something lighter and prettier. I’ve used this recipe many times now with different fruit, (check out the plum and almond friands post, Plum and Almond Friands) it’s reliable and hasn’t let me down yet. The original recipe is from Waitrose Summer Harvest, 2015.

 

Ingredients

 

125g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

50g plain flour

115g icing sugar

75g ground almonds

4 medium egg whites

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 stick rhubarb, thinly sliced into strips to top the friands

icing sugar for dusting

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Directions

·    Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/ gas Mark 6.

·    Grease a 12-hole muffin tin with a little butter, then line the bases with circles of baking parchment.

·    Melt the butter.

·    Sift the flour and icing sugar into a bowl and add the ground almonds. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Stir the vanilla extract and melted butter into the flour mixture and mix to combine.

·    Using a large metal spoon, fold a quarter of the egg whites into the flour and butter mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remainder until it is just combined.

·    Divide the mixture into the holes in the tins. Arrange the rhubarb on the top and bake for 15-18 minutes. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then loosen the edges with a knife and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

·    Serve lightly dusted with icing sugar.

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Roasted Vegetable Lasagne

roasted-vegetable-lasagne-2

The weather is not getting any better so what better excuse is there for the ultimate comfort food, lasagne? This recipe was motivated not only by the freezing weather, but the contents of my food cupboard. You wouldn’t usually have sweet potato in a lasagne, but it really works!

 

Ingredients

3 red peppers

2 sweet potatoes

200g spinach

300g lasagne sheets

125g ball mozzarella, sliced or grated mozzarella

1x tablespoon Olive oil for roasting vegetables

Tomato Sauce

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 finely chopped onion

10 chopped black olives

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Handful of chopped basil leaves

 

White Sauce

85g butter

85g plain flour

750ml milk

roasted-vegetable-lasagne-1

Directions

 

  • Heat oven to 200C/180C fan /gas 5. Deseed the peppers, cut into quarters length ways. Cut the sweet potato length ways, 0.5cm thick. Lightly grease 2 large baking trays, then place peppers and sweet potatoes on top. Toss with the olive oil, season well, then roast for 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce by gently browning the onions and garlic. (in olive. When the onions have softened, add the chopped olives and season to taste. Add the tin of tomatoes and let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add the basil at the end.
  • Make the white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan, stir in the plain flour, then cook for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk and keep stirring until the milk boils. Allow to cool, but keep stirring and then the sauce should start to thicken.
  • Reduce oven to 180C/ 160C fan /gas 4. Lightly oil an ovenproof serving dish (30 x 20cm). Arrange a layer of the vegetables on the bottom, then pour over a third of the tomato sauce. Top with a layer of lasagne, then drizzle over a third of the white sauce. Repeat until you have 3 layers of pasta.
  • To finish, spoon remaining white sauce over the pasta, making sure the whole surface is covered.
  • Scatter mozzarella over the top. Bake for 45 mins until bubbling and golden.

 

roasted-vegetable-lasagne-3

 

Chocolate and Raspberry Cigarello Cake

mums-birthday-cake

For my glamorous mum’s 70th birthday, I had to make a cake as stunning as her. But it also had to be a cake that my brother and his family would like even with their very conservative food tastes, so no exotic flavour combos.  It also had to be a cake that I could take on the train from London to Newcastle. Not an easy brief.  

The recipe for this cake came from Lorraine Pascale, (http://www.foodnetwork.co.uk/recipes/i-cant-believe-you-made-cake.html) who also saved my life with my brother’s Malteser cake. For my mum’s cake, I incorporated raspberries into the layers as well as creme fraiche to cut through the sweetness of the chocolate butter cream which held the chocolate cigarellos in place. I bought the cigarellos and striped chocolate triangles online at http://www.chocolatetradingco.com

To decorate the top, I made the meringue kisses with freeze dried raspberries and the pale pink balls were strawberry filled truffles from Marks and Spencer. I also added extra-long birthday candles and three star shaped sparklers which set off the smoke alarm when we lit them. The cake was a huge success; mum really loved it.

mums-cake-2

 

Ingredients

200g butter, softened

200g caster sugar

4 eggs

140g plain flour

60g cocoa powder

pinch of salt

2 tsp baking powder

400g plain, milk or white chocolate cigarellos (about 75-80 in total) (I bought 2 boxes) 

For the buttercream

250g butter, softened

500g icing sugar

100g good dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), melted and slightly cooled

 

For the layers

1 large tub (600g) of creme fraiche

750g frozen raspberries (use fresh if you like)

For the decoration (optional)

Fresh flowers, fresh raspberries, raspberry meringue kisses, chocolate strawberry filled truffles, painted chocolate triangles

mums-cake-3

·        Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/ Gas Mark 4. Line the 20cm round deep cake tin with baking paper and brush or spray with oil.

·        Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until they begin to go pale.

·        Add half the eggs and half the flour and mix well. Add the rest of the eggs, flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder and beat for a minute or two until the mixture is uniform.

·        Dollop into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

·        Meanwhile, make the buttercream.

·        Put the butter and icing sugar into a bowl and whisk together until the mixture begins to go fluffy. Add the cooled, melted chocolate and whisk for a further 2 minutes.

·        Once the cake is completely cool, remove from the tin. Carefully cut the top flat with a large serrated knife, then turn the cake upside down on a 20cm cake board so that the bottom now becomes a nice flat top.

·        Split the cake horizontally and sandwich the top and bottom together with a layer of creme fraiche. Then place the defrosted raspberries on top, don’t worry if they get smashed up. Spread half the buttercream all over the top and sides of the cake, making it as smooth as possible.

·        Put it in the fridge to set before spreading a final layer with the remaining butter cream. This makes it easier to get a smooth, crumb-free finish.

·        Gently push the cigarellos vertically onto the sides of the cake, positioning them as straight as possible and making sure they touch the bottom.

·        Then decorate the as you like!

 

 

 

Gingerbread and Cranberry Linzer Cookies

gingerbread-and-cranberry-linzer-2

I made these for exam marking, trust me, nobody’s favourite time of year! Obviously, this called for some festive cheer to get us through the hundreds of exam papers we needed to mark. I decided to make a variation on the Austrian Linzer Torte which is characterised by almonds and preserves. This gingerbread cookie is also made from almonds and the preserve is a very festive cranberry and orange combination.  The Linzer cookies went down well and we are already half way through the marking. I found this recipe on:  http://www.wholebiteblog.com/new-blog/2016/11/22/gingerbread-cranberry-linzer-cookies

 

Ingredients  (Makes 2 dozen)

75g whole almonds

85g cup dark brown sugar

225g unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 tablespoons molasses (I used black treacle)

350g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

    1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

For the Filling

85g soft brown sugar

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Zest of one orange

gingerbread-and-cranberry-linzer

 Instructions 

Toast almonds in a small dry pan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, until they turn golden brown and smell nutty. Rub the nuts in a kitchen towel to remove any loose skins, then transfer to a food processor. 

Pulse the almonds and half the brown sugar in a food processor until finely ground and sandy. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and remaining brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the nut mixture and beat 1 minute longer. Scrape down the bowl and beat in the treacle and vanilla. Scrape one more time and add the egg. Mix until fully combined. 

Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, whisking to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and mix on low until just combined. Form the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cranberries, brown sugar, orange juice and zest in a saucepan over a low heat. Cook and stir for 3 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally until the berries have burst and the mixture has thickened, 8-10 minutes. Be sure to scrape the bottom as you stir to prevent from sticking and burning. Let the filling cool completely

Preheat oven to 190/180/Gas 5. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or non-stick baking mats. Roll out the chilled dough on a well floured surface to between 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out as many cookies as you can and transfer to the prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch of space between each. Using a smaller cutter, cut our the centre of half of the cookies. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Reroll the remaining dough and repeat the process. If you want more of a biscuit texture, bake for longer.

Once the cookies are cooled, spread a spoonful of jam on the bottom side of a whole cookie. Sandwich together with a cut out cookie. Make sure not to add too much jam or it will ooze out the sides. About 1 teaspoon in the centre should do the trick. Repeat with remaining cookies. 

gingerbread-and-cranberry-linzer-cookies

 

Tangerine and Marzipan Muffins

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These muffins just scream Christmas to me, but of course in a very stylish and elegant way.  I love marzipan, but for those of you who don’t, the flavour is not overwhelming. Though I am also a fan of any of the small winter citrus fruits and always expect to find one in my Christmas stocking, I find oranges easier to work with both in terms of zesting and juicing. If I were to make these again, which I surely will, I’m going down the orange route! The original recipe can be found here: http://www.olivemagazine.com/recipes/tangerine-and-marzipan-muffins/

Ingredients

200g self-raising flour

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g ground almonds

75g golden caster sugar

60g flaked almonds

50g marzipan, chopped into small pieces

2 eggs beaten

150ml yogurt

4 tangerines, zested; 2 juiced or 1 large orange, juiced and zested

75ml rapeseed oil

icing sugar for the glaze

marzipan-and-tangerine-muffins-2

Directions

·         Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper muffin cases.

·         Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl, then stir in the ground almonds, sugar, flaked almonds and marzipan.

·         Add the beaten eggs, yogurt, tangerine zest and oil, and stir until the mixture is just combined. It doesn’t matter if the mixture looks a bit lumpy, don’t overmix or the muffins will turn out tough. 

·         Divide the mixture between the cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

·         Mix the tangerine juice with a little icing sugar to make a glaze and spoon a little over each muffin.

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