Jaffa cake… Cake

For those of you who have been following me for some time, you may remember a blog post from a little over a year ago in which I discussed the controversies surrounding the pronunciation of the word scone – and the additional arguments about the order in which the cream and jam should be applied. The thing about the scone debate is that, even though it still rages to this day, it has never made it into the court (as far as I am aware- please correct me if I am wrong). The same cannot be said for the Jaffa cake.

Jaffa cakes are a British snack created in 1927 by McVitie’s (originally McVitie and Price). They consist of a small cake layer and a thin circle of orange jam, topped with a layer of chocolate. Many supermarkets in the UK sell own brand Jaffa cakes as McVitie’s never trademarked the name and so, whilst the originals may still be the best-selling cake in England, you can find other varieties all over the place. I recently tried some similar style snacks from Poland some of which had raspberry jam and others blueberry.

The controversy surrounding Jaffa cakes arose because, in the UK, chocolate covered biscuits (for example: chocolate digestives and chocolate hobnobs) are taxed whilst chocolate covered cakes are not. The issue with Jaffa cakes was that they seemed to be created to avoid tax because they are eaten in the same manner and circumstance that you would eat a biscuit but are culinarily defined as a cake. It should be noted that McVitie’s have always classed them as a cake whereas HMRC wanted to class them as a biscuit to increase revenue from taxes which lead to the infamous court case.

The argument reached a climax in 1991 when it entered the court. There were many things taken into consideration before the final decision was given: Jaffa cakes are closer in size to a biscuit than a cake; they are advertised and packaged in the same manner as biscuits; they are displayed in the biscuit aisle of supermarkets and not with the other cakes; the batter for the “cake” contains egg, sugar and flour – it is a genoise sponge – and is closer to cake batter than biscuit dough; when they go stale, Jaffa cakes harden like stale cake and do not soften like a stale biscuit; the texture of a Jaffa cake is soft like a cake whereas biscuits are hard and can be snapped; and of course the product is literally called “Jaffa cakes” not “Jaffa biscuits”. The judge noted this final point and all but dismissed it saying that it was only a minor consideration. I still can’t make up my mind on which side of the debate I think the Jaffa cake falls but I definitely do eat them like a biscuit – then again I would never dunk one in my tea!

The cake in the recipe below is a Jaffa cake inspired cake. It is not meant to be recreating one but it should be reminiscent of a Jaffa cake. To that end, the top is designed to have the same shape as a Jaffa cake with the cake, jam and chocolate layers but it has been scaled up a bit. I would also recommend spreading the marmalade layer at the top of each piece over the rest of the slice unless you particularly enjoy eating a mouthful of marmalade (I don’t judge… peanut butter and Nutella are very eatable with a spoon…). The chocolate ganache replaces the actual chocolate on a real Jaffa cake because if you scaled up and had a proper chocolate layer, the cake would be uncuttable. It would be a messy nightmare waiting to happen.

I chose to set the jam with pectin for this as I find that vege-gel has a bizarre flavour and both real and vegetarian jelly are kind of wet meaning buttercream won’t stick. Frozen pectin set marmalade, on the other hand, adheres to the buttercream really well and gives a fantastic shape to the final cake.

I hope you like the recipe.

 

 

Jaffa Cake Cake

Cook time: 35 minutes

Total work time: 2 ½ hours

Setting time: as long as possible (overnight if you can)

 

Jelly:

1 jar of thick marmalade

Or

1 jar runny marmalade and 1 sachet pectin

 

For the cake:

335g (12oz). butter

335g (12oz.) sugar

6 eggs

335g (12oz.) self-raising flour OR plain flour with 1tbsp baking powder

Zest of two oranges

 

Buttercream:

Just to fill between the layers:

200g (7oz.) room temperature unsalted butter

300g (10 ½ oz.) icing sugar

25g (1oz.) cocoa

1 tbsp milk

 

Total coverage:

450g (16oz.) room temperature unsalted butter

700g (25oz.) icing sugar

50g (2oz.) cocoa

2 tbsp milk

 

Syrup (optional)

Juice of 2 oranges

75g sugar

50ml triple sec or other orange liqueur

 

Ganache:

Just the top:

100g dark chocolate

100ml double cream

 

Full coverage:

400g dark chocolate

500ml double cream

 

 

For the jam layer:

If using thick marmalade:

Line a six-inch cake tin with cling film and spoon the marmalade in.

Place in the freezer.

 

If using runny marmalade:

Line a six-inch cake tin with clingfilm.

In a pan, heat the marmalade until it has mostly melted but is not yet boiling.

In a separate pan, whisk the pectin into 60ml (1/4 cup) cold water. You may need to use a blender to get rid of all the lumps.

Heat the pectin water until it begins to slacken up.

Pour the pectin water into the marmalade and whisk it all together.

Heat the marmalade until It is boiling and allow to boil for one minute.

Turn the heat off and pour the marmalade into the tin.

Allow to set for an hour at room temperature before moving to the freezer.

 

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 (170°C).

Grease three eight-inch cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the orange zest and beat again.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until the egg is fully incorporated. If the mixture looks like it is about to split, add a tablespoon of flour to bring it back together. If your eggs and butter are at room temperature, the mixture should not split at all.

Once all of the eggs have been added, beat in the flour in three additions.

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Split the batter evenly between the tins, level it and bake the cakes for about 35 minutes or until they are golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

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Allow to cool in the tins for five minutes before transferring the cakes to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

 

Optional: To make the syrup

Pour the sugar and juice into a pan.

Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for one minute.

Remove from the heat, stir through the triple sec and allow to cool.

 

To make the buttercream:

Beat the butter in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until it is light and fluffy.

Add half of the sugar and beat until fully combined.

Add the rest of the sugar and the cocoa and beat again.

If the icing is very thick, add the milk and beat again to combine. This should result in a fluffy, soft icing which can be easily spread.

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To assemble the cake:

Level the cake layers and lay the first on an eight-inch cake board.

Use a pastry brush to brush syrup all over the top of the cake.

Spread a layer of buttercream on the cake.

Add another layer of cake and repeat until all the layers have been stacked and covered in buttercream.

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If you are covering the entire cake, remove some of the buttercream for later and use the rest to create a layer of icing down the sides of the cake. And over the top.

You do not need to crumb coat as the entire cake will be covered in ganache so this layer will not be seen.

 

Remove the marmalade from the freezer, place it in the centre of the cake and cover in the remaining buttercream smoothing over the edges so the top is reminiscent of a jaffa cake.

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Place the cake in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up the buttercream.

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For the ganache:

Chop the chocolate and place it into a large bowl.

Heat the cream until almost boiling (but don’t let it boil) and pour it over the chocolate.

Allow to stand for two minutes and stir together.

 

If you are only ganaching the top, gently pour the ganache over the centre and work outwards being careful not to let it flow over the edges of the cake. You can use an inverted cooling rack to get the lines across the top which a real Jaffa cake has in the chocolate.

If you are ganaching the entire cake, place the cake (on its board) on a cup or jar to raise it off the surface so the ganache can drip down the cake and off the sides. I like to do this over a baking tray so the excess ganache can be collected and used at a later date.

Pour the ganache in the centre of the cake and spiral outwards making sure to pour it so the ganache flows down the side of the cake and coats it evenly.

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Allow the ganache to set for half an hour and then transfer the cake to a serving board. You can decorate the cake as you wish now. I like to do something to cover up the ragged edge around the base – this can be piping excess buttercream in a border or covering the base of the cake in mini decorations.

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I would suggest when you serve this that people spread the marmalade in their slice over the whole cake and don’t just eat it as a separate layer but that’s just how I would eat this cake – you may know people who are happy to eat marmalade by itself.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you a fan of the fruit and chocolate combination, you should definitely check out my Chocolate and Raspberry Layer Cake or maybe my White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious soup.

H

Chocolate Ring Biscuits

Whenever someone brings in a Fox’s biscuit selection (other biscuit selections are available), the first ones to go are the chocolatey ring biscuits. The other biscuits are nice but there is something about shortbread with an obscenely thick layer of chocolate that just can’t be beaten for most people. The recipe below is my take on these biscuits. The chocolate layer isn’t quite as thick but you are welcome to double up to a kilo of chocolate and double dip the biscuits if you want them to be ultra-chocolatey.

As the chocolate is being used to coat the outside of the biscuit, and thus will be handled when the biscuit is eaten, it is important to make sure that it is well tempered. Tempering is a process where you control the crystal structure which forms when the cocoa butter in chocolate cools. This is why compound chocolate doesn’t need tempering… there is no cocoa butter in it, they use other fats instead! But real chocolate, with cocoa butter, has a far nicer taste and mouth feel, so to get the best results we must temper the chocolate. This involves melting the chocolate, cooling to a specific temperature and then warming it slightly before it is used.

Cocoa butter has six crystal stages which are arranged by the temperature at which they form: I, II, III, IV, V and VI. This ability to exist in multiple different crystalline structures, as exhibited by cocoa butter, is known as polymorphism and this polymorphic property is what can make or break your chocolate work. When you buy chocolate it has already been tempered and it is packed solid with type V crystals – the tempering not only gives the chocolate a satisfying snap when you break it but also is what keeps it solid at room temperature. Crystal types IV and lower melt well below 27°C, well below body temperature meaning that your chocolate will be soft at room temperature or immediately melt all over the hands of anyone who tries to touch in. In contrast, type V crystals melt just below body temperature (33°C) meaning that your fingertips will not melt it when you pick up the chocolate as they are slightly cooler than your internal temperature but when you put the chocolate in your mouth, it will begin to melt.

The issue is that when you melt chocolate so it can be used for covering the biscuits, you destroy the temper, that is to say that the heating melts the type V crystals which the manufacturer formed in the chocolate. Because of this, you must make sure to heat the chocolate well above the type VI melting point (36-37°C) so that there are no “bad” crystals and you can start the process of forming the chocolate from an unadulterated mixture. While the type VI crystals are solid at room temperature, their melting point is too close to body temperature so they don’t melt in the mouth as nicely as type V. The addition of unmelted chocolate cools the mixture as the unmelted chocolate not only must be warmed to the same temperature as its surroundings but will take in latent heat so that it can also melt. This rapid cooling, whilst also agitating the mixture by stirring, prevents the formation of type VI crystals. The reason we continue to slowly cool the chocolate down to around 28°C is to make sure that it is close to the type V crystal formation temperature. It is then warmed just a little bit to melt any type IV crystals that could have formed, slackening the mixture in the process, and making the chocolate perfect for dipping.

You will notice when you temper chocolate that as you approach the correct temperature, the chocolate becomes a lot more viscous. This is a good indicator that you are almost ready to dip. It will also mean that you get a thicker layer of chocolate on your biscuit and that is always a good thing.

Chocolate Ring Biscuits

Prep time: 1 hour

Cook time: 18 mins

Dipping time: over an hour

Makes around 35-40 biscuits

Ingredients

11 oz. (310g) plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

7oz. (200g) butter

4 oz. (110g) sugar

2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla extract

To cover:

500g dark or milk chocolate (you will need to temper this if it is real chocolate).

50g white chocolate for decorations.

To make the biscuits:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (180°C).

Place the butter and flour into a food processor and blend until the mixture resembles sand (this is like rubbing the butter into the flour – which also works – but is more effective as you don’t introduce heat from your hands).

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Add the sugar and salt and blend again until fully combined.

Pour in the vanilla extract and add the egg yolks. Blend again until everything appears homogenous.

The mixture should feel slightly sticky.

Pour the contents of the blender onto a surface. Use you hands to squeeze all of the bits together and continue to compress until the dough comes together but try to avoid kneading the dough too much so you don’t get too much gluten forming – a little is fine as you need the gluten to hold the biscuits together when you dip them.

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Lightly flour the dough and roll out to ¼ inch (about 1/2cm) thickness.

Use a two-inch cutter to cut as many rounds out of the dough as you can.

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You can bake the biscuits as they are at the moment (circles) but you will get fewer than 40.

To make the rings, use a cutter just smaller than half an inch (about a centimetre) to cut a circle in the centre of each of the larger circles. I found that the cap from a bottle of whisky was best for this as I didn’t have a proper sized cutter.

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Place the rings on a tray lined with baking parchment – leave about an inch between each biscuit.

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Place the rings on a tray lined with baking parchment – leave about an inch between each biscuit.
Let the biscuits rest in the fridge for ten minutes to firm up.

Bake for 18 minutes – or until the biscuits start turning golden around the edge.

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When the biscuits are cooked, transfer them to a wire rack to cool and leave until completely cold.

If you are using compound chocolate, ignore the tempering instructions. Just skip to the dipping stage.

Tempering the chocolate

Chop up two thirds of the chocolate and place it into a large bowl.

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Roughly chop the remaining chocolate and place in a smaller bowl and off to one side for later.

Fill the base of a saucepan with water and place the big bowl of chocolate over the top.

Heat the water until it is just simmering – don’t let it properly boil – whilst occasionally stirring the chocolate in the bowl until it melts. Don’t stir to vigorously (it’s just unnecessary).

Continue to heat the chocolate until it has reached 55°C for dark chocolate or 45°C for milk chocolate. If you do not have a thermometer, dip your finger in and the chocolate should be uncomfortably warm. If you do have a thermometer, you can still dip your finger for an excuse to eat some of the melted chocolate – I would. PSA: remember to wash your finger between dips

Remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the heat.

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Tip the contents of the smaller bowl (the unmelted chocolate) into the melted chocolate and gently stir. This will bring the temperature of the chocolate down whilst also introducing the desired V crystals into the mixture. These V crystals from the unmelted chocolate will help seed the formation of more of them in the melted chocolate as it cools.

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Continue to stir the chocolate until it reaches about 29°C for dark chocolate or 27°C for milk chocolate. This will feel cool to the touch. If you dip a spoon in the chocolate and place it in the fridge, the chocolate should harden very quickly to a semi-shiny state on the back of the spoon.

Place the chocolate back over the heat until it reaches 31°C for dark or 29°C for milk. If you don’t have a thermometer, heat it gently for about 45 seconds to a minute. This will slacken the chocolate a little making it easier to work with.

Remove the chocolate from the heat again.

The Dipping

Set up a dipping station with the biscuits on one side of the bowl of chocolate and a lined baking sheet on the other.

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Use a fork to place a biscuit into the chocolate and make sure it is just covered.

Lift the biscuit out and gently tap the fork on the side of the bowl a few times to let the chocolate drip off.

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Place the biscuit on baking parchment and repeat with the rest.

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For the white chocolate decoration, melt the white chocolate in the microwave in fifteen second bursts stirring between each heating.

Pour the chocolate into a piping bag, make a tiny hole in the end and pipe lines of chocolate across the entire batch of biscuits. This will ensure that the biscuits have the same design but each one is unique.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. If you fancy trying some classic shortbread or alternatively, going the other way and making yourself some millionaire’s shortbread, you should definitely check out my recipes for them.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a super duper spicy recipe.

H

Tiramisu Swiss Roll

As I have said several times in the past, there is a bizarre mystique that surrounds many baked goods causing people to believe that they are too difficult to make at home. The swiss roll is one item which has been given this reputation by nefarious rumours but is far simpler than you may imagine. They are surprisingly sturdy and once rolled, can be wrapped up in clingfilm or parchment paper and moved easily from one place to another without having to worry about them losing their shape.

The Great British Bake Off has helped bring swiss rolls back into fashion like so many other baked goods. The classic questions which arise when making a swiss roll are: how to prevent it from cracking? How to get a tight roll? I will address these one at a time but the answers are intrinsically linked as what both boil down to is how the cake batter is mixed.

When it comes to preventing a swiss roll from cracking, each backer has their own method which they swear by. I have tried a couple of different methods and will give you my opinion on them, but please remember that everyone has their own way and I can only judge the techniques from the results that I have had. There first of three main methods that I have encountered regarding the prevention of cracking is the pre-roll. This involves rolling up the cake while it is still hot and very soft. You let the cake cool in the rolled position before unrolling it, applying the filling and then rerolling the cake. This is meant to cause the cake to ‘remember’ the rolled-up shape so when the filling has been added, it is easier to roll up again. I do not like this method and, truthfully, I have had the most disasters while using it. Why would you handle a fragile cake more than you need to? You are rolling/unrolling this cake three times more than if you wait for it to cool before filling and rolling. The second method involves cooling the cake flat, still in its tin, under a damp tea towel. The tea towel prevents too much of the steam from escaping but also stops it condensing and being reabsorbed into the cake leading to a soggy mess, as would happen if the cake were covered with a hard object. This method seems to work, but you may have to remoisten the tea towel if it dries out from the heat as you want to keep the cake in a humid environment.  The final method involves adding a little water to the recipe or simple syrup to the finished cake. The additional moisture in the cake gives it more flexibility allowing for a tighter roll as the cake can bend more without breaking.

If you want to get a tight roll, the easiest way to learn is by practice. Trying to avoid too much filling at the end of the cake where you start rolling is imperative, as if there is too much cream it will prevent the cake from folding over into a super tight swirl and you will end up with a cake more reminiscent of an arctic roll. The other thing to do is to make sure that you don’t underfold the mixture when you are adding the flour, if there is too much air left the cake will overinflate in the oven and will be too thick to roll properly – of course you must be careful not to overmix the batter and knock all the air out but, like I said before, practice is key.

Once you have mastered the swiss roll, you will see that it is a great last-minute cake as you can make the entire thing from start to finish in under an hour (assuming you aren’t trying anything ultra creative). The one given in the recipe is slightly more technically challenging because of the addition of the chocolate stripes but if you don’t feel like attempting them, you could always chop up some chocolate and sprinkle it over the filling before rolling to keep the chocolate flavour but avoid the faff of a second batter.

 

 

 

Tiramisu Swiss Roll

Time: around 2 hours

 

For the chocolate stripes:

50g butter

50g icing sugar

30g flour

20g cocoa

2 egg whites

 

For the coffee cake:

3 eggs

125g caster sugar

120g plain flour

2 tbsp instant coffee powder

1 tbsp tepid water

Pinch of salt

 

For the syrup:

100ml water

100g granulated sugar

½ tsp instant coffee

2 tbsp kahlua/tia maria/rum (optional)

 

For the Filling:

250g mascarpone

100ml double cream

50g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

 

 

Make the stripes:

Cream the butter and icing sugar in a bowl.

Mix in the egg whites until completely incorporated.

Mix through the flour and cocoa.

The mixture should be a spreadable paste. If it is very thick, add water ½ tsp at a time until the paste is a little thinner.

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Cut a piece of baking parchment the same size as the base of your swiss roll tin.

To decorate the outside of the cake you have a few options: you can pipe swirls etc across the sheet of parchment, you can cover the whole thing and use an icing scraper to scrape away sections to give perfect stripes or you can use Sellotape to cover areas of the paper to give you completely straight edges on your stripes when you have spread the chocolate mix over the gaps and then removed it.

Once you have decorated the paper, place it on a flat tray in the freezer for fifteen minutes to half an hour.

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While the design is hardening up in the freezer, butter the edge of your swiss roll tin, this will help you remove the cake later as they can stick rather spectacularly.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Sift the flour and coffee powder into a bowl and set aside.

Place the sugar and eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment fitted.

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Whisk until the mixture has turned light, foamy and thick – around seven minutes. It will not reach the same stability as pure egg whites, the mixture will still flow but will be absolutely full of air.

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Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in half of the flour mixture along with salt.

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When the first batch is mostly incorporated, add the remaining flour and fold it in.

Pour the water around the edge of the mixture in the bowl – if you pour it into the middle, it can deflate the mixture.

Fold the water through. This additional liquid will help give an even textured cake and prevent it from cracking when you roll the cake up.

Remove the parchment paper from the freezer and place it into the bottom of the swiss roll tin.

Pour the batter on top and gently spread it out. Be careful not to be too aggressive when spreading as you don’t want to disrupt the pattern on the base of the tin.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cake is just golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

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While the cake is baking, make the syrup.

Combine the water and sugar in a pan.

Bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.

Add the coffee and stir again.

Pour the syrup into jug and set aside to cool.

After it has cooled for ten minutes or so, add the alcohol of your choice.

The syrup should be no more than slightly warm to the touch when you use it.

 

Remove the cake from the oven.

Lay out a sheet of baking parchment, which is bigger than the cake, on a flat surface.

Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar, loosen the edges from the side of the tin.

Flip the cake out onto the baking parchment so the base with the design is now on top.

Gently peel off the parchment which is on the designed side of the cake.

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Cover the cake with a damp (but not wet) tea towel and leave to cool.

 

To prepare the filling, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and icing sugar until the mascarpone has softened.

Add the cream and mix again. The mixture will go very runny and then as the cream is beaten, it will thicken up again. Stop when the filling reaches a thick but spreadable consistency as you don’t want it to rip the cake apart when you add it.

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To assemble the cake:

Gently flip the cake onto a new piece of baking parchment so the patterned side is down.

Lightly brush the top of the cake with syrup. This will help prevent cracking.

Spread the filling across the top of the cake leaving a centimetre strip filling free along both short ends of the cake.

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Starting at one of the short sides, use the parchment to help fold the end of the cake up and over before rolling the cake up down its length. Make sure the seam is underneath the cake as the weight on top will prevent the cake unrolling.

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Trim the edges to neaten them up and transfer the cake onto a serving platter.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of swiss roll style cakes, why not try your hand at a chocolate log (they aren’t just for yule) or if you would like a slightly simpler tiramisu, check out my recipe here.

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a spicy beef dish which is great for dinner and as a cold lunch the next day too.

H

Chocolate Spider Cake

This cake makes a perfect, child-friendly dessert for a Halloween party. It’s not too in your face with the spiders but there are enough of them to make the cake look a little bit creepy. The cobwebs are also super fun to create which is always a bonus when baking. Hidden away beneath the spiders is a rich devil’s food cake sandwiched together with whipped cream. The cream cuts through the richness of the cake, helping to balance the flavour, and acts as a strong glue to keep the cake in one piece.

Devil’s food cake has been around for just over one hundred years. It is a variation of the red velvet cake and is generally distinguished from a classic chocolate cake by the addition of water as the primary liquid. This increase in water (and decrease in egg content) results in a very dense, rich, moist cake which I far prefer to a classic chocolate sponge cake, which can get very dry. The other main difference between a devil’s food cake and a classic chocolate cake is the addition of not only baking powder but also bicarbonate of soda. The raising of the pH by the bicarbonate of soda causes the cocoa to turn a far darker shade of brown, leading to the almost black appearance of the cake.

The decoration on this cake looks really cool but I would check with the people you are making it for because, although they are not real, the spiders on top can really upset some people. Arachnophobia is an interesting condition because it would have helped our ancestors to avoid contact with spiders – they knew that spiders were dangerous but didn’t know which ones could kill. It is interesting that such a small creature can pack such a powerful punch and it makes sense that a healthy fear of them keeps you alive longer. The thing about arachnophobia is that the extremeness of the fear is not healthy. Like all phobias, arachnophobia isn’t just having an aversion to arachnids, it is an overwhelming sense of fear and panic which is completely disproportional to the danger being posed. For some people, the sight of webs or a picture of a spider can cause heart palpitations, panic attacks or even fainting.

Spiders permeate many different cultures. From Arachne in ancient Greek mythology, to Anansi in African folklore, to Aragog from the Harry Potter series, spiders have woven their way into stories for thousands of years. They are usually representative of some sort of trickster god or betrayal – whether this came before the fear of spiders or after is a cause for debate – and rarely have positive connotations. It is interesting that such a small animal can have such a big effect on ancient stories and even how we act today.

Living in a country where you can almost guarantee that any spider you see will not be dangerous, I find it fascinating how strong a reaction some people can have to them. Even for people without a genuine phobia, the unease felt around spiders is what gives this cake its creepiness and what makes it perfect to serve up around Halloween.

 

Chocolate Spider Cake

75g cocoa

150g brown sugar

1 ½ cups (375ml) boiling water

180g unsalted butter

225g caster sugar

340g plain flour

¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¾ tsp baking powder

1 tbsp vanilla extract

3 eggs

 

For the filling and icing:

200g soft butter

300g sifted icing sugar

50g sifted cocoa

1 tbsp milk

300ml double cream

2 tsp vanilla

 

To decorate:

200g marshmallow

Small round chocolates (Halloween themed spheres and maltesers both work)

50g milk chocolate

 

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4.

Grease and line three eight-inch tins with butter, cocoa and baking parchment.

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Place the brown sugar and cocoa into a bowl together and pour over the hot water. Stir until combined.

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Cream the butter and caster sugar together in a bowl.

Add one egg and a spoon of flour and beat to combine.

Repeat with other eggs to mix them in.

Add the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder along with half of the remaining flour.

Turn the mixer onto slow to avoid covering the kitchen in a cloud of flour.

Once the flour has mostly mixed in, add the rest and beat again to combine.

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Finally, pour in the liquid chocolate from earlier and slowly mix together until you have a smooth, glossy, chocolaty batter.

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Divide this batter between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cakes have risen and a skewer inserted into the centre of each cake comes out clean.

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Turn the cakes out onto a wire cooling rack and leave until they are cold.

 

To make the icing, beat the butter with the whisk attachment on a stand mixer until it is soft and fluffy. Using a stand mixer is far easier than a hand held one but if you don’t have one, any electric set of beaters will do!

Add half of the icing sugar and beat slowly until the sugar has been mixed in. Then increase the speed of the mixer and beat the icing for another minute.

Repeat the above step with the cocoa and then with the remaining icing sugar.

Tip in the milk and beat the icing for another five minutes to make it ultra fluffy.

Once the icing is done, add the vanilla to the cream and beat until the cream just reaches hard peaks. Make sure not to overwhip it or you will end up with butter!

 

To assemble the cake:

Level each layer of cake – it doesn’t have to be perfect as you can bulk out small dips with extra cream and icing (no one will mind).

Place the bottom layer on a cake board and pipe a circle of icing around the edge. Fill the centre with the cream.

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Add the next layer and pipe more icing onto it before filling the centre with cream.

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Finally, place the top layer onto the cake and cover the cake with the remaining icing. There should be enough to give a thin layer of icing on the top and the sides of the cake – you will still be able to see the cake layers through the side of the icing. If you want a completely opaque layer around the outside, multiply the icing recipe by 1.5 and make the layer around the cake much thicker.

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Place the cake into a fridge for at least half an hour to set the icing.

 

To decorate the cake:

Melt the chocolate.

On a sheet of baking parchment, pipe lots of little chevrons about 1cm tall and 1.5-2cm wide. These will become the legs of the spiders so make sure to pipe at least 9 per spider so you have a spare for when one of them inevitably snaps. Put these in the fridge to set.

Cut the base off each chocolate sphere (about ¼ of the way up the sphere)

 

Once the cake has been sufficiently chilled, you can make the webs.

Pour the marshmallows into a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds.

Stir them and microwave again until all of the marshmallows have melted. You may want to stop heating when there are a few lumps left as these will melt if you stir the mixture.

Continue to stir the marshmallow for three or four minutes until it becomes super stringy.

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Pick up a blob and use all of your fingers (wash your hands first!) to stretch it out into a white sheet or a large number of strings. Wrap this around the cake and continue to wrap the strings or marshmallow around the outside until they snap.

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Continue to add layers of cobwebs to your cake until you are happy with the appearance. You want to still see the icing underneath as it gives a good contrast. (Wash your hands again to remove residual stickiness!)

 

Use the stickiness of the marshmallow to stick the balls of chocolate all over the cake and add eight legs to each of them. Pipe a small head at one end of each spider.

For added colour, brush a tiny amount of lustre dust over the back of each spider.

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This cake looks really cool and is perfect to serve up on Halloween for a party or just to an arachnologist at any point of the year. It can look super creepy and with multiple layers of cobweb, the 3D effect stops the cake looking too flat and boring.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are looking for another Halloween recipe, check out my amazing brain cake – it’s super gory but looks really cool! Of course, if you want something a little bit more tame, why not treat yourself to a wonderful coffee and walnut cake – or even a lemon drizzle cake!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious lunch which is as good cold as it is hot.

H

Chocolate and Hazelnut Tart

In the words of RENT, “525,600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?” One way for me has been this blog. With the 52nd recipe provided in this post, I have reached the end of my first year as a blogger. I will admit that there have been times when I have seriously considered giving up – there are few things more demoralising than realising at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon that I have to cook and write a post before heading out to orchestra rehearsals. However, even with all those struggles, it has been incredibly rewarding.

A couple of times this year, I have been chatting to someone and they will drop into conversation that they read my blog and have tried out a recipe or two – occasionally they even send a photo – and it is very satisfying to know that people are enjoying this. I had been thinking about starting thatcookingthing for a good two years before it became a reality and one of my main concerns was that no one would read it, so knowing that some people are reading the weekly posts and interacting with me is especially exciting. One of my main motivations to start writing was the decision that I want to go into media production. I will be starting a Masters course in Science Media Production in a couple of months and although this clearly isn’t a science blog, you may have noticed my passion for science slipping into the introduction to the recipe every now and then.

I wanted to finish this year with a bit of a showstopper. I know tarts are not very tall but they are definitely some of the most beautiful foods around. They are incredibly versatile – I have only given recipes for sweet tarts on here however I am partial to a caramelised onion and goats cheese tart or even a garlic tart when I don’t want any contact with people for the next week. The chocolate tart recipe below gives a crisp, slightly nutty pastry filled with a smooth, silky chocolate filling and topped with a gorgeous shiny glaze. The glucose in the glaze is what give it the lustre – rather like in a mirror glaze – so is an vital ingredient. This tart is beautiful to look at and tastes absolutely divine!

 

Hazelnut and Chocolate Tart

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Serves: 12

 

For the pastry:

100g hazelnuts (75g for the pastry and 25g for decoration)

200g flour

100g butter

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 egg yolk

2 tbsp iced water

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

For the filling:

170g dark chocolate

85g sugar

115g butter

80ml water (1/3 cup)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

3 eggs

 

 

For the glaze (optional):

2 tbsp glucose syrup

50g chocolate

25g butter

50ml boiling water

 

To prepare the hazelnuts:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4).

Place the hazelnuts onto a baking sheet in a single layer and toast for fifteen minutes, stirring every five.

Remove the hazelnuts from the oven. If they were already blanched and have had their skin removed, leave them to cool and skip to the pastry making step.

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If the hazelnuts still have their skins on, pour them onto a tea towel and wrap them up in it – it is easiest to do this by lining a bowl with the towel and then pouring the hazelnuts into the bowl.

Let them steam for a minute  and then massage the tea towel with the hazelnuts still inside. The steamy environment created by wrapping up the nuts will loosen the skins and rubbing them together will cause the skins to flake off.

Once the majority of the skins have come off, remove the nuts from the towel and leave them to cool.

 

To make the pastry:

Once your hazelnuts are cool, place them into a food processor and coarsely grind them. Measure out 75g and place it back into the food processor whilst keeping the last 25g for later.

Add the flour to the food processor and blitz it for around 30 seconds to grind up the last bits of the nuts to make sure the pastry is smooth.

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Cube the butter and add it to the processor. Pulse this until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the sugar and pulse to combine.

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Place the egg, water and vanilla into the processor and mix until the dough starts to come together.

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When the dough becomes sticky, pour it out onto a surface and squeeze it together with your hands to form a ball. Wrap this in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

 

Roll out the pastry to a couple of millimetres and drape it into a nine to ten inch flan tin.

Press it into the edges of the tin and trim off the excess pastry.

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If you have excess pastry, just make some mini tarts too!

Prick the base all over with a fork and place the tin back into the fridge for around ten minutes. This will help prevent the pastry shrinking too much in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (gas mark 5) while the tart case is resting.

Line the inside of the tart tin with baking parchment or foil and pour in baking beads to weigh down the pastry in the oven. If you don’t have baking beads, rice or lentils also work but you cannot use them for normal cooking after this.

Bake the tart for fifteen minutes.

Remove the baking beads and bake for a further 5 minutes to help dry the inside.

After five minutes, reduce the oven to 150°C (gas mark 2).

 

 

Once you have removed the baking beads, start to make the filling.

Heat the water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan until it is boiling.

Break the chocolate into a bowl and pour the water and butter mix over it.

Leave the mix for two or three minutes for the chocolate to melt, add the vanilla and stir together to create a smooth water ganache.

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Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl to break down their structure and then whisk them into the chocolate mix. It may thicken up and go a little gelatinous but keep beating it and it will smooth out again.

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Remove the tart tin from the oven and pour in the filling. Make sure there is enough room on top of the tart to add the glaze later.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes (at the lower temperature) until the tart is set about three inches from the edge but the centre is still a little wobbly. This is good as the residual heat will cook the centre of the tart.

Remove the tart from the oven and leave to cool.

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If you wish to add a glaze, place the tart in the fridge for at least an hour so it is fully set.

Heat the glucose, butter and water in a pan until it is boiling.

Chop the chocolate into smallish chunks and place into a bowl. This is because you are only making a little glaze so it will lose heat quickly and you want to melt the chocolate with the hot water.

Pour the liquid over the chocolate and leave for two minutes for the chocolate to melt.

Whisk the glaze together. If it is very thick, add a tablespoon of boiling water to help thin it down again. The glaze should be able to flow so it can be spread over the top of the tart.

Remove the tart from the fridge and pour the glaze onto it through a fine mesh sieve. This will remove any air bubble from the glaze giving the tart a completely flat top.

Tilt the tart to ensure the glaze fully covers the top and then leave it on a flat surface to set.

Use the hazelnuts set aside earlier to decorate the tart. You can also use raspberries, strawberries or any fruit of your choice!

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You can serve this with cream to cut through the chocolate but I like it just as a slice of tart on a plate.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe! Let me know if you have a go making it yourself – obviously you can just use normal shortcrust if you don’t like nuts and the glaze is another optional extra but I love to know how my recipes turn out for you guys! If you like this, then you are sure to love my quadruple chocolate and salted caramel tart too. If you are looking for something a little bit more on the savoury side, you should check out my recipe for a delicious salmon curry. It’s packed full of flavour and is incredibly fast and easy to make.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a meatball recipe which not only tastes great but keeps really well and can be batch cooked and frozen.

H

Choux Pastry

A common misconception in baking is that it is difficult to make profiteroles or éclairs. This stems from the use of choux pastry as the base of these delicious goodies. Choux is famously finickity and problematic to bake but this is just not true. As long as you follow the recipe, it should work every time!

Unlike most other baked goods, no specific raising agent is used in choux pastry, rather the high moisture content results in a lot of steam being created in the oven which inflates the pastry as it cooks. The reason the flour is added to boiling water when creating the paste is that it starts to cook and the bursting of the starch granules traps even more water which helps the paste to rise in the oven. This leads to a very light shell which is hollow inside and ready to be filled with all the yummy things that we love to eat – cream, chocolate, caramel.

Once cooked, choux buns are surprisingly sturdy and can be stacked up leading to desserts like the stunning croquembouche. These are giant towers of choux filled with crème anglaise or Chantilly cream and held together by melted sugar. They are adorned with webs of spun sugar, glazed almonds and edible flowers and are really something to behold. Much as they are fun to make, I would recommend becoming more familiar with baking choux before you attempt one!

Although associated with French cuisine, the man who allegedly invented choux pastry came from Florence. He worked for Catherine de Medici and left Florence with her when she travelled to France to marry the Duke of Orleans (who later became King Henry II of France). Originally called pâte à Panterelli after its creator, the pastry had several incarnations before arriving at the pâte à Choux we know today. It is called this because of the resemblance of the cooked buns to cabbages (and choux is the French word for cabbage).

I am a massive fan of choux pastry. I first made it a seven or eight years ago and in 2011 (when I was fifteen) made my first croquembouche. Looking back, it was quite an achievement that I came out of that with only a minor burn from the melted sugar so if you do try this yourself, please be very, very careful. Having said that, I made one three years ago in a house where the power failed and I was assembling it by torch light as the sun set because I’m stubborn and don’t learn from my mistakes. Luckily I survived that one unscathed but hopefully when you try making choux pastry, it will be a little less eventful!

 

 

Choux Pastry

 

Ingredients:

100g strong white flour

75g butter

3 eggs

1 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (2100C).

 

Line two large baking trays with parchment paper.

Sift the flour onto a piece of baking parchment.

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Heat 150ml water in a pan with the butter, sugar and salt until the butter is melted and the mixture is boiling.

Once the mix comes to the boil, pour in the flour and beat the mixture over the heat until it starts to form a ball and come away from the sides of the pan – it will look very lumpy and curdled at the start but I promise it will come together.

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Once the paste starts to come away from the sides of the pan, continue to cook it – still beating it – for another minute.

Pour the mix into the flour bowl from earlier (so fewer things are made dirty) and leave the ball to cool for five or ten minutes. You can speed this up by spreading it up the sides of the bowl.

Although you can do the next stage by hand, its far faster to use an electric beater. Add the eggs one at a time – it is fine if the flour mix is still a little warm at this point.

After you have added the eggs, you should have a smooth, glossy, sticky paste.

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Choux paste before the addition of eggs (top left) and after each of the eggs has been added

 

For profiteroles, pipe into circles an inch and a half across (or just dollop it onto the tray if you can’t be bothered with all the posh stuff. If any of the profiteroles have a tip on top from the piping bag, use a damp finger to flatten it out to prevent the tips from burning.

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For éclairs, pipe lines of paste four inches long onto the paper. Remember that they will expand a lot in the oven so space them out by an inch or so!

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For gougères, add some grated cheese to the mix and then treat as you would for profiteroles.

 

Sprinkle the tray with water (not the pastry) and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Try not to open the oven until this time as it will result in the choux deflating before it is finished cooking.

Check that the choux has puffed up, is golden and hard when you take them out of the oven. If not all the puffs are cooked, rotate the tray and give them another few minutes.

Once you remove the pastry from the oven, use a sharp knife to make a small hole in the bottom of each one and place them upside down to let the steam escape.

You can also place them hole side up in the oven for another minute to help dry them out (this is particularly useful when making a croquembouche as the choux buns have to be sturdy.)

 

Gougères are served plain or can be filled with mushroom duxelle (see my beef wellington recipe), or meats like beef, ham or pate.

 

For éclairs and profiteroles,

Filling:

400ml double cream

4 tbsp icing sugar

Vanilla (½ tsp vanilla paste or 1 tbsp vanilla extract)

 

For the ganache:

200ml double cream

250g dark chocolate (chopped)

 

For the filling, whip up the double cream with the sugar and vanilla to just lest than stiff peaks.

Pipe a generous amount through the hole in the bottom of each profiterole/éclair until they feel heavier and start to bulge.

 

For the ganache, heat the rest of the cream until just before boiling and pour it over the chocolate.

Leave for two minutes and then stir until the chocolate has melted and combines to make a glossy ganache.

Dip the top of each profiterole or éclair into the ganache and place onto a tray to set.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. If you fancy a nice comforting main, check out my recipe for Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne or for another chocolatey dessert, why not make yourself some melt in the middle chocolate fondants?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious stir fry recipe.

H

Chocolate Fondants

A hot, gooey chocolate fondant is one of the most indulgent ways to end a meal and, like many baked goods, they are not as hard to make as most people think. There is something exciting about cutting into a cakey looking dessert only to have a chocolatey soup pour out ready to act as a sauce to the rest of the pudding.

Although fondants and lava cakes are relatively recent desserts in the grand scheme of things, appearing in the last 50 years unlike cakes and cheesecakes which are hundreds of years old, they have become incredibly successful. Many high-end restaurants serve them and they are a staple in the home bakers’ repertoire. They can be flavoured with fruit, coffee, caramel and all manner of different things so you can mix and match to make them perfect for you.

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Fondants, unlike lava cakes, are made by creaming butter and sugar before adding the eggs and flour and finally stirring in the chocolate. The high chocolate levels and low amount of flour make them dense and fudgy with a melt in the mouth texture. Perfectly cooked fondants will still ooze when they are cut but the centre is thick and viscous and incredibly rich. On the other hand, lava cakes are made by whipping eggs and sugar until thick before folding in melted chocolate and butter and finally the flour. This whipping gives the cake surrounding the centre a light and airy texture and the high butter content means the centre is super runny and flows out of the dessert when it is cut.

Lava cakes and fondants are ideal desserts for entertaining as they can be made up to two days in advance and stored in the fridge until needed when they can be whipped out and shoved into the oven just prior to serving. Even better is that as a result of the refrigeration, it takes far longer for the centres to set so you are much more likely to get the runny centre you desire which looks so impressive on the plate.

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This fondant has a salted caramel sauce and some double cream to cut through the richness of the chocolate

Perfecting the chocolate fondant is a matter of trial and error. If they split when you turn them out of their ramekins, try cooking them for a little longer and if they are solid all the way through, reduce the cooking time a bit. The hard part comes if they start to burn during baking as can happen in some ovens with white chocolate and green tea desserts. The best way to avoid this is to place a little foil over the top of the fondant but it must be loose to allow the dessert to rise in the oven! Using a combination of these  changes will allow you to get to know your oven’s preferred baking requirements for fondants and lava cakes.

These are so easy to whip up in a hurry – it only takes ten minutes and then the oven does the rest of the work. They are a personal favourite of mine and hopefully will become one of yours too!

 

 

Chocolate Fondants

Makes 3 cakes

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 12 minutes

 

180g dark/white chocolate

25g butter

75g sugar

1 tsp Vanilla extract

2 eggs

30g plain flour

1 tsp matcha green tea (this is only for green tea fondants and you should use white chocolate for these)

 

Place a baking tray into the oven and preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200oC).

Line the base of three ramekins with small circles of baking parchment and butter and flour the sides.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave stirring every 20 seconds to prevent it from burning. Set this aside once it is done.

Cream the butter in a bowl and slowly add the sugar until they are combined.

Add the vanilla to the butter and sugar and beat again.

Add an egg and a tablespoon of the four and beat until everything has mixed together. Repeat with the other egg.

Add in the rest of the flour and beat together.

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(If you wish to make green tea fondants, add the matcha powder at this point and mix it through the rest of the batter)

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Pour in the slightly cooled chocolate and mix through – the chocolate should be a little cool to the touch but not have started to set.

Divide the batter between the ramekins.

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Bake for 12 minutes in the centre of the oven on the preheated tray. This will help ensure that the top of the fondants is fully cooked so they are less likely to split.

To turn them out onto a plate, run a knife around the inside edge of the ramekin. If the knife comes out with liquid filling, place the ramekin back into the oven for another two minutes. This is very important or the cake part with stick and the whole pudding will fall apart.

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I may have forgotten to loosen my green tea fondant from the ramekin before I tried to turn it out.

serve immediately with ice cream, double cream, salted caramel sauce or anything else of your choice – the possibilities are endless!

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I have discovered that to get the perfect melty centre, you need to make these a couple of times to get used to the oven as the cooking time can increase or decrease depending on the oven that you use.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you fancy making a slightly less rich chocolate dessert, have a look at my recipe for a raspberry and white chocolate tart or if you are in the mood for a delicious main course instead, why not make a Thai curry? They are creamy and spicy and perfect to keep you warm over a cold winter (or at any other time of the year for that matter).

Have a good one and I’ll be back next week with a yummy vegetarian lasagne recipe.

H