Finished iced and decorated chocolate lips cake

Luscious lips chocolate cake

Finished iced and decorated chocolate lips cake

Yes those are glittery lips!

If you hadn’t guessed by now, I love baking. I’m also somewhat of a chocolate fiend, so when looking for last minute birthday cake inspiration for one of my loveliest and closest friend’s birthdays, I turned to John Whaite’s beautiful book (again!).

John Whaite cook book chocolate cassis cake

The recipe and inspiration!

To make the cake taste extra special I used some Willie’s Cacao Rio Grande dark chocolate drops (for the 85g melted chocolate) and Divine cocoa powder.

chocolate lips cake ingredients

I’m a big fan of muscovado sugar in chocolate cakes as I think it gives it a nice fudgey note. I wasn’t sure about using butter, oil and eggs all together, but it definitely made for a really light sponge, with a nice crumbly texture.

chocolate lips cake mix stages

Cake mix stages – bottom left shows digital scales in action, one of my favourite Christmas gifts you can set it to zero in between each ingredient so you don’t have to use lots of bowls, jugs etc.

I didn’t have any blackcurrants lurking in the freezer, so I swapped these for raspberries. I cooked the raspberries in the amount of cassis John recommends stirring through the cream – or mascarpone in my case. Sweetened slightly with a few tablespoons of icing sugar, the cooled raspberry and cassis mixture was stirred in to create an utterly delicious and pretty pink filling.

Chocolate lips cake construction stages

1. Putting cassis syrup on the sponge 2. Raspberry and cassis mascarpone cream going in the middle 3. Second syrup soaked sponge on top, covered in dark chocolate buttercream and 4. Top of finished cake, covered in edible glitter.

The original recipe called for nothing more than the syrup on top, but I decided it needed glitter. And lips (we got her a Lulu Guiness purse – her work famously features lips!). This looks really pretty, but edible glitter is amazing at making something so simple look complex. All you need to do is dust your buttercream or frosting in the colour of your choosing, cut out a stencil and sprinkle the other glitter over this. Et voila! You have yourself one luscious lips cake.

This is easily one of my favourite cakes I’ve ever made. It’s simple to prepare and tastes absolutely amazing. I’ll definitely be making it again.

Advertisements

Chai infused fudge

Chai fudge…might be one of the best things I've ever made 🎉

A post shared by Sian Julian (@sianjulian) on

I do love fudge. Sweet, creamy, totally indulgent…what’s not to love. I really can’t believe it’s taken me till now, my 26th year, to attempt to make it! Especially as it’s relatively easy as sweet treats go.

I could’ve stuck with the purity of Nigella’s Vanilla Fudge recipe, which is the basis for this, but I wanted something more festive. Whenever I have a cup of chai it always reminds me of Christmas-time, no matter what time of year it is.

So, I thought ‘I wonder if chai fudge would work?’ I can assure you it does. I didn’t really know how to go about doing it so pretty much went on instinct, brewing the tea bags in milk and adding that to the mix…it worked out really well.

I kept some for myself, but the rest was distributed to other family members and friends who were very happy about the matter!

PS – this recipe is not just for Christmas, it would make a lovely birthday present or treat for when you fancy something sweet.

Recipe and method: Nigella’s Vanilla Fudge

For the chai flavouring

1) Measure out your milk (it doesn’t specify, but I used organic whole milk as semi or skimmed probably doesn’t have enough fat)

2) Pour into a heavy bottomed saucepan and gently heat until steaming hot, but don’t boil

3) Remove from the heat and pop in two chai tea bags; leave to brew for at least five minutes. You want it to release as much flavour as possible.

4) Leave to cool and use in the recipe as normal.

Top tips

Use a sugar thermometer if possible – I did use the ice bowl method too, but at least with a sugar thermometer you know it’s been cooked to the right temperature.

You could swap the milk for cream, and infuse that instead.

If you don’t have an electric hand whisk, I would suggest having someone on hand to help you beat…I did it for about 8 minutes with the electric whisk!

If chai isn’t your thing, then what about another tea? Earl Grey or redbush might be nice too.

Spiced choc cupcake

A spiced chocolate cupcake experiment

Spiced choc cupcake

I had an intense craving for dessert the other night, but nothing to hand. So I decided to raid the store cupboard (note – more like very messy baking cupboard) and see what I could come up with.

I had a pot of Green and Black’s cocoa powder, and as it’s the festive season I thought why not make a quick all-in-one spiced chocolate cake mix? So I did. And it was good. Although, I think it would benefit from some orange zest and milk chocolate chips (I didn’t have any!) next time. The addition of some melted dark Green and Black’s on the top was a very welcome bitter note, though perhaps too bitter for some!

I didn’t actually write the recipe down, but the method is simple…4-4-2-4. If in doubt, stick to this old classic ratio of ingredients 4 ounces each of butter, sugar and flour, plus two eggs. It works every time.

In this case 3oz flour plus 1oz cocoa – though you could do less or more, depending on your palate. Add spices to taste – I used 1tsp cinnamon, a squirt of nutmeg syrup, 1tsp vanilla essence and 1/2 tsp mixed spice.

I used the Mary Berry classic all-in-one method i.e. chuck it all in a bowl and beat with an electric whisk until smooth. I baked them for 12 minutes at 180.

Serve warm, straight out the oven with some extra melted chocolate and cream if you like.

Here’s a handy link to Nigella’s website for anyone looking for metric / cups equivalents

Upside down apple cake

Upside down apple cake

If you hadn’t guessed by now, I’m quite a fan of cakes and baking. One of my favourite writers is John Whaite, winner of the third Great British Bake Off. I loved his creations during the show and knew I’d want his book John Whaite Bakes as soon as it came out. It doesn’t disappoint – every recipe is beautiful and personal. You feel like John is talking to you over a cuppa, which is somewhat of a rarity.

Upside down apple cake

I’m clearly incapable of taking non-wonky pictures…

I’ve had my eye on this recipe – which has the lovely name ‘Golden heart cake’ – for a while now, but simply hadn’t got round to making it. Standardly, I started without checking I had everything required and took my typical approach of modifying the recipe to suit what I did have (I left out the cranberries)!

I also didn’t attempt to make the caramel lattice to go on the top; I’m not a huge fan of that kind of caramel, and after bodging the first lot which goes in the bottom of the baking tin, I frankly ran of patience. Butterscotch / caramel sauce is definitely more my domain – and I think next time I make this cake, I’ll make a separate sauce to pour on.

apple cake from above

you can see the caramel disaster as not all the apples are coated – still tasted divine though!

The essential things you need for this cake are: a heart-shaped baking tin and patience when making the caramel sauce. Otherwise, it’s a pretty foolproof recipe with delicious results. If you’re a fan of apple cake, then I highly recommend this.

Ingredients

For the fruit and caramel
200g caster sugar plus 2 tbsp water for the caramel
3 apples, peeled – slice two and dice one
Zest of 1 orange – 1/3 (the rest goes in the sponge mix)

For the sponge mixture
170g salted butter, softened
170g golden caster sugar
170g self raising flour3 eggs – important that your eggs are at room temperature
50ml milk
1tsp good quality vanilla extract
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp mixed spice
Zest of 1 orange – 2/3 (see above!)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp lemon juice

upside down apple cake close up

Method

1) Pre-heat your oven to 180 (mines a powerful fan oven so you may need to adjust accordingly!). Slice 2/3 of your apples and dice the rest to stir through your batter.

2) Make the caramel – a sugar thermometor might help you avoid a disaster! I think next time, I will stick to my normal tactic of scattering demerara sugar over the base of buttered tin before adding the slice fruit.

3) You could follow the recipe itself, or you could employ Mary Berry’s all-in-one approach which is what I did because I was in a rush. To do this, put all the ingredients bar the diced apple in a big mixing bowl and beat till combined using an electric hand mixer.

4) Pour the caramel into the buttered cake tin. Place the sliced apples on top, ensuring you cover the whole area (as you can see, I’m not the neatest at this!). Pour the batter over the top and pop in the oven.

5) Bake for 25-30 mins, check and cover if necessary with a piece of foil. Continue baking until a skewer or cake tester comes out clean. Leave to call in the tine for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve yourself a piece at once, if you like (I did, it’s delicious warm!) – it would be lovely with cream, ice cream etc. too.

Ginger Mincemeat in jars

Christmas baking: ginger mincemeat

I’ve been a bit slack lately with blogging, life has simply got in the way. Rather than beat myself up about it, I decided its okay to take a rest sometimes – especially as my wrists have been hurting a lot lately. Anyway, I’m not one to moan so enough about that.

ginger mincemeat ingredients

All the things you need – I tried to get organic dried fruits where poss, but it’s not essential!

The festive period is a time of year I always look forward to. Seeing friends and family you haven’t seen in a while – and those you have. Making and sharing delicious food; going out for meals; drinking festive drinks (did someone say mulled wine?!); and of course, the main event itself. I love everything about it, from the smell of the Christmas tree to the delicious dinner, crackers and giving gifts. I can’t wait till I have my own house so I can start my own traditions too (FYI – this will involve a LOT of mulled drinks, pastry goods and ridiculous decorations).

Anyway, on to the point in hand. Last year, I wrote about my ‘marvellous mincemeat’ as I like to call it – it’s an adaptation of a Mary Berry recipe, so you simply can’t go wrong.

Ginger Mincemeat in jars

Note – you don’t need to buy/use fancy jars, keep old jam and chutney ones. Just clean and sterilise before you use them!

I’ve been at it again this year. Only this time, I put it into smaller jars with the intention of sharing the love; one jar has gone to my boyfriend’s lovely mum, who has as sweeter tooth as I do, and another will go to one of my best friends who also appreciates the deliciousness of ginger.

The recipe and method hasn’t changed at all, except I doubled the amount of stem ginger simply because I love it, and in my opinion it can take it. if you don’t like ginger, just leave it out and replace with another dried fruit e.g. cranberries, or some chopped nuts (I imagine almonds would work well).

Preparation of mincemeat

I’m making a fair few other edible gifts and bits of bobs for the festive period this year, so I’ll post up the rest of my endeavours in due course. Expect to see chutney, fudge, truffles and biscuits. If anyone has any tips or tricks, or favourite festive recipes I’d love to hear them! And if you make my mincemeat, I hope you enjoy it.

Fudgey Brownie with Berry Compote

Fudgey chocolate brownies with berry compote

Fudgey Brownie with Berry Compote

Okay, so does anybody not like brownies? I thought as much. I’m yet to meet someone who won’t eat one, and I’m not entirely sure I’d trust anyone who could shun such a delightful thing.

To me it’s quite self-explanatory why everyone loves brownies…chocolate, check; oozy, check; indulgent, check. What’s not to love? Did I mention I LOVE brownies. I can always squeeze one in at the end of a meal, even if I am really full. And, probably best of all, out of all the baked goods, brownies are so easy to make, it’s actually ridiculous.

My only stipulation is use good chocolate; my preference is Green and Black’s 70% dark (it’s Fairtrade and organic), you could opt for the 85% or Divine or a nice cooking chocolate too.

brownie without compote chocolate hearts

These little chocolate hearts are by Dr Oetker – can get them in most shops! I thought they looked cute.

I’ve made a lot of brownies, but a little while ago Good Food Magazine had a chocolate and raspberry brownie as its cover recipe. Ever since trying this bad boy, I’ve never looked back. It’s perfect: super fudgey, dense and gooey – and very chocolatey.

brownie batter stages

1. Melt the chocolate butter and sugar in the pan. 2. Beat in eggs, one at a time. 3. Fold in flour. 4. Pour batter into greased and lined pan!

It works well even without the raspberries in it, which is what I did here. This was simply as a matter of necessity cos raspberries aren’t in season anymore, but I did have some frozen mixed berries from a local farm that make a lovely compote.

Berry compote cooking

It only takes a few minutes to make the compote – sorry there’s no precise recipe from me. I love the tartness of berries so only add about 1-2 tbsp of sugar and a dash of water or fruity booze.

Personally, I love having a berry in some form with my brownie, it really cuts through the richness. Of course, cream or anything cream-based is very welcome, what you choose is up to you; my poison is typically cream, preferably double or clotted cream to be precise.

You can find the full recipe on the BBC Good Food website here – they’re not called Best-ever Brownies for nothing.

Decorated chocolate chiffon cake

John Whaite’s Chocolate and Salted Caramel Chiffon Cake

Decorated chocolate chiffon cake

Finished cake, complete with question marks!

Baby shower baking typically consists of cupcakes with overt baby-references: faces, clothes, storks etc. As someone who isn’t a fan of excessive icing (especially royal or fondant), this didn’t really appeal. What I wanted was a show stopper; something that would fulfil my friend’s love of chocolate and look pretty as a picture in the middle of the table. Cue John Whaite.

I’ve been a fan of John since he appeared on the Great British Bake Off and this Chocolate and Salted Caramel Chiffon Cake recipe is exactly what you’d expect: looks beautiful, technical but achievable and most importantly tastes ridiculously good. Well, my friends assure me of the latter at least.

I was a bit nervous about making the cake, as I don’t think I’ve even eaten a chiffon cake before, let alone made one. Though, I snapped myself out of it by telling myself if you can make soufflé and fondants, you can do this. And right I was. It’s a great recipe, and the result was a lovely light, moist sponge – neither too sweet nor too chocolately.

I didn’t go for the decoration shown in John’s recipe, simply because of practicality – I knew I wanted a flat surface for the decoration. So, instead I chose to spread the ganache in a VERY thick layer on top of the cake. Utterly indulgent and the perfect bitter counter-point to the sweet salted caramel butter cream in the middle, which is probably the greatest thing ever invented. I’m not sure if I ever need to try another cake combo ever again.

Anyway, back to the decoration. Opting for a flat, blank chocolatey canvas proved to be a wise decision – my friend Chloe had a brain wave to decorate the cake with one question mark in blue glitter and one in pink. This led to the artist amongst us, Sarah, crafting a question-mark stencil out of card. You can use any card to make the stencil – a cereal box, old birthday card etc., it doesn’t matter; once you’ve done this, scatter a few sugar stars or other little decoration and you’re done. It went down a treat and looked really pretty; it’s probably the cake I’m most proud of.

Below are some photos (I apologise in advance, I am no David Loftus), showing the stages of assembly. It’s definitely not a cake you can make in a hurry as you need to allow it to fully cool before you can cut it in half. Of course you could use two smaller cake tins, but not sure if this would affect it rising. I might try it next time.

You can find the full recipe on the BBC Good Food website.

Note – I used a hand-held electric mixer to mix the egg whites, I personally wouldn’t want to whip that many by hand!

PS I will post the recipes for the other things i.e. gluten-free and normal scones, goats cheese tart etc. in the near future!

Some step-by-step photos

1) It’s all in the mix – make sure you incorporate as much air as possible.

Chocolate chiffon cake mix stages

2) Making the salted caramel buttercream – I let it cool and chilled it over night, before decorating the cake the next day.

Salted caramel buttercream

Top shows the salted caramel sauce and whipped butter – bottom shows the two combined. It should be silky smooth.

3) Decorating – go wild. You could definitely sprinkle glitter over the piping, if you opted to do it.

Preparing and decorating chiffon cake