Friday, 26 November 2010

Guinness Chocolate Cake

Confession time! I confess so much on this blog perhaps I should have named it 'Confessions of a cake-aholic'? Ah well, as usual, I come up with my best ideas (and comebacks) much too late.

Back to my confession. While I LOVE chocolate, I'm not that keen on chocolate cake - it's just too chocolatey. If my mum is reading this, I know she's shouting at the computer screen 'There's no such thing as too chocolatey!'. Well mum, I think there is - chocolate is nice in small amounts but chocolate cake is just too much, too intense ... too everything.

So when I arranged to have friends round for a tea party - Whoever invented afternoon tea by the way is a complete genius! An entire eating occasion based on baked wonderfulness and where the closest thing resembling food is a sandwich ... that right there is my idea of heaven - it seemed like the perfect occasion to try out a new, somewhat unusual recipe and as the resulting cake would be chocolate, it also meant I could have one small piece and get rid of the rest of it. 

Luckily for my friends, this cake was good. Actually, that is a gross understatement; it was incredible!  It's my new favourite chocolate cake ever and probably the only chocolate cake I'll ever make after this. And best of all, it's pretty easy to make! 

Mini confession: once the batter has been transferred to the cake tin, I use my fingers in the only way God could possibly have intended them to be used to lick the bowl clean. At this point, I could taste the Guinness slightly but once it was baked, you couldn't taste the Guinness at all. What it did was intensify the chocolate flavour and make the cake really moist. Did I mention it was amazing??

My cake is a bit flat as I used a bigger cake tin that was recommended. And the frosting doesn't need to be piped on; I just got a bit excited with my new piping bags and nozzle :D

This recipe is by Gizzi Erskine

Makes: 12 slices
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooling time: 3 hours

250ml Guinness
250g unsalted butter, sliced
100g good quality plain chocolate (70%)
35g cocoa
400g caster sugar
1 x 142ml pot plain yoghurt
2 free range eggs
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
275g plain flour
2 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

For the Frosting
300g Philadelphia cream cheese
150g icing sugar
125ml double or whipping cream

1 - Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and line a 23cm spring form tin.
2 - Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, and heat until the butter has melted, at which time you should stir in the chocolate, cocoa and sugar.

3 - Beat the yoghurt with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the chocolatey, beery pan.
4 - Finally whisk in the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
5 - Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.
Leave to cool completely in the tin on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.
6 - To make the frosting lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sieve over the icing sugar and then beat them both together.
7 - Separately whip the cream until it just begins to thicken but still holds it shape.
8 - Pour the cream to the cream cheese mix and beat again until combined and reaches a spreadable consistency.
9 - Frost the top of the Guinness cake. 

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Cupcake decorating course!

On Saturday morning I went for a cupcake decorating class at The Make Lounge. It was a two and a half hour class and apart from the fact that I was excited about cake decorating, it just felt really good to be doing something creative! I have recently had the same conversation with different friends about the fact that we use our creativity so rarely that it feels like that part of brain is dead. It made me realise that what I love so much about baking and decorating cakes; and particularly cupcakes, is that I can be creative.

 That evening I went over to a friend's house for the first in our series (friendly; not the TV show) of 'Come Dine with Me' - all in all, it was a pretty perfect day :D

Anyway, back to the cupcake decorating course! It was in a nice bright studio, and I think there were 10 people on the course that morning. The room was set up like so...
And each seat around the table had a set of equipment; piping bags, spatulas, rolling pin, nozzles and most importantly 14 cupcakes between two people! I know you can do the math (and it's pretty simple math so if you can't do it, we, I mean you, have a problem :p) but I'll help out anyway. That's 7 each! At the end, we got a 6-cupcake box to take our cupcakes home, (again more math) leaving 1 for us to eat! Yipppee!

Our instructor Louise makes huge cake sculptures - anyone watch 'Cake Boss' or 'Ace of Cakes’? Yup those kinds of cakes. Through a couple of group demonstrations followed up by her walking round and helping, I learnt how to make this messy swirl that I've always admired in some cupcake chains. I also learnt to make marzipan roses!!! Apologies for the blurry photos but you have to admit; my roses are pretty amazing huh? And to think they began life as a slab of off-white marzipan!

We learnt to pipe roses (again something I have admired on other cupcakes and never realised how easy they were to do), pipe using two different colours simultaneously ...
and finally, we got to play around with glitter and these stamp thingies to turn our cupcakes from merely pretty to these-are-so-beautiful-I-can't-bear-for-them-to-be-eaten :D
I would totally recommend this course to anyone who is interested in cupcake decorating!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Jen's Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

I seem to be turning my blog into a bit of a confessional - it's just as well not too many people read it! See here for my addiction admission, and here for my geek declaration. As three is my lucky number, I thought "why not make it a hat trick?", after all, third time's the charm ;p So here's another confession ... wait for it ... okay, here goes:
While in life generally, I'm more of a delayed gratification kind of gal, when it comes to food, I'm pretty greedy. I want everything I like, all together, and I want it now!! Don't judge me!
So words like ‘Oreo cupcake’ are music to my ears. It can only be a WIN-WIN ... I love Oreo cookies and I love cake; it's a no-brainer really. 

However I have had some disappointing experiences with Oreo cupcakes at a London cupcakery. Biscuits are dry so with the wrong recipe, you can end up with a rather dry cake with dry bits in it making for a pretty dry experience. Oreos are also very sweet so when you combine them with a really sweet buttercream - it can make for a rather sickingly sweet cake and trust me, there is such a thing as too sweet.

This is where my newest baking blog crush (yeah yeah I know I'm turning into a bit of a chef whore ;p) comes in. I first happened across this recipe on Annie's Eats and since then, I've pretty much stalked ahem, I mean researched her archives and come up with no less than 15 recipes that I want to try!
This recipe is genius. First of all it has half an Oreo (the half with the cream) in the bottom of the cupcake liner, chunks of Oreos all the way through and it is topped with half an Oreo. It also has a cream cheese frosting which balances out the sweetness of the cake and biscuits really well. Everybody  LOVED these cookies so try them if you're trying to impress! It's quite a dense cake rather than light and fluffy but that works really well and the textures of the cake with the cookie at the bottom and all the way through are pretty amazing! My friend described it as a "fusion of textures" and another friend promptly demanded the recipe to make them the very next weekend.

I just realised that this recipe is originally from another one of my blog baking idols; Beantown Baker! Sorry Jen for mis-assigning credit for this. And I just have to say that every time I have made these, I have received compliments like 'The best cupcake I have ever eaten', 'divine' etc. Every. Single. Time. So thank you for an incredible recipe!

A couple of notes:
 - The recipe calls for 3 egg whites and when I asked Annie why not use whole eggs; she wasn't sure but thought it might have something to do with keeping the cake a nice white colour. I suspect the addition of whole eggs rather than just the whites would make the cake lighter and fluffier so it's worth a try. I'm definitely making these again so I'll let you know how it goes using whole eggs.

 - I had some Golden Oreos left over from my last visit to the States so I mixed them in with the regular Oreos but I think these would taste really amazing made entirely of golden Oreos so you lucky people who live in the US, give them a go with Golden Oreos. And make sure you let me know how they turn out!!

24 cupcakes


For the cupcakes:
24 Oreo halves, with cream filling attached
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup milk
20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped (I quarter them)
For the frosting
226g cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp. double cream
For garnish
Oreo cookie crumbs
24 Oreo cookie halves

1 - Preheat the oven to 180˚ C/Gas Mark 4.  Line the wells of two cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.  Place an Oreo halve in the bottom of each liner, cream side up.
2 - In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir together with a fork to blend and set aside.  
3 - In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  
4 - Blend in the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each addition.  
5 - Blend in the vanilla extract.  
6 - With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Add the milk and beat just until combined, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.  
7 - Gently fold in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.
8 - Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.  
9 - Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting
1 - Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
2 - Blend in the vanilla extract.  Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes.  
3 - Add the heavy cream to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.  Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs and garnish with Oreo halves.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Chocolate Sheet Cake

In baking, as in life, you often get out what you put in. May we take a moment to acknowledge how wise that last sentence sounded? Baking is turning me into a right old philosopher! (See Mama? There are some advantages to baking :D)
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, you get what you put in. There are exceptions to the rule. Like banana bread, and .... well, banana bread. Oh, and brownies! I am not saying you have to spend an entire day slaving over your oven with a list of ingredients as long as the Great Wall of China. All I’m saying is that when picking a recipe, don't go for the one that is simplest because it probably won't be the best.

As usual, in a very long winded way, I finally reach my point. This recipe jumped out at me because it is pretty simple to make and despite the thought of chocolate sheet cake not particularly appealing to me, I thought it would be nice to have a nice chocolatey recipe - where I'm guaranteed to have all the ingredients in my cupboard - on hand for those lazy weekends when I want some home baked goodness. Plus it's a Pioneer Woman recipe and her recipes are decadent if anything! So I made it. And I wasn't impressed. For me, it tasted like a faux brownie. You know how sometimes you're in some generic cafe and they have these huge slabs of brownies, dark and inviting and practically speaking to you. You consider that you’re on a diet and you really shouldn’t and then finally, after mentally beating yourself up, you give in and have one. And after all that it’s extremely underwhelming? Well that's how I felt with this chocolate sheet cake. Plus I thought the icing was too sweet.
However, a couple of friends tried this and they both really liked it. One of them had warned me that she wasn't in the mood for cake so would hang on to hers till later. She opened it in front of me, “just to taste”, and standing there, devoured the whole thing. And she's not a dessert person. She thought it was simple and chocolatey but not too intense. Different strokes for different folks and all that. Perhaps I just expected too much.

Anyway, if I haven't put you off after that review, here's the recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s recipe. Till next time folks!


For the cake
2 cups flour
2 cups of sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
4 heaped tablespoons cocoa
226g butter
1 cup boiling water
½ cup buttermilk
2 whole beaten eggs
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons vanilla

For the frosting
140g butter
4 heaped tablespoons cocoa
6 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
300g icing sugar



1 - In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt.
2 - In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Stir together.
3 - Add boiling water, allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. 4 - Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool.
5 - In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla.
6 - Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into sheet cake pan and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes.
While cake is baking, make the icing.
7 - Melt butter in a saucepan.
8 - Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat.
9 - Add the milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Stir together. Stir together, and pour over warm cake.