Saturday, 30 July 2011

Grown-Ups Only Chocolate Guinness Cake

So the Summer holidays have begun. For parents that means 6 weeks of fussing over the kids, trying to keep them entertained whilst trying to stay sane at the same time! Even if you don’t have children it’s a time where that peaceful afternoon cinema date now feels like a trip to the playground, walks in the park mean dodging random hurtling footballs and Frisbees and a quiet cappuccino in the coffee shop is interrupted by a barrage of pushchairs, crying babies and toddlers throwing tantrums.

So when you finally get some “me” time, why not enjoy a grown-up treat with this delicious chocolate Guinness cake. A perfect combination of rich dark chocolate and smooth velvety Irish stout, it’s a moist, fudgey, chocolaty cake that’s definitely for adults only. So cut a thick slice, sit down, put your feet up, enjoy this grown-up treat and savour the peace and quiet…until tomorrow that is…


Grown-Ups Only Chocolate Guinness Cake


250ml stout, Guinness or another brand is fine
250g unsalted butter
75g cocoa
400g caster sugar
150ml sour cream
2 eggs
1tbsp vanilla extract
165g plain flour, sifted
110g self raising flour, sifted
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

5tsp icing sugar
250g white marzipan
100g dark chocolate, melted

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line a round cake tin with baking paper and grease lightly with butter.

Put a large saucepan over a low heat and pour in the stout. Add the butter to the pan and heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and add the cocoa powder and sugar and whisk until well combined, leave to one side.

In a small bowl beat the sour cream, eggs and vanilla together until smooth and creamy. Pour the egg mixture into the stout mixture and mix lightly until just combined. Add both the sifted flours and bicarbonate of soda and whisk until everything has come together into a smooth batter.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. When ready remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin until completely cold.  Place the cake in the fridge to firm a little whilst you prepare the topping.

Place the icing sugar in a small bowl and add a little water, just a few drops at a time, to make a small amount of thick icing, leave to one side.  Lightly dust a surface and a rolling pin with icing sugar and roll out the marzipan, keeping the shape round and the thickness of a £1 coin.

Place the base of your cake tin over the marzipan and use a sharp knife to cut around the circle.  Using a pallette knife spread the icing thinly over the marzipan circle ensuring it is completely covered.  Remove the cake from the fridge and carefully place the marzipan circle, icing side down, on top of the cake.

Pour the melted dark chocolate into a piping bag with a thin nozzle and drizzle the chocolate in a zig zag motion over the marzipan topped cake.  Allow the chocolate to set before cutting into slices and serving.

Belle’s Top Tip
Although Guinness doesn’t contain animal product, the production of it does use animal product so you may wish to choose a different brand of stout to keep this cake completely veggie friendly. I like to use D’Arcy’s Dublin Stout which is vegetarian and available in stores such as Odd Bins in the UK, but ask at your local off licence/liquor store if you’re unsure.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Gingerbread Men

Gingerbread men are one of the first bakes I remember making. Rolling out the dough, cutting out the shapes, nose pressed to the oven door whilst they bake. The best bit was always that first bite, I always went for the head!  Through-out the years gingerbread men have remained a classic bake and never seem to lose their nostalgic appeal.

You’ll always find many different recipes for gingerbread men, but what I love about this one is it never fails, I usually always have the ingredients for them and they take no time at all! You can eat them as they are or if you want to make them extra special they’re a blank canvas for you to decorate however you like, what’s not to love! So give them a go!

Gingerbread Men


350g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
140g unsalted butter
100g dark muscovado sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas 5 and line 2-3 baking sheets with baking paper.

In a large bowl sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and a pinch of salt and mix well. Make a well in the centre and leave to one side.

Place a saucepan over a low heat and gently melt the butter, sugar and syrup. When melted leave to one side for a few minutes then pour in with the dry ingredients.

Using a wooden spoon beat the mixture onto a dough, knead lightly with your hands and leave until the dough is cool to the touch.

Lightly dust a surface and rolling pin with flour and roll out dough to about 5mm thick. Using a gingerbread man cutter stamp out the shapes, re-rolling and pressing the trimmings back together to press out 10-12 shapes.

Carefully lay the gingerbread men onto the prepared baking trays. Use the flat end of a wooden skewer to press in eyes and buttons on each gingerbread man and the sharper end to carve a smile.

Bake in the oven for 12 minutes until golden. Cool on the sheets for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. The gingerbread men will keep up to 1 week in an airtight container (if you can wait that long!).

Belle’s Top Tip
These gingerbread men are a great bake to keep kids occupied. When ready lay out bowls of different coloured icing, edible glitter, Smarties, silver balls etc and let them decorate them however they fancy!  You can also customise them for a special occasion, blue or pink decorations for a baby shower for example.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Sparkling Chocolatey Oat Slices

Do you love thick, creamy, velvety chocolate?  Go crazy for sweet, syrupy, crumbly oats? And all finished with a magical dusting of sparkling glitter? Then my Sparkling Chocolatey Oat Slices are the perfect bake for you! 

Cut into chunky slices for coffee with girlfriends, bitesize squares for party nibbles, or just break off sneaky pieces for a deliciously naughty “you deserve it” treat.  For those who say, "all that glitters is not gold," simply haven't tried these delicious slices yet!

Sparkling Chocolatey Oat Slices


110g porridge oats
110g plain flour
100g caster sugar
65g desiccated coconut
2 tbsp golden syrup
125g butter
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp hot water
300g milk chocolate, melted

edible glitter to sprinkle

Preheat the oven to 160C/gas 3 and line a brownie tin with baking paper, allowing some of the paper to hang over the edges. Lightly grease the paper with butter.

In a large bowl add the oats, flour, sugar and coconut and mix well. Make a well in the middle and leave to one side.

In a saucepan warm the butter and golden syrup over a low heat until melted.

In a small cup or bowl mix the bicarbonate of soda with the water and pour into the golden syrup mixture, stir well. Pour the syrup mix into the dry oat mix. Stir well with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Press the mixture into the prepared tin, pushing well into the corners and flattening with the back of a spoon. Place in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown in colour. Leave to one side and allow to cool in the tin.

When the oat base is cold pour over the melted chocolate, sprinkle over the edible glitter and place in the fridge until set. Lift out using the overhanging baking paper, place on a chopping board and cut into slices.

Belle's Top Tip
Edible glitter is available from specialist cake shops or some larger supermarkets, but if you can't find any why not try some different toppings?  Dessicated coconut is great, chopped pistachios add a nice colour and even a drizzle of white chocolate really makes them stand out!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Glama-rama Banana Muffins

As you’ve seen from my previous posts, muffins can make great, healthy (ish!), on-the-go treats, but muffins have a lot more to offer and this is the recipe to prove it!

This is a stylish, glamorous, sweet yet naughty take on the humble muffin. The fruity banana, the devilish speckles of creamy white chocolate, the smooth sweet icing and all encased in a delicate cage of caramel drizzle. This may well be to the muffin what the Ferrari is to the car, or the Louis Vuitton to the handbag, the Louboutin to the shoe and I promise, they’re simple to make too!

Glama-rama Banana Muffins


300g self raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
115g caster sugar
100g white chocolate, chopped
125g butter, melted
80ml milk
2 eggs, lightly whisked
3 bananas, mashed
1tsp vanilla extract

White chocolate icing
125g icing sugar
100g white chocolate, melted
A few tablespoons of cold water

Caramel topping
125g white caster sugar
2tbsp hot water

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6 and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

In a large bowl sift in the flour and add the baking powder, sugar and chocolate. Mix well and make a well in the centre, leave to one side.

In a large jug pour in the melted, cooled butter, milk, egg and vanilla extract, whisk lightly until just combined. Pour in the mashed banana and continue to whisk thoroughly until the mixture is thick and creamy. Don’t worry if there are some lumps, you don’t want it completely smooth.

Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and gently fold until just combined, you don’t want to overwork it. Fill the 12 muffin cases evenly with the mixture and bake in the top of the oven for 15-20 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre come out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

For the white chocolate icing; put the icing sugar in a large bowl and leave to one side. Fill a large pan with water and place a heatproof bowl over the top, ensuring the water doesn’t touch the bowl. Place over a medium heat and break the chocolate into the bowl, allowing it to melt slowly, remove from heat and allow to cool.

Place a few tablespoons of water into the icing sugar and mix until combined. Pour in the melted white chocolate and continue to mix thoroughly. If you find the mixture too thick add a little more water, a few drops at a time, until you have the right consistency. Remove the cooled muffins from the paper cases and place on the wire rack with some paper underneath. Spoon the icing over each muffin, the paper will catch any drips. Leave for a few minutes for the icing to stop dripping and place in the fridge to allow the icing to set.

For the caramel; place a large, heavy based pan on a medium heat for a couple of minutes and then pour in the sugar, shaking the pan slightly to even it out. After about 5 minutes, when the sugar has turned to liquid around the edge, give the pan a good shake and return to heat.

After a few more minutes use a wooden spoon to stir the sugar and continue stirring until the sugar has turned to a honey, amber coloured liquid, this should only take a few minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and, keeping a safe distance, pour in the water. The caramel may bubble and spit so please be extra careful, it will be extremely hot; stir the mixture until smooth.

Remove the muffins from the fridge and again, place the wire rack over some paper to catch the drips. Drizzle the caramel over the iced muffins, it will set quickly, and voila! Ready to serve!

Belle’s Top Tip
I cannot stress enough how careful to be when making the caramel for this recipe. It tastes gorgeous on the muffins, but when it’s on the stove this sweet treat is like molten lava so please be extra cautious!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Queen of Hearts Jam Tarts

One of my all time favourite stories is the Lewis Carroll classic Alice in Wonderland and as Oxford, the home town of Carroll, celebrated “Alice Day” this weekend I couldn’t think of a better time to make these delicious jam tarts.

This bake is inspired by the chapter in the book entitled, “Who Stole the Tarts?” where Alice arrives in the courtroom to find that the Knave of Hearts is on trial for stealing the Queen of Hearts tarts. They are described as, “…so good, that it made Alice quite hungry to look at them.” The White Rabbit then reads the accusation which is that famous rhyme, “The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts, all on a summer day: The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts, and took them quite away!”

I always imagined those tarts to be the most wonderful tarts ever so here is my recipe for “Queen of Hearts Jam Tarts”. A buttery, crumbly pastry filled with fruity, sticky, sweet jam. They’re one of those bakes that are so simple yet so tasty, great if you’re new to pastry and kids love making them too! I guarantee they’ll be eaten up before you can say, “off with her head!”

Queen of Hearts Jam Tarts


225g plain flour
100g butter, chilled and cubed
3tbsp light muscovado sugar
1 orange, zest and juice
225g jam, flavour of your choice

For the pastry, rub the flour and butter together using your fingertips until it looks like course breadcrumbs then stir in the sugar and zest.

Add about 4 tablespoons of the orange juice to the pastry mix to make a fairly soft dough, kneading until smooth. Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 30mins.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and lightly grease a 12 hole muffin tin with butter. Roll out the pastry to a £1 coin thickness and use a round cutter to stamp out 12 circles of the pastry. Use the circles to line the muffin tin holes, a great tip is to use a little ball of the pastry to ease the dough into the holes without leaving fingerprints! Spoon about 1-1½ teaspoons of the jam equally between the 12 cases, spreading lightly with the back of the spoon.

Bake for 15-18mins in the middle of the oven until the pastry is golden and the jam is bubbling slightly. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

Belle's Top Tip
You can make these even more special by using your own homemade jam or head to somewhere like Fortnum and Mason’s in London where you can get an extensive range of different flavoured preserves including Damson, Passion Fruit, Rhubarb & Ginger and even Strawberry & Champagne!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Fabulous Fruit Loaf

I'm so happy to share this recipe with you as it's one of my all time favourites.  I love this fruit loaf as it's so easy to make, always turns out perfect and tastes absolutely delicious.  The outside has a nice crunchy crust whilst the inside is soft, sweet and fruity, ummmm! 

You'll get about 15 slices from the loaf which will last for about a week in an airtight container or can be frozen if you want to keep it for longer.  It tastes great at breakfast, toasted with a sliver of creamy butter and a dollop of jam or how about at teatime with a steaming hot cup of Earl Grey...fabulous!

Fabulous Fruit Loaf


500g dried mixed fruit
250g caster sugar
375ml Earl Grey tea, cooled
1 large egg
500g self raising flour, sifted
400ml milk
1tsp mixed spice
1tsp cinnamon

Place the mixed fruit in a bowl with the caster sugar and mix. Pour over the cold tea, stir well and cover. Leave overnight if you can or at least for an hour to plump up the fruit.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Drain any excess moisture from the fruit, but leave it slightly ‘wet’ and beat in the egg.

Add about a quarter of the flour and 100ml of the milk to the fruit mixture, beat and repeat until all the flour and milk has been added. Add the mixed spice and cinnamon and stir until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 1 hour so it’s firm to the touch and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Carefully transfer the loaf to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Belle's Top Tip
Why not use the fruit loaf slices for your favourite desserts instead of plain bread, like in bread and butter pudding!