Sunday, 22 April 2012

Rainy Day Chocolate & Vanilla Cake

Despite some beautiful weather in London recently the typical April showers have arrived.  One minute it's sunny and mild, the next it's freezing cold and pouring with rain; you certainly learn the meaning of "changable weather" when you live in England!

I call this my Rainy Day cake because it uses basic ingredients which I always have at home, great for a rainy day as there's no need to struggle with an upturned umbrella and arms full of shopping in the torrential downpours.  Layers of indulgent chocolate and sweet vanilla sponge covered in chocolate icing, It also tastes so moist and delicious that when it's cold and wet outside this is guaranteed to cheer me up! 

Rainy Day Chocolate & Vanilla Cake


175g unsalted butter, softened
175g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
175g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1tbsp milk
1tbsp cocoa powder

For the topping

250g icing sugar, sifted
1tbsp cocoa powder
50ml water

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and line a square baking tin with baking paper and grease lightly.

In a large bowl add the butter and sugar and beat well until smooth and creamy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Sift over the flour, baking powder and milk and beat until smooth and even coloured.  Pour half of the mixture into a separate bowl and sift over the cocoa powder, beat until combined.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared tin and use a spatula to push it into the corners and smooth the top.  Pour over the vanilla mixture and once again use the spatula to spread evenly.

Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing; in a large bowl add the icing sugar and sift over the cocoa powder.  Pour in the water and use a whisk to mix until smooth and even coloured.

Pour the icing over the cold cake and place in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to set.  When ready remove from fridge and serve.

Belle's Top Tip
A top tip for covering with icing is to place some newspaper on a surface and place a wire rack on top.  Place the sponge on the wire rack and then pour over the icing.  Lift the wire rack, keeping the newspaper underneath and place in the fridge to set.  When ready you can throw away the newspaper, the cake is perfectly covered and no mess!

Friday, 6 April 2012

White Chocolate & Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

Today is Good Friday, also known in my house as Hot Cross Bun Day! Hot cross buns are sweet, spiced, sticky buns made with currants or raisins, marked with a cross on the top and traditionally eaten on Good Friday.  There are many variations of the buns nowadays, including orange & cranberry and apple & cinnamon, all delicious, but I wanted to try something a little bit different.

That's when I came up with these White Chocolate & Cardamom Hot Cross Buns.  The buns are soft and fluffy with an intensely aromatic, delicately spiced fragrance and filled with delectable nuggets of creamy, smooth white chocolate...delicious!

White Chocolate & Cardamom Hot Cross Buns 


300ml milk
50g unsalted butter
500g strong white flour
1tsp salt
75g golden caster sugar
7g sachet fast action yeast
1 egg
150g white chocolate, roughly chopped
2tsp ground cardamom

For the topping

75g plain flour
5-6tbsp water
2tbsp granulated sugar
2tbsp water

Pour the milk into a saucepan and place on a medium heat.  Bring the milk to the boil then remove from heat, add the butter and leave to one side to cool slightly.

In a large bowl add the flour, salt, sugar and yeast and mix until well combined.  When the milk mixture is warm, but not too hot, make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in along with the egg.

Use a wooden spoon to bring the mixture together, then use your hands to mix it into a sticky dough.  Place the dough on a slightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Lightly oil a clean bowl and place the dough inside.  Oil a piece of clingfilm and place on top of the bowl.  Leave in a warm place for 1 hour to rise.

When the dough has risen, whilst it is still in the bowl, add the chocolate and cardamom.  Use your hands to knead the ingredients into the dough until evenly distributed.  Cover again with the oiled clingfilm and put back in the warm place for another hour.

Divide th dough into 12-15 even sized balls and place on a lightly floured surface.  Take 2 baking sheets and line with baking paper.  Place the balls on the trays, evenly spaced with room for spreading.  Cover the baking sheets loosely with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place for another hour.

Meanwhile, place the 75g of plain flour in a bowl and add the water, a tablespoon at a time, until you have a thick paste.  Spoon into a piping bag and attach a medium sized round nozzle.

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7 and pipe your flour paste onto the top of each bun in a cross shape.  Place the buns in the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

Place the 2tbsp of sugar and water into a saucepan and heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.  When the buns are ready and still warm, brush the sugar/water mixture over each of them with a pastry brush to glaze and leave to cool.

Belle's Top Tip
The buns taste delicious served warm with lashings of butter and jam and keep well in the freezer in an airtight container, just remember to defrost them thoroughly before tucking in!