Spotted Nutellionaire’s Shortbread

Polka dotted. I was extremely puzzled the first time I heard this word. Why? In Italy, the Polka is a traditional type of dance which is usually danced by the older generations, therefore I hope you can see my confusion when I was trying to link fluffy dresses and a ballroom environment to a spotty pattern. Etymology aside, I think the juxtaposition of pearly white chocolate buttons and the dark chocolate couverture on top strongly gives this bake a real ’60s look and yet manages to keep it quite modern and upbeat. The recipe comes from the spring issue of the Feel Good Food magazine, although I modified it to have a firmer caramel layer in the middle.

You don’t need to use Nutella if you don’t want to. I know this hazelnut spreadable paste is the subject of controversy, namely the fact that the hazelnut content is indeed very limited (only 13% for a 400g jar). You can make your own hazelnut/chocolate spread if you want to, the Internet is full of recipes to obtain a more or less spreadable paste. However, despite all of the brouhaha, I find myself going back to Nutella all the time. It’s so convenient and, for someone who grew up in Italy, quite iconic – Ferrero is an Italian brand, after all. Don’t be scared by the list of ingredients, this traybake requires very little baking. The cake mostly needs assembling and resting in the fridge overnight with very little input needed on your part.

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Ingredients (for the shortbread base)

  • 140g unsalted butter, softened
  • 80g light soft brown sugar
  • 200g plain flour
  • 40g chopped roasted hazelnuts

Ingredients (for the Nutella layer)

  • 250g Nutella
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g ground almonds

Ingredients (for the caramel layer)

  • 75g light soft brown sugar
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 200ml condensed milk

Ingredients (for the decoration)

  • 100ml double cream
  • 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
  • white chocolate buttons

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180C. Butter and line a 30x20cm Swiss roll tin (or a 22x22cm square cake tin with a removable base).
  2. For the shortbread base, in the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the flour and cocoa powder, then fold in the chopped hazelnuts with a rubber spatula. Pour in the tin and use your hands and/or the back of a spoon to press the mixture in the corners and smooth the top. Prick liberally with a fork, then bake for 25 minutes until firm to the touch.
  3. To make the Nutella layer, whisk together the Nutella with the eggs and ground almonds, then spread onto the shortbread and smooth. Return to the oven for 10 minutes until just set. Remove the tin from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  4. To make the caramel layer, gently heat the sugar and butter in a saucepan, stirring until melted. Add the condensed milk and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly, until the filling has thickened slightly. Pour the caramel onto the (now stone cold) Nutella layer and give the tin a gentle tap onto the work surface to remove any air bubbles. Place in the fridge to harden for at least 30 minutes.
  5. To make the chocolate ganache for the topping, finely chop the chocolate and transfer to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until almost boiling, then pour onto the finely chopped chocolate and mix until fully melted and combined. Allow to cool slightly, then spread onto the caramel layer. Distribute the white chocolate buttons on top as you wish (I went for a very symmetrical design). Place back in the fridge to harden completely, then cut into squares and serve. Enjoy!

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Pistachio Blood Orange Baklava Cake

Recently, I have become slightly obsessed with pistachios. I am not sure whether it’s because of their glorious green hue and the vibrancy they add to any bake or whether it’s just a fad, but I find myself using them more and more. That’s how I came across this cake, which I found on Instagram – the original recipe can be found here. As it happens, more or less at the same time I finally managed to get my hands on some blood oranges, which I had been looking for. They remind me of when I was a child and we used to find them very easily in supermarkets. Their deep orange/red flesh is also a very welcome change to the usual lighter oranges you tend to find in the UK, not to mention they have a slightly richer flavour, which I really like.

Therefore, I decided to combine it all into one (massive) dessert. Needless to say, I had no idea it was going to be the biggest cake I had ever baked. And still, it is delicious. I also like the gem-like drops of ruby red on the top, which really add to the overall colour scheme of the cake. You will also find that the cake, weirdly enough, does not contain any flour. Rather, the bulk is provided by breadcrumbs. If this sounds too odd and exotic for you, then feel free to substitute with an equal amount of flour, wholemeal preferably. The process to make this cake may sound very long and complicated, but believe me it is perfectly manageable, provided you are somewhat good at multitasking. Otherwise, don’t worry and take your time, it will still be delicious!

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 360g panko breadcrumbs
  • 260g roasted pistachios
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (freshly grated) nutmeg
  • 8 large eggs
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 226g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Ingredients (for the blood orange syrup)

  • 5 blood oranges, zest and juice
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 2 large oranges, juice only

Ingredients (for the baklava layers)

  • 150g unsalted butter, melted (you might need more)
  • 3 x packets of 6 filo pastry sheets
  • 100g pistachios, roasted and ground

Ingredient (to decorate the cake)

  • 200g pistachios, finely ground

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line the base and grease the sides of 2 x 20cm cake tins. Ensure the tins are quite tall on the sides or the cake will overflow.
  2. In a food processor, add the panko crumbs, pistachios, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg, then process until finely ground. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a freestanding food mixer, add the eggs and the sugar, then whisk on high speed until the mixture has at least doubled in volume and falls back on itself by creating a ribbon when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the ground nut mixture and the melted butter. Do not overbeat the mixture or you will deflate it.
  4. Divide the mixture equally between the two cake tins, then bake for 25-30 minutes. Check whether the cakes are cooked through by inserting a skewer in the middle and ensuring it comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely. Leave the oven on.
  5. To make the baklava layers, use a 20cm round cake tin base as a template to cut the filo layers into circles. You will need 2 x 8 layers for each baklava ‘cake’, so 32 in total.
  6. Line the inside of a 20cm cake tin with some baking parchment, then start assembling the baklava layer. Place a sheet of filo in the tin, then gently and liberally brush with butter. Top with another layer of filo and brush with butter again, repeating until you have used 8 circles of filo pastry. Brush the 8th layer with butter too, then sprinkle a good amount of the ground pistachios, enough to cover the pastry sheet. Repeat the process by covering with a circle of filo, brushing with butter, etc. You will need to add 8 more layers. As before, brush the top (16th) layer with butter too, then only gently sprinkle with pistachios. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the baklava is golden brown on the top and cooked all the way through. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Repeat the whole process one more time to create another 16-layer baklava.
  7. To make the blood orange syrup, pour the blood orange juice (only) and sugar into a saucepan, then add the zest and honey. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then gently simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until the mixture has a syrup-like consistency. Remove from the heat, pour into a jug through a strainer (to get rid of the zest) and add the rosewater. Leave to cool completely.
  8. To assemble the cakes, brush the two thick layers with the juice from the two large oranges, making sure the cake absorbs the juice. Then, place the ground pistachios into a large tray and flatten out to an even layer. Brush the cake layers with the blood orange syrup, making sure the sides are also generously covered. Holding the cake sponges vertically, gently roll them into the ground pistachios to cover the sides, then lay them flat onto a cake stand/board/plate.
  9. Top with the least attractive of the baklava layers, then generously drizzle with the blood orange syrup. Repeat the same process with the second sponge and baklava layer, then gently sprinkle the whole cake with the remaining ground pistachio.
  10. This is completely optional, but you could also use the pastry scraps to create small triangles to put on the top. Just brush them with butter, sprinkle them with pistachios and bake for 25 minutes until golden, then place on top of the last baklava layer, drizzle with the syrup and sprinkle with pistachios. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Mousse Cake (GF)

I made this back in December for my Christmas party, but I somehow forgot to post about it. I don’t necessarily think you can only make this at Christmas. Yes, it’s a stunning centrepiece and during the holidays we tend to exaggerate a little bit, but I feel you don’t need a special occasion and that every day is fit for chocolate cake. Despite looking rather impressive, this mousse cake is quite easy to whip up (and quite literally too). The mousse itself does not contain gelatine but sets thanks to the cocoa solids in the chocolate. I have to say I was a little bit skeptical at first, but it works. If you want to, you can add some gelatine just to be sure, otherwise the cake will hold even 3 hours after it has been taken out of the fridge. Quite amazing if you ask me.

The raspberries on the top are not compulsory and you could just serve the cake on its own. However, I agree you need a touch of colour on top of such a big mountain of chocolate, and what’s more festive than some red berries? As for the golden sparkle… well, I think you can really go all out under Christmas, don’t you think? The recipe is Mary Berry’s, so it’s foolproof, but I have made it gluten-free by substituting the plain flour with half the amount of gluten-free flour and adding some ground almonds to give it body. I have left the brandy out, however, as I feel you don’t necessarily need it. The ground almonds make the sponge very moist already.

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 3 tbsp boiling water
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g gluten-free plain flour
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Ingredients (for the mousse & decoration)

  • 300g dark chocolate (no more than 50% cocoa solids)
  • 450ml double cream
  • 225g fresh raspberries
  • edible glitter (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm round srpingform tin and line the bottom and the sides with baking parchment. Leave some extra paper hanging over the top because the cake tin will be filled with the mousse.
  2. To make the chocolate cake, measure the cocoa powder in a large bowl. Add the boiling water and whisk together until it forms a thick paste. Add the rest of the dry ingredients followed by the eggs and butter, then beat well with an electric whisk to combine.
  3. Smooth the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface with a spatula. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  4. To prepare the mousse, start by roughly breaking up the chocolate and putting it in a large bowl suspended over a pan of gently simmering water. Ensure the bowl doesn’t touch the water or your chocolate may seize. gently melt the chocolate by stirring it frequently, then set aside to cool slightly.
  5. In another bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form, then gently fold in the chocolate until no streaks are left and you have a homogeneous mixture.
  6. When the cake has cooled (and while it is still in the tin), gently pour the chocolate mousse over the cake and use a palette knife to level the top. Cover the cake with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours to set (best done overnight).
  7. To decorate the cake, gently peel off the parchment from the sides of the cake once you have removed the outer ring of the tin, then carefully remove the round of baking parchment under the cake, slide the whole dessert onto a serving platter and decorate with raspberries and/or glitter. Enjoy!

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