Celebratory Chocolate, Caramel and Mango Layer Cake

When I think of a showstopper, this is probably the cake I have in mind. With its 4 sponge layers, each with a varying intensity of caramel and chocolate, chocolate ganache coating, choux buns filled with cream and mango custard and meringues on top, you could hardly envisage such a cake for a non-celebratory occasion. The truth is, however, that as difficult, complicated and lengthy as it may look, this cake is in fact pretty easy to make. Ok, maybe not easy, but straightforward is the word here. Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients. As it says on the tin, there are a lot of stages required here. Just make sure you read the whole recipe first and only then start making it. Believe me, you will love it.

The recipe for the cake appeared a while ago on a BBC Good Food magazine. I have saved it and keep on using time and time again, with minor tweaks here and there, as it’s such an easy and delicious one. The sponges are very moist thanks to the addition of natural yoghurt and the dramatic effect is ensured when you cut through the whole cake to reveal sponges of different colours. This time, seeing as I was making this cake for a birthday, I decided to push the boat out and top it with choux buns and meringues. Mango, caramel and chocolate go surprisingly well together, and the subtle acidity of the custard cuts through the richness of the cake beautifully.

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Ingredients (for the vanilla and chocolate sponges)

  • 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 170g plain flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 150ml natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 5 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

Ingredients (for the caramel and chocolate & caramel sponges)

  • 225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 50g dark muscovado sugar
  • 170g plain flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 150ml natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

Ingredients (for the chocolate ganache)

  • 140g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
  • 140g milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 300ml double cream

Ingredients (for the choux pastry)

  • 100g plain flour
  • 75g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 175ml water
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients (for the mango custard)

  • 500ml whole milk
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 40g cornflour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 whole mango
  • 1/2 lime, juice only
  • 2 gelatine leaves

Ingredients (for the meringues)

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 240g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • orange food colouring (optional)

Ingredients (to assemble the cake)

  • 1 x 397g can of caramel (Carnation is a good brand)
  • 300ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • 60g dark and milk chocolate, melted over a bain marie
  • Chocolate sprinkles, optional

Method

  1. First of all, start with the mango custard as it will need some time to set in the fridge. Peel and stone the mango, then transfer the flesh to a food processor with the lime juice and purée until smooth. In the meantime, heat the milk and the vanilla in a saucepan over a medium heat. Mix the caster sugar with the cornflour to disperse the latter evenly, then transfer to a heatproof bowl, add the egg yolks and whisk until fully combined and slightly paler in colour.
  2. Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until soft. In the meantime, transfer the mango purée to a small saucepan on gentle heat and bring to the boil, then reduce by approximately half. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Once the milk has come to the boil, remove from the heat and, whisking continuously, slowly pour onto the egg yolk and sugar mixture. Make sure to scrape the sides, then gently pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over a medium heat. Make sure the heat under the saucepan is not too high or the eggs will scramble and, most importantly, stir the custard constantly until nicely thickened. You will be able to tell because the custard will cover the back of a spoon and small ridges will form when you stir it.
  4. Transfer the reduced mango purée to the saucepan with the custard and mix to combine. Squeeze the gelatine leaves to remove excess water, then add to the hot mixture and stir to dissolve. Transfer the mango custard to a heatproof bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to cool before putting in the fridge for a good 5 hours.
  5. Now, moving on to the sponges. Start with the vanilla and chocolate one, so as to get the hang of it. Grease the bottom and sides and line the bottom of 2 x 20cm round cake tins with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).
  6. In the bowl of a freestanding food mixer equipped with the paddle attachment or in a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until slightly paler in colour and fully combined. Slowly add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla bean paste too. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, ground almonds and baking powder, then add to the bowl while mixing on low speed. Finally, add the yoghurt and mix well to combine. The mixture should be very creamy and full of volume.
  7. Divide the mixture into two, pouring half into one of the prepared tins (this will be the vanilla sponge). Pour the other half into a bowl, then sprinkle in the cocoa powder and mix well to combine with a rubber spatula, ensuring not to knock all of the air out of the sponge. Transfer the chocolate mixture to the other prepared tin. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, but do check them after 20 minutes to ensure they don’t overbake. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.
  8. To make the caramel and chocolate & caramel sponges, prepare 2 more tins as outlined above. Cream the butter and sugars together, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients, then add them, together with the vanilla bean paste, to the remaining mixture. Pour in the natural yoghurt, then mix well to combine. Pour half of the mixture into one of the prepared tins, then add the cocoa powder to the remaining mixture, gently fold it in and transfer to the other cake tin. Bake as above, then set on a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. To make the choux pastry, combine the butter, water and salt into a saucepan set over medium heat. Bring the mixture to the boil, then remove from the heat and tumble in the flour. Use a wooden spoon to combine the pastry – don’t worry, it will look lumpy, but persist and you will be fine. Put the saucepan back on the heat to dry the pastry out. You are ready to go when the lump of pastry easily comes together and stays together, stops sticking to the sides and leaves a coating on the bottom of the saucepan. Transfer the warm lump of pastry to a heatproof bowl, flatten it out slightly with the back of the wooden spoon and leave to cool. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Line 3 baking sheets with baking parchment (or silicone mats).
  10. To make it easier, transfer the eggs to a jug. When the pastry has cooled down (you don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs), start adding a little bit of the eggs, then mix really well with the wooden spoon after each addition. As before, do not be put off by the way the pastry look. Continue adding eggs, a little at a time, and mixing well. You are aiming for a silky yet somewhat solid consistency. There are several ways to test the pastry: when you gather some on the wooden spoon then tilt the latter, the pastry should slowly fall back into the bowl leaving a triangular-shaped trail on the spoon; also, if you trace a line in the bowl, the pastry should divide evenly and keep the trail, not fall back on itself, etc.
  11. Transfer the pastry to a piping bag fitted with a plain round nozzle, then pipe even round mounds on the baking trays. I opted for two different sizes (one slightly bigger than the other) to add a dramatic effect to the cake. Bake for 30 minutes without ever opening the door to check on them, by which time they will be golden and puffed up. Quickly remove from the oven, make a small hole in the base or on the sides to let the steam escape, then put back in the oven to crisp up for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  12. Cool the oven down to 130°C (110°C fan) to bake the meringues. To make them, in the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until frothy. In a separate bowl, combine the caster sugar and cream of tartar, then increase the speed to high and slowly add the sugar mixture, one tablespoon at a time, until you get a very glossy and stiff mixture.
  13. Prepare the piping bag by adding a star nozzle at the end and using some orange food colouring to drag some lines on the inside of the bag (I used a toothpick, but a small brush is also fine). When ready, transfer the meringue mixture to the piping bag, then pipe small meringues (again, I went for two different sizes) on previously lined baking trays. Bake for 2 hours or until crisp. When done, turn the oven off and leave the meringues to cool inside the oven with the door ajar.
  14. To assemble the cake, start by making the chocolate ganache. Transfer the chopped chocolate to a heatproof bowl, then pour the cream into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Transfer the hot cream to the chocolate, then mix to combine until smooth. Place in the fridge to set, mixing occasionally, while you assemble the sponge layers.
  15. Place a small dollop of caramel on the cake board/base/platter you will use to build the cake on. Gently peel the parchment off the back of the vanilla sponge, then place it upside down on the cake board. Use 1/3 of the caramel to cover the cake and spread it around using an offset spatula. Top with the vanilla & caramel sponge, cover with half of the remaining caramel, then top with the caramel & chocolate sponge, the remaining caramel and, finally, the chocolate sponge.
  16. Once the ganache has more or less set (but is still of a spreadable consistency), use it to cover the top and the sides of the cake and give it a smooth or a rough finish according to preference. Place in the fridge to harden while you get on with the decorations.
  17. In a bowl, combine the whipped cream with some of the mango custard, then fill a piping bag fitted with a small round nozzle and use it to fill the choux buns. For reasons of practicality, I decided to fill the small ones with the mango custard alone, thus leaving me with leftover whipped cream.
  18. When you are ready to proceed, take the cake out of the fridge. Spread some of the melted chocolate on the bottom of each choux bun, then gently pile them up on top of the cake and down the sides. Repeat with the meringues, ensuring there is a good proportion of them all around the cake. I shall leave it the final design up to you.
  19. Use the remaining melted chocolate to drizzle on top of the cake, then decorate, if you so wish, with some of the mango custard (also drizzled over) and chocolate sprinkles. Enjoy!

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Toscakaka (Tosca Cake)

When I’m stressed, sad or just generally feeling a bit down, I bake a cake. I found it has some very deep therapeutic effects on me and it instantly calms me down. And by cake I do not mean one of those fancy and intricate layered-sponge-cum-mousse masterworks a proficient patissier would find hard to pull off, but, rather, a very simple and traditional cake which looks hearty and warming. That’s when I laid my eyes on this Scandinavian cake, which I found on the Poires au Chocolat blog. I have in fact merely followed Emma’s take on it (the original recipe is in the Scandilicious Baking recipe book by Signe Johanson), although I opted for golden caster sugar rather than simple caster and used beurre noisette instead of standard butter.

This is a caramel sponge cake topped with a very soft and moreish almond layer. The name sounds very weird to Italian ears as ‘cacca’ is the equivalent of ‘poo’, and I find it very hard to associate it with baking. However, as it turns out, ‘kaka‘ is Swedish for ‘cake’ – incidentally (and very interestingly), the word ‘cake’ comes from the Old Norse kaka (Merriam Webster). As for ‘Tosca‘ , opinions vary: some believe the cake was inspired by Puccini’s opera, while others believe it comes from the almond cakes made in Tuscany (Toscana in Italian). Nevertheless, the cake is based on a standard genoise-inspired sponge and the caramel-like topping seeps into the cake as it bakes, creating a thick layer at the top which is generously sodden in butter and sugar. The almonds on the top soften while baking, creating an enjoyably tender caramel layer on top (you won’t break your teeth on this one!).

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 75ml buttermilk
  • 75g beurre noisette (see below)
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Ingredients (for the almond topping)

  • 150g flaked almonds
  • 125g butter
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • 50ml milk
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract (my addition)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160C and line and butter a 23cm round cake tin, preferably with a removable bottom or springform.
  2. If you prefer, you can toast the almond flakes either in the oven for about 10 minutes or on the hob in dry a frying pan, then set aside.
  3. To make your beurre noisette, melt unsalted butter in a saucepan, then increase the heat to medium until the mixture starts foaming and bubbling up. Leave to bubble away until it turns a dark caramel colour, by which point it will be done. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, whip the eggs, sugar and vanilla together on high for 5 minutes, until the mixture is a pale and very thick. While it whisks, sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  5. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture over the egg bowl, then gently fold in with a large spatula. Drizzle half of the buttermilk over the top and fold in. Repeat with the next 1/3 of flour, the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour. Finally drizzle half of the butter over the top, fold in, then repeat with the remaining butter. Be gentle but thorough, scraping the bottom and ensuring all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  6. Transfer to the tin, then tap on the counter once to remove any big air bubbles. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden and set (check for doneness with a skewer).
  7. Start making the topping 10-15 minutes before the cake is due to be ready. Mix all of the ingredients in a saucepan and stir as the butter melts. Keep on stirring over a medium heat. The mixture will bubble and slightly thicken. Remove from the heat.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and set over a wire rack. Pour the caramel and almond topping over the cake, then spread with a palette knife right until the edges. Increase the oven temperature to 200C, then put the cake back in for another 10 minutes, until the top is bubbling.
  9. Remove from the oven, leave to stand for 3 minutes, then use a palette knife or a round bladed knife to run alongside the edges of the tin and to release the cake and the topping. Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

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Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Here is a recipe inspired from Emma’s take on it, although mine is a baked cheesecake, mostly because I did not trust adding raw eggs into the mixture. I therefore omitted gelatine altogether. The result is a very creamy and moreish cheesecake which, surprisingly enough, is not too sweet. If you look at the list of ingredients, you will see that there is no added sugar. The sweetness is provided only by the inner treacliness of dulce de leche which, let’s be frank, I could eat on its own – and have, in fact, done (tablespoon after tablespoon).

If you like me could not find dulce de leche at your local supermarket, you can easily make your own. All you need is a tin of condensed caramel and a water bath. You can find the information on how to make it here. I used the oven method as I couldn’t be bothered having to check over the stove every once in a while whether the caramel-like cream was ready. It worked perfectly.

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Ingredients

  • 130g digestive biscuits
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 130g full-fat cream cheese
  • 200g dulce de leche
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 125ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp dulce de leche (for the decoration)
  • icing sugar (for the decoration)

Method

  1. Grease a 20cm springform tin and set aside. Pre-heat your oven to 150C.
  2. Put the biscuits in a bag and bash with a rolling pin until reduced to very fine crumbs or put in a food processor and whiz for about 1 minute. Add the melted butter and stir to combine.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the tin and press it down to create an even layer. Place it in the fridge to firm up while you make the filling.
  4. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, combine the mascarpone with the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Add the dulce de leche, eggs, vanilla and double cream, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides from time to time. The mixture will be fairly runny but that is fine.
  5. Take the prepared tin out of the oven and pour the filling on the biscuit base, then place in the oven and bake for 1 hour or until set.
  6. Once cooked, turn the oven off but leave the cheesecake in. Ideally, you should allow the cheesecake to come to room temperature in the cooling oven, but in my case I left it in for 20 minutes and then chilled it in the fridge.
  7. To decorate the cheesecake, fill a piping bag with the dulce de leche, then snip the end off and draw your favourite pattern on top. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

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Orange Praline Meringue Cake

This is a stunning centerpiece for whichever occasion you might be willing to bake. The cake comprises of 2 génoise sponge layers alternated with 2 meringue discs and sealed with orange-flavoured and praline-dusted buttercream. The sides of the cake are then iced with more buttercream and are covered with coarser praline. It takes a while to make s there is quite a lot involved, but it isn’t as difficult as it might come across as and, once assembled, you will be glad to have spent that extra hour in the kitchen. The recipes comes from the GBBO book, but as it lacked a picture to go with the cake, I had to improvise a little bit on the decoration.

For those of you who don’t know, a génoise sponge is a whisked sponge which involves very little flour and is made by whisking the eggs in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, so that they start to cook and, at the same time, increase in volume at least threefold.

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Ingredients (for the sponge)

  • 150g plain flour
  • 15g cornflour
  • good pinch of salt
  • 6 large eggs
  • 165g caster sugar
  • finely grated zest of 1 and a half oranges
  • 75g unsalted butter

Ingredients (for the meringues)

  • 100g ground almonds, sifted
  • 70g icing sugar, sifted
  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 70g caster sugar

Ingredients (for the praline)

  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g whole (unblanched) almonds

Ingredients (for the butter icing)

  • 450g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 450g icing sugar, sifted
  • finely grated zest of 1 and a half oranges
  • 3 tbsp orange juice

Method

  1. First of all, let’s start with the sponge. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Sift the flour, cornflour and salt onto a sheet of baking parchment and set aside. In a pan, melt the butter, then transfer to a bowl to cool down and set aside. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin (I used a springform one) and set aside.
  2. In a heatproof bowl, break the eggs and whisk with an electric mixer until just frothy. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (ensuring the bowl doesn’t touch the water) and whisk in the sugar and the orange zest. Keep on whisking on high speed until the mixture is very thick, pale and mousse-like and leaves a ribbon-like trail when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.
  3. Remove the bowl from the pan and whisk again for a good 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled down to room temperature.
  4. Add half of the flour mixture to the egg one and dribble over the surface half of the butter mixture. Using a spatula or a big metal spoon, slowly and carefully fold these in until you can’t see any flour streaks anymore. Repeat to add the rest of the flour mixture and butter, then gently and carefully fold those in too.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes. Check whether the sponge is cooked by testing it with a skewer inserted in the middle. Once baked, remove from the oven and loosen it from the sides using a spatula or round-bladed knife, then set over a wire rack to cool down. Leave in the tin for about 5 minutes, then unmould and leave to cool down on the wire rack.
  6. Now, let’s move on to the praline. Set a pan over a low heat and tumble in both the sugar and the almonds. Grease well a baking tray and set aside.
  7. Stir occasionally and allow plenty of time for the sugar to start dissolving. Once the sugar has more or less completely melted and has turned into a brownish caramel, turn up the heat and let it come to a bubble, mixing constantly.
  8. When you see the mixture turning a dark brown colour, tip it onto the oiled baking sheet and flatten it out, then leave to cool to room temperature. In the meantime, I made the meringue layers, but I will put the whole procedure here for your convenience.
  9. Once the praline slab has cooled down to room temperature and is very hard to the touch, remove from the tin and break into smallish shards with a knife or a kitchen hammer. Transfer to a food processor and blend until you get a coarse powder. Sieve the mixture into a bowl so as to separate the praline powder from the rest of the coarser mixture. The powder will be used in the buttercream, so set that aside. Keep the coarser praline to ice the sides of the cake.
  10. Next step, the meringue layers. Using the cake tin base, draw a circle on two pieces of baking parchment, then turn the paper over so that the drawing is visible through the parchment and use to line two baking sheets. Mix the sifted ground almonds and icing sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  11. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks will form. Slowly but steadily add the caster sugar and keep on whisking on high speed until stiff peaks form. Once the egg whites are fully whisked, use a large spatula to fold in the icing sugar and ground almonds mixture and ensure to mix that in with a gentle but steady movement, so as to knock out as little air as possible. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  12. Divide the meringue mixture between the two baking trays and try to fill the circles drawn on the baking parchment, smoothing the sides and the top to make it into a disc.
  13. Bake for 1 and a half hours until crisp on the outside and dry. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack until stone cold.
  14. Last, the butter icing. Beat the butter with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy, then slowly mix the sifted icing sugar in before increasing the speed and adding the orange juice and praline powder. Beat again until creamy and fluffy.
  15. Last step, assembling the cake.
  16. Slice the sponge layer in half horizontally. Trim the meringue discs (if needed) to be the same size as the sponge layers.
  17. Sit one of the meringues on the cake stand/serving plate you are using and glue it with a dollop of butter icing, then cover with a layer of butter icing. Lay one of the sponges on top and cover that with a layer of icing, then top with a meringue disc and the last sponge layer, sticking them together with the butter icing.
  18. Use the rest of the butter icing to cover the sides and make the cake smooth, but keep some of the icing aside as you will need it to pipe on the top of the cake. Grab the coarser praline and, using your hands, stick handfuls of it to the fresh buttercream, so as to cover the sides evenly.
  19. Transfer the rest of the buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe a ring on top of the cake to cover any imperfections created when icing the sides, then use some to stick some of the praline in the middle and, if you want to, pipe a small star right in the middle of the top sponge layer and decorate with orange slices.

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Dulce and Banana Cake

Yes, the pun is intended. I think. Another one of Lorraine Pascale’s recipe, this is a really tasty cake and allowed me to introduce booze to my baking, which is always a bit fun. Don’t take that too seriously, I am not an alcoholic. Use ripe bananas as they will give you the best result and only peel them and slice them when you are ready to roll, as they tend to go a bit brown (it’s called oxidization  if you want to impress your friends).

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Ingredients (for the topping)

  • 75g butter
  • 75g soft light brown sugar

Ingredients (for the sponge)

  • 150g butter, softened
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • couple of drops of vanilla extract
  • 100g self-raising flour
  • 75g plain wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp treacle
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 tbsp rum

Method

  1. Grease and line a 20cm/8in square tin with baking parchment and grease again. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. First make the topping. Place the butter and soft light brown sugar in a small pan over a medium heat. Once the butter is melted, turn up the heat and let the mixture bubble away for a few minutes, until it begins to thicken slightly. Stir it frequently so it does not catch on the bottom.
  3. Pour the mixture into the bottom of the lined tin and tip the tin back and forth to spread it out evenly. The mixture will eventually solidify in the tin so make sure to spread it out now.
  4. Now make the sponge mixture. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl (or food mixer) until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at time, beating hard between each addition. Add the vanilla extract. Then fold in both flours, the baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, treacle and salt and set aside.
  5. Slice the bananas into 5mm thick pieces. Arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of the tin. Pack them all in tight so they don’t move around once the cake mix goes over. Then drizzle over the rum.
  6. Now, carefully dollop the cake mix over the bananas and gently spread it out with the back of a spoon or palate knife, levelling the top. Pop it into the oven for about 45 minutes.
  7. After 35 minutes, remove the cake from the oven and insert a metal skewer or the blade of a small knife right into the centre (but not touching the bottom. It should come out completely clean. If there is some cakey gooeyness left on it just pop it back in the oven for another five minutes or so.
  8. Once the cake is cooked remove it from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes. Then put a large flat plate over the top of the tin and holding the tin and the plate, flip the whole lot over so that the tin is now upside down. Gently remove the tin and carefully peel off the baking parchment.
  9. Cut into squares and serve warm or cold.

Caramel chocolate torte

I found this amazing recipe in the Christmas edition of the Feel Good Food magazine. A bit outdated, I agree, but a still very useful recipe for one of the deepest and darkest chocolate torte you have ever tasted. It was down as a salted caramel torte, but as I am not a massive fan of salted caramel (and indeed any salty dessert whatsoever), I just took the salt off. I know the method might sound and look complicated, but believe me it’s really easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 12 digestive biscuits
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar (for the caramel)
  • 2 tbsp liquid glucose
  • 600ml double cream
  • 2 egg whites
  • 125 g caster sugar (for the chocolate layer)
  • vanilla extract
  • 300g dark chocolate, melted and left to cool

Method

  1. Put the biscuits in the food processor and blitz until you get fine breadcrumbs, then tip in the butter (diced, for ease of operation) and whiz again until you get a sandy consistency. Tip into the base of a lined 20cm loose bottomed cake tin and press down well. Chill in the fridge while you get on with the rest.
  2. For the caramel, place the sugar, glucose and 4 tbsp water in a saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Using a damp pastry brush, remove any crystals which are forming on the side of the pan but for Heaven’s sake don’t stir the sugar any more. Increase the heat a bit and let is come to a bubble until the mixture turns a rich golden brown.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 300ml of the cream in another saucepan and bring it to the boil. Remove the caramel from the heat and slowly and carefully pour in the hot cream, whisking all the time. Stir well, then return the pan to the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
  4. Once cooled, pour most of the caramel over the biscuit base in the cake tin and spread it almost to the edges. Reserve the remaining caramel for the topping. Put the cake tin back in the fridge.
  5. Place the egg whites and the sugar in a bowl over hot water. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved, then remove the bowl from the water and whisk the mixture to form a thick meringue.
  6. In a different bowl, whisk the remaining cream with a few drops of vanilla extract until it just forms soft peaks.
  7. Fold the chocolate into the meringue mix, then fold in the cream. Pour over the caramel in the tin and smooth the top. Chill the torte until set (about 1 hour to be on the safe side).
  8. Once the cake is chilled enough, spoon the rest of the caramel into a piping bag and use to decorate the top with nice swirls.
  9. To serve, run a round bladed knife around the edges of the tin to release the cake and slide it on to a serving plate.

Mars Bars Muffins

Someone from work today emailed me about the recipe for these wonderful muffins. If you like chocolate and caramel, no point in trying to make the perfect cupcake with home-made caramel sauce (although that also gives pure satisfaction). Rather, chop some Mars bars and make these wonderful muffins!

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Ingredients

  • 175g soft unsalted butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 6 Mars bars, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150ml milk

Method

  1. Cream the butter and sugar in a big bowl until you get a soft and pale fluffy mixture.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  3. add the vanilla essence and beat that in too.
  4. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together in a bowl, then add t the mixture and stir that in with a wooden spoon or a spatula. Do not overmix.
  5. Pour in the milk and mix into the batter.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200 degree Celsius and grease and line a 12-muffin hole tray or use muffin cases (I usually go for the latter).
  7. Add the chopped Mars bars to the mixture and give one final stir, then divide the mixture evenly and bake for about 15 minutes.
  8. Take out of the oven and leave to cool before tasting it or you’ll burn your tongue!

Tips

  • Don’t overfill the muffin cases as the mixture will rise quite a lot in the oven and you risk overflowing the tray.