Monthly Archives: June 2011

Chocolate Dessert Cake

Hello dear readers,

I apologise profusely for the lack of posts recently. I am learning how to teach English as a foreign language so things are a little tense at the moment! Hopefully you can forgive me! This recipe ought to sway you…

This is the cake recipe for emergency dinner guests. You know, the people who turn up unexpectedly and expect food and drink. It takes about 5 minutes to bang together and then does its thing in the oven whilst you organise the rest of the meal. Genius. It’s adapted from Nigella’s Feast book which I just love love love.

Feast is the book I look at for inspiration, to find out about celebration traditions and for general food porn. Nigella can do little wrong and this book is just fabulous. The fact that there is an entire chapter devoted just to chocolate cake should explain why I love this so much.  

This is a store-cupboard recipe. Which is great because I discovered we have completely run out of 70% chocolate of any kind. The only chocolate in the house was the trashy, sweet, milky plain milk chocolate. Great for snacking on, not so great in desserts. But it’s okay because Nigella has a cocoa based recipe here to which you add chocolate chips. Yay! Crisis solved. Now if I can just think of what to serve as the main meal…

Chocolate Dessert Cake
Adapted from Feast
175g unsalted butter, soft
275g caster sugar
2 eggs
200g cake flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarb
50g cocoa powder
splash of vanilla
80ml buttermilk
125ml boiling water
175g chocolate chips (either dark or milk)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a large loaf tin with baking paper.
Cream the butter and the sugar together until white and fluffy. Add in the eggs and beat to combine.
Add the vanilla followed by the dry ingredients. Lastly add in the buttermilk followed by the boiling water. Allow to beat for 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth. (The mixture will initially be quite lumpy so this is an important stage.)

Remove from the mixer and fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for about an hour. You want the cake to be cooked but not overdone. The cake should be stable but it’s okay if there is some batter on the skewer.

After about 45 minutes, make the syrup.
125ml boiling water
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa powder

Bring the ingredients to the boil and reduce to a thick syrup.

When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven. Pour the syrup over it evenly. Allow to cool. After 15 minutes turn out of the tin and cool on a rack.
Great served with ice-cream, cream or crémé fraîche.

 The princess and the unavailable M say they would eat the cake out of the trash. Need I say more?

Trude’s Chocolate Cake

Alrighty people. My life just got so hectic. This whole 8 to 5 thing is so overrated. I do not know how you all do it. Every day. Wow. Fortunately I only have 3 more weeks left and then I’ll be back to being on sabbatical. (This is what I am now terming my current state of unemployment.) Phew. So, because of the unseasonable busyness of the last week (it’s been one week and already I’m complaining – clearly real jobs are just not for me) I haven’t really had time to bake up a storm. Yes, I did experiment with the caramel cinnamon sticky buns but there hasn’t really been much else. But, as most of you are probably aware, yesterday was Father’s Day. That day of spending time with our dads. Yup, mine entails feeding him. Easy. Simple. Until it gets to Saturday night and you realise you haven’t thought about a dessert (genuinely) and there is no butter in the house and you’re on a Monday deadline and must spend every available minute not cooking, working. Panic.

Never fear dear readers. Help is at hand, in the form of this recipe. It’s another family classic and is conveniently my dad’s chocolate cake of choice. Happy day. It doesn’t need chocolate or butter, being a recipe from a time when such things were considered extravagant, it uses cocoa powder and oil. It’s basically everything you would have in your pantry at any given time. Well, okay, everything I would have in my pantry at any given time. And it’s easy. It’s the cake I learned to bake first, when I was rather young. So you can totally do it. I am not giving icing today because I had an incident of failure with the icing yesterday and cannot under any circumstances reveal what I did to make it edible. Never. But this cake is lovely filled with chocolate mousse and drizzled with ganache. I also like it plain, served warm with custard, but that’s just my custard thing talking. Ordinary butter icing would work well too or whipped cream and bar-one pieces… I leave it to your good judgement.

Chocolate Cake

4 eggs, separated
1 and 3/4 cups of cake flour
1 and 1/2 cups of caster sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 cup of oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla
3/4 cup of boiling water
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup cold water

First thing is to preheat your oven to 180C. Grease 2 20cm round cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.
Mix the cocoa powder with the boiling water, whisking to get rid of lumps then set aside.
Mix together the egg yolks, vanilla and oil. In a separate bowl weigh the dry ingredients.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. (You should be able to hold the bowl over your head without the whites falling out.)
Mix the cold water into the cocoa powder, then whisk the cocoa powder into the egg yolk mixture and pour this into the dry ingredients. Carefully mix everything together. It will be fairly stiff at this stage.

Finally, fold in the whites in 2 stages. Fold about 1/4 in and roughly mix this into the batter. Then lightly fold in the rest.
Pour the mixture into the lined cake tins and bake for 20-30 minutes until the cakes spring back when touched and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before inverting onto racks. Allow to cool completely before icing…

Sticky Caramel Cinnamon Buns

I have a little obsession with cinnamon buns. I love them. A lot. They are the ultimate comfort food for when you have a carb and sugar craving. This is my choice. Always. However, a good cinnamon bun is hard to find. I want my bun to be swirled beautifully with cinnamon sugar. It should shine in the light and should be relatively sticky. There should be NO raisins and NO white icing. Those are my conditions. As a result, I make my own. I have a tried and tested recipe that I almost always use. It turns out perfect cinnamon buns every time. But today I thought I would try something a little different. Something that would elevate the cinnamon bun to a new level of decadence. A sticky caramel cinnamon bun.

Obviously the only place to go for such a ridiculously over-decadent item is Flour. I’ve waxed lyrical about Flour before. It’s a wonderful example of American baking and the recipes work. (Well, the ones I’ve tried anyway.) You make a brioche dough then roll and fill it with cinnamon sugar and pecans before proving it and baking it in caramel sauce. OMG. You could run the Comrades on this amount of sugar. Its insane. In a good way.

Caramel Cinnamon Buns
Adapted from Flour


320g cake flour
200g bread flour
150g stone ground cake flour
3 and a 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
95ml caster sugar
1 tablespoon salt
125ml cold water
5 eggs
310g unsalted butter, room temperature

170g unsalted butter
330g light brown sugar
120g honey
80g double cream
80g water

55g light brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup pecans, toasted and bashed

Firstly, make the caramel. Melt the butter then add in the sugar. Stir own to ensure it’s all mixed up then allow the sugar to dissolve. Off the heat add in the water, honey and cream. If the mixture seizes, return it to the heat and allow everything to dissolve once more. Strain into a bowl and allow to cool.

Grease a rectangular baking dish.

For the brioche, place the dry ingredients in a standing mixer bowl. With the speed on low, add the eggs and water and allow the mixer to beat until the mixture comes together. It won’t look like much yet. This takes 5 to 10 minutes.

Start adding in the butter, a large-ish cube at a time. Allow the dough to absorb the butter before adding in any more. Once all the butter is added, mix on a medium speed for 10-15 minutes until the dough is soft, silky and pliable.


Place the dough in the mixer bowl and cover with cling film. Allow the dough to prove for 2 hours. You can refrigerate it overnight at this point if you need too. Roll the dough into a large rectangle with the long side closest to you. Mix together the filling ingredients but only add in half a cup of the pecans. Sprinkle the filling mixture over the dough. Roll the dough down from the top, making sure its tightly rolled. Using a large knife, slice the dough into 12 equal pieces. Pour the caramel into the baking dish and sprinkle with the rest of the pecans. Place the buns cut side down into the caramel, allowing some space between each bun. Allow to prove for 2 hours in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Once at temperature, bake the buns for 35-40 minutes. They will get fairly dark on top but you need a long baking time to ensure the buns cook through.

Remove from the baking tray individually and spoon extra caramel and pecans from the tray. These are not particularly beautiful specimens but that taste extraordinary. You may need to run around the block after.

Sunday Morning Pancakes

Everyone has their first cookbook. Mine arrived in the post, courtesy of a scheme Ngonu signed me up to where books arrived in the post as if by magic. Mostly they were fiction but occasionally they included reference books. My first cookbook was It’s Fun to Cook. I take as testament to my destiny in desserts that the only part of this book that has been heavily used is the baking section. Some of the pages are stuck together, never to be undone. This book has lasted as a reference for many years and I still use it for some things, these pancakes are one. You can tell it was printed in the 1980’s not only because of the bizarre illustrations but also because the recipes call for margarine and not butter. Anyone who grew up in the 80’s should know about the butter-fear phenomenon that characterized our diets. Butter was evil. It would give you heart attacks and high cholesterol and thus ultimately result in your (untimely) death. Up until I was about 12 butter was really a rarity.Thankfully such times have passed and butter in moderation is now allowed. When I use this book now I most often substitute the margarine for butter and haven’t had any problems to date.

The other thing that occurred as a result of this book was the princess’ ability to flip pancakes and my inability to do so. I guess it is just a representation of our roles in the family but I cannot flip pancakes at all. I have a mental block. As such I never make pancakes unless the princess is here to flip them. I’m sure I could learn  but I think of it as a fair trade. I make the batter and she flips the pancakes. We both get breakfast. If only life could be this simple.

Adapted from It’s Fun to Cook
1 egg
1/4 cup of caster sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon oil (one that doesn’t overpower everything else so canola or sunflower)
1 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt

Whisk the egg and sugar together until well blended. Add in the milk and oil followed by the dry ingredients. Whisk well. I like to let the mix stand for half an hour. Then give it another whisk. Heat a non-stick pan. Pour some oil onto a sheet of kitchen towel folded twice. Wipe the pan with this. Drop the batter into the pan and allow bubbles to appear on the surface before turning. Keep warm in the oven until eating… The recipe makes about 12 pancakes, depending on size. It feeds 3-4 comfortably.

Oh by the by, when I say pancakes I mean American-style pancakes (although we make them a more reasonable size). Sometimes these are called crumpets. They are NOT crepes.

If you want to make blueberry ones, drop the batter into the pan before placing blueberries on the individual pancakes. Flip as normal.

Spice Cupcakes

The princess spent some time working in the USA a few years ago and discovered something called spice cake. She’s been obsessed ever since. I can’t say I mind this development at all. Spice cake is awesome. It makes the house smell like Christmas. And who better to provide a recipe than the queen of all things American, Martha Stewart. No matter what you think about this women, you have to agree that she is a genius. She’s made a multi-million dollar empire out of crafts and cake. There are no words.

The cream cheese icing is my addition, to soften the craving that took place a few days ago. Feel free to make a citrus glaze instead.

Spice Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes
80g butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 eggs
4 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 cupcake trays. This recipe makes 24.
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy then add in the eggs. Sift together all the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the milks. The mixture is fairly stiff.

Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tins before transferring to racks to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Icing
250g butter
250g icing sugar
900g cream cheese
splash of vanilla

Cream the butter and sugar together until white and fluffy. Add in the cream cheese and beat for about 5 minutes. Until the mixture is soft and spreadable and has turned white. Use to ice the cupcakes. Ices 24 cupcakes very generously. If you prefer less icing, make half to three quarters this amount.

Marble Cake

The princess requested something chocolate today, preferably with cream cheese icing. I feel like I’ve done a lot of cream cheese icing recently so I settled on something a little different. This recipe is from Ngonu, my grandmother, and is usually an orange-chocolate-vanilla marble cake. The princess objects to chocolate and orange for reasons I do not really understand, but then the princess has many food objections which I do not understand. So in efforts to appease the princess I’m making regular chocolate-vanilla marble cake.

The chocolate part of this cake is made with cocoa. Making cake with cocoa is something I don’t seem to do very often even though the cake that is requested of me the most is a cocoa one – go figure. I guess I’m just not really a chocolate cake person. (I prefer brownies as a rule and they’re all about the chocolate quality.) This cake brings back various memories of childhood and Ngonu and proves (to me anyway) that food is important for memory. The recipe is found in my mom’s handwritten recipe book which I spent hours pages through as a child and which I still refer to for certain recipes. Eating this cake was my first experience of the magic of chocolate-orange. I don’t make it often but it is one of my favourites. Especially with tea.

Marble Cake
200g unsalted butter, softened
375ml (1 and a half cups) caster sugar
4 eggs
625ml (2 and a half cups) cake flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons cocoa dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water*
125ml (half a cup) milk plus 30ml milk**

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a bundt tin. Cream the butter and sugar until white and fluffy. Add in the eggs, beating well to incorporate. Add in a cup and a half of the flour plus the baking powder and salt. Beat well then add in the milk followed by the rest of the flour.
Beat for 2 minutes on a high speed so that everything is well mixed. Then separate half the mixture into a new bowl and add in the cocoa powder to this half of the mix.

Put alternate dollops of the mixture into your tin and when all is added, swirl the mixture to create a marble effect with a knife.

Bake for approximately 35 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Eat plain or with chocolate orange buttercream. Be careful when slicing because the top forms a crust which can crumble.

Chocolate Orange Buttercream
200g butter, unsalted, soft
200g icing sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
rind of one orange

Cream the butter and sugar until white. Add in the orange rind followed by the cocoa. Mix well and use immediately.

* Dissolving cocoa in hot water removes the bitterness sometimes associated with it.
**If you’re making the chocolate orange version, substitute the 30ml milk amount for 30ml orange juice and add in the rind of one orange to the butter/sugar mixture.

Lunch. 2pm

My best kind of sandwich. Lightly toasted ciabatta. Bacon so crispy it shatters as you bite. Sun-dried tomatoes. Lettuce leaves. On the side: olives and some beetroot with blue cheese. Happy Saturday!