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ORANGE & HIBISCUS CAKE

hibiscus & orange cake

A little while ago I was given a big bag of dried hibiscus by a nice man from Honestea at the Smithsonian food festival. I knew I wanted to do more than just make a brew from it and it has sat patiently in my pantry whilst I’ve been distracted by all manner of festive goodies.

Now it can have my full attention though and I’ve chosen to try it out in an adaptation of my Greek yoghurt marble cake. It works really well, I think I like it even more than the chocolate version (and that’s saying something!) The colour of this is great, it’s a purple (almost blue) and orange cake without a single drop of food colouring in it. Amazing! Hibiscus has very tart, fruity flavour, not at all floral, as you might expect and the sweetness of the orange in this cake goes with it perfectly.
I’m looking forward to experimenting with the rest of the bag…

hibiscus & orange cake

Ingredients

zest and juice of 1 orange
15g dried hibiscus
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp hot water
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
150g sugar
75g butter, melted
150g fat-free Greek yoghurt
2 eggs

hibiscus & orange cake

Pre-heat your oven to 190°c and grease and line a loaf tin.
Warm the orange juice a little and use this to steep the hibiscus in a small dish. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the hot water and set it aside to cool.
Sift together the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and then whisk the salt and sugar into it.
In a separate bowl or jug beat together the melted butter, Greek yoghurt and eggs, ensuring that they are well combined. Stir the bicarbonate of soda into this. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Use a rubber spatula to stir everything together, until it is just combined. You don’t want to over-mix things at this stage.

hibiscus & orange cake
Divide the mixture roughly in two and fold the orange zest into one half. Use a tea strainer or small mesh sieve to squeeze as much liquid as possible out the steeped hibiscus and discard the ‘leaves’. Pour this liquid (it should be at least a couple of tablespoons) into the other half of the batter and stir it together.
Gently marble the two batters together and then pour them into the prepared loaf tin. Bake the cake for 40-45 minutes, until it is lovely and golden on top and a cake tester comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

hibiscus & orange cake

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CHOCOLATE ORANGE TRIFLE

chocolate orange trifle

I think there’s still just about enough time to squeeze in one last moment of indulgence before we all embark on the inevitable dessert-purgatory that is January. Even I might try to exercise some self-control (no promises though, okay…)
But until the clock strikes 12 we can enjoy this. Today is also my Mum’s birthday and I’m pretty sure that she would approve of this truly decadent dessert. Golden sponge soaked in a boozy orange syrup smothered in a rich truffle ganache and a very soft, light, mousse and finished off with fresh whipped cream. I’ve decorated mine with some orange meringues simply because I’ve apparently become the sort of person who has that kind of thing hanging around the pantry!
Here I’ve used the orange sponge from my cranberry & orange Victoria sponge, using quantities for one egg. If you do this it’s best to bake it in a smaller tin or as cupcakes, otherwise it’ll be really thin. You can of course use a shop-bought sponge if you want to save yourself a bit of time, it doesn’t necessarily have to be orange flavoured.

chocolate orange trifle

Ingredients
serves 6

enough orange flavoured sponge cake to line the base of your serving dish

Orange syrup
juice of 1 orange
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp orange liqueur

Chocolate truffle ganache
75g dark chocolate
75ml cream
10g butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
zest of 1 orange

Chocolate mousse
90g milk chocolate
3 eggs (separated)
1 tbsp bandy
pinch of salt

125ml double cream
dark chocolate to decorate (I also used tiny orange flavoured meringues)

chocolate orange trifle

Start by making the orange syrup. Combine the orange juice and sugar in a small pan and heat them until the sugar has dissolved and the juice has reduced a bit. Remove the pan from the heat and add the orange liqueur. Leave this to cool a little.
Cut the sponge into cubes and use them to line the base of your serving dish. Spoon the orange syrup over the sponge making sure that each piece of sponge soaks up some of the liquid. Let this sit at room temperature whilst you make the chocolate ganache.
Put all the ingredients for the sauce into a small pan and gently melt them together over a very low heat. Stir the mixture constantly to ensure that the chocolate doesn’t burn or seize. Once it has melted and combined pour the warm ganache over the sponge layer. Now put the dish in the fridge to chill out for a little while, just whilst you make the mousse layer.

chocolate orange trifle
Break up the milk chocolate and put it in a bowl, set over a pan of gently simmering water. Melt the chocolate, stirring it occasionally and then remove it from the heat. Quickly stir in the brandy. This might cause the chocolate to thicken a little but don’t panic as long as it isn’t grainy. Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate, one at a time, whilst it’s still warm and then leave the mixture to cool.
Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl along with the salt, until they hold a stiff peak. Beat one tablespoon of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten the mixture. Follow this by very carefully, using a large metal spoon, folding in the remaining egg whites, a couple of spoons at a time until it is all incorporated and you have a light airy mousse.
Pour this on top of the cooled chocolate ganache layer and then return the dish to the fridge and forget about for a couple of hours so that the mousse can set more firmly.
Finally whip the cream so that it holds soft peaks and then spread it all over the top of the trifle. Finish off with a little chocolate (or meringue) decoration and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it.

chocolate orange trifle

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CRANBERRY & ORANGE VICTORIA SPONGE

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

A well made classic Victoria Sponge is a thing of beauty, although I have to confess that I do always have to have cream or buttercream in my filling (sorry Women’s Institute).
It’s all about the texture. It should be light and springy with a nice even crumb so be careful that you don’t over beat the batter. In a traditional Victoria Sponge you also rely solely on the quality of your ingredients for the flavour so I always use real butter rather than baking margarine and I always try to find fresh free-range eggs. I only ever use free-range anyway but if you can get locally reared ones then 9 times out of 10 they’ll be richer than anything you buy in the supermarkets. They’ll also give your sponge great colour.
I find that I get the best results when I let all of my ingredients get up to room temperature before I start.
American self-rising flour does seem to be a tiny bit different to U.K self-raising flour but this recipe should work fine with both.

Classic Victoria sponge

If you want to make the classic Victoria Sponge then just leave out the orange zest from the sponge, sandwich it together with good quality jam (usually strawberry or raspberry) and dust the top with a little sugar.

classic Victoria sponge

Ingredients
serves 10-12

Orange sponge
3 eggs
the weight of the eggs (inc shells) in butter, sugar and self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tbsp milk
zest of 1 orange

Cranberry compote
70g ish cranberries (mine were frozen)
30g sugar
juice of 1 orange

Swiss meringue buttercream
1 egg white
50g sugar
70g butter (room temperature and cut into small pieces)
zest of 1 orange

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and grease two sandwich tins. Place a disc of baking parchment in the base of each.
Weigh your eggs, in their shells so that you know how much flour, butter and sugar you’ll need.
Sift together the baking powder and flour a couple of times and set it aside. This will get plenty of air into it.
Using a hand or stand mixer beat together the butter and sugar until it is pale, thick and fluffy, this should take a minute or two.
Lightly beat each egg and mix them, one at a time, into the butter and sugar. Follow each addition with a spoonful of the flour and beat it well. Once you have added all of the eggs briefly beat in the orange zest. Sift the remaining flour into the batter in two batches and carefully fold it in.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Finally stir in the milk to loosen the mixture to a nice soft dropping consistency. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared tins (I actually weigh mine) and level off the tops. Bake them in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes. Don’t be tempted to open the oven door during this time as you might cause them to sink in the middle. Once the time is up open the oven door and test that the sponges are cooked with a skewer. Give them another minute or two if it doesn’t come out clean. They should feel light and springy once they are cooked.
Put the cooked sponges on a wire rack and let them cool in the tins for five minutes then turn them out on the rack and carefully remove the greaseproof paper. Let them become completely cool before you fill them.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Make the compote by combining the sugar, cranberries and the juice of the orange in a small saucepan. Pop this over a moderate heat and let it gently bubble away for a few minutes. Mash the berries a bit to release their juice, but be careful as they tend to pop and you don’t want them to splatter you with hot juice. Once the juice is thick and syrupy you can leave the compote to cool and become a bit jammy.
Swiss Meringue buttercream is next on your to-do list. Put the egg white and sugar in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Gently whisk it to keep it moving whilst it heats, it needs to be quite warm and the sugar needs to have dissolved into the egg white. Just rub a little between your fingers to check the temperature and that it isn’t grainy. Remove the pan from the heat and then whisk the egg white until it is stiff (like meringue) and cool. An electric mixer makes this pretty quick and easy. Once it is cool you can slowly beat in the butter, one small piece at a time. If the mixture is too warm then the butter will simply melt so make sure it’s cool before you start. You can pop it in the fridge for a few minutes if you need to. Continue to whip the buttercream until it has emulsified and become smooth and creamy and then mix through the orange zest.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge
Decide which of your cakes is the least pretty and place it, upside-down, on a serving plate. Spread the cold cranberry compote onto it and the follow this with the orange Swiss meringue buttercream. I prefer to pipe this but to be honest it isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to the way it tastes!
Carefully place on the top layer of cake and then sprinkle it with a little icing sugar as a finishing touch.

Cranberry & orange Victoria sponge

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ROASTED PEAR & ROSEMARY CAKE WITH MAPLE FROSTING

Roasted pear & rosemary cake with maple frosting

We took a little road trip up to Vermont in October to meet up with a couple of our friends from back home. This nicely coincided with my friend’s birthday. We also realised whilst we were away that we’ve known each other for 25 years, which means that this year is our Silver Friendiversary (or something like that – I’m sure Hallmark can come up with a catchier name for it).
Anyway, I wasn’t going to turn up in Stowe without a cake for my friend, but I did need to come up with one that could survive the 500+ mile journey up there. I’m pleased to say that this performed admirably. The cake has plenty of moisture from the pears and the frosting is less prone to melting than others that I’ve worked with.
The flavours of this are quite subtle, I didn’t want anything to be too over-powering. However if you want to amp-up the rosemary then just put the sugar for the sponge in a container for a few days with several sprigs of rosemary that you’ve bashed with a rolling-pin and it’ll take on a bit more of the flavour.

Roasted pear & rosemary cake with maple frosting

Ingredients

Pear puree
2-3 pears (depending on size)
handful of rosemary sprigs

Sponge
100g butter
150g sugar (or rosemary infused sugar)
pinch of salt
2 eggs
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250g pear puree
2 tbsp milk

Frosting
100g butter
100g icing sugar
4 tbsp maple syrup
pinch salt
225g cream cheese

Roasted pear & rosemary cake with maple frosting

You need to start by making the roasted pear puree, this can be done a few days in advance if you like. It’ll be quite happy in the fridge.
Peel, core and quarter the pears, mix them with the rosemary on a baking tray and roast them at 190°c until they are really soft and tender. How long this takes really depends on how ripe the pears are to start with, so keep checking them. Once they are soft, let the fruit cool and then puree them (discard the rosemary) in a food processor until they are really smooth. I like to sieve mine too so that there are no lumps at all. Set this aside.

Roasted pear & rosemary cake with maple frosting

Once you have your pear puree you can get cracking on the cake itself. Pre-heat the oven to 190°c and grease and line a couple of sandwich tins.
Cream together the butter, salt and sugar until it’s fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, following each one with a spoonful of the flour to stop the mixture from curdling. Sift in the remaining flour along with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and briefly beat it together. Add the pear puree and milk and beat the batter again so that it is well combined.
Divide the batter evenly between the tins, smooth off the tops and bake the sponges for 25-30 minutes. Test them with a skewer but they should be lightly browned and feel springy to the touch.
Remove the cakes from the tins and leave them to cool on a wire rack.

Roasted pear & rosemary cake with maple frosting

The frosting is very easy to make. Simply beat the butter, salt and sugar until they are fluffy then add the maple syrup and briefly beat again. Add the cream cheese and beat the whole lot until it’s thick and creamy. Use about a third of this to sandwich the two cooled cakes together and use the remainder to frost and decorate the cake however you like. There are some videos on youtube that will show you how to do the ‘basket weave’ piping that I’ve used. It’s really very easy (I promise!).

Roasted pear & rosemary cake with maple frosting

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CHILI CHOCOLATE MOUSSE CAKE

Chocolate mousse cake

I don’t think that I can actually overstate how bloomin’ amazing this cake is. Even Roald Dahl Willy Wonka style naming wouldn’t come close to describing exactly how delicious this dessert tastes. Not just tastes mind you, the texture is heavenly too, crisp and meringue-like on the top and at the edges, rich and fudgy in the middle. And oh that slight spiciness too, tingly and warm and brilliant. Yes, I am proud of this bake.

Chocolate mousse cake

The cream complements it wonderfully, and I’ve allowed plenty of it (because I’ll always be a West-country girl), but you could of course serve the cake with just a dusting of icing sugar and scoop of ice cream.

Ingredients
serves 8 (but I wouldn’t share it)

150g dark chocolate
4 eggs
100g sugar
75g butter
1 tsp vanilla extract/paste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
pinch of salt

Vanilla-rum cream
300ml double cream
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
1 tbsp dark rum
1 tsp sugar

fresh raspberries and mint to decorate

Chocolate mousse cake

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and grease a spring-form cake tin. Line the base with grease-proof paper.
Chop up the chocolate and melt it together with the butter, either in a double boiler or by using short blasts in the microwave. Let this cool a little.
Separate the eggs, putting the whites and yolks into two large mixing bowls. Add the sugar to the yolks and beat them until they are really pale (the colour of butter) and thick and fluffy. Add the spices and vanilla to this and briefly beat it again.
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they hold a stiff peak.

Chocolate mousse cake
Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture and mix them together, making sure that they are well blended. Adding the chocolate to the eggs (rather than the other way around) will reduce your risk of the chocolate seizing. Take a big spoonful of the whipped egg whites and mix it into the chocolate goo. This will lighten the mixture a bit. Carefully, using a big metal spoon, fold in the remaining egg whites, a couple of tablespoons at a time.
Pour the moussey batter into the prepared tin and bake it for 40 minutes.

Chocolate mousse cake
Leave the cake to cool in the tin on a wire rack, the middle will sink a lot but that means that you can fill it with even more cream. Don’t worry if you have cracks in the top either.
Run a pallet knife around the inside of the tin and then carefully release the cake. Hopefully it will come away cleanly and you can slide it off the base and onto a serving plate. Carefully peel away the paper from underneath, this can be a bit fiddly because the top of the cake might be a bit crisp and delicate.
Place all the ingredients for the cream in a mixing bowl and whip until it forms soft peaks. Either pipe or spoon this on top of the cake to fill in the crater in the middle and decorate it with the raspberries and mint leaves. You can serve any leftover cream alongside the cake or it’s amazing on top of hot chocolate or coffee.

Chocolate mousse cake

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LAVENDER AND HONEY MADELEINES

Lavender & honey madeleines

I realise that having a third madeleine recipe on here may be a bit extravagant, a second floral themed one at that, but when I scavenged some lavender flowers from my mums garden I couldn’t resist using them in some of these pretty little cakes. Plus it totally justifies the fact that I even own a madeleine tin at all!
I’m not normally a massive fan of lavender, I think that I associate the smell of it with having migraines, but these are actually very nice. The lemon zest really perks them up so that the lavender isn’t too perfumy. They go very well with a cup of earl grey tea too.

Lavender & honey madeleines

Ingredients
makes 12

65g butter
50g sugar
1 tbsp lavender flowers
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 egg
85g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp milk

Melt the butter and use a little of it to brush your madeleine tin. Dust the tin with a little flour too and shake out any excess. Put the tin in the fridge to chill. Set the remaining butter aside to cool.
Put the sugar, lavender and lemon zest in a dinky food processor and whizz it up for a few moments. This will get some of the oils from the flowers and zest into the sugar.
Beat together the egg and the sugar until it is thick, pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then fold this into the egg mixture.
Mix the honey and milk into the butter, making sure that the honey blends in. Stir this into the batter and then let it stand in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Lavender & honey madeleines
Towards the end of the resting time pre-heat the oven to 220°c.
Spoon the batter into each of the little shell shaped cavities of the chilled madeleine tin. You don’t need to worry too much about spreading it out to fill them, the batter will do this of its own accord once it hits the heat of the oven.
Bake the madeleines for three minutes and then turn the oven down to 180°c and leave them for a further five minutes.
Once the little cakes have risen and become golden brown take them out of the oven and place the tray on a cooling rack for a few minutes. When they’ve cooled a bit you can carefully lift them out of the tin and let cool completely on the rack before sprinkling them with a little icing sugar.

Lavender & honey madeleines

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LITTLE RASPBERRY AND ALMOND CRUMBLE CAKES

raspberry & almond crumble cakeI bloomin’ love these cute little cakes! So much so that it’s a wonder that Mr Colonial Cravings even got a look-in with them. I could have quite cheerfully polished off the lot. I love an almond sponge at the best of times but if you top it off with some crunchy, buttery crumble then there’s a chance that I might just bite your hand off to get to them.

These are really light and fluffy and look so dainty too. Honestly, I just can’t get enough of them. I’d rather have one of these than a cupcake any day. They make me want to drink Darjeeling tea out of bone china cups.
They’re wonderful on their own but even better topped with a dollop of silky clotted cream.

raspberry & almond crumble cake

Ingredients
makes 12

Crumble Topping
65g cold butter
100g plain flour
20g sugar

Sponge
75g butter (room temperature)
100g sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs (separated)
1/3 tsp almond extract
100g ground almonds
50g fine semolina
1 tsp baking powder
50ml milk
Small punnet of fresh raspberries

raspberry & almond crumble cake

Pre-heat your oven to 180°c and grease a muffin tin really well with butter.
Start by making the crumble topping. Simply rub the butter into the flour and sugar with the tips of your fingers. Pop this in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Next make the sponge.
Cream together the butter, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks and the almond extract and mix again to combine.
Whip the egg whites in another bowl until they hold a stiff peak.

raspberry & almond crumble cake
Mix the almonds, semolina and baking powder into the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Use the milk to loosen this before carefully folding in the whipped egg whites using a large metal spoon. Make sure it’s well combined but don’t knock all the air out of the eggs.
Divide the batter between the holes in the muffin tin and then push about 3 raspberries gently into the top of each one. Scatter over a little of the crumble topping and then bake them for about 20 minutes. They should be well risen and golden brown once they are done. Leave them to cool in the tin for 15-20 minutes then gently run a pallet knife around the edge of each one before carefully turning them out and popping them on a rack to cool completely before serving.

raspberry & almond crumble cake

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