Monday, 31 December 2012

Chocolate Pecan Pie

I can't quite believe 2012 is almost over. Did you have a good Christmas? Mine was lovely, spending time with both mine and Mark's families. I was very lucky and got some new kitchen scales, some recipe books and other foodie bits and bobs. My main present (from my Mum and Mark) was a new dressing table for my bedroom which was given to me back in November. Mark and I bought our house 3 years ago and we have decided to get new bedroom and living room furniture, so the dressing table is the start!

I love Christmas but I am quite fed up of party food and nibbly bits now, I seem to have not stopped eating them over the last two weeks. I am looking forward to vegetables (maybe some fruit) and routine again!

I LOVE Pecan Pie, I had it for the first time a couple of years ago after deciding to make one for a visit by Mark's family and now can't get enough. I don't particularly enjoy pecans other than when they are in this pie, so if you feel the same I would really encourage you to give it a try.

This recipe will make a pie 26cm (10 inches) in diameter. I use a stoneware flan dish as I don't have a loose-bottomed tart tin, and have never had any issues with cutting and releasing slices from the dish.

This recipe is taken from The Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days. It is quite time consuming and some might say 'faffy' but it is SO worth it.

For the pastry crust
110g unsalted butter (room temperature)
225g plain flour
80g caster sugar
1 large egg

For the filling
110g unsalted butter (room temperature)
225g soft light brown sugar
110g golden syrup
3 large eggs
260g pecans, chopped roughly and a few spare to decorate the top
85g dark chocolate, chopped roughly


1. Using a mixer, or food processor mix the butter and flour until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the sugar and egg, and mix until combined.

2. When a dough begins to form, remove it from the bowl and knead on a floured surface until the pastry comes together. Wrap in cling film, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Once the pastry has chilled roll it out on a floured surface until it is large enough to line the dish. Carefully press the pastry into the base and sides of the dish, and when you are happy trim the excess pastry from the sides. Prick the base of the pastry with the point of a knife and place back in the fridge for another 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C.

4. Remove the crust from the fridge and line with greaseproof paper. Then fill with baking beans, or dry rice (to ensure the pastry does not shrink) and place in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully take out the greaseproof and baking beans or rice and return to the oven to bake for a further 10 minutes.

5. The pastry crust can now be removed from the oven and set aside whilst making the filling. Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over a low heat and set aside to cool. In a large bowl whisk the eggs and then pour in the melted ingredients, stirring constantly.

6. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate and pecan nuts over the base of the pastry crust, and then pour the filling on top. Decorate with the reserved pecans.

7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 140 degrees C and bake for a further 30 minutes. If the crust or filling begin to catch, cover with tin foil and continue to bake. The pie is done when the filling is set.

After writing out the recipe I am now dreaming of pecan pie - we ate it for pudding on Christmas day with custard. Not very traditional but absolutely divine (I LOVE CUSTARD!)

I hope you have a very happy new year and enjoy whatever you have planned tonight. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog in 2012 and I hope you continue to in 2013. I have lots of things planned and I look forward to sharing them with you!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Ferrero Rocher Cake

I originally made this cake to take to the December meeting of Oxford Clandestine Cake Club but unfortunately the organiser cancelled at the last minute. The theme was Christmas cheer so I decided on a Ferrero Rocher cake, as the chocolates seem to be around more than usual in December!

This recipe will make a 3 tier layer cake, using 3x 20cm cake pans.
Ever-so-slightly adapted from

For the cake
75g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
160g light brown sugar
375ml boiling water
190g unsalted butter (room temperature)
225g caster sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large organic free range eggs (room temperature)
240g plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the filling
200g Nutella
4 tablespoons of frosting

For the frosting
225g unsalted butter (room temperature)
170g icing sugar
125g dark chocolate (melted and cooled)
150g Nutella

For decoration
100g Hazelnuts roughly chopped (save 15 for the top of the cake)


1. Grease and line the cake pans. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

2. Whisk the cocoa powder, espresso powder, brown sugar and boiling water in a bowl and set aside.

3. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, around 10 minutes. Then mix in the vanilla extract.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each is added. Mix in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Then slowly beat in the cocoa, sugar and espresso mixture until combined.

5. Divide the batter equally between the 3 pans and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then remove and place on a cooling rack.

6. Once the cakes are cool, the frosting can be made. Melt the dark chocolate and allow it to cool slightly. Beat the butter and icing sugar for 10 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the chocolate and beat until combined. Finally add the Nutella and beat on a medium speed until the frosting is fluffy.

7. Now it's time to assemble! Place the first layer of cake on a stand and spread with half of the Nutella, and gently spread a little of the frosting on top of the Nutella. Repeat with the second layer. Place the third and final layer on top.

8. Now the frosting can be smoothed onto the top and sides of the cake with a small spatula, make sure to save some to pipe small rosettes around the edge of the cake. Top each of the rosettes with a whole Hazelnut, adding a couple in the middle of the cake. Finally press the chopped Hazelnuts onto the side of the cake until it is evenly covered.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Home made vanilla extract

I was putting together some Christmas bits for a friend who likes baking and suddenly thought 'why don't I include some home made vanilla extract?!' Admittedly I have left it a bit late as it takes 6-8 weeks to steep, but I'm going to write on the label I tie on when the extract will be ready to use. And I think it's quite nice that they will be able to see it develop.

This is a super easy and quick project, it's just the steeping which takes time.

I bought my Vanilla Pods from Vanilla Mart on Amazon. Delivery was quick and the pods are really plump and not at all dry.

I also got some lovely Kilner clip top bottles from Cargo which at the time were on a 3 for 2 offer at £2.50 each! The last item needed was Vodka. I just bought a mid-range 1l bottle from Sainsbury's.

Method (If you can call it that!)

1. Take 3 vanilla pods per 250ml bottle. Split them length ways and add to the bottle.

2. Add vodka to the bottle until it covers the pods.

3. Seal and keep in a cool dry place for 6-8 weeks. Perhaps giving it a very gentle shake each week.

Ta da! That is it! As simple as it is I am really excited to give these to friends as gifts, as I know I would be really happy to receive a bottle of this. I had two spare jars and enough vanilla pods and vodka to make some for myself and my sister. I can't wait until it's ready and I can use it in my cakes!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Almost Vegan Red Velvet Cupcakes

Well hello! Doesn't time fly - how is it December? I'm not complaining though as I love Christmas and getting all the decorations up!

It was my 27th birthday a couple of weeks ago and of course I had to take cakes to work. One of the boys is allergic to eggs so I will always make egg-free cakes so he isn't left out. Usually when I bake for work, to make it easier, I will make the whole cake (including buttercream/icing) vegan, but on this occasion the sponge was vegan and the cream cheese frosting was not. Mainly because I didn't have the time to order dairy-free cream cheese. So you could always change the frosting to suit yourself.

The sponge is the best Red Velvet I have ever made - delicious, spongy, moist and vivid without being overpowered by the taste of the food colouring. The boys at work absolutely loved them.

This recipe will make 12 cupcakes; adapted and converted into grams and milliliters from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World.

For the cakes
240ml soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
150g plain flour
200g granulated sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
80ml rapeseed oil
2 tbsp red food colouring
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

For the cream cheese frosting
300g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter (room temperature)
125g cold cream cheese


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a cupcake tin with cases.

2. Mix together the soy milk and vinegar in a jug and set aside, allowing to curdle.

3. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl ensuring they are evenly mixed.

4. Add the oil, food colouring, vanilla and almond extracts into the soy milk mixture, combining well. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry until smooth.

5. Fill the cupcake cases about 1/2 full (my cakes rose a LOT after filling them 3/4, so perhaps 1/2 full is the way to go. Or maybe in between 1/2 and 3/4!) Bake in the preheated oven, for 18-20 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool.

6. When cool, the frosting can be prepared. Beat the icing sugar and butter until the mixture comes together. Now add the cream cheese and beat until smooth (do not overbeat!) Pipe onto your cakes and voila!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Butterscotch Pecan Crumb Cake

This month's Clandestine Cake Club meeting was a bit of a last minute arrangement but the theme was Halloween tricks and Autumn treats.

I kind of wanted to make a S'mores cake but don't have a kitchen blow torch to use on marshmallow icing (and refuse to buy one solely for this occasion) so I decided on the Butterscotch Pecan Crumb Cake from Outsider Tart's Baked in America. I love this book and the bakery itself. I've met one of the David's twice now and he is lovely and very keen for baking to be homely and rustic.

This is a sheet cake and I felt anxious to take it to Cake Club as everyone expects layer cakes. I felt this one was Autumnal and it reminds me of eating crumbles for Sunday pudding at my Mum's house!

I brought my ingredients to room temperature. You will need a 12x9 inch cake pan. It may seem like you are using a huge amount of ingredients but this is a really hefty cake!

For the crumb topping:
255g unsalted butter
380g plain flour
340g light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the cake:
525g plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
460ml buttermilk (you can make your own but I've found pots in Waitrose and Tesco)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
175g unsalted butter
225g dark brown sugar
175g granulated sugar
4 large organic free range eggs
340g chopped pecans


1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease the cake pan and line the bottom with greaseproof paper.

2. First make the crumb topping by mixing the unsalted butter, plain flour, light brown sugar and salt in a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer) until it resembles breadcrumbs. Store in the fridge until needed.

3. To start on the cake batter mix the flour, baking power, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a spare bowl and set aside. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract in another bowl and set aside.

4. In the stand mixer bowl (or another spare bowl) cream the butter and the sugars until fluffy, this should take about 10 minutes. Slow the speed and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg is added. Turn the mixer down to the slowest speed and alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk/vanilla mixture. Gently mix in the chopped pecans then scrape the batter into the pan, smoothing the top. Remove the crumb topping from the fridge and sprinkle it on top of the batter, gently pressing the crumbs down as you go.

5. Bake for 45-60 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. You may have to cover the top with foil to make sure the crumbs do not burn. Allow the cake to cool in the tin, then serve.

So there you have it! It went down very well at Cake Club. I also took some to work for my boss - she described it as the best cake she has ever eaten!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cheesecake

I've been absent over the past few weeks - I cannot believe how quickly they have flown by. I have been ridiculously excited for Christmas since about September and have done a lot of my Christmas shopping already. How are you getting on with your Christmas planning?

So on to the recipe. Cheesecake is a big favorite with Mark and I and doesn't last long in our house. My friend, Kat mentioned a couple of times that she'd like to come and bake with me so I suggested this as she loves cheesecake too and her other half, Oli is obsessed with peanut butter!

This is a Nigella Lawson recipe (from 'Kitchen'), it is easy and works every time but make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature before you start. You will need a 23cm spring form tin.

For the base
200g Digestives
50g salted peanuts
100g dark chocolate
50g unsalted butter

For the cheesecake
500g full fat Philadelphia
3 large organic free range eggs
3 egg yolks (organic free range)
200g caster sugar
125ml full fat sour cream
250g smooth peanut butter

For the topping
250ml full fat sour cream
100g milk chocolate
30g soft brown sugar


1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Add the base ingredients to a food processor and pulse until it comes together. Empty into the tin and press in to make an even crust. This can now sit in the fridge until you have made the filling.

2. Add the cheesecake ingredients - Philadelphia, eggs, egg yolks, caster sugar, sour cream and peanut butter - into a stand mixer (or do it with a hand mixer) and beat until the mixture becomes smooth.

3. Fetch the base from the fridge and pour the cheesecake mixture on top. Smooth the mixture and bake in the oven for 50 minutes, or until the top is dry and set.

4. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and set aside. To make the chocolate topping, gently warm the sour cream, milk chocolate and soft brown sugar in a saucepan - mixing until smooth. Once melted gently pour and spread over the top of the cheesecake, being careful not to puncture the cheesecake itself. Return to the oven for 10 minutes.

5. For the best results allow the cheesecake to cool completely overnight in the fridge. When you are ready to serve, remove it from the fridge for 15 minutes to allow it to warm up ever so slightly.

So that's it - this is a really lovely and smooth cheesecake, and I think even those who are not massive fans of peanut butter would enjoy it as it's quite subtle and the chocolate topping makes such a difference.

I am off to Clandestine Cake Club on Wednesday and our theme, though a bit belated, is Halloween and Autumn. I'm going to make a Butterscotch Pecan crumb cake (from the Outsider Tart book) as I feel it's quite Autumnal and comforting! I will blog about it next week!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Harry Potter Butterbeer Cake

Most people that know me know about my obsession with everything Harry Potter, and after my sister suggested to the organiser of Oxford Clandestine Cake Club that we have a movie theme for our next meeting, I knew I wanted to do something relating to the films. I immediately thought 'BUTTERBEER!' I did try some at the Studio Tour which I visited in April (and am visiting again in November!) but wasn't too keen as I found it too sweet, but I decided I wanted to have a go at a cakey version.

This is my own recipe and I am really pleased with how it turned out, the cake pictured was a practice I did last weekend. I will be making it again next week for cake club and I'm excited to see what everyone thinks!

For the cake
225g unsalted butter (room temperature)
225g soft brown sugar
225g plain flour (plus a few extra tablespoons)
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 large free range organic eggs
1/2 teaspoons butter flavouring
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoons butterscotch flavouring
3/4 cup cream soda

For the frosting and topping
500g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter (room temperature)
250g full fat cream cheese (cold)
1/4 tin of Carnation caramel


1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Grease and line two 20cm cake pans.

2. Beat the butter with the sugar for a couple of minutes, until it's light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then mix in the butter flavouring, vanilla extract and butterscotch flavouring. Next beat in the plain flour and baking powder until combined. Finally on a slow speed, mix in the cream soda. This may cause the mixture to separate. Add a tablespoon of flour and mix until it comes together again (it may take a couple of tablespoons).

3. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 20-25 minutes until the sponge is golden and a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove and continue to cool on a rack.

4. To make the cream cheese frosting beat the icing sugar and butter together until the mixture comes together. Then add the cream cheese and beat until it is smooth. Do not over-beat as it has a nasty habit of becoming runny!

5. Spoon 1/4 of a tin of Carnation caramel into a bowl and mix until it becomes runny. Spoon into a piping bag and set aside.

6. To assemble the cake place one layer on a stand and spread with the cream cheese frosting. Take the caramel piping bag and snip a tiny bit off of the end. Pipe in a criss cross pattern across the frosting. Place the second layer on top and cover the top and sides with the frosting. Finally pipe more caramel back and forth on the top.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

S'Mores Brownies!

I don't make brownies all that often to eat at home, they tend to be something I make for other people. My hairdresser, for example! I pay him mainly with cake - seriously! He asked for brownies this time, so I said I'd make S'mores brownies. He had no idea what S'mores were!

This recipe comes from one of my favourite bloggers/writers Joy the Baker. Joy is an American baker and blogger. When she writes her recipes are warm, chatty and easy to follow and her book is no different. It's full of American comfort baking, with a good mix of sweet and savoury.

180g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
226g unsalted butter
170g dark chocolate
266g light brown sugar
198g caster sugar
5 large free range organic eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
142g crushed digestive biscuits
1 bag mini marshmallows


1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C and grease and line a 9x13 inch pan.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and espresso powder in a bowl and set aside.

3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over some boiling water, stirring until it is melted. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly.

4. Once cooled, mix in the eggs one at a time. The mixture will become really shiny and sticky. Then mix in your vanilla extract.

5. Next fold in your bowl of dry ingredients until combined. Then carefully fold in the crushed digestive biscuits.

6. Pour the batter into your cake pan and sprinkle with the mini marshmallows until there is an even covering. Bake on the middle shelf of your oven for 30-40 minutes. The brownies are done when a skewer is inserted and comes out with a few crumbs. During the cooking you may need to cover the brownies with some tin foil as the marshmallows can catch very easily.

I was in a bit of a rush but for the best results, Joy suggests running your knife under hot water before cutting as this helps to stop the marshmallows sticking.

Needless to say I am in my hairdressers good books with these brownies. They are even yummier when they are warmed up with a couple of scoops of good vanilla ice cream.

Friday, 31 August 2012

Vanilla Courgette Birthday Cake

I had a couple of things in mind for my next Clandestine Cake Club meeting (our theme was fruit and vegetables) but I didn't really want to make a carrot cake as I thought that was quite obvious. So I turned to a recipe book I knew wouldn't disappoint:

Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache by Harry Eastwood is a brilliant book with a bit of a twist; each and every recipe contains vegetables! From parsnips, to carrots, potatoes, turnips, butternut squash and courgettes.

I uhmmed and ahhhed about what to make and settled on the birthday cake, mainly because it kind of has both fruit and veg in it - courgette in the batter and raspberry jam in the middle!

Some people get a bit weird when you tell them you are baking courgette into a cake. It doesn't bother me in the slightest even though I am a really fussy eater, but it genuinely is a lovely cake. Really flavourful and moist (sorry, that is a horrible word!). I adapted the recipe quite a bit to suit me and what I had in my cupboards. I used 2 20cm tins and made a simple layer cake.

For the cake:
4 large free range organic eggs
200g caster sugar
400g topped and tailed finely grated courgette
220g plain flour
140g ground almonds
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Harry does quite a runny icing, which I didn't like the first time around so I have used a standard buttercream instead.

For the buttercream:
250g icing sugar (if I can't be bothered to sift it, I stick it in the bowl and whisk gently with a balloon whisk)
80g butter at room temperature
20ml milk
dash of vanilla extract

For the filling
200g jam - I use raspberry as it is my fave!

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, then grease and line your cake pans (I only ever line the bottom of mine and and just grease the sides).

2. Beat together the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes - they will turn pale and frothy. Carefully add your grated courgettes and beat until combined. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined. Then add the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Beat until the mixture comes together.

3. Divide the batter between your pans and cook in the middle of the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.

4. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove and place on a cooling rack until completely cold.

5. To make the buttercream beat the icing sugar and butter together slowly so it makes as little mess as possible. When it starts to come together, slowly add the milk and vanilla. Then beat on a medium-high speed for 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

6. To put the cake together, put the flattest layer on the bottom of your plate or cakestand. Neatly spread half of the buttercream on this layer, next adding a neat spreading of jam. Once happy with this, place the second cake on top. Spread the remaining buttercream on the top and decorate.

So here is the finished cake:

It went down really well and I've been asked for the recipe a couple of times already! Have you made a cake with vegetable in it? What veg did you use?

Monday, 27 August 2012

Oxford Foodies Festival

Unfortunately my first post isn't going to be a baking or recipe post - I've spent the weekend at the Oxford Foodies Festival!

This is the second year I've been and this years was bigger and better than the last! There are lots of different stalls, chef demonstrations, cookery shows and food trucks. For the last two years the main attraction for me has been the stall and demonstrations by Outsider Tart I absolutely love their creations and their book is amazing!

So what did I get up to this year....?

The first Master Class I went to was Joe and Sephs Gourmet Popcorn which was brilliant as they explained how they got started (apparently the founders used to travel to the USA regularly and always brought co-workers flavoured popcorn as a treat! The co-workers couldn't get enough, so they decided to create their own line!) We also got to try lots of flavours from Salted Caramel, to Goats Cheese and Black Pepper, to Toffee Apple with Cinnammon, and Whiskey Caramel Macchiato. They were all absolutely DELICIOUS!

Next, we saw David from Outsider Tart demonstrate how to make a Chocolate Pudding Cake (which we got to try!!)

I was so engrossed in getting to try his cake, that I forgot to take a picture. But it was a 6 layer (!!!!) chocolate cake with chocolate pudding in between the layers and covering the top and sides. It was then covered with cake crumbs. Afterwards I wandered along to the Outsider Tart stand:

They had lots to choose from: Whoopie Pies, Whiskey Brownie (which Mark bought, it was the best brownie I have ever tasted), Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake Brownie (which I chose!), Snickerdoodles and more!

After buying up some brownies we had a wonder round to look at some of the other stands which ranged from more cakes, to cheese, pies, bread, milk, dressings, sauces and so on.

This stand was run by The Little Round Cake Company and they had the most amazing meringues, tarts and individual layer cakes!

The Karantani Deli had a really amazing stall of savoury bakes, all of them looked incredible. I wish I had bought one of the savory strudels or muffins - the muffins were huge and packed with cheese and veg!

Some of my other favourite stalls were this bakery, the Gelato stand (we had Oreo and Mocha - both were lovely) and the Cheshire Cheese Company stall. They do the most delcious cheeses - we spent a fortune on them!

So our last stop of the day was to the The Backyard Company demonstration. I've seen the guys cook before and used their sauces which are incredible. I would really recommend trying them if you can track them down. Tony showed us how to use his sauces to create perfect Jerk Chicken.

This years Foodies was definitely done on a bigger scale than the last, but next year, if there is an event near you I would really recommend you go. It's really affordable - £18 for a three day ticket, but there are usually buy one get one free offers floating around. With the money you save on your ticket, you can buy more food there! You will spend a fortune!!

Claire x
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