Thursday, 25 June 2015

Dirty Apple and Almond Upside Down Cake

There's nothing like being struck down with an alien supervirus to bring on the blues and that's exactly how I've felt for the last week or two. Stricken with such an affliction I had to suspend my cake adventures, but now I'm back on the baking bandwagon I could not be happier. To celebrate the event I've come up with this DIRTY AND BOOZY upside down cake using apples, almonds and amaretto liqueur. It is as naughty as it is delicious, so I can think of no finer recipe to announce my return!

Prep time: 25 Mins
Baking time: 55-60 Mins
For the Amaretto Glaze
50g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
100g Demerara Sugar
1tbsp Golden Syrup
A good splash of Amaretto (Or Brandy if you'd prefer)
1tsp of Vanilla Extract

For the Cake
200g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
200g Golden Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1/2tsp Almond Extract
1tsp Mixed Spice
100g Ground Almonds
100g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
3 Good Sized Dessert Apples (Peeled and cored)
A handful of Flaked Almonds

Let's begin. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a 21cm square baking tin and line the base with baking paper. Then it's straight on to the glaze! In a medium mixing bowl cream together the butter and demerara sugar then mix through the golden syrup, amaretto and vanilla. Set to one side whilst you prepare the cake mixture.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and the sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the almond extract and spice. Fold through the ground almonds, then sift in the flour and baking powder and mix to a smooth, consistent batter. Grate in one of the apples and fold through, then you are ready set this bad boy up for baking.

Spread the glaze mixture evenly over the base of the tin and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Thinly slice the remaining apples and lay on top of the glaze, then spoon over the cake mixture and even to the edges. Bake in the centre of the oven for around 55-60 minutes, until a metal skewer comes out cleanly when inserted into the middle of the cake. When you are happy the cake is baked remove from the oven, leave in the tin for around 30 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack. Leave to cool completely then slice and serve. All done!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Beetroot and Hazelnut Sponge Squares

Beetroot is rather 'on trend' when it comes to baking at the moment, but that doesn't make it any less of a worthy ingredient. Here I've added it cooked and grated to a lovely fragrant hazelnut and orange cake mixture, let the oven work its magic, then sliced into squares. Once baked you can enjoy the cheeky little squares naked or embellish as you see fit. You could try a light dusting of icing sugar, or a drizzle of syrup, but I think a simple butter or cheese icing perfumed with vanilla is just heavenly. Have at it!

Prep time: 25 Mins
Baking time: 50 Mins
175g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
180g Golden Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs and 1 Yolk
The Zest of 1 Orange
100g Ground Roasted Hazelnuts
85g Plain Flour
1tsp Baking Powder
175g Cooked Beetroot (Grated or finely chopped)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, grease a small rectangular baking tin (Around 27x22cm) and line with baking paper. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time along with the yolk and orange zest. Fold through the hazelnuts, followed by the plain flour and baking powder, then add the beetroot and fold again until evenly combined. Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for around 50 minutes, until toasty brown on top and a metal skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the sponge. When you are happy the sponge is baked remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

When the sponge has cooled remove from the tin, peeling off the baking paper. Slice into squares and decorate. Done done done!

Friday, 5 June 2015


These days there are countless thingamagigs, doohickeys and whatchamacallits available to the intergalactic baking fantasist, from the handheld, to the mechanical, to even the electronic. However some are more necessary than others. Here are the apparatus and appliances that I simple cannot do without...

A small, medium and large one should be ample, even better if they have rigid sides. If they are both heat and microwave proof give yourself a gold star. 

digital scales
As charming as antique scales are, this isn’t the 1920’s so embrace the technology and pick up a digital set. They aren’t only great for accurately weighing ingredients, but most allow you to zero the weight with different bowls and jugs. I cannot overstate how useful this is.

a kitchen timer (or phone app)
A digital kitchen timer (with an alarm) is a useful little gadget, but these days most phones come with the same functionality built in. Heed my advice and use it if you have one. I’ve burnt many a sponge whilst distracted by my “activities”.

measuring jugs
As with the bowls, a couple of heat/microwave proof jugs should suffice, ideally in different sizes. Small jugs have as much value as big ones (Insert joke here).

a selection of wooden spoons
I love a gadget as much as the next man, but one of my favourite two kitchen tools is a wooden spoon. You just can’t beat the classics.

a large metal spoon
For the rare occasions I’m forced to leave the wooden spoon in my utility belt.

a silicone spatula
It’s one of those kitchen tools that you wonder why is in the drawer, until you need it. And trust me, whether for smothering on icing or scraping batter from a bowl, you will need it.

a palette knife
I concede I have used mine many a time to liberate a troublesome sponge from its tin.

a sieve and strainer
A sieve is fine for sifting and straining, but its little brother is equally as useful, be it for a light dusting, or just to strain your Earl Grey leaves.

a mini chopper
Personally I’ve never needed a food processor, but I’ve been through numerous little mini ones. My knife skills are awful at the best of times, so having one saves both time and my fingers.

a pestle and mortar
Although it may take two of you to lift it into position, a big heavy pestle and mortar will make light work of nearly everything you throw at it.

a sharp, long bladed knife
My other favourite kitchen tool, a big knife is critical not only for baking, but for cooking in general. A really sharp blade will not only aid in precision, but enable a smooth and safer chopping action. Just make sure you inform whoever is washing up that it is in the bowl.

a large chopping board
I have a hefty butchers style block that is not only handy for the usual reasons, but looks marvellous when serving bread or cuts of meat.

a selection of airtight containers
You’ve worked hard to create a wonderful cake, so you want to make sure it lasts as long as possible. They may not be pretty, but having a few airtight containers to hand will keep your sweet treats fresher for longer.

baking paper, cling film and foil
It may seem like a no-brainer but I am embarrassed by the amount of times I’ve needed a sheet of one of these, only to find out that I’ve exhausted my supply.

pastry cutters
A selection of round cutters is a good start, just don’t forget the novelty ones.

a selection of good quality baking tins and trays
Round, square and rectangular, loose bottomed, springform and fixed, flat, shallow and deep. The more sizes you can get the better, but settle for poor quality bakeware and you’ll pay the price in the long run.

a set of measuring spoons
When is a teaspoon not a teaspoon? I have about 20 different sizes. For this reason I have an accurate set of measuring spoons and make use of them nearly every time I bake.

a wire rack
I actually have two wire racks, but if you can acquire a large one then that should be enough. Just make sure you dry them properly after washing, as mine seem to rust relatively quickly (Although they do admittedly endure frequent batterings).

a pastry brush
You can get little silicone brushes relatively inexpensively these days, but they are so much better than the old style, unless you want your guests to be picking bristles from their teeth.

and in the store cupboard...

The variety of ingredients at your disposal is too numerous to mention in their entirety, but if you keep a stock of the basic consumables listed below, you will always be in a position to create something delicious, no matter the occasion.

flour, fats, sugar, eggs
Flour, fat, sugar and eggs are the key quartet for the majority of baking symphonies.

I use plain flour the most, but occasionally require self raising. I also will make use of very strong white bread flour for, well you can probably guess.

By fats I mean butter and oil, both of which I utilise considerably. Butter should be unsalted and should be butter, not a butter substitute such as margarine. Vegetable and olive oil should suffice.

The sugar and sweetener options are great in number and each provides a noticeably different flavour and texture. Caster, light muscovado and soft dark brown sugar are all welcome additions to your arsenal, but I also have a soft (and sticky) spot for golden and maple syrup.

Eggs should be large, fresh and egg shaped.

Be it vanilla, orange, almond or even something more exotic, extracts are an excellent way of packing both flavour and fragrance into most bakes. However it is worth noting that extracts and essences are not the same thing. Anyone using essences will spend time on the naughty step.

baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
Do you want your cakes to rise and your sponges to be light and fluffy? Then you need to harness the POWER OF CHEMISTRY.

Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and mixed spice are some of the classics, but don’t be afraid to experiment. I like to buy a new one now and again and just try it out in a few things. Although I admit, adding paprika to a Victoria sponge was somewhat ill advised.

dried/preserved fruit

Dried and preserved fruit (raisins, dates, apricots, etc) is somewhat on trend at the moment, which pleases me no end, as they are delicious. The plumper and juicier the better.

Not only for the same reason as dried fruit, but substituting ground nuts for flour provides both a delicate moisture to sponges and a rich, almost toasted flavour.

golden/maple syrup
Use it to sweeten, drizzle it, smother it, drink it out of the bottle.

Being naughty is reason enough, but a dash of a spirit or liqueur can make an ordinary bake really quite extraordinary.

chocolate/cocoa powder
Requires no introduction, no explanation and no justification.