7 February 2016

Banoffee Brownies

Sometimes I don't really know what I'm going to make until I turn the oven on. This time around, I'd had an idea for using a banana curd with dulce de leche, but wasn't really sure what the vessel would be. As I often do, I rolled the concept around in my head, temporarily landing on roulade, then Swiss roll, before eventually landing on brownies. Sometimes I just don't feel like making cake, or icing, or whatever. Today, brownies seemed like the best way to present these flavours.

The banana curd was something new for me. I asked around on Twitter for recipes and someone referred me to this one on Food.com. I tinkered with the recipe a bit (~ 400g sugar seems like way too much to add to four bananas), and was extremely happy with the result. If jam on toast is your thing, I highly recommend that you try this curd in it. It's better than mashed bananas because it's smoother, and you can store it for a time without it going brown.

These brownies are a definite winner. I topped them with a handful of pecans, but you can leave them out or use walnuts instead if you prefer. They add a nice crunch, contrasting nicely with the sweet and gooey brownies. Added bonus: they take very little time to prepare (after making the curd...) so they can absolutely be made on impulse as soon as you finish reading this post ;)

Before Christmas, the lovely people at Dotcomgiftshop listed Cake Of The Week as one of their 25 Brilliant Baking Blogs. Naturally, I was thrilled to about this! Not only was it flattering to read such a good summary of my blog, but also to be listed alongside some of the much more successful baking blogs in the UK. Dotcomgiftshop were also kind enough to send some vouchers to use on their products. My small flat has more than enough baking equipment, but I love their tableware selection. The bowl and plate in the photos in this post were purchased from Dotcomgiftshop using this voucher. I'll definitely be using this site in the future to find more stunning kitchenware.

Makes 18
Banana Curd (adapted from Food.com; N.B. makes about twice as much as needed):

  • 2 Very Ripe Bananas
  • 75g Butter
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Lemon Juice
  • 2 Egg Yolks
Banoffee Brownies
  • 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 375g Mayonnaise (switch for butter if you prefer)
  • 500g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Medium Eggs
  • 225g Plain Flour
  • 375g Tin Caramel/Dulche De Leche
  • 20g Halved Pecans

Banana Curd
  • Mash the bananas until there are no lumps, then transfer to a small saucepan.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, except for the egg yolks, and heat at a medium temperature for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before stirring the egg yolks into the banana mixture.
  • Return to the heat and stir continuously until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. 
  • Pour into sterilised jars. The Banana Curd can now be stored at room temperature for at least two months. Store in the fridge once opened.
Banoffee Brownies
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan and line a 9"x18" tin (or 2 x 9"x9" tins, like me) with baking parchment. 
  • In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the chocolate over a low heat, then remove from the heat and stir into the mayonnaise.
  • Add the caster sugar, and stir until well combined.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until well mixed.
  • Stir in the flour until well combined.
  • Pour the mixture into the baking tin.
  • Dot teaspoonfuls of half of the banana curd and caramel/dulche de leche on top of the brownie mixture, then use a spatula or knife to swirl them through the mixture a bit.
  • Sprinkle the pecans over the top.
  • Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then for an additional five minutes at a time until the top of the brownie mixture doesn't wobble when you shake the tin. Don't cook it until a skewer comes out clean, as you would a cake, because then the desired gooey texture is lost. Remember that the brownies will continue to cook a bit after they are removed from the oven.

Disclaimer: I was given a gift voucher from Dotcomgiftshop with no obligation to feature their products on Cake Of The Week, nor to give a review of any kind. All opinions expressed on this blog are my own.

23 January 2016

Hummingbird Cake [Low In Saturated Fat]

I turned 25 last week! Happy birthday to me. It was a fun day of shopping, watching The Hateful Eight and pizza with friends. In the UK and much of Europe, reaching quarter of a century in age means that I am officially no longer a Young Person, and therefore travel and other parts of life are about to get a bit more expensive. 24 was not such a bad age: I got a new job and moved to the city I had been hoping to live in, I went to Stockholm and I experienced my first hangover, to name but a few of the momentous events of the year. Here's to another good year, though I'd be happy if the hangovers could remain in the past ;)

This Hummingbird Cake is another example of baking with low levels of saturated fat and higher levels of unsaturated fats, which are widely believed to be better for you. This month I'm trying to bake healthier versions of my cakes; you can't stop me baking but I understand that the time of year calls for a little restraint on dessert. This cake is hence a compromise on that.

I used olive oil instead of butter, though to be fair Hummingbird cake traditionally uses oil anyway. The cake is packed with pecans, high in monounsaturated fat, and bananas and pineapple, which don't contain much fat at all and are generally pretty good for you! The icing is more of a cheesecake batter than traditional cream cheese icing. I find the icing sugar variety a bit too sweet, and this icing rounds the cake out nicely, though it's a little runny so I advise that you use it sparingly. I highly recommend it!

The cake recipe was copied directly from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, but I only used 1/3 the quantities because I wanted a smaller cake. I won't list their recipe for copyright reasons. The recipe below is for the icing, which can be used to decorate and fill a three layer cake, as in the the book, or you can use 1/3 the quantities below and make one layer like I did. If you don't have the cookbook mentioned above, here's a similar recipe from Jamie Oliver.

Cream Cheese Icing: Ingredients

  • 250g Philadelphia Cheese
  • 50g Butter
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • Ground Cinnamon & Chopped Pecans to decorate

Cream Cheese Icing: Recipe
  • Cream the butter and philadelphia cheese together until smooth.
  • Beat in the sugar and vanilla extract until the sugar has dissolved.
  • The icing can be covered and refrigerated for several days until needed.
  • Drizzle over the cooled cake (use sparingly as it's quite runny), then pile the pecans into the middle of the cake and sprinkle with ground cinnamon.

16 January 2016

Cherry & Pistachio Brownies [Low In Saturated Fat]

The media is full of conflicting arguments on what is and isn't good for us, and the facts behind them are not always black and white. For instance, I thought that all fats were bad until I started analysing foods for their fatty acid composition (saturates, monounsaturates or polyunsaturates) at work.

My boss had studied lipids for his masters degree, and could identify olive oil just by looking at the chromatogram we use to obtain results on its fat composition. From his imparted knowledge about what fats do in the body, I learned that not all fat is bad; saturates are essentially bad for you, whereas mono- and polyunsaturates are generally good for you. Of course it's possible to get too much of a good thing, but the latter two types of fat are the "good fats" you hear about in the media, for instance avocados are high in monounsaturates.

For more information about this topic, there's a great article all about fats over at Vox.

I am in no way professing to know all about the pros and cons of different types of fat, but the knowledge that I have gleaned has taught me that eating foods lower in saturates is no bad thing. Therefore, I thought that brownies low in saturates would be great for Cake Of The Week's Healthy(ish) January.

To achieve the "low in saturated fat" claim, I had to swap butter for olive oil. This was not the simple switch I thought it would be; it turns out that using the same quantity of oil left the original brownies swamped in excess oil, so much so that I had to dab them with paper towels! Appealing, I know. In my second attempt, I used this advice from Nigella.com and opted for 80% butter weight for the oil. As always, the recipe for the brownies is based on my Healthy Brownies. The end result was almost exactly like a normal brownie, but with a denser, less cakey, texture. The oil flavour was just detectable, but considering that oil gives baked goods different properties to butter, I am very pleased with this result. My colleagues were so impressed that they went back for seconds.


  • 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 250g Vegetable Oil
  • 3 Eggs
  • 225g Plain Flour
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 75g Cocoa Powder
  • 100g Pistachios, shelled and chopped
  • 100g Glace Cherries, chopped
  • Preheat the oven to 180C and line two 9" square cake tins (or one 18" tin) with baking parchment.
  • In a medium saucepan, break up the chocolate and add the oil. Melt over a low heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly, then add the eggs. Use a spoon to break them up and ensure that they are well combined with the chocolate mixture.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into the chocolate mixture and fold in. Stir until well combined.
  • Add the pistachios and glace cherries, stirring well to ensure they are evenly spread throughout the mixture.
  • Divide the mixture between the cake tins and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Check that the top of the mixture is firm, but a skewer should come out with a lot of semi-firm mixture on it still. The brownie will continue to firm up and cook as it cools. If the top is still wobbling, return to the oven for another few minutes before checking again, and so on.
  • Once the brownies are cool, slice up using a sharp knife (I got 18, but it really depends on how big or small you make them). Store in a cool, dry place.

1 January 2016

Introducing Healthy(ish) January

How was everybody's Christmas and New Year? I hope that you took a break, ate too much, and spent some quality time with friends and family. Don't even begin to feel guilty about all that indulgence; we had to stuff ourselves because it's (supposed to be) winter, and we need all that extra energy to stay warm. If I can convince myself, I can convince all of you.

I'm planning to take a step back from the brandy cream, wine and chocolate this month and share my healthy(ish) recipes with all of you. In 2015 Cake Of The Week ran a Low Fat January, so I plan to do something similar this year. The media seem a little confused with regards to which ingredient they should now be demonising, and I do not wish to be a part of the hype. A lot of the sensationalist headlines hold no merit, and could do with a little more background reading of reliable studies. In a nutshell, this January will be known as Healthy(ish) January here on the blog. "Ish" because, let's be honest, cake can never truly be classed as healthy, much as I would like it to be.

I spend a lot of weekends running between Birmingham and other parts of the country to socialise, and I do turn 25 this month, but I'm hoping to share at least a couple of healthy(ish) recipes with you before February!

For more on healthy(ish) baking, check out the corresponding tab above (or follow this link). There you'll find information on using low fat and other lower calorie ingredients, along with a list of recipes that I believe are healthier than your average bake.

6 December 2015

Baking With Spirit: Cranberry Eggnog Loaf Cake

It feels like I blinked and the year flew by. However, looking back, I have packed in quite a lot since January. For instance, I made this cake at the end of the 2014 Christmas period, too late to post on here and be relevant, so left it in my drafts folder and completely forgot about it. (Discovering this post couldn't have been more timely, as I have not had time to bake this weekend!) I knew that I would forget important details such as recipe and taste profile, so I was kind enough to write those down for myself at the time.

Quick note RE eggnog: It's not easy to buy ready made in the UK (except for the Starbucks variety, which I do incidentally love), so I've made my own for the past two years. I remember bookmarking the original recipe, but each year since I have not been able to find the bookmark for the previous year's recipe. Trying to guess which recipe I used last year has become a strange tradition, if you can call it that. So I think I used this BBC Food recipe last year, without the cherries. But I can't be sure. 

And now, I hand you over to 2014 (possibly early 2015) Janine:

The cake was perfectly moist, though a little dense (it possibly could have been left in the oven for another 10 minutes or so). The cranberries cut through the sweetness of the sponge beautifully, and the eggnog brings a great subtle flavour. This cake was tasty at all times of day (yes, I ate it for breakfast), and I'll be making it again. Do yourself a favour and make some eggnog, then put it in this cake!

  • 200g Butter
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 250mL Eggnog
  • 100g Fresh Cranberries, plus small handful for decoration
  • 20g Dark Muscovado Sugar
  • Preheat the oven to 170C/160C fan. Line a loaf tin with baking parchment.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the batter is smooth.
  • Sift the four and baking powder into the batter and add the cranberries. Fold into the batter until well combined.
  • Fold in the eggnog. The batter should have a soft dropping consistency; if not, add a little more eggnog or milk and try again.
  • Transfer the batter into the loaf tin.
  • Sprinkle the extra cranberries over the top of the batter, followed by the muscovado sugar.
  • Bake in the oven for 1hr -1hr 30, or until a skewer comes out clean. Check the cake at 1 hour, and then check every 15 minutes to ensure that the cake doesn't over bake.