12 April 2015

Baking With Spirit: Black Forest Gateau [Low Fat]

It's just as well that this cake is low fat, because I decided to serve it (i.e. try to get rid of most of it so I can't eat it all) at a Monopoly evening that I hosted for some friends this weekend. Not only was there cake, but there was cheese, guacamole (plus crackers) and beer. As always, the Monopoly game was just there as an excuse to get together, and I'll come clean with you all and admit that I cheated. I am not at all competitive, so while those who are competitive got tense and serious, I cared less and less about the game in hand. I freely admit that I stole from the community chest. Judge me as you see fit.

I've decided that frozen pitted cherries are my new best friend. Cherries are probably my favourite fruit, but are often very expensive to buy in abundance (usually £10/kg, approx £5 for 1lb) and are painstaking to pit by hand. Frozen cherries are comparatively cheap, and available year-round to boot. As an added bonus, because they can be bought pre-pitted, all the hard labour has been done for you. I should probably have found a way to get this post sponsored by frozen cherries (but, alas, I didn't have the forethought), because I am just so damn excited about them right now.

This Black Forest Gateau was inspired by one of the last Baking With Spirit Challenge entries. Siobhan from Tastyrecipesandotherstuff entered a Black Forest Gateau into the Fun challenge, and ever since I have had the desire to make something similar.

The Black Forest Gateau is made up of three layers of fatless chocolate sponge, whipped double cream and black cherries, then it is coated in a dark chocolate and rum ganache. It is light, chocolatey and delicious. The spreading of the ganache over the sides got a bit messy, but I liked how the cake stand then reflected this, so didn't try to clean up too much afterwards. I also like how the cream from the layers got swirled into the ganache towards the base. It just goes to show that the best results are not always planned!

I think we can also call this cake low fat, since the sponge doesn't contain butter of any description, and the cream is half fat. Hooray!

  • 6 Medium Eggs
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 50g Cocoa Powder
  • 150mL Elmlea Double Light
  • 400g Frozen Pitted Dark Cherries (or fresh, if you prefer!)
  • 150g Dark Chocolate
  • 50mL Water
  • 50mL White Rum
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan, and line three 9in cake tins with baking parchment, greasing the sides.
  • Take the cherries out of the freezer, and allow to defrost on the counter.
  • Separate the eggs.
  • Whisk the egg whites and caster sugar until a stiff peak forms when the whisk is pulled out.
  • Fold in the egg yolks and cocoa powder, making sure they are well combined.
  • Divide the mixture between the cake tin and bake for 20 minutes.
  • Allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
  • While the cakes bake, make the ganache: break the chocolate up in a bowl, and add the water and rum. Microwave for 40 seconds, stir and then repeat. The chocolate will not be fully melted at this stage, but the surrounding liquid should be hot enough to continue the melting. Stir occasionally, and allow to cool.
  • When everything is cool, whisk the cream until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed.
  • Dot a bit of ganache on the dish you wish to display your cake on. 
  • Place one cake on top of the dot. Spread half of the cream over the top, followed by just under half of the cherries.
  • Repeat for the second cake layer using all but a few of the remaining cherries, then top with the third cake.
  • Spoon the ganache over the top of the cake, spreading it over the top after each spoonful (to avoid adding too much my accident). 
  • When the top of the cake is sufficiently covered and the ganache has started dripping down the sides, use a spatula to spread it over the sides of the cake (a cake turntable is invaluable here). 
  • Fill any gaps between the cake layers with the ganache, again using the spatula to smooth it into the side of the cake. You might spread the cream as you do this, but it's all part of the cool effect, so don't worry. If you get a buildup of ganache at the base of the cake, scrape it off and spread it over the sides as well.
  • Decorate with the remaining cherries.

7 April 2015

Raspberry Vanilla Sandwich Biscuits

My mother has long had the habit of buying me random things at Christmas - I've told her about this, so I feel it's ok to write about on the blog. One year I received juggling batons, another I received a plastic credit card holder (though I had nowhere to hang it and was too young for credit cards), and another year I received the flowery doilies that you see in the background of the image above. I am always eternally grateful for the gifts that I receive, because I know that some people are not lucky enough to have the luxury of calling a gift 'random', but I never know quite what to do with these.

Unlike the juggling batons and credit card holder, the doilies have somehow stayed with me through at least two moves, and were hidden in my wardrobe until a couple of weeks ago when I was doing some spring cleaning. Now that I have Cake Of The Week, and have learned how a bit of creativity with photography can go a long way, there may finally be a use for them. And so, now you have read the story of the flowery doilies in the background of today's photographs. You're welcome.

As long-time readers may recall, I have been stuck with just two cookie cutters for a while. I often gaze at cookie cutters on display, but they never seem good enough to expand my collection (to friends and family who are reading this: yes, that is a hint). 3.5 years into this blog, however, and I still only possess a heart cutter and a dinosaur cutter. Both, I'm sure you will agree, have limited value. I felt that the hearts would hold the icing better, and I wasn't really in a mood to fiddle with the dinosaur cutter and worry about making legless dinosaurs.

The icing was the sole reason that I made these biscuits, to be honest. While the frosting recipe I often use (based on a Sweetapolita recipe) has never failed me before, this time I just could not get it to set. I tried to help it set by adding copious amounts of icing sugar, but the frosting was still way too sloppy for my liking, and there was now twice as much because of the volume from the added sugar. I did my best with the cupcakes that the frosting was intended for, and then decided to jazz up the remainder with some raspberries and sandwich it between some vanilla biscuits. The result was actually pretty good, and rather attractive to boot. Because it's unlikely you'll replicate my frosting disaster, I've given a buttercream recipe that will be guaranteed give the same results, but with much less strife.

Makes 12

  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 80g Butter
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Medium Egg
  • 50g Butter
  • 150g Icing Sugar
  • 60g Raspberries



  • Put the flour. caster sugar and butter in a bowl and rub together with the fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, and all of the flour is incorporated.
  • Add the vanilla extract and egg, stirring until the mixture forms a dough.
  • Flour a clean worktop and roll out the dough to about 1cm (approx 1/4 inch) thickness.
  • Use a cookie cutter to cut out pieces of dough, placing them on a baking tray that is lined with baking parchment. The biscuits won't spread, so they can be placed fairly close together.
  • Ball up and roll out the remaining dough, repeating the cutting process until the maximum amount of dough has been used.
  • Cover the dough pieces with cling film and place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
  • Remove the cling film from the dough pieces, then bake in the oven for 15 minutes until they are starting to turn golden brown.
  • Use a spatula to remove the biscuits from the baking tray, placing them on a wire rack to cool.
  • Using a fork or electric whisk, mix the icing sugar and butter together until smooth and well combined. 
  • Add the raspberries, stirring/mashing until well combined. 
  • Spread a spoonful of icing onto half of the biscuits, then sandwich it with the other half of the biscuits.

22 March 2015

Baking With Spirit: Tequila Slammer Cupcakes

I recently brought a load of cupcakes into work. They hadn't turned out quite as planned - despite pouring a sh*tload of tequila into the batter (sorry, but that is the only appropriate way to describe it), I couldn't taste a thing. I needed friends' opinions too, in case my taste buds were dead or something. Turns out, somewhat to my relief, my friends couldn't taste the tequila either. This lead to a discussion on the best way to hide alcohol in a cake, followed by a bit of an impromptu brainstorm on boozy cake ideas.

When Tequila Slammer Cupcakes were suggested, I knew we had a winner. Not only would they be fun to create, but the cupcakes would be perfect for Baking With Spirit. In case you are not aware, Baking With Spirit no-longer runs in challenge form and now exists as two features: Baking With Spirit and Baking With Spirit: Spotlight. I'm excited about this feature, because it means I'm free to try out lots of ideas for baking that involves alcohol, and group these ideas together for you to enjoy.

The inception of these cupcakes can be credited to my good friend and colleague. She has been training me on gas chromatography, so we have been spending literally all day together for about two months in total. It's nice to have someone in your life who can spend nearly 40 hours a week with you and still find you funny and interesting, and vice versa. So Lizzie, these cupcakes are for you.

I ran into a debate with my flatmate over the correct citrus fruit to use in this recipe. I'm 100% sure it's salt, tequila, lime, but he is 100% sure that it's salt, tequila, lemon. After much debate, we agreed to disagree. Google didn't help us, as apparently in America a Tequila Slammer involves some kind of carbonated drink component. We don't do that in the UK, so if you want your carbonated drink component you'll have to eat your cupcake with a soft drink on the side.

These Tequila Slammer Cupcakes have only a hint of the flavour each component of their namesake. I used more sugar than normal in the cupcakes to try to counter the added salt flakes, which has been well achieved. If you want more defined flavours, you could try using only caster sugar instead of dark muscovado.

Makes 12
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 150g Dark Muscovado Sugar
  • 200g Butter
  • 3 Eggs
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tsp Salt Flakes
  • 50mL Milk
  • 100mL Tequila
  • 190g Icing Sugar
  • 230g Butter
  • 120g White Chocolate
  • 1 Small Lime
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C and line a cupcake tin with cases.
  • Put the caster and dark muscovado sugars into a mixing bowl. Mash up any lumps in the sugar.
  • Add the butter and cream with the sugars until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs, and beat until the mixture is smooth.
  • Stir in the salt flakes.
  • Sieve the flour and baking powder into the batter, then fold in until well combined.
  • Add enough milk to give a soft dropping consistency.
  • Divide the batter between the cupcake cases, then bake for 22 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • While the cupcakes are still warm, poke a few holes in each using a cocktail stick and brush with the tequila. Use as much as you dare, but be careful not to soak the cake.
  • Allow the cupcakes to cool before making the icing, as it is best used straight away.
  • Grate the rind from the lime and place to one side, to use for decoration.
  • Whisk the butter and icing sugar together for two minutes.
  • Melt the chocolate and allow it to cool slightly before whisking into the icing for another two minutes. At this point, the icing should hold its shape well. 
  • Using a sieve to catch any seeds, squeeze the juice from the lime into the icing.
  • Whisk for another minute. The icing should still hold its shape, but if not add 2 tbsp icing and whisk for another minute.
  • Pipe the icing as desired, then decorate with the lime rind and a sprinkle of salt.

15 March 2015

Baking With Spirit Spotlight: Orange Liqueur & Pistachio Cake

It's been a couple of weeks since I broke the news that I was dropping Baking With Spirit in its original form and splitting it into two new features. Baking With Spirit: Spotlight is designed to showcase other bloggers' boozy bakes and let me have a go at them. An unexpected, though perhaps it shouldn't have been, result is that I can work through my mammoth favourites folder full of alcoholic cakes to try.

This Orange Liqueur & Pistachio cake was originally posted by Ellen at Bake It With Booze. This is one of my favourite blogs for alcoholic baking inspiration, so it seems appropriate that I kickstart this feature with one of the cakes from Bake It With Booze archives.

Not only are they lovely people (and fellow scientists - yaay!), but Ellen and Jaqueline really know what they are doing when it comes to adding alcohol to their baking. I highly recommend that you take a gander over at their site, as there is just so much inspiration.

This Orange Liqueur & Pistachio Cake has been bookmarked for some time, and I'm glad that I finally adapted it. This cake is also known as Watergate Cake because a scandal involving Richard Nixon occurred at the same time as pistachio pudding was introduced by Jello. The cake made by Ellen actually includes this pistachio pudding mix, but we don't have that here in the UK so I had to make do with regular pistachios. The recipe also involves boxed cake mix, which would actually be more effort for me because I keep cake ingredients in my kitchen and would have to go out specially to buy the mix. The final change that I made was using Seven Minute Frosting (I also discovered this at Bake It With Booze) instead of a more traditional buttercream.

The cake has a fantastic crumb texture because of the pistachios used in the batter, and the Seven Minute Frosting keeps it light. The frosting is almost like Marshmallow Fluff in consistency. The orange flavour comes through subtly but clearly, and the orange liqueur even dyed the sponge a light shade of orange. I would recommend this cake to anyone; I think it would be great for afternoon tea. If you wanted to serve this to kids, you could use orange zest and juice instead of the liqueur.

I have given my adapted version of the recipe below, but if you can get your hands on pistachio pudding mix then I am sure the original would work just as well. You can find the Seven Minute Frosting recipe here; I used orange liqueur instead of Midori and used a green gel food colouring. My cake has been on the kitchen counter for about 24 hours and the frosting has held so far, so there is no need for refrigeration.


  • 200mL Olive Oil
  • 3 Eggs
  • 150mL Orange Liqueur (e.g. Cointreau)
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 1 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 200g Pistachio Kernels
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan, and line two 8in cake tins with baking parchment.
  • In a jug, combine the olive oil, eggs and orange liqueur and stir well.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl, then fold in the caster sugar.
  • Finely chop/blend the pistachio kernels, then fold half into the flour mixture.
  • Make a well in the dry mixture, then pour in the oil mixture and fold in until well combined.
  • Divide the batter between the cake tins, then bake for 22 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow the cakes to cool completely before decorating with the Seven Minute Frosting. When sandwiching the cakes together, sprinkle the remaining chopped pistachios over the first layer of frosting.

Disclaimer: No, I was not paid to promote Wonder Woman  in this feature; I just really like my mug-turned-vase.

4 March 2015

Baking With Spirit: Good News & Bad News

Baking With Spirit has been running since September 2012 - two and a half years - and I am so grateful to everyone who has taken part since its beginning. I have discovered some new blogs, made some friends and learned just how difficult it is to think of a brand new theme that can relate to booze in some way each month.

Despite this, running the challenge has always felt like an uphill battle, perhaps because the central theme doesn't appeal to everyone, and I've started to get tired of it.  I can't have complete creative freedom because I know that making the monthly theme too difficult will most likely result in a nose-dive in entries. The feeling of tired resignation as the deadline looms and a single entry has yet to be received is all too familiar. I am tired of all these things to the point that enough is enough.

It is with sadness and some apprehension that I have decided to conclude the Baking With Spirit challenge in its current form. Thank you to everyone who entered the challenge over the past two and a half years; you don't know what it meant to me. Thank you as well to Laura at I'd Much Rather Bake Than... and Craig at The Usual Saucepans for guest hosting the Party and Reinventing A Classic challenges.

But, wait! The depressing part of this post over, and now I have some exciting news for you.

I love the backbone of this challenge too much to let it die here, and instead I'm reinventing it. Baking With Spirit will live on, but in a different form. First, I'm going to start a regular feature called Baking With Spirit where I bake with alcohol on a monthly basis. This means I still get to use Baking With Spirit to highlight my all-too-frequent use of alcohol in my baking, and set these posts apart from my normal ones.

Second, I'm starting a sister feature called Baking With Spirit: Spotlight, where I highlight the alcoholic baking posts from my favourite sites around the web. This will also offer some blogger interaction, as I'll offer the chance to get in touch and submit your post for the feature. This will usually include a general discussion about the post (by which I mean one or two paragraphs), followed by my own attempt to recreate the recipe.

So, what do you think? Do you like this premise for a new version of Baking With Spirit? Is there anything you might like to see in either of these two proposed forms of the feature? Let me know in the comments below.

I decided to include some of my favourite entries from the past 2.5 years in this post. The round ups including these entries (in order of photo appearance) are: Acquired TastesGo Crazy; MidoriAlcohol For Parties; Coffee Liqueur; Reinventing A Classic; Rum.