10 May 2015

Baking With Spirit: Chocolate Stout Traybake

This Chocolate Stout Traybake was served at my flatmate's 26th birthday meal. There were only six of us (we had expected ten) and it was a Thursday night, but more anecdotes came from this night than this setting would have you believe.

We brought everyone back to our flat after a great Indian meal nearby. First we pooled our knowledge in order to finish a Guardian crossword, which three people in their twenties had struggled to finish earlier in the day.  We then spent far longer than we should have quoting Confucius to one another; my flatmate decided that these quotes could be particularly useful for rounding off a meeting ("our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."). One of the guests noticed my record player, so after pulling out a couple of vinyls we of course settled on listening to the soundtrack to The Sound Of Music (don't ask me why I own that) completing the night with a rousing chorus of Edelwiess. But of course...

This cake was kind of a cross between cake and brownie in texture, as the stout made it more moist and dense than usual. Both the chocolate and stout flavours came through well, and the cake was a hit at my flatmate's birthday meal.

I find traybakes to be particularly useful at celebrations and parties, but they are really appropriate at just about any time. I would recommend that you try this Chocolate Stout Traybake next time such an occasion arises!

  • 250mL Stout
  • 200g Dark Chocolate
  • 3 Eggs
  • 300g Butter
  • 300g Plain Flour
  • 300g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan, and line a deep baking tray (I actually used a roasting tin) with baking parchment.
  • Melt 150g of the chocolate and the butter in a heatproof bowl in the microwave.
  • Allow to cool slightly before stirring in the eggs and stout.
  • In a mixing bowl, stir the flour, sugar and baking powder together, then make a well in the middle.
  • Pour the chocolate mixture into the well, then fold the ingredients together until well combined.
  • Transfer to the baking tin, then bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • While the traybake cools, melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle over the cake.
  • Decorate as desired.

6 May 2015

Baking With Spirit Spotlight: Piña Colada Milkshake

This month's Baking With Spirit: Spotlight post is focused on a post that I bookmarked a good few years ago, and I am ashamed to say that I have only just got around to trying it. This is why I'm so happy that I created this feature!

This month's spotlight falls on the Piña Colada Milkshake post from Nina at Ambrosia. Nina made this incredibly simple milkshake in the autumn of 2012 because she wanted to hold onto summer; I was inspired to make it on a blustery weekend in 2015 because I'm so ready for summer! The milkshake definitely screams summer, with a winning combination of pineapple, coconut, rum and vanilla ice cream.

I bought a pineapple a few weeks ago because it was in "2 for £2.50" offer with satsumas (but of course) in the supermarket. I wasn't really sure what I was going to do with it, but it ended up being a rather tropical addition to my lunches. I was nearing the end of the pineapple when I rediscovered this recipe, and I'm so glad I did.

I wanted to use what I had in the house for this recipe, so instead of using the coconut cream suggested in Nina's post I used about 50mL knock-off Malibu instead. Ever the Westcountry girl at heart, I couldn't help using Cornish Cream ice cream instead of vanilla, but I am sure that vanilla works just as well. Otherwise, I followed the recipe to the letter, so I won't list my own version of the recipe below.

The only trouble I had was that my food processor would only blend up the pineapple to a certain extent; next time I might just use pineapple juice to make the milkshake more drinkable. Otherwise, I loved this milkshake and it definitely tasted of summer. I'll be making this again.

Check out Ambrosia for the eclectic mix of sweet recipes and drool-inducing photography.

For more Baking With Spirit posts, check out the dedicated page.

1 May 2015

Lime Mousse Cheesecake [No Bake]

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of one of my friends from university. It was my first wedding since the age of ten, so I had absolutely zero expectations (apart from the obvious nuptial agreement). The vicar was a little bit new-age, asking the groom to build a "stable tower" (I could see nothing, so I assume there were building blocks) in front of his guests, as a metaphor for the couple's relationship. During the vows, the vicar made a comment about their "sexualised union" - way to make everyone uncomfortable!

Bizarre ceremony aside, the wedding was lovely, and the reception was fantastic. We were well fed, given some cute candles as wedding favours (I thought they smelled of cheese myself, but the bride later told me they were supposed to be unscented), and after some tear-jerking speeches, we were left to dance the night away to a very good band. For my first adult wedding experience, I don't think I've done too badly. In the unlikely event that either of them reads this, congratulations to Phil and Beth!

This cheesecake has been at the back of my head for a little while, after I remembered how tasty this Lemon Mousse Cheesecake was way back in 2012. This time, the lime cheesecake is swirled with a creamy lime mousse, then piled on top of a bourbon biscuit base (non-UK readers: these are a chocolate biscuit sandwiched with a creamy chocolate filling). The Lime Mousse Cheesecake went down a storm at work, and I would have to agree that it's a great addition to the repertoire. It's creamy, rich and flavoured with lime; the bourbon biscuit base complements the topping perfectly.

I was worried when I realised that the gelatine would effectively cancel out any air bubbles from whipping the cream, but most of the bubbles held well. I wasn't sure how to distinguish the mousse and cheesecake, so I coloured the cheesecake. I think the green is a little too minty, but I'll leave this part of the decoration to your best judgement.


  • 200g Bourbon Bicuits
  • 50g Butter
  • 500g Cream Cheese
  • 300mL Double Cream
  • 1 Sachet Gelatine
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Limes
  • Crush the Bourbon biscuits to crumbs, either in a sealed bag with a rolling pin or in a food processor. 
  • Melt the butter and stir into the biscuit crumbs (if using a food processor, blend the unmelted butter into the biscuits).
  • Press the biscuit mixture into the base of a 10in springform tin, lined with parchment paper or clingfilm.
  • Prepare the gelatine as per the manufacturer's instructions.
  • In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese with half of the sugar.
  • Grate the zest of one of the limes, adding it to the cheese mix, then squeeze the lime into it. Stir until well combined.
  • Stir in half of the gelatine, making sure it is mixed in well.
  • Spread the cheese mixture over the biscuit base.
  • Re-use the mixing bowl to make the mousse. Combine the cream with the gelatine.
  • Zest and juice the second lime into the cream mixture.
  • Whisk the cream mixture until it thickens, then spread it over the cheesecake layer in the tin.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours, ideally overnight. 

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.