easy baking

Ginger cake

ginger cake

Happy New Year!

Why does saying this seem so inappropriate in damp and dismal January?

If you’re struggling with the January blues (I am a little bit) then you might like to treat yourself by baking (and eating) this warming ginger cake.

The original recipe comes from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries (the first one). It is a comforting, old fashioned ginger cake (tasting rather like the shop bought McVities Jamaica Ginger Cake, only better) and is very easy to make. To prove this point my daughter made the one pictured all by herself. She will not however be photographed for this blog anymore – she is nine and well aware of her rights.

The ginger flavour is quite subtle so if you want more punch then I suggest doubling the quantities of powdered and stem ginger. It is a very sturdy cake that keeps well for a week or so wrapped in foil. It actually tastes best after maturing for three or four days. Cut off a square and zap for 20 seconds in the microwave. It’s lovely by itself but even better served with ice cream, clotted cream or custard.

Ginger cake

Serves 9-12

  • 250g of self raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 200g of golden syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of syrup form the stem ginger jar
  • 125g of butter
  • 55g (about 3 lumps) of stem ginger in syrup, diced finely (or leave larger if you like a good hit of ginger)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of sultanas
  • 125g of dark muscovado sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 240ml of milk (semi-skimmed works fine)

Set your oven to 180oC (fan).

Take a 20 x 20 cm tin and line with baking parchment. I like to take the baking parchment all the way up the sides of the tin with extra to fold over the cake when storing. When I doubled the ingredients once for a large party I used a 22 x 33 cm tin.

Sift the flour with the powdered ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

Put the golden syrup, ginger syrup and butter in a saucepan over a low heat until melted.

Then add the diced stem ginger, sultanas and sugar. Turn up the heat and let the mixture bubble gently for a minute, stirring often so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.

In another bowl add the eggs and milk and whisk with a fork.

Pour the syrup and butter mixture into the flour and stir with a metal spoon, then add the milk and eggs and mix until everything is well incorporated.

Tip the mixture into the lined cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes (45-50 if you’ve double the quantity).

Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then wrap it up in the baking parchment and store in an air tight container. Leave to mature for a couple of days if you can.

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Pizza cake

pizzacake

Today I made this birthday cake for a friend who loves pizza. It was very easy and came out quite well so I thought I’d share with you how I did it.

Pizza cake

  • The base is just a standard cake mix (see here for a basic recipe) cooked in a 23cm circular tin for 35 minutes.
  • The tomato sauce is icing sugar mixed with a little water and red gel food colouring (I also added some raspberry puree but you don’t have to).
  • The cheese is grated white chocolate.
  • The olives are black fondant icing, rolled thinly and cut out with tiny circular cutters.
  • The pepperoni is made from Kelloggs fruit wind ups scrunched up into a ball, rolled out flat and then cut with a circular cutter.

Leftover Easter egg cookies

chocolatechipcookies

Even though we don’t celebrate Easter and don’t buy eggs for other people, we seem to have a ridiculously large number of Easter eggs in the house. You may think this is a good thing, but then you’re probably a disciplined person who has the will power to make your eggs last until Christmas, carefully limiting yourself to a few nibbles each evening.

I am not like this. Whilst I don’t really buy chocolate, if I know it’s in the house then it plays on my mind, whispering ‘eat me’ and tormenting me to the point that I just have to eat it all up very quickly so that it’s gone.

The children are the same. If they know chocolate is easily available then they nag at me constantly, behaving well to get it and then turning into little monsters once they’ve eaten it.

With all this in mind, I’ve been looking at recipe ideas for leftover Easter eggs so that I can bake some treats to give away. There are lots of recipes which claim to do this which had to be dismissed when it came to the ingredients listing requiring ‘Xg of good quality dark chocolate’. Good quality…dark chocolate…I’m not sure where they are buying their eggs from?

In the end I made these 10 minute chocolate chip cookies based on a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe. The children really enjoyed making them and they are yummy. Eat one yourself, let the kids have one each and then give the rest away (and it won’t look like you’re trying to get rid of your Easter eggs at all).

10 minute chocolate chip cookies

Makes about 18

  • 125g of butter
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 75g of light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 150g of plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon of baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 100g of chocolate (this is roughly 1 small Easter egg), broken into small chunks

Set your oven to 190oC.

Melt the butter in a saucepan or microwave.

Measure the sugars into a mixing bowl, pour in the melted butter and mix well.

Add the beaten egg and vanilla extract and mix well.

Sift in the flour and baking powder. Add the salt and broken up chocolate and mix well.

Leave the mixture for 10 minutes to firm up a bit, then spoon heaped teaspoons of mixture on to a flat baking sheet (line it with baking parchment if it’s not totally non stick). Leave plenty of space in between because they really spread out. I could fit 6 on one 33cm square baking sheet and therefore cooked in 3 batches.

Place in the oven for 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Less time will mean a chewy texture, more and they will be crisp.

Remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheet for a few minutes to firm up. Place on a wire rack until cool enough to eat.

Easy chocolate biscuits

easy chocolate biscuits

I bake these simple chocolate biscuits when I want to make my husband and son happy because they are both of the opinion that all sweet treats should involve chocolate in some form.

But this week I’ve been making them for fundraising volunteers (to spur them on with school Christmas Fayre preparations) and builders (so that they hurry up with the work on my husband’s new shop and give me some real employment in the new year). They’ve proven to be very popular.

I think they would also make brilliant Christmas biscuits if you used a Christmassy cutter and some plain white piped icing for decoration.

Chocolate biscuits

Makes about 20

  • 225g of self-raising flour
  • 100g of caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 100g of margarine
  • 5 tablespoons of milk
  • A few drops of vanilla extract
  • Some melted dark chocolate for drizzling (optional)

Heat the oven to 180oC fan.

Line two flat baking trays with parchment.

Mix the flour, sugar and cocoa powder then rub in the margarine until you have fine breadcrumbs.

Add the milk and vanilla extract and bring together with your hands to form a soft dough.

Knead lightly on a floured surface and then roll out to 1/2 cm thick and cut into 7 cm rounds using a cutter. You can make them smaller if you prefer (and this will obviously make more).

Place on baking trays and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from the baking trays and leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the optional chocolate drizzle, melt some dark chocolate slowly in the microwave or over a bain marie (a bowl over a pan of simmering water). Drizzle the chocolate over the biscuits and put in the fridge for 10 minutes to harden.

Or you can forget the dark chocolate drizzle and instead sandwich with Philadelphia and dark chocolate spread, they look like Oreo cookies and are in the same vein as my cheat’s chocolate cheesecake.

Simple oatmeal biscuits

oatmeal biscuits 2

This is my kind of recipe. It comes from my trusty Be-Ro cookbook (which I’ve been using for over 30 years) and is possibly the simplest biscuit recipe ever. If you’ve never really baked before then this is a great starting point. And I promise that you CAN find the time to give these a go because they take just 5 minutes to make and 15 minutes in the oven (during which time you can empty the dishwasher, check your emails, read your child a story etc, etc).

I wouldn’t describe these biscuits as a taste sensation but they do make a perfectly nice everyday biscuit and have a wholesome taste (because of the oatmeal) which is similar to a Hobnob.

My husband and son don’t think biscuits are worthwhile unless chocolate is involved so, if I’m feeling generous, I’ll drizzle over some melted dark chocolate (which I put in the fridge to harden) or just smear on some chocolate spread.

Oatmeal biscuits

Makes 20-24

  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 150g medium oatmeal
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 75g margarine (I use stork, in a block or a tub)
  • A pinch of salt
  • A little milk to mix

Heat your oven to 180oC fan and line two flat baking trays with parchment.

Mix together the dry ingredients, then rub in the margarine with your hands until the whole mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Using your hands to mix add enough milk (about 1 tablespoon should do it) to make a stiff dough.

On a floured work surface, knead lightly and roll out thinly (about ½ cm) and cut into 7 cm rounds.

Place on the two baking trays and bake for 15 minutes.