63. Ugandan Groundnut Cake (Peanut Cake)

Ugandan Groundnut Cake recipe

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

Smothered in a thick dripping coat of dark chocolate this is one hell of peanut cake. (The recipe didn’t call for chocolate but I figured it was the logical combination.) Not one for the faint hearted or those watching their calorific intake. It’s fudgey and delicious.

Groundnuts are hard to come by so I’ve substituted them for peanuts, which is apparently what most people do as peanuts are easier to grow too. It’s probably the sweetest cake I’ve ever made. And I LOVE it.

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

Ugandan Groundnut Cake

This recipe is a large one and I found it was enough to make 2 6inch round cakes and 1lb loaf too! So I hope you’re hungry. (Or you could use larger round cake tins if you have them maybe 8 or 9 inches – adjust/reduce your cooking time accordingly.)

I never usually bother toasting nuts, but I thought I would pull out all the stops to make this cake as authentic as possible. Toasting the peanuts helps to release the oils, creating a moister (if that’s a word) cake with a deeper peanutty flavour. Spread skinless (blanched) peanuts evenly on a baking tray and toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes at 200 degrees c. Keep an eye on them in case they burn. Once cooled chop them roughly with a big knife.

Mellow yellow stage of egg beating - fluffy, frothy and runny - groundnut cake recipe, peanut cake

Mellow yellow stage of egg beating – fluffy, frothy and runny

Whilst the peanuts are gently toasting, beat the eggs until lights and fluffy. They will reach a mellow yellow stage after about 4  minutes of beating with an electric mixer.

groundnut cake peanut recipe Gentle brown batter all fluffy and light full of sugar, honey and oil

Gentle brown batter all fluffy and light full of sugar, honey and oil

Then beat in the sugars, (brown and caster) along with the honey and vanilla extract. Once the sugars are fully combined, beat in the vegetable oil. The mixture will take on a gentle brown hue and increase in volume.

Fold (or beat) in the dry flour, salt, cassia and baking powder groundnut cake recipe

Fold (or beat) in the dry flour, salt, cassia and baking powder

The batter will become light and fluffy. Then to beat/fold in your dry ingredients. (I’m lazy and continued to beat in the ingredients using my mixer, but if you want to have a lighter cake you could fold it in with a metal spoon). I use ground cassia as I love it’s sweet cinnamonny notes. (Feel free to stick with cinnamon if you have it). Fold in a third of the dry ingredients followed by a third of the milk. Repeat until it’s all combined.

Fold in the toasted peanut - ugandan groundnut cake recipes

Fold in the toasted peanuts

Then fold in the cooled chopped peanuts into the thick glossy cappuccino coloured batter and it’s ready to bake! Pour the batter into your greased and lined baking tins. I used 2 x 6 inch round cake tins and a 1lb loaf tin. You could bake it in 2 larger cake tins, 8 or 9 inch rounds would require less time in the oven. My cakes took between 40 and 55 minutes. If you’re using a bigger tin your cake might take around 30 -40 minutes. The trick is to keep checking, once it’s safe to open the oven without causing your cake to deflate. I checked mine at 30 minutes and although the top of the cakes were firm to the touch the skewer didn’t come out clean when I tried it.

Golden brown groundnut cakes

Golden brown groundnut cakes (the flat bottoms)

Once the cakes are firm to the touch and when you insert a skewer and it comes out clean. (They should be looking slightly caramelised on the top and take on a darker brown hue.) Then you know they’re done. Cool them on a rack covered in grease proof paper to stop the rack branding them with stripes. This cake freezes well uniced (wrap them in greaseproof paper first). I baked mine in advance so I could assemble and ice it for Cake Club later in the week and still have fresh moist sponge.

Peanut buttercream is a revelation. I could eat the entire bowl with a spoon. But resisted long enough to get a smoothish coat on the cakes. In hindsight I had enough to be a bit more generous (particularly in the middle of the two cakes) but regrets don’t suit anyone so be as frugal or free with your icing as you like.

Peanut Buttercream is my new favourite frosting

Peanut Buttercream is my new favourite frosting

Beat your room temperature butter and smooth peanut butter together until they’re fluffy and light. I used a health food store peanut butter which promises to be natural and unprocessed. This did mean it was more oily than other peanut butters and more grainy. Give your peanut butter a good stir before measuring it out so it’s not too oily or dry. Then beat in your icing sugar and salt until it’s a smooth peanuty cream. The recipe called for honey but frankly this cake has enough sugar in it so I skipped it. Adding only a splash of milk to loosen it up and give a smoother finish.

how to ice a cake with buttercream

Smoothing the buttercream with a palette knife all round the cake

I slapped on a layer on peanut butter for food measure before adding a layer of buttercream to sandwich the cakes together. Then using a palette knife apply a thin ‘crumb coating’ of buttercream around the sides and top of the cake to fill any gaps and encase the crumbs so they don’t peek through your final finish. Chill the cake uncovered for an hour in the fridge to allow the buttercream to set before applying a thicker coat all over. Cover the bowl of remaining buttercream with cling film to stop it drying out in between uses. Smooth the final layer with a palette knife as much as possible. Then return to the fridge.

Pour a generous coat of melted choclate all over your cake and coax it down the sides with a teaspoon... droooooool

Pour a generous coat of melted choclate all over your cake and coax it down the sides with a teaspoon… droooooool

 

While the cake sets melt 50g dark chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds bursts until it’s almost all melted. Stir inbetween between. Stir in the remaining 20g of chocolate and stir until melted to temper the chocolate and achieve a glossy finish.

peanut cake - chocolate icing

Drool

Use a teaspoon to coax the chocolate down over the sides of the cake and to swirl the chocolate over the top of the cake. Leave it to set at room temperature to retain the glossy finish. I took inspiration from Pinterest for this decoration (I lose hours looking at pretty cakes but I like this style, it reminds me of a chocolatey dripping paint tin). Refrigerating the cake will dull the sheen of the chocolate but you may want to store it in the fridge if you want to keep it for awhile or try to transport it! Firm buttercream frosting travels well and keeps the moisture in the cake too.

The Ugandan Peanut Cake in all it's glory

The Ugandan Peanut Cake in all it’s glory – check out the chunks of peanuts speckled throughout the cake

Serve it with a flourish and a sharp knife! This is one tall cake with chunks of peanuts to chop through too. And it is gorgeous, jam packed with peanuts and flavour. A friend likened it to ‘a cake version of the nougat in a snickers bar’ and that sums it up perfectly. It’s moist with a subtle hint of cassia permeating the sponge. I managed to keep a slice in the fridge for 3 days and it was just as delicious, not a dry slice in sight. I love this cake and will be making it again for sure!

Clandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cakeClandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cake

Clandestine Cake Club pushing the boundaries of cake

My Ugandan Groundnut Cake was very well received at our Clandestine Cake Club meeting at Waterstones. This week we were pushing the boundaries of cake. It was amazing. We had savoury cakes, Tiffin Cakes, extraordinary ombre 8 layer cakes and a magnificent ice cream cake (unfortunately that one was out of shot in the fridge).

 

Things I used to make my Ugandan Groundnut Cake

  • 200g of blanched peanuts – toast for 10 mins in medium hot oven and chop up roughly. (Save these for the end)
  • 6 eggs – Beat til fluffy. Then beat in…
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 170g light brown sugar
  • 270g runny honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 170g (3/4 cup) vegetable oil

Beat sugar and eggs til light and fluffy. Then beat in a third of the the dry ingredients, followed by a third of the milk

Dry Ingredients

  • 1 and a half tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cassia
  • 650g plain flour

Wet Ingredients

  • 270ml milk (I use semi skimmed)

Once all the wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated, fold in the toasted peanuts.

Bake in 2 x 6 inch round cake tins (greased and lined) and a a 1lb loaf tin at 170 degrees c for 35 – 50 minutes. Depending on your oven you may need to check if your cakes are cooked sooner. I took the loaf cake out first after 40 minutes and the last 2 round cakes needed a little longer.

Peanut Buttercream

  •  200g butter
  • 50g peanut butter (I used smooth wholefood peanut butter but you can use your favourite brand) – beat the butters together until soft and smooth before beating in the other ingredients.
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 400g icing sugar – beat in the sugar until it’s smooth and no longer grainy
  • a splash of milk to loosen it up if it starts to dry out

Chocolate Coating

  • 70g of dark chocolate melted – I used 70% cocoa chocolate but use whatever you have to hand.
ugandan groundnut cake

Yum

If you like nutty cakes you may also enjoy my Iranian Pistachio Cake too!

 

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52. Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (incidentally also Gluten Free)

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

This Armenian Orange and Almond cake almost screams health (in a rather pretty way). It contains 2 whole oranges! (yes that’s right the pith and peel and everything), no butter, a relatively small amount of sugar and a whole bunch of almonds. Of course almonds are full of minerals and vitamins (vitamin E and Bs) and healthy fats that you need to live a lovely life, so surely this is a cake that you should be eating as part of you balanced healthy lifestyle! Oh and I did I mention it’s also gluten free? No flour required so even better for those with gluten intolerances/allergies too.

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

A very moist slice of Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

We’re flying into the final 28 bakes of my aroundtheworldin80bakes adventure now and what a cake to take us up to bake 52. This recipe was very kindly given to me by a fantastic lady that I work with who is from Armenia. I asked if she had any traditional cake recipes that I could try as it’s another country that I’m still yet to visit and she produced this from her repertoire.

I Heart Cake. Do you?

I Heart Cake. Do you? You could win a lovely cake mould if so!

I lovingly recreated the handwritten recipe in my kitchen using a pretty heart shaped mould that Mustard Gifts sent me to try. Thank you very much! I love my heart shaped cake mould. Next on my list of things to try is a heart shaped jelly. Not only does it look pretty whole (part of me wanted to decorate it like a flower!) but when you cut yourself a nice wedge it comes out as a perfect heart shape. The cake will make 6 heart shaped slices or 12 finger shaped sliced (depends on how much you love your friends and family as to how big a slice you’d like to give them…) You could also win one of these gorgeous cake moulds worth £15! (Competition has now closed.)

My orangey bakey heart

My orangey bakey heart

I knew I had to bake this cake to take along with me to the Clandestine Cake Club gathering this week, at the Knit Studio at Blackfriars. Our theme this week was history. I thought the Armenian Orange Cake would be a great recipe for me to use, full of Armenian tradition and handed down to my friend through her family. It did not disappoint. I managed to work my through the entire cake collection sampling a wonderful array of cakes along the way. I love Cake Club!

Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle - History theme

A fine selection of cakes at our History themed Clandestine Cake Club Newcastle, at the Knit Studio, Blackfriars

One of my favourite things about this cake is that it’s really quick to make. Boiling the whole oranges is the most time consuming part of this entire cake. They need to be boiled for 2 hours, covered in water and with a  lid on the pan to help retain the heat. I boiled my oranges the day before so I was extra prepared.

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Boil 2 whole oranges for 2 hours. Simple

Once the oranges have reached boiling point allow them to simmer on a low heat for the full 2 hours. The oranges smell amazing, and it floats around the house carried by the steam from the pan. Leave them to cool (so you don’t burn yourself) and then blend them up to a pulp.

Soft boiled oranges

Soft boiled oranges

They’re so soft and tender they pretty much fall apart in your hands. I used a stick blender to blitz mine into a thick smooth orange paste. You could also use a food processor.

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Blitz the boiled oranges to a smooth paste

Next thing is to basically whisk all of the eggs together with the sugar until frothy and a little air is incorporated. Then whisk in the ground almonds and baking powder. Then whisk in the orange paste. No fuss, just whisk the entire thing in one bowl. Even better there’s not a lot of washing up involved in this cake!

Whisking up all the eggs

Whisking up all the eggs and sugar

The cake batter doesn’t take long to whisk together. Whisk it until it is a beautifully smooth, thick and glossy. You will see the gorgeous orange flecks throughout the batter. It’s very easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould.

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

A thick, glossy smooth orange flecked batter. Easy to pour and spread into the shapely mould

Once everything is fully incorporated simply pour it into your greased baking tin/mould and bake in a preheated oven for 30-45 minutes at 200 degrees C /400F

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

Thoroughly greased I Heart Cake Mould

I like to use spray on cake release to grease my cake tins and having not had much success with silicon bakeware in the past I may have gone a tad overboard with the old grease spray here. The I Heart Cake mould worked like a dream, the cake baked evenly and not a single bit of the cake stuck to the mould. Success!

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven on a pre heated baking tray

One way to ensure your silicon mould is supported and heated evenly I’ve found, is to pop it directly on to a baking tray that has been heated as the oven warms. This makes it even easier to lift the supple mould in and out of the oven and ensures the heat touches the mould evenly.

Fresh from the oven - Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Fresh from the oven – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Now I did think when I read the recipe that 200 degrees C is rather a high temperature for a cake, normally a sponge with baking powder might bake at 180 C as a maximum. 200 C is more like a bread baking temperature which can take that kind of heat, however I wanted to follow the recipe to the letter. I was slightly alarmed to see how dark the cake had turned in the oven however it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference, it tasted perfect and was moist all the way through. Not a dry edge in sight, but just for peace of mind I might reduce the heat next time to 180 after the first 15 minutes of baking.

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

Cooling gently on a greaseproof covered cooling rack

I left the cake to cool slightly in the mould to retain it’s shape and merely tipped it out onto a greaseproof covered wire cooling rack (to stop the cake marking or falling through the gaps). It’s quite a robust cake with all of the almonds in so it can take a bit of handling. The cake slid smoothly out of the mould and looked impressive before I even added a layer of icing to it.

A good layer of Orange blossom icing

A good layer of Orange Blossom Water sugar icing

I’ve never really been successful with making my own glaze icing and yet I continue to persevere. I decided to add a layer of icing to the cake to add a little more sweetness. I clearly got the measurements wrong (yet again when will I learn!) as the icing wouldn’t set despite being left over night!) so I ended up scraping it off and leaving the cake with the syrupy goodness from the icing seeping into every pore instead. This made one extremely moist cake. Similar to some of my other Arabic creations Baklava and Basboosa.

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

One orange blossom water syrup soaked Armenian Orange Cake

Icing sugar is probably not the best choice of decorative tool when dealing with a syrup soaked cake, however I wanted a quick white decoration to contrast with the golden sponge. Armed with a paper doily, icing sugar and my trusty tea strainer I placed the doily on the cake and dusted it liberally to ensure the cake got a good coating. I think its a brilliant (and cheap!) way to create an impressive decoration. I think I may be a little obsessed with this now as you can see with my Crack Pie stencilling

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Doily decorations all round – Armenian Orange and Almond Cake (ps. no one will notice the dent I put in the top of the cake when scrapping off the icing with a spoon will they…)

To continue the heart theme I sliced up some homemade candied orange peel into dinky heart shapes and placed one in the centre. As Mary Berry always says it’s good to decorate your cake with a little of what’s on the inside to give a hint of what it’s offering

Practice makes perfect - slicing candied peel into hearts

Practice makes perfect – slicing candied peel into hearts. No fingers were lost in this process

Armenian Orange cake is the most intensely orange cake I’ve ever tasted. Perfect if you like a fruity cake that’s not too sweet. The almonds give it a wonderful texture and the added sweetness from the icing lifts the slightly bitter tang of the orange peel.  An interesting cake with a healthy twist, it’s a wonderfully moist and light summery bake. The full oranges give the cake a whole other level of moisture and depth of flavour. Another cake that would be perfect with a strong cup of tea or an espresso. This is great cake for those who enjoy a good pound cake and who aren’t a great fan of buttercream icing. Although you could ice this in any which way you prefer if you’re a buttercream fan go for it. I heart all cake! Yum!

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake
A perfect piece of my heart - armenian orange and almond cake
Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

Things that I used to make my Armenian Orange and Almond Cake

  • 2 oranges
  • 6 eggs
  • 230g sugar
  • 230g almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Boil the oranges for 2 hours
  2. Blend the soft oranges into a paste
  3. Whisk the eggs and sugar until frothy
  4. whisk in the almonds and baking powder
  5. Whisk in the orange paste until all is combined
  6. Bake for 30-45 minutes in a 9 inch tin at 200 degrees C or 400F

Icing

  • 150g icing sugar
  • 2 tbs orange blossom water
  • the zest of one orange
  • a little water to thin the icing if need

Mix it all together until smooth and thick. Pour over the cake.

*Or dust with icing sugar! The choice is all yours

 

That icing sugar sure disappears fast!

 

Buttercup Babycakes

Buttercup Babycakes

Buttercup Babycakes

It’s no secret I’m not the best sugar crafter or cake decorator. I’m still finding my feet when it comes to making pretty cakes. I’m more at home pouring loads of ganache over a cake and hoping for the best. So why on earth did I decide to attempt to cover a bundt cake with fondant icing you may wonder?! I’m always up for  a challenge and this really was a test of my cake decorating abilities.

A recent cake experiment - I won the Church Chocolate Cake Competition (for taste, not presentation!)

A recent cake experiment My Giant Chocolate Truffle Cake – I won the Church Chocolate Cake Competition (for taste, not presentation!)

I was invited to participate in Renshaws Baking Competition. The challenge? To bake and decorate a cake fit for the next heir to the throne, to welcome Baby Windsor into the world. My initial idea was to make a 3D crown, hence the bundt cake. however it seems my imagination is far more advanced than my sugarcrafting skills.

Lavender Bundt Baking

Lavender Bundt Baking

What flavour cake do you bake for the royals? Well, I know Kate enjoyed a few Lavender shortbreads during her pregnancy, so a Lavender Madeira Bundt Cake I baked. Hoping that she hasn’t since developed an aversion to lavender. Not that Kate’s ever going to actually eat this cake, but you know it’s the thought that counts.

image

Roll roll roll your fondant gently off the table

One of the reasons I don’t venture into sugarcraft very often is that there isn’t a lot of space in my kitchen. Attempting to roll my crown out meant there was a bit of droppage on the floor. I rolled the fondant as thin as I could manage in one rectangular piece.

image

Pizza cutter at the ready – crown creating

I don’t own any proper sugar crafting knives so wielding the pizza cutter I attempted to fashion some crown shapes. Cutting triangles out of the fondant.

Hoping the crown sets safely with a tin foil support

Hoping the sugar crown sets safely with a tin foil support

Once I had my basic crown shape I gently lifted it onto a cling film covered bundt tin. and held the pointy ends in place with a crumpled horseshoes of tin foil. Unfortunately the bundt tin then needed to have a cake baked into it, so it all went to hell. The crown ended up as a crumpled mess, so I made another. This crown snapped after it dried. Admitting defeat I returned to the drawing board.

jam up the bundt

jam up the bundt

To help spur on my creativity I decided to apply a layer of marzipan to the lavender bundt. Applying a liberal coating of apricot jam to make it all stick.

A layer of marzipan

A lovely layer of marzipan

Bundts are not usually iced in this way and I can now see why. Pouring a whole lot of chocolate over a bundt is a much easier option. This traditional style of icing is best suited to a more circular cake with flat edges, like with my wedding cake. Anyway who said I had to be traditional! Undeterred I threw a thin layer of marizpan over the bundt and poked a hole in the marzipan, coaxing it into the inner ring and under the moulded edges of the cake.

Marzipaned bundt

Marzipaned bundt

Surprisingly the marzipan worked exceedingly well. I filled in a few gaps with some extra bits of marzipan as no one will know about the messy joins. If you won’t tell I won’t either. AND only a small bit of the extra marzipan fell into my mouth whilst rolling this out, honest. (Did I mention that I have a marzipan obsession?? It is manna from the heavens!)

Smooth fondant finish

Smooth fondant finish

The most tricky bit is trying to get a thin layer of smooth white fondant icing to cover the bundt. The Renshaw white fondant is really lovely to work with, so soft and smooth, but I had to add a lot of icing sugar to stop it sticking to the worksurface so I could lift it all up in one go over the rolling pin. I didn’t have the courage to pop a hole in the middle of the white icing once I eventually got it on to the cake. I couldn’t have faced more rolling after it took me a good few goes to get it the right size to fit the cake. It took a bit of manoeuvring in my little kitchen to get it to work but once in place it worked a treat! Using the palm of my hand I smoothed the fondant and buffed it to a nice sheen so a hint of the moulding of the bundt can be seen through the icing.

Terrible crown attempt number 2.

Terrible crown attempt number 2.

In a bid to create a royal crown for my baby cake I cracked open a pack of yellow fondant. I clearly had to give up on my crown idea, as this looked more like a wonky chimney. A new approach was needed.

I give up on the crowns let's make flowers instead!

I give up on the crowns let’s make flowers instead!

And that approach is always flowers! I have a few sugar craft tools in my kitchen, most of which tend to be flowers or stars. The yellow sugar paste was really easy to handle. As it was so soft it didn’t really require any kneading to make it more pliable. It was good to go straight from the packet. As we don’t know if the baby is a girl or a boy (yet) I chose the gender neutral buttercup yellow.

whack a load of flowers all over the bundt

whack a load of flowers all over the bundt

I whacked a whole load of yellow buttercups randomly all over the bundt straight from the cutter. As the white fondant and the yellow sugar paste were still moist no edible glue was needed to hold the flowers in place. You could add some for extra security if you like, but the fondants bonded instantly and let me crack on with cutting as many flowers as possible.

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Just when you’re think you’re done… keep going

Just when I started to think I was almost finished, I kept on cutting flowers and piling them up in the centre of the bundt to create a bouquet of buttercups fit for the Duchess.

Spray liberally with sparkle and stud each daisy with a pearl

Spray liberally with sparkle and stud each daisy with a pearl

I realised that my bundt was starting to resemble a 1970s swimming cap. I was going for a vintage look but no one wants to eat a swimming cap, especially not Kate Middleton and Wills. The flowers required a lift. Spray on silver lustre is always my go to when cakes need a little something extra. It’s my pièce de résistance. And yet it still wasn’t enough. Back to my cupboard and I discovered a pot of edible pink pearls. Terrific! I studded the still supple yellow fondant flowers with a pearl in the centre. This (in my opinion) makes all the difference.

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Birds eye bundt view – Welcome to the World Baby Windsor

Pushing the pearls carefully into the centre of each flower added variance to the flowers, giving a more natural look and lifting the petals slightly from the cake. The added pressure also encouraged the bond between the fondants to help hold the flowers on to the cake.

image

I love a bit of lavender in my baking, you can probably tell from all of the other cakes I’ve made. Lavender keeps coming back. Infusing caster sugar with lavender is so easy to do and gives you a naturally wonderful flavour that enhances any cake, shortbread, meringue, Madeleine or cupcake that takes your fancy. It’s subtle floral scent perfumes the house and soothes the soul (and tummy). A nice hunk of lavender Madeira cake is best served with a strong cup of proper tea. The marzipan and fondant gives you an extra flavour dimension and sweetness. That sugar boost a new mammy needs. Welcome to the World Baby Windsor.

Baby Bundt Cake

Build me up Buttercup – Baby Bundt Cake

Things that I used to make this Baby Bundt Cake

  • 115g Self Raising Flour
  • 115g Plain Flour
  • 175g Margarine
  • 175g Lavender infused sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • splash of milk
  • 500g Renshaw white fondant icing
  • 500g Natural Marzipan
  • 40g yellow sugar paste
  1. Beat sugar and butter together until light and fluffy
  2. Beat eggs in, one at a time until fully incorporated
  3. Fold in the flours
  4. Fold in enough milk to get a good dropping consitency
  5. Pour into a bundt tin and smooth down, filling all of the gaps
  6. Bake for 50 minutes at 170 degrees C
  7. Cool
  8. Coat with apricot jam
  9. Apply a layer of marzipan
  10. Apply a layer of fondant icing
  11. Apply flowers, lustre and pearls!
  12. Present to your new parent friends.
Buttercup Bouquet

Buttercup Bouquet

Thank you to Renshaw for sending me this lovely box of icing and marzipan. I loved getting creative with the icing and it’s really easy to work with. I shall have to practice my cake decorating skills more often! Now who needs a celebration cake??

My box of Renshaw Icing Goodies

My box of Renshaw Icing Goodies

If you’d like to see the other entries in the Royal baby cake competiton head on over to www.renshawbaking.com

 

 

 

48. Oh Canada! Oh Nanaimo Bars!

Happy Birthday to Chris  Nanaimo Bar

Happy Birthday to Chris – your own personal Nanaimo Bar

This blog has been a looooong time coming. I wanted to recreate a special treat from our Canadian travels for Chris’s birthday (last October…). My Aunty Carol in Canada recommended the quintessentially Canadian Nanaimo bar to satisfy my Canadian cravings.

Hike up Mount Doug

Hike up Mount Doug

We spent a glorious week with my family on Vancouver island. Taking in all the sites, hiking up Mount Doug, whale watching, exploring the ski slopes and of course meeting a Mountie or two.

Mountie Meeting

Mountie Meeting

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

Ziplining through the forests in Whistler

So many beautiful sights to take in

So many beautiful sights to take in

Nanaimo bars are as popular in Canada as Tim Horton’s coffee shop. I still dream of those bear claw doughnuts. Unfortunately in England we don’t seem to know what Graham Crackers are or sell them in any shops… and they are an essential ingredient in Nanaimo Bars.

Smash up your biscuits with whatever's handy in a sandwich bag

Smash up your biscuits with whatever’s handy in a sandwich bag

My educated guess is that it’s some sort of spiced caramelised rich tea biscuit. So I did what I do best with limited store cupboard. I improvised. Smashing up a load of rich tea biscuits and adding in a combination of ginger and cinnamon to the mix.

The beginnings of the biscuit base

The beginnings of the biscuit base – combine sugar, butter, egg, biscuit crumbs, nuts and coconut

The base required a tasty combination of biscuits, melted butter, sugar, egg, cocoa powder, almonds, and coconut. It’s really quick to mix it all together. A 20 second blast in the microwave is all the butter needs to be fully runny.

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined

Stir it all together until fully combined and comes together into a stiff mixture.

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Biscuit base ready to be baked

Once combined press the mixture firmly and evenly into all of the corners of a flat lined and greased 9 inch baking tray. Bake the biscuit base in the oven for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees C.

Whipping up the custard filling

Heating up the cream, milk and vanilla to make the custard filling

The next decadent layer is a lovely custard cream. At this point in my baking repertoire I was still yet to attempt custard concocting. Daunted yet undeterred I proceeded to my cupboard to retrieve the custard powder the recipe requires. Disaster struck when I discovered the custard powder was over a year out of date! Not wanting to poison Chris on his birthday I decided I had gone too far and didn’t have time to make another cake so I would have to proceed and whip up my own custard instead.

Thickening up the custard

Whisking up the eggs, sugar and cornflour

I decided a full custard recipe would be far too much for a small Nanaimo bar recipe so I adapted a Mary Berry recipe to make up my own sweet filling. As with gelato or ice cream you start off heating the cream and milk with a vanilla pod to infuse the custard. Then you whisk the eggs until fluffy with the sugar. Taking the cream off the heat and pour over the eggs. Continue to whisk until it thickens. Then return the custard to the pan and whisk over a low heat until it thickens.

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

Keeping whisking til the custard thickens

The Nanaimo bar is quite a firm cake so I knew I would have to adapt the rather runny custard to make this work. I added the butter, vanilla extract and a lot of powdered (icing) sugar to the custard. Continuing to whisk it over the low heat until it reached the right thick consistency. You may need to add more powdered sugar to make your custard set firmly. It will end up a much paler custard due to the white icing sugar.

The baked biscuit base - nanaimo bar recipe

The baked biscuit base – look at those nuts!

Take the biscuit base out of the oven and let it cool fully. Once the custard has cooled you can then happily pour the custard over the biscuit and let it set in the fridge whilst you whip up the chocolate topping.

The custard layer setting - nanaimo bar recipe

The custard layer setting

Using a bain marie, pop the chocolate in a bowl suspended over a bowl of boiling water to allow the chocolate to melt gently. Save the last third of the chocolate back to add to the melted chocolate to help reduce the temperature of the chocolate. This tempering of the chocolate stops it from blooming or sweating when it’s cooling. It helps to keep your fingers slightly less sticky.

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Gloriously gooey melted chocolate

Pour the glossy melted chocolate all over the custard layer and simply let it cool and set.

The chocolate layer

The chocolate layer

But… just before it’s fully set quickly score the chocolate with a sharp knife to mark out the bar squares. You’ll thank me later. Once the chocolate sets fully it’s really difficult to cut through the chocolate and get properly portioned slices, as the chocolate cracks. (I wish I’d known this when I made Millionaire’s Shortbread!)

The scored Nanaimo Bar

The scored Nanaimo Bar

Then once it’s fully set you can take it out of the tin, chop it up and tuck in! I served Chris his for a special birthday breakfast. In hindsight it might not be the best breakfast food, but you can eat whatever you like on your birthday. That’s the rules. It’s a wonderfully sweet treat.  The coconut, custard and chocolate are a brilliant combination. That’s 3 of my most favourite ingredients all wrapped up into one cake. And even better,  it doesn’t take an age to make. I can see why the Canadians love it so.

Nanaimo Bar recipe

Nanaimo Bar

Thank you so much for the wonderful memories and for showing us the sights Aunty Carol, Uncle Malcolm , Kelly and David!

At the top - Whistler

At the top – Whistler

Things I used to make Nanaimo Bars

  • 1 cup or 250g rich tea biscuits smashed to fine crumbs (or if you have access to graham crackers go for it!)
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup or 125g desicated coconut
  • 1/3 cup or 75 g of flaked almonds
  • 1/4 cup or 60g cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup or 60g sugar
  • 1/3 cup or 75g  melted butter
  • 1 egg

Custard Cream Filling

Custard

  • 285ml milk
  • 25ml cream
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 15g sugar
  • 1 tsp cornflour

*Or alternatively use 2tbsp custard powder if you have it!

  • 1/4 cup or 60g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups 500g icing sugar

*add 30ml milk if you’re not using home made custard

Chocolate Topping

  • 200g plain dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp butter

Coconut Crazy! Homemade Italian Coconut Gelato

How to make Homemade Italian Coconut Gelato complete with coconut curls

Homemade Italian Coconut Gelato complete with coconut curls

My favourite ice cream in the whole entire world has got to be Italian Coconut Gelato. Now that’s a bold statement I know, but having sampled real Italian Gelato and having lived very close to a Gelato shop in Newcastle I think I’ve tried quite a few flavours and this is without doubt top of my list every time. Yeah chocolate is always lovely but a bit too much of an obvious choice sometimes for my liking. I do love cherry gelato and pistachio is tremendous too but coconut is what is usually what I crave when looking for a cold fix.

dried coconut half

I’ll have half a dried coconut please

I seem to be developing an obsession with coconut, finding ways to incorporate it into all foods. Be that coconut milk, oil, dessicated and dried. In the creation of this gelato I discovered the wonderful ingredient of dried coconut halves which saved me the effort of breaking into a fresh coconut with a hammer and fork (my only suitable kitchen implements I think for such a job!)

Trevi Fountain adventuring in Rome with my Dad

Trevi Fountain adventuring in Rome with my Dad

 

I visited Rome just last year for the first time with my Dad. It was gorgeous. We spent a few days wandering round, bouncing from the Trevi Fountain to pasta cafes to St Paul’s basilica. Pausing to absorb the beauty and history of our surroundings and to take on more fuel in the form of pasta and gelato. I dragged my Dad to many cake shops and the beautiful and oldest gelataria in Rome, Giolitti. Not that I heard him complain once 🙂

What a view from the top! Colosseum, Rome

What a view from the top! Colosseum, Rome

The main difference between ice cream and gelato is the taste and texture. Gelato freezes at a higher temperature than ice cream. This gives a much more intense flavour than you get from eating ice cream which is colder and numbs your tastes buds slightly. The warmer the temperature the more you can taste! Gelato is also made with less fat, so good news it’s better for you than ice cream! (Depending on how much you eat of it of course). Gelato is also much softer and smoother in texture than traditional ice cream. All the better for eating!

Heating the milk and cream to infuse flavour into the gelato base

Heating the milk and cream to infuse flavour into the gelato base

The initial stage of heating the milk/cream gives you the perfect opportunity to infuse flavours. You can choose to infuse whatever flavour you fancy into your gelato. Some flavours will require a longer infusion time than others. A vanilla pod may take about 20 minutes over a low heat to impart it’s flavour fully, but something like coffee extract, tea bags, cocoa powder or other flavour extracts will give instant flavour and need little infusion time (maybe about 5 minutes).

You can infuse your base with your favourite flavours, such as vanilla, coffee, tea, lavender, rose, cinnamon, cherry, pistachio and much much more! If you’re going to choose a different flavour it would be wise to choose something with a low liquid content as adding water to the mix may cause ice crystals to form. Adding alcohol in small amounts should be ok, but remember alcohol doesn’t really freeze.

Another flavour option can be created by using a different variety of milk. Even better news for people with food allergies or intolerances! I used coconut milk here but you could just as easily use cows, goats, soy, almond or hazelnut. Each will give you a slightly different flavour and possibly texture. Some milks can become grainy when heated, so it may be wise to try heating up a small amount first to make sure it can stand the heat. before you commit to cooking an entire batch. Or have a fine sieve to hand!

Add your choice of flavour to your milk then heat the cream/milk until it starts to bubble. I added 80g of desiccated coconut to the milk and cream here to infuse even more coconut goodness.

Keep stirring it so a skin doesn’t form on the top.  Allow it to cool slightly. Cream and milk have slightly different boiling points so keep a close eye on the pan, you don’t want it to boil over, or get a thick skin on your coconut cream!

Beat together the eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes - gelato recipe

Beat together the eggs and sugar for about 5 minutes

Beat together the sugar and eggs until smooth and fluffy. They will become a mellow yellow colour after about 5 minutes of beating with an electric whisk/mixer.

The discarded dessicated coconut - nothing will go to waste in my house! - gelato recipe

The discarded desiccated coconut – nothing will go to waste in my house!

Once the cream/milk has cooled slightly pass it through a fine sieve to remove your flavouring if needed. Squeeze all of you milk/cream out of the coconut so you don’t miss a drop of your infused cream. I kept my creamy coconut mixture to use later on.

Gelato recipe - Sieve your hot cream mixture if you need to remove additional flavourings like vanilla pods or dessicated coconut!

Sieve your hot cream mixture if you need to remove additional flavourings like vanilla pods or dessicated coconut!

As the next stage is to make a smooth custard you can’t add any swirls of fruit/flavours at this point. Your custard needs to be smooth and pure so it can thicken fully. Hang on to any additional flavourings that you would like to add for later on.  You can then swirl them in just before the final freeze. After about 5 minutes of beating, the sugar and eggs will inflate slightly and take on a pale yellow colour.

The beaten eggs and sugar - the custard base - Gelato Recipe

The beaten eggs and sugar – the custard base

Whilst continuing to beat the fluffy eggs and sugar slowly pour the hot coconut cream into the eggs. Add the hot cream gradually to avoid scrambling the eggs! Adding very hot cream at this stage will give you lumpy egg custard, I don’t think anyone would enjoy lumpy gelato although it may be an interesting texture on the palette!

Pour the hot cream into the eggs gradually whilst continuing to beat the eggs - gelato recipe

Pour the hot cream into the eggs gradually whilst continuing to beat the eggs

Once you’ve poured all of the cream into the eggs, keep beating the mixture until it’s fully combined. When it’s ready the  custard will start to thicken as the hot cream gently cooks the eggs. The custard will be smooth, fluffy and a very pale yellow in colour due to all those beautiful egg yolks! (Note my leftover egg whites in the jug. I’m saving them for another recipe later on…)

Fluffy coconut custard - how to make gelato

Fluffy coconut custard

Then all that’s left to do is thicken the custard a bit more. You can do this in a bain marie (in a bowl suspended over a pan of hot water) to avoid burning the custard and gently thicken the mixture. Or if you’re in a hurry, whack it all in a pan and heat the custard over a low heat and stir like mad so nothing burns/sticks to the bottom. The key is to keep stirring to distribute the heat evenly and allow the custard to cook thoroughly.

Thickening up the coconut custard in a bain marie

Not letting the precious coconut custard out of my sight as I thicken it in my home made bain marie

Once the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon it’s good to go! The custard needs to cool before you can freeze it and unfortunately this can take up to 6 hours…. Not great when you need a gelato fix right this second! A quick cheat is to carefully place your hot pan of custard into a bowl (or in my case a sink) of cold water to rapidly cool the custard. Keep stirring it every now and then to stop a skin from forming. You can chill it further in the fridge before cracking out the ice cream maker.

Coconut Custard coating the back of a spoon - thick enough to cool!

Coconut Custard coating the back of a spoon – thick enough to cool!

After all this patience the end result is not far off! I recently bought myself an attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer. The ice cream maker! This was my very first experiment and venture into ice cream making. You will need to follow the instructions for your own ice cream maker as they’re all a bit different, but for the Kitchenaid, I had to freeze the special ice cream bowl in the freezer for 15 hours (it now lives there permanently for all ice cream making emergencies) . Once I had fitted the blade to the Kitchenaid mechanism it’s good to go. One important thing to note is that you should pour the custard in whilst the machine is running as the custard may freeze solid instantly and could break your Kitchenaid if you’re unlucky.

Freeze me up - KitchenAid Ice Cream attachment in action - coconut gelato

Freeze me up – KitchenAid Ice Cream attachment in action

It takes about 20  minutes in the Kitchenaid to freeze the gelato to a ‘soft set’ . I couldn’t resist a sneaky taste of it at this stage and it tasted pretty amazing. It will be quite sweet at this stage as when it’s set further in the freezer the sweetness is reduced.

Letting the KitchenAid do all the hard work freezing my coconut gelato

Letting the KitchenAid do all the hard work freezing my coconut gelato – time for a cup of tea methinks

So with 20 minutes on your hands you’ve got plenty time to have a cup of tea and start the washing up. Once the gelato has reached the ‘soft set stage’ where it starts looking like slightly melted/soft ice cream you can stir in any additional flavours. I added 2 tablespoons of the left over desiccated coconut for good measure. You can see some of it lurking on the top of the blades!

Soft set coconut gelato ready for the freezer

Soft set coconut gelato ready for the freezer

You could probably eat it at the soft set stage if you like your gelato extra soft, or scoop it into a freezer container, smooth it down and leave it in the freezer to set fully for about 5 hours. As Gelato contains less fat it freezes much harder than ice cream, so you may need to take it out of the freezer to soften before serving. You could pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes if it’s a bit difficult to get it into a bowl.

Shaving a coconut to create coconut curls

Shaving a dried coconut to create coconut curls

Taking my trusty vegetable peeler I shaved the dried coconut halves into thin slivers to create some pretty coconut curls. I quite like the dark brown edges of the coconut rind against the white coconut flesh. It’s makes a tasty decoration too! Pop a couple of curls on the top of your gelato for a quick and sophisticated looking decoration.

Coconut Gelato complete with coconut curls

Coconut Gelato complete with coconut curls

Sharing Coconut Gelato with friends - I didn't eat it all myself. I promise!

Sharing Coconut Gelato with friends – I didn’t eat it all myself. I promise!

I didn’t eat it all myself. I promise! My friends came round for tea and we all quickly cleared our bowls of gelato which marks it as a clear success! It was smooth, creamy and extremely coconutty. Just my kind of gelato! I liked it so much that when I was washing up after my friends left I decided to start making some more custard, but this time I experimented with Italian Espresso Gelato instead.

Coconut Gelato - it didn't last long

Coconut Gelato – it didn’t last long

Home made Coconut Gelato  - extreme close up

Coconut Gelato – extreme close up

What I used to make  Italian Coconut Gelato (Gelato di Crema)

Coconut Custard

  • 1 x 400ml can of  coconut milk (which is equal to 1 and 3/4 cups)
  • 109ml of double cream (1/2  cup)
  • 55ml  semi skimmed milk (1/4 cup)
  • (you can use your own combination of cream/milk here to total  545 ml or 2 and 1/2 cups of liquid)
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 110g (or 1/2 cup) granulated sugar (I used vanilla infused sugar)
  • 80g (or 1 cup) desiccated coconut (add your flavour to infuse at this stage)
  • Keep 2 tbs of the desiccated coconut back to add to the soft set gelato before putting it into the freezer.

Coconut Gelato Method Summary

  1. Add flavouring and heat cream and milk until boiling
  2. Beat eggs and sugar together until fluffy
  3. Cool cream slightly
  4. Pour hot cream into eggs and sugar while continuing to beat the mixture
  5. Thicken the custard in a bain marie/pan until it coats the back of a spoon
  6. Cool the custard until chilled throughly
  7. Freeze the custard using ice cream maker for about 20 minutes until soft set
  8. Set the ice cream in the freezer for about 5 hours

Many thanks to Thomson Al Fresco who supplied the ingredients for me to make this Italian Gelato creation! If this recipe has whetted your appetite for all things Italian you might enjoy camping in the beautiful Lake Garda, Lazio, Tuscany, Adriatic Coast or the Venetian Riviera. I’m already dreaming of my next Italian adventure.

If you want to make another Italian classic you could try making your own Espresso Gelato, using the same method but a slightly different recipe.

Espresso Gelato 

  • 3 tbs coffee essence
  • 273 ml (1 and 1/2 cups) milk
  • 218 ml (1 cup) double cream
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 110g (or 1/2 cup) granulated sugar (I used vanilla infused sugar)
How to make Homemade Espresso Gelato recipe

Homemade Espresso Gelato