Sunday, 29 January 2012

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Marshmallow Icing.

It is the musicians 21st birthday so she and a friend thought it would be a good idea to throw a party. Subsequently 60 bottles of cava have arrived in our flat to help the festivities along. Now an occasion such as this cannot pass by without cake, however, I have visions of 100 portions worth of cake crumbs being liberally spread around the flat not to mention the icing. I wanted something to make an impact when carried in with cake fireworks on the top so a tray bake or the like was out (this turned out to be a bad idea as the fireworks set off every smoke alarm in our flat). I contemplated cupcakes but they have been done now and only really look good when displayed on cake stands which we don't have. So I settled upon whoopie pies. These seem to be the new thing. If you have never heard of them before then the easiest way to describe them it that they are like the top half of two muffins sandwiched together with some form of icing.

I decided to make three different flavoured varieties chocolate, chocolate and peanut butter and red velvet. I am only going to write up the chocolate ones at the moment but I will make the other ones again at another time. I will say though that they batters of each of the three varieties behaved slightly differently.

I followed the basic recipes in the Hummingbird cake book but have deviated with the icing as I didn't want to have to spend a fortune on fluff for the filling. I made one batch of the icing following the recipe and must admit that it was the best. I do love fluff it is just that it is £2.40 a jar in England and each batch of icing needs a whole jar. My attempts to replace fluff with melted marshmallows needs some more experimentation I fear. I would also suggest trying the marshmallow icing from the Primrose book as an alternative.

The photos of the ones I made for the party aren't very good as I suddenly realised I hadn't taken any pictures just as we were about to sing happy birthday. They were such a success that I have had to make another batch this weekend as my flatmates didn't manage to get to them in time. I had been reading about new ideas for valentines day and thought that as I was having to make another batch anyway I might as well have a go at piping them into hearts. I also added pink food colouring to the icing. They looked fantastic if I say so myself and I would advise piping all whoopie pies in the future. They looked much neater and it was much easier than trying to spoon out a sticky batter.

I have entered them into Cake Boule valentine baking ideas and Valentines hearts ideas on very good recipes.

Ingredients: For the Sponge

1 large egg
150g (5.5ozs) Caster Sugar
125g (4.5ozs) Plain yoghurt
25ml (1fl oz) whole milk
¼ tsp vanilla essence ( I used nomu paste)
75g (2.5oz) melted unsalted butter
200g (7oz) Plain Flour
80g (3oz) Cocoa Powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp baking powder


170g (6oz) unsalted butter
280g (10oz) icing sugar
220g (8oz) vanilla marshmallow fluff


Using a mixer cream the egg and sugar until fluffy. Pour the milk, yoghurt and vanilla essence into a bowl and mix together. Then add this mixture in with the beaten egg an sugar. Finally add in the melted butter and mix. Sift together the remaining dry ingredients, add them to the creamed mixture and mix well on a medium speed. Place the batter mix in the fridge to rest for 20-30 minutes this is important I don't know the science behind it but i imagine the raising agents are reacting and it changes the consistency of the batter. Pre-heat the oven to 170C Roasting oven with a cold shelf. Once rested, spoon or pipe onto the baking trays making 8-10 mounds per tray. These need to be 2-3 cm spaced apart and around 3 -5 cm in diameter. A tsp full is about the right amount if you are spooning.
Bake for 10-13 minutes or until they spring back when touched. Cool before filling.

To make the filling beat the butter and icing sugar together. Once this is blended add the marshmallow fluff and then mix on a high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes as this will firm up the mixture slightly.

I made them the day ahead and they kept very well. They are quite robust so would travel well if need be I imagine they could be posted as well.

I have entered them into Cake Boule valentine baking ideas, Valentine Hearts ideas on very good recipes,Baked with love bakeoff and What Kate Baked's Tea Time Treats.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Very Easy Roast Vegetable Tart.

This is so easy you almost can't call it a recipe but it is great for girly lunches or sunday night fridge scrapes. You can use raw vegetables or cold left overs, either works just as well. In our flat we love spicy food and add chilli to most things. Partly because we genuinely like hot food and partly because we are mean and it means that our flat mate who is from wales has to eat everything with milk while his nose runs and tears poor down his face. Mean I know but somehow still funny. If you like spicy food you can add harrisa paste to the tomato and pesto or you can sprinkle chilli flakes onto the top. In our case it was both.

I have linked this to fuss free flavours frugal friday.

1 packet ready rolled puff pastry
Tomato paste
vegetables of your choice
Cheese of some kind I would advise goats or mozzarella.If you like spicy food you can add harrisa paste to the tomato and pesto or you can sprinkle chilli flakes onto the top.

Simply spread pesto and tomato paste over the pastry. Then pile on you choice of fillings. Drizzle with olive oil and season. Bake for 30mins at 200c if you are cooking in an aga for the last ten minutes put it on the floor of the oven which will crisp up the base nicely.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Walnut and Honey Loaf Cake.

I must admit that I am not much of a fan of honey but it really works in this particular cake. Even if your loaf is a little dry then when you poor the heated honey over it the sponge absorbs the liquid. I do think having made it that it could easily take more walnuts than the recipe specifies. 

190g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
190g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
190g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
25g plain yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp runny honey
60g walnuts, roughly chopped

One pound loaf tin. Preheat the oven to 170°C, then grease the loaf tin with butter and dust with flour. Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs one at a time.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then add these dry ingredients to the batter in two stages and mix on a low speed until just incorporated. Mix in the yoghurt, vanilla essence and half the honey, then stir in the walnuts by hand. 

Fill the loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes or until the sponge is firm and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

While the cake is cooking, place the remaining honey in a small saucepan with 50ml of water and bring to the boil, allowing the syrup to reduce by about half. Pour the warm syrup over the cake when it comes out of the oven, then leave to cool in the tin.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Coffee and Chocolate Loaf.

This is the first thing which I have baked out of my new Hummingbird book which I got for christmas. I particularly like loaf cakes as they keep very well. I made this in a 1 lb loaf tin.I have adapted this recipe.


190g unsalted softened butter
130g plain flour
190g soft light brown sugar
3 large eggs
60g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
20ml milk
1 tablespoon strong coffee (brewed and cooled)

Pre-heat the oven to 170°C this is a particularly difficult temperature in a two door aga so I did it in the electric oven but I would suggest the bottom of the top oven with two cold shelves. Then grease and flour your loaf tin.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Use and electric whisk or a mixer to make this.  Add the eggs one at a time and mix well. The mixture should be quite fluffy and almost 'moussey' when you have finished.

Measure the milk and add the cooled coffee to it. Set aside.

Add the dry ingredients and two batches, alternating with the coffee mixture. Mix on a low speed until everything is incorporated.

Once everything is well mixed, increase the speed to medium-high and give a quick blitz to make sure you have a smooth batter. This mixture is not very liquidy and is more like a regular sponge batter. Spoon into the tin and bake for one hour or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Allow to cool for a while in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

I would love to know how to stop the top of my loaf cakes cracking if anyone has any advise.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Devil's Food Cake.

Baking this cake was an opportunity to hit two birds with one stone so to speak. It meant that I could join in with a new virtual baking group the Weekly Bake Off and I could subtly gage the musicians reactions to the sponge before I adapt it for her 21st birthday. She has requested a light chocolate sponge layered with raspberry jam. So am thinking I will use this sponge as a cupcake base and ice it with raspberry marshmallow icing for which there is a recipe in the primrose bakery book. Anyhow back to the bake off the weekly bake off's host chooses one recipe every week from Mary Berry's 100 cakes and bakes which everyone uses and then we all post photos of our differing results. It never ceases to amaze me how you can have such varying results with everyone following the same recipe.

I will admit that mine was not the most proficient thing that I have ever made. One of the difficulties of baking in a student flat is that I rarely have the required ingredients or equipment. I managed to borrow the pair of sandwich tins off a friend. They were the seemingly clever ones with the twisty thing to cut the cake of the bottom of the tin. This was disaster two, despite greasing the tins they were resolutely stuck to the bottom. Disaster one involved the mixture overflowing all over the bottom of the over, which lets face it I haven't subsequently cleaned so every time we now use the oven the flat is filled with a pungent smell of burnt cake mixture. My third difficulty was a lack of either cream of tartar or a thermometer in order to make the icing. In the end the sponge was delicious, one I will definitely be using as a base for other cakes. The icing also worked well and looked very smart but it was far too sweet a combination with this sponge. I would suggest not to make the icing too far in advance as it was nicer when it was softer and more marshmallowy rather than the dry meringue texture which it took on the next day. It was also irritating that one egg whites worth of icing
was not quite enough but two was far to much. Found that if you gave the icing in the middle a couple of minutes to firm up before putting the top sponge on it gripped better.

For the cake:
55g cocoa powder
280g caster sugar
115g butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
175g plain flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the American frosting:
450g sugar
2 large egg whites

Preheat the oven to 180C.Grease and line 2 x 20cm sandwich tins.
Whisk the cocoa powder into 225ml water and set aside. Whisk the sugar and butter in a separate bowl until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs until well combined. Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl.Alternately fold in the flour and the cocoa mixture to the butter mixture. Divide the batter evenly between the tins.Bake for 30 - 45 minutes until well risen and firm to touch.

To make the frosting, heat the sugar with 135ml water gently until the sugar has dissolved. Next, bring it to a boil and boil until it reaches 115C/240F on a sugar thermometer. The mixture will bubble and thicken. Whilst you are heating the sugar, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Once the sugar syrup is ready, allow the bubble to settle then pour slowly into the egg whites, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the mixture stands in peaks.

Alternatively simply whisk the egg whites, sugar and a couple of tbsp of water together in a double boiler until you have the required consistancy.