Thursday, 12 November 2015

War on Waste

Hopefully you saw "Hugh's War On Waste" on the BBC recently.

It ended with a call to arms to get supermarkets to address food waste.

The supermarkets will only change if their customers, us, tell them we want them to. To make that happen you can sign the pledge at

Nearly 250k people already have, please add your name too.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Vegetables cakes

Today at work Millertime came to an end. What better way to mark the occasion than with an assortment of cakes?

Given that she proclaimed significant adulation at the recent carrot and courgette layer cake (and as a nod to her commitment of never having eaten meat) an array of vegetable-based cakes was the order of the day.

The first conundrum was just what vegetables to use (for once seasonality would have to be by-passed as this would have just been too restrictive)? Carrots were ruled out straight away due to the ubiquity of carrot cakes. After some research I was left with beetroot, parsnip and courgettes as my vegetables. The remaining question was just how to "cakify" them? I ended up going with: 
  • Beetroot brownies;
  • Parsnip cupcakes with maple syrup butter cream; and
  • Courgette muffins with lime cream cheese frosting

These all went down remarkably well. (Mind you I was reasonably confident as the naked muffins and cupcakes had gone down very well in a little taste-test-preview with the Aussie yesterday)

The muffins were stupidly moist even two days after baking. They had a loose crumb structure making them very light. The lime flavour was very strong to begin with but faded to a subtle sweetness. Fortunately they weren't too sweet and the icing gave a good contrast (although arguably slightly dominant). It was a shame that the pistachio wasn't more prominent. This might have been down to chopping them too finely, bigger pieces may have worked better.

The parsnip cakes were like nothing else I have ever baked. The texture was fantastic: quite crumbly, so moist as to be almost on the verge of falling apart, but with a pleasingly slightly crisp top. The flavour was dominated by coconut. The maple syrup added a nice hit of sweetness. Overall it was a very pleasing little cake but with a surprising lack a unique taste given the remarkable blend of ingredients.

The brownies were excellent and possibly the best of the three. They were gooey but at the same time light (possibly due to my new found trick of whipping the eggs and sugar to ribbons stage). The flavour was fully developed and was deep, rich and long (I think due to the use of both cocoa and chocolate) with an ever so slight earthy undertone from the beetroot. All in all a crackin’ brownie.

On to the recipes.

Parsnip cupcakes with maple syrup icing (adapted from this Henry Dimbleby recipe from The Guardian)

Makes ~20

250g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
4 eggs
150g rice flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g desiccated coconut
200g cashew nuts, finely chopped
250g parsnips, finely grated
About 4 tbsp milk
For the maple syrup icing:
4oz butter, softened
6oz icing sugar
4tbsp maple syrup
To decorate:
50g dessicated coconut

1. Cream together the butter and caster sugar in a mixing bowl, then add the eggs to the mixture one by one, beating well after each addition.
2. In a second bowl, sift the rice flour with the baking powder and mix well. Add the coconut, cashews and grated parsnip.
3. Combine the two bowls of ingredients, adding the milk slowly, until the cake mixture reaches “dropping” consistency.
4. Line a tart or muffin tray with 12 muffin cases.
5. Divide the mixture between the 12 cases (roughly fill each to approximately 3/4 full) and bake at 150°C for 35 minutes (check after 30mins), or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Set aside to cool.
6. To make the icing, beat the butter until smooth and gradually sift and beat in the icing sugar.
7. Beat in the maple syrup (add more to your taste) and add water as required to get a smooth consistency. Ice each cake with ~1dsp of icing
8. To decorate, dry fry the dessicated coconut until golden and sprinkle on top.

Beetroot brownie (adapted from this Small Steps recipe)

Makes ~18

250g dark chocolate chopped
200g unsalted butter, cut in cubes
250g beetroot, cooked
3 eggs
1/2tsp vanilla extract
200g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder
50g flour
1tsp baking powder

1. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bain marie.
2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together until they reach the ribbon stage: light and fluffy and a trail of mix can be seen if the whisk is wafted over the top.
3. Whizz the cooked beetroot in a food processor, adding the egg and sugar mix and the vanilla. Mix until smooth.
4. In a separate bowl, sift the cocoa powder, flour and baking soda together.
5. Stir the beetroot mixture into the melted chocolate and fold in the dry ingredients.
6. Use parchment paper to line a rectangular tin, pour in mixture and bake at 180°C for 30-35mins, until firm to touch.
7. Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into portions.

Courgette muffins (adapted from this GoodtoKnow recipe)

Makes ~12.

250g courgettes (about 2-3 medium-sized)
2 large eggs
125ml vegetable oil
150g golden caster sugar
225g self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp baking powder
50g pistachio, chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lime
For the lime cream cheese icing:
200g cream cheese
50g butter, softened
100g icing sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lime

1. Grate the courgettes and leave them to drain in a sieve hung over a bowl.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs, vegetable oil and sugar and beat until well mixed and slightly fluffy
3. Sieve in the flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder and beat together.
4. Finally, add the drained courgette, pistachios and the lime juice and zest and divide the mixture between the 12 muffin cases.
5. Bake at 180°C for 20-25 mins or until the muffins are nicely brown and firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely before icing.
6. To make the icing, beat the butter with the icing sugar until smooth. Beat in the cream cheese and the lime juice and spread generously over the top of each muffin.
7. Decorate each muffin with a sprinkle of lime zest.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Peanut butter and salted caramel cake

Cakes for work have turned into requests recently. It was N's birthday on Wednesday and a cake was required to mark the occasion. Given that she is 

obsessed with salted caramel and love peanut butter also

what could I do but try and incorporate those into a cake? 

I went for layers of peanut butter cake and chocolate cake, sandwiched by a salted caramel and finished with a peanut butter butter-icing.

I'm always worried when I've made a cake to "order" as I just hope it lives up to expectations. Thankfully I think this one did. Remarkably when the e-mail went out to the team a queue formed!

The peanut butter cake was quite subtle which, it turns out, was a good think. The peanut butter hit came from the wondrously rich icing which was offset by the bitter chocolate layer (the chiffon cake that I had previously used for my banana, chocolate and peanut butter cake) and the salty caramel. (I was a bit worried about the salted caramel as it seemed to split slightly as it cooled. It was also terribly difficult to spread.) All the elements worked harmoniously together to give a rather satisfying cake.

Peanut butter and salted caramel layer cake

For the peanut butter cake (adapted from The Woks Of Life Classic Peanut Butter cake):
145g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4tsp salt
4tbsp oil
65g smooth peanut butter
84g caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2tsp vanilla extract
118ml buttermilk
For the chocolate cake:
4 eggs
4oz caster sugar
3oz plain flour
1oz cocoa
3tbsp boiling water
2tbsp vegetable oil
1tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
For the salted caramel (adapted from Felicity Cloake's perfect recipe):
200g white sugar
125ml water
100g butter, cubed
75ml double cream
1tsp sea salt
For the peanut butter icing:
6oz smooth peanut butter
3oz butter
9oz icing sugar
To decorate:
Reese's peanut butter cups, halved

1. For the peanut butter cake whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and set aside.
2. In a separate bowl beat together the oil, peanut butter, and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. 
3. Add the dry ingredients to the peanut butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Fold it all together gently until smooth.
4. Put the batter into a lined and greased 8" cake tin. Bake for at 180°C for 25-30 minutes at 180°Cor until the cake is done (a skewer comes out clean and the sides are starting to pull away from the tin). Allow to cool.
5. For the chocolate cake, separate the egg yolks and whites. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, oil, water and vanilla into a smooth batter.
6. Sieve in the flour, cocoa and baking powder and beat until combined.
7. Whisk the egg whites until stiff then fold into the chocolate mixture.
8. Put the batter into a lined and greased 8" cake tin. Bake at 180°C for 40mins or until the cake is done (a skewer comes out clean and the sides are starting to pull away from the tin). Allow to cool.
9. For the salted caramel, put the sugar in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan and pour over the water. Set over a medium heat and keep an eye on it as the sugar melts and begins to brown.
10. Once it turns a deep, but not dark, amber colour, take it off the heat and whisk in the butter until it is completely melted, then stir in the cream and ½ tsp salt.
11. Once you have a smooth sauce, scoop a little up on a teaspoon, allow to cool, and taste for seasoning; add more salt if you like. (Add a little milk if it is too thick).
12. For the peanut butter icing, beat together the peanut butter, butter and icing sugar. Use a milk to get a good consistency.
13. To construct the cake, first halve the two cakes. then sandwich together using a third of the salted caramel (this may be best spread slightly warm). Alternate between chocolate and peanut butter cake layers.
14. Use a small amount of the peanut butter icing as a crumb layer and cover the whole cake. Chill.
15. Generously ice the cake with the remaining peanut butter icing.
16. Decorate with the halved Reese's peanut butter cups.
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