chocolate raspberry layer cake

25 Sept 2017

A few weeks ago I spent the day at home with a bad headache. As the headache eased, I realised I was bored so I decided to make some jam, as you do. I found some frozen raspberries in the freezer and in 20 minutes I had raspberry jam but I don't really eat jam, so what was I to do?

I'd bookmarked this Julia Turshen recipe for Happy Wife, Happy Life Chocolate Cake a while back and the layers are sandwiched together with raspberry jam. I used the recipe as my inspiration for this chocolate raspberry layer cake. Originally the cake was going to be a double layer cake but I kept cutting layers and suddenly I was making a triple layer cake.  

I used my own chocolate cake recipe but used the sour cream filling and the chocolate ganache topping from Julia's recipe.

I thought the cake looked pretty good naked and was tempted not to ice the top layer but as I'd already made the ganache, I went ahead with this step.

Here's the recipe for you, which makes a triple layer cake. You should be able to make a double layer 8 inch cake with these quantities but the cooking time will be a bit less, maybe 45 minutes. For all my recipes, I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C.

Chocolate Raspberry Layer Cake
1 cup plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate soda
¼ tsp baking powder
½ cup strong hot coffee
40g cocoa powder
125g room temperature unsalted butter, chopped
¾ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 egg
⅓ cup buttermilk

⅓ cup cream
⅓ cup room-temperature sour cream
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tbs caster sugar
½ cup raspberry jam
Raspberries for serving (optional)

65g dark chocolate, chopped
¼ cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tsp golden syrup

Preheat oven to 190°C. Grease and line a 18cm round tin with baking paper. Sift the flour with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Mix the coffee and cocoa together in a small bowl to make a paste, then set aside to cool.

Cream the butter and sugar together with the vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add the egg then mix the flour into the mixture alternating with the chocolate mixture and the buttermilk. You should be left with a creamy smooth chocolatey batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, smooth the top then place the tin onto the middle shelf of the preheated oven. Bake at 190° C for 1 hour to 1 and 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out dry. Leave the cake to cool completely before turning out onto a wire rack. While the cake is cooling, make the icing and the filling.

Melt the chopped chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring between burst. Remove from the microwave and whisk in the room temperature sour cream and golden syrup. The icing should be smooth and quite silky. Refrigerate the icing which will thicken as it cools. If the icing seizes, just zap for a few seconds in the microwave to loosen the mixture

Whip the cream with the vanilla until stiff. Fold in the room temperature sour cream then sweeten to taste with the sugar. Slice the cake horizontally into 3 layers and spread the cake with the raspberry jam first before topping with the sour cream filling. If you like you can sprinkle a few raspberries over the cream before topping with the next layer. Top with the chocolate icing.

Store the cake in the fridge until serving time but allow to come to room temperature before serving. 

I didn't get to try a slice of the cake but it was very well received and was all gone before lunch was over, which is always a good sign.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,


ricotta gnocchi with peas and mint

18 Sept 2017

You know I do cook other things don't you, not just cakes and desserts? In fact I spend all weekend cooking meals for the week ahead. As well as things I can heat up like curries and casseroles, I also like to cook things that take about 20 minutes to get onto the plate.

A few years ago my friend Vanessa asked if I'd ever made ricotta gnocchi. I hadn't but when I eventually did, I wondered why I'd ever made them any other way. You can have gnocchi in the pot in about 10 minutes flat and whilst I love potatoes, I probably love ricotta just as much. 

Apart from salt, pepper and nutmeg all you need are 4 key ingredients - eggs, parmesan cheese, flour and ricotta.

Like all gnocchi, you need to use a light hand with these and only use enough flour to stop the dough from sticking.

I don't usually bother but I decided to roll the gnocchi over a fork to make those characteristic ridges.

I made these gnocchi for my lunch on Saturday but I was faced with a dilemma. What sauce should I make to pair with the gnocchi? I make tomato based sauces all the time and I was a bit worried a tomato sauce would swamp these delicate gnocchi so I looked to Gordon Ramsay for some inspiration. I found this recipe and adapted the sauce a little by swapping mint for the thyme. I thought peas and mint sounded like the perfect combination of spring flavours.

The gnocchi only took a minute or two to cook and the sauce took about 5 minutes to put together so the gnocchi were on my plate in next to no time. If you'd like to try these for yourself, here's the recipe for you. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon and all eggs are 60 grams. 

Ricotta gnocchi with peas and mint - serves 4

500g fresh ricotta
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus a little extra to serve
2 large egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup plain flour, plus extra if required

Olive oil, for frying
Freshly ground black pepper
150g peas, defrosted if frozen
Knob of butter
a few sprigs of mint,  leaves only
Zest of 1 lemon

Place ricotta in a fine sieve over a bowl for 30 minutes to drain off any excess liquid. Place drained ricotta in a bowl with grated cheese, egg yolks, salt and nutmeg. Add flour and mix to form a dough. Add a little extra flour if the dough is too sticky and wet. Be careful not to overwork.

Divide dough into quarters and gently roll into two-centimetre-diameter logs on a lightly floured surface. Cut into two-centimetre pieces and gently place on a lightly floured tray. Press down with back of a fork to make indents in each gnocchi. Continue with remaining dough.

To cook gnocchi, drop into a saucepan of simmering, lightly salted water and remove as soon as they float to the top, after one or two minutes. Drain thoroughly.

Heat a frying pan over a medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. Add the gnocchi to the pan with a pinch of salt and black pepper and sauté for 1-2 minutes on each side until coloured. Add the peas and butter and season to taste. Toss, then add the lemon zest. Serve topped with the mint leaves and some grated parmesan.

So how were the gnocchi? Brilliant! The parmesan cheese in the gnocchi turned a bit crusty when fried and the peas, mint and lemon made for a lovely fresh and light sauce. I've stored some of these gnocchi in the freezer and I'll be having them again for my dinner later this week.

I hope you all had lovely weekends.

See you all again soon.

Bye for now,



upside down blood orange, ricotta, almond and polenta cake

11 Sept 2017

While browsing through instagram a few weeks back, I spied a picture of an upside down blood orange, ricotta, almond and polenta cake adapted from the River Cafe's Lemon Polenta Cake.  

Blood oranges and ricotta are 2 of my favourite things and as I'd already made the River Cafe's lemon cake a few times before, I was keen to give this version a try. When I found that blood oranges were on special at the fruit shop this week I bought a few to make this cake.

Early on Sunday morning, I collected all the ingredients.

You need to use well drained ricotta from the deli for this recipe.

I used a combination of brown sugar and water at the base of the tin as suggested by Deb from Smitten Kitchen then arranged the orange slices over the base before carefully spooning the delicate batter over the fruit. 

Here's the recipe for you, which makes an 8 inch cake. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional gas oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. 

Upside down blood orange, polenta and ricotta cake
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
3 blood oranges
1 lemon
125g almond meal
50g polenta flour
115g unsalted butter, softened
135g caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated
165 grams ricotta, drained
75mls orange/lemon juice
Additional 1 tbs caster sugar
¼ cup apricot jam or marmalade

Preheat oven to 170°C. Butter a 8-inch round cake pan and line the base and sides with baking paper. Stir brown sugar and water together. Pour into the base of the prepared cake pan and spread thinly. Set aside. Grate the zest of 1 of the oranges and the lemon. Using a small, sharp knife, slice off 1 cm from the top and bottom of 2 of the oranges. Standing each orange up on a board, carefully but neatly follow the natural curves of the orange with the knife to peel off the remaining skin and all the white pith. Cut each orange horizontally into thin slices. Remove the pips then arrange the slices over the brown sugar base in the cake pan. Juice the third orange then add sufficient lemon juice to make 75 mls.

In a small bowl, combine the almond meal with the polenta flour. Beat the butter, sugar and zests together in a mixer until pale and light. Add the egg yolks one by one. Put the ricotta in a bowl and lightly beat with a fork before adding the blood orange juice. Gently stir the ricotta mixture into the cake batter alternating with the almond mixture. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the extra tablespoon of sugar and whisk until combined. Gently fold the egg whites into the almond mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and gently smooth the cake batter, trying not to disturb orange slices underneath then bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour or until set. Test by inserting a skewer, which should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from the tin and inverting onto a cake plate. Don't leave the cake for too long before unmoulding or the topping will set and you'll find it impossible to get the cake out of the tin.

While the cake is cooling, heat the jam in the microwave until it melts then gently brush over the cake top. Let the cake cool completely before cutting into slices. Serve as is or with a dollop of double cream. 

This cake is best served on the day of making as the oranges tend to lose their shine. Store any leftover cake in the fridge.

The cake is almost more of a cheesecake than a regular cake and the addition of the orange slices does make this quite soft and a bit of a challenge to cut into neat slices. So don't do what I did and allow the cake to cool completely before cutting a slice. The blood orange version of the cake is much sweeter than the lemon version due to the brown sugar base, which isn't a bad thing. In case you're wondering, the unused blood orange rind didn't go to waste. I candied it in preparation for my Christmas baking and it's drying out on a rack while I type this.

See you all again next week with some more baking from my kitchen.

Bye for now,



lemon buttermilk cake with passionfruit syrup

4 Sept 2017

I've made lemon yoghurt cake many times but with half a container of buttermilk about to expire in the fridge I wondered how the cake would taste made with buttermilk instead of yoghurt.

I was up really early on Sunday, too early to use my stand mixer so I made this all in one bowl, stirred with a wooden spoon just like I did when I first started baking.

I bought a net of passionfruit a few weeks ago and had to use them quickly as the skins were starting to soften. I decided to make a passionfruit syrup to pour over the cake. It's not a new idea and I've made something like this before using a different lemon cake recipe.

It was a lovely day on Sunday so I went out for a few hours while the cake was cooling.

Once home I doused the cake with some more of the syrup before cutting a slice.

Here's the recipe for you which makes a small bundt cake. For all my recipes I use a 250 ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon. All eggs are 60 grams and my oven is a conventional oven not fan forced, so you may need to reduce your oven temperature by 20°C. To make a large bundt cake, just double all the cake ingredients and bake for the same time. The passionfruit syrup recipe makes a generous amount which should be enough for the large cake.

Lemon buttermilk cake with passionfruit syrup
⅔ cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 tbl finely grated lemon rind
110g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1¼ cups self-raising flour
Pinch salt
½ cup buttermilk
⅓ cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 180°C (conventional). Grease and flour a small bundt tin. In a large bowl, combine the caster sugar, the egg and the grated lemon rind. Gradually add the cooled butter and mix thoroughly. Sift the flour with the pinch of salt and stir into the egg mixture in thirds, alternately with the buttermilk and the lemon juice. 

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes. The top should be golden and when tested, a skewer comes out clean. Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a rack before dousing with the passionfruit syrup.

Passionfruit Syrup
½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup lemon juice
2 passionfruit, pulped

In a small saucepan combine the sugar, water and the juice. Bring to the boil and lower the heat. Simmer the mixture for a few minutes. Gently stir in the passionfruit pulp and simmer for a further minute. Remove from the heat.

The verdict? The syrup makes for a more dense cake than usual but overall it tastes pretty yummy.

I hope you had a lovely Father's Day on Sunday. See you all again soon.

Bye for now,

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