Friday, 31 May 2013

Chocolate & Orange Maya Gold Layer Cake

I recently became ever so slightly obsessed with making a gargantuan and slightly bonkers chocolate 1st birthday cake for the Band of Bakers.  Three deep layers of chocolate and muscovado sponge, one layer of hazelnut wafer and one layer of hazelnut meringue all sandwiched together with treacle chocolate fudge frosting and vanilla meringue buttercream, topped off with lots of mini hazelnut meringues.

The sort of cake you only ever make once (like the campervan cake I made for my son's 2nd birthday...never again).

This layer cake is far more refined.  Perfect for a celebration, but equally wouldn't look out of place on the table for afternoon tea.  With three layers of gently spiced rich chocolate fudge sponge and about a gallon of Maya Gold chocolate fudge frosting it isn't for the faint hearted.  But it's made with dark chocolate which is ever so good for you.  And oranges, they count towards your five a day.

You will need to start by making the confit orange a couple of days (or more) before you want to make the cake.


For the orange confit:

4 oranges
500g caster sugar
500ml water

(This is the recipe from Paul A. Young's book Adventures with Chocolate, but I make a big batch so that I have lots of leftovers - they keep well in am airtight container for up to 3 months)

For the cake:

160g unsalted butter, softened
150g dark soft brown sugar
150g light soft brown sugar
100g Green & Black's Maya Gold chocolate
50g Green & Black's 70% dark chocolate
40ml sunflower oil
3 large free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp glycerin
50ml soured cream
250g plain flour
50g Green & Black's cocoa
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground mixed spice

For the frosting:

2 tbsp golden syrup
150g light soft brown sugar
4 tbsp Green & Black's cocoa
4 tbsp cornflower
300ml milk
150g Green & Black's Maya Gold chocolate
100g Green & Black's 70% dark chocolate
2 tsp vanilla extract
50g unsalted butter, softened

(This almost identical to my current favourite chocolate frosting recipe, which is in Dan Lepard's book Short & Sweet, except that I have swapped the treacle in his recipe for golden syrup and used Maya Gold in place of some of the dark chocolate.  If you don't have Dan's book, you should have!)


For the orange confit:

Wash the oranges, then score the skin from top to bottom so the skin is in 4 equal pieces.  Gently peel the skin away from the flesh and slice each piece into 3 or 4 lengthways.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and simmer the orange skin for 3 minutes , then drain and discard the water.  Repeat twice.

Put the sugar and water into a pan and bring to the boil.  Put the orange skin into the sugar syrup and turn the heat right down to a very gentle simmer.  Simmer for 3 hours then leave in the syrup to cool.  Once cooled, gently lay the strips of orange skin on a cooling rack and leave for 24 hours, or until the sugar crystallises.

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Grease and line the bottoms of three 20cm sandwich cake tins.

Beat the butter, dark and light sugars with an electric mixer (I used my Kitchenaid Mixer) until pale and fluffy.  This will take about 4 or 5 minutes.

Whilst the butter and sugars are mixing, melt the Maya Gold and 70% dark chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Take care not to let the water touch the bowl or the chocolate.

Beat the eggs, oil, vanilla extract, glycerin and soured cream together in a jug.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and mixed spice.

Once the butter and sugar mixture is pale and fluffy, reduce the speed of the mixer and slowly add the egg mixture, about 1 tablespoon at a time.  If the mixture starts to curdle, add a spoonful of the flour mixture.

Beat in half the flour mixture, then the melted chocolate and then the rest of the flour mixture.

Divide equally into the 3 tins and bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.  The cakes should be quite level on top once baked, which is perfect for layering them up with lots of frosting.

For the frosting:

Put the golden syrup, sugar, cocoa, cornflower and milk in a pan and beat until smooth. Bring the boil, stirring all the time.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate.  Beat until smooth.

Once the mixture has cooled slightly, beat in the vanilla extract and the butter, a little at a time.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

My Tea Room at the Sunday Art Salon & a recipe for my favourite Carrot Cake

My first ever Tea Room.  In a little kitchen and dining room, way up in the eaves, overlooking the glorious Hilly Fields in Brockley.  A whole day spent serving freshly baked cakes, tarts and tea and chatting to some wonderful people as the sun streamed through the windows.

The Sunday Art Salon is the perfect place to spend a lazy couple of hours on a Sunday.  Browsing contemporary art, vintage paintings, collectables and antiques.  Meeting and networking with artists, locals and collectors.  Listening to music.  Relaxing with the papers over a light lunch or tea and cakes.

At the very top of this beautiful home, studio and exhibition space in my little tea room, my first day as host was a whirlwind of antique teacups, boiling kettles, warming teapots and (ever glamorous) washing up.  For lunch there was a Stilton, Potato & Caramelised Onion Tart with salad.  On the cake menu were Carrot Cake, Blueberry & Almond Tart and Coffee & Madeira Marble Cake (made with locally roasted Volcano Coffee).  All washed down with big pots of Flint & Co tea served in teacups hunted down in local charity shops and very kindly donated by Sara Smith who designs stunning teacups and saucers here in SE London.

My next Tea Room will be on Sunday 2nd June 2013 at the Sunday Art Salon at Hilly Fields Studio in Brockley from 11am to 5pm.

There was a lot of love for my carrot cake so I thought I'd share the recipe.  It is based on a Family Circle recipe for Passion Cake which was published back in the 1970s, but has evolved a little over time.  It is probably my most baked cake ever.


For the cake: 

4 large eggs
225g caster sugar
225ml sunflower oil
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
280g carrot, finely grated
225g plain flour
1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
150g sultanas
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice

For the cream cheese frosting:

120g full fat cream cheese
60g unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g icing sugar, sifted


Grease and line two 23cm loose based sandwich tins.  Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Beat the eggs, caster sugar, sunflower oil and vanilla extract for 2-3 minutes until well emulsified.  Stir in all of the other cake ingredients until just mixed.

Divide the cake mixture evenly between the two sandwich tins and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 35-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tins for 5-10 minutes then carefully remove the cakes from the tins and leave to cool completely on a wire cooling rack. 

Whilst the cake is cooling, make the cream cheese frosting by beating all of the ingredients together until smooth.

Place one of the cooled cakes onto your serving plate.  Cover with about a third of the cream cheese frosting.  Place the other cake on top and then ice with the remaining cream cheese frosting.  Decorate with toasted, chopped nuts.

Serves 12

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Warm Salad of Aubergine, Moghrabieh & Chickpeas

Persepolis in Peckham is one of my all time favourite shops.  What you can't buy there or learn about whilst you're shopping really isn't worth knowing.  Each time I go I seem to pick up an ingredient I've never cooked with before, as well as stocking up on cupboard staples for recipes I love to cook from Sally Butcher's Veggiestan or Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi's Jerusalem.

A rather large packet of moghrabieh had been lurking in my cupboard for a while (I would say unopened, but I have a toddler who is rather partial to 'digging' them with his mini digger and liberally distributing them around the house).  Together with an aubergine, half a jar of rather lovely chickpeas and a few lonely tomatoes they made a tasty impromptu warm salad for dinner on a cool May evening.

Serves 2 as a main meal or 4 as a light lunch.


100g moghrabieh
1 aubergine
3 tbsp olive oil (plus a little extra for the tomatoes)
1 tsp sumac
8 small tomatoes
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, halved and finely sliced
200g chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
salt & black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200C / 180 C (fan).

Cook the moghrabieh according the pack instructions (I cooked mine in boiling water for around 15-20 minutes).

Slice the aubergine in half lengthways and then, placing the cut side down on the chopping board, slice each half into 1cm thick semi circles.  Mix with the sumac and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper and then roast for about 20-30 minutes until cooked and starting to brown (you will need to turn them over at east once during cooking).

Put the tomatoes in a small roasting dish, season and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Roast in the oven for 12 minutes, or until the skins are just starting to colour.  Set to one side.

Place a medium frying pan over a moderate heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the cumin seeds and fry for 1-2 minutes until they release their aroma.  Add the sliced onions and cook for 7-8 minutes, until they are starting to brown, then add the chickpeas.  Cook for 5 minutes, then add the ground coriander and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together the cooked moghrabieh, aubergines, onions and chickpeas and chopped parsley and place on a serving plate.  Top with the roasted tomatoes and their juices.  Serve warm or at room temperature.