Valentine’s Baking: Very Easy Chocolate Fudge Cake

2014-02-12 14.34.39A bit of a romantic themed bake for you today. If you remember last weekend I posted about making Cake Pops, and promised you my favourite chocolate cake recipe? Well here it is! I originally found it here, but have altered it ever so slightly to be more to my taste. Really all I have done is increased the cocoa:flour ratio and decreased the sugar slightly. The cake is rich and moist, but to make it even more of a treat (looking at the weather forecast, I’m getting more and more worried that I’ll be spending V-day crying into a plate of cake…so if the weather/train gods are reading this, I’d like the lines to be clear from Northampton to Canterbury please!) I added a very rich frosting. I haven’t eaten it yet, but I have a feeling it will be chocolatey heaven!

If you aren’t in the romantic mood, this cake fits perfectly into two 20-inch sandwich tins. To be honest I reckon heart-shape tins bake unevenly, so I’d recommend you use a normal tin really!

So to the really easy recipe!

2014-02-12 13.31.22Grab three eggs, and weigh them in their shells. Weigh out the same amount of butter, and make sure it is really, really soft. Weigh out the same amount of sugar, then put around 25g back. Weight out the same amount (again!) of flour, but 70g of it back and replace with 70g of cocoa powder. That’s your weighing done!

2014-02-12 13.50.54Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy…this is a great way to burn the calories in the cake before you’ve eaten them! I always find beating the butter before adding the sugar helps this step a little.

2014-02-12 13.52.01Now beat in the eggs one by one. If you add them all at once (like I did in this recipe) it will go wrong and curdle. Curdled mixture is fine in the long run, but it doesn’t look pretty, and often the cake is a little greasier than it should be!

2014-02-12 13.58.52Gradually sift in the cocoa and flour mixture, incorporating the mixture fully. It should be thick and fudgy looking (a little like brownie mixture!) but if it looks too thick add a splash of milk.

2014-02-12 14.23.17Spoon into a tin (which you have greased well, obviously…don’t be silly like me and forget!) and bake for 20-25 minutes at 170C, until firm to the touch, but with a slight give. Let it cool completely before removing from the tin.

2014-02-12 14.34.39Now to make the frosting! I used this recipe, but found it to produce ridiculously thick icing which I had to thin with a lot of water. It wasn’t exactly ideal, but it sure tastes good! I’d like to try this frosting again but on a slightly plainer cake.

2014-02-12 19.37.12You want to melt 100g of chocolate, beat into 100g of soft butter, and then beat in 400g of icing sugar and 50g of cocoa powder before thinning down with two tablespoons of strong coffee. I used 300g of icing sugar and it was still very thick!

2014-02-12 20.02.44I sandwiched the two cakes together with some of the icing, then attempted to smooth (not so neatly!) the rest over the top and sides. I was slightly constricted with the size of my tin (I AM buying a domed cake stand with my leftover Amazon vouchers!) so it wasn’t the neatest work I’ve ever done. To try and disguise the damage I added a final flourish of grated white chocolate (grated a piece of my nail off in the process…) which I think works well!

2014-02-12 20.19.19So that’s my little Valentine’s themed post – together with my favourite and easiest chocolate cake recipe. Its the type of sponge that’s easily adapted to anything – I’m thinking of introducing orange and/or chilli to a version soon!

Are you baking for your loved one this Valentine?

Recipe: Cheat’s Chicken & Ham Pie

It was recently my turn to cook dinner for my housemates; I wanted something warming and comforting so pie was the obvious choice. But I also didn’t want to spend forever cooking! I mean, I do have work to do, and Simulation homework doesn’t do itself (though I wish it would!). In the end I decided to experiment with a quick version of a Chicken & Ham Pie, using a few cheat ingredients.

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It turned out to be just what I wanted. The sauce was thick, creamy and full of flavour, the pastry crisp, and enough meat to feel like a good meal without it costing the earth. Served with some mash and plenty of green veg it was certainly a success! Admittedly not the cheapest recipe, but very nice for an occasional treat – I’m sure you could make it thriftier buy roasting a whole chicken breast, making your own pastry/sauce but that really isn’t the point with this cheat’s version!

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 packet shredded ham hock (I got mine from Waitrose)
  • Can of condensed chicken soup
  • Can of condensed mushroom soup
  • 1 small onion
  • Seasoning – I used plenty of pepper, onion and garlic powder, a little parmesan and around 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 pack ready-rolled puff pastry

This made enough for two large pies (easily feeding four), one large portion of filling leftover, and 4 pretty sizeable sausage rolls with the leftover pastry.

Method

Finely dice some onions (I have a confession to make – I recently started using a mini food processor to do this for me, and am wondering why I didn’t start sooner!), then soften in a little butter over a low heat.

Meanwhile chop the chicken into relatively big chunks, and fry on a high heat in some oil until sealed. Then add in the onions.

2014-01-26 18.01.54Pour in the two cans of soup, adding around half a tin of water to each one to ensure everything is out.

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Stir gently until lump-free, and season with your chosen seasonings.

2014-01-26 18.07.22Gently stir in half of the ham – it will break up slightly.

2014-01-26 18.08.42Divide between pie dishes, topping with the remaining ham.

2014-01-26 18.18.49Top with pastry. If you want a nice shiny top, brush with milk, beaten egg or melted butter.

2014-01-26 18.26.51Bake for around 20-30 minutes at 180C, or until puffed up and golden.

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Serve with plenty of vegetables and mashed potatoes, if you like.

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Now I’m not saying this is the most impressive of dinners, the most refined of meals. It was just damn tasty and easy to do, and is great for feeding a larger number of people. If you want to make a meal for housemates during a busy period this is just what is needed, and I reckon it would be perfect for busy mums to – its quick enough to prepare after work, or you could even assemble it all in advance and just bung it in the oven.

I also adapted a crumble recipe to make a savoury topping for the leftover filling – for one serving rub 80g of flour in 50g of butter, add plenty of ground pepper and a little parmesan cheese, scatter over the filling, and cake until the filling is very hot, and the topping golden and crispy. Yum yum!

NOTE: This recipe forms an entry to the Co-Op Electrical Shop’s Winter Warmer competition, the details of which can be found here. In short, bloggers are challenged to create a recipe of their favourite winter warmer, be it stew, pie or pudding. I love winter recipes, as I’m just a lover of cosying up by the fire with something comforting, so I’m hoping the organisers will share all the entries in one place!

What are your favourite winter warmer recipe?

Recipe: Fried Pea Sandwich (a.k.a. A Cheat’s Samosa)

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My boyfriend’s dad is currently taking part in an Indian cookery class, and luckily for me I was able to sample some of the things he made before I left for university. One of last week’s goodies was what I can only describe as a fried sandwich with a filling of spicy peas. I loved it – it was spicy, fresh, crunchy and warming with an almost summery hint coming from the peas. And of course I asked for the recipe.

Reading the recipe I came across a big problem. I’d never even heard of some of the spices (hing anyone?!) and I definitely knew that most students’ budget wouldn’t cover them. Mine definitely didn’t! So I decided to improvise. This recipe is what I came up with, and for about 10 minutes of work and some very cheap ingredients it was damn tasty! It makes a perfect snack or light lunch, so give it a go as something different!

I’m just going to go straight into it and give you the recipe, its so simple you don’t even need an ingredients list…

In the morning, get a handful of peas out to defrost. Get your bread out too – you want it slightly stale for this as it will go crispier.

2014-01-19 13.28.15Get some spicy out on a small plate. I used curry powder, cumin, tumeric and crushed chillies, but even just curry powder would do!

2014-01-19 13.32.44Tip your peas onto the spices, and crush with a fork. The original recipe said they should go like breadcrumbs, mine didn’t look that way! As long as they aren’t whole and they aren’t mush they should be fine…

2014-01-19 13.35.57Press the pea mixture into a slice of bread. Try and press it down as much as possible as this will prevent the sandwich from falling apart.

2014-01-19 13.39.23Top with the second slice of bread (pressing down well!) and then fry in a preheated oiled pan for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until golden and crispy.

2014-01-19 13.48.37This is delicious served on its own, but I’m thinking it will be even better with a cucumber-yoghurt dip. Watch this space!

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I never would have thought to try making a ‘samosa’ from a fried sandwich, but this really works. Let me know if you give it a go!

EDIT: by request, I’m adding this to Deena Kakaya’s Fabulous Fushion Food Challenge – a challenge which to be honest is right up my street! There’s already some great entries for this month, so please do have a look at them!