Baking: Red Velvet Brownie Cake

This was just meant to be a Red Velvet cake, but it came out dense, fudge-y and very Brownie like – so it’s a Brownie cake. To be honest it’s not even particularly red (damn cheap food colouring!) so you could leave the ‘red’ part out and just make a delicious brownie cake…

 photo 2015-02-15 18.57.57_zpsx80zmvsh.jpgI found this recipe particularly easy to make up – no idea why as I’m usually a bit more cautious with baked goods. At dinner time I can happily throw in this, add a bit of that, and feel confident knowing that it won’t be (too) disgusting. To be honest baking scares me in that it is more of an exact science. But I managed this, it worked well, and whilst I won’t use red food colouring in it again, it makes a damn delicious cake. The frosting was pretty yummy too – fresher than normal buttercream, but still sweet and indulgent. The sugar hearts were my nod to Valentine’s – there’s absolutely no need for them, but even I’m impressed with how pretty my Valentine’s cake looks!

 photo 10582b09-fc4f-4818-b215-4f4a02023e21_zpsfqncljjf.jpgIngredients

  • 150g very soft butter
  • 150g sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used Nielsen-Massey)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 50ml yoghurt
  • Red food colouring (if you want a red cake!)
  • 150g self-raising flour (I used Allinson Flour)
  • 75g cocoa powder
  • A splash of milk
  • For the icing: 100g very soft butter, 200g cream cheese, 500g icing sugar, and a drop of vanilla extract

 photo 2015-02-15 12.25.36_zpsjxwsrd0x.jpgBeat the butter until light, then add the sugar and vanilla extract. Keep beating until light and fluffy – I find beating the butter on it’s own first makes this a lot easier. Beat in the eggs a bit at a time.

Mix the food colouring with the yoghurt, and beat this into the cake mixture. Stir the flour in gradually, followed by the cocoa powder.

Pour into two (lined and greased – thanks W!) deep sandwich tins and bake at 175C for about 30 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean.

 photo 2015-02-15 12.33.02_zps1uoxbnoq.jpgWhilst the cake is cooling, make the icing. Beat the butter until light, then beat in the cream cheese. It’s really, really, really important to beat the butter first – I didn’t, and hence had little buttery lumps throughout the icing. Gradually beat in the icing sugar, and then the vanilla extract. Keep beating until frosting-like…then use it to sandwich your cooled cakes together, and decorate the top and sides.

 photo 11d0e8cc-2ba9-4c94-a3b3-c2d514170a19_zpssieyvtvv.jpgAdd heart-shaped sprinkles if you wish! Then cut a big slab, make a cuppa, snuggle under a blanket, grab a book and enjoy. And remember, for a post-Valentine’s treat, there’s the Hungry House’s promotion currently running, whereby any takeaway order placed on hungryhouse of £15 or more will bag you a movie or TV show from CinemaNow. Me and W treated ourselves last friday (thanks Hungry House!) to a delicious curry followed by The Sex Tape – a hilarious and light-hearted film.

 photo e733a07c-c1cc-4a37-8509-ca73c94fe2d1_zpshmin50nm.jpgDisclaimer: I was provided with some baking goods as part of the Baking Mad campaign, which I genuinely used in this recipe. All opinions are my own, as always, and no money exchanged hands. 

Have your ever made a Red Velvet cake? Baked anything recently? I’m on the lookout for healthier bakes so send me links!

Valentine’s Special: Relationships

I still remember the first time I was “in love.” I was between the ages of 3 and 5, and he was called Tom. Tom lived up the road from me, and was probably about 16. I adored him. I’d watch at the  window and wave as he went to/from school, and I’d jump at any chance to visit him. It wasn’t exactly unrequited love; he used to indulge me and wave back, come over to play with whatever toddler toy craze was about and was always friendly. My love affair ended  when he found someone else. I’d come home  one day and found him walking hand-in-hand with a beautiful brunette. I remember feeling actual physical pain, and ended up vomiting my spaghetti bolognese everywhere. He actually came round to apologise to my parents and to say he hoped he hadn’t upset me too much. Years later I found out that he didn’t let his girlfriend near his house for 3 months to prevent upsetting me (he was such a nice boy).

Now I’ve told you that embarrassing little story about my childhood, I’ll add another embarrassment of my teenage years. I didn’t really talk to boys. I went to a girls secondary school, but even before that I’ll admit I was terrified of them. I have no idea why, but I got tongue-tied, red-faced, even a little (ew) sweaty palmed and so nothing went beyond a facebook add or a number request. I will also say, however, that I was happy with the way things were. So for my younger readers – boys don’t necessarily make you happy, and if you want my advice I’d steer clear of them til at least mid-to-late teens! I had my dog and that’s all that I needed!

DogCuddles

To top it all off, I ended up some an over-persistent rather old male friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, which definitely didn’t help my boy-phobia. As far as I can remember (15 suddenly seems a long way off!) it took a threatening message and a change-of-number to get rid of him.

My boy-phobia had to change though, and it had to change quickly, when shy-timid me decided to go be part of a small select group of females at the local Boy’s School. I was 16, quickly growing into myself, and more comfortable in my own skin than I had ever been before. And that’s when I met my boyfriend.

Electrons

I very quickly began to fail AS chemistry, and was introduced to a tall, geeky guy who offered to help. Over a lunch-time tutoring session (where he demonstrated electron shells with marshmallows and skittles) I began to think this geek was actually rather cute, and so we began texting. Two weeks later and we ended up in town during some afternoon frees, in the pouring rain. Ever the gentleman he offered me his umbrella. The problem was he was just too enthusiastic…I can’t say a soaking wet umbrella to the face is the best chat-up act in the world!

He must have been pretty good at apologising, because the next week I accepted his invitation to dinner at his house. We chilled on the sofa, watched the ever-so romantic film Hot Fuzz followed by a couple of episodes of Top Gear, moving closer to each other as the hours passed. Somehow the awkward first kiss happened and the rest, they say, is history.

More than three years on, we’ve finished sixth form and are currently living two-hundred miles apart. Despite time-consuming and demanding university courses and jobs, we make the effort to see each other as often as possible, planning cheap-as-possible dates and scheduling in Skype dinners. Old fashioned letters dropping through the postbox is probably the highlight of our weeks, and despite some days wishing I could have a boyfriend-cuddle whenever I wanted, I know that even if we’re apart I wouldn’t change our relationship for the world. And I get to be surprised on train journeys with flowers!

I’m not sure when we’ll close the distance between us, I’m not sure when we’ll be able to live together, but I do know that those lunchtime Chemistry lessons produced much more than some vaguely remembered facts. They gained me person who knows me better than myself, the person who still can’t be trusted to hold an umbrella safely, and the person who I know I’ll end up spending the rest of my life with.

Now, sorry for the spectacularly gushy and lovey-dovey post today. It wasn’t really what I was aiming for, but its what got written.  I had originally wanted to do a post on surviving long distance in a relationship (and let me know if you do want to read it as its in my drafts!) but it didn’t quite work out. I certainly hope this wasn’t too personal a post !

Now a final plea – please let the trains be running this Valentine’s, cos otherwise it’ll be a date between me and my laptop! And because we all know this is the most important part of my story, I actually ended up with an A in Chemistry…

What’s your relationship story, or your first experience of love? I’d love to read them!

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?

Weekend Wishlist (#1)

This isn’t going to be a regular series (you all know from my Fortnightly Finds that I can’t keep that up!) but I thought it would be nice to do. I like to map how my tastes change over time, but I also like to keep a note of things I really like just in case I win the lottery. So here goes with my first wishlist!

PicMonkey Collage

I’ve become a massive fan of Revlon’s lip products by reading various blogs, and I want their new stains/balms in pretty much all colours. I’m trying to resist the temptation but one has already accidentally made its way home with me! I’m going to have to resist though as I had some large and unexpected expenditure to deal with this week – so no pennies left for treats!

As you know from this post a few weeks ago, I love Massaman curry. I’m craving it again, but I can’t afford the paste, fish sauce and tamarind that I know it needs…I’m going to start picking up ingredients gradually over the next few weeks to spread out the cost!

It’s getting very cold at night, and rather than turn the heating up (and raise the bills!) I’ve been relying on blankets to keep cosy. I love this one from Muji (which happens to be one of my favourite shops at the moment!).

Valentine’s is coming up, and everything seems to be turning red/pink and heart-covered. I’m normally not a fan of this, but I’ve taken a shine to this notebook from Paperchase. I really am a stationary lover, though already have far too many notebooks!

Since receiving Naked 3 for Christmas I’ve been on the lookout for a good eye-primer to really enhance the shadows. The Artdeco one is something I really want to try at some point.

You probably all know that I’m a fan of Filofaxes – whilst I love mine I think this Osterley would be the perfect compliment to it. Having said that, the new release Filofaxes should be published around now, so I’m looking forward to seeing what will be available to buy this year.

Finally, I really fell in love with this shirt dress in Dorothy Perkins today. I love shirt dresses as they tend to fit me perfectly, and I love the pattern and colours of this. So pretty!

Have you fallen in love with anything recently?