Chocolate and strawberry valentines heart cake

Chocolate and Strawberry Valentines Heart Cake

Chocolate and strawberry valentines heart cakeMy husband has a habit of accusing me of always making the cakes I want to make and never making the ones he would have chosen.   He does have a fair point, but then again, some partners don’t get any cake at all!  He’s one of the lucky ones.

Even though he may have a case, I decided that with Valentines day coming up I really should design his ideal cake.   After all, he is my Valentine.  He loves chocolate and he loves chocolate buttercream and chocolate ganache.   He also likes strawberries.  He does not like me to add dried fruit, apples or marzipan to cakes, but luckily those ingredients are not my first choice for Valentines day either.

If you are wondering where the strawberries are, I will admit that there are no real strawberries in this cake, just strawberry flavouring in the heart shaped layer.   However, if I was making it again I would be tempted to coat some strawberries in chocolate and place them around the bottom of the cake.   I would also be tempted to add a layer of strawberry jam and vanilla buttercream in the middle of the strawberry heart cake.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said that as my lovely husband thought this cake was fantastic.  I don’t want him to think it wasn’t as good as it could have been.   I also have to think about the future.   As I get better at making cakes, he may start to expect more, I might then have to try even harder.   I may never be able to get away with making a plain chocolate cake ever again.

Ingredients – Serves 10-12

350g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

250g softened butter or margarine

210g caster sugar

4 eggs

2tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp strawberry flavouring

For the dark chocolate ganache

150g dark chocolate chips

180ml double cream

For the white chocolate ganache

100g white chocolate chips

120ml double cream

For the chocolate flavour buttercream

40g butter

120g icing sugar

1 tbsp cocoa

How to Make Chocolate and Strawberry Valentines Heart Cake

1. Sift the baking powder and flour into a large mixing bowl.   Add the sugar, butter and eggs.   Mix and beat together with a wooden spoon.

2. Take out about 1/3 of the mixture.  Add the strawberry flavouring to this third and beat in with the wooden spoon.   Spoon the mixture into a small 15cm cake tin, greased and lined with baking paper.

3. Add a spoonful of hot water to the cocoa powder and mix to form a paste.   Add this to the remaining cake mixture and beat in.   Spoon this mixture into a slightly larger cake tin that has also been greased and lined.  I used an 18cm tin.

4. Bake the cakes in the oven at 160C for about 50 minutes.   Check they are done by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cakes.   It should come out clean.

5. Cool the cakes in the tins for about 5-10 minutes and then turn them out to cool completely on wire racks.

6. When the cakes have cooled, use a bread knife to slice off the top part of the cake as they will have risen in the middle.   Turn the cakes upside down so they have a smoother top.

7. Make the buttercream by beating together the butter and icing sugar.   Then add the cocoa powder, dissolved in a little water, as above.

8. Slice the chocolate cake in half horzontally.   Before you separate the halves, put a little blob of buttercream on the side so that when you put the cake back together you can see exactly where to put the top layer.   This stops the cake looking wonky if it hasn’t been sliced evenly.   Spread the buttercream over the bottom layer and then put the other layer back on top.

9. Make the ganaches one at a time by putting the cream and chocolate in the microwave together.   Heat for a minute. Stir and then keep heating for 20 seconds at a time then stirring.   Stop as soon as the chocolate has melted and forms a smooth ganache.   Leave to cool and thicken.

10. When the ganache has cooled to a thick pouring consistency, pour over the cake and spread down the sides using a palette knife.   Put the chocolate ganache on the round chocolate cake and the white chocolate ganache on the heart-shaped strawberry cake. Keep the cakes on the wire racks while you do this so any extra ganache drops below the cake and doesn’t pool around the bottom.  Leave to set.

11. Pour some of the leftover chocolate ganache onto a baking tray lined with clingfilm.  Put it in the fridge to set.

12. Put the heart shaped cake on top of the round one.  Cut out a heart shape from the chocolate ganache and place it in the middle of the heart cake.

Chocolate and strawberry valentines heart cakeI am linking this to Love Cake at JibberJabberUK and Alphabakes, hosted this month by Caroline Makes and on alternate months by The More Than Occasional Baker. This is also my Recipe of the Week at A Mummy Too.

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parmesan basil thins

Parmesan and Basil Thins

parmesan basil thins

I have to say, I am loving the Great British Bake Off this year.   I watched the biscuit episode wanting to make everything.  So many savoury flavours in the first round, florentines in the second round and then 3d biscuit creations in the third round.  Well, I’ve started with these savoury biscuits and I stress the word, ‘started’.  I’ve got a 3d idea in my head and I would love to have a go.   It may not stand up.   It may look a mess when it’s finished but I’m itching to get creative and make more than just a biscuit next time.

But wait, this post is about parmesan and basil thins.  I must stop myself talking about my next idea and bring myself back to this one.   Yes, this one.   Firstly the biscuits have a lovely break.   Is that the correct terminology?   Or was it crack?  Or snap? Basically, they are crispy. They also score in the all important taste test.  They are scrumptious – strong and cheesey, which is what I want from a cheesy biscuit.   The parmesan is quite strong and the basil is subtle, but you can still taste it.  They are also small or at least mine are, which is good because you can eat one and then just eat another, and another, and another.  You won’t feel like you are overeating.

Go on.   Help yourself!

The recipe is adapted from Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Bretherton

Ingredients – Makes approximately 25 small biscuits

85g plain flour

60g butter at room-temperature

60g parmesan

1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Freshly ground black pepper

How to Make Parmesan and Basil Thins

1. Put the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until it forms a breadcrumb consistency.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse again until they are all combined.

3. Knead the mixture briefly to make it into a smooth dough.

4. Put a little extra flour on the work surface and roll out to a thickness of about 2mm.  Cut out the biscuits using a cutter and place them directly on a baking sheet.   I needed 3 baking sheets for this amount of dough.

5. Bake the thins in the oven at 180C for 5 minutes.   They may have puffed up in the middle.  Turn them over and press them down onto the baking sheets as you turn them to make them flat again.  Cook for an extra 5 minutes on the other side.

6. Take them out and cool them on wire racks.

I am linking these to the Great Bloggers Bake Off 2014, hosted by Mummy Mishaps and Recipe of the Week at A Mummy Too. I am also linking them to Alphabakes hosted by Caroline Makes and on alternate months by The More Than Occasional Baker. The letter this month is P.

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Individual Blueberry Upside Down Chocolate Cakes

I’ve found a new dessert to fall in love with this week – blueberry upside down chocolate cakes.   I made 4 and I’ve eaten 2 and I just know that I am going to be making them again and again.   There are not many puddings like that.   Oh I’ve had lots of nice puddings and desserts, but however tasty they are, the challenge of making something I’ve never made before usually wins out over making something again, especially as I can easily go quite a few weeks without making anything sweet at all.   Along with chocolate fondants and crème brûlée, these puddings are not going to become one of the ones that gets forgotten about in a few weeks.   I promise you I will be making them again.

I was searching for ideas for an upside down cake when I came across the recipe on Foodess and I knew straightaway that here was a recipe that just had to be made.   I adapted them a little and changed the fruit from raspberries to blueberries and also converted the quantities into grams.  There is a lot of cocoa as well as chocolate in the cake mixture which gives the cakes a very dark rich chocolaty taste, but because of the blueberries they are also very sweet, moist and jammy.   We had them served warm with ice-cream the first day and then just reheated the two that were left over for a minute in the microwave and they were just as good. You could use any berries for these and another time I would love to try them with raspberries as they were in the original recipe.

But, coming back to the idea of upside down cakes, I have two lovely upside down cake recipes that I have made more than once, blackberry upside down cake and banana upside down cake, but as Alphabakes, hosted by The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes, has the letter, U this month, I wanted to try another variation and that’s what led me to this recipe.

Blueberry chocolate upside down cake (500x390)

Ingredients – Serves 4

2 cups blueberries, either fresh or frozen ones that have been defrosted and drained of excess liquid

140g + 8 tsp soft brown sugar

60g butter

55g dark chocolate

85g plain flour

65g cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 egg yolks

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

160ml buttermilk

How to Make Blueberry Upside Down Chocolate Cakes

1. Butter the insides of 4 ramekins.   Sprinkle 2 tsp of sugar in the bottom of each one and then divide the blueberries between them.

2. Melt the chocolate, either in a bowl above some hot water or in the microwave.   Put it aside to cool.

3. Put the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a bowl and give them a quick stir.

4. Put the butter and 140g of sugar in another bowl and beat until it starts to go pale and fluffy.   Then beat in the egg yolks, vanilla extract and  chocolate.

5. Tip a third of the flour mixture into the sugar and butter and beat together.   Add half the buttermilk and beat.   Add half the remaining flour.   Beat again.   Add the rest of the buttermilk.   Beat.  Finally add the remaining flour and beat the mixture for a couple of minutes.

6. Divide the mixture between the 4 ramekins.   Bake in the oven at 175C for 25-30 minutes.   Test with a skewer to see when they are done.

7. Put the ramekins on a wire rack to cool a little before turning them out.  Serve warm with ice-cream or cream.

blueberry chocolate upside down cake in ramekins (500x327) (2)


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Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are by far the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever made. In fact, I don’t know if I will ever want to use another recipe now I have discovered how good these are.   They are crisp and chewy just around the edges but the inside is soft, rich and doughy, a bit like a brownie.  If you love soft cookies then these are definitely ones you should try.  I love cookies but don’t often make them.   Until now I was more likely to just buy the very occasional bag when I was out somewhere.   Now I’ve found this recipe I think it might just tempt me to make them more often.   I have even frozen about half of the cookie dough in nice walnut sized balls, just ready to bake, and because they bake so quickly, you can easily bake just one or two whenever you fancy them.

I am sending these to Alphabakes which is hosted this month by Caroline Makes, and on alternate months by The More Than Occasional Baker. The letter is D.

double choc chip cookie (500x355)

Ingredients – Makes about 18

125g butter at room temperature

100g soft light brown sugar

125g caster sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

175g self-raising flour

50g cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

200g chocolate, chopped

How to Make Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

1. If the butter is not room temperature, put it in the microwave for 30 seconds.   Then put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and cream together.

2. Beat the egg slightly then add it to the butter and sugar along with the vanilla extract.   Mix together.

3. Sift the flour, cocoa and salt into the bowl.   Mix it together.   You should get quite a stiff cookie dough.   Add the chocolate chips and stir in.

4. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.   Roll the dough into balls and place them on the parchment paper, with plenty of space around each ball of cookie dough.  Some of the balls of cookie dough can be frozen at this point to bake later.

5. Bake the cookies in the oven at 180C for 8-9 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

I am also linking to Sweets for a Saturday and Sugar and Slice Sunday Link Party.

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Oven-Baked Apple Pancake

Unless I’m looking for something in particular, it’s not very often that I see a recipe online and make it almost immediately.  That was the case however with this recipe.   I was looking through the other posts in the Secret Recipe Club last week and came across this recipe for a puffy oven apple pancake on The Bitchin’ Kitchin’.  It was easy to make.  It had apples in and I had just been given a bag of apples from a friend.  It also had warm spices in, cinnamon and nutmeg.   I love spiced cooked apples but my husband is not so keen on them.  This might usually be a problem if I was going to make a dessert for both of us.  After a couple of fruit desserts he seems to think he deserves a chocolate one!  The reason it was not a problem was this one sentence,

“This is not a heavy meal, which I love because that means I can eat all of it by myself and not feel too guilty.”

Suddenly the possibility of eating it all by myself had been raised and there was nothing to stop me making this for my lunch!  Of course, it could easily serve 4 people and even for two people it would provide generous portions.  I changed a couple of things.   I love cinnamon so much but I discovered I’d run out and so I used mixed spice instead, which contains cinnamon so I still got that lovely cinnamon flavour as well as the other spices.  I’d never made a sweet baked pancake before but it was just like a toad-in-the-hole with a sweet caramelly filling.  You can see some of the caramel on the top of the pancake. Delicious!

Ingredients – serves up to 4 people

1 egg

75g plain flour

120ml milk

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tbsp butter

1 apple

How to Make Oven-Baked Apple Pancake

1. Put the butter in the bottom of an oven-proof dish.  Put it in the oven until it melts.

2. While the dish is in the oven, peel, core and chop the apple.   Also whisk the egg.  Then add the flour and milk and whisk again until it is just combined.

3. Take the dish out of the oven and tilt it so that the butter coats the sides. Sprinkle the sugar and mixed spice evenly over the bottom of the pan.  Scatter the apple on top and pour the pancake mixture over the top.

4. Return to the oven at approximately 200C and bake for half an hour until the pancake has set.

5. Serve immediately with ice cream.

I am linking this to Food of the Month Club, hosted by Leslie of La Cocina de Leslie.  The food this month is apples. I am also linking to Alpha Bakes, hosted this month by Caroline Makes, alternately with The More Than Occasional Baker.  This month the letter is P.


Now you really will be wondering what happened to the savoury cook I used to be.    Ginger cake, blueberry muffins and now blondies.   What is going on here?   Well, I am sure the savoury food will return soon – I do actually have  plans to make a few new things this week and I am making a lot of savoury meals – they just happen to be dishes I’ve already posted about in the past.  Samosas, chicken curries, fajitas.   All with extra chillies in to try and shift this little baby,  but so far it’s not working.  Never mind, back to blondies.   I don’t think I’d heard of blondies until I began food blogging and saw them on other blogs.  I had assumed that a blondie was just a brownie but made with white chocolate instead of cocoa and dark or milk chocolate.   After a little research,  it seems that in fact, blondies do not have to contain any chocolate at all and get their flavour from the brown sugar that is used to make them.   As they look like brownies but are lighter in colour, they get the name blondies.   Well, blondies may not need to contain any chocolate, but most do and I decided whatever recipe I used, white chocolate chips were going to go in them.  The recipe I used in the end was adapted from Simply Recipes, which actually used butterscotch chips instead of chocolate chips.

I am linking these to Alpha Bakes, which is run by The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes.   This month Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker is the host and the letter is ‘B’. I am also linking to Sweets for a Saturday.

Ingredients – makes 9-16(depending on how big you slice them)

130g plain flour

200g soft brown sugar

110g butter

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Pinch of salt

100g white chocolate, chopped into chips

How to Make Blondies

  1. Melt the butter in the microwave or in a small pan.     Whisk in the sugar and vanilla.

  2. Beat the egg lightly and then whisk it into the butter and sugar mixture.

  3. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and chocolate chips.   Fold into the butter and sugar mixture.

  4. Line a square tin (approx 8 x 8 inches) with baking parchment and pour in the mixture.   Bake in the oven at about 200c for 20 minutes.  If necessary bake for an extra five minutes.

Inspired by Masterchef: Marshmallows with Strawberries

When last week’s Masterchef focused on afternoon tea and pastries, I knew I was going to have to have a sweet week.   This may sound a little odd, but I’m not especially keen on marshmallows.  I don’t dislike them, but I can take them or leave them.   I don’t quite understand why some people love them in hot chocolate with lots of cream.   Yes, they look good, but they don’t really add anything that chocolate isn’t delicious enough to provide by itself.  Anyway, there was something about the marshmallows Andrew made that really made me want to try them.  They looked lovely and soft and pillowy, but had a raspberry hidden inside.   I would have used raspberries with these but the local shop didn’t have any, and strawberries were the closest I could get.   I also gave up on the idea of enclosing the strawberries inside the marshmallow as they looked so pretty  on top and would have been absolutely huge if I’d added another spoonful of marshmallow.    Well, to be honest,  the mixture left in the bowl was beginning to set anyway and would probably have just looked a mess if I’d tried to use it to hide the strawberries.

I have to say, I was pretty impressed with how these turned out.   I hadn’t realised that marshmallow was so easy to make.  But, they were very sweet and I don’t have a very sweet tooth.   As marshmallow is sweet, and mainly sugar, I’m not sure if anything could be done to make them less sweet.   I suppose just don’t eat too many at once.    Invite lots of people to your home to share them with, because unfortunately they are not at their best for long.  Many of the recipes on the internet said they could be stored for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container (if you don’t add fruit), but I found they were going a little soggy around the edges beyond a couple of days and the sooner they were eaten the better.

I read quite a few recipes when deciding how to make these but the finished result is mainly adapted from a James Martin recipe.

I would like to link these to Alpha Bakes, started by  The More than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes.  This month  the letter is M and it is hosted by Caroline.  I am also linking to Sweets for a Saturday.


230g sugar

1 tbsp golden syrup

9 sheets of gelatine

2 egg whites

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp icing sugar

2 tbsp cornflour

Strawberries (optional)

How to make Marshmallows

1. Mix the icing sugar and cornflour together.   Lightly oil a couple of small muffin tins.    Sift some of the icing sugar and cornflour over the trays.

2. Put the gelatine sheets in a small bowl and cover with 140ml of cold water.

3. Put the sugar, golden syrup and approx 100ml of water in a small saucepan with a sugar thermometer leaning against the side. Bring to the boil and leave until it reaches 127C, and then add the water and gelatine.   It will fizz up so stir it gently till the gelatine has dissolved into the sugar mixture.

4. Whisk the egg white and when it forms peaks, gradually pour in the sugar mixture.   Also add the vanilla extract. Continue to whisk for up to 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and holds its shape.

5. As the mixture begins to set very quickly once you finish whisking, immediately spoon the mixture into the muffin tins.  Top each mound of marshmallow with a strawberry.   Leave to set.   If you are planning to only eat some of these straightaway, don’t add strawberries to the ones you want to keep for more than a couple of days.

6. When you take the marshmallows out of the muffin tins, put them on a plate on in a tin, lined with icing sugar and cornflour.


Lemon Cupcakes

One of my most exciting Christmas presents this year was a set of icing nozzles and  piping bag, not exciting because I’d requested it and looked forward to it, but exciting because it was unexpected and because it opened up a whole new realm of baking and cake decorating.   Not being one of the tidiest or neatest people in terms of food presentation, this is not an area that I would think I would naturally  excel in.  I cook much more savoury food and very rarely weigh or measure anything – I just throw in however much of something feels about right.    Although I’m not an expert at baking, I know enough to know that this approach is less likely to work when making a cake, although I still do make a few tweaks here and there when baking.

Anyway, as I hadn’t used it yet, I chose a recipe from my new book, Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Bretherton, which I was lucky enough to win from Tinned Tomatoes just after Christmas.  The recipe was quite easy and the instructions were nice and clear.    As my lovely husband always complains if I use zest in anything, I omitted the zest in the cake mixture and the icing, but aware of the extent of my baking skills, I played rather safe and didn’t experiment with anything else, apart from cutting the recipe down and just making a third of everything.

This was fine apart from for the icing.    I managed to ice 3 of the cupcakes using the piping bag but found that a lot of icing which I still needed to use could not be squeezed out of the bag and so I had to spoon it out and spread it on the last four cupcakes instead.   If I’d made the full mixture I’d have had about 24 cupcakes and so icing the last four this way wouldn’t matter, but as I only ended up with 7 cupcakes, it was a bit of a shame.  Well, I suppose I’ve learnt the hard way to only use the piping bag for large quantities.   Even so, I was very pleased with my first attempt.   The swirl of icing did look a little shaky, not quite as assured as i would have liked, but I can’t say that’s not a fair reflection of me as a baker.   I hesitate to say I’ve mastered a new skill, but I am definitely learning it.   Maybe next time I’ll be trying my hand at little rosebuds, who knows.

I am sharing this with Ros, The More Than Occasional Baker, for Alpha Bakes.   I am also linking to Tandy at Lavender and Lime for the Recipe Book Challenge and Couscous and Consciousness for Cookbook Sundays.

Ingredients – Makes up to 24

200g plain flour

100g unsalted butter

2 tsp baking powder

200g caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt

3 eggs

150ml milk

Juice and zest of a lemon

For Icing

200g icing sugar

100g unsalted butter

Juice of a lemon

How to Make Lemon Cupcakes

1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and then add the butter, softened and cut into small cubes, the sugar and the salt.   Mix together.   I used my fingers, a bit like making pastry, until it was like fine breadcrumbs.

2. In another bowl add the milk to the eggs and whisk together.    Then add this mixture to the first bowl, along with the lemon juice.    Whisk everything together.

3. Put the cupcake paper cases into cupcake trays and fill each one halfway with the mixture.

4. Bake for about 20-25 minutes at about 180C.

5. Soften the butter and cream the butter and icing sugar together.   Add the lemon juice and mix in well.

6. When the cupcakes have cooled, either spread the icing on top or use a piping bag.