Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Cake

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Cake Top

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Cake

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Cake 2

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Cake

So it was my boyfriend's sister's birthday recently and I decided to bake her a cake :) The cake itself is my favourite recipe for a brownie-like cake, which is super moist and chocolatey, which amazing crunch from chopped walnuts and chocolate chips. I used it in another of my showstopper bakes - here -, but I'll post the recipe below anyway :)
I filled the cake with a homemade cherry compote, and frosted the cake with a cherry Swiss meringue buttercream. To decorate I made french meringues :D
Elaborate but worth the effort.

Makes one 20cm cake


For the cake:
  • 250g (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 200g (1 & 1/3 cups) dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids)
  • 300g (1 & 1/2 cups) granulated sugar (or brown sugar for an extra caramel note)
  • 4 tbsp water
  • 100g (2/3 cup) dark chocolate chips
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 200g (1 & 2/3 cups) plain flour
  • 75g (1/2 cup) chopped walnuts, and 1 tbsp for decoration
  • 30g (4 tbsp) cocoa powder
For the Swiss meringue buttercream:
  • 6 egg whites
  • 300g (1 & 2/3 cups) brown sugar
  • 400g (1 & 3/4 cups) unsalted butter, cut into 1-2cm cubes (ROOM TEMPERATURE)
For the French meringue:

  • 75g (3/4 cup) icing sugar
  • 75g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
  • 3 egg whites

For the cherry compote:

  • 300g (2 & 1/3 cups) frozen pitted black cherries, defrosted
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

To finish:


To make the cake layers:

1. Preheat your oven to 180c (160c fan)/ 355F/ gas mark 4 . Grease two 20cm springform or loose bottomed round cake tins, then tip in about 1 tbsp of cocoa powder. Tap the tin to evenly distribute the cocoa.

2. In a saucepan melt together the 200g dark chocolate (broken into chunks), unsalted butter (chopped into chunks), sugar and water. Once all of the butter and chocolate have melted set aside to cool for a few minutes.

3. In a large mixing bowl pour in the chocolate/butter melted mixture. Add the chocolate chips, eggs, flour, chopped nuts and cocoa powder, and beat until smooth.

4. Pour into the prepared cake tins (get them as even as possible), and bake for 18-20 minutes, until the top of the cake feels springy and the top feels crisp. If you shake the tin, there should be a small amount of wobble in the very centre of the cake - this will make the layers moist and delicious.

5. Leave the cakes in their tins to cool for 10 minutes, then remove onto a wire rack to cool completely.

6. Level the top of the cakes using a serrated knife (eat the cut offs if you want a chef's perk!).

To make the cherry compote:

1. Pour the cherries (with any juice that emerged when defrosting), sugar and lemon juice into a saucepan and heat until simmering.

2. Simmer for 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened slightly and the juice has reduced down to a half of it's original volume. Leave to cool.

3. Blend in a food processor and set aside.

To make the buttercream:

1. Thoroughly clean a glass or ceramic bowl, as well as the whisk beaters you will use for the buttercream. The best way to do this is to lightly dampen kitchen towel with lemon/lime juice and wipe this over the inside of your bowl/beaters.

1. Place a few tablespoons of water in a small saucepan, and get a heatable mixing bowl (i.e. not a plastic one!) that can fit on the saucepan without touching the water. Into this bowl add the egg whites and brown sugar.

2. Place the saucepan on a low heat, and place the mixing bowl on top. Use an electric whisk to beat the egg whites/brown sugar, until the mixture reaches 71c/ 160F. This will take about 10 minutes.

3. Remove the bowl from the heat, and tip the egg white/sugar mixture into another large mixing bowl (this will help the meringue to cool a bit faster). 

4. Use an electric whisk to beat the meringue until it is glossy and a stiff peak of meringue forms when the whisk is lifted from the mixture (i.e. a peak falls where the tip stays upright and doesn't fall to either side).

5. Whilst whisking, add the butter chunk by chunk. Don't be tempted to add more than a chunk at a time, as the mixture may curdle. Keep beating, until all of the butter has been added and the buttercream is smooth.

6. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the cherry compote (make sure it's at room temperature), and gently fold in - if you want a ripple effect whisk very briefly. Set aside.

To make the French meringue:

1. Thoroughly clean a glass or ceramic bowl, as well as the whisk beaters you will use for the buttercream. The best way to do this is to lightly dampen kitchen towel with lemon/lime juice and wipe this over the inside of your bowl/beaters.

2. Preheat the oven to 120c (100c fan)/ 250F/ gas mark 1/2. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

3. Mix the icing sugar and caster sugar together briefly.

4. Whisk the egg whites until they are very foamy (like shaving foam), and stand to a peak when the beaters are lifted from the mixture. I find a hand-held electric whisk is the best equipment for this.

5. Whilst whisking, add the sugar mixture a tablespoon at a time, waiting for 5-10 seconds between each addition. Keep whisking until the mixture is white, glossy and stands to a firm peak when the beaters are lifted from the mixture.

6. Divide the mixture into two. Dip a toothpick/skewer into concentrated purple/pink food colouring, and use this to colour one of the two mixtures. Whisk until evenly distributed.

7.  Fit a piping bag with a 1M piping nozzle (a large open star one). Fill one side of the bag with the white meringue, and the other side with the purple and cut the end off the tip of the bag. Holding the bag vertically over a tray, pipe directly downwards then bring the bag quickly upwards to form a peak. This makes meringue kisses. I also played with making other shapes, like letters, hearts, and numbers :)

8.  Bake the meringues in the oven for around 1 hour, or until a meringue can be lifted from the paper and sounds hollow when lightly tapped on the base. Leave in the oven to cool. Carefully lift the meringues off of the paper - they are very fragile as seen by some of my bigger meringues having cracks (they definitely look homemade though!).

To assemble the cake:

1. Place a spoonful of the buttercream onto the surface of a cake tin/presentation dish. Place the first cake layer onto this buttercream - this prevents the cake from slipping.

2. Spoon a quarter of the buttercream into a piping bag, and cut the end off the bag 1cm from the end.

3. Pipe around the edge of the cake layer. Fill the middle with any reserved cherry conserve, and evenly spread (don't blend with the outer ring of buttercream.

4. Top with the buttercream left in the piping bag, piping concentric circles over the jam. Lightly smooth over, and top with the other layer of cake.

5. Press the cake down lightly. Place a large spoonful of buttercream onto the top of the cake, and use a palette knife to smooth the buttercream over the top and then sides of the cake. This doesn't need to be neat or thick - it acts as a "crumb coat" so that no crumbs will show through when you spread your final layer of buttercream on.

6. Once the cake is covered in the thin "crumb layer" of buttercream, place in the fridge for 15-20 minutes, until the buttercream is no longer sticky to the touch.

7. Meanwhile, chop the chocolate finely and melt in a microwave using full power bursts of 20-30 seconds, stirring well between  each addition. Once melted, pour into a piping bag and cut 2mm off the tip.

8. Pipe your desired shapes onto a sheet of greaseproof paper or cling-film. Chill for 15-20 minutes, until set.

9. Once the crumb coat has set, take the cake out of the fridge, and cover the tops and sides of the cake with the remainder of the buttercream. The smoothest way to do this is to use a long palette knife or a metal dough scraper. Once the buttercream is on the top and sides of the cake, dip the knife/scraper in hot water and wipe clean. Then, whilst still warm, run the knife along the side of the cake (holding it vertically). Repeat with the top of the cake (this time holding the knife horizontally).

10. I had some buttercream left so filled a piping bag (fitted with the 1M nozzle used earlier), and piped "kisses" around the top of the cake (in the same way the French meringue was piped).

11. Top the cake with the French meringue, tuxedo strawberries, reserved chopped walnuts and chocolate decorations.

12. Enjoy!

Cherry Chocolate Meringue Cake

Casa Costello
Hijacked By Twins
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Monday, 6 March 2017

Vegan Mango Cupcakes

Vegan Mango Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream

Here's a slightly different cupcake I made a few weeks ago, inspired by the Indian Mango Lassi drink - a mango cupcake filled with mango puree and frosted with a lime buttercream, and it's all suitable for vegans :O The cupcake itself is egg-free, which I think makes the mango flavour really stand out. If you're not vegan, you could use butter in the buttercream, but a dairy free butter works really well too.

I used these cool black lace wraps for the cupcakes, which I found in my local home & bargains. Normal cupcake cases would work well too :)
Finally I used a Wilton 2D piping nozzle for the buttercream, which I've used before in my vanilla rose cupcakes :) I've been having a play with some other piping techniques, which I'll hopefully be able to share with you soon (some of them look SO cool).
You could also try two-toning the buttercream by painting a line of food colouring up along the inside of the piping bag. This gives a very pretty result :)

I found these cupcakes were perfect the day AFTER baking, so you could always bake the cupcakes one day and frost the next. I baked and frosted the same day and served them the day after, and they went down very well :D

Makes 12 cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

  • 180g (1 & 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 375g (1 & 1/2 cups) mango puree*
  • 75g (1/3 cup) vegetable oil
  • 125g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the lime buttercream:

  • 150g (2/3 cup) block of margarine (the Stork pastry block of margarine works best), softened
  • 300g (3 cups) icing sugar, sieved
  • 1-2 tbsp lime juice

To finish:

  • Gold shimmer spray
  • 50g mango puree

* If you can't find a can of mango puree, most big supermarkets (in the UK at least) sell frozen mango chunks. If you defrost and blitz these, they'll work just as well (just be sure to blend them until smooth).


1. Preheat your oven to 170c (160c fan)/340f/gas mark 3. Line 12 cupcake wells with cupcake cases/wraps.

2. Pour all of the ingredients for the cupcakes into a large mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.

3. Use an ice cream scoop to evenly distribute the batter between the cupcake cases.

4. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the cakes feel springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins.

5. Use a teaspoon to dig into the centre of the cupcake, removing enough cupcake to go halfway down the cupcake.

6. Add a teaspoon of mango puree to the cavity of each cupcake.

7. Make the buttercream. Beat the margarine until really soft and spreadable.

8. Add half of the icing sugar and lime juice, and use a wooden spoon to beat the sugar into the butter.

9. Once all of the sugar has been incorporated add the other half of the icing sugar and keep beating until smooth.

10. Place a 2D nozzle into a piping bag and fill with the buttercream.

11. Cut the end off of the nozzle so that the tip of the nozzle has fully emerged from the bag.

12. Starting in the centre of the cupcake, pipe one continuous swirl (like a snail shell?). Repeat for all of the cupcakes.

13. Spray with the gold shimmer if you like and enjoy!

Vegan Mango Cupcakes with Lime Buttercream

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.comDiary of an imperfect mumHijacked By Twins
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Thursday, 2 March 2017

Super Simple Sausage Rolls

Sausage rolls

Sausage rolls as a kite

Hi guys!

Wow this week's been busy, and I'm not even sure what I've done :-/ Apart from having time off work for a swollen eye... that's pretty much healed now though, so I thought I'd post a super simple recipe for sausage rolls. They're great to keep in the fridge for a family friendly snack, or made a big roll and have it for dinner! I've tried loads of varieties of shapes and these are just a snapshot of what you can do with the pastry.

If you want to make your own puff pastry, I have a great recipe for it here. However, for a quick fuss-free fix, store-bought puff pastry will work brilliantly.
For these sausage rolls, I used good quality store bought sausages, which I then added dill too, which is my boyfriend's all time favourite herb. I've also tried cubes of apple, which is pretty wonderful :) 
Makes one large roll (with spare pastry) (or around 16 smaller ones, or 8 kite like pastries).

  • One roll of puff pastry (375g)
  • 400g sausages (around 8 medium)
  • Handful of dill, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Other spices and herbs as you like!
  • Chopped apple (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten


1. Preheat your oven to 200c (180c fan)/ 400f/ gas mark 6. Line the base of a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

2. Roll out your homemade puff pastry/store bought pastry block to about 2-3mm thickness (around 30x20cm in size), or roll your ready-rolled pastry slightly to get it to this width. 

3. If making the roll (or mini rolls), trim off one third of pastry length - this isn't needed. You can use the excess to make mini sausage rolls, or simply slice them and grate over cheese and/or sprinkle over some paprika :) Place the puff pastry in the fridge to stay firm whilst you prepare the filling.
If making square kites, cut the pastry into 8 evenly sized rectangles and place in the fridge to stay firm until needed.

4. Take the sausages out of their skins into a medium sized bowl. Add the seasoning, herbs and apples (if using). Use a fork to evenly distribute the flavourings throughout the sausage meat.

5. Take the pastry out of the fridge. 

If making mini sausage rolls:
Place the sausage meat evenly along the middle and across the length of the long rectangle of pastry. Dap the long edge with a little water, then bring both sides up to meet each other and stick. Cut 1cm slices of the sausage roll off and place on the prepared baking tray.

If making the plaited roll:
Place the sausage meat evenly along the middle and across the length of the long rectangle of pastry. 
To the right and left of the sausage meat, slice into the puff pastry horizontally, and cut slits about 1cm apart.
Puff pastry sliced to plait
My boyfriend helpfully showing the cutting technique minus the sausage filling!
Forming the sausage plait
Bring the strips of the pastry over the sausage meat, forming a kind of plait.

Finished uncooked sausage plait

If making the kites:
Place large spoonfuls of sausage meat on the centre of each square, making sure their is a 1.5cm gap between the edge of the pastry and the meat.
At each corner of the square, slice a diagonal line towards the sausage meat, but don't touch the meat!
Starting at the top right corner slit, pick up the pastry to the right of the slit and press it on the centre of the sausage meat.
Repeat with each corner (each time picking up the pastry to the right of the cut).

6. Brush each sausage pastry with the beaten egg. 

7. Bake the mini sausage rolls for 20 - 25 minutes, until golden and firm to the touch.
Bake the sausage kites for 25-30 minutes.
Bake the large sausage roll for 35-40 minutes, keeping an eye at the end to make sure that the top doesn't become overly brown whilst the base is still cooking. If it does seem to be browning a lot, cover with foil until the base is dry to the touch.

8. Leave to cool. Enjoy warm or cold (they'll keep for 4-5 days in an airtight container in a fridge, or if the pastry/sausages haven't previously been frozen, they can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months).

Sausage rolls and plait

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