Spicy Chocolate Cookies

I made these to take to a local coffee morning. Chocolate and spice go so well together. These freeze well, so you're never short of something sweet when the mood takes you!

You need - 200g dark chocolate, 210g plain flour, 11/2 tspn ginger, 1/2 tspn mixed spice, 1 tspn cinnamon, 1 tbspn cocoa powder, 110g butter, 120g dark brown sugar, 4 tbspn golden syrup, 1 tspn bicarb, whole almonds to decorate

Preheat oven 160C/gas3
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper

Chop the chocolate up, and in a bowl sift the spices and cocoa together with the flour.

In another bowl beat the butter and sugar till fluffy, then add the golden syrup and beat again.

Dissolve the bicarb in 11/2 tspn boiling water.

Beat half o f the flour mixture into the butter one, beat in the bicarb then the rest of the flour mixture. Add the chocolate chunks and mix well.

Roll into a sausage shape and cover in clingfilm. Chill for about 2 hours till firm.

Cut slices off the roll and place on the baking sheets leaving about 2 cm spaces between each cookie. Push an almond in the centre of each cookie then put in fridge for 20 mins.

Bake for about 10-12 mins, then cool on a wire rack.

Lovely spicy flavour, good crunch. Think I'd like a bit more chocolate flavour, so will use more cocoa next time, 11/2 tbspn.


Cinnamon and Crème Fraîche Apple Cake

As Autumn is nearly upon us, I thought I'd make an apple cake. I seem to have collected a file full of cakes using apples in various ways, but I haven't made this cake before. It's from a leaflet that came with a French magazine a few years ago. I love cinnamon, and cinnamon and apple are made for each other.

You need:
4-5 apples , 180g butter, 1 heaped tspn cinnamon, 150g golden caster sugar, 50g flaked almonds, 3 eggs, 160g sr flour and 90g crème fraîche

Preheat oven 180C/gas4 Grease a 20cm cake tin

Peel the apples and cut up into dice. Melt 120g of the butter in a pan and add the diced apple. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and leave on a low heat for a few minutes.

Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the bottom of the cake tin. Spoon the apples on top.

Beat together the eggs and the sugar then fold in the flour and add the cream. Spoon this onto the apples.

Bake for about 25 mins. Leave in tin to cool then turn out upside down.

Serve with more crème fraîche or ice cream or just on its own.

A nice soft crumb, good apple taste, good hit of cinnamon and a crunch from the almonds. 


A Good Family Chocolate Cake

Chocolate cake 'fashions' have come and gone over the last 30 odd years. There was the Black Forest gateau, the Sachertorte, truffle torte, lots of poor imitations of the River Cafe's gorgeous Nemesis cake to name but a few. I've tried most of these, but the recipe I come back to when the family want a chocolate cake is this one. I've been making it for a long time, but think it was originally a Delia recipe.
I like using oil in cakes, and this one is really moist and keeps well. It's a good sized cake too, and it can be dressed up for an occasion with ganache or whatever you fancy. Today's version is unadorned except for a filling of Nutella and a smattering of icing sugar on the top.

275g plain flour
3 tbspn cocoa powder
11/2 tspn baking powder
11/2 tspn bicarb. of soda
215g caster sugar
3 tbspn golden syrup
3 eggs [large]
225ml sunflower oil [I use rapeseed]
225ml milk
icing sugar

2x 20cm sandwich tins [about 4cm deep], greased and lined

Preheat oven 160C/gas3

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb into a bowl and mix in the sugar. Make a well in the middle and add the rest of the ingredients.
Beat together well with a wooden spoon till nice and smooth.
Pour into the tins and bake for about 35 mins [ mine took 45 mins]. till well risen.
Remove from tins and take off lining paper. Cool on a wire rack.

You can then do what you like with them. As I've already said, I spread Nutella over one of them, put the other on top and sifted over some icing sugar. They'd risen quite a lot, so I cut the dome off one of the cakes to make it level so I could put the Nutella on it. Cook's perk to eat the slice cut off!

It's a nice moist cake, not too sweet, with a good chocolate flavour and a soft texture.


Lumberjack Cake

"The Lumberjack Cake is so-called by Canadian lumberjacks because it helps keep the hunger pangs at bay till lunch."
This is one of the reasons I found on the internet for the name of this cake. It's also claimed as an Australian and New Zealand recipe - so who knows?

I wanted something to fill some hungry men who'd helped me by putting up my new side gate. They all love sweet cakes and pudds, so this recipe seemed just the thing. It's more of a dessert than a cake to have with with a cuppa - too sticky.

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, and finely chopped - about 400g
200g chopped dates
1 tspn bicarb
250ml boiling water
125g butter
1 tspn vanilla extract
210g caster sugar
1 large egg
180g plain flour

60g Butter
8 tbspn milk
110g soft brown sugar
60g dessicated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180C /gas 4. Grease and line a 23cm spring form cake tin.

Mix together the apple, dates, bicarb and boiling water. Cover with cling film and leave till just warm.

Beat butter, vanilla and sugar till white and creamy; beat in the egg and fold in the flour . Add the apple mixture and mix together.
Spoon into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 mins.

For the topping;

Put the butter, milk, brown sugar and coconut in a pan and stir over a low heat till butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.

Take the cake out of the oven, pour over the coconut topping and bake for another 30 mins. Let the cake cool in the tin.

It's a sticky, moist cake - somebody describes it as 'squidgy' and that's a perfect description. You have this moist, sticky layer at the bottom and the lovely chewy caramelised, coconut layer on top. I have to admit that it's very sweet. My male helpers loved it, and it soon disappeared!


Coffee Cheesecake with Chocolate and Caramel Sauce

Time for another dessert, and this time it's a cheesecake. I love coffee flavoured cakes or desserts, so decided to make a coffee cheesecake. To make it more special I made a chocolate sauce and a caramel one as toppings.It has the usual biscuit base which is flavoured with coffee, but this is baked.

You need:
200g digestive biscuits
40g soft butter
20g cocoa

700g cream cheese
6g strong instant coffee dissolved in 3 tbspn warm water
4 eggs
175g caster sugar

For the sauces:

The chocolate one I used this recipe

and for the caramel sauce:
85g butter
175ml double cream
175g soft brown sugar

Preheat oven 150C/gas2                 22cm loose-bottomed cake tin

Put the ingredients in a pan over a medium heat and stir till butter has melted. Turn up heat and boil for 3-4 mins stirring occasionally - it looks like runny custard. Pour into a bowl and leave for 30 mins.


Blitz the biscuits and mix with the butter and cocoa. Press into the base of the tin and put in the fridge.
Put the cheese and sugar in a bowl; add the eggs and sugar and beat together till smooth.
Pour over the base and bake for 40 mins.
Cool, then put in fridge for 12 hrs.
Take out of tin and keep in fridge till needed.

Serve the cheesecake drizzled with the chocolate and caramel sauces.

It was very popular with the family. Nice crunchy base, smooth cheesecake with a soft texture, a good coffee flavour, then the mixture of chocolate and caramel topping- mmmmmm!


Chocolate, Mascarpone and Coffee Tart

I needed a dessert to take to a family lunch, so decided on a tart. This is one of my stand by recipes, so I know it tastes good; everyone likes chocolate!

It's  lovely mixture of chocolate, mascarpone with a hint of coffee, all in a pastry case. Doesn't need much cooking - just the pastry case.

You need:

a pack of shortcrust pastry [or of course make your own]
200g dark chocolate
250g mascarpone
1 dspn instant Espresso coffee
3 egg whites
pinch salt
80g caster sugar
chocolate shavings to decorate [opt]

Preheat oven 180C/gas4                     Grease a 21cm tart tin

Roll pastry out to fit the tin, prick with a fork and bake blind for 10 mins.

Break chocolate up and put into a pan; sprinkle a little water over and melt on a low heat.

Once it's melted, take off the heat and add half the mascarpone and 1 dspn of instant Espresso coffee powder and mix well.

Take the pastry out of the oven, cool then add the chocolate mixture. Put in fridge for an hour.

Whisk the egg whites to peaks with the salt then add the rest of the mascarpone and the sugar. Mix together.

Take the tart out of the fridge, put onto a plate then spoon over the cream mixture. Sprinkle over some chocolate shavings if you want.

 As you can see, I decided to pipe a little of the cream mixture on the top before adding the shavings. Think my new piping bag and nozzles have gone to my head, but it was for a family occasion!
You get a good thick layer of chocolate with a good hint of coffee, which contrasts nicely with the pastry texture, then the soft creamy topping and the crunchy bits of chocolate shavings. If you don't want such a deep chocolate layer, you could use a larger tart tin.


Pecan, Maple and Lemon Loaf Cake

Another recipe for a loaf cake, my favourite type of cake. This time it has maple syrup, pecans and lemon zest in it. Easy to make using the rubbing in method.

Preheat oven 170C/gas3   Grease and line the bottom of a 900g loaf tin.

Sift 350g plain flour and 1 tspn baking powder together, then rub in 175g butter or margarine.
Stir in 75g caster sugar and 125g chopped pecan nuts.

In another bowl, beat 3 eggs with 1 tbspn milk and add zest of a lemon. Stir in 5 tbspn maple syrup and mix well.

Add the flour mixture to the egg one and mix well, but don't over mix. Should be a nice dropping consistency.

Spoon into the tin and bake for about 50 mins. till golden and risen. Leave to cool in tin for about 10 mins then turn onto a wire rack.

Make some lemon icing by beating 1 tbspn lemon juice into 75g icing sugar.

Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake.

The texture was quite dense, but I suppose the rubbing in method doesn't make for a fine crumb. The maple taste was good, and there was a hint of lemon from the zest. The pecans gave another texture and the icing gave the cake an extra zing. I did find the cake a bit dry, so maybe should add a bit more milk? A nice cake to have with a cuppa.