28 August 2013

Lavender Cake with a Blueberry Jam and White Chocolate Frosting

When my brothers see that I've been baking, their usual question is "just what have you made this time?"
Knowing I'm unlikely to answer with the simple "chocolate cake", the answer usually involves something a little more unusual and creative.
Playing with new flavours I haven't cooked with before is something I really enjoy.
My basil and raspberry tarts were another of my slightly experimental recipes that thankfully turned out to be delicious!
This lavender cake has a beautifully subtle flavour accompanied by a sticky blueberry jam and creamy white chocolate frosting. 


2tbsp fresh lavender florets (picked off the stalk and chopped finely)
350g self raising flour
350g caster sugar
6 eggs
350 soft slightly salted butter
2tsp baking powder
2tbsp milk

200g blueberries
100g caster sugar
1tbsp lemon juice

250g icing sugar
250g soft unsalted butter
200g white chocolate

300g blueberries
Fresh lavender florets


Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.
Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. 

Gradually add in the eggs one at a time and then whisk in the milk. 
Add in the flour and baking powder and whisk again until fully incorporated. 

Once mixed, fold in the fresh lavender with a large metal spoon.

Grease two large circular cake tins with some soft butter and line with baking paper. Pour the cake mixture evenly into the two tins and spread with a knife to the edge of the tins. 
Bake in the preheated oven for around 25-30 minutes until golden brown and springy. 
A skewer, when inserted into the cake, should come out clean. 

Remove from the tins and cool the cakes on a wire rack. 

Meanwhile make the blueberry jam:

Add the blueberries to a small pan along with the sugar and one dessert spoon of cold water. 

Put over a medium heat until it begins to simmer. Leave to simmer for about 20 minutes until it starts to thicken. 
Once molten and thicker, add the lemon juice, stir and remove from the heat. 
In order to set the jam quickly, cool it in the freezer, uncovered, for about 15-30 minutes in a small bowl. 

To make the frosting; cream together the icing sugar and soft butter in a mixing bowl with an electric whisk. 
Meanwhile, melt the white chocolate over a medium heat in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. 

Once melted, cool completely and then whisk into the butter mixture. 

Once the cakes are completely cool and the jam is set, use a sharp bread knife to even out the cake halves to make them a level height. 
Using a palette knife, spread a thin layer of frosting over one half of the cake.

Cover this with a generous layer of blueberry jam. (I use a thin layer of frosting here to stop the jam from seeping into the cake and making it too liqiud.)

Top with the second half of the cake and then use a palette knife to spread a layer of the frosting over the entire cake.

Then cool in the fridge for 5 minutes and then add another layer of frosting to the entire cake. 

Decorate however you wish. I topped mine with a generous handful of fresh blueberries and some more lavender florets. 

23 August 2013

Apricot Tart

This is a gorgeous summer tart perfect for the last of those lazy, long summer evenings. 
Apricots are hugely underused in comparison with your typical summer berries, peaches and nectarines but still have such a beautiful tangy flavour that paired with sweet pastry and a rich creamy creme patisserie is heaven!
This recipe is from Paul Hollywood's "How to Bake" book - something I keep turning back to now that  I'm hooked on the new series of The Great British Bake Off!
There's something so satisfying about making a good creamy creme patisserie marbled with specks of vanilla. 

To make your own:

For the sweet pastry:

165g plain flour
25g ground almonds
120g chilled butter
55g caster sugar
1 medium egg

Extra flour for dusting 

1 egg (beaten with a splash of milk as an egg wash)

For the creme patisserie:

100g caster sugar
4 medium egg yolks
40g cornflour
500ml full-fat milk
2 vanilla pods
40g butter
2tbsp Kirsch

For the topping:

600g ripe apricots (or tinned)
3 tbsp apricot jam
1tbsp Kirsch


To make your pastry:

Mix the flour and ground almonds in a large mixing bowl.

Add in the cubed chilled butter and rub it into the flour and almonds using your fingertips until you are left with a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs. 

Next stir in the sugar and then break in the egg. 

Using your hands, mix the ingredients together until you have a soft dough. 

Shape the dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface and then wrap in cling film. Chill in the fridge until later. 

To make the creme patisserie:

Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a separate mixing bowl using an electric whisk. 
Once smooth and pale, set aside. 

Add the milk to a large saucepan. Cut the vanilla pods in half and scrape out the seeds using the back of a knife. Add the seeds to the milk along with the empty vanilla pods. 

Bring the milk to the boil over a medium heat.

Once the milk starts to boil, remove it from the heat and pour about a quarter of it into the egg mixture, whisking at the same time. Once combined, return this mixture to the rest of the milk in the saucepan and then continue to heat it over a gentle heat. Continue to stir until the mixture thickens and you have a smooth, creamy mixture.

Once thickened, immediately sieve the mixture into another bowl and then stir in the butter. Cover with a disc of baking paper and leave to cool. Once cool, chill in the fridge until needed. 

For the pastry:

Roll out the chilled pastry on a lightly floured work surface- this is quite a crumbly pastry so you may have to add a little more flour gradually and continue to press it back together and re-roll until you can roll it thin enough to fill a 25cm loose-based tart tin. 

Gradually ease the rolled out pastry into the greased tin, leaving any excess pastry hanging over the edge. 

Chill in the fridge for about 15 mins. 

Whilst the pastry is chilling, preheat your oven to 180 degreesC. 
Once chilled, prick the pastry base all over with a fork and then line with baking paper and baking beans or rice. 

Bake blind for 15 minutes and then remove the baking paper and baking beans. 
Brush the pastry with eggwash and return to the oven for another 8-10 mins. 

Once golden brown and baked, trim off the rough edges and cool in the tin for about 10 minutes. 
Then remove the tart base from the tin and cool on a wire cooling rack. 

Beat the Kirsch into the creme patisserie and then spread over the cooled pastry. Top with the apricots once stoned and halved. 

In a small pan, warm the apricot jam and 1tbsp Kirsch , strain and brush over the apricots as a glaze. 

Serve with creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream. 

Best eaten the same day. 

17 August 2013

Homemade Granola with Dates, Flaxseed and Coconut

This granola is a finer, much lighter granola than the chunky ones you find in the shops and somewhat different from my quinoa granola. It's a mixture of healthy, wholesome ingredients that once baked turn golden, crispy and make a delicious breakfast. 
It's baked in coconut oil and sunflower oil which gives the granola a nutty undertone along with warming spices and a little orange juice and vanilla. 
I added dates and coconut to mine but you could add whatever you wanted to yours- banana chips, chocolate, a mixture of dried fruit and nuts or even stir in some mashed banana, almond butter or nutella?
The added flaxseed provides essential vitamin D and nutrients.


250g oats
150g dates
2 heaped tbsp Linwoods flaxseed with biocultures and vitamin D 
100g desiccated coconut 
3tbsp sunflower oil
2 big tbsp coconut oil
3tbsp agave syrup
1tbsp melted butter
1tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1tbsp soft brown sugar
3tbsp orange juice
1tsp vanilla


Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C. 

Measure out the oats and coconut into a large mixing bowl. Finely chop the dates and add to the bowl along with the salt and brown sugar. 

Add in the flaxseed and spices and mix thoroughly

In a small saucepan, melt together the sunflower oil, coconut oil, butter, agave syrup, vanilla and orange juice over a low heat until combined. 

Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and mix together until all the dry ingredients are coated. 

Pour the granola mixture out onto a baking tray and spread evenly. 

Bake in the preheated oven for around 25 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Make sure to stir the granola with a spatula every 5-10 minutes in order to make sure it bakes evenly. 

Once baked, remove from the oven and store in an air-tight jar. 

Serve with cold natural yoghurt, fresh fruit and a drizzling of honey. 
A delicious start to any morning. 

Eddie was very intiruged as to what I was doing...

And then started licking his lips when he saw that food was involved!