Pret-a-Portea, The Berkeley

   Whilst backing up my beloved iPhone to ios7 I found these cake-dreams from a few weeks ago. This was of course whilst I was desperately trying to free up the obligatory 3gb of memory.

   Like the Queen, I managed to celebrate my birthday this year over two months. So I thought I'd share a little of my Amazing Monday (where I became a real grown up...but I'll save that for another time).

   On Amazing Monday, Boy Loves Food and I toddled down Knightsbridge hidden from the showers under my teeny umbrella. Not a fan of rain, usually I'd be a little grouchy. But on this amazing Monday, I was wearing my Wednesday Addams dress and off to drink tea and eat cake at The Berkeley.

   Pret-a-Portea at The Berkeley gives a fashionista twist to a traditional English afternoon tea inspired by fashion designers such as Alexander McQueen, Prada and Oscar de la Renta. Here, designs fresh off the catwalk are translated into a tea stand full of gorgeous cakes and fancies.

   Coming to the close of the Spring/Summer there are many a photo of these treats circulating round the Interweb by now, I'm sure. But my absolute favourite was the Alexander McQueen whimsical yellow honeycomb cream oversized dress topped with marzipan bee. Or the lovely Jason Wu coconut 'Carolyn' hatbox shaped cake bag sandwiched in retro leopard print chocolate. All washed down with the loose leaf pear caramel tea blend.

   I promise those cake descriptions are fresh from their menu, enough to make any cake eater sound like a fashionista!

Pret-a-Portea, The Berkeley London.

Pear and Cardamom Cake with Coffee and Amaretti

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   I had intended to attend my first Putney Bake Club event last week but couldn't attend due to work commitments. The theme was Harvest Festival so I decided to make this pear and cardamom cake with coffee and an amaretti topping. The kind of cake that's perfect slightly warmed and served with a dollop of custard. Warming and autumnal.

   Said cake was all ready to go, but instead it was left feeling sorry for itself in the kitchen so I thought I'd show it a little attention and post the recipe. Boy Loves Food had even helped me with its little photoshoot, he makes a good assistant.

   Fresh pears make this cake really moist, with a little nuttiness from ground almonds and freshly ground cardamom to lend a little floral hint.
Pear and cardamom cake with coffee and amaretti
(Recipe from Warm Snug Fat...the best baking blog name I have ever seen!)
     175g butter, softened
     175g light muscavado sugar
     3 medium eggs
     50g ground almonds
     1tsp freshly ground cardamom
     175g self raising flour
     2 tbsp espresso coffee
     3 ripe pears, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
     4 amaretti biscuits, roughly crushed
     75g dark chocolate

  • Heat the oven to 190 degrees and grease and line a 20 cm loose bottomed tin.
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluff.y
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
  • Fold in the ground almonds, cardamom, flour, coffee and two thirds of the chopped pears until well combined.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.
  • Scatter the remaining pears and two thirds of the amaretti biscuits over the top and bake for 1 hour until risen and cooked. If you insert a skewer into the centre it should come out clean.
  • Allow the cake to cool completely.
  • Remove the cake from the tin and place onto a serving plate. Scatter over the remaining biscuits.
  • Melt the chocolate and drizzle over the top of the cake.

Rocky Road

Not a recipe post as such, but I thought I'd share the homemade treats I've been enjoying this week

   These have been the most successful rocky roads I've made to date, and the most simple. Just 1 packet of smashed biscuits and a scattering of mini marshmallows coated in 3 bars of melted milk chocolate and left to set in a 20cm square tin.

   I used chocolate digestives, but ginger biscuits or cookies work very well also. Smashed up crunchie bars can make these even more naughty.

Blackberry and Cinnamon Cake

   Autumn/Winter has set in. Finally! I can't be dealing with hot sticky trains. Arriving to work in my summer clothes only to freeze under the air conditioning through an eight hour shift. I'm that excited for the colder climates, I've already purchased some winter staples. Staples such as 1 kg of mini marshmallows for all those hot chocolates and a bear onesie. Completely necessary of course.
   And so, in order to welcome chilly mornings and chilly toes, I decided to bake something cosy and warming. Cinnamon being one of my favourite spices, makes me feel a little festive. Like wearing my favourite cashmere winter scarf. But as its not quite winter enough, yet, and I can't get away with wearing it just yet, I baked a cake with cinnamon in.
  This cake could have been a disaster...I forgot to add a raising agent. It did have a lovely streusel topping with all the blackberries peaking out the top before baking. So, in a desperate attempt to salvage my efforts, I gave the cake batter-filled tin a sprinkling of baking powder. A quick stir, ruining that precious streusel, and a prayer to the raising gods √° la Christine of the Great British Bake Off!
   Any cakes that resemble a pancake don't get featured on here. There have been one or two. But, as this one turned out to be a success, a surprising one...here it is. Complete with streusel topping in case you decide to bake it the regular way. And home grown blackberries!

Blackberry and Cinnamon Streusel Cake
(Adapted from a Nigella's community recipe)
     5 oz unsalted butter, softened
     5 oz superfine sugar
     5 oz ground almonds
     5 oz self raising flour
     1 egg
     1 tsp ground cinnamon
     2 tsp vanilla extract
     8 oz blackberries
     35 g plain flour
     25 g sugar
     25 g butter
     Icing sugar and cinnamon for dusting

  • Heat the oven to 180 degrees and grease and line a 23 cm springform tin.
  • Combine all the ingredients except the blackberries and beat well. Spread the mixture into the tin with a rubber spatula and then scatter the blackberries over.
  • Make the streusel topping by rubbing together plain flour, sugar and butter and scatter over the blackberries.
  • Bake for about 1 hour until golden and springy.
  • Cool in the tin before adding a dusting of icing sugar and cinnamon.

Pretzel M&M Brownies

  In order to give my team at work a little boost last week I decided to take in some baked goods. I've been a little slack on the baking recently, but after a physio session I felt up to some easy baking...especially as the secret of brownies is as little folding as possible.

   Speaking of secrets...I've done a little recipe comparison into what makes the ultimate brownie over the past week and found the best tips in Lily Vanilli's Sweet Tooth. This may be obvious to others, but brownies have not been my friend in the past.

   Using a little self raising flour helps to give a bit of leavening to the mixture. But as the batter is so dense it will sink down resulting in a fudgy texture. I like to use big chunks of chocolate as well as cocoa powder to make them even denser.

   In an attempt to start using my baking books more, my research lead me to a good brownie recipe in Jo Wheatley's A Passion for Baking...the only Bake Off related book I own. A good choice for proper home baking recipes, I can't think of anything in there I wouldn't give a go.

Pretzel M&M Brownies
(Makes ..., recipe adapted from A Passion for Baking)
     100g dark chocolate, chopped
     85g milk chocolate, chopped
     115g unsalted butter, diced
     300g caster sugar
     1tsp vanilla extract
     2 large eggs, beaten
     100g plain flour
     50g self raising flour
     30g cocoa powder
     80g M&Ms
     Salted pretzels to top
  • Heat the oven to 170 degrees and line and grease a 20 cm square tin.
  • Tip the dark chocolate and 25g of the milk chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Add the butter and melt together, either in the microwave on a low setting or in the bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until smooth and leave to cool slightly.
  • Add the sugar, vanilla and beaten eggs to the melted chocolate and butter, and mix to combine. Sift both of the flours and cocoa powder into the bowl and mix until smooth.
  • Fold in the M&Ms and remaining 60g of chopped milk chocolate. Spoon into the prepared tin, spread level and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 30-35 minutes.
  • Leave to cool in the tin, then cut into squares.
What do you think makes the ultimate brownie?
Any recommendations for GBBO related books?

Mini Lemon Meringue Cake for One

      I was so excited to find a recipe to make just one cupcake. Some days there's nothing better than a home made treat. I wouldn't quite trust myself with a whole batch to myself so making just the one is ideal. Filled with lemon curd and topped with a small cloud of meringue, this mini cake is zingy and sweet.

Mini Lemon Meringue Cake
(Makes 1, recipe adapted from Sweet Road)
     1 tablespoon margarine, or softened butter
     2 tablespoons golden caster sugar
     4 tablespoons & 1 1/2 teaspoons almond milk (I used soya milk), room temperature
     1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
     3 tablespoon & 1 1/2 teaspoons plain flour
     1/4 teaspoon baking powder
     a pinch of salt
     Mackay's lemon curd
     egg white from 1 egg
     couple of spoons of caster sugar
  • Heat the oven to 190 degrees celsius and grease a mini cake tray.
  • Combine the margarine and sugar together until well incorporated.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of the soya milk and mix.
  • Combine the flour, baking powder and salt and add to the butter mixture.
  • Add the remaining milk and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden.
  • Once cool, hollow out the cake and fill with a spoon of lemon curd.
  • For the meringue, beat 1 egg white until stiff on a high speed. Melt a spoon or two of caster sugar in equal amounts of water. Once melted, add to the stiff egg white by pouring down the side of the bowl so as not to touch the whisk. Continue to beat into silky and the mixture has cooled, felt by the bowl. Pipe onto the cake and give it a quick blast with a chef's torch.