Because A Friday Treat is the Perfect Way to End the Week!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Sticky Toffee Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

Hooray!! Its Treat Friday, actually on a Friday!! It’s a good start at least and as we’re back, let’s do it properly with a huge, far-too-decadent cake.

I first came across this recipe last year when I made it in cupcake form for my birthday. Yes, I know – baking your own birthday cake is borderline pathetic but I’m far too much of a control freak to leave it in anyone else’s hands. If I’m going to spend the day stuffing my face with cake, I want to know that it’s going to be a good one. And this one is very, very good. 

‘Ok, but it’s not your birthday. What are you going to do with a massive cake?’ some of you may be asking and while I’d love to eat it all regardless, I’m going to take it in to work to force upon my work colleagues. After all, our five week training course is ending today and this cake is a great way of celebrating the fact that we’ve all survived and nobody’s cried...that I know of anyway.

Adapted from that constant favourite, sticky toffee pudding, this cake is moist, rich and decadent, with the salted caramel frosting helping to tip the scales from an everyday sort of tea cake to what is essentially what I’d term, an occasion cake. For a while, I thought about incorporating chocolate somewhere in the recipe, the frosting perhaps, but ultimately decided that this would be a step too far! If someone does decided to experiment with adding chocolate somewhere though, do let me know how it goes!

Another reason why I’m a big fan of this cake is that it looks fancy/complicated but in reality is really, really easy. It’s also pretty speedy, not one that you’re going to be spending hours completing different stages over. So give it a go! Hopefully I can add a photo of the actual inside of the cake for your viewing pleasure later on today. As I mentioned earlier, I’m taking it into work today and don’t really want to take it in minus a slice...that just invites mockery, doesn’t it? Anyway, hopefully it goes down well, I’m almost certain that it will!

Have a great day – treat yourself!

Some Final Tips Before You Get Started:

  • The secret to a light and delicious cake (or biscuit for that matter) lies in the initial beating of the butter and sugar. I’ve recently realised that this is a tip that I’ve failed to mention up to this point and am now rectifying this! When I’m making anything that begins with the creaming together of butter and sugar, I usually beat them together for at least 5 minutes. At this stage, it’s very difficult to overmix your ingredients and in fact, more beating will only make the end product lighter and smoother. Once you add your flour however, you need to settle down and be gentle and sparing with you mixture!
  • As with the main mix, the same rules apply to frosting. With frosting, I take it even further and mix all of the ingredients together for at least 10 minutes. Again, this makes the frosting a lot lighter and helps you to avoid the horrid, heavy frosting that makes you feel like you can’t move for at least 5 hours.
  • When it comes to covering an entire cake with frosting, here are the things you need to do:
    • Stack up and frost the layers together as evenly and as straight as possible.
    • Cover the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting, creating a ‘crumb layer’. This will stop the second and main layer of frosting from being covered with crumbs from the cake which ultimately, just improves the overall presentation of the cake.
    • On top of this layer, again cover the entire cake with a thicker layer of frosting. This is the one that people will see so try to keep it neat. I use an (approx.) 33cm straight spatula to apply my frosting, although I fully intend on buying an angled one ASAP, largely because that’s what they tend to use on TV. So try and make it neat but if you can’t, don’t worry because it will still be delicious!
  • The caramel I use for the frosting is just a standard, pre-made caramel that usually comes in a tin. If you would like to make your own caramel then by all means do! I’ve just used the tinned caramel for this for speed and efficiency.
Sticky Toffee Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

180g Dried Dates (Chopped and Pitted)
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
180g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp. Bicarbonate of Soda
80g Unsalted Butter (Softened)
150g Dark Muscovado Sugar
2 Eggs (Lightly Beaten)

For the Frosting:
500g Icing Sugar (Sifted)
160g Unsalted Sugar (Softened)
50ml Milk
100g Caramel
½ tsp. Salt

3x 20cm Diameter Cake Tins

1)      Preheat the oven to 180◦C, grease and line the bases of your cake tins.
2)      Place the chopped dates into a heat proof bowl and mix together with 180ml of boiling water and the vanilla extract. Leave to soak for 20 minutes.
3)      Cream together the butter and sugar for at least 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, beating between each addition. You may need to add a tablespoon of the flour to this mixture half way through the addition of the eggs in order to prevent curdling.
4)      Sift the remainder of the flour and the bicarbonate of soda into the wet ingredients and fold until just combined. Finally, add the date and water mixture and mix gently.
5)      Divide the mixture into the three cake tins and bake for 20 minutes until a deep, golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.
6)      To make the frosting: Using an electric whisk or freestanding mixer, combine together the butter and icing sugar until well mixed but still powdery. Gradually add the milk and beat on a high speed for at least 10 minutes. Finally, add the caramel and combine again at a high speed for a further 5 minutes.
7)      When the cakes have cooled completely, place one on top of the other with a generous amount of frosting spread between each layer. Once stacked, cover the cake completely with a thin layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs. Finally, spread a thicker layer of frosting around the entire cake, smooth and decorate to your preference.

P.S. I apologise for the shocking quality of the photos this week. That's what happens when you move and leave your camera at home and end up having to use your phone!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Chocolate Peppermint Slices

I promised you there’d be a Treat Sunday, didn’t I? This time when I say I’m back, I mean it and here’s a recipe to prove it!

When I start to think about writing a recipe, I tend to get an idea or some form of inspiration and then I look for as many recipes for this idea that I possibly can. I look through my mountain of recipe books, I Google, I go through all of my favourite food websites and I compare and contrast what they tell me, take my favourite components and turn them into my own interpretation of the recipe. I’m incredibly disorganised in that a lot of this takes place in my head, and any notes that may be written down tend to be on scrap bits of paper which then get lost in the bowels of my handbag when I take them shopping to buy ingredients. I am a bit more organised when it comes to actually baking in that usually by this point, I’ll have the bare bones of a recipe which then gets scribbled on as I bake.

So there I am, every week, trying to write up my blog using a, by this point, mangled and (often tea/chocolate/butter) stained piece of paper with the recipe on it. Now, on the particular week that I wrote this recipe...I went mental. I tore the recipe out of my notebook in order to write it up on the train without lugging my notebook around, didn’t get round to it...and the paper disappeared!! Nightmare.

Luckily for you, I can remember it...well I’m about 99% sure that I can! These Chocolate Peppermint Slices are so nice though that I’m sharing it anyway and if anyone encounters a problem you’ll just have to let me know and I’ll re-experiment and make corrections where necessary.

These Chocolate Peppermint slices, as I’ve already said, are delicious and this is coming from someone who really isn’t a huge mint fan. The best way I can describe them is that it’s like eating a giant After Eight (or other brand of after dinner mint) and it just makes sense.

In my family, After Eights only tend to appear around Christmas, usually to be found in my father’s stocking and are universally enjoyed by all, even as we found out one year, by the dog. That one particular year, it was the evening of Christmas day and while all family members were in the sitting room in various states of a food-induced coma, someone noticed that the dog had gone very quiet and had in fact, not been seen trotting around for quite some time. So we all got up to look for her and eventually she was found in the conservatory, under the dining table, surrounded by empty After Eight mint packets. She’d eaten them all, the little piglet. To this day we don’t know how she got the box, opened the box or got the mints out of their packets (there were no chewed up packets). I personally think she’s harbouring a secret set of opposable thumbs but this has yet to be proven. 

Anyway, that’s what after dinner mints remind me of. It’s a story that always makes me smile and it was one I thought about when I was making this recipe. So if you’re a fan of the chocolate mint flavour combination, and even if you’re not, you should definitely gives this one a try. Just don’t feed them to your dog, that would be a waste and if they’re anything like my dog was when she scoffed all those chocolates, you’ll spend the rest of your day cleaning up dog sick. Not nice.

Some Final Tips Before You Get Started:
  • In this recipe I used an ingredient I’ve never, ever used before; vegetable shortening. It worked out great in this recipe in that it stopped the white peppermint filling from going yellow, as it would have had I used butter. It’s pretty weird stuff to work with but as I said, it works here so you should have a go with it. I think if you didn’t want to use it you could probably substitute the vegetable shortening with butter and a couple of drops of green food colouring (for that minty look), but this isn’t something I’ve yet tried and it’s therefore untested.
  • The base of these slices are exactly the same as the Marbled Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies I made a while ago...obviously minus the cheesecake. I’ve written quite a few tips regarding the making of these on this page so if you need a few pointers or want to see what I do, have a browse at the tips for this recipe.
  • With the chocolate topping, I’ve given the incredibly specific ingredient of ‘several drops’ of peppermint extract. Basically tailor this to your own taste. If you just want a mild peppermint flavour, leave it out of the chocolate topping and let the peppermint filling do the work. If you like a strong peppermint flavour, however, add a few drops to your chocolate topping as well.
Chocolate Peppermint Slices
For the Brownie Base:
200g Dark Chocolate (broken into small pieces)
175g Unsalted Butter
300g Caster Sugar
130g Plain Flour
3 Eggs

For the Peppermint Filling:
185g Icing Sugar (sifted)
30g Vegetable Shortening (melted)
2 tbsps. Whole Milk
½ tsp. Peppermint Extract

For the Chocolate Topping
150g Dark Chocolate
100ml Double Cream
1 tbsp. Butter
Several Drops of Peppermint Extract (optional)

30cm x 20cm Rectangular Baking Tin

1)      Preheat the oven to 180◦C, grease and line the baking tin with greaseproof paper.
2)      To make the brownie base, place a large heatproof bowl over a saucepan filled with an inch of water, making sure the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Bring the water to boil over a medium heat. Break the chocolate into chunks and place, alongside the butter into the heatproof bowl and melt together, stirring occasionally. Leave to cool slightly once melted.
3)      Mix the sugar and flour into the melted chocolate and butter and stir until combined. Add the eggs and little at a time, mixing until a wet mixture has formed. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the brownie comes out mostly clean. Leave to cool.
4)      While the brownie base is cooling, make your peppermint filling by sifting the icing into a bowl. Stir in the melted shortening, milk and peppermint extract until a smooth paste has formed. Spread the filling over the cooled brownie base and leave to set in the refrigerator
5)      To make the chocolate topping, heat the double cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. As soon as the double cream begins to simmer, remove from the heat and pour the hot cream over the broken up chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate has melted. Add the butter and (optional) peppermint extract and stir until melted and combined.
6)      Pour the chocolate topping over the cooled peppermint filling and refrigerate again for 20 minutes or until the chocolate has set.
7)      Once set, carefully remove from the baking tin and cut into slices or squares. Enjoy!

Oh and here's the After Eight stealing dog with secret opposable thumbs....just because she's cute!!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Kitchen Disaster Time

So I'm finally connected to the internet - hooray!!! I've managed to massively fluff up the recipe I was going to publish this week - boo!!!

It was all going so well! The internet finally got connected after much faffing about on the part of my broadband provider, I had two great recipes in the bag and another idea ready to try out for this week...and then I lost one of the recipes, lost the pictures of another and the great idea I had for a recipe this week turned out to be not so great in practice. Oh and then after all this I put the back of my hand on the electric hob plate I'd had on for about 25 minutes. Kitchen disaster time.

So no Treat Friday today. However for one week only, there will be a Treat Sunday which when you think about it, is exciting. I can even reveal that the treat will be Chocolate Peppermint Squares and that they are delicious. They're like big, cakey, after dinner mints. Yum!! Teaser picture below...

Now just to find/remember that pesky recipe...

See you Sunday!!

Friday, 6 April 2012

New Recipes Coming Soon!!!

Just wanted to give a quick update! Sorry for the lack of recipes over the past few weeks, it's taken me that long to get my house properly moved into and sorted. I'm also waiting for my internet to be connected which should (fingers crossed) be happening this week, so expect a new recipe and blog next Friday!!

Happy Easter!!!