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Monday, 22 February 2016

Beetroot Cake [gluten and refined sugar free - vegan, dairy free option]

I've never tried using beetroot in baking before. I'd heard of chocolate beetroot cake before and last week's Sport Relief Great British Bake Off also reminded me of it. But given the fact that I'm not a big chocolate cake lover myself (I know how could I?) when I came across Twigg Studios' just beetroot cake, I couldn't wait to give it a try.

Funnily enough, this recipe from Twigg Studios is a recipe adapted from Lily Vanilli's beetroot cake recipe which I have actually seen in the past as I've flicked through my copy of Lily's Sweet Tooth book, but, I've never really been that compelled to make it. Lily's version is quite a bit different from the Twigg Studios' version, nevertheless there are some which remain. I, on the other hand have adapted this adapted recipe again! (Sorry it's getting confusing...)

I opted for a filling which is vegan friendly and dairy free - whipped coconut cream, and crushed fresh raspberries folded into it (instead of blackberries) you could of course use them if you prefer, or a mixture of both. I also decided to go the whole hog and make it refined sugar free as well by removing the little 50g of sugar which was originally in the recipe. Having tasted it, I didn't notice or miss it, as there was enough sweetness from the beetroot and spices. 

I thought the sheer quantity of fresh ginger noted down for this recipe was at first a mistake, but after checking, it was indeed not! I still felt the need to reduce quantities, and then some, as I felt a little overwhelmed by the amount of gingery'ness going on. I also think that if you prefer a more mellow ginger flavour then you could  try substituting the fresh for a couple teaspoons of ground ginger. That's just my opinion though, so stick to the whole 80g of it, if you dare - like Twigg Studios. 

I also feel the need to say that this cake comes with a warning: this is a cake for grown-ups. It has a beautiful flavour and texture, acquired from using polenta rather than flour which for some will take time to get used to. And FYI, polenta is surprisingly hard to find at supermarkets at the moment, you wouldn't think it as there's definitely an emerging trend/demand for gluten - free from's, with polenta being a great alternative. I managed to pick mine up from here in the end. 

If the fact that beetroot can be a right pain to peel and then grate due to staining, then don't fret- I did at first and then remembered the oh so great convenience of buying ready cooked! My recipe is made simpler by using ready peeled and cooked which you just throw into a food processor straight from a packet = no pink stained hands! Yay!

Beetroot Cake  [gluten  and  refined  sugar  free  -  vegan,  dairy  free  option]


For the sponge

500g beetroot, peeled and cooked
40g root ginger peeled (or 2 tsp ground ginger)
120ml olive oil
60ml freshly squeezed smooth orange juice 
150g raisins 
7 tbsp runny honey (for vegan subst. with maple syrup/agave nectar)
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract 
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
½ tsp ground cinnamon 
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg 
2 tsp baking powder (+ pinch extra for vegan/dairy option)
360g polenta
4 eggs separated (for vegan/dairy subst. 4 tbsp golden flax/chia seeds ground in a blender, soak for 30 minutes in a bowl with 12 tbsp of water.) 

For the filling
1 can (400ml) coconut milk, chilled overnight in the fridge
2-3 tbsp honey (for vegan subst. with maple syrup/agave nectar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 large raspberries, halved

icing sugar to dust - optional. 


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350° F/ gas 4. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins.

Pulse the beetroot and fresh ginger (if using) in a food processor until like grated. Then put into a large mixing bowl with the oil, orange juice, raisins, honey, vanilla, lemon zest and spices. Beat the egg yolks for about four minutes until creamy and in a clean dry bowl whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir the whisked egg yolks into the beetroot mix and then add the polenta and baking powder. Fold in the whipped egg white, or if making vegan/dairy free, skip these egg stages and simply stir in the soaked flax/chia seed mixture with the water and add a pinch more baking powder. 

Divide the mixture between the two prepared cake tins. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes. Leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the filling, whip in a mixer the hardened coconut cream which should have separated and risen to the top of the chilled tin of coconut milk. Discard the coconut water at the bottom for something else. Add the honey, vanilla and mix again briefly until light and fluffy, then fold in the halved raspberries, some will bleed and crush, this is ok. Spread onto one cooled cake and then sandwich the other on top. Dust with icing sugar if you want. Store the cake in an air-tight container in the fridge, best eaten on the day of baking.

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Friday, 12 February 2016

Sultana, Seed and Cherry Madeira Traybake

Have you been flipping pancakes this week? I have, and needless to say I stuck to the same old, same old safe bet which I do year on year, simply filling mine with honey, berries and lemon. I always mean to try out something new for a change, but never quite get round to doing it when there's countless essays and revision looming over me.

I haven't had much time this week to bake but I did find the time to make this sultana, seed and cherry madeira traybake. And when I say it's quick to do, I really mean quick! I whipped up this traybake in just over an hour - start to finish, ready to eat.

A traybake to me just seems more effortless than making a layer cake, there's no need for icing on this cake... delicious just as it is. I sprinkled the top with flaked almonds and granulated sugar for a crunchy texture. And you can infuse the granulated sugar with tea, adding another flavour element to the cake if you want (preferably Lapsang Souchong, although something a little more subtle such as Lady Grey would also work just as well) simply leave an unused tea bag in 400g of the sugar overnight, then store the rest that you don't use in an air-tight container for another baked creation. Although I have to admit, I'm too impatient for this  (I only just thought about baking it the day I did) but I can say that it tastes perfectly good without this tea addition also so take your pick.

I added 30g of glace cherries to the mix because this is all I had, so it's mainly sultanas and less of the cherry, if I'd had more I would've - if you want to add more you can, just add less sultanas.

Madeira cake was a very popular addition to any Edwardian high tea affair, and I think the addition
of poppy, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds makes a great modern twist to this rather vintage cake.

Sultana,  Seed  and  Cherry  Madeira  Traybake

Serves 20

180g unsalted butter
180g caster sugar
3 eggs
250g self-raising flour
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g mixed seeds - poppy, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower
small handful of glace cherries - about 30g
70g sultanas, soaked beforehand in boiling water
small amount of granulated sugar (infused with Lapsang Souchong tea- optional, see above for tip)
handful of flaked almonds
icing sugar to decorate


Preheat the oven to 180° C/ 350° F/ gas 6. Line and grease a 12 x 9 inch high sided roasting tin/swiss roll tin.

Cream the butter and sugar together for 4 minutes until creamy, light and smooth. Then, one by one add in the eggs, beat until incorporated. Fold in the flour carefully, and just enough milk until the mixture slowly falls off the spoon (you may not need the full 3 tbsp), stir in the vanilla extract. Fold in the seeds, soaked sultanas and glace cherries chopped into thirds - rinsed under water first and then patted dry.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level out. Sprinkle the top with sugar and flaked almonds. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden and when inserting a skewer, it comes out clean. When cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Cut into 20 equal sized squares, dust with icing sugar before serving. Store in an air tight container.
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Monday, 1 February 2016

Cranberry Orange Scones

Recently, I've developed a taste for the slightly more 'out-there' and unassuming flavour combinations. Ok, cranberry and orange aren't exactly unusual, I'll give you that one. But I do think these scones are a bit outta the ordinary if all you've ever had are those plain ones along with clotted cream and jam, or the ones riddled with sultanas at a push. Now that's ordinary!

These on the other hand are infused with orange zest and packed full of delightfully tart cranberries. They act as a strong counteract to the sweetness of the sugar which is sprinkled all over the scones, rendering for both sweet and tart. Perfect!

I suppose you could swap the orange for lemon if you have them to hand, but be warned... as only these will suit the most tarteist of palates, for which I am not. Hence why I used orange instead.

This recipe is adapted from an old blog post written by the lovely 'Pastry Affair' (even the name gets me interested, but her recipes are to die for!) In hers she uses lemon, so that's one of my changes but also in the scone mixture she calls for heavy cream, I used milk instead. This substitution worked reasonably well, I have used milk before in many a scone recipe so I had no doubts there initially. Yet, I don't know if the substitution had anything to do with this or not, (or if it was the size of my egg) but I did find that adding all of the liquid made it incredibly wet. AND I MEAN WET!!!

Perhaps natural yoghurt would have been a better alternative in hindsight, and confusing as it is, I have always been led to believe that a slightly wet dough is actually better in order to create that desired soft and fluffy texture. Though, I think I had digressed a lot from that 'slightly' wet stage. I was way beyond that line. So much so that I was doing that annoying thing of chucking in flour just so that I could render some sort of a circular shape to cut from. Of course this was only going to mess up the ratios but surprisingly ... as you can see from the photos, they turned out better than expected!

If I have put you off from making this now then please don't be! (This was just me rambling on with intentions of arriving at long last to this somewhat of a conclusion... ) you'll be pleased to know I have altered quantities below (yaaayy) and asserted that you must add in the milk slowly, bit by bit because you might not need it all depending on how big your egg is. That was well worth the wait wasn't it, I can tell you're so relieved to hear that now?

Note: They're satisfying enough served warm straight out of the oven with butter, just so it melts, and if your sugar cravings aren't yet fulfilled - have some jam too! Although marmalade would've probably been a better companion. I just didn't think of it at the time. Oh well.

Cranberry  Orange  Scones

Recipe adapted from the Pastry Affair blog.

Makes 8


250g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tbsp baking powder
Zest from 2 oranges (about 1-2 tablespoons)
Pinch of salt
115g butter, cold and cubed
110g dried cranberries
90ml full fat milk
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Optional orange glaze:

70g icing sugar
Approx the juice of ½ orange


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/ gas 4. Prepare 2 baking trays by flouring lightly.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, orange zest, and salt. Add in thc cubed butter and rub together with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. If using a mixer, mix in butter with a paddle attachment until the butter is pea-sized or smaller, then stir in the cranberries.

In a small bowl/jug, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla extract until well blended. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients bit by bit, (you may not need all the liquid due to the size of your egg) and mix until it comes together as a dough (it should be slightly wet).

Place the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a circle using your hands, flattening the top until the dough is roughly an inch thick. With a knife dipped into flour, cut the dough into 8 triangular shaped pieces and transfer to the prepared baking trays. Sprinkle the tops with a little granulated sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until scones are lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature before glazing.

Optional: To make the glaze, beat together the icing sugar with some orange juice, adding the juice slowly so you have just enough to make a glaze which is a drizzle-like consistency and runs off the spoon. Lightly drizzle glaze over the scones and allow the scones to sit for a few minutes for the glaze to set before serving.
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