Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake with Passion Fruit Frosting

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Trust me when I say that my silence hasn’t been a break, but rather a sabbatical. A time to stop, to grow and to change some very important things in my life. New home, new routines and a new oven. One that has burnt several attempts of a fail-safe biscuit recipe to smithereens, with charred bottoms and pale lids.

My new (gas, non-fan) oven has taken some getting to know, taming and an occasional shouting at or two but I have finally got to the stage where I can take a cake out and know it’s ready and not directed straight to the bin.

Sometimes it’s more about instinct then we realise, and with that note you may want to ignore my timings completely and learn your oven. Because it’s a good friend to you, but only when you listen.

And with June having finally made an appearance, and my oven behaving (under close supervision) I itched to experiment, craving a cake that was both indulgent and guilt free. And so came the strange combination of avocado, chocolate and passion fruit. Rich, healthy(er) and with a refreshingly sweet topping. My obsession with vegetables in cakes is to some extent overloaded, but there’s something about adding an ingredient that just doesn’t fit and baking it in a not-so-perfect oven. Especially when it goes straight past the bin and onto your plate.

Oh and did I mention that it’s completely vegan?

Chocolate Avocado Cake

 

Vegan Chocolate Avocado Cake with Passion Fruit Frosting

380g plain flour
6 tbs cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
400g granulated sugar
60ml sunflower oil
480ml water
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium or 2 small ripe avocados, mashed

2/3 medium sized passion fruits with the fruit scooped out
1 tsp lemon juice
6-8 heaped tbsp icing sugar

 

180 degrees celsius/Gas mark 4

 

Sift all of the dry ingredients (flour, cacao powder, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda) except the sugar in one bowl.

Then mix the oil, water, vinegar, vanilla extract and mashed avocado in another bowl. Restrict yourself from tasting this, even for a dare. But trust me that it will all turn out with smiles in the end. Now add the sugar and mix well.
Now tip the wet mixture straight into the dry bowl in one go, and use a hand whisk to beat until smooth.

Pour the mixture into two greased tins of identical size; I used 8inch round cake tins.

Bake for roughly 30-45 minutes depending on the size of your tins (& your oven).

Take out and leave to cool for 10 minutes or so before taking them out of the tins and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Start on the frosting whilst the cakes cool.

Mix the scooped passion fruit with the icing sugar one tbsp at a time until the mixture is runny enough to pour but thick enough to act as frosting. I kept the seeds in to give my frosting an extra texture, however you can do this without but I recommend adding another passion fruit at least. Add roughly 1 tsp of lemon to give it a kick; this stops it from becoming sickly-sweet.

Once the cakes are cooled spoon on half of the frosting mixture on top of one of the cakes, smooth over until even and sandwich the two cakes together. Use the remaining frosting on top, using a flat knife or spatula for even coverage.

Eat with fresh lemonade or an evening mug of fruit tea.

Plum & Honey Scones

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 23.04.11I’ve never made scones before. For one they don’t often contain cinnamon (yet), and secondly, well, I never knew how to.

It’s really easy.

And I added honey and plum.

Served with lots of clotted cream.

Restrained myself from using cinnamon.

But not from devouring them with a cup of tea.

After all, tea and scones are a perfect match.

Plum & Honey Scones

Scone set

Ingredients

225g plain flour + extra for dusting
50g unsalted butter
1 ½ tsp baking powder
170ml buttermilk + extra to glaze
1 tsp honey
1 plum
& golden caster sugar to dust

Makes approx 10 scones.
Preheat oven to 180c.

Measure the flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add the butter in small chunks, make sure it’s at room temperature so that it’s soft. Then use your fingertips to pinch the mixture together until it becomes like breadcrumbs.

Add half of the buttermilk and the honey, and mix together with a wooden spoon, bringing it together. Add the other half of the buttermilk, as the mixture begins to stick together use your hands to press in the remaining dry ingredients, kneading it all together.

Dust your work surface with flour to roll out the dough. Make sure to dust the rolling pin with flour too to make sure that it doesn’t stick. Roll the dough until it’s around 1cm thick. Then use a pastry cutter to cut out circles, or if you don’t have a pastry cutter use the bottom of a glass and a knife. You should end up with around twenty or so circles, make sure to end up with an even number. Cut the plum into thin sliced crescent shapes. Place one to two pieces of plum in between two of the circles, like a sandwich. Repeat and place the scones onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.

Glaze the top of the scones with some buttermilk and dust with golden caster sugar. Bake in the oven for 12-15minutes until golden brown.

Leave to cool, then serve with clotted cream and honey.

Oh and cup of tea.

Scone close 2

Lovebites

Lovebites

Can I let you in on a secret? I don’t particularly like Valentines Day. But then again, does anyone particularly like Valentines Day? Even at fourteen I’d venture around shopping centres thinking is ‘I love you’ written on chocolates really something I want to purchase for someone I hardly even hold hands with? Let alone a teddy bear holding a rather limp rose.

But lately Valentines Day has taken on a new meaning, away from commercial purchases. I’ve found I can humour myself by searching for sarcastic cards (last years valentines card to my boyfriend read “too lazy to break up to you”- it’s a wonder we’re still together). I can indulge in large packets of Kiplings’ pink fondant fancies, and even share them with my selected “loved” friends. Or I can spend the afternoon getting messy in the kitchen and create red velvet, vanilla and chocolate lovebites, and justify purchasing heart shaped cookie cutters….

Lovebites

2 sponge cakes of your choosing, preferably two different colours. (I made one red velvet cake, and one vanilla sponge)

One batch of flavoured buttercream frosting (for mine I did cream cheese buttercream frosting)

Approximately 200g dark chocolate

1 small heart shaped cookie cutter

1 medium heart shaped cookie cutter

chocolate hearts

It’s a little elusive to say “bake two sponge cakes”, but I just did. Think about your flavour combinations:

blackberry/lemon,

chocolate orange/cinnamon,

dark chocolate/peppermint

(I now need to attempt a peppermint sponge).

The idea is to have two opposing colours, and complimenting flavours.

Once your sponges are baked and cooled, use your fingers, and crumble them (keep them in separate bowls). Now your have cake crumbs. I’m sorry, I did just make you bake a cake to demolish it…. should have warned you

Using a spoon add a tablespoon of the buttercream frosting to one of the mixtures, Mix with your fingers and keep adding, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is starting to become sticky and keep together. The trick is to not make it so sticky and soft that it becomes too pliable and won’t hold one shape, but pliable enough that it’s not brittle when moulded. Two-three tablespoons should do. Repeat with the second sponge.

Now take two casserole dishes/shallow baking trays and take each mixture, press down flat into the dishes, around 2cm thick. You can now start cookie-cutting into heart shapes. First cut out a big heart from each mixture, then from those hearts cut out a small heart from the middle, then swap them over. You now have two-tone hearts. Keep doing this until your mixtures are used up, using the small heart cutter to use up the remains.

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Chill the hearts in the freezer for around 15minutes.

Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a boiling saucepan – or alternatively melt in the microwave. If you do this then make sure to put on a high heat for a short period of time, say around 10-15seconds, and stir immediately once out to melt the remaining pieces. Otherwise you risk burning the chocolate (amazingly this is possible, and burnt chocolate is not tasty, trust me).

Take each heart, one at a time, and holding onto the sides dip into the chocolate making surely it’s evenly covered. Place onto baking paper, and spoon some more chocolate around the sides, smoothing it on. Once they are all covered, leave to set.

little hearts side

Now try not to eat them all to yourself, unless that was the intention.

3hearts in a row

Apricot Brandy & Custard Brioche Swirls

Brioche

I’ve possibly broken three new years resolutions already, and we’re only ten days in. The lucky thing is that “new starts” and “resolutions” can start when I want. And I really want custard. The exercise, ritual tidying and cutting down on chocolate…well that can wait. The idea of making brioche is far more important.

And making brioche and a big bowl of custard is not to be frowned upon, if anything it sits perfectly in some of my “to-do’s” for 2013. To learn and master doughs and pastries , and to cook & bake from scratch. No cheating, I want to know what goes into my food please. And another reason why brioche is so perfect for January? It’s soft, sharable, breakfast splendour, a symbol of new starts. So I’m starting my 2013 as of today.

Brandy Apricots & Custard Brioche Swirls

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Take note that this recipe involves leaving the dough and custard to set overnight.

Makes 12-15 swirls.

Adapted from Baked: Brioche Custard Snail recipe which can be found here: http://rhid-baked.blogspot.co.uk/2008/02/brioche-custard-snails.html?m=1

& the Basic Egg Custard recipe from Lily Vanilli’s “Sweet Tooth”.

Brioche

2 packets of dry yeast or 3 tsp of dry yeast

80ml tepid water

80ml milk

480g plain flour

50g caster sugar

3 eggs

340g unsalted butter

Custard

5 eggs yolks

35g caster sugar

360ml double cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

Filling

200g dried apricots chopped into small squares

3tbs brandy

1 tsp caster sugar

1.5 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tsp caster sugar

Start with the brioche dough, not too dissimilar to bread dough though rather buttery and therefore lighter & fluffier in the end result. Put the yeast, milk and water in a large mixing bowl and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Then weigh out the flour and add in, then the salt. Take either a hand-mixer or a stand-alone mixer and insert the dough hook. Mix until the flour has moistened on a medium speed. Then lower the speed and add the eggs and sugar. Increase the speed and beat for around 3-4 minutes until the dough is starting to cling together in a ball.

On a lower speed, begin to add the butter in small chunks, making sure that each piece is almost completely mixed in before adding the next. The dough should start to resemble something more like cake batter. Once all the butter has been added increase the speed and mix for a good ten minutes, until the dough starts to pull away from the bowl. Cover with cling-film and place the bowl in a warm place – I tend to put mine in the airing cupboard next to the boiler – for around 30-40minutes for it to rise.

Once the dough has risen take it out and pick the dough up (it may still be rather sticky but try your best) and slap it back down into the bowl. Then cover is back up with cling film and put it in the fridge, Take it out of the fridge a few more times with half an hour intervals, repeating slapping the dough into the bowl. Once completed leave in the fridge overnight.

Whilst you’re waiting to slap your dough down get started on your custard. Now I have an admission to make; there is an easier way to make custard. But we don’t do shortcuts. So get ready. Mix together the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Separately, heat the double cream, salt and vanilla extract in a saucepan on a low heat until the mixture begins to steam, but not bubble. Pour this over the egg & sugar mixture, whisking the mixture continuously. Place the bowl over a saucepan filled with a small amount of water; make sure that the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Then bring to a simmer, still whisking, until the custard thickens, this will take a good ten minutes. So roll up your sleeves and get a-whiskin’. You’ll know it’s ready when the bubbles disappear. Pour the custard into a jug and leave to cool, once it’s cool cover the top in cling-film and place in the fridge overnight.

It’s the next day. Wake up refreshed, drink a cup of tea – just read “Whoops Walnut Tarts” to remember my advice about the need for tea -, now you’re ready. Take the dough out of the fridge and leave it out whilst you get the filling ready. Put the apricots, brandy and 1 tsp sugar in a small saucepan and put on a low heat, stir to make sure that the apricots are covered. Then keep an eye until the brandy has vanished and infused into the apricots, this will only take thirty seconds to a minute at the most. Then take a small bowl and mix 3 tsp of caster sugar to 1 ½ tsp of ground cinnamon, you’ll need this to cover each brioche roll so if you need more then keep to the ratio of 1 tsp of sugar: ½ tsp of cinnamon. Take the custard out of the fridge, it should have thickened over night and be at a spreadable consistency (doesn’t that sound…interesting?). You are ready to assemble.

Split the brioche into two equal sections. Cover a large wooden board or flat work surface in flour, if you’re brioche is still quite sticky in consistency then make sure to cover it with an generous amount of flour. And make sure to sprinkle some on your rolling pin too. Roll out one section of the brioche dough into a large rectangle, keep the dough thin as it will puff up in the oven, but don’t let it tear. Spread a portion of the custard evenly over the rectangle leaving an inch border on the two longer edges. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar in a thin layer over the custard layer. Then sprinkle over half of the brandy apricots. Roll the dough tightly from the longest end to make a large log, this will be your swirl. Take a sharp knife and cut the log into 1 inch pieces.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and place each swirl on the baking tray making sure to keep them spaced out as they’ll grow in the oven. Lightly cover with another sheet of greaseproof paper and put it in a warm place to rise again for an hour and a half.

Repeat the assembly of a second log with the second half of the ingredients. If you want to save it and bake it some other time then cut the log into the swirls and wrap each swirl in cling-film, then put them in the freezer. When you want to bake them, take them out of the freezer and defrost overnight in the fridge. Then take them out and let them rise for an hour and a half like the last batch.

Heat the oven to 180C, and bake the swirls in the oven for approximately 20minutes until golden brown. Let them cool on a wire rack, and enjoy.

January addiction: Etsy

Etsy addiction1. urbnCal 2013 nordic wall calendar £20.45 + shipping, Jolly Good Fellow. 2.  Trio of the Marlowe lunchbags £67.09 + shipping (or one for £28), Peg and Awl. 3 Letterpress Moleskin Pocket Cahier £4.75 + delivery, Little Red Press London.  4. Wooden typography sign £21.73, 13pumkins. 5. Set of decanters £47.92 + shipping, Riverrun2. Chalkboard decal wall calendar £40.89 + shipping, Wall Decal Depot. 7. Elephant necklace £9.58 + shipping, Petite Co. 8. Roman 5:8 framed love quote £7.03 + shipping, Farm n Flea.

You already know that I’m addicted to cinnamon, that I just can’t stop buying pretty lights and that I have a dangerous obsession with nail varnish. It’s our obsessions that to an extent define us. That we wear, do, talk about and in this case blog about. So welcome to my Addiction Calendar, and say hello to my Etsy addiction.

Etsy is my dream-house. A collection of vintage, hand-made, home-made and design centered shops that I can browse at my leisure. I don’t even have to go and delve through three storey vintage markets and nik-nak stalls, it’s just there, ready and waiting for me. And all I seem to think about this month is: what would look good in my future home’s kitchen? The answer: the beautiful “eat, drink and be merry” typography sign from 13pumpkins. Everything is so beautiful that too be honest it was heart-wrenchingly difficult to short-list my favorites, but I did it. Now I just need to go find that new home to buy them all for.

Festive Chocolate Fancies

IMG_20121128_105908I like playing Christmas elf. And now that it’s Decemeber, and the week before the big day I have full permission to talk about all things Christmas. No complaining, I’ve restrained myself until now haven’t I?

Each year I get excited about making a large stocking worths full of festive like treats and hand-delivering them to unsuspecting people. Last year was Christmas Tree Cupcakes, and this year I decided to test myself. Because it’s really straightforward to make Mistletoe Chocolate Fancies yes?

No, no it’s not.

But they do look so scrummy when you’ve finished gluing your hands together with melted chocolate.

And they come in milk and white chocolate, with two different flavoured sponges….

…maybe that’s how I overcomplicated things.

Merry December, I’m going to go and start on some homemade mulled wine now. And find that stollen recipe.

Festive Chocolate Fancies
Adapted from Mary Berry’s Fondant Fancies, BBC Food Recipes

Vanilla Sponge

225g self-raising flour
225g baking butter
225g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
4 eggs

Chocolate Sponge

175g self-raising flour
50g cocoa powder
225g baking butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs

Buttercream
500g unsalted butter, softened
400g icing sugar

Topping
4 tbsp apricot jam
400g marzipan
Red and Green food colouring paste
300g white chocolate cake covering
300g milk chocolate cake covering
>6-8 tbsp softened butter/baking spread
100ml milk

Oven temp 160C
Makes 50 fancies in total

Start with the sponges. Mix all the ingredients together. One bowl for the vanilla sponge, another for the chocolate. Once the mixtures are smooth, tip them into two greased and lined 20cm square tins. Bake in the oven for around 40minutes on 160C, and test with a skewer to check that it’s baked all the way through. Let them cool slightly and then carefully turn them out onto a wire rack. After they’ve cooled completely put in the fridge and get started on the butter cream and apricot glaze.

Heat the apricot jam in a small saucepan; this will change the consistency making it runnier. Sieve the heated apricot jam, take out the cakes from the fridge and using a pastry brush or palette knife spread the apricot mixture evenly on the cake tops.

Roll out the marzipan thinly, and cover both cakes, making sure that it’s neat. Taking a sharp knife cut the sponges into 25 equal squares, so that you have 50 overall (I didn’t say this was an easy mission). Neaten the edges by cutting off any rounded pieces until they’re all neat and square.

For the butter cream beat together the butter and sugar until smooth, fluffy and light in colour. Using a palette knife cover the four sides of each fancy with butter cream, avoiding the base and the marzipan topping. Once again chill, this time for a good half an hour for the butter cream to set a little.

Now it’s time to get messy. Take the milk chocolate covering (for the vanilla sponge) and heat in a heatproof bowl with the butter over a saucepan until the chocolate has melted, ad a splash of milk if necessary. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Either using your fingers, or a fork inserted into the base of each sponge square, dip the fancy into the chocolate mixture. Use a spoon to drizzle more chocolate covering onto the fancy to make sure for even coverage. You’re likely to get covered in chocolate at this stage. Set aside on a board or plate covered in baking parchment to set. After all the vanilla sponge/milk chocolate fancies are complete repeat with the white chocolate covering on the chocolate sponges. Don’t put the fancies in the fridge to set, as the tempered chocolate will lose its shine. Preferably leave overnight.

Using the remaining marzipan dye a small ball of marzipan red, and a slightly larger one in green. I put the marzipan in a food bag along with the coloured paste and kneaded it into the marzipan to prevent the dye ending up everywhere. For each fancy make two mistletoe leaves with the green dye, I did this by taking a small piece of marzipan and pinching the sides, then place in the middle of each fancy. Make three small balls using the red marzipan and place in the middle of the two leaves to complete the mistletoe.

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Place the fancies into a Christmas present box and deliver to your unsuspecting friends.

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Life lessons, onesies and little balls of energy.

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I’ve recently been given words of wisdom. Plural. Rather than learning one thing at a time it seems that life lessons get given in bundles, tied up in ribbon and neatly packed. And this weekend I was given a parade of presents in the form of advice. I graduated from the world of academia and even though I’ve been in the world of work for a few months now, have moved to a new city, and even have a spreadsheet of tax records it’s only now that I can think of myself as a non-student. And consider all the things that life will lead to. So I’m going to share all the life lessons, and a little recipe for how to keep your energy going to experience life to the full.

Mama do

She raised you, bathed you, dressed you (or allowed you to make your own dressing faux-pas), fed you and nursed your bumped head. She’s watched you, and knows you, sometime a little better than you expect. Yes you are stubborn, no you won’t like that, and yes she will let you go off and realise it for yourself. But you can’t deny it, mama knows best at times.

Even if it’s not right doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying

Ever heard yourself say never-ever? Ever done something you don’t want to just to find out that you definitely don’t want to do it? Good girl. Learn from it, move on. At least you now know what ‘never-ever’ actually means. And you know you can survive it.

Live in the moment

Graduation involves a lot of sitting on uncomfortable chairs, fiddling with your robe, listening to speeches. And whilst trying to balance my hat on my head I heard one of the best pieces of advice from a well known woman called Sandi Togsvig, who said “Live in the moment, people ask me what I mean by that. I mean rather than telling people that you’re having a good time by tweeting or on facebook, actually have a good time. With the people who you are with.” It’s silly, and simple but being a bit of an insta-addict I have to admit that there’s nothing more fulfilling than putting your phone away and talking to the people you’re with, experiencing life and enjoying it. Rather than taking a picture of it. Don’t be a painting, be an animation.

Can do, will do

A recent friend of mine told me that if someone tells her she can’t do she finds a way to prove them wrong. She is as she quoted “the best cake-baker who’s never baked”. Someone once asked her if she could knit a hat and she told them that she was brilliant at knitting, without having stitched a single knot. They asked her to make a hat and the next day she had knitted a hat and sold it to them for £30, she then got asked to make some more. Several hundred hats later and a market stall in London she worked out she could knit a hat in under three hours. At the end of the story she declared that she hated knitting. But that’s not the point. The point is that she said yes, be it pride of stubbornness, and knitted a hat.

What’s the point in saying no when you can say yes?

You are young and beautiful

Baz Luhrmann once said “Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself. Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.” There is no need to worry, there is no need to spill any tears. And if you feel like that just remember the house moto “No more crying, just eat cake”. You are young and you are beautiful, and you have life. The rest is crumbs.

And if all else fails, put on your onesie and make some of these.

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Life’s energy balls

Adapted from BBC Vegetarian Christmas 2012

No need to bake, makes 12.

200g dried dates

100  dried cherries

100g dried apricots

2tsp coconut oil

Small bowl of Sesame seeds

Put the dates, apricots and cherries into the food processor and process until it becomes a fine mixture. Add the coconut oil, and using your fingers to break and heat it up, mix in thoroughly into the fruit mixture.

Roll the mixture into 12 equal size balls, and roll into a bowl of the sesame seeds, making sure they’re evenly covered.

Whenever you need the energy to live life have one of these and be on your way. And try mixing it up with some dried strawberries, dried mango, or even some dark chocolate (with a high cocoa percentage) for a small treat.