Banana and chocolate cake

I’m on a hunt for a good banana bread recipe. I’ve tried a couple of recipes and none are quite hitting the mark. This one is totally delicious straight out of the oven but it’s definitely more of a cake than a ‘bread’. It was wonderful for a little afternoon tea but the next day I found it too moist. You should be able to spread banana bread with butter!!

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It’s based on a Nigel Slater recipe we changed because we didn’t have the right sugar and I couldn’t be bothered to grate the chocolate. I should add Lexie loved this cake – both making and eating it! She was great at mashing the bananas with a fork, cracking open the eggs and helping me break the chocolate (i.e. trying to eat as much of it as possible).

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Banana and chocolate cake

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 125g soft butter
  • 235g brown sugar (we used demerara which is pretty crunchy but it was tasty!)
  • 400g peeled weight of ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • loaf tin, 24 x 12 x 7, lined with baking paper
  • 1 big bar of milk chocolate

Preheat the oven 180/gas 4. Cream together the sugar and butter. Beat the eggs and add the vanilla extract then add this to the sugar/butter mix.

On a plate mash the bananas with a fork so they are still a bit lumpy. Break the chocolate into large chunks and mix into the banana. Add all of this to the sugar/egg mixture.

Mix the flour and baking powder then slowly sift and fold this into the mixture. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake in the oven for about 50 mins. Use a knife or a strand of spaghetti to check it’s done by skewering the middle of the cake – it should come out clean. If it’s still gooey, cover with foil and bake for a few more mins.

Once it’s done let it cool for 15 mins then remove from the tin. Let it to cool a little longer then remove from the paper and serve in thick slices.

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Strawberries and cream

One of my favourite things to do in June is eat buckets of strawberries with sweet cream, ideally watching Wimbledon. Heaven. This is barely a recipe but it’s so good I’m posting it anyway. British strawberries are everywhere at the moment and they are so delicious it’s worth waiting once a year for this treat.

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Strawberries and cream

  • punnet of strawberries, washed and sliced if preferable
  • 1 tub of double cream
  • caster sugar
  • packet of good quality shortbread biscuits

Whip the double cream, slowly adding sugar once it’s started to thicken. Keep tasting so you add the amount of sugar you like. Once the cream is thick serve a big dollop of it with the strawberries and a shortbread biscuit (or two!) per person.

Lemon raspberry cupcakes

This recipe comes from Lewis’s cousin Laura. It’s originally meant to be crunchy lemon squares but she always makes it as a lemon drizzle cake. It’s so delicious I’ve made it for Lexie’s birthday 2 years in a row, although using a lemon buttercream icing instead of the drizzle for the purpose of adding sprinkles!

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We recently tried it as cupcakes for a pretty little picnic in the garden, taking advantage of the cherry blossom that was in full bloom. The addition of raspberries was a Lexie request that worked really well. The garden is proving to be a godsend for me given sleep is still broken and Lexie’s energy levels are high. Our favourite new game involves me lying on a rug with Finny and counting while Lex runs laps around the garden (ha ha ha exhausted mum)! We also like watching all the musicians come and go (the old church is now an orchestra rehearsal studio) or meeting up with Lexie’s little friends who also live on the square.

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Here I’ve written down the recipe for a standard cake with the lemon drizzle, adding raspberries because they were delicious. It’s very easy to change to make cupcakes, just divide the mixture into cupcake or muffin liners and adjust the cooking time. The lemon buttercream recipe is at the end in case you’d rather use that icing instead of the drizzle.

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Lemon drizzle cupcakes with raspberries

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4oz butter, cubed
  • 6oz self raising flour
  • 1 tspn baking powder
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 4 tbsps lemon/orange juice
  • rind 1 lemon & 1 orange
  • handful of raspberries

Lemon drizzle icing

  • Juice 2 lemons
  • 4oz granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180c. Cream together the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy using a wooden spoon. Then add the eggs, lemon/orange juice and rind. Sift together the flour and baking powder and mix this into the bowl.

Grease and line bottom of oblong tin 7”x9”” (as per original recipe) or a round tin 8″ (200mm) if making a cake. Or put cupcake/muffin liners in a muffin tray – we prefer muffin liners to make bigger cupcakes!

Dollop the mixture into the tin or cupcake liners – if making cupcakes fill the liners half full as they rise a lot. Sprinkle fresh raspberries over the top and lightly push into the mixture.

Bake in the centre of the oven at 180c. If making a cake bake for 30 mins (less if fan oven) until golden brown, springy and slightly shrunk from edges. If making cupcakes check them after 15 minutes, ours took just under 20 mins and were starting to burn!

To make the drizzle, mix the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Then pour over the cake while the sponge is still hot. If making cupcakes you only need a tablespoon of drizzle per cupcake, maybe even less. Leave until cold and then enjoy!

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If using lemon buttercream icing instead of the drizzle

  • 125g soft butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • juice 1 lemon

Put the butter and half of the icing sugar into a bowl, and beat with an electric whisk until evenly combined and smooth. Add the lemon juice and the remaining icing sugar, and beat again until light and fluffy. Dollop on top of the cooled cake or cupcakes and decorate with sprinkles!

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Fluffy pancakes

I’ve mentioned before we’ve started baking a lot with Lexie, especially at the weekends. What with PANCAKE DAY around the corner I thought I’d post one of our pancake recipes. Lewis is the master of crepes, while I usually do ‘fluffy pancakes’, her name for fat american style pancakes. Here’s how to make them. (Sorry for the massive pictures – not sure how to fix this)

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Fluffy pancakes

  • 350 g of flour
  • 80 g of sugar (or 100 g if you want them sweeter)
  • 2½  teaspoon of baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 500 ml buttermilk (make this by adding 2 tbsp of lemon juice to the milk and leaving to stand for 10 mins)
  • 2 big eggs
  • 50 g of melted butter
  • 1 packet of fresh blueberries – optional

This recipe comes from Babyccino Kids. We’ve tried lots of other recipes but this one has always worked best for us.

Mix the dry ingredients – the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and salt. Then in another bowl bowl mix the wet ingredients – the buttermilk, eggs and melted butter.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until it is just combined, don’t over stir. If using, add the blueberries. Definitely let the batter sit for 10-15 mins – this makes a huge difference.

Melt a little butter in a frying pan that is on a medium heat. When it’s hot pour in a ladle of batter. Wait until little bubbles have started appearing in the pancake and then flip over, a couple of mins per side.

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For toppings we usually have:

  • If plain pancakes – streaky bacon and maple syrup
  • If blueberry pancakes – extra chopped banana and maple syrup
  • A mix of fresh berries and creme fraiche or yoghurt, drizzled with agave syrup or maple syrup. Or vanilla ice cream for a special treat!
  • Berry compote – cherry or blackberry are particularly good – with creme fraiche or yoghurt. (I prefer this topping on crepes).

A quick berry compote

A punnet of berries – any you like – I recently did blackberries
2 tbps caster sugar (to taste)
1 tbsp water
Squeeze of lemon

Put everything in a saucepan and bubble on a low heat until the berries are bursting. Taste the compote for sweetness, I like mine quite sweet but you can adjust the sugar to suit your taste.

A note about syrups

Although maple syrup is classically used for american pancakes you can replace with agave syrup or honey or even sugar if you prefer. According to Gwyneth Paltrow agave syrup is “super low on the glycaemic index and has lots of minerals including potassium, magnesium, iron and calcium.” Vermont maple syrup is also low on the glycaemic index and is “a great source of manganese and zinc.” There you go!

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Blueberry muffins

I’m so proud of Lexie who is proving to be a super star big sister. All our worries about how she would react to Finn’s arrival disappeared the moment they met, she was completely delighted to meet him. And this remains the case. She shrieks with laughter at the smallest things he does, loves being next to him, and shouts at anyone who tries to hold him: “Don’t touch MY brother!!!”

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We had a few weeks of wild behaviour from her which seems to have stopped and generally she’s a very energetic bundle of delight. Even at her best, it’s challenging spending long periods of time at home so it’s always nice to have some fun activities up my sleeve to keep us both from going bonkers. She’s really into baking at the moment, cookies or cupcakes which gives us something to do before her bath these long winter afternoons. For breakfast on the weekend she makes crepes with her dad and fluffy pancakes or blueberry muffins with me.

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Here is our go-to recipe for foolproof blueberry muffins, taken from Gwyneth Paltrow’s first cook book, which isn’t macrobiotic and has some fantastic recipes, although it’s still full of ridiculous quotes, such as this one by her young daughter Apple: “I’m not gluten-free, but I really like gluten-free food!” ?!? Lexie really likes sorting the cupcake liners and putting them into the tray, breaking eggs which she does on her own, stirring the batter and, of course, licking the spoon!

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Blueberry muffins

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Serves: 4

  • 125g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 125ml milk
  • 225g plain flour
  • 175g plus 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 300g fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 190/gas 5 and line a cupcake or muffin tray with paper cases.

Mix together the dry ingredients, so the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In another bowl mix the wet ingredients, the butter, eggs and milk.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then fold in the blueberries. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and sprinkle the extra tsp of sugar on top to give a crunchy glaze.

Pop in the oven and bake until the muffins are golden brown, around 25-30 mins. If you want you can test them with a cocktail stick, they are done when it comes out clean. Leave for 10 mins and eat with some lovely fresh coffee! Or with a crying baby!

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Bel’s orange French toast

Actually this is Nigella’s French toast but the first time I had this was at my friend Bel’s brunch, so in my eyes it’s her recipe! I’m not the hugest fan of French toast, preferring pancakes or croissants, but I really love this version. There is something utterly amazing about the orangey syrup you drizzle over the toast. Something also utterly unkidfriendly – neither of our kids would touch it. Leaving the syrup off and offering the kids sugar to sprinkle proved more popular but I’m kind of thinking this recipe would be perfect for a kids-free girls brunch with a bottle of bubbles! Pic below is of lovely Bel – thank you for the recipe honey!!

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Bel’s orange french toast

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 5 mins per batch
Serves 2
Ease: Easy
Budget: £5 (£1.25 bread, £2 marmalade, £1.50 eggs, 30p orange)
Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 60 ml milk
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 large, thick slices white bread
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 75 grams marmalade
  • 50 grams caster sugar
  • Butter

Mix the eggs, orange zest, milk and ground cinnamon in a wide shallow dish. Then soak the bread slices in this mixture for roughly 2 minutes per side. Meanwhile, bring the orange juice, marmalade and sugar to the boil in a saucepan then simmer for 3-4 minutes. Heat the butter in a frying pan and cook the eggy bread for about 2 minutes a side over a medium heat until golden. Serve the French toast with some of the orangey syrup poured over each slice, and some extra syrup on the side. If trying this for kids, leave the syrup off and offer sugar to sprinkle instead.

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Instead of eating brunch Lexie dressed Arlo in a tutu.

Chocolate and almond cake

Hmm my last recipe was sweet and so is this one… Looks like I’m getting to the ‘cake’ phase of pregnancy. With Lexie, I had a sugar aversion during my first trimester but, by the time I finished breastfeeding, cake had become a major food group. A la ‘sleeping child = nice cup of tea/coffee and slice of cake.’ Indeed it is 3:37pm and, after a lovely and hectic morning at the London Transport museum my child is asleep. Here I sit with a lovely little latte and a slice of this scrummy chocolate and almond cake. If only my flat were tidy rather than toy strewn madhouse then we’d be pretty close to nirvana… (yes I could be tidying up instead of blogging BUT I’M NOT.)

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That picture is not my slice! That’s what is left of the cake at the moment. My much more reasonable portion is pictured below. The other pictures are from the London Transport museum. Ok so the recipe is another recommendation from my friend Dani. I’ve made it about 6 times now and think it tastes better the next day or even after a few days. It’s a Hugh Fearnley jobby (his recipes are so reliable I find, as if he’s Delia’s prodigal son) but I’ve changed it a little after a few mishaps/larder emergencies. I had no caster sugar so twice I used granulated white sugar. I’ve since made the recipe properly (and also once with a bar of Lindt chocolate orange by mistake) and I prefer it with granulated sugar. Lewis says I’m cray cray as one must always bake with caster sugar but I think granulated gives it a cruncher crumb and nicer texture. I also usually half or third the recipe as it’s a big cake.

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Chocolate and almond cake

Prep time: 15-20 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Budget: £5-£10 depending on what essentials you have £5-£10 (£5 chocolate, £1.50 eggs)
Ease: Easy to medium
Serves: At least 6
Ingredients:

  • 250g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids – we use Lindt), broken into chunks
  • 250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 4 medium eggs, separated
  • 200g granulated sugar!!!! Or as the original recipe states either 100g caster mixed with 100g soft light brown sugar OR 200g just caster sugar)
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 23cm springform cake tin

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Preheat the oven to 170/gas 3 and grease the cake tin with butter. I use the leftover paper from the butter used in the recipe to do this. Put the chocolate and butter in a bain marie or, as I do, in a smaller saucepan suspended over a larger pan of barely simmering water, ideally making sure the water isn’t touching the smaller pan. Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate have melted.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until well combined. Then stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Combine the flour and almonds and then fold these in.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold firm peaks. Stir a large spoonful of egg white into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites with a large metal spoon, trying to keep in as much air as possible. When I first made this, I didn’t mix the egg white in properly so my cake was marbled with streaks of chewy egg white. So it should be a glossy brown when you are done.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin, place in the oven and bake for about 30 mins, until only just set. Hugh says: “It should still wobble slightly in the centre – this means the cake will have a divinely sticky, fudgy texture once it’s cooled down.” YUMMY! Then leave to cool for 10-15 mins before taking it out of the tin. It tastes better cold than warm and way better the next day, especially if you use the granulated sugar.

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