Thursday, 1 January 2009

Chocolate Bundt Cake

I didn't bake a lot over Christmas this year which is something I regretted because I love to bake, even more so at Christmas. Something about always having homebaked cakes, buns, bread and cookies around the house just makes it seem more like the holidays.

My Dad always made fun of my pathetic attempts at baking and cooking when I was younger and for good reason. Coconut ice anyone? Even I couldn't force down a piece of that anymore.

But in the last five years or so, he's had a complete change of heart. Something about me actually being a pretty good cook when I put my mind to it. Nothing like blowing your own horn eh?

Still it seems once I got past the idea that food had to be expensive, elaborate and slaved over I started to cook well and more importantly, bake well.

My Dad is a baker. He works in a bakery. So he has really started to enjoy the things I make. I tend to make far too much as there are only three of us in the house so at least half of everything makes its way to his house.

My Dad has made a point the last few years to give me kitcheny items for birthday and Christmas presents. This year was no exception. He gave me a very large (I get the hint dad) cake tin. It's 28cm across and comes with two bases, one decorative ring mould base and one plain flat base. It would be about the size of the bottom layer of a pretty big wedding cake if I used the flat layer, so I didn't.

I've never baked in a decorative tin before, apart from Toots little teddy bear and butterfly silcone moulds, but nothing this size and I wanted to make sure the cake would come out of the tin in one piece.

It did.

Doesn't that just look (almost) too good to eat. Notice the huge slice taken out of it before I could even take the photo.

It's the simplest recipe to make as well.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

Taken from a recipe on zaar called The Absolute Best Moist One-Bowl Dark Chocolate Bundt Cake. I can say that it definitely more than lives up to its name.

2/3 cup cocoa, sifted (I didn't bother)
2 1/4 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar (I used about 1 1/2)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt (I didn't use any)
1 1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
1 1/2 cups unsweetened orange juice (I only had sweetened and thats why i reduced the sugar and I used half orange and half water)
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil. (Actually you could probably replace some of this with apple sauce if the thought of all that oil puts you off)

Pre-heat oven to 180C (350F)

Generousy grease a bundt pan. (I would say this recipe would do three 8 inch cake tins or a 13 x 9 inch tin)

Put all ingredients in one large bowl and beat until well conbined. Pour into cake tin and bake for approximately 1 hour until done. Mine took just a little less than one hour, so probably best to test from about 45 minutes onwards.

If your using a 13 x 9 pan I would test from about 35-45 minutes and for the smaller 8 inch tins from about 25 minutes onwards.

Its best if you have moist crumbs left on the toothpick when testing for doneness, like brownie crumbs.

The recipe on zaar also includes a recipe for a struesal, half fill the pan, sprinkle over the streusal and pour the rest of the batter over, but I didn't use it.

The glaze I used was just a simple ganache, equal quantities of double cream and dark chocolate. Heat the cream in a pan until just before boiling, add the chopped chocolate, let it sit for a minute or two and then stir until combined.

I should really have let the glaze cool a bit more before pouring it over but I just couldn't wait to try it so most of it wound up puddled on the plate.

Still good though.

Chocolate Cupcakes

Seriously, who doesn't like chocolate.

I love chocolate.

No. I really love chocolate. And I love cupcakes, so these little babies rock my world.

They're a bit different because they contain buttermilk (or vinegar and milk combined if you can't get buttermilk) so I wouldn't recommend licking the spoon. The batter just tastes weird.

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 1/4 cups plain (all purpose) flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 tsp baking soda (bicarb)
1/2 cup (4oz) butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 180C (350F)

Cream Butter and sugar, add egg and vanilla and beat well.

Alternate adding buttermilk and flour until all is combined.

Line a 12 cup muffin pan and divide batter evenly.

Bake for 20-25 minutes a skewer comes out clean.

Remove to a cooling rack and once cool frost with;

Chocolate buttercream

4oz icing sugar
2oz butter

4 oz dark chocolate melted
(a little milk)

Cream butter and sugar together to make buttercream, add melted chocolate and beat again to combine. Add a little milk if the buttercream seems a little dry or you prefer a messier (nothing wrong with that) frosting.

Chocolate cupcakes definitely work for me. For more great WFMW ideas head on over to Rocks in my Dryer.


I've been absolutely addicted to these lately.

I only learnt how to make them a few weeks ago (shameful I know) but I haven't stopped since. I figured since I'm a very nice person, I'd pass on the world's simplest recipe.

We're having a bit of a potato famine in the SeetheWoods House lately because of price and quality and I've replaced the humble spud with these.

Chapatis (makes 12)

12oz plain or wholemeal flour

1tsp salt


Mix salt with flour in a bowl, add a little water and start to mix with your fingers. You just add enough water so that it comes together in a ball. It should feel similar to play dough, soft but not so soft it sticks to your hands.

You can make the dough and cover until you're ready to use.

When ready, divide the dough into 12 portions, roll into 5-6 inch rounds (or squares or misshapes, I'm not fussy).

Add enough vegetable oil and a small amount of butter (don't worry if the butter burns a bit, it only makes them taste better) to a heavy frying pan and fry each one over a medium/high heat for about 45 seconds to 1 minute per side.

They puff up slightly when they're done. If you're feeling really adventurous you can hold them over a naked gas flame and they puff up to look like little balloons.

They can be kept warm in an oven until you are ready to serve, but I wouldn't recommend letting them cool and reheating.

This is the basic recipe, feel free to play around with it. I almost always add some garlic power or some dried herbs.

They're also good layered in a casserole with chilli and covered with some grated cheese, like a mock lasagna with a kick.

Let me know if you have any other good ideas on how to use these (Have I mentioned I'm addicted).

Rock Buns

I was given this recipe by a friend about two months ago and it has quickly turned into a weekend breakfast staple.

They're quick and easy to make and the first time toots tried one she closed her eyes and said "Hmmm, delicious". How's that for a seal of approval.

Rock Buns

220g self raising flour

110g butter or marg

110g brown sugar

80g currants

15g glace cherries (chopped)

15g peel

One egg

tsp cinnamon

a pinch of fresh grated nutmeg

Rub the butter into the flour, add the brown sugar, fruit peel and spices and mix. Add beaten egg and mix to combine (if it's a little dry add a splash of milk). It should resemble the consistency of cookies which are rolled into balls before baking.

Split the dough into six portions, don't worry too much about rolling it into perfect balls, there should be a bit craggy. Place them on a cookie sheet leaving room for some spreading and bake at 200C for 20 minutes. Leave them to cool for about ten minutes on the sheet and then just serve with butter and jam. It's easier to just break pieces off these and smear some butter on rather than try to slice them like a traditional scone.

Now that's the original as provided to me. When I came to make them to first time I didn't have any currents, nor did I have cherries, or peel for that matter. I did have raisins and I used those and they were "Hmmm delicious". Since I made them the first time I usually plan ahead now and soak the raisins in the beaten egg in the fridge over night and it makes the raisins lovely and plump. Also I don't bother with the rubbing in, I just throw everything into one bowl and use my handheld electric mixer, doesn't seem to do it any harm.

Homemade Vanilla Sugar

Photo courtesy of Simon Goldenberg at Flickr

This is an easy way to get most out of vanilla pods. Depending on where they are bought they can be quite expensive. I've found that the cheapest place to buy these is at the Asian Supermarket, they're normally around £1.50 for three compared to over £1 for one in any normal supermarket.

I love vanilla, can't get enough of the stuff and when given the option always prefer to use pods instead of essence or extract, although I will use these for day to day things.

I use vanilla to flavour pavlova, whipped cream, custards and ice cream.

The first time I use a vanilla pod I will split it open lengthwise and remove the seeds, using these to flavour a liquid, particularly ice cream, I like the little flecks of black studded through the creamy white of the cream. Some people prefer they're vanilla ice cream to be pristine white, I am not one of those people.

I will then store the pod in an airtight container until the next time I need it which will again be to flavour a liquid. I most often use the pod this time to flavour a cooked custard, adding the pod to the milk or cream in the pan and allowing it to infuse while the custard cooks and thickens. Once the pod has done it's work I quickly rinse it under the tap and leave it somewhere warm to dry out a little.

Once the pod has dried out, measure out enough caster (superfine) sugar for around four recipes, normally about 500g in my house. Whatever your favourite recipes are, the things you make most often and preferably a recipe which contains vanilla.

Add vanilla pod to a blender and pulse until finely chopped, once it doesn't seem to be getting any smaller, add the sugar and pulse again for another 30 seconds or so to distribute the vanilla. Store in an airtight container and use in your favourite cake and cookie recipes in place of regular sugar and vanilla. Feel free to use half and half, vanilla sugar and regular sugar for a just a warm hint of flavour. This can also be used to sweeten coffee, fruit and homemade hot chocolate.

Six or more uses from one vanilla pod at the price I pay brings it down to roughly 8p per recipe. I can live with that, especially when I get a beautifully flavoured dessert.

Times are a bit lean at the minute and the first thing sacrificed is usually desserts. Sometimes a little of what you fancy is good for the heart and can make you feel so much less "hard done by" in times of a tightening budget. A great way to use this sugar and one of my favourite recipes, is rice pudding. I'll be posting a recipe for this very soon.


Champ Potatoes

This week over at
Rocks in my Dryer, WFMW is themed - Recipes using five items or less.

I love champ, it's easy, cheap and absolutely gorgeous, all by itself.


Floury potatoes, enough for your family. I usually use five good sized potatoes, the ones that fill the palm of your hand.

Scallions (spring onions) - one onion for each potato, finely sliced into little rings, green and white. You can get fancy with this if you like by cutting them at an angle.

Butter - don't try to skip this, it ain't champ if it doesn't have butter.

Milk - about half a cup for the amount of potatoes above.

Peel, cube and cook potatoes until tender.

Strain the water away from the potatoes and leave in the pot or in a colander uncovered to allow any remaining water to steam off.

In the meantime, put milk and scallions into a pan and bring to the boil, turn off heat and leave to rest.

Mash the potatoes until smooth and add milk and scallions and beat into the potatoes, add butter and beat again and season to taste.

Serve all by itself, as a side or use leftover cold champ to make fishcakes. This is great with good pork sausages.

The kitchen bar in Belfast used to serve champ in a pile, with a well made in the centre and a raw egg yolk cracked in and covered over with the potatoes. It would be left to sit for a few minutes to allow the heat from the potatoes to just barely cook the egg yolk and then eaten. It was beautiful. They don't do it anymore, it's up to you if you want to try it. You need to be pretty confident about your eggs for this one, although a soft poached egg on top is just as good.

There you go five items or less *ahem ... not counting the seasoning*

Give it a try and let my know how you get on. This recipe works for me and for more recipes which work for other people, take a look at WFMW over with Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer.

Also for more great recipes using potatoes, rice, pasta and bread check out the
Frugal Food Series at Frugal Upstate.

Eggy Grilled Cheese

This recipe is great for a quick lunch or snack, it can get a little messy if your not quick.

You'll find this works best with supermarket bread because you can kind of mash the edges together to hold the filling inside. You can use your own homemade good bread however you may need to work a little harder to get the edges to hold together, I would definitely recommend removing the crusts if you're using good bread

Eggy Grilled Cheese

Two slices of white bread

Cheese, whichever takes your fancy or you happen to have on hand. Mozzarella works as does good cheddar or some good swiss cheese.

One egg beaten and seasoned.

Sliced cheese and arrange on one slice of bread leaving about a centimetre or two of uncovered bread around the edge (you can remove the crusts if you prefer. If I do this I toss them in a bag in the freezer until I have enough for something that needs breadcrumbs.

Place the second slice of bread on top of the first and squeeze and press the edges together until they hold. If it's supermarket (plastic) bread they will.

With the beaten egg poured onto a plate or wide bottomed bowl quickly dip each side of the bread into the egg and then place in a non stick pan or lightly oiled skillet over a medium heat.

Check after about two minutes to see if the egg has set on the bottom, for a deeper colour lift the bread and place a small knob of butter underneath and leave for a further minute to help brown the bread.

Turn the bread and repeat for other side.


This is excellent on it's own or with some good tomato (marinara) sauce to dip into for that "pizza on the fly" taste.

For more great frugal recipes with eggs head over to Jenn at Frugal Upstate for the
Frugal Food Series.



This month Jenn over at
Frugal Upstate is hosting a Frugal Food Series.

With all living costs increasing on what seems like a weekly basis it's time to tighten our belts.

The most obvious and easiest way to do this is to cut back on food bills.

The first week of the series concentrates on eggs. Now I love eggs, can't get enough of them so I have a large collection of eggy recipes. However my favorite is a basic recipe for a Frittata. The reason I like this recipe so much and use it so often is that is great for helping to clear out the fridge.
The basic recipe is as follows;

tbls oil
4 eggs - beaten and seasoned to taste
approx 1 cup of cooked cubed potato (about 1cm cubes)
approx 1 cup of sliced onion

Heat oil in a non-stick shallow pan

Gently cook onion in oil for about ten minutes taking care not to allow only the slightest colour on the onions.

Add potatoes and cook for a further five minutes until heated through and just starting to colour at the edges.

Making sure the ingredients are evenly distributed in the pan, add beaten eggs to the pan and allow to cook on a low heat until the eggs set on the bottom and should start to set around the edges of the pan.

Place pan under a medium grill until the top of the frittata sets .

Don't let this recipe limit you. I have added all types of leftovers to this basic recipe with great results. Just always bear in mind that if you have a huge heaping pan of leftovers add enough egg to bind the ingredients together. You should be able to slice the frittata like a cake into wedges.

A frittata can be eaten at any time of the day. I have served fit or breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's also lovely cooked and left to cool and either eaten as a snack or with a salad and some good bread.

For more eggy ideas to feed your family head over to the
Frugal Food Series at Frugal Upstate. Don't forget to check out some of Jenn's other invaluable posts while your there.