Monthly Archives: October 2011

Quick and Easy Chocolate Cake

Rich’s company keeps on growing and therefore I must keep on baking…

I was meant to be having some drinks with the team  on Friday evening to take requests, but as I have a nightmare project at my work, by the time I got to the bar almost everyone had gone. Therefore I have had to believe that Rich has spoken to his team and this cake represents their requests. The direction I was given was chocolate.

As always, I opened my copies of Nigella and went to her chocolate section – when I did carrot cake she was unfortunately lacking. It was a toss up between her Malteser Cake from Domestic Goddess or her Old Fashion Chocolate Cake from Feast ; both looked amazing but the icing on the latter won me over. My favourite chocolate icing has been the sour cream one from Delia’s classic complete cookery course. Anyway, I could go on forever about my favourite cook books but I should really get on with the recipe!


Welcoming Stephen to the Company

Recipe: Quick and Easy Chocolate Cake

Ingredients: The Cake

  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 200g Golden Caster Sugar
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1 Pinch Salt
  • 50g Cocoa Powder
  • 175g Butter – Room temperature and very soft
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 150ml Sour Cream


  1. This is super easy.
  2. Preheat the oven to GM 4 (180 C) and grease & line 2 circular 20cm cake tins with plenty of butter and grease proof paper.
  3. Either, add all of the ingredients to a cake mixer and quickly mix or put them into a bowl and mix with a whisk – the electric sort makes it a lot easier! The batter that you get is quite thick but don’t be alarmed, it makes a lovely cake.
  4. Split the batter between the two cake tins and then put into the oven. Cook for about 25 minutes, test and if it’s not ready (ie bounces back when you touch it) put it back in for another five minutes.
  5. Once the cakes are done, leave them to cool on wire racks.

Recipe: Sour Cream Icing

Ingredients: The Icing

  • 75g Butter
  • 175g Chocolate – I use 65%
  • 1 tbsp Golden Syrup
  • 125ml Sour Cream
  • 1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
  • 300g Icing Sugar


  1. On a very low heat, in a heavy pan, melt the butter and the chocolate; keep an eye on it and don’t let it get hot so that nothing goes wrong!
  2. Sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl to get rid of the lumps.
  3. Add the golden syrup to the chocolate – to get the syrup out I find it easiest to heat a tablespoon over the gas and then put that into the syrup and it slides off the spoon. Don’t heat it too much as it might ruin chocolate!
  4. Next, add the sour cream to the sweetened chocolate and then the vanilla.
  5. Whisk in the icing sugar so that the colour lightens and texture smooths.

To decorate the cake put one third of the icing on to the bottom layer and then add the next layer on top.

Add the rest of the icing on to the top of the cake and gently work it down the sides with a knife.
Decorate the top of the cake with bits of fudge or chocolate shavings or nothing.
Eat the cake 🙂
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Nelson the Spider

Nelson on One of His Midnight Web Making Missions

Just a really really quick (and slightly pointless) post about Nelson, our spider.

We haven’t seen him for a few day but I would like to thank him for all of the fun that he gave us whilst he was making his web. For anyone that doesn’t like spiders watching them at their work is amazing, plus Nelson was a bit of a character. Here are a few pictures of him and his work.

Nelson's Work in the Morning Dew - Fabulous!

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Carrot Cake

Rich has just had another member of staff join him at the Gadgetplex, so to celebrate I thought that I would make the team a cake. I asked Rich for inspiration and he choose carrot cake – it was meant to be the team but I guess that he’s the boss!

It was then that I realised that I don’t think that I have ever made a carrot cake – I have eaten plenty but it does tend to be one of those cakes that you eat when you are trying to be good; carrots are a vegetable after all. I did a search online and found a lot of recipes that play around with the basics – marscapone instead of cream cheese, coconut, pineapple, the list goes on…The thing that I was looking for is that cinnamon infused, faintly bicarb tasting, moist cake with hidden surprises of raisins and walnuts topped with an incredibly rich icing – or should I say frosting?

I realise that this looks like a lot of ingredients – something of a running theme on in my recipes – but it’s actually really simple; mix the dry ingredient, mix the wet ones, add them together, cook it, mix the icing, waiting until everything is cool, put it together and eat.


This is what happens when you don't chill the icing enough - lesson learnt

Recipe: Carrot Cake


  • 100g Raisins
  • 50ml Sloe Gin
  • 175g Plain Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Ground Cloves
  • ½ tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 200g Soft Brown Sugar
  • 150ml Rapeseed Oil
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 150-200g Grated Carrot – about 3 small ones
  • 75g chopped Walnuts
  • 1 tbsp Tahini
  • 200g Cream Cheese
  • 100g Butter Soften
  • Zest of an Orange
  • 1 tbsp Orange Juice
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 250g Icing Sugar


  1. Preheat your over to gas mark 4.
  2. Grease and line two 9 inch cake tins.
  3. In a pan, bring the gin and raisins to the boil; simmer for about 5 minutes and then leave the raisins to soak up the liquid. FYI you can easily use rum or tea but I often have sloe gin…
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarb into a bowl and add the dried spice.
  5. In another large bowl, mix the sugar and oil.
  6. Add the eggs to the sugar mix, one by one, then add the carrot, walnuts, tahini and raisins.
  7. Gentle fold in the spiced flour and then split between the two cake tins. Put in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes until the cakes are cooked.
  8. Whilst you are waiting for the cakes to cook get on with the icing.
  9. Beat the orange zest, cheese and butter until it’s smooth.
  10. Add the vanilla and orange juice to the cheese mix and then gradually beat in the icing sugar.
  11. Once all of the sugar is mixed in out the icing into the fridge for about 10 minutes to firm up slightly.
  12. When the cakes are cooked – they should spring up when you press them and be slightly coming away from the sides of their tin – place them onto a wire rack to cool.
  13. Ice the cakes generously in the centre and on the top, if necessary let the icing slip down the sides (make sure that the cake is on its serving dish if you do!). Decorate with walnuts and serve – as Rich would say “om nom nom nom…”

Quick notes

This recipe is based on Dan Lepard’s “How to Bake” Carrot Cake with a couple of tweeks


If you don’t like raisins leave them out, same goes with walnuts. I think that this is one of those recipes that’s pretty tolerant – next time I make it I’m going to try adding banana

Preparation time: 25 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Number of servings (yield): 8

My rating 4 stars:  ????? 1 review(s)

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The last time I had focaccia was when Rich and I were in Italy, last year, and it was made by an Italian Mama outside a trulli on a Puglian hillside. The first thing that struck me about it was how wet her dough was; it was basically like a cake batter! It was cooked in a traditional pizza oven and was amazing. The sort of bread that you can’t (and don’t) want to stop eating.Suffice it to say, I didn’t really fancy making it.
Then, when I was watching the BBC’s “Great British Bake-Off” one of their technical challenges was to make focaccia. For anyone that has not seen the TV genius that is GBBO, this is when the contestants are given the outline of a recipe and they need to use their knowledge to fill in the gaps. It was amazing how many people didn’t add all of the water as they thought it was already wet enough. But to me, even those that did use all of the water didn’t have a wet enough dough. After watching it on the telly I decided that I should make focaccia and see what all of the fuss was about – so here is my recipe!

This is a bread waiting to go into the hot oven

Recipe: Focaccia


  • 1 tbsp Dried Active Yeast
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil – Extra Virgin please…
  • 400ml Hand-Hot Water
  • 1 tsp Sugar (or honey)
  • 500g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • Addition Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt (as always I use Maldons)


  1. With the yeast that I use you need to bring it back to life by warming it up and giving it some food. Therefore in a bowl add the water, sugar and yeast. Give it a stir and then leave it in a warm place to “wake-up” for about 15 minutes. Once there are bubbles over the surface you are ready for the next bit.
  2. Weigh out the flour and then mix in the salt in a large bowl. Give the yeast mixture a stir and add to the flour with the olive oil; mix everything thoroughly.
  3. Then you need to kind-of kneed the dough/batter which is easiest to do in the bowl using the sides to draw the mixture in.
  4. After about 10 minutes of this you will notice that the batter has changed consistency and feels silkiey – although it will never form one of those satisfying balls that normal bread turns into.
  5. Leave the mix in the bowl covered in a tea-towel or oiled cling film in a warm place for about an hour until it has doubled in size.
  6. Knock the dough back and kneed for about five minutes on a thoroughly oiled surface – make sure that your hands are also oiled.
  7. Shape the mix into a well oiled roasting tin. I used my large shallow one which is about 12 inches by 20.
  8. Leave in a warm place to prove for about another hour.
  9. After this time poke at the dough with your fingers to make the characteristic dimples, drizzle with yet more oil and sprinkle with salt.
  10. Put it into an oven at GM 7 for about 20 minutes, until it is golden brown.
  11. Serve with a tomato salad and east as soon as possible

Quick notes

Use a really good olive oil for this and you won’t be disappointed the flavour really comes through.


Add a sprinkling of chilli or herbs

Preparation time: 3 hour(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Number of servings (yield): 8

Culinary tradition: Italian

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