French Macarons Inspired by Persian Love Cake

Macarons used to terrify me. Not eating them… that was easy enough. Making them though scared me so much that I very rarely attempted them. My very first attempt, shockingly, was a success. Others after that were a disaster, with nothing but cracked macarons, very unelegant!

There are 2 methods of making macarons, French or Italian. A lot of my friends advised me to try the Italian method as that seemed to make the shells more stable. That method involves boiling sugar and water and adding it to the egg whites. I can be a real stickler for detail though, which can be a real pain in the backside. The stickler in me decided that as macarons are a French treat, I wanted to be able to make them the French way. I found a wonderful book in a set of 3 published by Love Food. This book is called Macaroons and has lots of different recipes. I’ve tried a few now and each time they’ve come out perfectly. My Persian Love Cake Macaron recipe is based around the recipes I picked up from this book.

The story of the Persian Love Cake is a beautiful tale of love and romance, which really appeals to me. Depending on which version you follow, it shows that the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach! A lady fell in love with a Persian prince and baked him a beautiful cake as a symbol of her love. In the version I like to believe, the prince fell in love with her and they lived happily ever after. In the other version, the prince was allergic to one of the ingredients and died. Boo hiss. I don’t like that version! There are nuts in these macarons though so make sure the person you give them to doesn’t have a nut allergy!!!

The macaron shells are flavoured with cardamom and rosewater. You can buy ground cardamom but the very best flavour and aroma comes from grinding them yourself. For baking purposes, you need green cardamom pods. Black ones are much more savoury and not suited for sweet bakes. The pods are quite hard, but break them open to reveal the cardamom seeds. It is these that you need. Grind them as finely as you can using a pestle and mortar. You can buy them in the spice section of supermarkets, or a great online seller for all your spice needs is The Spiceworks. They also sell dried rose petals in various sized bags, which are used to decorate these macarons.

Another ingredient in Persian Love Cake is saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. It is derived from the stigmas of the crocus flower, and is handpicked as there is no machine capable of such a delicate job. I use saffron from The Persian TraderThey only use the most superior grade of saffron from farms in North Iran, with the most intense colour, flavour and aroma. Cheaper versions can be bought but they are sometimes artificially dyed or mixed with less superior grades. As saffron is so expensive, you may as well make sure you’re getting the very best for your money. And believe me when I say you only need to use the tiniest amount, so a jar lasts forever!

Persian Love Cake is also flavoured with pistachio nuts. As macarons already have ground almonds I didn’t want to add extra nuts but wanted the flavour of the pistachio. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Monin syrups and had a bottle of pistachio syrup already. This was perfect to make a pistachio buttercream. The flavour was all there but the texture was beautifully smooth.

Enough waffling… here’s the recipe.

PERSIAN LOVE CAKE MACARONS

FOR THE MACARON SHELLS

115 g icing sugar

75 g ground almonds

Seeds from 5 green cardamom pods, ground very finely

2 large egg whites, must be at room temperature

50 g caster sugar

Half tsp rosewater

Pink food colouring, gel or paste but not liquid

FOR THE FILLING AND DECORATION

115 g icing sugar, sieved

55 g unsalted butter, softened

1.5 tbsp Monin pistachio syrup

dried rose petals and saffron to decorate

  • Using a food processor fitted with a sharp blade, blitz the icing sugar, ground almonds and cardamom until it is like powder, around 20-25 seconds. Sift this into a small bowl using a fine-meshed sieve. If there are any bits left in the sieve, throw them away.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. This means that when you lift the whisk, peaks will form but the tips of them will fold back over. I find it is best to use an electric handheld whisk for this, but you can use a stand mixer if you prefer. Add the caster sugar very gradually, whisking well each time you add any. The meringue mix will become glossy. Add the rosewater and enough food colouring to give the meringue a beautiful pink colour, and whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks. This means that when you lift the whisk, peaks will form and will not fold over.
  • This next part is the stage that is most likely to cause problems if not done right, so be extra careful at this point. Tip a third of the almond mixture in with the meringue and use a flexible spatula to very gently fold the dry mixture in to the meringue. I scrape around the bowl, then lift the mixture from underneath and fold it over, occasionally cutting through the middle. When it is all combined, tip another third of the almond mixture in and repeat. At this point it will start to firm up a bit. Finally add the last third of the almonds, and fold as before until fully incorporated in to the mixture. It will be quite firm now. Keep folding gently until the batter loosens a bit. When it is ready to pipe, it will be glossy and smooth, and when you lift the spatula out of the mixture and let some fall off, it will lie in a trail on top of the batter for around 30 seconds without losing it’s shape. If you over-mix at this point allowing the batter to go too runny, your macarons will not hold their shape when piped.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. (I have a fan oven, so to make sure the breeze from the fan doesn’t lift the paper, use a tiny bit of the meringue mixture left on your electric whisk to stick the corners of the paper to your baking sheets). Spoon the mixture in to a large piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle. Or if you are using disposable piping bags, just snip the end off to make a 1cm opening. Pipe 16 macarons on to each sheet, around 3 cm wide. To do this, just hold your piping bag vertically almost touching the paper, and squeeze until the mixture spreads to around 3 cm. Lift and repeat to pipe 4 rows of 4 shells on each sheet.
  • Hold the baking sheet with one hand and very firmly tap all along the underside with your other hand. Or gently tap the sheets on to your worktop. This helps to get rid of any air bubbles. The macarons will spread very slightly as the action flattens them a bit and gets rid of any peaks from the piping. If you do still have any peaks, lightly wet your finger and gently smooth them down. Carefully place a rose petal and a few strands of saffron on to 16 of the macaron shells. Saffron tastes very strong so don’t put too many on!
  • Leave the macarons on the side at room temperature to stand for around 30-40 minutes. They need to dry out a bit so that they bake evenly without cracking. They are ready to go in the oven when you can gently touch them without any mixture sticking to your finger. They will also lose their shine as they dry. While they are standing. preheat your oven to 140C fan, or 160C conventional oven.
  • Bake one sheet at a time for 10-15 minutes. (They take 10 minutes in my oven). Check them after 5 or 6 minutes and if they look like they are browning, turn your oven temperature down slightly.
  • To test if they are ready, gently nudge one of the macarons. If it wobbles on its base, it needs a little bit longer. If it has a crisp shell and doesn’t move, it is ready. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Cover a wire cooling rack with a piece of baking paper, gently peel the macarons off the baking sheet paper and place them on the wire rack to cool completely.
  • While they are all cooling, make the buttercream. Place the icing sugar, butter and pistachio syrup into a bowl and beat until light, fluffy and smooth.
  • Use a piping bag with a small nozzle or cut a small opening on a disposable piping bag, and pipe buttercream on to the macaron shells which don’t have the rose and saffron on them. Then place a decorated macaron shell on top and gently press together.

 

As these are based on a royal story, I wanted to make them extra indulgent, so brushed some gold lustre dust around the tops of them. You don’t have to though if you don’t want to.

Eagle eyed readers will notice I said pipe 32 shells but I only have 15 complete macarons in my photos. I couldn’t resist instantly sampling one before the photos were taken. My willpower is sadly lacking!!!!!

These would make beautiful gifts for loved ones, or wonderful wedding favours. What better way to celebrate a union of love than with these romantic treats. Whoever you make them for, I’m sure they’ll be very gratefully received.

 

Queen of Hearts Cocktail… The Perfect Drink for Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and with it, many people will be planning a romantic evening for their loved ones. What better way to start the celebrations than with a beautiful cocktail?

I have to confess, I really love cocktails! The different flavours all blended to perfection to make an even better flavour, the colours, the glassware…. I just love them! They are the perfect way to enhance any celebration. In fact I enjoy them so much I even bought a cocktail shaker set to make them properly! You don’t need one of those though. Any container with a tight fitting lid will do the job just fine. Thermos flask, large screw-top jar… the list is endless.

When I think of cocktails, I think of alcohol, fruit juices and Monin syrups. Monin is recognised by many as the market leader in flavoured syrups and has won several international quality awards. Their syrups are used in the hospitality industry, both in cocktails and in hot beverages such as coffee. I personally use them in cocktails, coffee, hot chocolate, and baking, and they never fail to impress me with their flavours.

I was recently sent an email telling me about a romantic cocktail created using 2 of their syrups. Obviously I had to try it and all I can say is WOW! Allow me to introduce you to the Queen of Hearts. She is a thing of beauty. Fruity, sweet, delicate but powerful, and with a warming aftertaste which lingers after the last sip has been taken.

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The Queen of Hearts contains Monin Grenadine syrup, which is a beautiful combination of slightly tart red berries and a hint of a vanilla. This syrup is widely known for its use in a Tequila Sunrise. It has a rich red colour which is perfect for romantic cocktails, with red traditionally being the colour of love and passion. The Queen of Hearts also contains Monin Vanilla syrup, with its warm and comforting properties. The alcohol content in this cocktail comes from white rum. There are many brands to buy but I used Bacardi. It is my rum of choice for drinks where a white rum is needed. So how do you make one? I’ll tell you.

THE QUEEN OF HEARTS COCKTAIL

Fill a cocktail shaker (or any container with a tight fitting lid) with ice. Add 20ml Monin Grenadine syrup, 20ml Monin Vanilla syrup, 40ml of light/white rum, and 60ml of orange juice. Shake well, and strain the liquid into a cocktail glass.

You can serve it like that, but if you want to add a touch of romance, I think cocktail glasses look better rimmed with sugar. You need to do this BEFORE you pour the liquid in to it! Just pour some water on to a plate and place the glass upside down on to the plate. Sprinkle some caster sugar on to another plate and press the glass rim on to the sugar. It will stick perfectly, giving a lovely frosty look. To go one stage further, garnish with a strawberry heart. This is a really simple but oh so pretty garnish. Just slice a strawberry from top to bottom, and you will have a slice which is very similar to a heart shape. You can trim it slightly to make it look even more like a heart. Cut a small slit diagonally upwards near the bottom. Dip into the leftover caster sugar from the glass dipping to coat both sides, then position on to the edge of the glass using the slit you cut. I’m sure you’ll agree that looks so pretty and just says romance!

Monin Grenadine syrup is available in the spirits aisle in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, priced at £2.99 for 250ml.

Monin Vanilla syrup is available in the hot beverages aisle in Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Ocado, at the same price.

If, like me, you plan on making lots of cocktails, I would recommend buying bigger bottles from UDAL SUPPLIES. This company stocks a massive range of Monin syrups at amazing prices and it is much more economical to buy larger bottles. (This is where I bought mine from too). Delivery is 1-2 days and your bottles arrive packed so securely there is no chance of any breakages. Their customer service is friendly and efficient. Perfect.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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DISCLAIMER: Monin sent me details of how to make the cocktail (apart from the garnish) but I bought the ingredients myself. I received no compensation in any form for writing this post. Udal Supplies also provided no compensation. I am just happy to recommend good products and services. All views and opinions are my own. 

Caramel and Popcorn Cream Slices with Monin Popcorn Syrup

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I am a HUGE fan of Monin syrups. I have a big selection of them now and I use them in my bakes and in drinks. There is such a massive range of flavours available making them perfect for every occasion. The wonderful people at Monin know how much I love them, so very kindly sent me some samples of one of their latest ones to try… Popcorn Syrup. This syrup was exclusive to Costa during the Summer, where they used it in their Popcorn Cappuccino. Luckily for us it is now on general sale to everyone! Wahooooooo!!!!

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The first thing I do when I get a new bottle of Monin syrup is open it and smell it. They always smell so beautiful, and this one is no exception. Imagine a bowl full of freshly made caramel popcorn, still warm. That is exactly what this syrup smells like. It is also exactly what it tastes like, liquid popcorn! I have to say I think this is one of my favourites. It is perfect added to milk for a delicious milkshake, or added to hot chocolate, and I even mixed some in a rice pudding. Dreamy!

As it is popcorn flavour, I immediately decided that I would bake something with caramel too as the two flavours are a perfect combination. I also wanted to make something very easy and quick, so that anyone could make it themselves with no stresses. They need very few ingredients too. These cream slices are extremely simple to make the way I did them, but you can make them more difficult if you insist. I used a ready made puff pastry sheet, as even top bakers say life is too short to make your own! The shop bought variety is delicious so no need to bother spending hours making it yourself. I also used a ready made caramel sauce for the topping. You can make your own if you want but as I said, I wanted this to be an easy dessert that anyone could make with no chance of anything going wrong (and believe me, I’ve seen some disastrous caramel sauce stories). I used Carnation’s Cook with Caramel which is a scrumptious product to have in your store cupboard for last minute desserts and bakes!

You can choose how many slices to cut the pastry in to, but I made 6 big ones. If you wanted to make some for a delicate afternoon tea, just cut them into smaller slices.

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CARAMEL AND POPCORN CREAM SLICES

1 sheet ready made puff pastry

2 tbsp Monin Popcorn Syrup

300 ml double cream

300 g caramel sauce (I used Carnation Cook with Caramel)

Popcorn to decorate (I used Butterkist Salted Caramel popcorn)

  • Preheat your oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Carefully cut the pastry sheet in half across the width, making 2 equally sized rectangles.
  • Place one of the halves on to the baking sheet, prick it all over with a fork, and place a clean baking sheet on top. (This is to prevent it rising too much). Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the top baking sheet and bake the pastry for a further 5-10 minutes until lovely and golden all over.
  • Slide the pastry on to a cooling rack.
  • Place the second pastry half on to the lined baking sheet, prick it all over with a fork, cover with another baking sheet and bake as before. Cool this one on a cooling rack too.
  • While they are cooling, whisk together the double cream and the Monin Popcorn Syrup until it forms soft peaks. You don’t want to whisk it past this stage as it will naturally thicken further as you pipe it.
  • When the pastry is cooled, place them on top of each other and carefully cut both pieces in to the desired sizes. I cut mine in to 2 inch by 4.5 inch rectangles, and it made enough for 6 slices (2 rectangles per slice).
  • Spoon the whisked cream into a disposable piping bag and cut the end off, making an opening about 1cm wide. Place half of the pastry rectangles on to a board or plate, and pipe the cream on each of them. Place the other pastry rectangles on top.
  • Spoon the caramel sauce in to another disposable piping bag and cut the end off, making a smaller opening than you had for the cream. Pipe the caramel on top of the pastry slices. Dip a small spatula in boiling water, then use it to spread the caramel evenly across the slices, filling in any gaps.
  • Decorate with popcorn, and enjoy. These keep well in the fridge for a couple of days, although the popcorn decoration might need replacing, so only decorate them when you are ready to serve them.

I have to say they taste heavenly. I will be making these many times from now. Friends and family will be so impressed if you serve these to them, and they will have no idea how easy they were to make. I won’t tell if you don’t 😉

To find out more about the gorgeous Monin syrups available, click HERE to go to their website.

 

DISCLAIMER: I was sent the Popcorn Syrup for free to use in my bakes. This fact in no way has any bearing on my opinion of it though. I believe in honesty at all times and will only recommend products I genuinely love. And I genuinely love this!!!

 

 

Ferrero Rocher Chocolate and Hazelnut Bundt

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My Nordic Ware bundt pan addiction reached new levels of crazy in March when I went on holiday to Florida. It was my first time in the US and my son and my partner were both ridiculously excited about Disney World, Universal Studios, and all those types of places. What were my thoughts? They were along the lines of… “Yaaaaaaaayyyy America! The home of Nordic Ware! Bundt pans!!!!”

Nordic Ware are celebrating their 70th Anniversary and to mark the occasion brought out 3 new stunning gold pans. I really really really wanted these, especially the Crown pan, which I used for the big bundt in the picture. An afternoon going round shops in Florida proved fruitless. The only bundt pans I saw were ones I already had at home. I couldn’t bear the thought of coming home with no pans so in desperation I contacted the lovely people at Nordic Ware in America. To cut a long story short, they went to so much trouble to make sure I received the Crown and they displayed levels of customer service not often seen in companies in the UK. They also made sure there was one for my Bundt Twin Rob, who has a great blog you can find HERE.

As well as loving Nordic Ware so much, I also love Ferrero Rocher chocolates (who doesn’t!?) and Monin Syrups. I love using these syrups in baking and used them in  this No-Bake Rose and Pistachio Cheesecake and  this Black Forest Hot Chocolate Bundt Cake previously. I had a little bottle of their Hazelnut Syrup so decided to use that in this bundt.

This bundt is a chocolate and hazelnut cake with Ferrero Rochers baked in to it. It is covered with a delicious chocolate ganache and then finally sprinkled with chopped toasted hazelnuts. I used chopped hazelnuts to just decorate the bottom curves, then sprinkled ground hazelnuts all over the rest of the bundt, but you can decorate it as you please. When baking with Ferrero Rochers, they have a tendency to shrink as the outer coating melts into the cake. If you are making small quickly baked cakes such as cupcakes, freezing the chocolates before use prevents this and leaves a runny chocolate centre. However, as bundt cakes take much longer to bake the chocolates will shrink. They will still be visible when you cut the cake and most imortantly, they still taste exactly as they should. This recipe made enough cake mix to fill a 10 cup pan and then to make some Geo Bundlettes. You can use the remaining batter to make cupcakes if you want, or bundlettes.

FERRERO ROCHER CHOCOLATE AND HAZELNUT BUNDT CAKE

250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

190 g soft light brown sugar

190 g golden caster sugar

340 g plain flour

half level tsp bicarbonate of soda

half level tsp salt

1 level tsp baking powder

25 g cocoa powder

25 g ground hazelnuts

200 g milk or dark chocolate, or a combination of both, broken into pieces

4 large eggs, beaten

200 ml buttermilk

100 ml Monin Hazelnut Syrup

at least 10 Ferrero Rocher chocolates, frozen

FOR THE GANACHE:

300 ml double cream

250 g dark chocolate, or a combination of dark and milk chocolate, chopped into pieces

chopped or ground toasted hazelnuts, to decorate

  • Preheat the oven to 170C/fan oven 150C. Grease a 10-12 cup bundt pan using your preferred method. (See extra information at the end of the recipe).
  • In a large bowl, or using a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. This will take 5-10 minutes.
  • In another bowl, sieve together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt, baking powder, cocoa and ground hazelnuts, and mix well to thoroughly combine all the ingredients.
  • Place the chocolate into a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Stir occasionally, and remove from the heat when it is nearly all melted. Continue stirring until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Leave to cool slightly.
  • Mix the eggs, buttermilk and hazelnut syrup together in a large jug, then slowly add the cooled chocolate, stirring continuously.
  • Pour half of the eggy chocolate mixture into the bowl with the butter and sugar and beat well until combined. Add half of the flour mixture, and again beat well. Pour the remaining half of the wet mixture into the bowl and continue beating until smooth, then use a large spoon or spatula to fold the remaining flour mixture in, until completely combined.
  • Spoon the mix into the prepared bundt pan until the pan is half full. Arrange the Ferrero Rocher chocolates on the mixture, leaving a gap between each so the cake can rise around them.
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  • Cover the chocolates with more cake batter until the pan is no higher than three quarters full. Place in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Make sure you don’t push the skewer through a Ferrero Rocher!!! You’ll be able to feel where they are with the skewer.
  • Remove from the oven and leave in the pan to cool for 10-15 minutes. Turn out on to a wire cooling rack and leave to cool completely.
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  • To make the ganache, pour the double cream into a saucepan and heat gently until just starting to boil. Remove from the heat. Place the chocolate in a bowl, then pour the cream over it. Leave for a few minutes, then mix well until all the chocolate has melted and is smooth.
  • Place a large tray or a piece of greaseproof paper under your cooling rack. Slowly pour the ganache all over the cooled bundt cake, making sure every part is covered. The tray underneath will catch the dripping ganache. Sprinkle with chopped or ground toasted hazelnuts and leave on the rack for a while to make sure it has finished dripping. Transfer to a serving plate or cake stand and enjoy!

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EXTRA NOTES ABOUT BUNDTS

Two things have been causing quite a bit of conversation and debate regarding bundts. First is how to prepare the tin. I know of people who use melted butter and flour or cocoa to grease their pans with success, but my method of choice has to be to use Wilton Cake Release. You just shake the bottle well and use a pastry brush to brush it into all the details and every part of your pan. I have never known anyone to have a stuck bundt using this method.

The second thing I have been asked about is how to wash the pans. A few people are advising against using Fairy Platinum washing liquid, saying it strips the non-stick coating. I can honestly say I have only used that washing up liquid on all my pans and I have no problems. I think as long as you don’t leave them to soak (and if you use Cake Release you won’t need to) then in my personal experience there won’t be a problem. To wash pans, I put them in hot soapy water, then use a pastry brush to wipe every nook and cranny over. This removes any last traces of Cake Release and any little crumbs, so your pan is good as new again. Rinse well under hot running water and leave to dry.

The Nordic Ware Crown Bundt pan is available here from Kitchens Cookshop.

Monin Syrups are available from Udal Supplies Ltd. or Next Day Coffee.

Wilton Cake Release is available from Lakeland, or Amazon, or most cake supplies shops.

No-Bake Rose and Pistachio Cheesecake

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With Christmas already becoming a distant memory, thoughts turn to Valentine’s Day. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, you just can’t escape it. The lovely people at Monin UK asked me if I would like to come up with a recipe suitable for this romantic day, and I immediately knew what I would make. People often say that oysters are the food of love. Well they’re wrong. It’s cheesecake! Fluffy, creamy, indulgent cheesecake. Not the baked ones either. You just can’t beat a no-bake cheesecake. And if you’re going to make something so heavenly, you don’t want to settle for a thin, easily crumbled base and an inch of cheesecake topping, oh no! You need a thick base you can taste, and you need lashings of creamy topping. If this looks too much for you, you can just half the ingredients to make a more delicate version, but I’d recommend going the whole hog and trying it this way. Or you could just use a bigger tin than I used.

As you all know by now, rose is my absolute favourite flavour and perfect for Valentine’s day. Don’t give someone a single red rose. That’s too cliché! Make them a beautiful rose cheesecake instead. Decorate it with rose petals, and you’ve just won my heart 🙂 I didn’t just want rose on its own though. I wanted another delicate taste, and pistachio pairs beautifully with rose. I’ve included pistachio nuts in the base and the topping but you can leave them out if you want. The pistachio syrup flavour is gorgeous. I only added the actual nuts for a bit of yummy texture. You could make this cheesecake using different flavoured syrups if you prefer but be careful if you do… not all are suitable as some of the more sour ones (such as pomegranate and cranberry) can curdle the mixture. I was toying with the idea of delicately colouring the layers (green for the pistachio and pink for the rose) but decided that if you accidentally add too much you’ll be left with a very garish looking dessert. So I’ve kept it simple this time, but feel free to colour the layers gradually if you want.

NO-BAKE ROSE AND PISTACHIO CHEESECAKE

FOR THE BASE

250g digestive biscuits

110g unsalted butter

30g pistachio nuts

FOR THE TOPPING

2 x 280g tubs full-fat cream cheese (I used Philadelphia)

100g icing sugar, sifted

300ml double cream

50g pistachio nuts

3 tbsp Monin Pistachio Syrup

3 tbsp Monin Rose Syrup

Rose petals, to decorate

  • To Make the Base: line a 7 inch loose-bottomed deep cake tin or springform cake tin with foil, carefully making sure you press as many bumps out as possible. Gently melt the butter in a saucepan, making sure it doesn’t burn. Blitz the biscuits and pistachios in a food processor until they become crumbs. Alternatively, place them into a ziplock bag, and bash them with a rolling pin.
  • Pour the crumb mixture into the pan with the butter and mix until well combined. Tip this mixture into the cake tin, cover the bottom completely, and then use the back of a spoon to press the mixture down firmly. Place into the fridge for at least 1 hour to firm up.
  • To Make the Topping: Place the cream cheese into a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, and gently whisk it to loosen it up a bit. Add the sifted icing sugar and whisk until combined.
  • In another bowl, whip the double cream until it reaches soft peak stage. (When you lift the beater or whisk,  the cream will form a slight peak but the tip of it will fold back down).
  • Add the cream to the cream cheese mixture and fold in with a spatula until well combined. Place half of this mixture into another bowl (or back in the bowl you whipped the cream in to save dishes).
  • Place the pistachio nuts into a food processor and blitz until roughly chopped. Alternatively chop by hand with a sharp knife. Tip these into one of the bowls of cheesecake mixture, along with the pistachio syrup. Fold in well with a spatula until completely combined. You’ll notice it thickening as you fold it. Pour this on top of the cheesecake biscuit base, and smooth it down until level. Place into the fridge until the next part is ready to use.
  • Pour the rose syrup into the bowl with the remaining cheesecake mixture and fold in well with a spatula. Again, you’ll notice it thickening. Remove the cheesecake from the fridge and gently spoon this layer on top. Spread until it has covered the first layer and is smooth and level. Place back into the fridge for at least 5 hours to set (overnight would be perfect).
  • Remove from the fridge. Gently remove from the tin and peel off the foil very carefully. It should hold it’s shape easily by now. Place onto a serving plate and scatter rose petals around the top. Serve and enjoy!

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I used a range of large and small petals but you can use whichever you prefer. Or you can use pistachios or even chocolate curls if you prefer. Although I made this with Valentine’s Day in mind, it is perfect for any occasion really.

I’d recommend buying Monin Syrups either from Udal Supplies Ltd or from Next Day Coffee. Just click on their names to go straight to their websites.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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Black Forest Hot Chocolate Bundt Cake

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I have 2 addictions in life… Nordic Ware bundt tins and the Costa Coffee Festive menu drinks, in particular the Black Forest Hot Chocolate. The Nordic Ware addiction is an all year long one, but sadly the Costa Coffee one is limited to one month a year when the Festive menu appears. Or at least it was! Tassimo coffee machines were selling ridiculously cheaply in the Black Friday sales online a few months ago so we bought one. As soon as my sister found out, she went online and bought me the exact syrups that Costa use in my favourite drink so I could make them at home too! (She bought me the rose one too as everyone knows I adore rose in all forms… flower, scent, and flavour). She even bought me the bottle pourer as well to make drizzling the cherry syrup easier!

Anyway I’m waffling. In case you’ve never tried one this is what the Black Forest Hot Chocolate looks like:

Picture courtesy of Costa

A delicious hot chocolate mixed with blackberry syrup, topped with slightly sweetened fresh cream, drizzled with a yummy cherry sauce and chocolate curls sprinkled on top to finish. Sheer indulgent heaven! I was making one at home and the idea came to me to make a cake version of it! I had the syrups so started planning. I decided to make it as a bundt and thought a flat-topped tin would be best so that I could pipe cream on top, so I made it in the Star shaped tin. Until now THIS has been my favourite bundt recipe that I have created, but I have to admit the Black Forest one has knocked it off top spot for me.

I was asked once why I use buttermilk in my bundts whereas other people use yoghurt. It is just personal preference. Both serve the same purpose but I always have buttermilk in the fridge. Buttermilk, like yoghurt, reacts with bicarbonate of soda, causing harmless carbon dioxide gas. This gas helps bakes to rise and makes them light and fluffy. I use it in scones all the time for that reason too. Enough science, here’s the recipe. It looks like a huge list of ingredients but most of it is store cupboard essentials.

BLACK FOREST HOT CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE

FOR THE CAKE:

250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

190 g golden caster sugar

190 g soft light brown sugar

340 g plain flour

half level tsp bicarbonate of soda

half level tsp salt

1 level tsp baking powder

25 g cocoa powder

4 large eggs, beaten

200 ml buttermilk

200 g milk chocolate (or a combination of dark and milk chocolate), broken into pieces

8 tbsp (120 ml) Monin blackberry syrup

FOR THE DECORATION:

250 ml fresh double cream

1 level tbsp icing sugar

Monin Cherry syrup

extra chocolate

  • Grease a 10-12 cup bundt tin well with Cake Release, or melted butter and flour. (Or you could try this in normal cake tins). Preheat the oven to 170C.
  • In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy.
  • Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, and leave until almost completely melted, stirring once or twice. Remove from the heat and stir until totally smooth. Leave to cool slightly.
  • In another bowl, sieve together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa). I like to quickly mix with a spoon after sieving cocoa and flour together to make sure it is thoroughly combined and there are no white powders left.
  • In a large jug mix the wet ingredients together (beaten eggs, buttermilk, melted chocolate and blackberry syrup).
  • Add half of the wet ingredient mixture to the butter and sugar and beat well until combined. Add half of the dry ingredient mixture and gently fold in with a large spoon or spatula. Fold in the last half of the wet ingredients, followed by the remaining dry ingredient mixture until completely combined. (This was the perfect amount of blackberry syrup flavour for me and tasted the same as how Costa serve it. However, taste a bit of the mixture and if you like it stronger add an extra tbsp of syrup now).
  • Pour into your prepared tin until no higher than three quarters full, then place in the centre of the oven and bake for around 50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. (Don’t worry if the top has cracked, it will be on the bottom when served). Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  • When it is completely cool, place on to a serving plate.Whisk together the cream and icing sugar until it forms very soft peaks. (When you pipe cream it thickens rapidly in the piping bag so don’t over-whisk it now). Spoon into a piping bag and pipe on to the top of your bundt however you prefer. I just did simple rosettes. Nothing fancy. Pipe more around the bottom as well. (If your bundt tin design allows, pipe extra cream around the sides too).
  • Drizzle Monin cherry syrup all over the cream letting it come down the sides too. Use a potato peeler to make curls of chocolate (just “peel” down the side of a row of chocolate) and sprinkle them on top to finish. Or you can crumble a Flake on top.

And there you have the cake version of the famous drink. Obviously it is EXTREMELY calorific so probably best just to make it for special occasions!!! My Other Half ate 2 slices straight after each other, and said it tastes just like the drink. My son polished off a slice in record time too and said it was delicious. I put a picture of it on Twitter and have to admit I was overwhelmed by the response to it, so I hope you like it as much as we do.

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Obviously as there is fresh cream on top, this cake needs to be stored in the fridge. Remove it for a while before serving so the cream isn’t too cold. It is best eaten on the same day as cakes in fridges tend to go hard quickly. Or you could make the cake and only put the cream and decorations on individual slices when you serve them. That way you can keep the cake in an airtight container.

The best place to buy Monin syrups is from Next Day Coffee. You can find the blackberry syrup HERE and the cherry one HERE. If you want the bottle pourer for easier drizzling of the cherry one on top, that can be found HERE.

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I have contacted Costa and asked if they would mind me making cake versions of more of their best-loved drinks, so this one will be the first in a series. Let me know in the comments what your favourites ones are 🙂