Monday, 25 November 2013

Orange & Cinnamon Shortbread

Orange and cinnamon shortbread in teapot shapes

Last week was my turn on the rota for cake at work. We have a big team briefing every Friday known affectionately as the “Friday cake meeting” – there’s a rota with each week assigned to a member of the team! It’s taken very seriously! Unfortunately, I have set a rather strong precedent and so I had people telling me all week that they were excited about what I was going to produce on Friday – talk about pressure!

The trouble with the Friday cake meeting is that it is on a Friday! This means that you have to bake on a week night after work and as it had been a long week, I wasn’t up for making anything fancy! To complicate things further, we have one person who is gluten-intolerant and one person who is allergic to nuts and eggs! They always insist that they don’t want people to go to extra effort for them but I wanted to ensure that I catered for them both.

I decided to go with the gluten-free lemon polenta cake that I made earlier in the week (which was a bit of a disaster as I miscalculated and used too few eggs – having drowned the resulting cake in lots of lemon syrup, it was edible but nowhere near perfect – fail!) and two new recipes: toffee apple crumble cake and these orange and cinnamon shortbread biscuits.

I’d seen this Cookie’s cakes and Bakes recipe on Pinterest a little while ago and had pinned it onto my Christmas Baking board. It seemed a nice simple recipe that would work well as little baked Christmas presents, or as part as a Christmas hamper. It’s also conveniently egg-free and so this seemed like a great opportunity to try it out.

It’s a great simple and speedy recipe and would be great for making with kids. I used my favourite teapot cookie cutter and simply dusted the cooked biscuits with icing sugar, but you could drizzle with chocolate, or an orange blossom flavoured water icing. You could also vary the flavouring – adding lemon zest, or vanilla essence, or other spices. Or you could add chopped chocolate, or dried fruit, or anything else you fancy!  

The resulting biscuits are short and crispy. They will lose their crisp crunch after a day but they will last fine for at least a week. I actually prefer them once they are a day old and are a bit softer, but that’s probably a matter of taste!

Orange & Cinnamon Shortbread


  1. 200g soft butter
  2. 100g icing sugar
  3. 100g cornflour
  4. 250g Plain flour
  5. Zest of one orange
  6. 1 tsp cinnamon


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
  3. Beat the butter until very light and creamy.
  4. Add the orange zest and beat.
  5. Slowly add the icing sugar, cornflour, plain flour and cinnamon, stirring gently until combined.
  6. Use your hands to bring the mixture together to make a dough. Try not to handle the dough too much – it will affect the texture of the shortbread.
  7. Roll the dough out between two sheets of baking parchment until 10mm thick.
  8. Use cookie cutters to cut out desired shapes.
  9. Re-roll any off-cuts and cut out more shapes.
  10. Place on baking trays and bake for 12-15 minutes or until pale golden around the edges.
  11. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking tray.
  12. Tip onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Chocolate orange cookies

Chewy chocolate orange cookies
Having had the girls over for a girly evening (complete with chocolate and raspberry brownies, lemon polenta cake, gossip and Coyote Ugly!), they left at about 11.00 on Sunday morning and I realised that I was out for a late lunch for a friend’s birthday, so I should whip up something quick and tasty as a small gift.

I didn’t have the time or energy to make anything too extravagant, so when I found orange-flavoured dark chocolate in the cupboard, I decided that I could make some quick and delicious chocolate orange cookies. These cookies are usually made with 450g of dark chocolate, so it was easy to replace with the orange-flavoured dark chocolate. I only had 300g of this, so I added 100g milk chocolate and 50g of chopped up orange matchmakers!  You could probably also make with all orange-flavoured milk chocolate (but they may be a little too sweet), or all dark chocolate, but I think the mix worked particularly well. I also replaced the vanilla extract in the original recipe with the zest of an orange.

I’ve added a rest stage for the cookie mixture into my method below. I didn’t do this when I made these cookies and, as you can see from the picture, they spread out too much and so were a bit thin (but still delicious!). I didn’t fit all of the mixture onto my baking trays, so had to do a second batch (of 3) once the first were cooked. This batch stayed much thicker and so I have added the rest stage in!  

Overall, I’m not generally a big chocolate fan, but these are absolutely delicious! Rich, chewy, chocolatey, with a nice fresh orangey zing! They’d make fantastic Christmas presents. EHH loved these and so I’ll definitely be making these again.

Chocolate orange cookies
(makes 12-14 large cookies)


  1. 50g butter
  2. 350g orange flavoured dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  3. 100g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 170g soft light brown sugar
  6.  Zest of one orange
  7. 85g plain flour
  8. ½ tsp baking powder


  1. Line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. Put the butter, the milk chocolate and half of the orange-flavoured dark chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.
  3. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir gently until the chocolate and butter are melted and combined.
  4. Beat the eggs, sugar and orange zest in a bowl until frothy.
  5. Pour in the chocolate mixture, beating on a slow speed until combined.
  6. Sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl.
  7. In three additions, stir the chocolate mixture into the flour.
  8. Stir in the remaining chocolate.
  9. Leave for 20-30 minutes to allow the mixture to firm up a bit.
  10. Pre-heat the oven to 170C.
  11. Dollop the cookie mixture onto the two prepared baking trays, allowing plenty of room between each, as the cookies will spread.
  12. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until the top of the cookies start to crack, the sides of the cookies are firm but the centre still fairly squidgy.
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray for 10 minutes.
  14. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.


Lemon polenta cake (gluten-free)

Gluten free lemon polenta cake
Last weekend, EHH was off on a boys’ weekend and I had a couple of my friends over for a girly night. EHH was disappearing off during the day on Friday, so I whipped up a quick batch of chocolate and raspberry brownies on the Thursday night for him to take with him.

With EHH gone, I had Saturday to myself to potter in the kitchen and so I decided to have a go at a new recipe that I had spotted in BBC Good Food magazine – a gluten-free lemon polenta cake. I had a few brownies left for dessert for the girls but thought that this would be a good alternative. This week was also my week for Friday cakes at work, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to practise a gluten-free cake to take in with me later in the week.

I was a bit wary about tackling this recipe: it required a 25cm tin and I don’t have one, so I had to adapt it to fit in a 20cm tin. As the original recipe required 300g butter, 300g sugar, 300g ground almonds and 150g polenta, it seemed fairly easy to do two-thirds of the recipe and hope that it worked out ok for the tin! The recipe asked for 5 eggs, so I decided to go with 3 eggs and 1 yolk.  I decided to up the lemon zing and added the zest of 3 lemons rather than 2. As usual, I wrapped the cake tin in my magi-cake cake strips before baking and these really helped it to rise and bake evenly.

It’s actually a really easy cake to make and, fortunately, fitted perfectly in the 20cm deep tin. The cake is light and zingy, with rich almond sweetness and texture from the polenta. The texture isn’t that of a normal sponge, but it certainly doesn’t feel like a “gluten-free” poor relative cake. Once soaked in syrup and dusted in icing sugar, it looks elegant and delicious, and would be a great addition to a refined afternoon tea. Definitely a cake that I’ll be making again!   

Lemon polenta cake


  1. 200g butter, at room temperature
  2. 200g golden caster sugar
  3. 200g ground almonds
  4. Finely grated zest of 2-3 lemons
  5. 3 large eggs and 1 egg yolk
  6. Icing sugar (to dust)

For the lemon syrup

  1. Juice of 1 lemon
  2. 2 tbsp icing sugar


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Grease and line a 20cm deep cake tin.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until light and fluffy (at least 5 minutes).
  4. Add the ground almonds, polenta and lemon zest.
  5. Beat until combined.
  6. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well until smooth (it will still be a fairly thick mixture).
  7. Spoon the mixture into the tin and spread evenly.
  8. Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden and springy.
  9. Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.
  10. While it is cooling, place the lemon juice and icing sugar in a bowl and microwave for 45 seconds, until boiling and syrupy.
  11. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack and prick with a skewer.
  12. Spoon the syrup over the cake.
  13. Leave cake to cool.
  14. Dust with icing sugar before serving.  

Monday, 11 November 2013

Bramley apple and custard cake

Apple and custard cake on a cake stand

This week, I’ve been given another big bag of Bramley apples so I’ve been flicking through Pinterest to find some new Bramley apple recipes. Whilst browsing, I found this fab looking cake and followed it through to Cookie’s Cakes and Bakes (CCB) – a lovely baking blog with lots of delicious looking recipes (like her coconut and lime drizzle cake – yum! Will be trying this one out!).  I just love custard but had a bit of a failure when I last tried making a custard cake, however, I couldn’t resist giving this one a go.

It’s not a quick cake to make: firstly you need to make the custard, then the cake, then peel, core and slice the apples before arranging them neatly on top of the cake! However, it is worth the effort! I followed the recipe given by CCB almost exactly; the only thing that I changed was the addition of the apricot jam glaze, which just helped the cake to look that bit more special. 

I love the custard layer running through this cake; the texture of the cake is great and the apples on the top are delicious. However, like last time that I made a custard cake, I found that the custard powder in the actual cake leaves a dry taste in your mouth. I’ll definitely be making this cake again (would be also be fantastic with rhubarb) but next time, I’ll leave out the custard powder and simply up the flour (which is the recipe I have given below).  

Bramley apple and custard cake

  1. 200g soft butter
  2. 110g caster sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 225g plain flour
  6. 2 tsp baking powder
  7. 2 tablespoons milk (at room temperature)
  8. 3-4 Bramley apples, peeled cored and cut into slices
  9. Demerara sugar for sprinkling over the cake
  10. 2 tblsp apricot jam, warmed and sieved to remove any lumps

For the custard:

  1. 2 tablespoons custard powder
  2. 55g caster sugar
  3. 250ml milk
  4. 20g butter
  5. 2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Grease a 20cm deep cake tin and line the bottom of the tin with baking parchment (or simply line with a non-stick cake tin liner – much easier!).
  3. Mix together the custard powder and caster sugar in a saucepan.
  4. Whisk in the milk, stirring over a medium heat until the custard thickens.
  5. Take the custard off the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla extract.
  6. Pour into a bowl, place some clingfilm over the top (making sure that it touches the surface of the custard to prevent it forming a skin) and leave to cool.
  7. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.
  8. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (at least 5 minutes in a stand mixer).
  9. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until the mixture is frothy and mousse-like. Add a tablespoon of the flour with each egg to stop the mixture curdling.
  10. Gently stir in remaining flour.
  11. Mix in 2 tablespoons of milk to loosen the batter a little.
  12. Spread half the batter in the cake tin.
  13. Spread the cooled custard all over the batter.
  14. Use a small spatula to carefully spread the remaining batter over the custard, making sure that all the custard is covered with batter.
  15. Place your apple slices over the top of the cake.
  16. Sprinkle Demerara sugar all over the cake.
  17. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until risen and golden. A skewer inserted in the middle of the cake should come out clean.
  18. Allow to cool for 15 minutes and then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack.
  19. Use a pastry brush to brush the top of the cake with the warmed apricot jam.