Salted caramel cake with a rich chocolate sponge

A cake your friends will truly love you for

A cake your friends will truly love you for

I’ve been a bad girl. It’s exactly three months and four days since I last devoted an ounce of love or attention to my beautiful little blog.

It’s been a roller-coaster of a year and the past few months have been no different — but the wonderful worth-it-all high point has been the finding and buying of my first ever home: a beautiful, ivy-covered cottage built in 1850, and bursting at the seams with good vibes and exciting possibilities.

When I get my hands on the keys (and the amazing double oven that the lovely vendors are so kindly leaving behind), it will be all systems go with baking, cooking, kneading, pickling, roasting and creating all manner of lovingly made treats for family and friends to enjoy when they come a-knocking. It also means I’ll be devoting far more time to sharing it all with you through White Rabbits, so stay tuned.

I thought it only right to kick things off with the recipe I have been promising my friends for weeks now: salted caramel cake with a rich chocolate sponge. This cake was not only enjoyed by one of the most special people in my life for his 30th birthday this summer, it also bagged me the coveted ‘Star Baker’ award at this year’s Macmillan coffee morning.

The salted caramel is incredibly easy to whip up yourself, and the amazing colour, texture and taste is guaranteed to leave you feeling more than a little pleased with yourself.

To recreate the magic you’ll need:

For the sponge

  • 8oz self-raising flour
  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 8oz stork
  • 4 free-range eggs
  • ½ tsp organic vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp coco powder
  • ¾ cup Guinness or coke

For the salted caramel

For the buttercream

  • 8oz icing sugar
  • 4oz butter

Making the magic happen

  1. Preheat your oven to 180c and grease and line two wobbly-bottomed round cake tins
  2. Beat together the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy, then add one add one egg at a time, along with the vanilla extract. As always, keep whisking until your arms feel sure to drop off: the success of your cake is largely dependant on how much air you work into the mixture at this stage
  3. When you can whisk no more, sieve in your flour and coco powder and very gently fold. When combined, stir in a glug of the Guinness or coke, being careful not to make it too liquid
  4. Split your mixture between the two cake tins (using the scales to weigh out the mixture evenly), then bake for around 30 minutes. Test with a skewer — if it comes out clean, turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool
  5. Using a separate bowl beat your butter until soft, then sieve in your icing sugar — along with a few drops of vanilla extract and a few drops of water. Whisk until luscious and creamy
  6. To make the salted caramel, heat your caster sugar and four tablespoons of water in a saucepan over a gentle heat. When the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat and cook for 2-3 minutes (without stirring), or until golden and slightly thickened. At this point you need to remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream. (WARNING: the caramel will spit and splutter when you add the cream, so stand back.) Stir in the salt and vanilla extract then leave to cool before adding to your buttercream, leaving a spoonful back for decoration
  7. Spread half of the salted caramel buttercream between the two layers of sponge, then top the cake with the other half. Put the pan back on the heat until the last of your caramel loses its stiffness, then drizzle over the top of the cake using a spoon. And if you’re glitter mad like me, finish off with a sprinkling of edible gold glitter

Enjoy with a hot cuppa and five minutes of peace and quiet*.

Love from Emma xx

*Unlikely for my lovely friend Laura who has been requesting this recipe for weeks — she currently has her hands full with a toddler, a newborn, two dogs, a cat, and a top to bottom house refurb. But cakes like this were made for wonderwomen like her.

Thai chicken coconut curry soup

Now this is what I call soup!

Now this is what I call soup!

Ok, I know I brought you a recipe for Thai curry not long ago, but this soup is an absolute must! And granted, it’s not the most summery of dishes, but once you’ve tasted the insanely powerful and addictive flavours bursting out of the bowl, you won’t care. Hell, you won’t even know what season it is! Yes folks, it really is that good.

Now, I can’t take all of the credit: this soup is an amalgamation of countless recipes found online and in various cook books, with a few of my own additions and subtractions (as most good recipes usually are).

I was actually trying to recreate a soup that my mum and I are in love with from Chao Baby in Manchester (the little sister of Chaophraya). We pay £15 for their otherwise mediocre buffet simply for the Thai soup. It’s incredible. We sit and work our way through bowl after bowl with a set of extremely satisfied smiles on our faces. And I was over the bloomin’ moon when this one turned out to be a cat’s whisker from Chao’s scrumptious offering.

I adapted this recipe to suit my taste, so I’d encourage you to do the same. I like a certain sweetness to my food, so one of the additions I made was a little pouring of agave syrup (natural sweetener). Personally I think this makes a huge difference and you should leave it in, but then I add sugar to curry, peas and bolognaise, so feel free to listen to your own palate.

Some recipes call for carrots and bean sprouts, but I’m not a fan and instead used tenderstem broccoli and asparagus for a bit more substance. An awful lot of recipes also include egg noodles, but I developed this when I went all paleo on your ass, so my version leaves them out. With the addition of cashews and a whole heap of veg, I think it’s mighty filling without the slippery suckers.

I tend to use way more curry paste than most recipes suggest because I like it spicy, but again, listen to your own palate. And whilst you can make Thai paste if you have time, I buy a quality brand that’s free from additives and only includes the incidents you’d put in if you made it yourself. I will make my own paste one day, but for now this serves me well.

To make this most marvellous of dishes, you’ll need:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp coconut cream
  • 3-4 tbsp authentic Thai curry paste
  • 1 fresh red chilli, chopped
  • 1 bunch coriander, chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts, roasted and shredded
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • Asparagus and tenderstem broccoli, sliced (as much as you want)
  • Chicken stock (I’m not specifying quantity here because it depends how thick you like your soup and how far you want it to go; I’d suggest adding a ladle full at a time)
  • 4-5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (I hate fish, but this is an absolute must; it totally transforms the taste)
  • Zest and juice of one lime
  • A sprinkling of ground ginger
  • A few dashes of soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • A handful of cashew nuts, toasted and chopped
  • 2 spring onions, chopped

To make the best bowl of soup this side of Thailand:

  1. Place a non-stick wok on a medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp coconut cream; when hot, throw in the curry paste, ginger, ¾ of the chilli, and a little of the coconut milk. Allow to sizzle for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the coconut milk, cream and some stock
  2. Next up, pop in the kaffir lime leaves so they have time to infuse, along with your chicken, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime zest and juice, and agave syrup
  3. Simmer for ten minutes before adding your onion; after five minutes throw in the asparagus and broccoli
  4. After a further five minutes, stir in the chopped coriander and chopped and toasted cashews (leaving some of each to sprinkle over the top); stir and leave for a minute
  5. When you’re happy with it, ladle into bowls and garnish with the chopped spring onions and remaining coriander leaves, cashews and red chilli

Enjoy with a very cold bottle of Singha beer.

Love Emma xx

Affogato: a dessert with classic Italian simplicity, sent from heaven

Picture from BBC Good Food

Picture from BBC Good Food

It’s no exaggeration to say that Affogato is my latest addiction; I won’t say ‘guilty pleasure’, because if you make it with low fat ice cream (which really doesn’t affect the taste all that much) its not actually that bad. And because of the caffeine content, it’s an energy boost and tasty treat in one (and we all need an energy boost these days).

It’s no secret that I’m largely obsessed with all things Italian (it’s a crying shame that I wasn’t born there) and Affogato is a traditionally Italian desert. It’s also one of the simplest things on the planet to make (‘make’ is actually a bit of a stretch); I almost feel like its too simple to blog as a recipe, but hey, this place is about sharing my food loves and this is certainly one of them.

So, what do you need to make it? Well, for each portion you’ll need:

  • One double espresso
  • One scoop of vanilla ice cream

And to make it?

  • Place one scoop of ice cream into a nice bowl, pour over the espresso.

Yes, it really is as simple as that!

I tend to add a squeeze of agave syrup (a natural alternative to processed sugar) to my espresso before pouring it onto the ice cream; you can even melt a piece of dark chocolate in there (but then it’s not technically Affogato in the strictest sense of the word) but as in life, do whatever makes you happy. I sometimes crumble a dark chocolate digestive into mine which adds a lovely texture as it starts to dissolve. Yum! I’ve also seen a Jamie Oliver recipe with dark cherries, but I tend to keep my fruit and my desserts as far apart as possible (unless we’re talking apple cake).

Eating Affogato is a bit like eating an iced coffee with a spoon, and as iced coffees have potentially overtaken pizza as my favourite thing on the planet, you can see why this simple dessert is such a big hit with me.

If you like espresso, simplicity, and feeling Italian, I’d stake my favourite espresso spoon* on it being a big hit with you too.

Enjoy!

Love Dolly xx

*if you don’t like it, you can’t actually have my espresso spoon. I love it far, far too much.

Simple, punchy, herby summer salad dressing

Simple, healthy, delicious

Simple, healthy, delicious

I’ve never been a huge fan of salads (read: I’ve never been a huge fan of healthy salads). I love nothing more than a hearty chicken Caesar, laden with croutons, drowning in dressing, and collapsing under a pile of parmesan. But I needed something healthier than my indulgent salady treat ― and that meant finding a dressing that would jazz things up a bit.

I started to think about the flavour combinations that bring a smile to my face; then a food memory bubbled happily to the surface ― that bloody gorgeous herby oily dippy thing they serve with the luscious bread in Gaucho (and the main reason I keep going back there, despite the bread being free and the rest of the menu being far, far from it).

After a quick Google, I was sad to find that they don’t disclose the recipe, but as I’m usually good at retaining fairly accurate food memories, I picked out what I thought were the main flavours, added a few flourishes of my own, and came up with a killer salad dressing. It’s punchy, packs a kick, and transforms any plate of salad!

To recreate the magic, you’ll need:

  • One garlic glove, crushed
  • One red chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • Coriander, mint, parsley, all finely chopped
  • A sprinkling of rock salt
  • Ground black pepper

This quantity makes enough for one plate of salad, so adjust accordingly if you’re feeding more than just yourself ― but don’t make batches in advance. You need to be incredibly careful when making your own flavoured oils because if the herbs (or whatever you add) start to go off, the results can be very dangerous (and can actually cause botchalism ― yikes). 

To make the dressing, simply mix the ingredients together then drizzle generously over your salad. I served this with a variety of lettuce leaves, avocado and shredded beetroot. Simple and delicious.

Love Emma xx

Thai beef coconut curry with paleo rice

Sweet n spicy...heaven!

Sweet n spicy…heaven!

I should probably preface this post with a grovelling apology for being so lax of late: things have been a little busy (read manic) both professionally and personally, and with a new fitness regime thrown in for good measure, my poor blog has born the brunt. But in the woods of Benjamin Franklin: “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else”, so we’ll leave the excuses there and get on with the recipe.

Thai beef coconut curry with paleo rice. But you can’t eat rice on the paleo diet, right? Well, no, but you can dice up cauliflower real small, fry it up with the holy trinity (onion, garlic and chilli), and create something even tastier.

I’ll admit that going paleo has been pretty tough; not because I don’t like the food, or because I’ve been having particular cravings for bread, pasta or noodles ― quite the opposite, I’ve barely missed them at all. Nope, the real sticking point is the planning, and quite often, the inconvenience. I like to eat out at the weekends, and finding something on the menu that’s ‘paleo friendly’ is damned hard. But we’re all allowed a break, so I don’t beat myself up too much about the weekend slip-ups. I have however experienced quite a few mid-week slips ups, simply through poor planning, so I am going to have to go back to my spreadsheet (yes, I have a meal planning spreadsheet) and get my arse well and truly in gear.

*Success story claxon*

However, on the one night that I did have the right ingredients to hand, I knocked up the best Thai curry I’ve ever eaten ― Thai restaurants included! It was also the first time I’d ever used steak in curry, which counts as a double success in my book.

Hoorah!

To recreate this little bowl of magic, you’ll need the following (in varying quantities because I was cooking for one):

For the curry

  • Coconut oil for cooking
  • Steak (I used rump and bashed it with a rolling pin until thin and tenderised)
  • Thai red curry paste (you can make your own, but I buy an authentic ready-made paste with no additives ― just the ingredients you’d use if you had the time to make it yourself)
  • Can of coconut cream
  • Water or stock
  • Fish sauce
  • Thai basil leaves (three-four)
  • Onion, tender stem or purple sprouting broccoli and asparagus, all cut into similar sized chunks
  • Tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
  • Fresh chopped coriander
  • Zest and juice of one lime
  • Chilli flakes
  • Spring onions, finely chopped to garnish
  • Cashew nuts, chopped and lightly toasted
  • Agave syrup (a natural alternative to sugar)

For the rice

  • Coconut oil for cooking
  • Cauliflower florets, diced to resemble grains of rice
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Chilli

 To make the magic happen:

  1. Put your wok on a high heat and add a spoonful of coconut oil. When it’s melted and hot, add a spoonful of Thai curry paste (I actually use about four spoonfuls because I like a lot of flavour) and a spoonful of coconut cream, then cook for two minutes (this releases the flavours)
  2. Meanwhile, and in a separate pan, heat some more coconut oil and fry your onion, chilli and garlic for two minutes, followed by your diced cauliflower. This takes about 20 minutes to cook through, so just stir occasionally whilst seeing to your curry
  3. Now, back to the curry: cut your steak into strips and add to the paste; when sealed, add the rest of your coconut cream and a little stock or hot water, along with the Thai basil leaves. Allow to cook for a few minutes before throwing in your chopped vegetables
  4. Next up squeeze in the juice and zest of one lime, a capful of fish sauce, a squeeze of agave syrup, a sprinkling of tamari (or soy sauce), and a chopped bunch of fresh coriander ― along with your chopped and toasted cashew nuts
  5. Allow it to simmer whilst your paleo rice is cooking. When the cauliflower starts to brown and soften, pop in a bowl, pour the curry over the top, and garnish with chopped spring onion, chilli flakes, coriander leaves, and a few toasted cashews

It really is heaven on a plate!

Enjoy with a nice cold Thai beer. My favourite is Singha.

Love Emma xx

Paleo: eating the no wheat, no grain, no dairy sort of way

paleoIf you’re a regular visitor to the blog, you probably know me best for all things fun, frivolous, and utterly indulgent ― from my Oreo cookie cupcakes, Reece’s peanut butter chocolate cake and zesty lemon curd muffins, to party sausage rolls, boozy shepherd’s pie and tasty chorizo tortilla pizzas.

Owing to a pretty speedy metabolism, I haven’t given much thought to my diet in recent years; but since discovering exercise through caveman training (a local class that combines power lifting, plyometrics, agility, speed, balance, and strong man training for a full body workout) I started to think of food as ‘fuel’, rather than an excuse for gluttony. This of course led to a pretty sharp assessment of what I excitedly shove into my cave hole each day (namely, you guessed it, cake ― with regular take outs thrown in for good measure).

Now, whilst this wasn’t making me fat, it also wasn’t making me feel good. I had little energy, got a lot of headaches and stomach aches, and often went to bed feeling uncomfortably full. So when I saw the paleo diet being championed on the caveman facebook page, I was intrigued.

I’ve never done too well with faddy diets, but after doing a bit of research (and finding out that friends of mine had tried it out and felt great as a result), I began to realise that ‘paleo’ (short for Paleolithic) isn’t so much a diet as a way of life. It’s about eating foods that can be picked or hunted in nature, and avoiding foods that can’t be eaten raw. In other words, eating the things that naturally, your body can handle, and avoiding the things that naturally, it can’t.

The basic principles include:

  • No dairy (cheese, milk, cream)
  • No grains (wheat, rice, pasta)
  • No legumes (soy, peanuts, beans, peas, chicken peas)
  • No processed foods
  • Avoiding sugar and refined oils

You can eat as much lean meat as you want, and should aim for a high intake of vegetables. You can technically eat as much fruit as you want too, but as it’s high in natural sugar I try to limit myself to two portions a day. You can also indulge in nuts (but no peanuts, because they’re not actually nuts ― who knew?); but again, keep the quantities down because the fat levels ― however good those fats may be ―are pretty darn high. For maximum effect, you should also up your water intake ― and get plenty of sleep.

So, I’ve swapped potatoes for sweet potatoes and butternut squash, peanut butter for almond butter, cooking oil for coconut oil, milk for coconut milk, flour for coconut flour (you can see a pattern emerging), soy sauce for tamari (a wheat free alterative), sugar for natural agave syrup, mochas for espressos, and stock cubes for homemade stock (most stock cubes contain wheat). And so far I’ve made some incredible tasty recipes!

My favourite being Thai red chicken and coconut milk broth:

Now this is what I call soup!

Now this is what I call soup!

Then there were the fajitas (made with homemade fajita spices, homemade oven roasted salad, and homemade guacamole), completed with gem lettuce leaves instead of tortillas:

I didn't even miss the sour cream

I didn’t even miss the sour cream

Chicken breast marinated in tamari, fresh lime juice, garlic, chilli and agave, with rosemary sweet potato straws and steamed red cabbage:

Heavenly straws!

Heavenly straws!

Rump steak stir fried in coconut oil with cashews, tenderstem broccoli, pak choi, asparagus, coriander, lime, spring onion, garlic, and chilli:

You can't beat a nice bit of rump

You can’t beat a nice bit of rump

Parma ham with toasted chilli and cinnamon walnuts, on top of a red cabbage, caper and olive salad:

Sweet toasty nuts make for a winning salad

Sweet toasty nuts make for a winning salad

Thai red chicken curry with broccoli, onion and asparagus, served with cauliflower faux rice (surprisingly delicious for someone who doesn’t like cauliflower):

So satisfying!

So satisfying!

A post-caveman bowl of chicken stir fried with veg and a teaspoon of almond butter:

Kick ass chicken and veg bowl

Kick ass chicken and veg bowl

And roasted butternut squash tossed in rose harissa, served with toasted pine nuts and a spinach, rocket, red pepper and spring onion salad:

A whole plate of goodness right there!

A whole plate of goodness right there!

I’ll be sharing all of these recipes in full in subsequent posts ― and they all come highly recommended! The Thai broth was actually the tastiest thing I’ve ever made, and I honestly haven’t felt hungry once because of all of the veg I’ve been ploughing through. I feel full, in a good ‘non bloated’ sort of way, and my body just feels ‘right’.

Admittedly, paleo is a little hard to keep up if you’re out at the weekend, but they say to try and stick to a diet 80% of the time, so I’m not going to beat myself up about the mash potato I ate in a nice country pub on Sunday after a freezing cold morning in Port Vale football stadium.

If you’ve tried paleo yourself, feel free to share your comments and recipe ideas. I’m still learning and will bring you plenty of updates (along with my usual naughty recipes ― I’m still a feeder!) I also post photos of my recipes on Instagram and Twitter (@emmaattenB).

Love Emma xx

The cake and bake show: in pictures

Last week, I was lucky enough to not only be given tickets to Manchester’s cake and bake show for my birthday, but also press passes through my gig as Editor of food website Kitchen Bitching. You can read the write up of my day in full over at KB, but I just had to share some of my amateur snaps from the day on White Rabbits.

The best part of having a press pass was seeing Paul Hollywood, Simon Rimmer, John Whaite, and Cat Dresser ‘back stage’. Baking talent galore!

The lovely GBBO contestants

The lovely GBBO contestants

Then came the marketplace, full of sumptuous displays, clever designs, and playful decoration.

Gorgeously gilded gold

Gorgeously gilded gold

Luxury cake pops

Edible gardening

Edible gardening

Tree stumps never looked so tasty

rose cake

Of course, things got even tastier upon discovering the gingerbread village.

Home sweet home

Home sweet home

The stars of the show

The stars of the show

Sugar cane heaven

Sugar cane heaven

And then came the wedding cakes, quirky baking delights, and a CAKE CATWALK!

Inspiration for your big day

Inspiration for your big day

An artist at work...

An artist at work…

A little Mad Hatter, don't you think?

A little Mad Hatter, don’t you think?

There were no skinny offerings on this catwalk!

There were no skinny offerings on this catwalk!

Up close and personal with the models

Up close and personal with the models

But of course, the stars of the show came into their own in the live demos; with Mich Turner showing us amateurs how to produce the most glorious looking rose covered cake. Heavenly.

The baking guru in full swing

The baking guru in full swing

Pretty as a picture

Pretty as a picture

Now, get yourselves along to the London leg in September – you’ll be up to your eyes in icing, edible glitter, and baking gods. Can’t say fairer than that.

Love Emma xx