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.

Green tea loaf cake with lime and coconut buttercream

green tea cake

An epic flavour combination

The marriage of tea and cake is one of life’s greatest triumphs, most successful partnerships, and incontrovertibly, most harmonious flavour combinations. But what about tea in cake?

I’ve always been a green, jasmine, or rose kinda gal, so when I came across a recipe for green tea cupcakes in my prized Primrose Bakery book, I was more than a little inspired. However, I didn’t fancy the green tea buttercream their sponge was teamed with.

Two of my favorite flavours in Asian cookery are lime and coconut, so the addition of these wonderfully complimentary ingredients to buttercream seemed like a far more logical (and tasty) flavour combination: the result was zingy, refreshing, a little bit unusual ― and, in my opinion, the perfect afternoon treat, without being overly sweet.

You’ll need:

For the green tea sponge

  • 150ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 4 green tea teabags
  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour
  • 120g plain flour

For the lime and coconut buttercream

  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Grated zest of 1-2 limes (2 tsp)
  • 50g icing sugar
  • Handful of desiccated coconut

Make the magic happen:

  1. Start by heating your milk in a saucepan over a medium heat until it starts to boil, then remove from the heat and add the teabags. Cover with clingfilm and leave to stew for at least 30 minutes
  2. Preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4 and grease and line a 450g loaf tin with baking parchment so that a little hangs over the sides
  3. Once the teabags have been left to stew, remove them from the milk and squeeze any excess liquid into the pan
  4. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and smooth, then add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each one
  5. Sift both types of flour into a separate bowl and stir well. Add a third of the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar and beat, followed by a third of the tea-infused milk and beat again. Repeat these steps until all of the flour and milk is combined
  6. Pour the mixture into the greased and lined loaf tin and bake for around 35 minutes, or until golden brown
  7. In the meantime, sift your icing sugar into a bowl containing the softened butter and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lime juice, zest and coconut, and mix well
  8. Use a skewer to test your sponge. If it comes out clean, you’re good to go. You can use the overhanging baking parchment to lift the sponge clean out of the tin, then leave to cool before topping with the buttercream and adding an obligatory sprinkle of edible glitter

Enjoy with a delicious cup of green jasmine tea.

Love Emma xx

Festive gingerbread men

Gingerbread men

I found the white chocolate drop eyes a tad scary!

One recipe that I just had to try out for the Christmas Fayre was that most festive of treats: gingerbread men. I’d never made gingerbread before, and what with it being Christmas and all, I figured they’d sell like hot cakes.

A little while ago, Guardian writer Stuart Heritage kindly wrote a post for the food website that I edit (Kitchen Bitching), which documented his distressing experience with gingerbread men. Well, I used his recipe (the one he in fact stole from the BBC) to see for myself just how distressing they were.

It turns out, they’re pretty bloody distressing. Making them was fine, but getting them to lift off the cutting board without losing their arms (finally achieved by using my very thinnest fish slice) was a nightmare. And as it turns out, I’m pretty rubbish at decorating gingerbread too (something I did not foresee). Luckily we’d bought some really pretty presentation bags for the cake stall (and I’d made them in three sizes), so I decided to group them up and sell them as gingerbread families ― largely disguising their appearance.

It worked: the gingerbread families sold out incredibly quickly, and my friend’s eight year old son said they were the best gingerbread men/women/children he’d ever tasted. Winner.

So if you want to whip up some gingerbread men of your own this festive season, you’ll need:

  • 12oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger (or more if you like a stronger flavour)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4½oz butter
  • 6oz light soft brown sugar
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup

Make the magic happen:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper
  2. Sift all of your dry ingredients (flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon) into a large bowl and mix together

    baking

    Getting prepped

  3. Add the butter and blend until the mix starts to resemble breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar
  4. Lightly beat together the egg and golden syrup, form a well in your breadcrumb mix, then add the liquid into the well – mixing in more and more of the mixture until a soft dough is formed

    Taking shape

    Taking shape

  5. Tip the dough onto a floured board and knead briefly until smooth. Wrap in clingfim and leave to chill in the fridge for around 15 minutes
  6. Remove from the fridge (and the clingfilm!) and roll out to a thickness of 0.5cm

    gingerbread

    Ready for cutting

  7. Cut out the gingerbread men using shaped cutters

    gingerbread

    Gingerbread family – or the three wise men?

  8. Place on the baking trays, leaving a gap between each shape

    gingerbread men

    Room to grow

  9. Bake in a preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. Leave to cool on the tray for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack to finish cooling

    gingerbread men

    Leave to cool

  10. Organise into families if the fancy takes you

    gingerbread men

    I’ve got all my sisters with me

  11. Once cool, decorate however you like. I melted chocolate and painted on trousers, then sprinkled over hundreds and thousands. I also gave some of them smartie buttons. You could use icing, jelly tots, or anything that takes your fancy

    gingerbread families

    Selling like hot cakes…

Scoff with a cuppa, or buy festive little bags and make your own gingerbread families.

Love Emma xx

Oreo cookie cupcakes (yeah, you heard)

Let them eat cake.

Every cook has a signature dish, and the Oreo cookie cake is undoubtedly mine. It’s my favourite cake to make, eat and share, is ridiculously delicious, and (*smug claxon*) couldn’t be more popular. So when it came to deciding what to make for my first ever cake stall at the Keele Christmas Fayre, this came top of the list (but in the form of cupcakes so there was enough to go round!)

Oreo cookie cupcakes

Was there ever a finer sight?

Oreo cakes are really fun to make and they always look impressive (and inspire curiosity, as all good cooking should).

To create the cupcake of Kings, you’ll need:

For the mocha sponge

  • 8oz caster sugar
  • 8oz butter (or Stalk)
  • 4 eggs
  • 8oz self-raising flour
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsp quality coco powder
  • 2 heaped tsp instant espresso coffee

For the decoration

  • 6oz icing sugar
  • One packet of original Oreo cookies
  • One tub of mini Oreo cookies
  • 3oz unsalted butter
  • Edible glitter (totally non-negotiable)

Make the magic happen:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C and pop your cupcake cases into a Yorkshire pudding tin to keep them secure
  2. Start by spooning your espresso powder (or instant coffee if you don’t have any) into a cup, then add a little hot water (just enough to dissolve the coffee and to make it pourable), before leaving to cool
  3. Meanwhile, cream together your butter and sugar using an electric hand mix (or fancy pants mixer), then add in your eggs one at a time, mixing as you go. Continue to whisk until light and fluffy
  4. Carefully sift in your flour and coco powder and fold, being careful not to knock the air out
  5. Sprinkle in your vanilla essence along with the cooled coffee, and combine
  6. Add a generous spoonful to each cake case and bake in the centre of a preheated oven for around 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool

    mocha sponge

    mmmmmm

  7. In the meantime, tip all of your original Oreos into a large mixing bowl and crush with a wooden spoon (or blitz in a food processer, leaving a few bits for added crunch)

    Oreo cookies

    Must…resist…temptation…to…eat…them…all

  8. Make your buttercream by sifting icing sugar into a large mixing bowl containing your softened butter, then cream together. When light and fluffy, add in a few more drops of vanilla essence and tip in your crushed Oreo cookie mixture

    Oreo cookie buttercream

    It tastes far better than it looks!

  9. Top each cupcake with some of the Oreo buttercream, add a mini Oreo for decoration, and sprinkle generously with edible glitter (trust me, they look so pretty)
Oreo cookie cupcakes

Just so darn pretty!

Take into work, share with the family, or use them to make friends: you’ll suddenly become very popular.

Enjoy with a sense of smugness.

Love Emma xx

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a cake stall

cake stall

Presiding over the cakes…

Since starting this blog, I’ve cooked more than ever before, and regularly share my offerings with friends and family alike – so it came as no surprise when two of my friends badgered me into having my own cake stall at the Keele Christmas market this year. But I wasn’t going to tackle it alone, and roped my mum (the don of baking) into sharing the sweet responsibility (then promptly ordered some business cards to get the White Rabbits word well and truly out).

Business cards

I wouldn’t want people to miss out on my recipes now, would I?

The first problem was deciding which cakes to make. I had my heart set on chocolate fridge cake until mum astutely pointed out that without the aid of a fridge, the chocolate would quickly melt (and now you see why I wasn’t doing this alone).

In the end, we settled on:

  • Oreo cookie cupcakes
  • Coffee cake
  • Chocolate and peanut butter brownies
  • Carrot cake
  • Gingerbread men
  • Lemon cake
  • Ginger Christmas cake with brandy buttercream
  • Coconut cake
  • Green tea cake with lime and coconut buttercream

(I will of course be bringing you all of the recipes over the coming weeks!)

Soon into the baking process, we realised that catering for a Christmas fayre was going to be a messy job.

messy kitchen

Messy kitchen alert!

By the end of the preparation day, there wasn’t a clear surface in sight. We stayed up until 1 a.m. icing, decorating, and bagging up gingerbread families, and early next morning, we were ready to go and get set up for a festive day of cake.

cake fayre

Let the selling commence!

The fayre was incredibly busy, and it was great to see so many people enjoying our handy work.

eating cake

A happy customer

It soon became apparent that we should have made a lot more cake! We sold out long before the fayre came to a dusky close – leaving nothing but crumbs in our wake. Success!

Same time next year then?

Love Emma xx

Amazing lemon curd muffins with a zesty sugar top

More than a little bit tasty!

In my other gig as editor of Kitchen Bitching, I was recently sent some samples of the new Great British Bakeware to review. Amongst the goodies parcelled prettily on my doorstep was a floral (and utterly gorgeous) muffin tray.

Now, despite being an avid baker, I’d never attempted muffins before, but after a recent trip to Costa (where I discovered their delicious lemon curd muffins), I was keen to better them. And — false modesty aside — I think I have. They’re gooey and delicious inside, and zesty, sweet and sticky on top (with an added crunch from the sugar).

The quantities may sound a little high, but if you want 12 decent sized muffins, rather than 12 teeny cupcakes, throw caution to the wind and get baking up a storm.

You’ll need:

For the muffins

  • 400g self-raising flour
  • 200g golden caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120ml homemade or good quality lemon curd
  • Juice of half a lemon

For the sugar coating

  • 60ml homemade or good quality lemon curd
  • 50g golden caster sugar

Make the magic happen

  1. Preheat your oven to 190C, and grease and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases
  2. Sieve the flour into a large bowl and mix in the golden caster sugar

    It gets more exciting, I promise

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together yours eggs, sunflower oil, milk and vanilla extract
  4. Once combined, make a well in the flour and sugar mix and add a glug of the liquid mix into the centre of the well. Use a wooden spoon to stir this liquid into the surrounding flour and sugar, then continue to add the liquid a little at a time, stirring in more flour and sugar as you go. Add the fresh lemon juice and stir
  5. Fill your muffin cases halfway with batter, then dollop 1 tsp of lemon curd in the middle. Top up with the remaining muffin batter

    Tad messy, as baking should be

  6. Once your muffin cases are full, place the tray in a pre heated oven on the middle shelf, being careful not to slam the door
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until risen, firm and golden, then leave the muffins to cool
  8. When sufficiently cooled, microwave the lemon curd on high for 1 minute until it’s all gooey and melty. Pop your sugar into a shallow bowl, then take a pasty brush (so much fun) and paint on the melted lemon curd until it covers each muffin

    This was SO therapeutic!

  9. Immediately dip the tops of each muffin in the sugar

    Kids would LOVE this bit!

  10. Then leave the muffins to set

    Oh, do I have to share?

  11. Enjoy with a cup of something hot

    Serve with your prettiest tea set

I took these into work today and they were an enormous hit, so I predict your popularity levels will rocket if you’re in a sharing mood.

Love Emma xx

Chocolate and coffee fridge cake

Top tip: you can adapt this recipe to suit your tastes by adding cherries, raisins, almonds, pecans, or even cherry liqueur at the final mixing stage

Heaven in a bite

Owing to a few too many glasses of cab sav at the weekend, I didn’t get round to cooking nearly as much I should have done — leaving a distinct lack of naughty nibbles to get me through the week. Come yesterday afternoon, all of the lemon and poppy seed cake had gone, and I needed to replenish the sweet treat stocks. I wanted something quick, something super tasty, and something that incorporated the new loaf tin I’d kindly been sent by the lovely Great British Bakeware people. So I settled on chocolate fridge cake.

I adapted a recipe from BBC good food (having never made fridge cake before) and the results were fantastic. I took the gorgeous little squares into work and they went down an absolute storm!

You’ll need:

  • 8oz digestive biscuits
  • 10oz quality chocolate (I used a mixture of 50% and 70% cocoa)
  • 3½oz unsalted butter
  • 6oz golden syrup
  • 2 tsp instant espresso powder mixed with a tbsp of water, plus a tsp of brown sugar

Make the magic happen:

  1. Line a loaf tin with cling film, leaving plenty of excess hanging over the sides so you can lift it out once its set
  2. Place the biscuits into a large plastic mixing bowl, then bash the hell out of them with a wooden spoon (this was unbelievably therapeutic)
  3. Pop a separate bowl over a pan of simmering water (being careful not to let the bowl touch the water), and melt the chocolate, butter and syrup together, stirring occasionally

    Go on, dip a finger in

  4. Pour in the sweetened espresso mixture and stir. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that it’s largely impossible to adequately mix the gooey chocolate loveliness without getting covered – but that’s no bad thing

    Add a caffeine kick

  5. When completely melted, remove from the heat and stir in the bashed up biscuits
  6. Spoon the unctuous mixture into the lined loaf tin, then leave to cool in the fridge overnight

    Messy but worth it

  7. Lift out using the cling film, dust with icing sugar, and cut into as many pieces as you’d like

    How many can YOU eat in one go?

Enjoy with a fresh, creamy coffee.

Love Emma xx