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.

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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

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

Chicken mole poblano

20130328-132543.jpg

A few weeks ago, I found a truly wonderful little cookbook, bursting with 365 mouth-watering recipes ― one for every day of the year. After flicking through its many pages to see which culinary concoctions would inspire severe hunger pangs, I honed in on the rich dish proffered for Bonfire Night: chicken mole poblano. I had never ever HEARD of chicken mole poblano before, but the picture made it look incredible, and the presence of peanut butter and dark chocolate in the ingredients list made it irresistible.

To make chicken mole poblano, you’ll need:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, plus extra to garnish
  • 1 tbsp chopped or flaked almonds
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp raisins
  • 350 ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 25g/1oz grated plain chocolate, plus extra to garnish
  • Salt and pepper

To make the magic happen:

  1. After heating your oil in a large frying pan, add your chicken breasts and brown on all sides before removing with a slotted spoon and setting aside
  2. In the same pan, add the chopped onion, garlic and chilli and fry for around 5 minutes
  3. Once softened, throw in your sesame seeds, almonds and spices and cook for about 2 minutes, followed by your tomatoes, raisins, stock, peanut butter and chocolate
  4. Stir well, season, and leave to simmer for 5 minutes
  5. After 5 minutes, transfer the mixture to a food processor and blitz until smooth, then return to the pan
  6. Add the browned chicken breasts to the sauce and bring to the boil, then turn the heat down, cover, and leave to simmer for one hour. Use a skewer to check that the chicken is cooked all the way through
  7. Garnish with a few of the toasted sesame seeds and grated chocolate, and serve with a plate full of noodles in peanut sauce

Enjoy with a refreshing glass of white wine, or a crisp Thai or Chinese beer.

Love Emma xx

Booze infused shepherd’s (cottage) pie

Proper British grub!

Top tip: make your meat mixture the day before, then leave in the fridge overnight so that all of the lovely flavours fully permeate the meat ― making the sauce even richer

Ok technically, this isn’t shepherd’s pie at all. It’s cottage pie. But I started calling it shepherd’s pie before I found out the difference between what constitutes a shepherd’s what constitutes a cottage; and, well, I’m stubborn. So shepherd’s pie it is.

Once upon a time, my entire meal repertoire consisted of either veggie dishes, Quorn dishes, or chicken dishes. I didn’t like beef, and I certainly didn’t like mince. Well, it turns out that in actual fact, I liked both; and once I’d been brave enough (yes, this does qualify as an act of bravery) to buy some mince steak, unwrap this thing that was nothing like chicken, and add a shed load of flavours to mask the non-chicken like smell, I discovered that I made a pretty mean shepherd’s (cottage) pie. In fact, it was the nicest meal I’d ever made, and to this day remains my signature dish of choice.

I still don’t like shepherd’s (cottage) pie made by anyone else, because I find there are never enough flavours, and not nearly enough booze. In this version, the sauce is incredibly rich and satisfying. As a rule, the meat mixture from your shepherd’s (cottage) pie should be rich enough to double up as the sauce for spag bol ― with the addition of herbs and a little bacon.

So if you fancy making a pie that packs a real punch, follow the simple steps below ― and don’t scrimp on the wine!

You’ll need:

For the meat

  • Olive oil
  • 2 white onions
  • 2 garlic gloves
  • 1 pack of lean minced steak
  • 2 glasses of full bodied red wine (if you wouldn’t drink it, don’t cook with it)
  • A very large dousing of Worcester sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • One beef stock pot
  • 2 tbsp gravy granules

For the mash

  • About six medium-large potatoes
  • A good glug of milk and cream
  • A large knob of real butter
  • A very large grating of cheddar cheese
  • More Worcester sauce

Making the magic happen

  1. Heat your oil in a large pan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Fry on a medium heat until golden
  2. Add the minced steak and turn up the heat slightly. Fry until brown then sprinkle in your Worcester sauce, pour in your wine, and stir well
  3. Squeeze in your tomato puree and stir in, followed by your beef stock pot and gravy granules, then add a glug of hot water and mix well
  4. There should be quite a lot of liquid now. Bring to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover your pan and leave to simmer for around 2 hours, then transfer into your pie dish and leave in the fridge overnight
  5. The next day, take the pie dish out of the fridge and preheat your oven to 230C
  6. Make your mash by boiling the potatoes in salted water, simmering for about 25 minutes (or until all of your spuds are soft but not mushy), and mashing well
  7. In a separate pan, heat your milk, cream and butter until melted. Add to the mash in batches, combining each one before adding the next. When your potato is smooth and creamy, stir in two handfuls of grated cheese, mix, then spoon on top of the meat mixture (it should still be firm from the fridge, making it easier to add to the potato)
  8. Top with another generous sprinkling of cheddar, Worcester sauce, and salt and pepper
  9. Bake for around 30 minutes, or until the top is browed and bubbling
  10. Serve with homemade Yorkshire puds, sugar snap peas, and a whole heap of thick gravy

Love Emma xx