Christmas in November – Amaretto and Dark Chocolate Bundt

Christmas festivities should not start until December. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but I have always disliked how it seems to be creeping earlier and earlier into the year, especially in the shops. The pressure to buy and consume is huge, even more so now with the sudden UK explosion of Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving in the USA. Retailers offer discounts on loads of items, causing mass hysteria, riots and even injuries. It’s mental! Whilst I’m all for a decent discount I hate the mob mentality Black Friday fosters and I disagree with it wholeheartedly. But I digress. Back to Christmas!

I have actually been feeling festive a little sooner this year. Maybe it’s because of having two children who are now old enough to understand it, even if they don’t grasp the more subtle messages of Christmas! I can’t really throw myself into it until the eldest’s birthday has been done, which it has now, so I officially give myself permission to start Christmas this weekend. I’ve bought a festive jumper, done some Christmas shopping and I’ve even started listening to the Michael Bublé christmas album (much to Mr H’s disgust). There may also be some wine-mulling going on this weekend. Oh yes!

Adding to the Christmas spirit was last night’s Clandestine Cake Club gathering. A joint event between all three Manchester clubs, we met at the lovely Proper Tea, near the Cathedral. I will add a link to the official write up of the event when it’s been done, but for now I’d like to share with you the cake I made for it. The theme was European Cakes – a nod to the Great British Bake Off European week, which we’d particularly enjoyed, a chance to challenge ourselves with something a bit different, and because the Manchester European Christmas markets are in full swing. I’d set my heart on baking something Italian, possibly even Sicilian, but Sicilian ‘cake’ recipes aren’t that abundant on t’interweb. What did take my fancy was something called Buccellato. It’s a ring-shaped pastry affair, stuffed with figs and other dried fruits, almonds, citrus and nuts, and oodles of festive spices. Brilliant. It also is pastry, which is something I still need to conquer, so it was going to be a good challenge. Having bought all the ingredients, I looked at the recipe in more detail…which is what I should have done beforehand, because the thing requires several stages of chilling: you need to chill the pastry, the filling, the assembled thing before cooking…given that I was starting this at 8pm on the night before cake club, I got a serious case of can’tbearseditis. So I quickly rustled up a Plan B. And not too shabby a plan B! I love Amaretto, and I love dark chocolate, and the two go together so well. So, a bundt it was!

It’ll be no surprise to you that I based it on the Build-a-Bundt formula from Bolton CCC’s Dollybakes, which is my most trusted bundt recipe. And I just made my own tweaks for the flavours. Here goes…

Ingredients

For the cake

  • Butter or marge – 225g
  • Caster sugar – 375g
  • Light soft brown sugar – 75g
  • 4 free range eggs
  • Plain flour – 350g (plus a bit extra)
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Bicarbonate of Soda – ½ teaspoon
  • Greek yoghurt – 250ml
  • Almond essence – 1 teaspoon
  • 50g dark chocolate
  • Amaretto Disaronno – I used 100mls

For the topping

  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 100mls double cream
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto disaronno
  • Amaretti biscuits (hard) or flaked almonds

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 160 oC
  • Start by creaming together the butter and sugars, either in a mixer (hello trusty Kitchen Aid) or with a hand mixer until pale and fluffy. This should take a few minutes at high speed.
  • Turn your mixer down low. Beat the eggs together in a bowl and add very gradually, making sure each addition is fully mixed in before adding more. Go steady here.
  • Next, add the flour, bicarb and salt together, alternating with some of the yoghurt and almond essence. Do this gradually. Some people prefer to do it by hand but I find the mixer on slowest speed is fine…just make sure you don’t over-mix it. Be stingy with the mixing!
  • Finally bung in the amaretto and give it a quick whizz. At this stage, because you’re adding more liquid than usual, you might need to add a little bit more flour (hence the extra in the ingredients). If you feel the batter is looking a bit too slack, add a table spoon of flour and fold it in by hand. Sorry for being vague here but it all depends on a few factors…the consistency of the yoghurt being a big one, which is why I prefer Greek style for this recipe as it’s thicker. Basically just use your eye and experience and judge when you think it’s right!
  • Split the batter by popping half of it into another bowl.
  • Melt the dark chocolate by heating it slowly in a bowl, sitting over a pan of simmering water. This shouldn’t take long. Fold the chocolate into into one of the bowls of batter.
  • Prepare you tin of choice (I used my trusty star shaped Bundt but this should work with most shapes). Cake release spray and a coating of flour.
  • IMG_7036You can now marble the batters together however you choose. I did one layer of plain, one of chocolate, then another plain, chocolate and finished with more plain, then swirled them slightly using a skewer…but the choice is yours! You could do zebra layers, which looks ace, dollops around the tin…lots of options. Don’t fill more than ¾ full.
  • Pop in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for an hour and 15 minutes thereabouts – I checked mine after an hour, turned it and gave it a bit longer…an hour and 20 in total.
  • Let it cool in the tin for 15 mins then turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool completely.

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  • When the cake’s cold, make the chocolate ganache. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a simmering pan of water.
  • Remove from the heat and slowly add the cream, stirring constantly. Then add the amaretto and keep stirring. You can add more cream and amaretto if you like, but not too much. I was sort of guessing at this bit!
  • Drizzle this over the top of your cake in a stylish manner!
  • Scatter the top with crushed amaretti biscuits or toasted almond flakes…or both if you like.

Amaretto and dark chocolate bundt

And there it is! Amaretto and Dark Chocolate bundt. We had a fantastic cake club christmas do, with some brilliant bakes. If you fancy coming along, we’d love to see you. Follow @MancNorthCCC on Twitter and join us on the Clandestine Cake Club website.

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Spiced Pumpkin and Apple Loaf Cake

When I was a kid, Halloween wasn’t such a fuss. We used to do a few fun things at home with the family, but didn’t go to parties or go crazy with the dressing up. We certainly didn’t go trick or treating! But we did carve a scary face into a swede. Not a pumpkin, no no, they weren’t readily available back then (“but surely that was only 10 years ago!”, I hear you cry). Dad would spend hours scooping out the innards of a swede, on which my sister and I then drew a few triangles, and Dad duly cut out. In went a tea light and we were delighted. Even now, I can recall the scent of warming, then burning swede flesh. It’s one of the smells that’s most evocative of childhood for me. That, and pipe smoke, from when my grandad used to smoke one all the time. Love it.

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Back to pumpkins. Nowadays they are ubiquitous at this time of year. The ones you find in the big supermarkets are usually grown for size and shape, designed for carving more than eating. That’s fine if that’s all you plan to do with it, but their flesh is a little bit watery and not as tasty. I like to get the most from my pumpkins, and so that means I want something a bit more flavoursome. We like to get ours from Kenyon Hall Farm – one of my favourite places for a family afternoon out (Summer or Autumn). They have a large pumpkin patch where you can go and pick your own, which really adds to the experience. The kids have much more of a sense of occasion about carving a pumpkin they’ve chosen themselves. You also get a tasty pumpkin out of it too. They also sell all manner of unusual squash varieties in their marvellous shop. I challenge you not to come away with oodles of stuff from that shop, it’s a foodie paradise of produce!

When it came to using up the innards of our pumpkin this year, the first cake I decided to make was a simple loaf cake – this was a last minute cake I needed to rustle up to take to Mumclub Halloween party at our friend’s house. It’s basically a carrot and apple cake that I thought would work with pumpkin instead of the carrot. I baked the carrot version for Apple Day in Philips’ Park at the end of October, and it got loads of praise (yay!) so I hoped the pumpkin would work as well. You’ll be glad to hear that it did!

This is a simple recipe. It doesn’t need any fancy equipment – not even a mixer! If you want to use one, of course, feel free, but I find a wooden spoon does the job just fine and means less washing up.

Ingredients

  • plain flour – 160g
  • plain whole wheat flour – 120g
  • baking powder – 1 ½ teaspoons
  • bicarbonate of soda – 1 teaspoon
  • 2 large eggs
  • vegetable oil – 60ml
  • caster sugar – 230g
  • ground cinnamon – 1 ½ teaspoon
  • ground nutmeg – ¼ teaspoon
  • vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
  • greek yoghurt (I used full fat but low fat is fine) – 80ml
  • pumpkin flesh – grated/in strands – 300g
  • apple (cooking or eating) – 1 large apple (about 175g chopped weight), diced finely. Skin on (but remove if you prefer)
  • sultanas – 80g
  • Demerara sugar (for topping)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 (170 fan)
  • Use a 2lb loaf tin – line it with greaseproof paper. I use the ready made liners for ease (like these from Lakeland but they’re widely available)
  • In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg and yoghurt. If using a mixer, give it a quick whizz – just a few seconds really. By hand just mix until well combined.
  • Add the pumpkin, sultanas and apple. Stir lightly (by hand).
  • Sift together the flours, baking powder and bicarb. Add the flour mix to the wet mixture and stir until combined. Don’t mix too much, the flour should be fully incorporated but don’t go mad!
  • Put the batter into the tin.
  • Sprinkle the top with Demerara sugar – I use about a tablespoon but it depends how much crunch you like on top.
  • Pop into the middle of the oven and cook for around 45-55 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine takes about 50 minutes. Test with a skewer in the centre of the cake. You’ll be able to feel if the mix is cooked or still a bit soggy. If you’re not sure, don’t worry, it’s a really moist cake so an extra 5 minutes in the oven to make sure will not dry it out.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 15/20 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.

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Fresh from the oven. Smells incredible!

If you can, serve this whilst still warm from the oven, it’s scrumptious! Or room temperature is fine too. The cake is moist and will keep well in an airtight container for a few days…if it lasts that long!

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Warm, soft and yummy!

Little tips…

Don’t want to use pumpkin? Try this with butternut squash or the original carrot. For another twist, it also works with parsnip.
Leave off the D
emerara sugar and top the cooled cake with a cream cheese frosting for a lovely alternative. You can flavour this with lemon or it’s lush with maple syrup.

So that’s it! Hope you like it…and if you try it please do let me know. Always nice to hear from you.

H x