Chocolate and Cherry Cake

Sometimes simplicity is best. There’s a temptation to create cakes with loads of layers, lots of flavours and toppings galore, and there’s no doubt that experimenting with baking like that can be exciting and challenging, but sometimes it’s good to get back to basics, classic flavours and just make a great, plain cake.

imageI decided to do just that with this chocolate and cherry cake. I had been sent some samples to review from the lovely people at Sugar and Crumbs. I’ve used their products before, having found out about them at the Cake and Bake show in Manchester last year. I was on the Clandestine Cake Club stand, and Sugar and Crumbs were just opposite us – I ended up buying loads of packets of their flavoured icing sugars. They suggested something chocolatey for Mothering Sunday, and with my mum coming over to visit, I saw a perfect opportunity to come up with a decadent chocolate cake for her to enjoy.

So, this cake uses their cherry-flavoured cocoa powder and I wanted to keep it simple to really test out the flavour of the cocoa powder. The cake itself is an indulgent and moist sponge filled with a cherry conserve. It’s a great base mixture that you can flavour as you wish. It’s also really easy and takes no time to mix together!

Ingredients

  • 225 g self raising flour
  • 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder (cherry flavour)
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 175g golden caster sugar
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • 150ml sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • Cherry jam or conserve (I used Frank Cooper’s Red Cherry Oxford Conserve)
    For the icing (optional)
  • 100g soft butter
  • 200g icing sugar (I used sugar and crumbs Black Forest flavour icing sugar)
  • Splash of milk
  • Fresh cherries to decorate

Method

  • Preheat oven to 150 (140 fan oven) and prepare two 8 or 9″ sandwich tins with paper and sides greased
  • Weigh out the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together
  • Using a mixer, whisk the eggs until they’re pale. Add the buttermilk, syrup and oil and give a quick whizz
  • Divide the mixture between the two tins and pop in the centre of the preheated oven.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean and the sponge springs back to the touch.
  • Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn the cakes out onto a rack to cool.
  • Slather one of the sponges with cherry jam – I used about half a jar. Top with the other sponge
  • For the buttercream, beat the butter until it starts to soften then add the icing sugar gradually, with a splash of milk. Keep beating until it’s light and fluffy.
    Make sure you taste it lots along the way to make sure it’s the right amount of sweet!
  • On top of the cold cake, whack the buttercream in whatever style you choose. I went for a bit of piping, just for a laugh (my piping is abysmal!) but swirled on with a palette knife looks just as good. Then top with some fresh cherries if you like. Take the stones out or leave them in…just warn people if you’re not pitting them. Ouch!image

And that, my lovely people, is it!

imageSo what’s the verdict. Well, the whole cake disappeared in one day, so that tells you something. The opinion of my tasters (mother, sister, four children, friends) was that the cherry flavouring in the sponge was subtle but definitely there. Sugar and Crumbs pride themselves on their flavours being natural, and we all agreed that the cherry flavour wasn’t synthetic tasting at all, and not too strong. It definitely added to the cake and we all liked it. Thumbs up. The black forest icing sugar in the buttercream was also really, really good! I used it with half normal icing sugar so the flavour wouldn’t be as intense, and that balanced nicely.

I’ve used several of the Sugar and Crumbs icing sugar flavours, and also the orange cocoa powder before (all bought by moi) and enjoyed the results of all of them, so I’d definitely suggest giving them a go. There are lots of flavours to choose from and they are a good way of adding an extra layer of flavour into your baking. I have a friend who made some lovely meringues (you can read her blog about them here) using raspberry ripple flavour icing sugar.

Disclaimer: I was sent these products to review by Sugar and Crumbs, but I have not been paid to write about them. All opinions are my own (and that of my cake testers!)image

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A Weekend of Baking Brilliantness (Cake and Bake Show 2014)

I’ve got a cake hangover. It’s been a very fun weekend at the Cake and Bake Show in Manchester.

Things started on Friday – Emma (Manchester City Centre CCC Organiser) and I were helping out on the Clandestine Cake Club stand, along with Lynn (CCC Founder) and her daughter Joanne. It’s fair to say Em and I were a little bit excited. We’re talking ‘taking photos of ourselves with excited faces whilst walking to the show’ type excited. We’d had such a fab time last year that we were expecting great things of the show this year, and we weren’t disappointed.

excited face

Excited face!

After making our way to our stand, setting out the cakes that CCC members had baked for the ‘Taste on the Table’ competition and sending a few excited tweets, we had a little wander round the show before the doors opened to the public. We also met up with fellow CCC organiser and Bundt baker extraordinaire Rachel (aka Dollybakes) who was just as excited as me!

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Me, Em and Rachel – Organiser girlies.

I was delighted to be asked to judge cakes with Peter Sidwell on Friday, for our Taste on the Table competition. I say asked…Emma couldn’t taste the bacon cake, being a veggie, and Lynn didn’t want to trough through 30 cakes by tasting them all each day, so I was the last resort really!
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All the cakes were of very high quality and I honestly liked them all…but the winner (thankfully Peter agreed with me and I didn’t have to argue my case) was a pistachio, lime and basil cake that was beautifully flavoured and well balanced, as well as being unusual.

On Sunday, which we’d named “Sunday is Bundt Day”, our competition prize was kindly donated by NordicWare. Not one to pass up the opportunity of winning a huge pile of goodies, I entered a bundt of my very own. I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous about baking a cake as I was about this one. I made the Chocolate and Salted Caramel Bundt that I did for cake club a few months ago, but with a few tweaks. I marbled the dark chocolate and caramel sponge, and made the caramel sauce differently, and quite a bit more salty!

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Lynn cutting into the competition cakes

I didn’t win, but was very happy to take part in the competition and get some good feedback from Rachel (most importantly) Peter (what does he know?!), my fellow cake clubbers (who tucked in to it at the end of the show), Marcus from NordicWare and my band mates at rehearsal later that evening. A Bundt goes a long way!

There were some absolutely amazing cakes on display. I’m not really one for sugar craft – my cakes are more about taste than decoration, mainly because I’m not great at it! However, I am certainly in awe of those who have the skill. It’s fantastic. The jungle theme threw up some stunningly decorated cakes, including a mahoosive gorilla, a snake, spiders and an elephant that was, quite possibly the size of an actual baby elephant!

As for the stalls…cor. The CCC stand was opposite a company selling very nice brownies and cupcakes.

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There were cakes, meringues, marshmallows, sausage rolls and pork pies, breads, wines, pinnies, gifts…so much to see and buy. I think the show organisers struck a really good balance this year. Last year I found it a bit sugarcraft-heavy but this year it seemed much more suited to a wider range of bakers. It was also very, very difficult not to spend every penny in my purse!

The demos and classes were excellent – as well as Peter Sidwell and his co-host Mich Turner, we saw Simon Rimmer, Eric Lanlard and Rosemary Shrager. Great British Bake Off contestants and winners were in abundance. I met Kimberley (very chatty, loves a good wedge of cake and full of knowledge. Meeting her made Em’s day!), chatted to Glenn (very tall and friendly) and said hello to Christine. Saw John Whaite and Cat, but missed Frances!

Great to finally meet Marcus from Nordic Ware, whose tales of celeb bakers and bunts were very entertaining. Not to mention producing the best photo of the show…

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Just feel that bundt!

Other show highlights include Salcombe Dairy ice cream – I mentioned their tweet and got a free 3-scoop waffle cone of deliciousness, Neilsenn-Massey cocktails – orange blossom cosmo was amazing and was responsible for my flushed cheeks on Sunday afternoon, Olivia and Sam proving that baking and glamour do indeed go hand in hand, Joe & Seph’s popcorn for flavours that shouldn’t work with popcorn but do and the end of show reductions that have resulted in obscene amounts of pork/pastry products in my fridge.

Thanks to Lynn for coordinating the show and inviting me along to help. Thrilled to be part of it and share the cakey love.

The Cake and Bake Show Manchester – 2013

img_cake_bake_2013_logoI was excited about this show coming to Manchester months and months ago. I’d heard such good things about it from last year in London that I was determined to visit and enjoy all the delights on offer. I bought my tickets (half price! There were loads of different deals on the internet on the run up to the event) and arranged childcare so I could really take in the full baking experience.

As it happened, the Clandestine Cake Club were having a stand at the show and as the event was on our doorstep, when Lynn Hill asked for some help at the stand, I jumped at the opportunity to spread the love for CCC.

My day started pretty early, helping set things up and having a bit of a scout around the other stands. I won’t deny that I was slightly on the hunt for Paul Hollywood, just to say I’d seen him! Whilst waiting for the doors to open and the huge queue of people pour in, I was chuffed to meet Eric Lanlard, who sauntered over to say hello. Lynn knows him from various baking fun stuff but this was my first meeting and he was lovely. Very chatty and full of praise for our little cake club! Next to say hello was Dan Lepard, whose recipes I absolutely adore. He was really interested in CCC and loved the idea behind it. He’s judging the Australian version of The Great British Bake Off, which I hope comes to UK telly as I’d love to see it.

As soon as the doors opened, we were mad busy chatting to people about the idea behind the Clandestine Cake Club and how it all worked. There were a range of cakes created by our members for a special competition to be judged by Peter Sidwell. They all looked spectacular and drew people to our table.

After a few hours, I managed to sneak away for a walk round the show and a sit down for some sandwiches! The show was rammed with people, loads of seating for the displays and demonstrations and many brilliant stalls. The Manchester Central location was perfect and it didn’t feel too big – there was so much to see but plenty to keep you entertained all day.

My personal highlights (to name but a few) included the marshmallows from The Marshmallowists, which were incredibly light and delicious, gorgeous homewares and stuff from Baker and Maker and stunning breads from Manchester’s own Martins Bakery.

Managed to resist spending too much, just getting some bread-making bits from Doves Farm (including some lovely spelt flour, which I hope to use this weekend!) and a tin sign for my new kitchen, as and when we finally get planning permission and start to build!

It was also very lovely to see some of my CCC colleagues, including Rachel (@Dollybakes) from Bolton CCC, Rachel (@comedinewitrach), Alex from Wigan, Lynne from Lancaster and Helen from Warrington.

If you get chance to go this weekend (or another year!) I totally recommend it. There’s so much to see and do, lots of well known bakers doing signings and demonstrations, and a kids theatre too.