Spicy Nutty Magic Squares

This recipe is one of my grandsons' favourites. They love to help make it as it's so easy.

The magic bit happens in the oven, as the layers meld together. Basically it's a biscuit layer, a nut layer, a chocolate layer and over these is poured a tin of condensed milk - so no calories then! It's not for the dieters, but great in small pieces as a treat. The nuts are healthy!

I've changed the ingredients so many times that I've forgotten what the original ones were. My Dutch friend gave me the recipe and the speculoos biscuits for the base, but any spicy biscuit will do, or plain ones if you prefer.

You need a greased and lined 20cm square cake tin.

Preheat oven 190C/gas5.

Break up 200g of spicy biscuits, but not into crumbs, leave them in small pieces.
Add 80g of melted butter and mix together.

Press this mixture into the bottom of the tin and press down well  - I use the back of a large spoon.

Chop 100g nuts - mixed or one type - your choice, but don't chop them too small.
Sprinkle these over the crumb base.

Chop 125g dark chocolate and sprinkle over the nuts.

Pour a tin of condensed milk over the chocolate, but don't mix anything together.

Put into the oven and bake for 20 - 25 mins till the top is set and lightly golden.

Leave to cool in the tin.

You can see the magic - it's all come together.
As I said earlier, the recipe is very adaptable and you can change the biscuits, the nuts, the type of chocolate you use, so really you can use what you've got in your cupboards.

It's sweet of course because of the condensed milk, but there's a good contrast of textures between the nuts, melted chocolate and biscuits. It's important not to crush the biscuits and nuts too fine or you wouldn't get any texture.


Lumberjack Cake

My lovely Mum left a folder full of recipes she'd cut out from newspapers, magazines etc, and I was browsing through these and found this cake. It came from a series of recipes of cakes that were 'Old Fashioned'. It didn't say where the lumberjack comes into the picture!
  I had some dates that needed using, so instead of the usual sticky toffee cake or pudding I thought I'd give this recipe a try. It's not a great heavy cake for beefy men chopping down trees, although I'm sure they'd love it, it's an old fashioned apple and date cake with a yummy caramelised coconut topping.
Preheat oven 180C/gas4 and grease and line a 23cm springform tin.
Peel and finely chop 2 eating apples  - about 400g [ I used Granny Smiths] and put them in a bowl with 200g chopped dates, 1 tspn bicarb. and 250ml boiling water. Stir, then cover with clingfilm and leave till cooled.
Beat together 125g butter, 1 tspn vanilla extract and 210g caster sugar till thick, then beat in 1 large egg. Stir in 180g plain flour and the apple mixture [not including the water] and gently mix together. Spoon into the tin and bake for 45-50 mins.
While the cake's in the oven make the topping - put 60g butter, 125ml milk, 110g soft brown sugar and 60g dessicated coconut in a pan over a low heat and stir till the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.
When the cake comes out of the oven after 45 mins, pour this mixture over the top, then put back in the oven and bake for a further 30 mins. Cool the cake in the tin.

This is a squishy, sticky, moist cake, none of your typical Victoria sandwich crumb here. It's probably better as a dessert, as it is almost like an apple and date pudding. Mum's recipe said to add the water that the apple and dates had been soaking in, but I didn't, and I'm glad or it would have been too moist.
I love the topping - a chewy layer which is a complete contrast to the moist texture of the cake. It's a sweet cake, and as I've already said, it would make a good pudd, or have a piece with your afternoon cuppa. The topping could be a useful standby for a tart topping. I'll certainly make this again.


Lemon Tiramisu

Having got back from our Lake District break on Saturday, my friend J asked if I'd make something a bit special for her sister's birthday. I know her sister loves anything with lemon in it, and I'd recently seen this recipe in an old French magazine. Also I had just enough Limoncello in the bottle. and it needed using.

I seemed to have used an awful lot of bowls!

I've never been a great fan of tiramisu, but I like the idea of a lemon one.  I used a small square loose-bottomed tin with deep sides to put the dessert together.

Juice and zest a lemon and in a bowl mix the juice with 50g of caster sugar and 4 tbspns of Limoncello. Keep the zest for later.

Separate 3 eggs and beat the whites into stiff peaks.

In another bowl whip 20cl of whipping  cream till thick - the cream needs to be very cold to do this.

In yet another bowl mix together 50g caster sugar, 250g mascarpone cheese, the 3 egg yolks, and most of the lemon zest. Add the whipped cream and the egg whites and mix carefully.

Dip 250g boudoir biscuits or sponge fingers in the Limoncello mixture.

Put a layer of the biscuits into the bottom of the tin then spread over half the mascarpone mix.

Put on a second layer of biscuits, then top with the other half of the mascarpone mixture. 

Sprinkle over the rest of the lemon zest.

Cover the top of the tin with cling film, and put in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

Turn out onto a serving plate, and decorate the plate with lemon slices.

To be honest, I didn't get to try any of this, but my friend said it was delicious. Apparently lots of people at her sister's birthday tea asked for the recipe. 

She took this photo for me and it's just one piece - I think half of this would have been sufficient as it's very rich. 

I asked J about the textures so I could write about it here, and she said it was very lemony, and there was a good contrast of textures between the cake layers and the creamy ones. She also said you could taste the Limoncello - one of her sister's favourite tipples!


Rhubarb and Yoghurt Cake

 This is the second easy rhubarb recipe I made with my sil's rhubarb. It's just a variation on the yoghurt cake all French families seem to make. You use the yoghurt pot as a measure. 

1 small pot natural yoghurt - use this pot to measure 3 pots of caster sugar, 3 pots of sr flour, 3/4 pot of sunflower oil, 1/4 pot milk
2 eggs
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn vanilla extract
pinch salt
250g rhubarb cut into chunks

Preheat oven 200C/gas6
Grease and base line a 20cm round cake tin.

Beat all the ingredients together except the rhubarb, then stir the chunks in.

Spoon into the tin and bake for 30 mins till golden.

A good moist cake, not too sweet. Love the texture of the rhubarb. A simple cake to have with a cuppa, or as a dessert with some crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

Am away for a week, so next week's post will be later than usual.


Rhubarb Meringue Tart

My sil came for the day and brought a bundle of rhubarb. It's one of our favourite things to eat, so I decided to make a couple of easy recipes with it.

The first was a simple rhubarb tart with a meringue topping, a change from a pie or a crumble. I used a pack of bought shortcrust pastry, which made it even quicker to make, but of course you can make your own.

1 pack shortcrust pastry
600g rhubarb
2 tbspn granulated sugar

3 egg whites
175g caster sugar
pinch salt
1 tspn lemon juice

Preheat oven 180C/gas4

Roll out the pastry to fit a 23cm tart tin. Prick the pastry with a fork.
Trim the rhubarb and cut into 3cm chunks, then spread it over the pastry. Sprinkle the tbpsns
of sugar over.

Bake for about 25mins.

While it's cooking, whip the egg whites with the salt into stiff peaks. Gradually add the sugar and the lemon juice and carry on beating.

Take the tart out of the oven and top with the meringue, then put it back in the oven for about 20
mins - my daughter calls this colour of the meringue 'Jersey cow'.

I like the contrast of textures - the crunchy pastry, the soft rhubarb which still has some bite, and the mallowy meringue. Maybe a pinch of cinnamon in the rhubarb which have been good, or even a pinch in the meringue. I must get over my cinnamon habit!
 In case you're wondering, my daughter sprinkled some brown sugar over her piece of tart!


Sweet Potato Cake with Cinnamon Icing.

We've been eating sweet potatoes for some time, but have never tried them in a cake. I wanted to make something different last week to take to OH's family get together, so decided to make a sweet potato cake. There are lots of recipes and ideas on the net, but many, as is usual with American cakes, had so much sugar. 
I played around with a few recipes, tweaking this and that, and tried this one out first as muffins. It we didn't like them, the birds could have an early Easter present! They certainly tasted different, but pleasantly different, so decided to make the cake. 
Lots of the recipes I looked at had a marshmallow frosting or some other sickly stuff. This one is one I've used many times since being given it by an American neighbour - it's not too sweet, and I love cinnamon!

The first thing you need to do is to roast 2-3 medium sweet potatoes in oven 190C/gas5 for 45 mins or so till soft. Cool. You could cook them a couple of days before and keep them in the fridge.

For the cake: preheat oven 180C/gas 4. Grease and bottom line a 20cm round cake tin.

Peel the sweet potatoes and mash them well till smooth. You need about 375g of the potato for the cake.

Sift 250g plain flour into a bowl with 13/4 tspn baking powder, 1/2 tspn bicarb., 1 tspn cinnamon,  1tspn ginger and 1/2 tspn cloves. In another bowl or in a mixer beat together 115g butter and 190g soft brown sugar till nice and fluffy. Add 1 tspn vanilla extract and 2 large eggs and beat till well mixed. Stir in the sweet potato then fold the flour mixture in gently.
Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 35-40 mins. Cool in tin for 5 mins then tun out onto a wire rack.

For the icing:

115g sieved icing sugar
2 tbspn single cream
1/2 tspn cinnamon

Mix the icing sugar, cream and cinnamon in a bowl until smooth, then drizzle over the cooled cake.

I was expecting the cake to be orange, the same colour as the potatoes, but it wasn't.

It's a moist cake with a soft texture, but doesn't really taste of sweet potatoes. It has a good spicy flavour and the icing is just enough to be a good contrast. It is sweet, but not too sweet. The family enjoyed it, and I was asked for the recipe!


Caramel Chocolate Cake

I'm still finding things in the cupboard that I need to use up, and this time it's a tin of  Carnation Caramel.  This cake is one I've been wanting to try for ages - someone posted the recipe on a forum I follow. It was my turn to host the Book Club this month, so thought this would be perfect to have with a cuppa [best china of course!]
The caramel is used in the cake and in the topping. Without it, this recipe would make a great plain chocolate cake.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4
Grease and line 2x18cm sandwich tins.

Sift 175g sr flour with 3 tbspns cocoa and 1 tspn bicarbonate of soda into a bowl.
Measure 150ml sunflower oil [or other oil, maybe corn or rapeseed] in a large jug and add 150ml milk. Add 2 beaten eggs  and 1 tspn of vanilla extract to this is and beat together.
Beat 2 tbspns from a 397g of Carnation Caramel till nice and smooth, then whisk them into the mixture in the jug.
Add the liquid mixture to the flour one and gently mix together - this is a wet mixture.
Spoon equally into the 2 tins and bake for 20-25 mins.
Cool the cakes in their tins, then turn onto a wire rack.
For the topping and filling - melt 125 dark chocolate over simmering water or in a microwave. Add 1 tspn vanilla extract and the rest of the caramel to the chocolate and beat well till it's smooth and glossy. Add 1 tbspn of sifted icing sugar and mix in.
Put one of the cakes on a plate and spread with a good amount of the chocolate icing. Top this with the other cake and spread the rest of the chocolate icing over the top.
Leave the cake to set before you cut it.

I sprinkled some finely chopped nuts on top, but it's not really necessary. The cake has a lovely caramel flavour which mixes really well with the chocolate. It's very rich, so we all had a small slice!