Sweet sweet Friday: Chocolate Swirl Cake

I have always, always wanted to make this cake. Well, maybe not always, but at least since 2004, when it graced the front cover of Julie Le Clerc’s Feast @ home. It’s a blessed union of chocolate, cream cheese, butter and eggs and I have thought about making it for years, even when my copy of the book was 12,000 miles away in a box in my brother’s shed. Especially then, in fact.
Now, with the remains of it wrapped in tinfoil in the fridge, I can’t wait to make it again. Once you’ve made it, you’ll feel the same way.

Chocolate Swirl Sliver Cake
It took the April edition of We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette, to prompt me to dig out Feast @ Home (which naturally fell open to the page the cake is on). Julie Le Clerc says eating it will “remain with you as one of those ‘died and gone to heaven’ experiences”, which is true. She also says to serve it in small slivers, as it is very rich. This is also true, but in our house at least we have found that one small sliver is not as good as two. Or three. Julie also says it serves 16, but at the moment it is serving two very greedy adults (one of whom claims not to like cream cheese in anything) perfectly nicely and neither of us are interested in sharing it.

250g cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1tsp pure vanilla extract

150g butter
300g good quality dark chocolate (I used Whittakers 72% Dark Ghana)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1Tbsp strong coffee, cooled
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 150C fan bake. Grease and line a 22cm springform cake tin (Julie says some people find it overflows a 22cm tin, but it was fine for me).
Put the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to combine, then set aside.
Melt the chocolate and butter together, either in the oven as it heats up (the way I always do it), in a double boiler or in the microwave. Set aside to cool slightly.
Place the eggs, sugar, coffee and salt in another bowl and whisk with an electric mixer for five minutes, or until very thick and pale. Gradually add the melted chocolate and butter mixture while continuing to whisk until combined.
Pour this batter into the prepared cake tin. Dollop big spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture on top. Push a blunt knife or small spatula into the mixture and swirl around to marble it (this is good fun). Knock the tin with your hand to settle the mixtures, then bake for 40-45 minutes untila skewer inserted comes out sticky but not liquid coated. Leave to cool completely in the tin before serving.

Recipe from Feast @ Home (Penguin NZ, 2004) reproduced with the kind permission of Julie Le Clerc.

Have a great weekend, everyone – see you for some non-baking-related fun next week!

Sweet sweet Friday: White chocolate and rhubarb cakes

When I open our freezer I feel a little like Captain Lawrence Oates, the Arctic explorer who selflessly walked out into a blizzard on Scott’s South Pole expedition to give his companions a better chance of survival. Oates told them he was “just going outside, I may be some time” – and was never seen again.

I’m not saying sticking my arm into our compact freezer is anything like going to the South Pole, but I often wonder what happens to the things I put in there. Some vanish, never to be seen again, but there are occasional happy endings where I retrieve things I threw in and forgot about. Like a bag of rhubarb from my parents’ garden, already chopped in neat pieces, and a tub of crumble mixture. Or a second bag of rhubarb, weighing exactly the right amount for these tender little cakes.

White chocolate and rhubarb cakes
I am hoping the green-ness of this rhubarb will make these a contender for the March edition of We Should Cocoa, in which the theme is ‘green’. I’ve simplified the recipe, which came from a 2010 issue of Sainsbury’s magazine, but I can’t tell you who wrote it because that vital piece of info is missing, along with the contents page. Whoever it belongs to calls them muffins, but because they are made in a completely counter-intuitive way to normal muffins, I think they’re better described as cakes. The batter is very light and tender, and I think it would be lovely with apricots instead of rhubarb. But that would make them even less green, wouldn’t it?

For the rhubarb:
200g rhubarb, chopped into 1cm pieces
2Tbsp sugar
125ml water
Put the rhubarb, water and sugar in a small pot. Bring to the boil, let cook for one minute, then remove from heat. Drain the rhubarb and let cool.

100g soft butter
225g caster sugar
225g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
125ml hot milk
2 eggs at room temperature
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
the prepared rhubarb

Preheat the oven to 190C. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour and baking powder and stir briefly, then add the hot milk. Stir again, then add the eggs, one at a time and mix to a soft batter. Fold in the rhubarb and chocolate. Divide between the muffin tins and bake for about 20 minutes until springy and golden.
Let cool for five minutes then gently turn out to a cooling rack. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Have a great weekend everyone. After meeting a few jammy types this week I’m really looking forward to Sunday!

Chocolate Orange Wreath

Most people have leftovers to cope with after Christmas; I have leftover blogging events. Well, they’re not leftovers as such, more that I couldn’t quite squeeze them in before December 25. But in the spirit of caring and sharing, let me present you with the We Should Cocoa/Fresh From The Oven mash-up: a Chocolate Orange Wreath.

The We Should Cocoa guest ingredient for December is orange and I have cunningly worked it and chocolate into the festive wreath recipe set by Michelle of Utterly Scrummy for this month’s Fresh From The Oven challenge. You can omit the chocolate of course, but it does add a suitably OTT dimension. I made this the weekend before Christmas and it was just what we needed to keep us going. I had thought about making it again for Boxing Day breakfast but with litres of cream and sherry flowing through my veins from the day before I decided discretion was the better part of valour. You could, however, make it on December 31 and it will be perfect for a late New Year’s Day brunch (and any leftovers will be great toast the day after that).

Chocolate Orange Wreath

Don’t be put off by the lengthy instructions, this is really quite simple to make. Anyway, it’s the holidays – what else would you be doing but playing in the kitchen? Use whatever fruit/nut/chocolate combo you like in the filling, but keep more or less to the amounts specified.


3tsp dried yeast

315ml lukewarm milk
1Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
50g soft, but not melted, butter
1tsp mixed spice
420g plain flour


50g soft, but not melted, butter
2Tbsp brown sugar
45g plain flour
1tsp almond essence
1/2 -3/4 cup mixed peel

1/2 cup white or dark chocolate bits (just smash up a block)

1/2 cup slivered almonds

To finish:

1 egg beaten with 1tsp milk

Vanilla icing: 1 cup icing sugar, 2tsp vanilla extract and 1 – 1 1/2 Tblsp hot water

Pour the milk into a large bowl (or the bowl of a freestanding mixer with a dough hook) and sprinkle over the yeast. Leave in a warm place to start acting for five minutes, then add the other ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon. Knead by hand for 10 minutes, or with the dough hook for three or four, until you have a soft, springy, satiny dough. Grease the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover with plastic and leave in a warm place until doubled (about an hour).

While the bread is proving, make the filling by beating together the softened butter, sugar, essence/extract and flour to make a paste and then fold in the fruit and nuts. Now is also a good time to line a baking tray with nonstick baking paper so you don’t have to rush later.

When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a well-floured surface and punch down. Knead for a minute or two, then roll it out into a large rectangle shape. Spread the filling over the dough and then roll it up, starting from the longest side. 

Now comes the fun bit. Using a sharp knife slice the roll in half lengthwise. Put the dough onto the lined baking sheet. Twist the two halves lightly together, cut sides out, and form into a circle, pinching the ends together. Leave to prove again for about 45 minutes – 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size and then brush with the lightly beaten egg and milk.

Bake at 200C for 20 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Transfer to a rack to cool. Drizzle with vanilla icing if the mood takes you and serve. If you’re making this a day in advance and would like to reheat it, skip the icing stage. Wrap it well in foil when cool and reheat in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes. You can work your magic with the icing just before serving.

Sweet sweet Friday: Apple Blondies

One of the things I love about blogging is that it’s broadened the scope of things to worry about when I’m awake in the middle of the night. Now, instead of fretting about work I haven’t done, bills I haven’t paid or the looming spectre of a big fat mortgage, I can lie there wondering how I’m going to think up a post to write. A couple of days ago I realised, when awake in the dark and quiet pre-dawn, that of all the things I could be tossing and turning over, my main concern was November’s We Should Cocoa challenge, in which we have to make something involving apple and chocolate. The good news is that a couple of mornings later I woke up and the following idea came to me like a vision. I might start worrying about the Lotto numbers next…

Apple Blondies
This might sound like an unlikely combination, but if you think about it, apples and butter are natural partners (and white chocolate is surely a close cousin of butter, don’t you think?) I threw in some cranberries because they seemed seasonally appropriate (to Christmas, that is, not the southern hemisphere spring), but you can leave them out if you like.
Frankie readers: this is a sort of appled-up version of the pumpkin and ginger brownies y’all went mad for in issue 40.

250g stewed apple (or unsweetened applesauce) – if you’re making this from scratch you’ll need about 3 or 4 apples – see below for details
250g butter, diced
250g good quality white chocolate, roughly chopped
3 eggs
250g caster sugar
150g flour (plain white or gluten-free or spelt, depending on your cupboards)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup dried cranberries

First, cook the stewed apple. Peel and core the apples, then slice and put in a small pot with about 1/4 cup water. Cook, covered, over medium heat until the apples are soft enough to mash to a smooth puree. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a brownie pan (I use a tin about 30cm x 20cm).
Put the chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl and melt gently by putting it into the warming oven. Keep an eye on it – it will take five to 10 minutes. This is a stress free, energy-efficient way of melting chocolate without having to worry about double boilers and the like.
Let it cool slightly to room temperature.
Beat the eggs and sugar together until combined and thick, then beat in the cooled chocolate and butter. Add the apple and stir to combine. Sift over the flour, baking powder, salt and spice, then fold in gently.Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25-35 minutes. Timing is everything with brownies – you want them firm at the edges but still slightly wobbly in the middle. Leave them in the tin to cool for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely. Cut into bars or squares as you see fit. Makes lots, freezes brilliantly (and tastes AMAZING frozen).

Have a sweet, sweet weekend, everyone.  I’m hoping to make our Christmas cake, do some packing and have an afternoon nap or two (not necessarily in that order). What about you?

Treat me: Chilli chocolate sauce

When I saw that chilli was the guest ingredient for October’s We Should Cocoa challenge I knew just what to make. I have a very vivid memory of making a sort of chewy chocolate chilli-infused biscuit from a recipe a work colleague gave me about eight years ago. I remember making them really well in the kitchen we lived in then, which was painted lime green with blue cupboards (the landlord later moved back in, poured lots of money into a reno job and the kitchen won awards for its more tasteful colour scheme. But I digress.) Anyway, with approximately eight house moves in two hemispheres since then, the recipe seems lost forever. But that’s not such a bad thing, because I came up with this addictively good sauce instead.

Easy Chocolate Chilli Sauce Recipe And Image: Lucy Corry/The Kitchenmaid

Chocolate Chilli Sauce
Pour this over ice cream, eat from a spoon or let set in the fridge, then roll teaspoonfuls into truffles. You won’t regret it…

250ml cream
250g dark chocolate, finely chopped
25g butter
1tsp chilli powder – you can always add more at the end, but go gently to start with

Put everything into a small pot and melt together over very gentle heat (use a double-boiler if you have one). Stir constantly until smooth. Taste for hotness and add more chilli if you are a real hothead. If you’re not using it straight away as a sauce, decant into a sterilised bottle and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Warm gently before serving.

Have a sweet, sweet weekend everyone. My workmates have co-opted me into running a relay up some of Wellington’s finest goat tracks. Is it too late to sprain my ankle?