Chocolate Fudge Cake

T wanted to bake.

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He wanted to bake a cake.

bakeacake

He wanted to bake a chocolate cake.

folding

He wanted to bake a chocolate fudge cake.

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T likes his cake …

chocfudgecake

… (and his diggers).

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Chocolate Fudge Cake (adapted from Leiths Baking Bible)

4 oz butter
4 oz caster sugar
4 oz light muscovado sugar
1 oz molasses
4 eggs
6 oz self-raising flour
2 oz cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
a pinch salt
6 tbsp creme fraiche
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the icing
8 oz plain chocolate
8 oz creme fraiche
1 tbsp caster sugar

Chocolate drops to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line two 8″ round sandwich tins with baking parchment.

Cream the butter and sugars.

Lightly beat the eggs, then beat in gradually to the creamed mixture.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Fold into the creamed mixture alternately with the creme fraiche.

Stir in the vanilla.

Divide the batter between the two tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the cake tops are springy.

Cool on a wire rack for 10 mins before turning out and cooling completely.

Make the icing – melt the chocolate in a bowl, either over a pan of hot water or in the microwave. Stir in the creme fraiche and sugar. Use liberally to sandwich and ice the cake.

Decorate with the chocolate drops.

Yum.

The Wooden Spoon Adventures

Let’s all sing …

Happy 5th Blogiversary to A Merrier World,
Happy 5th Blogiversary …

Hmmm. Maybe not. It doesn’t quite scan, does it?

But it really is my blog’s 5th birthday (despite the fact that the Choc Chip Cookie Brownie Cake above has seven candles. I was never very good with numbers).

Five years ago today, I clicked ‘publish’ for the first time and held my breath as my chocolate brownie tentatively announced my new, official status of ‘food blogger.’ Since that day, I have discovered friendships among an online crowd of passionate food bloggers and bakers, I have entertained Rose Levy Beranbaum and her assistant, Woody Woolston at home and abroad, and even conjured up a surprise at Dart’s Farm for two of my most loyal readers over the years, Melinda and Jeannette. My Great Pumpkin Cake seems to have spread far and wide across the internet whilst my Rainbow Cake and Unicorns post has inspired other Mums looking for party ideas for their young children. And WordPress tells me that this is my 150th post (gosh, how did that happen? A nice round, significant number like that? 😉 )

To celebrate this milestone (and five years is not so very short a time in terms of internet history), I’m sending a wooden spoon off into the big wide world to stir up some trouble.

Here’s the plan …

A few weeks ago, I snail-mailed a wooden spoon to one of my first-ever blog readers, Melinda. She had very generously agreed to come out of blogging retirement to write a post on her own blog about the adventures this wooden spoon would have with her when she used it to bake a tasty, local treat. She had also agreed to hound down, pester, cajole or bribe another willing food blogger to accept this wooden spoon afterwards and to take it on a further baking spree.

True to her word (for which I will be forever grateful), Melinda has introduced my wooden spoon to the delights of a Lemon Blueberry Buckle, nostalgically reminiscent of her roots in Oregon. She has also coined a new word – spoonee. Thank you, Melinda, for being such a wonderful first spoonee!  Next stop, Portland …

And so the wooden spoon’s adventures will hopefully continue, passing from baker to baker around the globe and whipping up a storm of regional specialities.

If all goes well, I will chart the Wooden Spoon’s Adventures here on A Merrier World by building up a page of links to all the delicious recipes the spoon has met on its culinary travels.

As for the lavishly-named, seven-candled Choc Chip Cookie Brownie Cake … here’s the recipe as a special birthday present from me to A Merrier World and its readers 🙂 .

Choc Chip Cookie Brownie Cake

Cookie Base
3 oz butter
2 oz caster sugar
2 1/2 oz light muscovado sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 medium egg
5 oz plain flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
5 oz chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl.

Gradually beat in the vanilla and egg.

Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread the cookie dough in the base of a 9″ springform pan. Put in the fridge while making the brownie batter.

Brownie
3 oz plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp cocoa powder
5 1/2 oz plain chocolate
4 oz butter
1/4 tsp coffee granules
5 oz caster sugar
2 oz light muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir in the coffee granules.

Turn off the heat and whisk in the caster and muscovado sugars until completely combined.

Take the bowl off the pan of hot water and whisk in 1 egg, the egg yolk and vanilla.

Whisk in the second egg, but be careful not to overbeat at this stage.

Sprinkle the flour mixture over the top and fold in with a spatula.

Pour the brownie batter over the chilled cookie base.

Bake for 25 minutes until the brownie is just setting. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Chocolate Rolo Cookies

Mum let us (M&L) use the kitchen again. We are going to make chocolate Rolo cookies.

Here’s what we need …

8 oz butter
8 oz caster sugar
2 egg yokes
2 tablespoons milk
9 oz plain flour
1 oz coco powder
3 packets of Rolos (which gives you some left over … to test, just to make sure they’re okay)

We weighed the butter to the right amount and put it in a big mixing bowl with caster sugar.

Now we needed to cream the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.We started it slowly and got  faster.

Then we separated the egg yoke from the egg whites  and put the yokes into a bowl.

We beat up the egg yokes a little bit with a fork.

L checked the recipe and we added the milk to the eggs yokes. Then we put them in the big mixing bowl and beat them all up together with the sugar and butter.

Then we sieved the flour and coco powder into the big mixing bowl. We did it without getting too messy.

We mixed everything together and scraped the sides of the bowl down. It turned into a sticky dough.

We used our hands to get the dough into round balls and placed them on the trays. We had to space them out.

Our hands got quite messy. It was so tempting to lick them but we didn’t.

Then we placed the rolos on top. Some of them we pushed down too far and they made a hole in the cookie and we said that we wouldn’t do that again.

We had to keep on looking at the recipe to see what to do. The recipe told us to put the cookies in the oven for 12 minutes (at 180 degrees C).

In the oven they spread out lots and stuck together. We cooled them for 5 minutes on the baking trays and then used a spatula to put them onto wire racks.

L says, “Welcome to Cookieworld!”

M says, “You can tell which ones are mine – they’re the ones that are all crumbled up!”

Blast Off Biscuits

Conversation at home can become quite surreal sometimes. Take yesterday, for example. My three children (aged 9, 6 and 5 years … which reminds me that I really should get around to updating my About page – they would all seriously object to being described as ‘small’ now) were sitting around the kitchen table, drawing pictures whilst waiting for their dinner to appear magically before them.

M: Is that a spaceship?

L: (no response)

M: Please tell me that’s a spaceship because it looks like one.

L: It’s a fried egg.

M: Really?

L: No. It’s a spaceship.

T: It looks like a fried egg.

M: Flying saucers look like fried eggs. That’s a spaceship.

I’m enormously unqualified on the subject of space travel and was therefore unable to contribute anything particularly insightful to their discussion. Instead, I mumbled something about chocolate and biscuits and rockets and stars and cookie cutters. There was a brief silence while the three of them stared at me and came to a mutual, unspoken conclusion that their Mum was going crazy again, and then they bent their heads once more over L’s picture and continued debating the various attributes of fried eggs and flying saucers.

Although I have to admit that I may at times have a fairly tenuous grip on reality, on this occasion I wasn’t spouting nonsense. You see, my post on Jubilee Nutella Cookies was featured recently in a review of favourite blogs by the online gift shop, Dotcomgiftshop. I was then invited by the very friendly Dotcomgiftshop team to review some of their products and present them to … well … you lot, really. Normally I’d say thanks but no thanks (hrumph corporate hrumph blogs hrumph advertising), but I took a look at their website and was swayed by the quirky appeal of their product ranges. Candy-striped fizzy pop cups and retro popcorn holders, vintage party ice cream tubs with wooden spoons – just like the ones the ice cream ladies sold from trays hanging around their necks in the interval between the trailers and the main feature in old picture houses. And Charlie & Lola hot water bottles (I can always be swayed by anything Charlie & Lola).

Sorry, I’m getting side-tracked. What was I going on about again? Oh yes, fried eggs. No, that was my children. Chocolate and biscuits and rockets and stars and cookie cutters – that was it.

Well, the Dotcomgiftshop team kindly sent me a Spaceboy Children’s Baking Set to try out at home – which is why I thought that the mention of  chocolate and biscuits and rockets and stars and cookie cutters might be something not entirely unrelated to my children’s apparent interest in space travel. Once they’d caught on to the idea, they thought so too.

The baking set contains a spaceboy-themed collection of cupcake cases, rocket and star cookie cutters, a small wooden spoon and rolling pin, a child-sized metal whisk and a gingham pinny (which has very useful ties rather than a loop to go around the neck – which avoids the need to thread a too-big loop through an excess of waist ties just to stop the whole thing slipping downwards). T was also delighted to find a booklet for keeping a record of his recipes. We wrote up the first recipe in his book together this afternoon – Blast Off Biscuits.

I love this biscuit dough. It’s so smooth and velvety but holds its shape beautifully when baked. I can’t remember where the original recipe came from so many years ago, but when T wrote on his Mother’s Day card that he loves me because I make chocolate biscuits, these are the chocolate biscuits he was talking about. Biscuit love.

And so my little helper and I set off on the ultimate spaceboy baking trip.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 …

BLAST OFF!

Blast Off Biscuits (as written by us in T’s little spaceboy recipe book)

7 oz butter
6 oz golden caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz plain flour
2 oz cocoa powder

Cream the butter and sugar.

Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Mix in the flour and cocoa.

Make a ball.

Wrap in clingfilm.

Chill in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Line a baking tray with parchment.

Roll out the dough.

Use a rocket and a star cutter to cut out the biscuits.

Lift them onto the tray.

Bake for 6 to 10 minutes.

Leave to cool on the tray.

Not A Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake

My oven and I have had a serious falling out. I want cakes with smooth tops. My oven obviously prefers cakes with cracked tops – because that’s what it keeps giving me. Volcanic eruptions and craters to rival those on Venus.

I know the theory. Peaked and cracked tops = oven temperature too high so the sides set too quickly and the uncooked batter pushes up through the top of the cake.

Simple, no?

I baked four chocolate fudge cakes last week, hoping to resolve my disagreement with my oven in time for T’s 5th birthday.

Cake 1: Having already discovered that my oven has a rather blowy fan, I reduced the temperature for the first cake by 10 degrees C. The top cracked.

Cake 2: I reduced the temperature to 160 degrees C. The top cracked.

Cake 3: I kept the temperature at 160 degrees C and used magi-cake strips. The top cracked.

Cake 4: I reduced the temperature to 150 degrees C and used magi-cake strips. The top cracked.

Cake 5: There wasn’t one. Or a cake 6 or 7 or 8. Huh.

I know for 99.9% sure that there isn’t a problem with either the recipe or with my mixing technique. And my oven thermometer is accurate. So, it has to be something the oven is doing. O said it didn’t really matter – T’s birthday cake would taste fine anyway. But that’s not the point – it DOES matter! (Well, it matters to me if not to O).

Frustrated (an understatement), I fired off a tirade of abuse against my oven in an email to Rose. She sympathized (phew, at last – someone who understands!) and wondered if there’s an upper heating element in my oven that kicks on every few minutes. She suggested putting the cake on the bottom rack and putting a sheet pan on the upper rack to protect the top. I’ll try that next time … if I can ever bring myself to forgive my oven for its attitude problem.

As for T’s birthday cake – well, I salvaged the two least-volcanic examples, grouted the cracks with generous dollops of buttercream, smothered the entire cake and crumbled a chocolate flake over the top. Far from disappointing, the extra chocolatey gooiness filling the cracks delighted T and his party friends. There’s no accounting for taste, I guess.

No, I didn’t snap any nude shots of the cracked cake tops – you’ll just have to image what they looked like underneath their chocolate clothing.

My recalcitrant oven did manage to pull off one redeeming success however. Conceived originally as nothing more than an attempt to use up the various odd bits of things in my baking cupboard, it’s a happy miracle that I actually kept some sort of account of what I was throwing into the mixing bowl. Without that, I wouldn’t have a clue how to make them again. And L has demanded more of these – even though she can’t say ‘Chocolate Cookie Choc Chip Bounty Bar‘ without getting her tongue in a twist.

Chocolate Cookie Choc Chip Bounty Bars (aka Not A Chocolate Fudge Birthday Cake)

Cookie Base
7 3/4 oz butter
5 1/2 oz caster sugar
6 oz light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
9 oz bread flour
4 oz cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Coconut Topping
7 oz desiccated coconut
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
12 oz chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (depending on your relationship with your oven. Ha) Grease and base line a 20 x 30 cm baking tray with parchment (leave a couple of handles if you like so you can hoik the whole thing out of the tray when it’s cool).

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl.

Lightly beat the eggs together with the vanilla and add gradually to the creamed mixture.

Mix together the dry ingredients, then stir into the dough until just combined.

Drop large spoonfulls of the dough into the baking tray. Bear in mind that the dough will spread during baking – aim to place the spoonfulls so that they will spread into each other and cover the base of the baking tray. I had enough dough left over to make 6 or 7 cookies or so (sorry, I haven’t adjusted the cookie recipe so that it makes exactly the amount you need for the base. Just enjoy the extra cookies).

Bake for 7 mins until the cookie is just beginning to set but is still underdone underneath the upper crust. Set aside to cool a little.

Make the coconut topping. Mix the coconut with the eggs until they are well combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Carefully spread the coconut mixture over the cookie base. Pat it gently with the back of a spoon but don’t press it so hard that it falls through the cookie.

Bake for a further 10 to 15 mins until the coconut is golden and set.

Leave to cool in the tray, then cut into bars.