Today I’m here with the ultimate example of why I could never go on The Great British Bake-Off. Before we get into how bad this cake is, I want to say that if I was actually making a chocolate cake for a celebration, I’d make this Practically Perfect Chocolate Cake, and load it up with sprinkles because I think great cake is all your need to celebrate.
I’d also never bake something for a celebration or a competition that I was baking for the first time, but for this post, I decided to try the Death by Chocolate cake from The Great British Book of Baking, the companion book to the first season of the show. This recipe is flourless, contains no butter or oil, uses dark chocolate, and is leavened only with beaten eggs. I should have known it would be dry and crumbly. But I trusted the book and tried it out. It was also topped with ganache, which is what most people on this episode of the show covered their chocolate cakes with. I would not make this again.
I also wanted to try a chocolate technique because Paul and Mary don’t let you get away with keeping things simple. They want to see your skills, and I don’t have any of those. I tried to make chocolate brush strokes for the first time. This is something I feel like I could probably figure out with a bit more practice, and a bit more patience. I definitely should have chilled them for longer. I made way more chocolate brushstrokes, but I couldn’t get most of them off the chocolate because they just melted in my hands. Why do people try to create art with something that melts at below body temperature? It doesn’t make sense.
Even though this cake was unsuccessful, I learned something and had fun doing it. Part of this challenge I set myself was not just to prove how hard baking can be, but to push myself to try things I would normally avoid because they’re too hard or too fussy. I’ll never be an artistic baker, but I’m excited to experiment with no pressure. Paul and Mary will never love my baking, but that won’t keep me out of the kitchen.
I think the next episode is biscuit week, so get ready to see some uneven, misshapen biscuits. It’s gonna be awesome. Maybe.
I’ve been stalling on this post for weeks. For one thing, I have a broken finger, so a lot of my energy has been going in to feeling sorry for myself which I know I shouldn’t do. I haven’t been able to break that spell yet.
I also recently checked a book out from the library on aromatherapy, so I’ve become slightly obsessed with procuring essential oils to make and making magic potions. I’m going to solve all my problems with essential oils and start down the road of becoming a full blown witch. What could go wrong?
I’ve shared this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake before. A million years ago when I knew even less what I’m doing than I do now. This cheesecake has a chocolate cookie base, a rich and creamy peanut butter cheesecake layer, and a luscious chocolate sour cream topping. It’s heavenly, and I dare you to stop eating it.
Cheesecake can be a bit fiddly, but this one is very straightforward. Just be sure that all your cheesecake ingredients are at room temperature before you get started, and mix it a few seconds longer than you think is necessary to make sure you have a totally smooth mixture. No water bath needed. And don’t panic if there’s a crack or two because we’re covering the whole thing in chocolate. Everything will be more than fine.
This Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake is absolute magic. Get in your kitchen and create something awesome.
When you bake for people who have never really done much home baking, they’re always so impressed. They can’t believe you can actually make something they’ve only ever bought from a shop. And even if it only tastes pretty good, anything homemade probably tastes better than what people get from a factory. They’re so happy to be eating cake at a meeting on a Wednesday, that they don’t pay much attention to how it looks. They just can’t believe their luck. Then someone always says, “You should go on Bake Off.”
I love to bake, and I hope to keep doing it for a long time, but there is no way in a million years I could ever go on Bake Off. Even my husband, who knows how stressful baking can be, and how many failures I’ve had, will sometimes say this to me. It’s a completely ridiculous idea. A quick skim of my recipe archives should be enough to convince anyone that I don’t bake with the precision required for a baking competition show, but I thought I’d convince everybody once and for all that I would be a total Bake Off flop.
Probably once a month, I’ll bring you a new post featuring a Bake Off challenge, and I’ll let you know exactly what Paul, Mary, and Prue would probably say about my bakes. I’m not just doing this so you’ll get off my back about it already, but also to remind you that your home baking doesn’t have to be Bake Off-worthy to be absolutely awesome. Baking for yourself and your friends and family is always worth the time, no matter what it looks like. Every recipe will be delicious and ugly and something anyone can make at home.
The first ever signature challenge on the premiere episode of The Great British Bake Off was for the contestants to make their signature cakes. The judge’s favorite was a layered lemon drizzle, and I think that would have been the slice I chose as well.
I don’t think I have a signature cake, but I had already decided to share this Chocolate Fudge Cake with you, and I thought a light, moist chocolate cake with creamy chocolate frosting is probably the cake people would most associate with me.
I’m not into fancy flavors. I hate matcha, and I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted yuzu. I like simple, classic, sweet flavors. And if there’s chocolate, so much the better. This is the kind of cake my mom would have baked, and the kind of cake I will always want to eat. If there’s a scoop of vanilla ice cream to go along with it, even better.
This cake came out of the oven a bit uneven because I slightly overfilled my cake pans since they were slightly smaller than instructed. I trimmed off the edges that crept out onto the lip of the pan while baking, but I didn’t bother to level the cake, which I’m sure Mary Berry would have found mortifying. This cake is totally wonky. It’s also ever so slightly underbaked because my oven is the worst. Paul would have been sure to mention this. I also didn’t bother to get out my piping bag because I’m lazy. I covered the ragged edge at the bottom of the cake with Cadbury buttons, but other than that, I just smoothed the frosting on with a small offset spatula. Prue would have given me low points for effort and technique.
This cake is totally achievable for a beginning home baker, and it tastes absolutely beautiful. You can even freeze the layers and frost them later if life gets away from you. Everybody will want to eat this, and they’ll probably tell you to go on Bake Off. We don’t need that kind of judgment. We just need to eat cake and be happy.
Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Butter two 20 cm round cake tins and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl or a measuring jug, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, and vanilla until well combined.
In the bowl of your freestanding mixer or in yet another large mixing bowl, beat together the melted butter and vegetable oil to combine, then beat in the water.
Add the dry ingredients all at once, and beat on low speed to combine.
Add the egg mixture, and beat again until everything is blended. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and give it another mix with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is completely mixed.
Divide the batter between your waiting pans and bake for about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for about 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting, make sure to melt your chocolate first so that it can sit and cool a few minutes before it gets mixed in. The easiest way is to do this in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter for a couple of minutes to lighten it up, then beat in the powdered sugar until it’s smooth and fluffy.
Finally, add the melted but slightly cooled chocolate and the vanilla, and mix until fully combined and beautifully brown.
Frost and decorate your cake however you like. No matter how it turns out, it will taste amazing.
As I’m writing this, it’s the last day of Christmas break, and I have to wake up tomorrow morning and go back to real life. I’ve loved having ample time to relax and do the things I really love. I wish every day could be like this. Oh to be an heiress with nothing to choose from except what will bring you the most joy.
As you read this, I will have been back to work for two days, and that second one will have lasted twelve hours. As you read this, there’s every likelihood that I have gone straight back to being stressed out and disappointed in myself. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve managed to hang on to a little of that leisurely zen I was able to conjure up during the holidays.
Either way, we’re going to need all the chocolate. These Triple Chocolate Cookies have melted dark chocolate in the cookie dough itself, then milk and white chocolate chips mixed in. They’re crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, with just the right amount of sweetness. And as with anything chocolaty, don’t forget to add a bit of salt to really make it sing.
Making these cookies is super simple. Maybe one of your resolutions this year was to get in the kitchen and bake more. If this is your first time ever making cookies, the only thing out of the ordinary is going to be adding melted chocolate to the dough. Just make sure you melt the chocolate first thing to allow it to cool for a few minutes before adding it to the mixture. Other than that, it’s really straight forward. Also, I halved this recipe, so if you want to make more cookies, it’s definitely not a problem to double the quantities in the recipe below.
I’m always working on being a little more patient with myself and not getting stressed out unnecessarily. Triple Chocolate Cookies seem like the most awesome way to chill out and enjoy life. Let’s do it.
Preheat your oven to 175C (350F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Melt your dark chocolate by chopping it or breaking it up into smaller pieces and putting it in the microwave for 30 seconds, then giving it a stir. If it’s not quite all melted, put it back in for 10 second intervals, stirring after each, until it’s smooth. It’s a small amount of chocolate, so it shouldn’t take too long. Mine took 40 seconds. Set this aside to cool slightly.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and both types of sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Next beat in the egg, followed by the melted chocolate. You may need to scrape down your bowl and give it another good mix to make sure everything is fully incorporated before moving on.
In a separate bowl, gently whisk together the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt to combine. With your mixer on its lowest setting, slowly mix in the dry ingredients into the cookie dough until it’s just combined.
Finally, add in your two types of chocolate chips, and give it another quick mix to distribute your chips.
Scoop out your cookies with a cookie scoop or a spoon onto your waiting baking sheet. Bake each batch for 8-10 minutes or until slightly darker brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about five minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
One thing I love about Christmas in the UK is how much chocolate is involved. They don’t seem to do a ton of Christmas baking here. There are no giant cookie platters, no homemade fudge, peanut butter buckeyes or other candy. But a very common gift, particularly for co-workers or distant relations, is a giant tub of chocolates. By the time all the gifts are opened on Christmas day, there might be multiple boxes of chocolates to get through. There’s nothing bad about that.
Possibly one of the most coveted types of chocolate I always wished would show up in my stocking as a child was a chocolate orange. There was just something about cracking apart those chocolate segments that felt so magical and tasted even better. Now that I’m grown, I can just buy my own chocolate oranges any time of year, and it’s become a great way to pass the time on a long train journey.
In case you didn’t get a chocolate orange this Christmas, I’ve made you Chocolate Orange Scones. Maybe you still have house guests hanging around or children who are still off school, and this is a beautifully simple and delicious quick breakfast or afternoon nibble with a cup of tea. It’s got classic Christmas flavors with orange zest and plenty of chocolate chips.
I have the worst time making biscuits and scones. I struggle with how wet the dough should be and always end up with a sticky mess. This dough came together beautifully, and I cannot encourage you enough to not skip putting the butter and dry ingredients in the freezer. This can probably be explained by science, but t me, it’s just magic. Whatever. It works.
The days after Christmas might be a bit of a let down, but these Chocolate Orange Scones will make everyone happy in the morning.
Preheat your oven to 400F (200C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar to a mixing bowl and whisk gently to combine.
Use the large hole side of your grater to grate the cold butter into the dry ingredients. Use a rubber spatula to to gently stir the butter and flour together to disperse evenly.
Put the whole bowl of dry ingredients and butter into the freezer for 10 minutes.
While your butter and flour is chilling, measure out your single cream, and then zest your orange over the cream.
Once your mixing bowl is out of the freezer, add your cream and orange zest mixture and the chocolate chips to the bowl, and use your rubber spatula to stir it all together. Try not to overmix. It should be very thick.
Turn your dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead it a few times to bring everything together. Pat it out into a rectangle about 1-inch thick. Use a bench scraper or a knife to divide rectangle into four smaller rectangles, then cut each rectangle in half diagonally to form 8 triangles.
Transfer your scones to your waiting baking sheet and bake for about 16 minutes or until they just start to turn golden. They will be crusty on the outside but still tender in the middle.
Allow them to cool for about five minutes before serving warm. If you’re feeling fancy, you can melt some chocolate, add it to a piping bag, and add some chocolate drizzles on the top first.