Tag Archives: white chocolate

Recipe: Lavender Butterfly Cakes with Blackberry Jam and Whipped Ganache

These are really quite basic cupcakes with a little bit of lavender in them.  If you’ve ever made a plain butter cake, you probably used this recipe, but without the lavender.  The only slightly complex part is the whipped ganache, which is a bit fiddly, but actually very easy. Once you’ve made the ganache once, you’ll probably want to make it again, because it gives you a delicately flavoured cream that holds up much better than whipped cream if it needs to sit around for a few hours.

The only thing to remember is that you need to start the ganache at least 7 hours before you plan to serve the cupcakes.  Making it the day before is fine.

Also, I just love the flavour of lavender, but usually I make it either too strong or not strong enough.  For me, this whipped ganache is in the magical Goldilocks zone – noticeably lavender, without making you think about soap…

Your shopping list

75 white chocolate
125 + 160g cream, both chilled
3 blackberries, crushed
1 tsp dried culinary lavender + 2 tsp for the cake
12g liquid glucose (yes, I know, I know.  This recipe is usually made in a much larger batch.  This is about 1 1/2 teaspoons, I think.  Just think how much worse it would be if I’d only made a dozen cupcakes!)
250g butter, softened
300 g caster sugar
4 eggs
370 g self-raising flour
160 ml milk
500g blackberry jam

Now what will you do with it?

First, make the ganache.  Chop up the white chocolate and put it into a bowl.

Put 125g cream in a small saucepan with the blackberries and 1 tsp of lavender, and heat until boiling point.  Switch off the heat and leave for five minutes.

Pour the cream through a seive into another bowl.  Press the blackberries into the seive with the fork to make sure their juice comes through.  Return the cream to the saucepan.

Add the liquid glucose, which is, yes, a pain to use, but it does somehow make the ganache more stable.  What I recommend doing is rinsing a teaspoon and your hands in cold water, then using the teaspoon to scoop out the glucose and your finger to push it off into the cream – the cold water makes the glucose stick less.  And I’m sorry about the quantities.  This is the halved version of the recipe, and even with 24 cupcakes, you are going to have more than you need…

Bring the cream and glucose back to the boil, and pour the mixture over the white chocolate in the bowl.  Stir until the chocolate melts.  If you’ve made ganache before, you are probably worried about these ratios, because this is a very thin ganache and about to get thinner.  Don’t worry – think of this as whipped cream thickened with chocolate, and it will make more sense.

Stir in the rest of the chilled cream.  You might add a drop of purple colouring to the mixture to make it more inviting if you like, but this is optional.  Cover the ganache with clingwrap, which should be directly on the surface of the cream, and refrigerate for at least six hours or up to two days.

When you are ready to make the cupcakes, preheat your oven to 180°C, and line two twelve-hole muffin tins with paper cases.  (Or do this in two batches, one tin at a time.)

Grind the lavender in a mortar and pestle (you can grind it with some of the sugar if you find this easier) until it is somewhat broken down.

Put the lavender into a medium-sized mixing bowl with the butter and sugar, and cream together.  Add the eggs one at a time, then mix in the flour and milk, alternately.

Divide the mixture between the muffin tins, and put into the oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cakes feel soft and springy when you poke at them gently.  You might want to swap the trays around at the 15 or 20 minute mark, depending on how they are doing.

Remove from their tins, and let cool on a rack.  Get out your ganache, and whip it as you would cream.  The ganache has a higher fat content than cream, though, so it will whip up much faster – don’t put on a stand mixer and wander off to hang out the washing or something, this is probably only going to take a couple of minutes.

Use a small knife to cut a conical circle (I’m sure that is terrible geometry, but the right words escape me) in the middle of each cake – basically, you want a nice, round, section of cake, slightly pointed in the middle, which you are going to cut in half to make the butterfly wings, so don’t eat it!

Place a small spoonful of blackberry jam in the centre of each hole, and pipe or spoon the lavender ganache over the top of it.

Gently place the two ‘wings’ into the cream, pushing slightly inward as you do, to help raise the cream.

Dust with icing sugar or little purple stars.

Feed to the people you love.


Well, there’s no reason this has to be a lavender cake, I suppose, but isn’t that rather a waste? You might make the cakes with raspberry jam and a little rosewater in the ganache (add half a teaspoon with the cold cream, then taste and see if you need a little more), in which case I’d keep the cakes plain vanilla, because it is far too easy to wind up with overly-perfumed rose cakes.

You could replace 50 grams of the flour with cocoa, and then fill the cakes with cherry jam and add kirsch to your ganache.  Apparently, I’ve decided that black forest is the variation I want for every cupcake I’m doing.  Or just go ultra-chocolate – I bet this would be amazing with dark chocolate whipped ganache and a caramel filling, or a raspberry one, or maybe you could add peppermint essence to your whipped chocolate ganache, and have a choc-mint cupcake.  At which point you should probably decorate it with shards of Peppermint Crisp, because that is the law.

In terms of dietary requirements, I don’t think you are going to be able to avoid dairy here, but if you have a good, basic vegan vanilla cupcake recipe you could certainly make this ensemble eggless.  It is obviously free of nuts.  It would work just fine with my gluten-free self-raising flour mix, and the result should also be low in fructose, though certainly not in lactose.

Recipe: Turkish Delight Gateau

I know, I know.  I said I was going to write about carrot cake and crackling chocolate crackles.  But then I realised it was my choir friend’s birthday, and because I am on holiday, I actually had time to make a cake!  And I had this beautiful recipe for a turkish delight layer cake, with rose-flavoured cake in pink and white layers with rose flavoured cream in the middle, very simple, very lovely.


But then I thought, that’s going to be rather sweet, isn’t it?  So I decided to make the pink cake rose, like the recipe suggested, but make the second cake pistachio.  Which also makes it green, definitely a bonus.  And then I thought – wait, whipped cream, in a four layer cake that has to travel for half an hour on public transport or, best case scenario, in a car.  Hmm.  Probably not a structurally sound idea…

So I decided to make a white chocolate and rose water mousse on a crème anglaise base instead.  Because that is a totally rational thing to do.

After all, rational is what gets you the best cake result, don’t you think?

And this is an excellent cake result.  It’s almost, but not quite, too sweet, with layers of rose and pistachio and mousse.  The white chocolate is subtle, and somewhere along the way the mousse acquired a hint of cardamom.  I have no idea how this happened, because I didn’t actually use any cardamom.  I can only assume that the mousse knew that cardamom was required, and thus it created some through kitchen magic.

(Incidentally, I did an absolutely shocking job on the sponge cakes, mostly because I was too lazy to follow the recipe properly, but the nice thing about a layer cake like this is that nobody can tell because it’s all covered in happy happy rose and white chocolate mousse.  Which is another win-win situation, really.  So don’t be intimidated by this recipe.  But maybe do try following it a little bit.)

Hooray for kitchen magic!

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Recipe: Egg-Candy Easter Quail Eggs

bowl2I have to admit, given that March has been something of a hell-month for me, I’d rather decided that I would let the March Vegetarian Challenge slide quietly into oblivion.  But then the fabulous Johanna of Gourmet Green Giraffe made the most stunning Easter Egg pizza (really, you have to go and look at it, because it’s quite something), and before I knew it, three more people had joined the Easter Egg bandwagon, and here I was, the hostess with absolutely nothing to show for the month.

So, rather belatedly, I’m going to post two recipes, one today, and the other either this evening or tomorrow, depending how I go, for some creative interpretations of Easter Eggs. 

Today’s recipe, I admit freely, is more than slightly weird, and not even a little bit vegan.  I blame the Spanish nuns.  (No, really – that’s where this recipe originated.  Apparently, the Spaniards liked to use egg-white in their mortar, so the yolks went to the nuns, who obviously got bored with making custard tarts and started experimenting…) But who can resist an Easter Egg recipe made from real egg?  Not me…

This recipe comes, almost in its entirety, from Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra’s fabulous book, Sugar and Spice, with only a few very small changes from me.  First, I have doubled the lemon, because I am constitutionally incapable of using the zest of only half a lemon.  Second, I have made the sweets themselves much, much smaller – these little morsels are unbelievably rich, rather like an extra-thick version of lemon curd.  Finally, I let the sugar syrup go a little further than recommended, from thread stage into firm ball.  This was partly by accident, because I couldn’t find a candy thermometer that would behave for me today, but actually, I rather like the results, which are much firmer than my first attempts at this candy, and thus dip a lot better into the white chocolate coating.

If you were much cleverer and more patient than me, I’d recommend the possibilities of tempering your white chocolate, so that your egg-shell would crack nicely.  But I just melted mine, and that worked too.  You could also decorate the eggs in a much tidier fashion by using a piping bag, rather than using a fork and dementedly flicking coloured chocolate all over the kitchen, but I was in a hurry, and the results were actually strangely appealing even with the flicky method, so I can recommend that, too.

Your Shopping List

6 egg yolks (wondering what to do about the egg whites?  Fear not – I have it all planned! Just put them aside in a bowl in the fridge for now, and you can use them in tomorrow’s recipe!)
zest of 1 lemon
125 g white sugar
45 ml water
50 g ground almonds
approx. 175 g white chocolate (Cadbury’s white melts are actually surprisingly good, and I used them here)

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Recipe: Decadent Eggless Strawberry Mousse Tart

Still drowning in grants, but the last of this lot is due on Thursday, after which I will be able to *sleep*, hopefully without dreaming about grant applications.  It was Andrew’s birthday recently, and we had his family around for lunch on Saturday.  I rang Andrew from work at about 7pm and asked him to look up Nigella’s recipe for Grasshopper Pie, on the grounds that it was chocolatey and minty (his favourite flavours) and, being Nigella, it was unlikely to be too tricky for my tired brain.

Despite the unlikely ingredients, it turns out to be absolutely gorgeous (and rich), with a lovely light texture from the marshmallows (yes, I’m eating marshmallows even though it’s Lent.  This is very bad, I know, but I really am not feeling sufficiently imaginative to operate around them just now).  The only drawback is that one is then left with about 150g of pink marshmallows (since one really cannot use pink marshmallows for a bright green mousse, and all the packets come variegated in pink and white), and must therefore think of something suitably pink to do with them.

Fortunately, my lovely potato man is still selling his strawberries at $10 for 3 punnets, and for once I have a use for three whole punnets of strawberries.  Of course, that would make Nigella’s filling far too wet to set, so I added a block of white chocolate to help stabilise things, and then threw in some raspberry liqueur, because why not?

The results are quite pleasing – while this looks very cheesecakey, it’s much lighter in texture (though certainly not light in any other sense), and the strawberries really shine through.  It is a little on the sweet side for my taste, and I think next time I would serve it with a really tart raspberry sauce to add some acidity, since I don’t think one can add lemon juice or vinegar to that amount of cream and have good results.  Just be warnedthis is one rich dessert.  And this quantity will make enough for at least twelve people, maybe more.  I suspect I will be feeding leftovers to hungry scientists and stressed out grant officers come tomorrow…

Your Shopping List

300 g choc wheaten biscuits, or chocolate ripple biscuits, or just granitas and add extra chocolate
50 g dark, dark chocolate
75 g butter, softened a bit and cut into cubes.
3 punnets (approx 750 g) strawberries
2 tablespoons (4 ml) milk
180 g white chocolate
250 g pink or white marshmallows (mini marshmallows probably work best, but I used a mixture of both)
60 ml raspberry liqueur, or kirsch, or cassis
450 ml double cream

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Recipe: Almond and Berry Cake for a Big Birthday

We currently have the two radiation guys living on our floor at work, and one of them turned 60 on the weekend.  My Divisions are very cake-oriented and we felt it would be terrible – terrible! – if someone living on the same floor as us did not get birthday cake.  But how could he get birthday cake with no lab to bake for him?

Fortunately, there was an easy answer to that question, and you can probably guess what it was…

This cake looks like a completely insane – and enormous – chocolate cake, and certainly, the fact that it has about a kilo of chocolate on top of it does make it hard to argue that it isn’t chocolatey.  But don’t be fooled – the inside is a moist butter cake packed with almond meal, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.  It’s based on a Women’s Weekly recipe which I have naturally altered beyond recognition. The cake itself is enormous – I used a 30 cm round tin which is about 10cm deep.  The cake filled it to the brim.  I was aiming to feed 70-odd people, and I succeeded.  The decorations were not entirely successful, largely because I was too tired to think, but the actual method for decorating this cake is pretty easy and looks very spectacular – instructions are at the end of the recipe.


Your Shopping List

500 g unsalted butter, at room temperature or a little softer
880 g caster sugar
12 egg
300 g sour cream
2 cups almond meal (the more wholemealy, the better)
2 cups plain flour
1 cup self-raising flour
600 g mixed berries
600 g dark chocolate
1 cup cream
200 g white chocolate
200 g milk chocolate

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