Apple and Stem Ginger Chutney

I have been making chutneys and jams for my friends and family for Christmas presents as long as I can remember. It’s perhaps my annual ritual that I treasure the most. It signifies making the most of the autumnal farmers’ market or foraging treasures and is one of the first steps I take each year when starting to plan for the festive season.

There was a time when I rotated the chutneys I made, perhaps an apple, pear and hazelnut chutney, often a piccalilli or even a traditional dowerhouse chutney. However since I developed this particular Apple and Stem Ginger Chutney a couple of years ago there has been absolutely no looking back. It has been one of my favourite kitchen creations and now I make it every single year to pass onto my loved ones, and of course to scoff myself with a mountain of cheese.

I rather like it as it’s not one of those chunky chutneys that makes your sandwich all lumpy, or a chutney that is stuffed with little pops of sultanas making the whole affair too fruity. No, this chutney has the perfect balance of texture from the soft apples, of sweetness from the stem ginger and a warmth of spice from the root ginger, chipotle chilli powder, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Apple & Stem Ginger Chutney

In fact I love this chutney so much that it became one of the first recipes to be cemented in my new preserves venture ‘From The Larder’. I have made jars upon jars this year, so that I can spread the joy a little further than my friends and family and I will be selling it on all my market stalls leading up to Christmas. My inaugural preserves stall is at the Stroud Green Winter Fair this Saturday 22nd November at the Stapleton Tavern in Stroud Green and I can’t wait to showcase all the lovely produce I have been foraging for, jarring and canning since the summer. If you are around then do drop by and pick up a jar of this Apple and Stem Ginger Chutney. However, if you are far away then don’t fret as I’ve included the recipe below so you can make a batch of your own.

Apple & Stem Ginger Chutney

This chutney is perfect on your festive cheeseboard as it goes with pretty much any cheese. It’s also incredibly addictive so don’t be surprised if you find you are balancing more chutney on your cracker instead of cheese. This recipe makes a good few jars but it’s perfect to give away as presents or to hoard yourself so you can keep your supplies well on the go until next year’s batch.

Apple & Stem Ginger Chutney

Apple and Stem Ginger Chutney

Makes 12 x 200ml jars

For the spice bag:
50g root ginger
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1.5kg Bramley apples, peeled, cored and diced
1.5kg Cox Pippin apples, peeled, cored and diced
1kg white onions, diced
4 balls stem ginger, finely chopped
500g soft light brown sugar
600ml cider vinegar
¾ teaspoon chipotle chilli powder
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of sea salt

  1. Place the spice bag ingredients into a muslin bag and then put into a large preserving pan with the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Bring slowly to the boil, then simmer for 2.5 hours.
  3. Remove the spice bag then decant the chutney into sterilised jars.
  4. Keep in a cool dark place for 2-3 months before eating.

Birthday Greetings, Cakes From The Larder and Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes
The first post on this blog was published on 24th September 2013, which means that Stroud Green Larder is a full 1 year old. Although you wouldn’t know it was published on that date as I still haven’t got round to fixing the lack of date on my posts – next week’s job for sure.

Going on holiday and then realising it was my blog’s first birthday has definitely been the right time to take stock of everything I’ve achieved this past year. Stroud Green Larder runs my life in the most wonderful of ways. I have been able to explore all the recipes that I have been meaning to try, although that recipe to-do list gets longer and longer no matter how many I am crossing off the list and I have been able to bake whenever the mood takes me – as long as I photograph it and write about it.

The newsletter has been one of my newest but also one of my favourite additions to the website (I know I know, I haven’t sent one out for 2 weeks – but I was in Greece where they just don’t get internet – or at least, not from the sandy shores of the beach which is where you could find me most of the week). A lot of people have been so encouraging and supportive of the weekly emails that drop into their inbox – so please keep the comments and feedback coming.

One of the main things I discussed in my very first post was how long I spent procrastinating before I set up the blog. I went on a food writing course in 2005 where we learnt all about blogs and at the time I didn’t really get how I could do it – after all I’m rubbish with computers and the blogging concept was new and it all seemed so clever. However, I knew that was what I wanted to do. But shortly after I completed the course I started work at an incredibly demanding job which had me working every evening until the early hours, a fair number of weekends and being called up at all hours of the day and night by clients from all around the world who did not think much of time zones. All my energy was being zapped and my blogging dreams were put on hold. Last year, when I finally had a bit of time to myself I found I had been documenting my recipes and writing about them on my laptop so then it seemed so natural at that point to learn how to use WordPress and stick my first recipe up on the internet, no matter that by then I was about 8 years behind everyone else.

Cakes from the Larder

Still, I haven’t learnt anything about procrastination from that experience as once my blog got underway I had wanted to team it with something else, a cake business and cake stall. My ultimate dream is to have a little café with cakes but I think I might be a while before achieving that just yet. Still, the cake stall at a little local farmers’ market sounded perfectly achievable. So why didn’t I do it?

I have run our WI Cake Stalls in the past and always loved it. I really enjoy chatting to people, making cakes obv and then seeing people’s faces light up on their first taste of swiss meringue buttercream. But in order to run a stall myself I needed to make my kitchen a viable business and little monster proof so I had a fair bit of work to do. Installing a door, for example, which again, was a study in procrastination. I also had insurance to sort out, my kitchen to register and food safety courses to take. God knows why but this took a whole year to achieve.

Anyway this past weekend I finally did it. My procrastination jag had ended. I arrived back from holiday on Saturday morning then immediately started slaving away for the rest of the day producing some of my most favourite cake recipes from this past year to sell at the newly launched Falkland Road Market N8. It was a bit of a mad rush to get it all sorted but suddenly I knew what I wanted it to do and I wanted it to start right away.
falkland road market

It was certainly worth it. I had the most wonderful time at the market, it was quiet on Sunday but hopefully business will build as more people get to know we’re there. I received an overwhelmingly positive reaction on my cakes which gave me such a buzz. This is what I made, some of the recipes are already on the blog and those that aren’t will be in due course, don’t worry I won’t hold anything back:

Blueberry Basil and Lemon drizzle cake
Blackberry Crumble Bars
Peanut Butter Chip Brownies
Gluten-Free Bounty Layer Cake
Chocolate, Olive Oil and Fleur de Sel Fudge Cake
Victoria Sponge with Homemade Strawberry and Redcurrant Jam and Whipped Vanilla Bean Icing
Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Orange, Rosemary and Polenta Cake
Caramelised Bacon and Marmalade Muffins
Pumpkin Marshmallow Cupcakes
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Vanilla Bean and Raspberry Cupcakes

Blueberry Basil and Lemon Drizzle Cake

It wasn’t that surprising to me the ones that were the most popular (the red velvet cupcakes, blueberry basil and lemon drizzle and the peanut butter chip brownies were a resounding success) but not many people were adventurous enough to try the caramelised bacon and marmalade muffins which was such a shame so they will go into hiding for a few weeks until I think the world is ready for them again.

Caramelised Bacon and Marmalade Muffins

I was also very blessed to have been supported by friends, our lovely neighbours in Stroud Green and even our whole family, who turned up from all the pockets of England. My mum sauntered into the market as if she didn’t live a good two hours away in the Berkshire countryside which was a lovely surprise since I had only been to visit her the day before and she hadn’t said a word and my sister fought back a dreadful cold in order to lend a hand (she was kept well away from the cakes – but in a good health and safety way, although she did prove indispensable when we had to pack away the gazebo which was completely flummoxing me). My in-laws also dropped by, primarily to return the puppy who had been staying with them for a week. We did try to convince them that he must have surely preferred life with them on the Cambridgeshire waterways but they seemed terribly insistent that he deserved to be back with us and hotfooted it as soon as he was plunged back into our arms.

Speaking of the cake stall mascot he was terribly good on the stall all day, and proved to be very adept at pulling in the custom with his winsome ways. I think he might have found the experience a little tiring, as it was an exceedingly hot day for the end of September.

Billy

So that was week one and it turns out that it was pretty good fun. So much so that I’m doing it this Sunday too. So if you are around Falkland Road Market in N8 this Sunday then drop by and say hi. I’ll be the girl surrounded by all the cakes.

Oh, and I would also like to mention about the lack of cake waste which goes on after the stall is over. No, I don’t eat all the leftovers, despite any proclivities I have to that very scenario. All the cake, which doesn’t get sold, makes its way to my husband’s office where the lovely people who work there voluntarily donate money to charity for in return for hovering up the leftovers. At the moment all the proceeds are going to Open Door, which is an extremely worthwhile local charity offering free confidential counselling and psychotherapy to young people aged 12-24 living in Haringey. They do brilliant work and I know young people in the area have greatly benefited from their help.

Cakes from the Larder

And finally I couldn’t leave this post without sharing the most popular recipe from my first cake stall. I surprised myself that I haven’t included my recipe for red velvet cupcakes before since they must be the thing I bake the most often. They always go down like a forest on fire and it took me ages and a whole lot of red food colouring to really to hone in on my perfect red velvet, so here it is. The icing I think works the best on the cake is a mixture of the traditional boiled flour icing (which was the original topping for red velvet cake recipes and has to be tried to be believed as it is wonderful) mixed into whipped cream cheese and mascarpone. I do it this way because just the cheeses by themselves make for very floppy icing and not good enough to pipe at all. By adding the flour, boiled with milk and vanilla, as a thickener, it stiffens the mixture and also makes the icing just deliciously creamy.

Although just because you now have the recipe doesn’t mean it should stop you from popping by Falkland Road Market on Sunday where there will be ready-made red velvets handcrafted by yours truly for your instant gratification.

Cakes from the Larder

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes 18 cupcakes

120g unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
2 eggs
3 tbsp red food colouring
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp cocoa powder
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
240ml buttermilk
3 tsp vinegar

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and place the cupcake cases into the muffin tins.
  2. Beat the butter and caster sugar together for a few minutes
  3. Add the egg and beat until the mixture is thick
  4. Add the food colouring and vanilla extract and mix well.
  5. Sift together the cocoa powder, flour and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and set aside for a moment.
  6. Mix together the buttermilk and vinegar in a jug.
  7. In alternate turns add the flour and the buttermilk mixtures to the rest of the batter. You should add the flour in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 additions, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just incorporated.
  8. Pour into the cupcake cases and bake for 18-20 minutes.
  9. Rest the cupcakes in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to finish cooling onto a cooling rack.

For the cream cheese icing:

125ml milk
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
300g cream cheese
250g mascarpone
140g caster sugar

  1. Combine half of the milk with the flour and vanilla extract in a small saucepan until smooth.
  2. Turn the heat on very low and whisk continually to dispel any lumps which may form.
  3. Pour in the rest of the milk very slowly, whisking all the time. Bring the mixture to a boil, then once thickened remove from the heat and continue whisking off the heat for 2 minutes.
  4. Pour the mixture into a bowl, then cover the surface with cling film and leave in the fridge for about 30 minutes to get to room temperature.
  5. Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar until light and fluffy, then add in the cooled flour mixture. Beat again until the icing has stiffened and is ready to pipe.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY STROUD GREEN LARDER!

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Chocolate Truffles

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Truffles

Last night I had the joy of addressing all of my lovely fellow members of Stroud Green Women’s Institute about one of my favourite subjects – chocolate.

I was thrilled to be able to talk about how to make the perfect truffle, a subject for which I may be no expert but I certainly make up for it in enthusiasm. The most important aspect to making a good truffle is perfecting the ganache, which is the whipped filling inside a chocolate truffle, but can also be used as icing to adorn a glorious fudge cake. Ganache is made up of chocolate mixed together with a liquid ingredient, and the most common pairing is with cream. 250g of melted dark chocolate + 250ml double cream is the easiest ganache in the world to make. Just pop it in the fridge after you have mixed them together so they can firm up a little which will make it easier to ice your cake or roll them into truffles. You don’t have to use cream in a ganache though or even dairy at all. You can make the most delicious ganache with all sorts of liquid added to the melted chocolate – fruit puree, tea, coffee, hot water infused with fresh mint. The choice is endless and that is the fun of making your own chocolate truffles.

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Truffles

The ganache is only half the story though with truffle making. It’s true that you can happily roll stiffened ganache into balls and then coat them in cocoa powder, sprinkles or spices, or even crushed biscuits to finish off a deliciously quick truffle. However, the truffle really comes alive when it is dipped into silky tempered chocolate. The truffle is then left for the tempered chocolate to harden around its soft centre. I have written a post about tempering chocolate here so if you are unsure of what the hell I’m talking about then this is the place to go.

The evening at the WI came together really well and we all got down and dirty with chocolate. We learnt all about where chocolate comes from, how it is made, all the various kinds of chocolate you can buy, what their cocoa percentages mean and most importantly what they all taste like. Getting everyone to taste the Valrhona’s Dulcey chocolate which I was experimenting with earlier this year, was particularly fun with the consensus being that it was just expensive Caramac.

Then we came to the truffle making. I have a few ganache recipes up my sleeve that I have kept meaning to write about, then every time I go to blog about them, somehow they never make it to the picture stage. My most favourite of which is my fleur de sel and olive oil truffles. Guys – it’s happening today. These truffles have been doing the rounds with my friends and family for months now and I have had the best comments from these truffles than anything I have ever made. Those that have been asking for the recipe and to which I have assured them that it will be on the blog soon can breathe a sigh of relief that the day has finally come, then hopefully rush off a whip up a batch.

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Truffles

In fact I have made this ganache so many times that it has even been transported from the truffle stage and adapted for use in my favourite cake. Don’t worry, the cake will come in time. Now you will just have to be placated by the glorious truffle version, which is the unadulterated way to eat this most divine of chocolates.

Fleur de Sel is just another word really for fancy salt. It hails most typically from Brittany where the salt crystals which lie on the rocks are left for the water to evaporate out, the top layer of salt crystals are then scraped off the top to become fleur de sel. It’s easy to get hold of online but if you don’t want to wait for the postman then a good sea salt like maldon can be used instead, just not table salt – it wouldn’t be nice. The olive oil to use here should also be the good stuff and I save my best extra virgin olive oil for this very job. The olive oil is used for flavour here rather than anything else and it really does matter that you splash out a bit on this part. I get my fancy olive oil from The Italian Farmers on Stroud Green Road, a bottle of 750ml can cost about £9 but it’s worth it when you try these truffles and you only need a little so it will last an age. The first time I had the combination of chocolate, sea salt and olive oil was at a tapas restaurant in Barcelona many years ago. I don’t remember anything else about that meal but the memory of that sweet, salty, fruity intense combination was one of the most arresting food experiences of my life.

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Truffles

The fact that it takes about 10 minutes to knock the ingredients together for this truffle then 10 minutes to roll them out is just a boon. I went the extra haul here though and wrapped them in a snappy tempered chocolate coat and sprinkled a few fleur de sel crystals on top. That crisp shell really is worth the extra effort for the texture contrast between the initial crack of chocolate between your teeth, then the rich velvety chocolate oozing with the fruity notes of olive oil and pep of salt which rests within. The ladies in the class who dipped their truffles in the tempered chocolate definitely noted the difference and how it transforms an everyday chocolate that you make in your kitchen to something a little more professional.

Having said all of that, if you don’t have time to temper the chocolate then you should by no means hold back on making the ganache and then coating them simply in cocoa powder, or even chocolate sprinkles. Believe me, they will go down with your recipients just as well.

So after having spent the past few days making copious amounts of this ganache for my chocolate masterclass, it came to my blog post today when I really wanted to talk about my fleur de sel and olive oil truffles and guess what, I still didn’t have any to photograph – they had all been eaten. So what’s a girl to do but make more. This time these truffles are all for you, no one is touching them before you get to see them. Although I can’t promise what will happen as soon as these photos are taken.

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Chocolate Truffles

Makes about 30 truffles

320g dark chocolate
1 tsp fleur de sel
270g whipping cream
2 tsp light muscovado sugar
60g extra virgin olive oil
500g tempered chocolate or 60g cocoa powder
extra fleur de sel for decorating

  1. Chop the dark chocolate into small pieces, put into a large bowl with the fleur de sel and set aside.
  2. Pour the cream and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir through to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Rest for 1 minute so as not to scorch the chocolate.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate pieces and salt and stir together so the chocolate melts completely into the cream and turns thick and glossy.
  4. Slowly pour the olive oil into the chocolate ganache, mixing all the while to ensure the oil is completely absorbed into the chocolate.
  5. Rest the ganache in the fridge for 1 hour.
  6. Remove the ganache from the fridge and shape your truffles by rolling into little balls in your hands. Each truffle should weigh about 18g so you should be able to produce about 30 truffles.
  7. At this point you can either dust the truffles in cocoa powder or you can coat with tempered chocolate.

Chinese Damson Sauce

Chinese Damson Sauce
If you are looking for me lately then it’s more than likely you will find me stuck up a damson tree, waist deep in blackberry bushes or halfway down the ravine on Parkland Walk checking on the inconveniently placed crab apple tree. At the moment I’m sitting patiently waiting for the rosehips to come into their own as my empty jam jars are crying out for a bit of rosehip jelly. I might have mentioned once or twice that I’m really getting into this foraging business and it has been so surprising to me how much wonderful fruit is available to us on our urban doorstep. 

Damson Tree

When a friend told me about the damson tree on Lancaster road, which is just your regular residential North London street, I was there in a flash. By the time I arrived I was already a bit too late for some of the fruit which had fallen heedlessly from the branches to be squashed underfoot by busy pedestrians. Gah, that was at least two gallons of jam right there on the pavement.

Whilst we were shimmying up the tree trunk we were informed by a passer-by that everyday there is usually someone picking the damsons, so we are certainly not the only ones benefiting from the tree’s generosity. We’ve visited it a few times now and it could probably provide fruit for the whole of Stroud Green, there are just so many damsons. Although picking the fruit from the branches is no easy task. We had two methods, shaking the tree so all the fruit dropped below into waiting golf umbrellas and on our heads, but that wasn’t shifting the fruit at the top so my husband gallantly flew up into the tree, nifty as you like, whilst I waited below with the basket and a grumpy puppy.

Damsons

The pleasure in picking your own food is immense, despite what the puppy thinks, and I could just imagine how much fun it would be to have an allotment. That is, if I could stand the 15 year waiting list, and then if I could also rope someone else in to plant the seeds, water the soil, nurture the seedlings and tell me when it’s all ready. At that point I would be more than happy though to swoop in and claim all the glory for harvesting the produce. Anyone up for that, I might give you a pot of chutney or a few radishes for your trouble?

Chinese Damson Sauce  |  Stroud Green Larder

The funny thing is that until this year I’m not sure I had even had damsons before, except in vodka which kinda counts, no? The best way to look for damson recipes is to search under plums. Anything you can do with a plum you can do with a damson, although it would be wise to add a touch more sugar as damsons are rather tart; they are not the sort of fruit you would eat plucked straight from the tree. The other issue with damsons is their stones. They are practically impossible, as far as I can tell, to de-stone them before cooking and I’ve worked out the best way is to cook down the damsons, sieve the juice out of the way, then sift through the pulp by hand to remove each stone. It’s a bit of a labour but worthwhile if you like your damsons which I am now happy to say I certainly do.

This chinese damson sauce is an absolute winner and is of course a natural fit for duck and pancakes, but it’s more versatile than that. I am not a fan of the bottled stir-fry sauces you can get from the chinese supermarkets as the ingredients list doesn’t fill me with joy but you can happily drop a spoonful of this into any stir-fry instead of oyster sauce or black bean. It also works as a dipping sauce for wantons, sesame toasts or for grilled chicken.

I was quite reserved on the sugar in this recipe, adding only as much as I needed to remove the upfront damson tang. For someone who practically lives on cakes I don’t like anything to be overly sweet, but if you wish to add more sugar to the below recipe after tasting then go for it.

Chinese Damson Sauce  |  Stroud Green Larder

Chinese Damson Sauce
Inspired by Liana Krissoff’s Chinese Plum Sauce from Canning For A New Generation

1kg damsons
150g pitted prunes
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and diced
225g soft light brown sugar
120ml rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
1 tsp cinnamon
1 piece star anise
¼ tsp whole black peppercorns
½ tsp fennel seeds
½ tsp chilli flakes
¼ tsp schezuan pepper
1 tsp salt

  1. Place the damsons in a large preserving pan and cook them for about 10mins with 100ml water, until they are soft and the stones popping out.
  2. The easiest way to remove the stones is to strain the damsons, spread the pulp out on a large plate then pick through all the pulp carefully with food grade gloves to remove each stone. Place the de-stoned pulp and the damson juice back into the preserving pan.
  3. Add all the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Pour everything into a blender and blitz until smooth.
  5. Pour the sauce back into the preserving pan, taste for seasoning and bring back to a gentle boil.
  6. Remove from the heat and decant into sterilised jars.

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars

If there is one thing I’ve learned from hosting several cake stalls both for WI and personally, it is that chocolate sells.

These Nutella Fudge Oat Bars were no exception when I ran our WI stall at Hornsey Music Festival last weekend. Halfway through the morning when sales were beginning to lag a taster of these Nutella bars were set free amongst the masses, and we sat back in wonder as their fudgey oatiness did their work and brought in the crowd. It was noticeable that the eyes of the children picking over what to have on the stall lit up as soon as they spied the Nutella. I’ve a confession to make, so did mine. Out of all the delights on the cake stall, including victoria sponges, ginger parkin, cupcakes and lemon cakes it was one of these Nutella bars which I saved for myself as a treat on the way home.

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars | Stroud Green Larder

Did you know Nutella is having a bit of a resurgence? It’s 50 years old this year but she isn’t showing any signs of age. According to the BBC, a nutty 365 million kilos were sold last year. Sales are increasing every year and Pinterest and Instagram are prolific with thousands of ways to incorporate this chocolate spread into your baking.

When I was 13 I spent a term in France with my school, and my overriding food memory, aside from being force fed vegetable ‘potage’ every day, was spreading lashings of Nutella over my fresh croissants in the morning. I don’t think I really ate it before then and I’m not sure if I’ve particularly eaten it since, but that doesn’t mean that Nutella isn’t intrinsically now part of my food heritage thanks to those three months mainlining it at a particularly impressionable part of my life.

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars | Stroud Green Larder

Oats make even the most indulgent of treats feel like you are being kind to yourself and this is no exception. It’s an adapted version of these Bramley Apple and Cranberry Oat Bars I made earlier this year but I amped up the oaty mixture as a counterpoint to the creamy chocolate interior. I added extra chocolate to the Nutella to temper down the sweetness and amp up the chocolate factor, it worked without losing any of its innate Nutelleriness. A substantial amount of oat mixture is pressed into the base of the baking tin, then the fudgey middle spooned thickly on top. Instead of crumbling the rest of the oat mixture on the final layer, I made sure it completely covered the oozing chocolate to protect it and hold it all together. It crisped up deliciously in the oven and if you leave it to cool in the tin it is a dream to cut. It went down extremely well at the cake stall with children and this adult in particular.

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars | Stroud Green Larder

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars

300g butter, at room temperature
275g plain flour
200g rolled oats
300g soft light brown sugar, sifted
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
200g Nutella
80g dark chocolate
75ml evaporated milk
pinch of salt

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and grease a rectangular baking tin 9” x 13”.
  2. In a large mixing bowl add the butter, flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt and rub together with your hands until everything has come together to form a light dough.
  3. Press ½ the dough into the base of the baking tin to form an even layer.
  4. Melt the chocolate, Nutella and evaporated milk together in a double boiler, mixing together until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spread the Nutella chocolate mixture on top of the first layer of dough.
  6. Crumble the rest of the dough on the top and press down lightly into the chocolate, don’t worry too much about it spreading out evenly.
  7. Bake in the oven for 25-30 mins until the top is golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for an hour or so before removing from the tin and cutting into bars.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

The reason I have been absent from posting for a few days is a very good one.  I have been baking this lovely Chocolate Gingerbread Cake extravaganza with stem ginger frosting and decorated with gingerbread houses, each representing one of beloved buildings in Stroud Green where I live.

IMG_3127I was asked by our WI President to make the cake for our Christmas outing to the panto.  A big group of giggling women trooping off to the new Park Theatre in Finsbury Park to see Sleeping Beauty is an occasion in and of itself and we definitely made our presence known.  However, the cake was also in celebration of the two year anniversary of the founding of Stroud Green WI.  It’s a fantastic group of women of all ages and backgrounds and we meet once a month for a catch up about local events and charities that we are involved with and also for some brilliant activities.
Stroud Green WI Cake

This year has been an amazing year for our WI, we have has some fascinating talks about design and forensic science, a visit from Wildes Cheese, dress-making lessons from Clare-Louise Hardie from the Great British Sewing Bee, quilting, sugarcrafting, a local history walk, a summer picnic.  And a hell of a lot of cake, which is the most important thing obv.  So I was only too happy to bake this cake and I wanted to make sure it was really special.

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake7

The templates for the houses were made the WI way, using card and a craft knife.  The sizes I went with were 10cm x 4cm for the tall thin houses, 10cm x 6cm for the stations and big buildings like Rowans bowling alley, 9cm x 5cm for the average sized buildings and 8cm x 4cm for the diddy ones.  To calculate how many you will need, wrap a piece of string around the circumference of the cake tins then measuring it against a ruler.  I then divided the circumference into the various widths I had chosen, deciding which houses would fit best where.

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake3

The Stroud Green WI banner was made with sugarpaste, hung on string and tied to cake pop sticks.

To assemble I placed one half of the 23cm cake on a 25cm cake drum, spreading a good layer of frosting on before putting the second layer of cake on top.  I then lightly frosted all over for a crumb coat.  I did the same with the 20cm cake but built it on top of a 20cm cake board.  I put both cakes in the fridge to set overnight.  The next morning I gave them both a second layer of frosting, inserted four dowels around the centre and into the 23cm cake to act as support then placed the 20cm cake carefully on top.  I added a white sugarpaste border to the cake drum and also a ribbon to the side.  Next I stuck the gingerbread houses onto the cakes which clung to the sticky frosting.  Finally I erected the Stroud Green WI banner onto the top of the cake, pushing the cake pops down as far as they would go so the banner would stay upright.  Then I took along to the panto where it was swiftly demolished – just like our local landmark Rowans bowling is soon going to be (an absolute travesty – what can we do!!??!!)

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake6

Oh, and in case you are wondering – the panto was excellent too!

Chocolate and Gingerbread cake5

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

For the cakes:

495g plain flour
180g cocoa
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
2¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
360g unsalted butter
300g light brown sugar
335g caster sugar or golden syrup sugar
9 eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
180g dark chocolate with ginger, melted then cooled
360ml whole milk
360ml boiling water
70g dark chocolate with ginger, chopped into chips

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C. Line and grease 1 x 23cm round cake tin and 1 x 20cm round cake tin.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, ground ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the butter and the sugars for a few minutes until light and fluffy.
  4. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract. At this point the mixture usually looks curdled but don’t worry it will come back together.
  5. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk together until completely combined.
  6. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, adding the flour in three additions and the milk in two (begin and end with the flour), scrape down the sides of the bowls as needed.
  7. Pour in the boiling water and mix until just combined.
  8. Pour into your prepared cake tins, then scatter the chocolate chips on top, pushing them down slightly into the batter. Bake for 45-50 mins but do check after 30 mins and if your cakes are browning too much then place some foil over the top for the rest of the baking. Check they are ready by inserting a metal skewer into the cakes – it should come out clean.
  9. Leave the cakes for 10 mins in their tins before removing then cool on a wire rack completely before cutting in half width ways then frosting.

For the stem ginger frosting:

300g egg whites
500g caster sugar
680g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 balls of stem ginger, chopped very finely or whizzed up in the food processor
1 tbsp of the stem ginger syrup
Good pinch of salt

  1. Heat the egg whites and caster sugar in a bain marie, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature has reached 71°C.
  2. Remove the egg whites and sugar from the heat and pour into a stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  3. Change the attachment to a paddle attachment. On a low speed add the butter slowly cube by cube. When you have almost added all the butter the mixture will look curdled. Do not fret – this is supposed to happen and just means you are nearly done. Just continue to add all the butter. Once the butter is totally incorporated the frosting will miraculously become a smooth velvety consistency.
  4. Add the vanilla extract, the stem ginger plus the syrup and the salt. Mix until thoroughly combined.

For the gingerbread houses
Makes about 28 houses

680g plain flour
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
¾ tsp salt
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g dark brown sugar
75g caster sugar
2 eggs
180g treacle
1½ tsp vanilla extract

  1. Sift the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, salt and bicarbonate of soda together.
  2. Rub in the unsalted butter with the tips of your fingers so it resembles breadcrumbs. Set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer beat the sugars with the eggs, treacle and vanilla extract until fully combined.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and bring together with your hands to form a dough until everything is combined and you can pat it into a smooth ball.
  5. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  6. Whilst it is chilling you can make your templates.
  7. Remove the dough from the fridge and start your rolling and cutting. I rolled just a small amount of dough at a time due to space.
  8. Form each piece of dough into a round ball then roll out using a silicone roller to avoid sticking. The dough will be a little tough at first but will soon start rolling out beautifully.
  9. Use 5mm spacers on either side of your dough so you can ensure it is all evenly rolled to exactly the same depth.
  10. Place your card templates on the dough then cut out with a knife.
  11. Place each house on a baking sheet with about 2½ cm gap in between. They shouldn’t spread out but it’s good to be careful.
  12. Put the baking sheets in the fridge and chill for 30 mins.
  13. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 180°C.
  14. Bake the gingerbread houses for about 6-8 mins each. They are ready when you can barely see the corners just start to crisp but the middle of the biscuits should still be a pale golden brown.
  15. Leave to cool on the trays.
  16. Decorate with royal icing any way you wish.
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