Chocolate fudge sponge cake

I decided to make a chocolate fudge sponge cake on Sunday, as a Father’s Day present for my Dad. It was my first chocolate sponge but after the success of my other recent cakes I hoped it wouldn’t be too difficult. I already had the fudge chunks in the cupboard and was able to get the rest of the ingredients on Mill Road. Although most of the chocolate sponge cake recipes I looked at suggested cocoa powder, after discovering this handy conversion table I decided to use melted chocolate instead…

Chocolate fudge sponge cakeIngredients
175g dark chocolate
125g softened butter
200g sugar
180g self raising flour
2 eggs
100ml milk
30g miniature fudge pieces
White icing (optional)

Melted chocolateI set the oven to gas mark 4 and started by lining the base of a buttered nine inch cake tin with a large sheet of greaseproof paper, adding a little more butter to the paper too. I then broke up a 100g bar of dark chocolate into chunks (it’s easier to do this before you open the packet!) and melted the pieces in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. I stirred this continuously while it melted and made sure that the bottom of the bowl didn’t touch the water and also that the chocolate didn’t boil. This took just a couple of minutes and I then set the chocolate aside to cool.

Sponge cakeI mixed 75g of soft butter and 50g of the cooled melted chocolate with 200g of sugar, before beating two eggs (one at a time) into the mixture. I then added 180g of flour, 100ml of milk and the remaining melted chocolate to my mixture – alternating between adding a little of each of the three ingredients and making sure I mixed thoroughly between adding each. I gave this another thorough mix for a couple of minutes before stirring in about 30g of mini fudge chunks. I poured the mixture into my lined cake tin and levelled with my new KBF (kitchen best friend!) – the spatula – before popping in the centre of the oven.

Chocolate fudge sponge cakeI’d normally expect one of my cakes to take about twenty minutes to bake, but this particular one took thirty before my skewer test was sucecssful. I set the cake aside to cool for a good twenty minutes before removing from the tin – which was easily done as I’d made sure the greaseproof paper lining was about 1cm bigger than the tin all the way round the edge. I let the cake cool for another half hour before making my cholcolate icing – this was made by melting another 75g of dark chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan and allowing to cool for ten minutes, before mixing in 50g of softened butter. After mixing thoroughly for a couple of minutes it was lovely and shiny in texture. I drizzled the rich chocolate icing over the cake, starting in the middle and working out to the sides – levelling off with a spatula.

chocolate fudge sponge cakeThe cake looked delicious covered in its rich chocolate icing, but it needed ‘Dadifying’ for its presentation later in the afternoon, so I used some white icing for the lettering and scattered a few more pieces of fudge over the cake. The cake went down a treat, with my Dad managing a whole three slices (!) in a matter of minutes. I shall definitely be making this cake again – next time double layered!

A Fair Do!

MRWF trufflesI hope everyone enjoyed Mill Road Winter Fair on Saturday. There was so much going on that I didn’t even get to see half the things I had hoped to, but I still thoroughly enjoyed myself. What better way to start the day than with some foodie delights, so I decided to make some dark chocolate and dragon ginger truffles first thing in the morning. Although I am not vegan myself, I have tested various truffle recipes over the last few months and the one that tastes most delicious just happens to be vegan. They seemed to go down a treat with everyone that tried them and I had a few people ask me to make some for them to give as presents – so I will probably be spending quite a bit of time in the kitchen over the next couple of weeks!

MRWF ASh Co-opI did a tour of the very busy Food Fair at Gwydir Street car park, which had some amazing edibles. The crowds were so great that you could only move in one direction, so if you passed a stall without stopping it wasn’t easy to go back. The Afternoon Tease stall had already sold out of all three (!) chocolate and Guinness cakes by the time I arrived, but I did treat myself to one of their lovely rum cup cakes. I saw some delicious looking burgers at one of the farmshop stalls and decided that I had to have one, but then I realised that there was a very long queue indeed, so I’m afraid I gave up. I tasted lots of food at the Fair including a lovely free jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw, courtesy of ‘Joseph’ outside Mill Road Baptist church. But I have to say my favourite food of all was the chickpea curry at Lally’s News, it was really warming and spicy, and possibly the best vegetarian curry I have ever tasted – Amrik and Raj are known locally for their delicious curries, and deservedly so.

MRWF Ash Co-opThere was lots of music along Mill Road and I saw people jiving on the Broadway. At one point I could hear my friends band playing on Mill Road bridge. I heard later from others that so many people were dancing to the music on the bridge during the day that the bridge, rather worryingly, actually started to shake (eek!). There was some great music at Argyle Street Housing Co-op in the afternoon, including musicians from the Jam Band Caravan collective playing folk and reggae, and I even heard some thrash metal at one point (!).

MRWF Mulled WineMyself and Mr Mill Road decided to pop in to the Earl of Beaconsfield in the afternoon in the hope of having a nice warm cup of coffee, but when we arrived the place was packed and everyone seemed to be drinking mulled wine – which sounded like a marvellous idea, and so we ordered some without hesitating. I don’t normally drink red wine, but mulled wine is different and this one tasted so nice that I decided to go and buy the ingredients (cloves, dried ginger, a cinnamon stick and a bottle of Chilean red) on Mill Road so I could try making some at home. The resulting mulled wine was great and I shall definitely be trying this again over the next few weeks (probably quite a few times!).

MRWF ReindeerFor me though, the best part of the Fair was bumping into so many friends as well as chatting to lots of people I’d never met before; and the absolute highlight for me was getting to meet my friends’ daughter for the first time – who at just two and a half weeks old was possibly the Fair’s youngest visitor! A massive well done to everyone involved in making Mill Road Winter Fair happen, including the Committee and all the visitors that came along on the day – it’s great to live in such a diverse and inclusive area that has so many community-minded people.

Mill Road Winter Fair 2012

SnowflakeJust in case you haven’t heard, tomorrow is the most important day in the Mill Road calendar – Mill Road Winter Fair! There will be plenty to see and do up and down the length of Mill Road as well as on many of the nearby streets; and if past years are anything to go by, any sort of plan I make will soon disappear as lots of other exciting things are discovered along the way…

Chocolate & Guinness CakeOne of my favourite parts of the Fair over the years has been the compliments booth outside Lifecraft – last year I received some very kind words and was also given an inspirational scroll to keep. This year they will be opening their doors and will have a selection of artwork and goodies for sale inside, as well as a performance from the Lifecraft Singers. I’m looking forward to visiting the Afternoon Tease stall (Gwydir Street car park) with its selection of lovely cakes, including chocolate and Guinness cake – which, given my adoration of the two main ingredients, feels like it was invented just for me! Keeping with the cake theme, I’m tempted to pop along to Cutlacks, where the will be a cake decorating demonstration (I need to learn!) as well as beer and wine tasting – which should keep Mr Mill Road happy too.

Argyle Street Housing Co-op gardensThe car park at Argyle Street Housing Co-operative (ASH Co-op is on the east side of Mill Road bridge) is well known for being a hub of activity at the Fair and this year looks set to be no exception. There will be an open marquee with music from Tariq Muhammed & The Africelt Connection and Dave Crow Barr playing some punk tunes with his electric cello. There’s also music from Jam Band Caravan, who will be playing their mixture of folk-rock, roots and reggae, as well as lots of other musicians throughout the day. The Arco Iris Samba Band traditionally play each year and I am told their performance this year should be at around 1:45pm. The Mayor of Cambridge also usually pays a visit to ASH Co-op during the Fair (in fact, some of you may remember watching former MP David Howarth and former mayor Jenny Bailey pedalling away to keep the the bicycle-powered sound system going a few years back!).

Mill Road Winter Fair 2009If you want to know more about T’ai Chi then who better to advise than the Vice-President of the T’ai Chi union of Great Britain! He and others will be on hand at the Grey Heron stall at ASH Co-op to advise about this martial art known for its health and meditative benefits, as well as other health and wellbeing practices.There will also be other information stalls as well as all sorts of goodies to treat yourself with or to buy as Christmas presents. Look out for chestnuts, chocolate truffles and a stall selling homemade chutneys – including a yummy sounding combination of onion and orchard apple, which I have heard described by others as ‘Christmas in a jar’! There’s also a stall selling a range of second-hand books as well as toys and games.

Mill Road trees in winterThere are lots of other things going on at the Fair. If you’re in Romsey then look out for special offers at Balv’s Hair & Wigs near the bridge and Billy’s off licence next door; and if you need warming up in the cold weather, the Earl of Beaconsfield has music and will be happy to serve you a free cup of coffee. If you’re looking for activities for your little ones then you will find a bouncy castle, face-painting and story-telling at Romsey Mill, a puppet show at St Philips Church at 3pm and Santa himself will be appearing at the Empress pub on Thoday Street from 3-5pm. If you find yourself on the Petersfield side of the bridge then I would recommend popping along to Lally’s News, where there will be some lovely vegetarian Punjabi food, with all proceeds this year going towards children at Addenbrookes Hospital; and just a few metres away you will find Andrew Northrop’s Butchers serving some lovely warming sausages.

I could go on, but the best thing about Mill Road Winter Fair is just taking a walk along Mill Road and seeing what you discover… Hope everyone has a great Fair!

Chocolate truffles!

I’ve had a very busy few days, but in an attempt to squeeze in some much needed ‘me time’ I decided I’d try my hand at making chocolate truffles. I had never made truffles before – of any kind – so this really was an ‘experiment’. Much as I love eating chocolatey truffle delights, I figured I probably ought to share the finished product with friends (well thirty odd truffles would be a bit much for one person) and given that one of my friends is a vegan I thought it only fair to make some for him to try too (by the way, November is World Vegan Month, but more on that another time).

Those of you following me on Twitter will know that I’d been trying to track down some vegan cream over the last few days, and thanks to @JudeClarke (who knows a thing or two about baking – and music), @CraftyGlitten (do check out her craft blog) and @MillRoadCo (the Mill Road Co-ordinator) I found just the thing in Arjuna. I wanted a vegan thick double cream equivalent, as the recipes I looked at all seemed to suggest double cream was key to getting the consistency right. As it turned out, Arjuna didn’t have a double cream equivalent as such, but they did have (vegan) spray whipped cream so I decided to give that a go.

Armed with chocolate, cream and cocoa powder, it was time to get started! Firstly I broke two bars of Montezuma Dark Chocolate (which is vegan friendly) into pieces and put in a glass mixing bowl, which I then placed over a saucepan of simmering water. The chocolate melted fairly quickly and I stirred it continuously to make sure there were no bits left (and that it didn’t boil). I put the bowl to one side to cool for about three or four minutes and then mixed in a small splash of Marsala wine (the same wine that’s used in the base of tiramisu desserts) which I’d bought at Limoncello. I then put about a third of the melted chocolate mix in a separate bowl – for making the vegan truffles.

For the vegan ones I added some of my vegan cream – as it comes in a spray can it
was hard to measure just how much I was using, but I’d say about a 30cm ‘length’ of cream. I just stirred it in slowly with a spoon until it was all mixed in together. For the non-vegan one I used about two heaped dessert spoons of extra thick double cream (from the Co-op) – which I then slowly stirred in to the melted chocolate until it was one smooth paste. Each mixture then went into its own square dish, and I smoothed each one down so it was about 2cm high – the paste mixtures were thick enough that even though they didn’t take up all of the base of the dishes, they held their shape. I then put each one in the fridge.

This gave me about ten minutes to sit in the garden with a well deserved cuppa. At this point on a Sunday, if I’m cooking, my neighbours cat would usually pop over and say hello, in the hope that I’m making some kind of chicken dish that he needs to test for me – but unfortunately he passed away on Wednesday afternoon (RIP Marley) and so I sat on my own, pondering the possibilities of feline re-incarnation and wondering just where the idea that cats might have nine lives came from.

After a ten minute break I got my truffle mixes out of the fridge. I cut each one into long slabbed strips of chocolate, with a knife. Just to make sure the truffle slabs didn’t start to melt I popped them back in the fridge for another five minutes. I then removed each slab and cut into pieces so that I then had about twenty five cubes of creamy chocolate truffle mix and ten cubes of the vegan one. I dusted each lightly with cocoa powder… and volia!

I had half expected things not to turn out right, especially as I couldn’t find the vegan cream I was after. But I was really impressed with the resulting truffles. Word had got round west Romsey (well, my neighbours!) that it was truffle day and I didn’t have to go far to find friends eagerly anticipating a chocolate fix – namely as far as my living room and next doors. Though I did pop across the garden and offer some to other neighbours too. Everyone loved the truffles, though I noted that the vegan ones were a tiny bit crumbly in texture – I think I will rectify this in future by not adding quite so much cream to my melted chocolate; and next time I’ll probably be a bit less liberal with the cocoa powder too.

If your past dessert attempts haven’t been too successful, or you are put off by the ‘baking’ aspect of cakes, then I suggest trying your hand at chocolate truffles. They are so easy and there’s no cooking required – except for melting the chocolate, but that’s half the fun (and you get to save on washing up by eating all the melted chocolateness that doesn’t quite make it into the mixture!).

Chocolate truffles – deluscious!

Block-a-choc

Lovely lemon chocolateI hadn’t planned to write my first full post about chocolate – not least because I don’t eat it very often (honest!) – but after discovering some very scrumptious chocolate on Mill Road this afternoon, I just have to share my new find…

I popped into Mill Road’s Al-Amin today on my way home from tea with a friend, intending to just pick up a couple of essentials. However, after I had paid and was trying to walk out of the shop, I found that I was faced with a seemingly insurmountable wall of theobroma cacao based confectionery (better known and loved as chocolate!). After glaring at the huge array of flavours, brands and specialist chocolates for what seemed like a good couple of minutes, I felt my attention being drawn to a big bright green packet of organic lemon chocolate…

Lemon chocolate?! I haven’t seen this anywhere else before (though I do have a hazy recollection of eating some kind of lemon fondant covered in chocolate… but that’s not quite the same as a slab of pure lemon chocolate!). Well, as you can probably imagine, it was difficult to ignore this tempting giant bar of lusciousness. So I purchased said chocolate and hurried home to make a cup of tea to go with it – I don’t know about you, but for me chocolate is always best enjoyed with a lovely hot cuppa. It tasted like a good rich dark chocolate should, but with a good hint of lemon – not too sharp, just right. It was a pretty big bar, but strangely was only divided into three ‘chunks’, so I did manage to persuade myself to devour the lot.

My verdict:  scrummy, moreish, try some!