banana chocolate praline crunch cake

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This is simply a celebration of how I think banana cakes should be.

We forever have overripe bananas in the freezer, overambitiously bought in bunches and then left to brown by the end of a week. I had all of the ingredients for this lying around but for the salted roasted almonds and impulse purchased Crunchie bar, but these are probably the two integral items that genuinely make the cake. The praline is like crack in the sense both that it is ridiculously addictive, and also perfectly crunchy. I’m big on flavour combinations, and I think the salty nuttiness is practically perfect, but even better is the fun texture it adds to offset the smooth fudge icing and moist banana cake – which unintentionally ended up with a deliciously crisp cake crust.

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pear and ginger layer cake with salted caramel frosting

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This is a cake for people who don’t think they’re into cake.

I’m sure you all have one of those friends (or colleagues … or bosses). Well. This cake will turn them. To me, this is what cake is all about. There’s no fuss or fondant, and every element celebrates the others in a beautifully simple way. I made it up on a lazy Sunday afternoon in which the salted caramel set a precedent for me to be unusually productive.

Maybe it’s because I know my winter will be broken up by one month of glorious, European summer, but I am so enjoying the crisp autumn days lately, the wearing of sleeves and the changes in produce that the seasons bring. Now that I’m comfortable enough to essentially throw together a recipe of my own accord, it is so much easier to base what I make around what looks best at the farmer’s market. I’m reading that sentence now and realising I sound like an utter food wanker. But basically, the pears were cheap and fresh and this cake is delicious. You need to make it and experience it for yourself.

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salted white chocolate lemon almond loaf

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I’m well aware that a lot of people have a problem with this word, but there’s no getting around this: this loaf is moist.

The building blocks of many of my day dreams is to come up with a desired flavour combination and then challenge myself to offset it with a contrasting texture to keep things exciting. What’s happening here is pretty obvious: fresh lemon zest highlights the white chocolate swirled through, with the dense texture of the loaf yielded with the ground almonds and further enhanced by the crushed roasted almonds within the cake itself and also on top of the lemon drizzle. For something so simple, it stands up as an elegant afternoon tea (or in this cake, pre-midnight snack) in its own right.

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apple walnut cat cake

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This birthday cake went down purr-fectly!

Given that my flat-mate Emma is not particularly into treats of the “too sweet” variety, an autumnal apple and walnut cake seemed the perfect way to celebrate. In fact, there was almost more apple going on than cake! The maple cream cheese icing accompanied it perfectly – despite being a little reluctant to pipe! The cake itself is delicious enough in its own right not to require animal adornment, and the perfect addition to an afternoon tea.

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the rainbow mermaid layer cake

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I think this cake speaks for itself.

Perhaps it’s the fact each of the layers of this one was a different, garish colour – or maybe the marvellous consistency of cake drips down the sides, but this cake was pretty much the ultimate statement to myself that I can produce something both genuinely beautiful and very, very edible. I’ve undeniably drawn inspiration from the incredible Sweetapolita and Katherine Sabbath, but the satisfaction of creating this was utterly all my own.

I’m feeling much more confident with the technique of assembling layer cakes neatly (cling wrap and freeze the cakes, crumb coat, secure the cake to the stand with a blob of frosting, thank me later). This cake, however, involved two new experiments: 1) cooking meringues using Ottolenghi’s method and 2) Swiss meringue buttercream. I’ve never played with either of them, and they both played roles in the huge success of this cake. This cake could just as easily be iced with regular buttercream, but spreading my wings into the SMB territory means I have much more flexibility with a smoother, richer and less cloyingly sweet frosting to play with. I would not do it without a sugar thermometer, however if you have one on hand (and you should, do I need to write a fudge recipe to convince you?), it’s pretty much paint by numbers.

Bizarrely, the person who told me it was “the best cake he’d eaten all year” (easy to achieve I suppose, though we are already halfway through April), also suggested that my cake could have perhaps been created to celebrate Rastafarianism. I was really trying for mermaid meringue dreaminess, but I suppose I left it rather open to interpretation.

Once again, “where do you have the time?” came into play with this cake (I brought it to work for a birthday). It took, at most, four hours of dedicated time in the kitchen (excluding time for cooling cakes, baking, etc). For me, to produce such a pretty final product whilst learning new cooking techniques is something I’m always going to find time for. It’s how I relax, but it’s also how I feel fulfilled.

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Cadbury Creme egg layer cake

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While I have been baking less frequently lately, I’m trying to do so with more care, i.e. extra hours of day dreaming. Quality over voracious quantity, I suppose – with respect to reminding myself I don’t have to bring treats in to work everyday despite having set a precedent for such a thing to be expected (an expectation I entirely place on myself – thank you, type A personality). I’m pleased with the result – creating something in person that is just as beautiful as what I’ve pictured in my head is enough to induce genuine squealing (of joy, not like a pig stuck in a fence or something). This cake is no exception.

It is a creme egg in cake form – the bottom and top layers made from chocolate fudge mud cake, the middle vanilla buttermilk (both arising from the same initial batter because I am that lazy or efficient, depending on how you want to look at it). The filling between is a buttercream attempt at the fondant inside the egg, and the Dairy Milk fudge icing completes it, with actual Creme eggs and other Easter treats to complete it. I’m a loyal Whittaker’s girl in most respects, but their lack of Easter goodies and desire to recreate Cadbury’s ubiquitous Easter egg means the Dairy Milk is absolutely non-negotiable.

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peach and passionfruit mini cupcakes

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I seem to have procedural memory when it comes to cupcake baking. This is obviously attributable to the fact I used to be a one-treat-pony … and also that the local 24 hour service station (which seriously is some kind of perverse mecca for binge eaters, serving all manner of ice cream sundaes and deep fried cabinet food along with Betty Crocker cookie mix and a selection of self-serve lollies) provided me with the toppers.

I actually don’t make cupcakes that often any more – I suppose in part because they are a bit passé, having been attempted to be surpassed by whoopie pies (can’t say I’ve ever tried those) and probably successfully overtaken by cronuts and macarons – but mainly because I prefer challenging myself to other daydreams. While I may feel like this effort was a bit of a copout, apparently the novelty of bringing baking in egg cartons will never wear off:

“What have you got there?”

“I just thought I would bring 40 raw eggs along for the staff for morning tea.”

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