Wednesday 23 August 2017

Recipes: Try banana and chocolate, ginger or lemon cake, or raspberry and chocolate muffins

Treat your family to some delicious, comforting cakes, suggests Brenda Costigan. Try banana and chocolate, ginger or lemon cake, or raspberry and chocolate muffins

BANANA AND CHOCOLATE CAKE
BANANA AND CHOCOLATE CAKE

If you are feeling a bit browned off with the winter weather, why not treat yourself to a session of comfort baking? There are many simple cakes that can be made with the minimum amount of fuss.



On a cold day, comfort baking will lift your spirits, and, as the aroma of the fresh baking wafts through the house, the spirits of anyone else in the house, making everyone feel cosseted. While you have the oven on, it makes sense to bake two or three items at the same time, making maximum use of the heat. The extra cakes can be put into the freezer until required. Hold off from putting any icing on top of them until actually you're using each cake.

BANANA AND CHOCOLATE CAKE

(Pictured)

Overripe or very ripe bananas are ideal to use in this tasty cake. This recipe is inspired by one of Rachel Allen's, and it uses chocolate and cocoa in the mixture. Frequently, I like to include some toasted chopped walnuts or almonds in the mix. The cake is baked in a loaf tin.

You will need:

75g (3oz) dark chocolate

110g (4oz) butter, at room temperature

125g (4 1/2 oz) caster sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

125g (4 1/2oz) self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

1 rounded tablespoon cocoa

2 ripe medium-sized bananas, mashed

Preheat the oven to 180 C, 350 F, Gas 4. Line a 13cm x 33cm (5in x 9in) loaf tin with baking parchment. If you're using a non-stick tin, it is sufficient to line the base of the tin with baking parchment and grease the remainder with butter.

Melt the dark chocolate in a low oven, or in a microwave set on defrost, or in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter until soft, then add the caster sugar and beat together until soft. Then beat in the eggs one by one, and the vanilla extract, beating all the time. Sieve the self-raising flour with the baking powder and the cocoa. Add the flour mixture to the butter-and-sugar mixture and mix well. Then stir in the melted dark chocolate and the mashed bananas. Stir to mix evenly and pour into the prepared tin.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 50-60 minutes -- a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean. Cool the cake in the tin for about five minutes, then turn it out gently and let it cool on a wire tray.

GINGERBREAD CAKE

Gingerbread cake has traditionally been made in Ireland using ground ginger and treacle, but this recipe -- inspired by one of Delia Smith's -- includes preserved stem ginger in syrup and some syrup also. Also included are grated fresh root ginger and ground ginger. Baked in a 15cm x 35cm (6in x 10in) Swiss-roll tin, it makes a shallow cake, which you then cover with a lemon icing. Ideally, keep the cake until the next day to cut it as it will be less inclined to crumble. It freezes very well.

For the cake, you will need:

175g (6oz) butter, at room temperature

175g (6oz) caster sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon molasses or treacle

2 tablespoons of the syrup from the preserved ginger

225g (8oz) self-raising flour sifted with 1 heaped teaspoon ground ginger

5 pieces of preserved stem ginger in syrup (syrup drained off), chopped

1 heaped teaspoon fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 tablespoon ground almonds

For the icing, you will need:

225-350g (8-12oz) icing sugar, sifted

Juice of 1 lemon

2 extra pieces preserved stem ginger, syrup drained off, cut in small chunks

Line the cake tin with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 170 C, 325 F, Gas 3.

Beat the butter, then add the caster sugar, and beat together until soft. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the molasses or treacle, whichever you are using, and the syrup from the preserved ginger. If the mixture gets too soft and loose, add a little of the sifted self-raising flour and ground ginger mixture. Then add in all the remaining sifted flour and ginger mixture and mix well. Stir in the chopped preserved stem ginger, the grated root ginger and the ground almonds. Put into the tin and spread the mixture out. Bake for about 45-55 minutes until the cake is cooked through. A skewer inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean. Cool the cake in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn it out and let it cool completely on a wire tray.

To make the icing, put the sifted icing sugar into a bowl and gradually add just enough fresh lemon juice until you have the consistency of thick cream.

When the cake has cooled completely, cover it with the icing and then decorate it with the little chunks of preserved stem ginger.

RASPBERRY AND WHITE CHOCOLATE MUFFINS

Fresh or frozen raspberries can be used in these muffins. Allow frozen raspberries to thaw, but don't let them get mushy. The white chocolate is chopped and added to the mixture. Plain flour with a tablespoon of baking powder is used to give a lift to the muffins. Makes 10 generous muffins.

You will need:

300g (11oz) flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

110g (4oz) caster sugar

2 eggs

200ml (7fl oz) milk

110g (4oz) butter, melted

150g (5oz) raspberries, fresh or frozen, thawed

100g (almost 4oz) white chocolate, chopped

Line a muffin tray with paper muffin cases. Sieve the flour and the baking powder into a bowl and add the caster sugar. Break the eggs into another bowl, add the milk and whisk, then stir in the melted butter. Stir the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, but take care not to over-mix. Then stir in half the raspberries and most of the chopped white chocolate.

Spoon this chunky mixture into the muffin cases. Place the remaining raspberries and bits of chocolate on the top of the muffins, pushing them slightly down into the mixture.

Bake the muffins for about 20 minutes until they are golden and cooked through. Allow them to cool for a while before you eat them. Note that the cooking time will be slightly longer if you're using the cold just-thawed raspberries, rather than fresh ones.

LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE

Lemon zest -- which is rind without the white pith -- is added to the sponge mixture and sweetened lemon juice is drizzled over the cooked cake to give a lovely flavour.

You will need:

175g (6oz) butter, at room temperature

175g (6oz) caster sugar

Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

3 eggs

175g (6oz) self-raising flour

50g (2oz) ground almonds

50g (2oz) extra caster sugar for the lemon juice

Use a greased sandwich tin, 20.5-21.5cm (8-8?in) in diameter, and line the base of the tin with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 190 C, 375 F, Gas 5.

Beat the butter, then add caster sugar and the finely grated lemon zest and beat until soft. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a little of the weighed self-raising flour if the mixture gets too loose. Then stir in the remaining self-raising flour and the ground almonds. Put the mixture into the tin and spread it out evenly. Bake the cake until it is cooked through -- about 25 minutes. A skewer inserted into the cake should come out clean.

Heat the lemon juice and dissolve into it the 50g of extra caster sugar. Allow to cool. When it is baked, partly cool the cake in the tin, then turn it out on to a wire tray. While it's still warm, put the cake on a plate. Using a skewer, pierce lots of little holes into the top. Drizzle the sweetened lemon juice all over it.

If you like, cover the cake with a lemon and cream cheese icing (see recipe below).

LEMON AND CREAM CHEESE ICING

You will need:

100g (almost 4oz) cream cheese

175-225g (6-8oz) icing sugar, sifted

Fresh lemon juice

Put the cream cheese in a bowl and gradually stir in the sifted icing sugar. Add enough fresh lemon juice to soften the icing to a spreadable consistency.

L

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