Saturday, 31 July 2010

Recipe: Chocolate Fudge Cake

So, aside from the realisation halfway through baking that this cake has the best chocolate frosting on the planet which is reason enough to make it, I fancied a slice of chocolate fudge cake after lunch yesterday, so as a result I spent all afternoon baking one!
The recipe is from the Mary Berry Ultimate Cake Book, the book my mother taught me to bake out of, and that I know is a popular classic - I know Leia from Leia's Delights has adapted some of her recipes from there!
Sorry about the quality of some of the photographs - I was paying more attention to the cake than to my camera for a change!
For The Cake
1.5 rounded tablespoons of cocoa (I use Cadbury's Bournville), sifted
3 tablespoons hot water
6oz (175g) soft margarine
6oz (175g) caster sugar
3 large eggs
6oz (175g) self-raising flour, sifted
1.5 teaspoons baking powder

For The Fudge Icing
2oz (50g) margarine
1oz (25g) cocoa, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
8oz (225g) icing sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons apricot jam

First, you need to pre heat your oven to 180 C/ 350 F/ Gas mark 4. I use an AGA to cook at home usually, but when I'm baking having the exact right heat is important so I always use an oven I can control instead.
Next you need to grease two 2x7 inch (18cm) cake tins and line the bottoms with rounds of  greaseproof paper you can get in any good cook shop. You can dip a piece of kitchen towel in margarine and use that to grease the tin, but a trick my mother taught me was to save empty butter foils in the fridge and use the butter residue on them to grease trays for baking - it works brilliantly!
Sift the cocoa powder into a big bowl and add the hot water, mixing together until it forms a thick, smooth liquid with no lumps. Leave it to cool.
While the cocoa mixture is cooling down, in another bowl measure out all the other cake ingredients.
Once the cocoa mixture is cool to the touch add all the other ingredients and either by hand with a plastic spoon, or even better using an electric whisk beat all of the ingredients together. You should do this for two minutes if you are beating by hand (you have to be quite strong for this!), or one minute if you're using a whisk. The mixture should have increase in volume, be full of air and be slightly paler in colour. However, be careful not to over do it as too much air will create big bubbles and make your sponge not as smooth when it comes out of the oven - I'm afraid it's really practice makes perfect with this one!
Pour the mixture equally into the two tins and smooth over the tops with a spatular. Bake in the oven for 25-30 mins, until the sponge springs back from your touch and you can see that it is slightly pulling away from the edges of the tin.
Take out of the oven and place on a wire rack if you have one, if not any flat safe surface but do not turn out of the tins. Wait to do this until the cake tins have cooled so you can touch them, this stops the sponge from breaking away as you take it out of the tin, because if your cake is nice and moist this may still happen even if he cake is thoroughly cooked. To turn out the cakes gently place your palm on the top, take the tin off the the cake resting on your hand, then quickly and carefully flip the sponge back onto the wire rack or chopping board to completely cool through.

Now it's time to make the chocolate frosting.
Melt the margarine in a small pan, then add the sifted cocoa. Move the pan onto the heat and cook for a minute, and a minute only. You need to keep on stirring as the mixture will thicken quickly and you need to make sure it doesn't burn. Take off the heat then keep on stirring as you add the milk to thin the mixture.
Sift the icing sugar and mix half of it into the icing until it is completely blended into the mixture, then do the same with the second half of the icing sugar. Make sure the icing is blended completely so the icing is smooth.
Melt the jam in a saucepan, and unless you don't mind your frosting appearing slightly lumpy on your cake (I don't mind, so I skip this step unless I'm makign this cake as a birthday cake and I want it to look perfect), press the hot jam through a sieve with a spoon so all the lumps are removed.
Decide which cake half would look better on top of the cake, and brush half of the jam all over the base of the other cake. Then use a knife or a spatular to smooth half of the frosting on top of the cake. Carefully sandwich the top half of the cake on, then paint the top with the rest of the jam, then the rest of the frosting.
This cake is great with tea, but also fantastic served with raspberries as a desert!
What was the last cake you baked?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Office Outfit Staples Every Girl Needs

With my current internship at my local Conservative Association, where I would describe the dress code as 'smart office casual', and a very exciting internship I will tell you all about soon in London where I will have to look very office smart, I decided it was time to start building myself a little bit of a work wardrobe; and with a little help from some local high street brands and Selfridges in London I've done just that!
The first and most important thing I needed to find was the perfect cardigan. This one was from L K Bennett, it was in the sale but these usually retail for about £75, so it was definitely an investment piece compared to the usual high street price tags! I chose navy blue as it goes with most of my wardrobe (I go for brown,s blacks, taupes, beiges, lavenders and blues). I also chose the cropped style as I'm short and a long cardigan would make me look very frumpy unless I wore heels all the time!
Another very important basic are camisole or spaghetti tops. They have these for hardly anything in Marks & Spencers and Zara, and similar in Topshop and American Apparel. They are the perfect wardrobe staple tucked into a skirt and you can have them in so many colours to match so many skirts!
The skirt is from Monsoon.
This top was from the new Topshop collection and the skirt is from N.W.3 by Hobbs. I like the top because, like the camisoles it's a basic but because it has shoulder detailing it makes it a bit more dressy and quirky. Also because it covers your shoulders it's a touch more conservative. I love the skirt because of it's button detail, but also because it's figure flattering, is the perfect length just about the knee and because it's made out of tweed fabric which looks great with loads of other colours, and is very hard wearing.
I know this skirt is a similar cut to the last one, but this lavender skirt from Zara was not just only £20 as a non sale item (!), but its cotton therefore lighter in the summer where the tweed skirt may be a bit warm. They are only similar styles because I know that's what suits me! It's also the splash of colour my wardrobe needs, because I know lavender is the colour that isn't blue that suits me best. If the colour suits you really well you can get away with brighter colours more. The belt came with it, but it looks fine without too!
Finally, and my favourite thing I bought in Selfridges is the perfectly fitting office dress. This one is from N.W.3 at Hobbs, my new favourite label. It is essential that the dress is flattering and fits perfectly, and though I wasn't sure when it was on the hanger I knew the dress was perfect the moment I put it on! Also, if you're under about the age of 30 you have to make sure that you go for a design with some detailing like the buttons and neck line on this one, or else you may look like you're trying to dress to be older than you are/ you'll look too old!
Everything I pair with basic jewellery, pieces I wear every day without fail; my silver Tiffany's key pendant and by solid silver bangle.
On my feet I'm wearing my very battered pair of Nine West sandals. I have new pair from Nine West but they have bright pink backs and are therefore not summer office passable (I'm pushing it with sandals as it is!) so I have my eye on a black suede pair from Bertie to replace them with, but when I checked they didn't have my size in store so I must go back to Selfridges one evening after work when I'm staying in London to try and try them on again!
What is your favourite office wardrobe staple?

Monday, 19 July 2010

Tea Time

I'm vaguely obsessed with fruit and herbal tea right now.
Cranberry & Sangria Orange. My current lust, a new blend I tried about a month ago for the first time. Brewed as strong as I can get it (a very pretty red pink colour!) but with the cup only filled.
Jasmine. I absolutely adore the smell of jasmine, and every time I go to an oriental restaurant I get a pot of jasmine tea after my meal. I like this lightly brewed so it just has a subtle flavour. Most commercial tea companies mix it with green tea in a blend, which I'm not that struck on and I have to drink with lemon, which ruins the delicate jasmine, so I buy mine from the oriental food store.
Lemon & Ginger. Tea bag brewed is scalding hot water for as long as possible with two fat round slices of fresh lemon in the cup while its brewing, then squeezed when you take the tea bag out. That all translates as very lemony and very strong!
Peppermint. My Mum is an obsessive organic peppermint tea drinker, and though I never used to like the stuff (I used to try hers and hers is brewed so weakly its like water!) now I've tried it brewed strong (but not so strong its bitter) I love it to calm me down if I'm stressed, and to refresh me in the morning during the winter (I tend to drink more fruit teas in the summer months!)
Rose. Except for online, I don't know where I can actually buy this, and my beloved Coffee & Corks, the coffee shop where I used to buy this by the gallon with wedges of lemon loose and sit there and drink typing away on my laptop for whole afternoons at a time has closed down. It was my first herbal tea love, and got me hooked to all the rest. I miss it dearly, but not the airy fuzzy feeling I got if I drunk too much of it. Which I did. A lot.

All this has to be drunk out of my favourite Penguin Classics Lady Chatterley's Lover mug, of course, and except for the special teas I use Twinings tea bags!

What is your favourite flavour of tea, and do you have a favourite mug to drink it out of?

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Jalouse Magazine

While I was craning my neck to find my Vogue Paris in my local supermarket in France I spotted a magazine I had never seen before, Jalouse, I grabbed a copy and then promptly fell in love...
Jalouse I think can best be described as Nylon Magazine's French speaking cousin (and we all know about my love for all things Nylon!), and if you can read French at least averagely well I beg you to try and get your hands on a copy - you won't regret it! Also it comes from the same publishers as L'Officiel International, which means the photo editorials have to be fantastic, its like the rule!
Also, if you can read French or you don't mind reading the pretty amazing output of the Google page translator Jalouse also have a fantastic website!
I have only been learning French as a school subject, aside from all the practice I get having a house out there and I found the interviews, and the editorials surprisingly easy to read - I loved this one with Karen Elson - the whole issue had a theme of red heads!
The beauty pages were also incredible, some really great finds - I want some Hello Kitty nail polish!
What magazines from other countries (aside from the UK & the USA) do you love to read?