Ginger Cookie Cake With Rum Buttercream & Candied Ginger

When I asked my husband whether he’d like a cake for his birthday, he said that he’d be happy if I made ginger cookies and stuck a candle in one of them.

I decided to give him the cookies he wanted, but to dress them up a bit for the occasion!

Birthday Cookie Cake

I used the excellent Big Soft Ginger Cookies recipe from allrecipes.com (which, if you like ginger cookies, you should definitely try!)

When I made the cookies, I made three of them into giant cookies (I patted the mixture out flat and coated it in sugar, leaving space for it to spread. As long as you flatten it, you could probably make them as large as you want – but be aware that they will tend to fold and crack when you lift them from the tray (due to the ‘soft’ part of the recipe!)

A tip for this cookie recipe – when I make the cookies, I usually give them 8-10 minutes (closer to 8 if the oven is already hot) & I gave these ones 11 due to the size of the larger cookies. In general though, they are done once you get a very slight resistance if you gently rest a finger on one of the cookies. If you cook them till they are firm then you’ll overcook them, and they will lose a lot of the moistness and softness. It might take you a couple of goes to work out how long you need to leave them in the oven for to get them the way you want them – but you won’t mind that because they are so tasty!

Anyway, once you have your giant cookies, you can turn them into a cookie cake!

I made some rum buttercream icing to layer the cookies with. I used:

3oz salted butter (room temperature)
5oz icing sugar
2 tbsp dark rum

I stirred the ingredients together with a fork, then whisked it all up with an electric whisk. I made my icing layers about 3mm to 4mm thick, and had enough icing left to do another layer if I’d wanted. I decided that three layers would be enough for this cookie cake because of the richness of the buttercream, but you could make it with as many layers as you wanted. I then topped it with some candied ginger.

You could also make mini ones with regular sized cookies & serve them as individual desserts. ūüôā

Chocolate Cheesecake

The first time I attempted a home-made cheesecake, I used Butterscotch flavour Angel Delight.¬† Back when I was at uni, I used to make a cheesecake-esque dessert.¬† I’d buy a packet of cheesecake mix, ditch the cheesecake bit (they’re always too sweet for my tastes) and just use the biscuit-crumb mix.

It would probably have been cheaper to weigh¬†out biscuits and butter and make my own from scratch, but I didn’t have any kitchen scales at uni.¬† Anyway, I’d make up the Butterscotch Angel Delight with a small carton of yoghurt and a tiny drizzle of milk.¬† The filling wouldn’t set solid like a proper cheesecake – but I always spread it thinly anyway.¬† Cheesecake has always been mostly about the¬†biscuit-crumb base for me!

Filled with nostalgic yearnings for that old dessert, I thought I’d try something similar some¬†*cough* years later and, since Angel Delight don’t use artificial sweetener in their regular mix, I knew I would still be able to eat it.¬† (So many things I used to like are now off-limits to me due to an allergy to artificial sweeteners, and companies who like to save money by using them.)

Unfortunately, in the intervening years, Angel Delight have also taken out the old artificial flavourings…¬† ūüôĀ

Thus, when I experimented and whizzed up Philadelphia (cream cheese) with a packet of Butterscotch Angel Delight & a drizzle of milk, the natural flavourings in the Angel Delight lacked strength, and the over-riding flavour was of cheese.  It was too rich, too cheesy, and nothing like my memories.

So – this time around, I decided to go for chocolate cheesecake, add cream, and¬†ditch the Angel Delight in favour of a 100gram bar of Green & Black’s 85% cocoa, dark chocolate.

I also consulted a few recipes –¬†then ignored them and made up my own!

For the cheesecake base, I had a 9 inch tin so¬†used the following, which was 1 1/2 times the suggested amount for a 7 inch tin (plus salt, which wasn’t in the original recipe, but I find that salt works well with chocolate, so I wanted to add some to the base):

  • 9oz¬†digestives – crushed
  • 4 1/2oz butter – melted
  • 1 1/2 oz sugar
  • Pinch of salt

I melted the butter in a pan and then stirred in the other ingredients before pressing the mixture firmly into a foil-lined tin & chilling in the fridge for an hour or two.¬† The recipe book talked about baking it, but I’ve never baked a¬†biscuit-crumb base, so I didn’t bother.

For the chocolate cheesecake filling, I used:

  • One 300gram¬†tub of Philadelphia Light (low fat cream cheese)
  • One 300ml of whipping cream
  • One 100gram bar of Green & Blacks 85% cocoa dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • 2-3 heaped tbsp icing sugar (I just tipped a bit into the bowl & whisked it in until I was happy with the flavour.)

I used my electric beaters & started by whipping the cream up until it made firm peaks and didn’t shift if I turned the bowl gently sideways.¬† Then I beat in the cream cheese and vanilla essence.

I melted the chocolate (using the microwave, checking regularly and stirring until melted, I let the last few chunks melt on their own in the heat from the perspex bowl.)  Then I folded in the chocolate and beat it into the mixture, adding icing sugar to taste.

I wound up with enough mixture to make two cheesecakes – but as I only had one base, I froze the rest in portions.¬† It’s a little solid for ice-cream, but if you have molds for those small, thin ice-lollies that children often have, it would probably work well on those.¬† Even in its slightly solid state, the frozen leftovers have gone down well with the family!

Anyway, I spread the mixture into the base and let it chill in the fridge.¬† Here is a slightly¬†out of focus¬†picture of one of the last slices (it didn’t last very long!)

SAM_0846

It was surprisingly light.  (Though probably not in terms of calories!)

Overall, it was a great success, and will definitely be making a come-back in our kitchen … once we’ve lost a few pounds!

Ice Cream Dessert

A month or so ago I was trying to find a dessert that would satisfy my nostalgic cravings for a Brown Derby¬†(can’t link to it directly, but it’s in the clickable list of desserts on that page)¬†without the stodge of the doughnut part of it.¬† I love it but it’s pretty much a meal in itself for me!

Anyway, I looked at the ingredients I had to hand and I came up with this:

ice cream 1

It’s Carte D’Or¬†Chocolate Inspiration ice cream, with broken ginger snaps and chopped & roasted hazelnuts.¬† The results is a dessert that is surprisingly light yet satisfying.

Before you think I’ve been too carried away there – that’s a fairly small bowl!¬† The ginger snaps are only around 2 1/2 inches diameter and I used four or five of them.¬† I also don’t use much more than a single scoop of ice cream.¬† It’s just that the ice cream is scooped in thinner curls rather than one solid ball.¬† OK, so it’s still not exactly low calorie – but it’s better for me than the doughnut version!¬† I also use less ice cream than I do with a doughnut.

Anyway, I thought I’d share this particular combination of products with you in case it appealed to anyone else!¬† If it does – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

ice cream 2

Herman Bread

My adventures with Herman continue…

Having made two cakes and feeling guilty at the thought of potentially cooking a third, I decided to look around for other Herman recipes.  I found this one on the All Recipes website.

Herman Bread 1

I paid attention to the comments & used 2 tsp of salt instead of the 1 tbsp suggested.  I also needed to add more flour as they suggest.

Our flat was cold, so it took forever for the dough to rise!  I thought the finished loaf was going to be much denser than it actually was.  It rose more in the oven than bread usually does for me.  I use a silicone bread pan and it even bowed out slightly at the sides.

It took less time to cook than suggested, so best keep an eye on it if you give it a go!

The finished results were very tasty.¬† Slightly sweet with a definite sour dough flavour.¬† In fact, it was so tasty that I started to want another loaf of it!¬† Thankfully, I’d experimented with freezing the two left-over Herman portions I had from the last time.

Herman came back to life without any problems.¬† I took him out of the freezer yesterday and followed the advice I’d seen & fed him today as if it were day 4 of the process.¬† I might treat him now more like an ongoing sour dough mix & just feed him every now and again – and scoop out a cup or so the following day to use for a loaf or something else.

Herman Bread 2

It struck me that the Herman bread recipe looked very much like a regular bread recipe with added Herman, flour and salt.¬† With that in mind, my urge to experiment is prodding me to try making Herman cinnamon rolls…¬† Not just yet though – I should probably leave it a bit longer after all that cake!

 

 

Herman the (Second) German Friendship Cake

I made my second Herman last night.

I wanted to try a different recipe and my husband voted for a ginger Herman over a chocolate one.¬† There’s a recipe for a ginger Herman on the Herman website¬†but it didn’t sound quite like¬†the type of cake¬†I was looking for.

So, being me, I decided to play with the ingredients!  I took the ginger flavouring mix from the All Recipes Big Soft Ginger Cookies recipe and decided to add rhubarb as the fruit.

The resulting cake batter was more liquid than the last one I made, possibly because of the molasses/treacle, possibly because I ran out of oil and had to guesstimate how much soft margarine to use to top up the oil I had.  I added about a third of a cup more flour to help but the batter still took quite a while to cook, hence this Herman being a bit darker in colour than the last.  I definitely needed the foil again!

rhubarb & ginger herman

It turned out well.  The ginger flavouring is very subtle, so if you like a stronger ginger flavour, then you might want to up the spices, or add some decent crystalized ginger to the mix.  I wanted to add crystalized ginger this time, but could only find a brand that I already know to be extremely wussy when it comes to flavour.

Here are the ingredients I used:

  • 1 portion of Herman
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of plain flour (plus a little extra that may not be needed if you use oil rather than estimated quantites of margerine!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 60ml (approx two tablespoons) of treacle/molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup cooking oil
  • 4 medium sticks of rhubarb, washed & cut into small chunks

Plus of course, the yummy (yet calorie laden) topping of 1/4 cup of brown sugar & 1/4 cup melted butter.

As before, I lined my tin with greaseproof paper & baked Herman on a low shelf in a 170-180 degrees celsius oven.  After the initial 45 minutes I covered him with foil and kept baking until a skewer inserted into the middle came out clean.

I think he turned out very well.¬† I like both the Hermans I’ve made so far.¬† My preference is probably for the apple version, but my husband prefers this one.¬† ūüôā

Spiced Quinoa With Onion, Garlic & Ginger

We’re all suffering from a lingering cough at the moment, so I fancied cooking something that at least felt healthy.

It’s really hot here too, so I decided to go for something fairly light as well & quinoa seemed the perfect candidate.¬† Quinoa, garlic, and onion.

Usually I would cook the quinoa first on its own and then add it to a frying pan with the onion & garlic in it.  This time I decided to do things the other way around and cook the quinoa with the already softened onion & garlic.

I started out by rinsing the quinoa to get rid of the bitter taste & left it in the sieve to drain.  I then chopped up the onion and put that in the saute pan (with some olive oil) on the same medium-high heat that I usually use for quinoa.

While the onion was softening I chopped up the cloves from half a bulb of garlic (what?¬† I really like garlic – and I’m ill – and garlic is good for you!)¬† I also got two heaped tablespoons of easy-cook ginger (finely sliced ginger in vinegar – but you could use fresh if you liked) and gave that a bit of a chop too to make the pieces smaller.

Once the onions started to go transparent, I added the garlic & ginger and cooked them until the vinegar had evaporated from the ginger.  At that point I added the spices and seasoning and stirred them in.  If I made this again then I might leave out the spices, or play with a different blend.

I added the rinsed quinoa and let it toast with the spices for ten minutes.¬† Normally I let it toast until it starts to pop, but with the moisture from the other ingredients it wasn’t popping, so I stopped when the onion started to go brown.

Spiced Quinoa 1

At this point I added the water and put the lid on the pan, leaving it to cook for ten minutes.¬† N.B. – It’s important to cover the quinoa, because otherwise you’ll lose too much water to evaporation before the quinoa has the chance to absorb it.

Spiced Quinoa 2

After ten minutes I took the lid off the pan and added some chopped cashew nuts, letting them toast lightly as I stirred the quinoa and let the excess moisture evaporate.  If you like your quinoa porridgey, then add more water & leave the lid on for more of the cooking time.  I prefer mine with a bit more substance!

Spiced Quinoa 3

Quinoa cooked, I then added a drizzle of chilli infused olive oil & some petit pois.

The (in)exact measurements I used were:

  • Quinoa up to the 10fl oz line on a measuring jug
  • 19fl oz of water (more if you like your quinoa mushy)
  • One medium onion
  • Half a bulb of garlic, finely chopped
  • Two heaped tablespoons of chopped ginger
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Spices:¬† I used 3/4 teaspoon of turmeric, a tiny dash of cloves and a sprinkling of nutmeg.¬† You could leave out the spices if you prefer.¬† I’d also suggest doing what I did – sniff all your spices and decide what you fancy & what will work well together!¬† I mix my spices & seasonings up in a small pot before adding them.¬† This helps prevent steam from the pan entering the spice¬†container & causing it to clump together.

So there you go. ūüôā

Spiced Quinoa 4

Herman the German Friendship Cake

We visited some friends the other weekend and came home with a Herman. http://www.hermanthegermanfriendshipcake.com/

Having tasted the one they cooked, I knew he’d be worth it.¬† When I first got him, it seemed very odd to be talking about a sour dough starter/cake as if it were sentient.¬† However, if you try it, you’ll probably find that by the time you bake the cake, you’re calling him Herman too!

I went with the basic recipe but I left out the raisins and added an extra half a cooking apple, chopped up to raisin size.  He took a long time to cook.  Nearly two hours due to the extra moisture from the extra apple & the fact I had him on a low shelf.  Still, the end result was very yummy!

herman

I gave away two of the three spare starters & have kept the third so that I can try one of the other recipes and pass a starter on to my mother-in-law.  My husband has voted for the ginger cake!