Chocolate Peppermint Tart

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 1

The easiest pudding in the world I think, bar offering a bowl of apples.  Crunchy biscuit base, no need for faffing with pastry on this occasion.  Creamy, truffley chocolate filling with a hint of mint (hint of mint?).  A cross between a great big After Eight and a Viscount biscuit (remember those?).  You can have all the ingredients in the cupboard and fridge and then conjure this up when you have a few minutes to spare.  You will be greeted by oohs and ash when you bring out this little number and no one, but no one will believe you didn’t slave to produce your masterpiece.  Some crushed up candy canes makes this pure Christmas for me but if that is a step too far for you, please dispense with this final flourish.

This might look like a slightly small tart for eight but it is very rich.  A small slice would probably cover pudding and after dinner mint in one go.  Alternatively just make a bigger one.

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 3

If you want to go to the Chocolate Orange route then substitute Cointreau or Grand Marnier for the peppermint but bear in mind your tart will now contain a drop or two of alcohol.  This version would look stunning topped with some chocolate covered candied orange peel.

I usually make a chocolatey pudding around Christmas or New Year and if you want another to try, make my Chocolate Pudding Cake (December 2012) which is simplicity itself and better still, you can make it now and freeze until you need it.

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 2

Chocolate Peppermint Tart

I use the all chocolate Neos from Lidl which work a treat but you could use Oreos.  Choose the all chocolate ones rather than those with a white filling to keep the dark beauty of the base if you can but both taste delicious.

225g Neos or Oreos

50g butter plus a tiny bit extra for brushing the tin, all melted

Pinch of salt

150g chocolate, I use half milk and half plain

20g butter

150ml cream

1-2 teaspoons peppermint extract

Brush a 20cm tart tin with a removable base with a little melted butter.  Whizz the biscuits in a processor or bash them in a plastic bag until you have fine crumbs.  Mix with the remaining melted butter, a pinch of salt and then press firmly into the tin including the sides.   Chill this in the fridge whilst you get on with the filling.   Melt the chocolate, butter and cream gently in a pan.  Once this is all amalgamated add a teaspoon of peppermint, mix well and then taste, you might want a little more but don’t overdo it, you want gentle peppermint not mouthwash.  Pour this mixture into the biscuit shell and chill until set, a couple of hours.  Now, how easy was that?

Chocolate Peppermint Tart 5


Mocha Cookies (or Spooky Cobweb Cookies)

Mocha Cookies 2

Who wouldn’t like a crisp and soft, deeply chocolatey cookie on a windswept October day?  These are a version of some cookies I have made many times and recently I have taken to adding a little coffee, hence the mocha in the name.  This coffee flavour isn’t hugely predominant (so don’t worry if you think your children might not like it) but there is a hint and as ever, coffee seems to boost the chocolate flavour.   Perfect as a little treat but equally at home with ice cream for pudding.  In all honesty I wouldn’t say no to one of these whatever the situation.

The dough is fairly soft and needs to sit in the fridge for an hour or so before you form the balls.  The advantage of this is you can make it ahead and then only use as much dough as you need, the rest will sit happily in the fridge for several days.

The icing sugar makes a lovely marbled effect when it cooks so if you need something sweet for your little devils this Hallowe’en, make these and call them Spooky Cobweb Cookies.

Mocha Cookies

Mocha Cookies 

1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in 2 teaspoons boiling water

60g butter

175g plain chocolate

175g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

140g caster sugar

40g icing sugar

Put the dissolved coffee, butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and allow to melt then mix and set aside to cool a little.  Whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale then add the cooled chocolate mixture followed by the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt.  Pour the mixture into a bowl and put in the fridge for an hour or so to firm up.  Preheat the oven to 160 and put the icing sugar into a little bowl.  Take teaspoonfuls of the mix and form into little balls, roll them in the icing sugar until well covered and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Using the heel of your hand squash the ball, the sides will split a little but this is what you want.   Bake for 12-14 minutes until firm at the edges.  Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.  Makes about 30.

Mocha Cookies 3


Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondants

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant

I love a good chocolate fondant and wasn’t convinced there was any need to gild the lily but this salted caramel idea just wouldn’t go away and I knew I had to have a go at making it.  Just out of interest you understand…….  So this is the pudding I teased you with around Valentine’s and I thought it would be perfect for Mothering Sunday should you still be without a pudding or as an early Easter treat.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant 3

These puddings are sublime, honestly beyond fabulous.  A crisp chocolate outer gives way to a soft chocolate pudding containing molten caramel sauce within.  They are so good.  Surprisingly they also very easy to make and sit happily in the fridge until you want to cook them.  As long as the oven is at 200 and you cook them for exactly 12 minutes they will be perfect.   I am no expert baker but if I can do them then anyone can.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant 4

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondants

I am all for quick and easy and although these puds fit that bill you will need to make the caramel ahead of time so it can set firm.  This only takes a few hours but I made it a day ahead so I could forget about it.  You can also make the puddings the day ahead and keep in the fridge.  If you remember put the caramel in the freezer when you start making the puddings just to give them an extra chill – this keeps the sauce together rather than it melting straight into the puddings.  Miss the salt out if you think you or your children would prefer Caramel Chocolate Fondants.

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons double cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sea salt

85g butter, plus a little extra for greasing

85g chocolate, I used 50/50 dark and milk

85g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon cocoa

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon coffee

45g plain flour

Pinch of salt

Heat the butter, sugar and cream in a pan and let it simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the vanilla and a good pinch of salt.  When it is cold enough to taste try it, you may want more salt then put this caramel in a small bowl in the fridge to set.  Grease 4 metal pudding tins with the melted butter then dust each one with cocoa.  Put in the fridge until you need them.   Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.  Whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale, frothy and at least doubled in volume.  Mix the chocolate mixture into the eggs, add the coffee and then gently fold in the flour along with a pinch of salt.   Half fill each greased tin with the chocolate mixture then add a teaspoonful of the cold caramel, it may sink a bit but don’t worry.  Pour the remaining mix over the caramel to fill the tins.  Put the puddings into the fridge for at least half an hour whilst you preheat the oven to 200.  Cook the puddings for exactly 12 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn out onto plates and serve with cream or ice cream.  This makes  four but it is up to you how many it serves…..

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fondant 2


Mint Chocolate Drops

Mint Chocolate Drops

Chocolate and Mint is a match (Matchstick) made in heaven, a truly great combination.  For as long as I can remember I have loved that marriage of fresh, clean, cool mint and rich, smooth melty chocolate.  From After Eights liberated on the quiet from their box in the dining room to that crazy Ice Breaker of the 70’s – ludicrously sharp little peppermint shards incased in chocolate – remember that one?  I loved the look of Bendicts Bittermints and though I tried them regularly, desperate to enjoy their sophistication, the super bitter dark chocolate proved an effective barrier between the young me and the soft mint patty within.  Fry’s Peppermint Cream, Mintolas and Mint Aero – don’t believe I’ve ever turned my nose up at any of the above.  Continuing the theme, my parents even had a bottle of Royal Mint Chocolate Liquer – very racy.

So I thought I’d make my own and could it be any easier?  Melt some chocolate, add a little peppermint extract, drop spoonfuls on parchment, let it cool.

Can that be called a recipe?  No, honestly it is just too ridiculously simple but that is pretty much it.  My children love making (and eating) these and they are superb as a present when you go to someone’s house for lunch or supper.  Fun to make during the Easter holidays or afterwards if you need something to do with the surfeit of chocolate that often lingers after the children have gone back to school.

Finally, if like me you have given up chocolate for Lent, I suggest you stockpile some of these, then set your alarm early on Easter Day and tuck in.

Mint Chocolate Drops 2

Mint Chocolate Drops

I use a combination of milk and plain chocolate as that is what we prefer either in the ratio of 50/50 which the children like or 70 plain 30 milk if you want something a little darker and more bitter to serve after dinner.  All plain chocolate is too bitter for me but, as ever, it is up to you.

For every 65g of chocolate use 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract

Melt the chocolate with the peppermint.  I do this in a bowl over barely simmering water but I believe a microwave is an even better way to melt chocolate (I don’t have one).  Either way do it very gently so the chocolate doesn’t seize.  Drop teaspoonfuls onto parchment and leave to cool.   Don’t put it in the fridge as this makes the chocolate go a little dull.  This amount of chocolate yields about 10 drops.

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Chocolate Mayonnaise cake

Years ago I worked as a waitress in a restaurant in Yorkshire and I would recite the pudding list to the customers.  Whenever I cam to the Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake there would be a lot of oohing and “how weirds”!  Admittedly it sounds a little strange but the principle of eggs and fat or oil are bang on as ingredients for a cake. They are just already combined for you in mayonnaise.  Foolishly I never got that original recipe but after some experimenting I came up with this.  Unusually for a cake I think it is better the day after you make it as it seems to become more fudgy and although I thought it might be a bit rich for children, I offered it for tea recently and seconds and thirds were required…

I mention it now in particular because it is a great recipe to have up your sleeve in an emergency.  Whilst you may run short of butter or eggs over the holidays, there is almost always a jar of mayonnaise in the fridge standing by for those cold turkey sandwiches.   So if you don’t like Christmas cake or just want to rustle up a cake for tea, why not try this.  Happy Christmas!

Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

I usually dust this with cocoa as I like that bitter edge but I couldn’t resist a snowy fall of icing sugar today.

250g self raising flour

55g cocoa powder plus a little extra for dusting

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

200g golden caster sugar

220g mayonnaise

200ml water

Icing sugar or extra cocoa to serve

Preheat the oven to 180.  Butter and flour (or cocoa) a loose bottom 23cm tin.  Sift the flour and cocoa together, then add the remaining ingredients and mix until thoroughly incorporated and smooth, either with a hand held beater or in a mixer.  Pour into the prepared tin and cook for 30-40 minutes until if feels firm to the touch on top.  Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from the tin and allow to cool completely.  Dust with cocoa or icing sugar before serving.  Serves 8.

If you want a slightly denser (in a good way!) cake to serve for a pudding, look no further than my Chocolate Pudding Cake which I posted, funnily enough, last December.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

World Cup Meringue Cake

World cup meringue cake 3

So called because we had this for dinner whilst watching the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup.  My husband is South African so clearly this was a night for some rejoicing and this cake has ever after been associated with celebration and happy days.   Crispy, chewy meringue against a smooth rich chocolatey filling – fabulous.   Oh and yes, I do realise 2007 was a few years ago but the name has stuck!

Anyway, it is supremely easy to make and the meringue layers will be fine in an airtight tin for a couple of days.  In fact, if you have room in your freezer to keep the layers flat then that is another option.  Should you have a bottle of Baileys, Kahlua or similar in the cupboard then this is the perfect time to use a couple of tablespoons in the ganache filling. Cointreau or Grand Marnier now I think of it would take you the chocolate orange route…. If you are serving this to the underage leave out the alcohol and perhaps go 50/50 milk and plain chocolate, this is what my children prefer.  I like this with very cold pouring cream – my husband however likes it with whipped cream providing another layer between the ganache and the meringue, but you can take your pick.

Whatever your sporting affiliations, please make and enjoy.

World cup meringue cake

World Cup Meringue Cake

4 egg whites

200g caster sugar

1 teaspoon wine vinegar (red or white)

1 teaspoon cornflour

300ml double cream

150g chocolate, plain or 50/50 plain and milk chocolate

Icing sugar, to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 140. Cut out 3 x 20cm circles in baking parchment and put onto baking sheets.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff then gradually incorporate the sugar.  When all that is mixed in add the vinegar and cornflour and mix until all is smooth and satiny.  Divide the mixture between the 3 circles and smooth.  Cook for an hour then turn off the oven and leave them in there for a further 30 minutes.  Take out and leave to cool.  Meanwhile put the cream and chocolate in a small pan and heat gently until melted and smooth, add the liqueur now if using.  Decant this ganache into a bowl and leave to cool until thick, I find the fridge best for this.   Keeping the best looking meringue for the top, divide the ganache between the other two,  pile them up, dust with icing sugar and serve to applause.  Serves 6 generously.

World cup meringue cake 2

Marble Cake

Marble cake slice 2

I have felt a little caked-out recently following my Macmillan coffee morning but it is a dreary rainy October day in Dorset so there is only one thing to do – bake.  I make no secret of my fondness for a well stocked cake tin (Lemon Cake and the 1970’s, May 2013),  perhaps because when I was young a slice of cake was a proper treat.  It still is actually and ideally a weekly one and not something just for high days and holidays.

I may be sporting my rose coloured specs, the ones I usually view the 70’s with (blazing hot summers and superb music, forgetting strikes and power cuts etc) but I’m sure cakes were always homemade and whipped out triumphantly for weekends tea.  The only bought ones I can remember were something called a Country Manor Cake, a sort of light fruit cake with a demerara sugar topping which I was strangely fond of and the fabulous fluorescent Battenburg which enthralled me with its colours and the marzipan which I would peel off.

A marble cake was often the star at these teas and it seemed somehow exciting and exotic, what with its different flavours and swirls.  Many (many) years on I decided to make a marble cake and was delighted that my children were just as excited by the pattern and having both chocolate and vanilla flavours in one cake.   So much so that my son requested a marble cake, and it absolutely had to be a marble cake, last week when he had a friend from school over for tea.

You will see from the photographs that my marbling and swirling isn’t brilliant, artistry in cakes not one of my strengths and I doubt I will be troubling Paul and Mary any time soon.  The pictures are also the best I can do on a grey overcast day but I hope they convey the lovely texture of this easy and delicious cake.  Please, please do make it.

Marble Cake close 2

Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake

I use both milk and plain chocolate for the icing, all milk I find too sweet and all plain my children find too dark.  The mix of the two seems just right but as ever, adjust to your own tastes.

200g caster sugar

200g butter, soft

3 eggs

200g self raising flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

25g cocoa

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons milk

For the icing

100g chocolate, milk or plain as you prefer, see introduction

20g butter

1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat the oven to 170 and grease a 20cm tin which is at least 6-8cm deep.  Whizz the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time each with a spoonful of flour.  Once these are incorporated sift in the reminder of the flour along with the baking powder and salt then add the milk and vanilla.  Put half the mixture into another bowl and sift the cocoa into one lot, mix well.  Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the prepared tin alternating vanilla and chocolate.  Run a skewer through the blobs marbling as you go and then bake for 55 minutes.  Check after 45 in case it is browning too much on top in which case lay a piece of foil over it.  When a skewer comes out clean leave to cool and then remove from the tin.

For the icing, melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water then add the milk until you get the consistency you are after for the icing, I find one tablespoon is usually enough.  Pour over the cake and dig in.

Marble cake whole