The Ws Bake

The last month has seen both Mr W and I being a baking duo, baking cakes for Mr W’s Dad’s 65th birthday. Now, I like to bake but I have never made a mammoth amount of cakes for an important occasions. I’ll bake for work, family, friends and charity sales but never for a party. Last month I was asked if I would like to bake a cake for his birthday party. Mr W quickly answered with a yes whereas I was sat there waiting to ask the most important question, how many will it be for? …..100…I’ve never made more than enough cakes for 16 people (not including when I’ve had to bake for work) so that number was a bit of a shock. Whilst I had witnesses (Mr W’s mum and dad) I confirmed that he was going to be helping. To be fair, he did. 

I’m not the most creative when it comes to cake decorating and managed to find some fairly simple cricket themed birthday cakes on the internet. I was also able to find a cake and buttercream recipe that was for 50 servings. Mr W said he would make cupcakes so we settled on carrot cake cupcakes and madeira sponge for the actual cake. My sister was going to help and make some lemon cupcakes but the weekend before the party, we were told less cake was needed.

The week before the party was a busy week for me and not an ideal time for a mammoth baking session but with Mr Ws help and a plan, we managed it (it did mean leaving my works Christmas party early to finish decorating). Mr W made the cupcakes (with very little assistance from me) and helped me assemble the main birthday cake and check my cricket decorations were up to standard. We managed to get all the cakes over to the venue in one piece. I would hate to be a professional cake decorator and having to transport multi tiered cakes, just transporting 24 cupcakes and a single tier cake was nerve-racking enough.

Mr W’s dad liked the cricket theme and everybody seemed to enjoy the cakes. I feared it would be heavy on the buttercream due to a lot of patching up to try and fill the gaps but when it was cut, you couldn’t tell. Although the feedback was good, I won’t be rushing to make such a big cake again anytime soon. 

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However, a normal sized Christmas cake is perfectly fine to be getting on with. I took over this job for Christmas (my sister has been making it for past two years). We normally use a simple cake recipe that has no alcohol in it and can be made days before you want it. This year, I wanted to make a ginger fruit cake and found a recipe that used ginger wine. I made it the week before stir-up Sunday and fed the cake every two weeks  with two tablespoons of ginger wine. Mr W wanted the cake for Christmas Eve (we were visiting both sets of parents so could leave them some of it for the Christmas period) so I covered it with marzipan, icing and decorations on the run up before.

After trying a slice on Boxing Day, this is now my new Christmas cake recipe. The texture was moist and the dried fruit remained juicy. It wasn’t heavy like some of your standard Christmas fruit cakes. Although the flavour was good and without the alcohol hit that I dislike about alcohol infused fruit cakes, it just wasn’t gingery enough for me. Next year, I’m going to have to at least double the amount of ginger or add some chopped stem ginger. Here’s the recipe if you want to give it a go.

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Black Bean Brownies

I promised one of my friends that I would make her some black bean brownies. She wanted to try them but was struggling to find black beans that were a reasonable price (country living for you lol). Now, I’d managed to source a tin of black beans and had found a recipe for the brownies online. I’d also planned a visit with my sister to meet our friend at Lincoln Christmas Markets so I decided to make some on Friday night to take with us. 

I ended up halving the recipe I’d found as I wasn’t sure how they would turn out and didn’t want to be eating them for the next week. So, with these brownies, the black beans are a substitute for the flour, maple syrup is used as a natural sweetener and cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate. You can tell from these changes that the brownie is not going to like the decadent brownies that I’m normally used to. But, I’m all for trying new recipes and healthier alternatives.

The recipe was fairly easy to follow, with everything being thrown into a food processor. You can then add any extra additions like nuts before pouring into the tin. I’ll be honest, I can’t actually remember where my recipe came from. It’s been sat in my pile of ‘recipes to try’ for a while. I adapted it slightly so that I could make eight brownies (it was meant to be six but it would have been more of a cake and not a brownie with the tin size I was going to use).

So…what were they like? The texture was a little drier than a standard brownie. You also don’t get the same rich chocolate flavour. Mine could have done with a little more maple syrup as some thought they weren’t sweet enough (Mr W refused to finish his). I was worried that you would be able to detect the skin of the black beans in the texture but I think having the walnuts in masks any that remain. Your never going to get away with telling people they are a ‘real’ brownie but they are a good alternative for anyone who wants a treat but wants to minimise the amount of refined sugars or needs it to be gluten free. I might try tweaking the recipe a bit to try and get the balance of sweetness right. 

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Black bean brownies (8)

1 tin black beans

115g coconut oil

43g cocoa powder

2 eggs

80 ml maple syrup (may need more)

1tbsp vanilla extract

sea salt

65g walnuts, roughly chopped

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170C and line a 6in x 5in tin with greaseproof paper. Rinse black beans and leave to drain whilst you melt the coconut oil.
  2. Place the black beans, eggs, cocoa powder, maple syrup, vanilla extract and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Blitz until smooth.
  3. Whilst the processor is still running, slowly add the melted coconut oil. At this stage, if you want to, try the mixture to see if it needs more maple syrup adding. Stir through the walnuts.
  4. Pour the mixture into your prepared tin and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until the brownie is firm but springy and the top is slightly cracked.
  5. Leave to cool before cutting into pieces.