Birthday Brownies

….or, y’know, a Wednesday. I won’t tell.
Best Ever Chocolate Brownies - The Cardiff Cwtch

Happy Friday! And Happy Birthday to my (not so little) brother, who’s turning 31 tomorrow (…and then it’s my birthday on Sunday, but I’m not going to mention how old I’ll be turning… yeesh). He’s a big fan of the chocolate brownie in all it’s glory and so naturally, I had to bake him some to celebrate. Trouble is, until recently I was yet to find my holy grail brownie recipe. You know, one that’s both basic and brilliant enough to pull out of your sleeve when you need it most (you know, “bring a cake” coffee mornings, bake sales, Wednesdays…) – one that doesn’t require any fancy ingredients, just the stuff that you’ve got stashed in your kitchen cupboard. Slightly crisp around the edges, but deliciously gooey in the middle. Perfecto.

A couple of weeks ago, Sunny came back from work with a rough print out of a chocolate brownie recipe that been pinging around the office via email which claimed to make the best ever brownies. I mean, you can trawl the internet for hours searching through millions of recipes claiming to make the best ever brownies, or sift through cook books – but, the truth is, I’m far more likely to pay attention to recipes on scraps of paper that are passed from person to person. Those kind of recipes are gold dust. And so, I gave it a go one Sunday and by ‘eck, they’re good. And adaptable – which is exactly the kind of basic and brilliant recipe I love. One that I can fiddle around with to my heart’s content; throw in any filling or flavours I fancy, and top with whatever I like – which on this occasion was plenty of extra chocolate, toasted marshmallows, honeycomb and some birthday sprinkles. ๐Ÿ™‚

Birthday Brownies - The Cardiff Cwtch

Birthday Brownies

Super chocolaty, and with aaaaaall the trimmings.
Ingredients
  • 200g butter
  • 200g milk dark chocolate
  • 140g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 50g chocolate chips
  • 50g marshmallows
  • Honeycomb pieces (I found mine in Tesco)
  • Rainbow sprinkles
Best Ever Chocolate Brownie Recipe - The Cardiff Cwtch
Method
  1. First off, turn on your oven and set it to 180ยฐC, and grease and line a deep baking tin.
  2. Break up your chocolate and pop it into a microwavable mixing bowl, along with the butter. Melt them together in the microwave for about a minute and a half. Stir to combine, and then leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and caster sugar. Slowly pour the egg mix into the melted butter and chocolate mix, stirring as you go.
  4. Sift together the flour and baking powder, and then add to the rest of the mix – stirring until everything is smooth and mixed together.
  5. Pour the mix into the tin, and then bake in the oven for 25 minutes. When it comes out, it should have slight cracks around the edge and might have a bit of a wobble in the middle (…am I describing myself here?) – that’s fine, it’s cooked – it just needs a couple of hours in the tin to cool and set.
  6. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, honeycomb, marshmallow and sprinkles – using a blowtorch to singe the marshmallows.
  7. Store it in a tin, and NOT in the fridge.
Crisp and gooey chocolate chip brownies - The Cardiff Cwtch

Have a great weekend everyone – and happy birthday to my baby brother! ๐Ÿ™‚

Basic (but banging) Birthday Cake with Buttercream Icing

A moist but structured white sponge cake, and the creamiest buttercream you’ll ever make…
Basic, Plain Birthday Cake with the best ever buttercream icing

Full disclosure; today’s post was supposed to be a recipe for some very Bonfire Night appropriate Smores Brownies (*sigh* they were going to be so good! If you’re looking for some Bonfire Bakes then check out this post…). But, the truth is thatย Mercury Retrograde found me, and last weekend everything mysteriously went a bit Pete Tong. Now, I’m not really someone who really believes in all that astrology stuff (although, when NASA announced that all the star signs were off and that I was actually a Libra instead of a Scorpio, I was understandably outraged), but on Friday it was like some cosmic switch got flicked and everything suddenly and inexplicably went tits up. I just felt a bit off and then I started making these really stupid mistakes all over the place. I managed to cut my finger and split my nail whilst grating a carrot of all things, my steam mop – out of nowhere – gave up the ghost just when I desperately needed to use it (muddy paw prints, everywhere!), I gave my lounge wall a bruising Glasgow Kiss when I bent over to pick something up, and I even managed to cock up not one, but two very simpleย bakes when I made a really stupid mathematical error in dividing down quantities. Ugh! What the hell had happened?Desperate to find something to blame my sudden inability to count and to function as a normal human being on, I rolled my eyes as I actually googled the words “Is Mercury in Retrograde?”, and ended up feeling a bit freaked out when – surprise! – it was. It had literally shifted on Thursday night. Spooky, no?

Anyway, thankfully one bake did work out this weekend – and that was Sunny’s birthday cake (on the second attempt…). My husband turned a ripe old age over the weekend, and I always make him a birthday cake (even when he protests), but this year I didn’t really have the time or the ingredients to pull anything particularly fancy out of the bag. So, instead, I pulled out my tried, tested and true recipe for plain old white cake with buttercream frosting. Yes, it’s basic – but sometimes that’s exactly what you need when making a birthday cake. You want a sponge that’s moist and easy to bake, but still has structure to it so you can slice it and stack it and mold it into whatever shape you need it to take. You want a simple but delicious flavour that’s going to suit everyone, and isn’t going to be too sweet once you’ve decorated it. And as for the buttercream, it needs to be thick, it needs to be creamy, it needs to hold its shape and it needs to be sweet – but not sickly. And this is the recipe I reach for when I need a cake that’s all of the above. Basic, but banging. And reliable! …Except for when Mercury moves into Retrograde, apparently… *eye roll*

Plain Birthday Cake with Creamy Buttercream Frosting

Basic (but banging) Birthday Cake with Buttercream Icing

Tried, Tested and True, and your Brand New Birthday Go-To…
Ingredients
  • 175g softened, salted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 125ml buttermilk
For the Buttercream
  • 250g softened, salted butter
  • 500g icing sugar
  • 100ml double cream

*This should make enough to both sandwich and cover the cake. Make sure you use salted butter – that’s very important!

Method
  1. Set your oven to 180ยฐC and grease a deep, loose-bottomed cake tin (I like to use one with a 15cm diameter for a doorstop slice, without the excess).
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together your butter and sugar until you get lovely, whipped and creamy mix – the more elbow grease (or electricity if you’re using an electric mixer!) you put in at this stage, the fluffier your cake is going to be.
  3. Pour in the beaten eggs – gradually mixing everything together – then sift in half of the flour.
  4. Next mix in the buttermilk, and then follow it with the last of the flour and finally the baking powder to make a smooth batter.
  5. Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool.
  6. Once the cake has cooled, slice it in half as evenly as you can. Sandwich with a layer of raspberry jam and buttercream, then cover with a smooth, even layer of buttercream – building it up gradually. Decorate with rainbow sprinkles. ๐Ÿ™‚

Have a great week everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚

10 Autumn Bakes to try This Weekend

Ten banging bakes to fuel you through a soggy Sunday on the sofa…

Batter up! Because, is there anything better than a Baking Day? Don’t answer that; the truth is that most of the time there are plenty of things I’d rather be doing than holing up in the kitchen spilling flour all over the countertops. Autumn is the exception; as soon as those leaves start falling, it’s all I want to do. It’s probably down to the weather. I mean, we’ve swapped those long summer weekends spent out and about in beer gardens and on beaches, with cold and gloomy ones where staying in and dragging the duvet downstairs onto the sofa becomes the best offer on the table. And those are the weekends I’m living for right now. Marathon lie ins followed by lazy breakfasts (check out some of my favourite brunch recipes here) and a day spent pottering about the house. Slowly crossing things off the “To Do” list in between ticking things off the “To Watch” list and baking something sweet and satisfying to curl up with a cuppa and scoff later.ย 

I’ve done a bit of digging through the archives and picked out some of my favourite guaranteed cosy cakes, breads and bakes to make a list of 10 Autumn Baking Ideas that are perfect for one of those lazy Autumn weekends spent indoors. This one’s set to be a washout (again, ugh!), and so whether you’re planning on a full on Baking Day or just fancy passing the time with a bit of boredom baking, why not give one of these babies a try? ๐Ÿ™‚

Orange and Nutella Babka

I’d never heard of the utter genius that is the Babka until this time last year when they seemed to be all over social media. Stuck somewhere between cake and bread, they’re basically a pillowy, sweet dough that’s rolled with any kind of filling you fancy – from chocolate to the oh so Autumnal apple and cinnamon – and then twisted and knotted before throwing it into the baking tin, giving it it’s trademark swirls.

I’m playing around with another Babka Recipe as we speak, but for now here’s last year’s Nutella and Orange-spiced offering.

Apple Pie Cake

If you want to know what I’m up to this weekend, then here’s your answer. I’ve got a mate coming to stay and my parents popping over for a Sunday roast and so one of these Apple Pie Cakes will be going in the oven tonight. If you’re bored of bog-standard apple pies and crumbles, then this is the bake you’ve been waiting for. Sweet, cinnamon-spiced apple pie mix swirled on top of a beautifully moist buttermilk sponge, it’s quite possibly my favourite cake EVER; it’s easy to make and delicious scoffed with custard, double cream or ice cream (or even by itself!). Save now, thank me later.

Biscoff Buns

I’m a total bun-head; I love iced buns, sticky buns, cinnamon buns… My anaconda don’t want none, unless you got buns hun. Especially cinnamon buns. Phwoar. I’m still working on my recipe for whipping them up at home, but until I stumble on the perfect recipe, here’s a twist with a Biscoff filling. If you’re yet to stock your cupboard with a jar of Biscoff Spread, then you’re missing out, my friend! That delicious little saucer surfer of a biscuit is now in spread form and works beautifully on toast, in porridge, and as the filling for this tear and share tray of sticky Biscoff Buns. Yum!

Feeling Blue-berry Muffins

Sometimes it’s nice to just go back to basics and bake something simple and satisfying, right? Well you can’t go wrong with a tray of Blueberry Muffins fresh out of the oven and bleeding blueberry juice all over the shop. The added crunchy topping to these blueberry muffins give them a little something extra.

Banana Crumble Cake

Bog-standard banana bread gets a glow-up with this recipe for Banana Crumble Cake. Hands down one of my favourite recipes with its moist, banana sponge (without the dense mattress texture you sometimes get with banana bread) and crunchy cinnamon crumble topping. You’ll never want waste speckled bananas on anything else!

Chocolate and Praline Dipped Madeleines

Here’s a recipe to keep in mind for party season, when you need to take a plate of something. Madeleines are so simple to make, but add the Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline topping and you’ve got something that not only tastes delicious but looks like it took you hours to make.

(These Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline Muffins are also a winner if you’re looking for something a bit more substantial…)

Leftover Pumpkin Traybake

How many times have you gutted a pumpkin to carve and thrown out all the good stuff? How many times have I said, “I’ll make it into soup or risotto!” and still ended up throwing it all out? Well, if you fancy actually using up your pumpkin guts for once, then you can’t go wrong with this very easy Pumpkin Traybake. Full of spice and topped with a cream cheese frosting, this bake makes use of every part of the pumpkin that doesn’t get turned into a lantern for Halloween – even making use of the seeds for a crunchy topping. ๐Ÿ™‚

Bramble Bars

We’re pretty much nearing the end of blackberry picking season now, but if you’ve still got some stored up in the freezer and don’t fancy popping them in a crumble, why not try these Bramble Bars instead? Part flapjack, part bakewell tart – they’re sandwiched with a layer of sweet, blackberry jam. Yum!

Bara Brith (Welsh Mottled Bread)

It’s never going to win any beauty contests, but there’s nothing better than a slice of hot Bara Brith smothered in butter with a cup of tea. For the uninitiated, it’s a spiced tea loaf filled with dried fruit soaked overnight in tea. Very easy to make, Bara Brithย is Wales itself in bread form; traditional, homelyย and full of tea.

Bakewell Tarts

I couldn’t resist picking up a pack of Cherry Bakewell Tarts from Home Bargains the other day and – oops – I’ve already pretty much polished it off. Hey, they’re small, alright?! These homemade Bakewell Tarts are not small, but are just as moreish – plus the recipe is a snap thanks to a few short cuts. Bake at your own peril! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Happy baking! Let me know what your favourite Autumn bake is in the comments section! ๐Ÿ™‚

Strawberry Picnic Cake

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I feel like baking’s been on the back seat for a lot of this year; I’ve been so busy the past few weeks that just getting dinner on the table (/my lap… TV’s just been too good) has been a struggle.  I just haven’t had time to batter up and whip up something sweet.  Last weekend though, I had a little window and instead of just scrolling or snoozing through it, I decided that I wanted to bake something fuss-free that would perk up my mid-morning cuppa come Monday – and this is what I came up with.

This Strawberry Picnic Cake is one of those bakes that looks super fancy but actually involves barely any effort – if you’re a dab hand with a wooden spoon and can slice a strawb, then you’ve got this.  Texture-wise, it’s a cross between a brownie and an angel slice – with a gooey layer of fresh strawberries (and some raspberries thrown in for a sour edge) sandwiched between a soft, pink sponge.  Once it’s sliced up and dusted with a little icing sugar, it makes for a cute little lunchbox pick-me-up, or would be the perfect treat to pack in your picnic basket (…along with a little tub of fresh cream, obviously!) – if the weather ever perks up…  ๐Ÿ™‚

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Strawberry Picnic Cake

Ingredients

  • 150g Ground Almonds
  • 150g Salted Butter
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 150g Self Raising Flour
  • 2 eggs (whisked)
  • 300g Strawberries (sliced)
  • 50g Raspberries
  • A few drops of pink food colouring
  • Icing Sugar to dust
  1. Grease and line a deep, rectangular baking tray and set your oven to 180ยฐC.
  2. Grab a mixing bowl and pour in all the cake ingredients except the strawberries and raspberries – hold those back!  Stir everything together to make a thick, lumpy, pink batter.
  3. Pour half of the batter into your baking dish and spread it out into all the corners.  Create a sandwich layer by topping the batter with the strawberries and raspberries, then smooth over the remaining batter.  
  4. Before you pop the cake in the oven, add a neat layer of evenly spaced sliced strawberries on top – one for each slice (I cut nine slices).
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, then leave to cool before slicing.
  6. Finish with a dusting of icing sugar and serve with cream. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Have a lovely week everyone! ๐Ÿ’•

 

Feeling Blue-Berry Muffins

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Oh hey, would you look at that, Monday swung back around.ย  *eyeroll*ย  Although actually, I’m kind of relieved.ย  It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the Cwtch household; Sunny’s been travelling non-stop with his work, I’ve pretty much been chained to the computer and then last Friday, Bungle went into the vets for an “operation” – if y’know what I mean – which meant a whole weekend of staying in and keeping his head out of his crotch.ย  Fun times!ย  So, needless to say, we’ve been kind of running on empty – as have a lot of people I’ve spoken to.ย  It’s funny; it seems like the crossover between March and April’s been a little manic for everyone.

I had one of those blue days last week where everything just got on top of me and I needed to take ten.ย  Usually when that happens I like to do a little baking to de-stress, but I wasn’t in the mood to do anything too complicated.ย  Sometimes, it’s nice to go back to the basics and bake something easy but satisfying.ย  Turns out we had a whole punnet of blueberries sitting in the fridge (they were supposed to be for porridge, but it had been Frosties kinda week…) and so I thought I’d whip up some Blueberry Muffins to see me through the rest of the week!ย  They’re stupidly simple and adapted from a recipe I found on the Red Magazine website just before Christmas – except that my batch have a little cinnamon and some extra crunch with the added granola and demerara sugar topping.ย  Yum!

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Feeling Blue-Berry Muffins (makes 12)

Ingredients

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 150g butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 100ml milk
  • 200g blueberries
  • 50g granola (click here for my recipe)
  • 50g demerara sugar
  1. Set your oven to 180ยฐC and line a muffin tray with lightly greased cases (I like to use the 1 calorie spray because it makes things easier ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream together your butter and caster sugar – then beat in the eggs until the mix is nice and fluffy.
  3. Next, gently fold in the flour little by little – alternating with the milk.ย  Finally, stir in the blueberries (I like my muffins gooey and full of fruit, so I used a loooooot of blueberries, but feel free to dial it back a little if that’s not your jam), cinnamon and salt.
  4. Spoon the mixture into your muffin cases, then sprinkle each one with a generous helping of granola and demerara sugar.ย  Bake for 20 minutes.

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Have a great week! ๐Ÿ™‚