Desserts, puddings, cakes

A collection of sweet recipes for puddings, desserts, cakes, biscuits and more. Anything sweet goes in here. I have a very sweet tooth, chocolate being at the top of my list, my dessert collection has some easy cakes, chocolate mousses and many classics from both the British cuisine and Italian too.

white chocolate mousse dessertswith Panettone croutons

Black Forest ice cream with Fabbri

As ice creams go I think Black Forest ice cream sums up a delectable combination of chocolate, ice cream and of course cherries. But what if I said Amarena? Would you know what I was talking about?

Allow me to indulge for a moment.

Amarena are the most exquisitely delicious cherries in a thick syrupy sauce that are used widely in Italy in desserts but also in many other recipes like, bruschetta with gorgonzola and amarena Fabbri drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Now that idea to me sounds heavenly and one I shall certainly try sooner or later.

But let’s get back to amarena. When I first moved out to Italy I was 19 and had lived a relatively normal life in Kent with the annual holiday to my grandparent’s apartment in Mallorca. I was wet behind the ears but with a great passion to learn and understand. My boyfriend Enrico, lived in the mountains and together with his family he ran a hotel; a hotel that had been in the family for almost 100 years (we celebrated the centenary in 2002).

I used to wait in the bar of the hotel in the evening whilst he was working, I would speak with his friends and slowly, slowly I learnt to speak Italian and they became my friends too. In that time I also had a glimpse into this new life and, whilst spending my evenings in the bar talking and playing cards, my eyes would always be drawn towards one very prominent vase on the shelf in the ice cream area. It was white with blue swirls on it and the word Fabbri.

My curiosity got the better of me (always a good idea) and I discovered it contained cherries in syrup called amarena so, me being me, I was curious to see what they tasted like….

Oh boy! Shall we say first taste and I was hooked.

More recently I was asked to a wonderful evening by Ciao Gusto where all of my favourite Italian brands were displayed and used for the meal we were invited to eat. I was sent a Ciao Gusto hamper later and amongst all of the wonderful products, I found a vase of Fabbri amarena. Can you imagine my delight?

Oh how I enjoyed them and when I learnt I could buy them from the Ciao Gusto shop at Ocado, it was like a dream come true.

If only to have a pretty blue and white vase on your kitchen shelf – which will soon be empty, trust me – I would highly recommend you buy some Fabbri amarena and taste these special cherries for yourself

Black Forest Ice Cream

Black Forest ice cream mix

Mixing the chocolate cake with the Fabbri amarena

Black Forest ice cream mix

The Sage ice cream maker working its magic on the ingredients…

Black Forest Ice Cream
 
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Black Forest Ice cream takes the traditional ingredients for the world famous cake and presents them in a delicious ice cream suitable for all of the family.
Author:
Recipe type: ice cream
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 1 litre
Ingredients
  • ½ pint of double cream
  • 1 x 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 50g Fabbri amarena cherries
  • 90g chocolate cake crumbled
Instructions
  1. Mix the condensed milk, cream and vanilla essence in a jug and place in the fridge to cool.
  2. Place the mixture in the Sage ice cream maker and start to churn.
  3. Tip the cherries into a bowl and smash with a spoon, add the crumbled chocolate cake and mix well.
  4. When the ice cream maker signals to add the mix ins add the cherry mixture.
  5. Once completed, it's ready to eat or place in the freezer for later.

The Ciao Gusto shop on Ocado is the easiest way to order your authentic Italian products all in one place. With an amazing selection of products; some famous names and some new gems to discover. Find out more here: Italian Shop. Or, visit the Ciao Gusto website where you’ll also find more information and history behind all of their brands and a host of wonderful, season recipes too.

Guinness Cake easy recipe

For 2017 the company where I work, James Villas, have chosen a new charity to support throughout the year and we’ve gone local with our choice of Porchlight a charity that looks out for those who have nowhere to go, our local homeless people. This is a charity that has touched my heart and made me realise how fragile we all are and how lucky I am to be in the privileged position of having a roof over my head with hot water and heating, plus a full fridge!

Friday saw the first charity event organised at work and we had a Bake Off. Everyone was invited to bring something into work, the directors would judge and three prizes would be given out, two tickets to see Legally Blonde, a half day’s holiday and a bottle of prosecco. I had my eyes fixed firmly on the half day’s holiday as all working parents will understand the difficulties of covering 13 weeks school holidays with a measly 21 days!

I had a good think about what I would be preparing, something savoury from Italy or something sweet?

I scoured the Pinterest boards and came across a recipe on Love SWAH that I have been wanting to try for a long time now, a Guinness cake. I had heard that it works and is exceptionally delicious.

Guinness Cake

My plan was to have a go the weekend before at home so I had the chance to try it and improve it if necessary. I got all the ingredients in and like the best laid plans I ran out of time. This meant I would have to enter the competition without a trial, Mary Berry would not be impressed but hey ho, needs must.

Tommy was at home on the Thursday because it was half term and so, we set to together in the kitchen, after dinner and made the cake, the Whiskey ganache and the Baileys Icing, all ready for assembling later.

Whilst the cake was in the oven I had a go at making some bunting, the theme given was Love as it was close to Valentine’s Day and I am rather partial to hearts and flowers.

I managed to get all of my preparation sorted before bedtime and left my cake in the fridge over night.

Guinness Layer Cake with Whiskey Ganache and Baileys Icing
 
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A rich and delicious dark chocolate cake using Guinness in the cake, whiskey in the ganache and Baileys in the icing.
Author:
Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: British
Ingredients
  • Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake
  • 250ml Guinness beer (1 cup)
  • 250g butter (1 cup + 1 tbsp)
  • 100g cup cocoa powder (2/3 cup)
  • 400g caster/superfine sugar (1¾ cups)
  • 140ml sour cream (2/3 cup)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour (2 cups)
  • 2½ tsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
  • Irish Whiskey Ganache
  • 225g dark chocolate (8 ounces)
  • 140ml heavy cream (2/3 cup)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp Irish whiskey
  • Baileys Cream Cheese Icing
  • 500-600g sifted icing sugar/powdered sugar (4-5 cups)
  • 100g butter at room temperature (1/2 cup)
  • 250g cream cheese at room temperature (8oz)
Instructions
  1. Dark Chocolate Guinness Cake
  2. Preheat oven 180°C/350°F and butter and line 2 x 23cm (9") springform tins.
  3. Melt the butter into the Guinness in a saucepan over low heat.
  4. Whisk in the cocoa and sugar and take the saucepan off the heat.
  5. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl until combined, than add to the beer mixture.
  6. Whisk in the flour and bicarb until combined.
  7. Divide the cake batter between the two tins and bake for 35-45 minutes. The middle of the cake may still be slightly wet when you take the cake out, but it will firm up as it cools down.
  8. Leave to cool completely in the tin as it is quite a damp cake and could collapse.
  9. Since these cakes need to be sliced horizontally, I wrap both cakes in cling wrap and store in the fridge for a few hours to firm up. It makes slicing the cakes easier.
  10. Irish Whiskey Ganache
  11. Heat cream up into the microwave until warm (not boiling) and then add finely chopped chocolate, stirring until melted and combined.
  12. Add in the butter and whiskey and stir until combined. Let the ganache cool until thick and spreadable.
  13. Baileys Cream Cheese Icing
  14. Cream the butter and icing sugar together until well mixed.
  15. Add the cream cheese in cubes slowly until incorporated.
  16. Add in Baileys. Continue mixing for 5 minutes until the icing is light and fluffy.
  17. To assemble
  18. Slice both cakes horizontally using a serrated knife so you have 4 layers of cake.
  19. Place your first layer on the cake stand and spread around 2 tablespoons worth of ganache over the top of the cake.
  20. Dollop on a generous portion of Baileys icing and spread out evenly with an offset spatula.
  21. Place the next layer of cake on top and repeat this process. Remember to take the ganache and icing right to the edges so it peaks out the sides of the cake when assembled.
  22. Top the final layer of cake with the ganache and Baileys icing and voila!

Guinness Cake Verdict

Guinness Cake

We all stood around and watched the directors sample tiny bits of cake and as the Director tasted mine he made all the right noises of someone who was really enjoying his cake, he even came out of the judging discussion with the other directors and said quite clearly the Guinness Cake was his favourite BUT I wasn’t placed in the top three and stood and watched my half day holiday go to the maker of samosas which, by the way were superb.

Disappointed? Yes, of course I was.

I tasted my cake and I must admit I was really, really pleased with it. I brought the remainder of the cake home and the family all agreed it was delicious. If anything was lacking it was my presentation skills.

Never mind, I really enjoyed making the cake and I can confirm it is super delicious should you wish to have a go yourself. There are various recipes on the internet, I have gone with Love SWAH’s and there is a link further up or you can find the recipe on my Valentine’s Pinterest Board

apple-strudel

Apple strudel della Nonna Daria is a post that has been sitting in my drafts for at least 4 years but finally I have a photo I am happy with and I can finally write it up and hit publish!

Who is Nonna Daria?

Nonna Daria was an exceptional lady, she was my Italian mother in law and when I first met her we didn’t even speak the same language plus she was lying in her bed having just undergone a kidney stone operation, not your regular first meeting. I was 19, it was 1986 and I was visiting my boyfriend in Italy for the first time. It was a very exciting period in my life and one that was to change my life forever.

I was part of nonna Daria’s family for 18 years and she left before I did, leaving us a very sad family in 1998. She had very humble beginnings, was 1 of 6 children and started working very early in life. She was a grafter and she was also an intelligent woman. She knew how to make people feel welcome and she had a great business acumen. She married her husband and on his death ran the family hotel, taking it through a complete renovation in 1988 to stay with the times and make sure her children had a future in front of them.

On top of all of this, nonna Daria was also a great cook and a highlight of our out of season periods was being invited to nonna’s for lunch. She put on a fantastic spread and apple strudel is just one of the many recipes that I learnt from her. Apple strudel is also the dessert that transports me back to my time in Italy in Folgaria.

Apple Strudel

apple strudel

What Sophie did next was to wipe her finger along the icing sugar and lick it!

This puff pastry delight is incredibly easy to prepare, quick to bake and everyone who tastes it will love it. If you ever visit north Italy, look out for it on the menu or visit a pasticceria and enjoy a slice with a cup of coffee or tea. It’s a simple recipe that uses apples, pine nuts and raisins, a touch of cinnamon and sugar and wrapped in puff pastry. You can serve it on it’s own or offer custard or ice cream to go with it.

When visiting Folgaria you can see families carrying their strudels home for lunch or afternoon tea form the bakery or pasticceria. Laid on a cardboard tray and wrapped in paper with bright red ribbons curled over the top.

Apple Strudel della Nonna Daria
 
Apple Strudel good for dessert but also good for an afternoon snack
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 1 packet of puff pastry (500g)
  • 5 medium sized cooking apples
  • Juice of ½ lemon (optional)
  • ¾ tbsps sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100g raisins
  • 1 egg beaten for brushing the pastry
  • Icing sugar to dust
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C Gas 6
  2. Butter a baking tray or line with baking paper
  3. Peel and core the apples, chop into bite size chunks. Add lemon juice to stop discolouring if desired
  4. Add the sugar and cinnamon to the apples and mix well, add raisins and mix again to distribute evenly throughout your mixture
  5. Roll out your pastry to a large square the width to fit on your baking tray.
  6. Spread the strudel mixture over evenly keeping 2 cms from the edges
  7. Roll the pastry over itself until a long ‘sausage’ is obtained
  8. Brush the egg mixture down the remaining flap and seal the strudel
  9. Place the strudel on the baking tray with the join of the pastry underneath and brush the egg mixture all over
  10. Bake in the oven for about 20 mins checking to make sure it browns all over
  11. Leave to cool for about 20 mins, dust with icing sugar and serve warm with ice cream, cream or custard
  12. Buon appetito!
Enough of my reminiscing, I would like to toast the lady who taught me how to be a mother, how to be part of a wide Italian family and who will be in my heart forever. Please enjoy her delicious apple strudel, the only difference I have made is using ready made puff pastry but I’m sure she would be ok with that.

Here is one happy taster

apple strudel

 

mince pies tv snacks

Don’t judge us but we’ve popped our Mince Pie bubble already regardless of how many days there are until Christmas, and why not indeed?

Is there a rule somewhere saying you are not allowed mince pies until Christmas? I don’t think so. After all I bought a packed of 6 Hot Cross buns this weekend, we devoured them all and we are months off of Easter!

But less of Hot Cross Buns and more of Mince Pies. It was Netflix who prompted us to think about what we like to eat whilst watching some great tv and after a really busy Saturday we had planned a very lazy Sunday, with a TV afternoon all together tucked up on the sofa.

mince pie recipe

I’m not going to lie to you, the mincemeat came out of a jar and the pastry was ready made and even pre-rolled but the whole thinking behind these particular tv snacks was getting the girls involved.

I did very little and they were so pleased to be doing something for the whole family.

Mince Pies recipe

1 roll of ready to roll sweet shortcrust pastry

1 jar of mincemeat

1 x baking tray for tarts/pies

lots of cutters

making mince pies

Method

  1. Grease the tray well with a butter paper.
  2. Roll out the pastry and cut rounds larger than the tin you are using to enable the pastry to curl up the side of the tin.
  3. Place the pastry rounds in the tin and gently press into place
  4. Add a large teaspoon of mincemeat to each pastry case so each tart is full but not overflowing.
  5. With the remainder of the pastry cut out some fun toppings, in this case we used letters for Netflix and a couple of home made heart stamps.
  6. Pop in a hot oven (Gas mark 6 – 200C) for about 20/30 minutes until the pastry has cooked and is browned on top.
  7. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.

As a snack we ate them as they were but if they were to be served as a pudding I would warm up some custard or offer cream/ice cream

mince pies recipe

What we’ve been watching on Netflix

Tommy is loving Netflix and has been bingeing every weekend since he arrived at the end of August. He’s gone through all of the Star War episodes and the entire Top Gear collection. He’s also watched the following…

Olympus has fallen
Shark
Suits
Dracula Untold
Jack Reacher
The Hunger Games part 1 and part 2
The Fall of Reach
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers
Captain America
Sicario

I think he’s done Netflix very proud don’t you?

netflix letters

I have continued with the OITNB, I’m on season II now and hooked.

Alice & Bessie watch Netflix every morning before school and frequently in the evening after homework, they’ve been continuing with

Gem & the Holograms
Pound Puppies
Glitter Force
H2O Mermaid adventures
Winx
Project Mc2
Ever After High
My Little Pony
Mako Mermaids
LoliRock

Adding new Netflix profiles

netflix for young boys

Is so incredibly easy so, I’ve set up another two profiles for Sophie who is 3 and Evan who is 4 but going on 5 in January. I made them separate as Evan is the first boy in the house and will enjoy wathcing Pokemon, DinoTrux, Casper and Hotel Transylvania whereas Sophie is younger than the twins so will enjoy Peppa Pig, Beat Bugs and Care Bears.

What I’m watching next on Netflix

There’s a lot of attention around the Season 1 of LukeCage which looks dramatic and interesting  but with the arrival of Evan and Sophie, both of whom will need to pick up their English pretty quick I have my eye on Paw Patrol as I’ve seen parents talk about it so much. Anything LEGO related or to do with Dragons to watch with Evan. Plus, I am so pleased to see so many of my favourite Christmas films coming up.

Snozzcumber ice cream

One of the greatest discoveries you can make as a child is the world of reading and the twins are huge fans of the world of fiction. It’s an absolute pleasure to watch them devour books and have opinions on them. Alice enjoyed the first Harry Potter book so much she wants to re read it.

There are so many wonderful books around for kids today including some great timeless classics such as the BFG by Roald Dahl, what an imagination. His books really do transport you into another world.

We had been invited to the premier of The BFG in London but sadly it clashed with the twins birthday and a family party that had already been organised but it didn’t stop me coming up with a fun ice cream recipe for the summer months ahead – Snozzcumber ice cream.

snozzcumber

The Snozzcumber is a fictional foodstuff featured prominently in this The BFG. The Snozzcumber resembles a cucumber but differs in various respects. The snozzcumber varies from nine to twelve feet long. It is striped lengthwise black and white, with wart-like growths all over its surface.

It’s the invention of words like snozzcumber that tickle me and it is the language that the BFG uses that is so clever and gives him such a great character

“But if you don’t eat people like all the others,” Sophie said, “Then what do you live on?”
“That is a squelching tricky problem around here,” the BFG answered. “In this sloshflunking Giant Country, happy eats like pineapples and pigwinkles is simply not growing. Nothing is growing except for one extremely icky-poo vegetable. It is called the snozzcumber.”
“The snozzcumber!” cried Sophie. “There’s no such thing!”
The BFG looked at Sophie and smiled, showing about twenty of his square white teeth. “Yesterday,” he said, “we was not believeing in giants, was we?
Today we is not believing in snozzcumbers. Just because we happen not to have actually seen something with our own little winkles, we think it is
not existing.”

Alice is currently reading The BFG and Bessie Matilda, another Raold Dahl favourite so it seemed the perfect excuse to invent a Dahl-ish ice cream.

Snozzcumber ice cream

snozzcumber drink

When coming up with ideas, I knew instantly it has to be green but it also had to have black flecks in it. I didn’t want it tasting too weird as I wanted the girls to enjoy it so I went for kiwis and cucumber with the addition of chocolate chips.

Snozzcumber ice cream recipe

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Snozzcumber ice cream - The BFG
 
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Snozzcumber ice cream recipe, a delicious green ice cream inspired by The BFG with fruit and chocolate chips.
Author:
Recipe type: ice cream
Cuisine: dessert
Serves: 1 litre
Ingredients
  • 375ml whipping cream
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 75g caster sugar
  • Fruit mixture
  • 250g kiwis, peeled and choipped into chunks
  • 200g cucumber, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 55g caster sugar
  • Chocolate chips
  • green food colouring
Instructions
  1. Place the cream and milk into a medium heavy based saucepan, heat until the mixture just starts to simmer.
  2. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and thick, once the cream mixture is hot, slowly whisk it into the egg mixture.
  3. Clean the saucepan and return to a low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
  4. Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl, cover and refrigerate until well chilled.
  5. To make the fruit base, blend the kiwis and cucumber, add the sugar and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Refrigerate until cold.
  6. Once both mixtures are cold, gently fold together, add the green food colouring to the desired tone of green, I added 7 tsps.
  7. Churn in the ice cream maker adding the chocolate chips when the machine beeps for add ins.
  8. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze for up to 1 week.
snozzcumber ice cream