I have fallen for Autumn. It's not something I thought would happen easily. After all it was only at the end of last month I was still clinging desperately to Summer posting pretty pins inspired by hot Indian Summers and recipes of Eton Mess. However, it's happened and I'm so sorry for moaning about the weather previously because the leaves have finally dropped, the cold and rain outside means I can curl up on the sofa in our duvet (setting my posting scene), and there are munchkin pumpkins everywhere!
Autumn can be a spectacular time if you want it to be. It may seem sad that all the trees are losing their leaves and it's getting darker earlier but there's magic in those things too. The leaves and light will return in a few months so in the mean time I'm enjoying the colours of Autumn leaves, stomping through them and how you'll get one leaf that shows the season change from green to auburn. These things are making my days a little bit lighter as is singing Paolo Nutini's 'Autumn' on the way to work.
We've had our fair share of bad news recently so I did what I always do in this situation, have a stab at baking away the blues with a joyous Autumnal Blood Orange and Ginger 'Nut' Spiced Cake.
Baking this cake will make anyone feel good and with three tiers it feeds a lot of people. Like most of my cakes, the base method for this recipe is an adaptation of The Hummingbird Bakery's basic cake mix. The cake is moist and delicious with added chopped pecans, spiced blood orange tea and syrupy stem ginger. You cannot just have one slice, which is awful when you realise between two of you, you've eaten half a triple tiered cake. Must sign up for yoga stat!
The spiced blood orange tea from Morrisons used in this recipe gave it a real kick, but you could use blood orange juice and zest if in season, and make a spice mix from a very little bit of nutmeg, some cinnamon and all spice. Likewise I'm still plowing on with avoiding dairy, so this cake is dairy free but you could swap the almond milk for whole milk, and use your usual butter instead, but honestly it tastes amazing with almond milk and my vegan butter tastes like, you guessed it, butter.
This is quite a photo heavy recipe post, I hope it's not too much, but I couldn't resist playing around with a bit of food process photography.
To my family chocolate leaves are a little bit like making a Christmas pudding is to others. It's something we've always done, almost every year, so I was a bit taken aback when people asked me how I made them.
The answer, you paint leaves with chocolate.
There are a few provisional things you need to do; use clean leaves, paint the chocolate on thickly, take the stalks off before painting*, don't eat all the chocolate before painting your leaves. All common sense really, except the last one. Who knew!
*Don't be misled by my pictures, it's all for show(!), take the stalks completely off first, otherwise you'll struggle to get the chocolate off in one piece.
A dusting of edible gold glitter and this cake's ready for a night on the town (aka your Autumnal dinner party, wedding or, dare I say, Christmas?!).
Gold Gilded Chocolate Leaves
(makes 15-20 leaves, size dependent and how much chocolate you eat in the process)
150g dark chocolate
Leaves of your shape and size (I used about 15 medium to small leaves)
Gold edible shimmer dust
Step 1. Pick leaves which look undamaged by pests and fungi. Make sure to wash your leaves in warm water and washing up liquid just before you want to use them, paying particular care to the underside (this is the side you'll be painting as it gives a better impression in the chocolate). Pat dry your leaves until completely dry, snap off the stalks and arrange them on a baking paper lined tray, which will be able to fit in your fridge!
Step 2. Melt the chocolate. People like to do this different ways, some in the microwave, some do it over a bain marie, I do it in a pan straight on the hob but do whatever you feel comfortable doing.
Step 3. Once the chocolate has melted, using a food brush (brand new paintbrush) paint the chocolate thickly onto the underside of the leaves. I did two coats of thick chocolate onto my leaves. Once painted, put them in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Step 4. After 10 minutes take the leaves out of the fridge one by one and carefully peel the leaf away from the chocolate. Don't take all the leaves out at once because they are so delicate the chocolate will start to melt quickly. Once you have all your gorgeous leaves you can dust away, with a second clean brush you can dust the entire leaf gold, just the edges, do a weird psychedelic paint job, whatever you want!
And you're not limited to one colour, go nuts with all the different dusts out there! Forest green ones for a forever young vibe, a range of Autumn reds and browns, even blue oak leaves could make good chocolate seaweed for an under the sea twist. It's really easy and so rewarding to see a leaf come off in one piece!
Blood Orange and Ginger 'Nut' Cake
(serves 12-15 people or 1)
120g vegan butter
400g caster sugar
360g plain flour
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
360ml almond milk
125g roughly chopped pecans
3 stem ginger balls finely chopped
3 tbsp stem ginger syrup
3 spiced blood orange teabags*
3 tbsps hot water
for the butter icing
150g vegan butter
300g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
*If unavailable try using 3 tbsp blood orange juice and 2 tbsp zest, with 1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp all spice.
Step 1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line the base of a 20cm spring base cake tin with baking paper. Put the teabags in a cup with the hot water and leave to infuse for 5-10 minutes.
Step 2. In a bowl, sieve the sugar, flour and baking powder, and rub in the butter and salt till the mix resembles bread crumbs. In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients, squeezing the last bit of tea out of the teabags.
Step 3. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing as you go till it comes together. Then add the chopped pecans and stem ginger.
Step 4. Pour the mix into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. While the cake is baking make the icing, mixing together all of the ingredients till smooth and slightly stiff, if you need to add more icing sugar to get to this stage go for it. I do this entirely by eye, so if it's not the right amount go for more of each until you've got enough.
Step 5. Once baked remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. Once cool you can cut it into three tiers, and layer each tier with a spread of butter icing, saving a good portion of the icing to go on top once you've assembled the cake.
Step 6. Decorate the top of your cake with your homemade chocolate leaves. Stand back. Bask in the praise of your loved ones, friends and colleagues.
Then eat it all.