Chocolate Fudge Cake with Tim Tams

This chocolate fudge cake has been our family’s birthday cake for decades. Twice it was promoted to the status of a three-tiered wedding cake – once covered with dark chocolate ganache and shaved chocolate and the second time with white chocolate ganache. It continues to be the preferred celebration cake in our family.

For the unenlightened, a Tim Tam consists of two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by chocolate cream filling and coated with a thin layer of chocolate. These biscuits have become something of an Australian icon since their launch by Arnotts in 1963. Over the years new flavours and fillings have been introduced to keep up with modern trends. Tim Tams now come in dark or milk chocolate and with fillings such as salted caramel and peanut butter.

Matthew is a staunch Tim Tam fan so I decided to use them to decorate his birthday cake this year. Unfortunately white chocolate ends up rather yellow as you can see in the photo – but it tasted good! Make the cake the day before the birthday as it’s much easier to ice next day.

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Tim Tams

2/3 cup cocoa powder
½ cup hot water
125g butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1¾ cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 cup buttermilk (for substitute see below)
Pinch salt
Chocolate Ganache:
300ml thick cream
250g chocolate (dark, milk or white)
To decorate:
2 x 200g packets Tim Tams
1 packet Maltesers (optional)
3 Tbs cream and 50g white chocolate, melted, to drizzle over

In a small bowl, mix hot water with cocoa until smooth. Preheat oven to 180°. In a fan-forced oven it’s best to lower the temperature to 170ºC so cake doesn’t rise too fast. Grease a 20-22cm round cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper. Alternatively use two shallow sandwich tins and line them both.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla, lastly chocolate mixture and buttermilk alternately with sifted dry ingredients. Give the mixture a good beat for 30 seconds to remove any lumps. If preferred you can do all the creaming and mixing in a food processor.

Scrape mixture into cake tin and smooth the top. Bake for 35-45 mins in the centre of the oven, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Don’t overcook as you want the cake to be moist and fudgey. Two thinner cakes will take less time, around 25 mins. Cool 10 minutes in tin. Turn out and cool on a cake rack.

Make Chocolate Ganache – see below. Either ice cake just on the top and sides, or if you’ve cooked it in two sandwich tins use some of the ganache in the middle to stick them together. You can also cut one large cake in two horizontally with a serrated knife. If cake has risen into too much of a domed shape shave a bit off with a serrated knife and eat it for morning tea!

To ice cake in the middle as well as top and sides you need to make one and a half times the Ganache recipe. You need plenty to avoid cake crumbs coming off as you work and it’s very annoying to run out.

While the cake is perfectly nice without any adornment, if liked stick Tim Tams around the sides, cover the top with Maltesers and drizzle with melted and cooled white chocolate mixture. Cake keeps for 3-4 days in a tin.

Chocolate Ganache: Heat cream in a small saucepan until boiling then remove from the heat and add chocolate, broken into squares. Stir to dissolve then cool until thick enough to spread over cake.

Substitute: if you don’t have buttermilk use ½ cup plain yoghurt and ½ cup milk or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tsp vinegar and left to stand for an hour.

Serves 14


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Nutella Tart

Some of the grandkids like Nutella. I’m not a fan, but usually have it in the pantry for visiting Nutella eaters.

This recipe makes a quick dessert and was a good way to use up a jar which had been sitting there for a month or two since the last visit. To save time you can use bought shortcrust pastry, but this home-made chocolate crust is very quick to make in a food processor.

Nutella Tart

Pastry:
3 heaped Tbs plain flour
1 heaped Tbs cocoa
1 level Tbs caster sugar
55g butter
3-4 Tbs water
Filling:
300g (about one heaped cup) Nutella or other chocolate spread
2 eggs
¾ cup cream
To serve:
Whipped cream
Optional: Toasted hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans

For pastry place first four ingredients in food processor and whiz until it forms crumbs. Slowly add water through the feed chute, with motor running. Stop as soon as mixture forms a ball. Remove and press into a ball, then roll out thinly and use to line a 20cm (8″) metal tart tin. Refrigerate for up to an hour. If in a hurry stick it in the freezer for a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line tart with foil and fill with dried beans or corn to stop it rising. Bake for about 8 minutes, then remove foil and beans (which can be kept to use again and again) and put back in the oven for 5-10 mins or until set. Remove from the oven and turn it down to 150°C.

Meanwhile for the filling, place eggs in a bowl and beat with a hand whisk. Whisk in Nutella and cream and when smooth pour into the tart case. It should come almost level with the top of the pastry. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set, but still wobbly in the middle. Don’t overcook.

Cool then refrigerate till serving time. Serve with whipped cream and toasted nuts.

Serves 8

 

Chocolate and Ginger Cheesecake

Chocolate and Ginger CheesecakeWith a food processor this dessert is quick to make. Really chocolatey and not too sweet.

Crust:
125g Ginger Nut biscuits
50g butter
Filling:
250g mascarpone or sour cream
500g ricotta cheese
2 eggs
2-3 Tbs sugar, to taste
150g dark chocolate, melted in microwave
2-3 Tbs crystallised ginger, chopped
To serve:
Labneh
Icing sugar
Crystallised ginger or stem ginger in syrup, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 170°C. Place biscuits in food processor and process until fine. Melt butter in microwave, mix in biscuit crumbs then tip into a 20cm (8″) springform pan which has been greased and bottom lined with baking paper. Press the mixture evenly over the base of the tin. Bake for 10 mins.

While biscuit crust is cooking make filling. Wipe out the food processor. Place all ingredients except ginger in processor and mix till well combined, stopping to scrape down the sides halfway. Add chopped ginger and process briefly, just to combine.

When ready remove biscuit base from the oven tip in the filling and smooth the top. Return to the oven for 30 mins or until just set, but still a bit wobbly when shaken. Cool cheesecake, then refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Dust the top of the cheesecake with icing sugar. Serve with Labneh or whipped cream, with some chopped ginger and a little icing sugar mixed in.

Serves 10-12

Churros

Many moons ago I was in Spain for the first time on a school exchange when my host family took me to an establishment which served churros and nothing else. The queue of people waiting to be seated went out the door and halfway up the block. Always a promising sign.

We eventually sat down to a huge plate of warm crispy churros rolled in cinnamon sugar which was placed in the middle of the table. We each had a mug of very thick hot chocolate to dip the churros into. And I mean thick – you could almost stand your spoon up in it! I was hooked.

Like eclairs and profiteroles, churros are made from choux pastry, but instead of cooking them in the oven they’re fried in hot oil, like doughnuts. I have a special gadget for pushing the dough through, but a piping bag with a large star nozzle works just as well.

Instead of a mug of thick hot chocolate serve the churros with a simple dipping sauce made from cream and chocolate. For a more grown up combination try them with salted caramel sauce. Either way they are delicious.

Churros

1 cup milk
75g unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
1¾ cups plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
sugar and cinnamon for rolling
Chocolate sauce:
1 cup thick cream
125g chocolate (milk or dark)
Salted Caramel Sauce:
½ cup sugar
½ cup cream
60g butter
½ tsp salt

In a non-stick saucepan heat milk, butter and sugar until boiling point is reached. Remove from the heat and add the flour and baking powder, all in one go. Beat well with a wooden spoon until lump-free and mixture leaves the sides of the pan clean. Return to the heat and cook, stirring for 2 mins. Remove from heat and add the beaten eggs gradually, beating well after each addition. Cool.

Heat oil in a large deep frying pan or deep fat fryer. It should be at least 4cm deep. Place some of the mixture in a piping bag with a star nozzle or in a special churros gadget. When oil is hot pipe in the churros a few at a time, using a knife to cut them off when they are 10-15cm long. Cook, turning once, till golden on both sides, then remove from oil and toss in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm with chocolate or salted caramel sauce.

Chocolate Sauce: heat cream until boiling point is reached then remove from heat. Add chocolate broken into squares and stir until melted. Cool a bit and serve warm.

Salted Caramel Sauce: melt sugar in a small heavy-based pan until melted and dark caramel colour, swirling the pan from time to time. Add cream and butter and mix until smooth. Cool a bit and serve warm. Can be reheated.

Serves 6-8

Chocolate-Espresso Self-Saucing Pudding

Every grandma worth her salt has a chocolate self-saucing pudding in her repertoire. They’re a cinch to make and because of the unique way the ingredients are assembled a delicious sauce forms under the pudding as it cooks.

Adding a couple of shots of espresso turns this into a more sophisticated dessert for coffee lovers. Adjust the amount of coffee to suit your taste or leave it out altogether and just use 2 cups (500ml) of boiling water. Kids will prefer it without the coffee.

Chocolate Espresso Self-Saucing Pudding

1 cup self-raising flour
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
60g unsalted butter, melted
½ cup milk
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 egg
Topping:
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water and 1 cup hot coffee (2 shots)
To serve:
Cocoa for dusting
Thick cream or vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 180ºC and butter a 1.5L capacity ovenproof dish such as a lasagne dish. Sift flour, sugar and cocoa into a bowl and mix. Mix melted butter with milk and vanilla and beat in the egg with a fork. Mix thoroughly into flour mixture then tip into pudding dish and spread evenly. Mix sugar and cocoa for topping and sprinkle evenly over the pudding. Mix boiling water and coffee and carefully pour evenly over the top. Bake for 30 mins or until the top is firm.

Use a sieve to lightly dust the top of the pudding with cocoa powder. Serve with cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6-8

Variations: use brown sugar instead of caster sugar. Add some chocolate chips and/or chopped walnuts.

Chocolate Puddings with Ginger Pears

This decadent recipe appeared in the latest issue of Gourmet Traveller. I’ve increased the quantities to serve six, left the sugar out of the the chocolate puddings because I think they’re sweet enough without and made a couple of other slight adjustments. The recipe said to serve the puddings at room temperature, but we preferred them chilled.

Chocolate Puddings with Ginger Pears

Pears:
6 ripe but not over-ripe pears
1 cup Stone’s Green Ginger Wine (see note below)
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
Puddings:
250g dark (70%) chocolate, broken into squares
180g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 eggs
2/3 cup cream
2 Tbs crystallised ginger, finely chopped
To serve:
Whipped cream, pouring cream or crème fraîche (see note below)

Place ginger wine, water and sugar in a medium-sized frying pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Peel and halve pears, leaving stems on one half and removing cores with a melon-baller. Place pears in frying pan, cover with a lid and simmer for about an hour, turning them over from time to time. Drain pears and refrigerate, covered until serving time. Keep the poaching liquid.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Place butter and chocolate in a medium sized bowl. Zap in the microwave for 1-2 mins or until melted, stopping to stir halfway. With a balloon whisk, thoroughly mix in the eggs and then the cream. Lastly mix in the ginger. Divide mixture between six 1 cup ramekins and bake for 6-8 minutes. Cool and refrigerate for up to 36 hours, covered.

Drain pears and dry on paper towels. Place cut side down in a medium sized non-stick frying pan. Turn on the heat and cook until pears are slightly glazed just on the one side, then remove carefully from pan. Add any accumulated juices from pears to the poaching liquid. It should have cooled to quite a thick caramel sauce, but if it’s still a bit thin pour it into the pan after removing the pears and cook until reduced and thickened a bit. Cool to room temperature.

Top each chocolate pudding with two pear halves, glazed side up, drizzle with a little caramel sauce and serve with whipped cream, pouring cream or crème fraîche.

Serves 6

Notes: If you can’t find ginger wine, heat 1 cup of white wine with 2 Tbs finely chopped fresh ginger in a saucepan. Simmer for 5 mins then strain.

Make your own crème fraîche by mixing half thick Greek yoghurt with half thickened cream. If liked mix in a teaspoon of icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence.

Mazurek

Our Polish friend Peter was coming for dinner so I decided to make something for dessert which would remind him of his homeland. After searching online I came across Mazurek, a nutty cake, not quite as dense as shortbread, covered with chocolate icing and nuts.

There are as many recipes for Mazurek as I’ve had hot dinners, so having found a version for which I had the ingredients – essential when you don’t want to go shopping – I adjusted it slightly and came up with this.

Peter explained that Mazurek is traditionally served at Easter so my timing was perfect. He hadn’t tasted one for many years and was delighted to take home the leftovers.

Serve for afternoon tea or as dessert, with a dollop of cream. Scrumptious.

250g butter at room temperature
½ cup sugarDSCF0579
1 egg
1½ cups almond meal (see note below)
1 cup plain flour
pinch salt
¼ tsp almond essence
¼ cup cream or sour cream
Chocolate Icing:
½ cup dark chocolate chips or chocolate squares
1 Tbs corn (glucose) syrup
2 Tbs cream
2 Tbs butter
To decorate:
¼ cup flaked or slivered blanched almonds

Preheat oven to 200ºC. Grease a 9″ (22cm) square cake pan and line with non-stick baking paper. In a food processor or with electric beaters mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, salt and almond essence and mix well. Add flour and almond meal and mix well. Scrape into cake pan and spread out evenly. Bake for 20 mins or until light golden – don’t overcook or cake will be dry. Cool completely in tin.

Remove cake and place on a flat serving plate. Place chocolate, corn/glucose syrup, cream and butter in a small bowl over simmering water and when melted stir till smooth. Cool a little then spread icing over cake and decorate with almonds.

Serves about 16

Note: make your own almond meal by blitzing blanched or unblanched almonds in food processor until fine.

Variations: use hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans instead of almonds.

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Salted Peanut Brittle

This recipe will appeal to fans of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, those American sweets which combine chocolate with peanut butter. However, I do know a few other people who will say “yuck” when they see this post!

Half cream cheese and half ricotta results in a somewhat lighter texture, but you can use all cream cheese if you prefer. The addition of salted peanuts and salty biscuit crumbs in the crust make a nice contrast to the sweetness of the filling.

This dessert is very rich, so serve in small slices.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake with Salted Peanut BrittleBase:
1½ cups salty biscuit crumbs, such as Jatz, Ritz or pretzels
1/3 cup melted butter
Filling:
1 kg cream cheese (or use half cream cheese and half ricotta)
1 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
3 large eggs
Topping:
1 cup cream
100g dark chocolate
Salted Peanut Brittle:
100g sugar
100g salted peanuts
To serve:
Thick pouring cream or whipped cream

Have cream cheese at room temperature. Preheat oven to 170ºC. Crush biscuits or pretzels in food processor till they are like breadcrumbs, tip into a bowl with the melted butter and mix well. Line base of a 22-24 cm (8-9″) spring-form pan with baking paper and grease the sides. Tip biscuit crumbs in and press evenly over the base with your hand or the base of a glass. Place in the fridge while you make the filling.

Place cream cheese (or cream cheese and ricotta) in food processor with sugar and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and mix, stopping to scrape down the sides. Scrape filling into the pan and smooth the top. Bake for between 45 mins and an hour or until just set. As soon as it feels set in the middle when you touch with your fingers it’s ready.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

For topping, heat cream in microwave or a saucepan till almost boiling. Add chocolate broken into squares and stir till melted. Leave until starting to thicken, then spread evenly over the cheesecake. When cheesecake is cold refrigerate overnight.

To make brittle, heat sugar in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until dark caramel colour. Don’t stir, but you can lift and swirl the pan from time to time, to ensure sugar melts evenly. Add peanuts, swirl to combine, then tip onto a baking pan lined with baking paper or foil.

Remove cheesecake from fridge 15 mins before serving. Run a knife dipped in boiling water around the sides of the cheesecake to loosen, then remove the sides of the pan. Dip knife into boiling water to cut cheesecake into slices. Wipe and dip each time. Break or cut peanut brittle into shards and use to decorate cheesecake. Some whipped or pouring cream goes well.

Serves 16-20 (small slices)

Note: in South America queso fresco can be substituted for the ricotta. You can use sour cream instead of cream and milk chocolate instead of dark in the topping.

After Eight Parfaits

These little frozen parfaits in shot glasses are perfect to serve after a heavy meal, when no-one feels like eating a large or heavy dessert. I’ve had this recipe for over 20 years. Sometimes I forget about it and don’t make them for a few years, but whenever I do they go down well.

A bottle of mint oil lasts for years. I’ve had mine so long I can’t remember where I bought it. In Canberra you can buy it at The Essential Ingredient in Kingston.

After Eight Parfaits1 cup water
2 Tbs sugar
200g good quality dark chocolate, broken into squares
4 egg yolks
2-3 drops mint oil or essence, to taste
1 Tbs brandy (optional)
250ml cream
Mint chocolates to decorate

Boil sugar and water for 3 minutes. Process in food processor with dark chocolate until smooth. Press down on food processor so it doesn’t splash out. Add egg yolks and blend 15 secs. Add mint essence, brandy and cream and blend 10 secs. Pour into a jug then into 8-10 shot glasses and freeze overnight or until firm.

To serve, decorate each parfait with a mint chocolate. In the photo I used a mint chocolate bar which was green in the middle, roughly chopped. Alternatively use a fresh mint leaf. Remove from freezer 20-30 minutes before serving, so they are not rock hard.

Serves 8-10

Note: you can make this without a food processor. Just add chocolate to sugar syrup, stir to dissolve, then mix in remaining ingredients.

Rocky Road: Eat and Get Fat

When I asked my friend Venessa for her recipe for Rocky Road she sent it by email and at the bottom she wrote “Eat and Get Fat”.  So I thought that was an appropriate title for the New Year, when many people are resolving to lose weight!

According to Wikipedia, Rocky Road was invented in Australia in 1853 as a way of on-selling confectionery spoiled by the long journey from Europe. Gold miners in towns outside Melbourne, such as Ballarat, were wealthy but uncultured. Unscrupulous businessmen took advantage of these men, mixing the spoiled confectionery with low quality chocolate and other “filler” ingredients, such as locally foraged nuts. The name Rocky Road is derived from the rocky road travellers had to take to get to the gold fields.

Here’s Venessa’s recipe which I have doubled and added a few substitutes in brackets. I left out the coconut in deference to someone who doesn’t like it. This is an adaptable recipe, so quantities are approximate. I added a few more marshmallows to make up for not including the coconut.

Rocky Road

400g block of chocolate, broken into squares
1 cup snakes (or other chewy jelly-type sweets), cut up with scissors
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup marshmallows snipped in half with scissors
1 cup roasted salted macadamia nuts (or other nuts), roughly chopped

Grease and line a slice tin or square cake tin (approx 25 cm) with non-stick baking paper or use a silicone pan which doesn’t need to be lined. Melt chocolate in microwave, approximately 1 minute on high or until melted. Stop to stir halfway through. Add all ingredients and mix well. Tip the rocky road into the tin and smooth the top. Refrigerate for half an hour or until firm, but cut into squares before it sets rock hard. Eat and get fat.

Variation: for White Rocky Road use white chocolate.