Mars Bar Cake

Mars Bar Cake

Don’t skip by this, thinking that it’s only for children. It’s most definitely not. Of course, children love it, but so does every grown-up I’ve ever given it too. This is another recipe that I’ve been making for years, although this one without much tweaking, since I’ve never felt the need to mess about with it. Although, having said that, I do have a hankering to try it with Snickers bars, just to see what happens. But that’s a recipe for another day. Obviously this is a treat, both tasty – it really is more than the sum of its simple parts – and a little bit naughty – you probably shouldn’t eat this every day, although it, to me at least, is highly addictive. Now, a couple of bossy instructions. The chocolate layer on top wants to be thick, hence the 300g in the recipe. You could probably get away with 200g, just, but as the old saying goes, if you’re going to get wet, you may as well go swimming. And, with all of that butter and everything else, a little extra chocolate will hardly hurt. Which leads me onto my second directive: use butter, proper butter, and not margarine or sunflower spread or anything else. However, when buying your chocolate, do bear in mind that, given the other ingredients, it would be a little redundant to go all out for the finest available. Use your favourite confectionary milk chocolate, and perhaps save the very best stuff for something a little more high-brow. That is not, however, permission to use anything labelled ‘cooking chocolate’, or worse still, ‘chocolate flavoured cake topping’.

3 Mars bars (about 60g each)

75g butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

100g puffed rice cereal, e.g. Rice Krispies

300g milk chocolate

Chop the Mars bars into smallish pieces, and cut up the butter. Dump the Mars bars and butter into a large pan with the golden syrup, and melt over a low heat, stirring often. I usually do this in a large, deep cast-iron casserole, but any large pan would do. You do have to keep an eye on it though, and keep stirring, not being tempted to turn up the heat to try and hurry things along, or the mixture may burn. It will take a while, but if you are more patient and can stand to stir for a little longer to minimise the risk of burning (which I haven’t yet managed, so don’t worry too much), you can melt everything together in a large bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Note that the three layers within the Mars bar, the butter and the golden syrup all melt at different speeds, so while everything is slowly melting, the contents of your pan may look a little disgusting and lumpy for a while. Stick with it, and keep stirring. Eventually, you’ll end up with a thick, glossy chocolate sauce.

Stir the rice cereal into the chocolate. You may need slightly more, but you should be able to coat 100g well enough, using a wooden spoon and a little elbow grease, with neither excess chocolate left in the bottom nor uncoated Krispies spoiling the sticky, shiny look of the finished bars. Tip into a 20cm square tin, lined with cling film or baking parchment, (just to make it easier to remove) and press down firmly to give an even-ish layer and a flat-ish top. Stick in the fridge to set until firm, perhaps about an hour.

When the base is set, break the milk chocolate into pieces and gently melt, stirring occasionally, in a suitable bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. When the chocolate is melted, pour over the base and spread to the edges with a silicone spatula. Return to the fridge and allow the chocolate to fully set, before removing from the tin and slicing into 16 chunky bars. I would add that these will keep for a couple of days in the fridge, although I doubt they’ll last that long, but do benefit from a little while at room temperature so they are not completely solid when you bite into them.

Mars Bar Cake


Nigella’s Coconut Cake

Coconut cake

Although I don’t really make sponge cakes that often, this is one of my favourites, and it always seems to be popular. And don’t be put off by the photo, admittedly it isn’t my best work. Having said that, the cake is never going to be a showstopper, at least appearance wise, but that isn’t really the point here, this is a comforting, old fashioned sponge sandwich. The cake itself is two really moist coconut sponge cakes, sandwiched with a coconut buttercream and topped with coconut flavoured royal icing, and is taken from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess. The coconut flavour in the icing comes from Malibu, or coconut flavoured white rum, and as Nigella notes in her own introduction to this recipe, Malibu is quite useful for cooking with since good coconut flavouring can be quite hard to come by. If making two different types of icing seems like a bit of a faff, then I would recommend tripling the recipe for the coconut buttercream, using a third to sandwich the sponges, and the other two thirds to cover both top and sides. If you wish, you could also add a smearing of good cherry jam inside too.

From Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess

For the cake

225g unsalted butter, softened

225g caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 eggs

200g self-raising flour

25g cornflour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

50g desiccated coconut, soaked in 150ml boiling water

For the coconut buttercream

25g dessicated coconut

75g soft unsalted butter

150g icing sugar, sieved

1 tablespoon Malibu

For the icing on top

2-4 tablespoons Malibu

125g instant royal icing (which may be labelled ‘royal icing sugar’)

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan and butter and line two 20cm sandwich tins. As always, make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature before starting. Boil the kettle, put 50g of desiccated coconut into a small bowl or jug, and pour over 150ml of boiling water. Leave this to stand and let the coconut soak up the water.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time, with a spoonful of the flour between each, beating in well. Then beat in the vanilla. Add the remaining flour, cornflour and baking power, and fold until all is combined. Finally, give the coconut a stir in its boiling water and then tip the whole lot into the batter. (If you wish, the original recipe does say you can whizz everything bar the coconut and water in the processor until you have a smooth batter, whizzing in the coconut at the end, but here I think the slightly longer way gives a better result.)

Pour the batter into the prepared tins, and cook for 25-30 minutes. (The original recipes says 25, I found mine needed 30, although check a 25 – a cocktail stick or cake tester should come out more or less clean.) Leave to cool in their tins for ten minutes, before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

While the cakes are cooking, toast the 25g coconut for the buttercream in a dry pan, shaking it now and then, until it is nicely golden and smells delicious. Tip it onto a plate to stop it toasting further, and allow it to get completely cold before you make the buttercream. Keep watching it – it will turn from nicely toasted to black in not much time at all.

To make the buttercream, cream together the butter and icing sugar. When you have a smooth paste, beat in the Malibu and then the cold toasted coconut. Spread onto the bottom cake, to about 2cm from the edge to allow for splurging, and then place the other cake on top, pushing down gently.

For the royal icing, add two tablespoons Malibu to the instant royal icing (basically following the liquid-to-sugar ration from the packet) and whisk (preferably with the aid of machinery) until smooth and just runny enough to coat the cake. You may need the other 1 or 2 tablespoons of Malibu to achieve this – I did. Pour the icing onto the centre of the cake, and allow it to spread out, helping it along the way with a silicone spatula if needed. Let the icing set before serving the cake.

Coconut cake


Salted caramel chocolate torte-pie

Salted caramel chocolate torte

Ok, so we’ll deal with the obvious first. A torte-pie? The torte part is in deference to the original recipe on which this is based, James Martin’s Salted Caramel Chocolate Torte, and the pie part is because, well, I made it into a pie. Of sorts. Two reasons really. The original torte just has a biscuit crumb base, and I thought extending it up the sides would be a nice touch, and since the filling is so rich, adding a little extra crumbly, buttery base to contrast this works well. Plus it saves lining a springform tin and then having to gingerly peel parchment paper from the sides of the torte and praying for a neat edge. Secondly, I really wanted to use my fluted tart tin, since I don’t as often as I feel I would like to, and anything that comes out of it looks somehow prettier for the scalloped edges.

So, this salted caramel chocolate torte-pie is a rich chocolate ganache, covering a layer of salted caramel, in a buttery biscuit base. Indulgent, rich, and, although actually it’s fairly straightforward to make, a bit of a showstopper. The caramel used is ready made, which, aside from a bit of melting, makes this practically a no-bake recipe. Specifically, I used a tin of carnation caramel condensed milk, which is readily available (at least in UK supermarkets) and seems to be a terrifically inspired response to the frankly terrifying notion of boiling a whole, unopened tin of standard condensed milk for several hours, and praying it doesn’t explode. Any thick, creamy, dulce de leche type caramel sauce will do the job.

Salted caramel chocolate torte

Adapted from James Martin’s Just Desserts – I’m sure it must be in a book, and I’ve got it in a Good Food Magazine somewhere, but it’s also on the Just Desserts Free iPhone app.

375g digestive biscuits

75g unsalted butter

397g tin Carnation Caramel / 400g thick caramel sauce

1 teaspoon sea salt

300g good 70% dark chocolate

600ml double cream

25g icing sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Process the digestive biscuits into crumbs, or crush them in a plastic bag using a rolling pin. With the motor running, pour the melted butter down the funnel of the processor and continue to process until the butter is evenly mixed in and the consistency is like damp sand. If you’re not using machinery, tip the biscuit crumbs into the pan with the butter and stir well to combine thoroughly. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a deep, fluted tart tin – mine is about 22cm across the base, and 4cm deep. Stick it in the freezer, or the fridge would do at a push, for 15 minutes.

Open the tin of caramel, and scoop out 2 tablespoons into a small bowl. Stir the teaspoon of salt into the remaining caramel. Carefully spread it across the chilled biscuit base, leaving a 1-2cm border around the edge. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes while you make the chocolate filling.

Break the chocolate into chunks, and gently melt it in a large bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally. Add a tablespoon of the double cream to the 2 tablespoons of caramel you saved earlier on, and stir well to mix. Put this little bowl into the fridge. Once the chocolate has melted, turn off the heat but leave the bowl where it is. Add about a quarter of the remaining cream, and stir until completely combined. Repeat this, adding another quarter of the cream and stirring well to combine each time, until you have added all of the cream. You will have a thick smooth and shiny chocolate sauce. Sieve (and don’t be tempted not to bother) the icing sugar into the chocolate, add the vanilla, and stir well once again to combine. Lift the bowl off of the pan and let the sauce cool for about 10 minutes.

Pour the sauce into the base, first going around the edges to seal in the caramel layer, then pouring in the rest slowly and gently shake the tin to give a smooth, even surface. Put back into the fridge and chill for at least 5 hours, preferably over night, until the chocolate is firm. When you’re ready to serve, carefully remove the tin and transfer the pie to a serving plate. Spoon the reserved cream-caramel mixture into a little freezer bad, and snip off the tiniest corner, and drizzle lines of the caramel over the pie. You could serve this with a little extra sea salt and/or single cream, but I don’t think it needs either.

Serves quite a few – I would normally suggest 8 – 10 for a pie this size, but this will easily stretch further, maybe up to 14+, after a meal since it is quite rich – but leftovers do seem to keep well in the fridge for at least a day or two.

Salted caramel chocolate torte