Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Skincare Miracle

Someone up there absolutely does not want me to sleep at the moment.  If it's not the smallest Cub or DC (Devil Child) as he's now known, screaming at me five times a night, it's Alice the small dog  being sick or barking at imaginary intruders at the end of my bed.  Yesterday, it was a wasp.  In my bed, under the duvet, stinging me.  At 5am.  In the winter.  A wasp.  What have I have done to deserve this continuous torture I'm not sure.  But to whom I've upset, I am truly sorry and repent of all my sins.  

So, naturally it goes without saying that I'm looking pretty ropey.  Very pregnant - or just very fat if you ask the Cubs  - and very sleep deprived.   And it's October.  No one looks good in October.  Too much drizzle and too many hot to cold temperature changes.  The perfect recipe for skincare disaster if there ever was one. 

But, there is always a silver lining and this time it comes in the form of a small brown tube.  Inside this tube is a miraculous 10-in-1 beauty balm. (Talk about multi-tasking). It's a super-charged BB cream that in one fell swoop illuminates, protects, anti-ages, smoothes and basically, just makes you a lot prettier.  As well as the immediate effect though it has also seemingly improved the general state of my skin after only about a week of using it.  Definitely my new hero product. I'm already doing that slightly crazed thing of worrying about what  I'll do in the case of it being discontinued...

Monday, 6 October 2014

Heading for Hibernation

I'm secretly quite thrilled that it's getting all cold and wintry.  All I really want to do right now is hibernate.  I'm getting bigger by the day and I want to hide away, wrapped up warm, eating a lot of really-bad-for-you comfort food.  Thank God for Jamie Oliver.  He's just brought out a new and very wondrous book called 'Comfort Food'.  The clue to the contents is in the title. Inside there are pages and pages of the most comforting, slightly lard-infused yet delicious looking creations that I  cannot wait to start making.  I'm most looking forward to the 'Lobster Mac and Cheese'.  Being pregnant though, I'm not supposed to be eating shellfish and at 895 calories per serving it's probably not a bad thing.  So for now, it's sadly going to have to wait.

But what I can eat however, is cake.  And this Chocolate Celebration Cake is where I'm going to start with my new hibernating lifestyle. I'm celebrating my hibernation.

For the sponge:
250 g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
150 g quality dark chocolate (70%)
2 tablespoons olive oil
300 g caster sugar
6 large free-range eggs
150 g self-raising flour
4 tablespoons quality cocoa powder

For the chocolate rice layer:
300 g quality dark chocolate (70%), plus extra to serve
1 large knob of butter
1 splash of double cream
100 g puffed rice cereal

For the nougat frosting:
2 large free-range egg whites
3 tablespoons runny honey
200 g caster sugar
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon orange blossom , or rose water, or natural pink food colouring (all optional)

"Every household needs a blooming good chocolate cake in their repertoire, whether it's just for the hell of maintaining your chocolate quota or, of course, for those special occasions where you need a freshly baked cake, or need to arrive somewhere with a showstopper in hand. Regardless, this chocolate celebration cake will reset everyone's expectations of what a chocolate cake should be – it's delicious, it has incredible texture, it looks absolutely amazing, and it's a pleasure to make and watch people enjoying.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Grease a deep 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin and line the base and sides with a double layer of greaseproof paper. 
For the sponge, smash up the chocolate and melt in a large heatproof bowl with the butter, oil and sugar over a pan of gently simmering water until smooth and glossy. 
Remove the bowl from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes, then, using an electric hand whisk at high speed, one-by-one beat in the eggs until combined. 
Sift in the flour and cocoa with a good pinch of sea salt and beat for a short while until just combined. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for around 50 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out ever so slightly gooey (the top of the cake will rise up and crack slightly, but don't worry, it'll end up covered by all your lovely toppings). 

Leave to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Place on a cake stand, use a long knife to carefully slice the sponge into 3 equal rounds and remove the top two sponges to separate plates.  

For your mega-crispy chocolatey rice layer, smash up the chocolate and melt with the butter and cream in a large heatproof bowl over a pan of gently simmering water until smooth and glossy. 
Leave to cool for 5 minutes (to avoid soggy cereal!), then stir in the puffed rice until evenly coated. Divide the mixture onto the 3 cooled sponge layers and spread out evenly across the tops, going right to the edges.

To make the nougat frosting, place the egg whites in a heatproof bowl with the honey, sugar, cream of tartar, a good pinch of salt and a splash of water. 
Place over a pan of gently simmering water, turn up the heat and, with an electric hand whisk, beat for 6 to 7 minutes or until it starts to form peaks. 
Remove the bowl from the heat, add the vanilla extract, orange blossom or rose water and a dot of food colouring (if using), then carry on beating the mixture until thick. Leave to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then evenly top each sponge and stack them up nicely. 
To finish the cake off, use a large knife to shave some extra chocolate, then sprinkle it over the top (scroll down for a video to show you how to do this). 
Add your candles or sparklers, get them lit and indulge in chocolate celebration cake heaven."

For more info and to watch video tutorials on how to to the tricky bits have a look here.