The food news story of the past few days is that we're all getting back into baking. I'm not sure that isn't one of those slightly whimsical ideas the media gets into its collective head (I can't smell any baking smells wafting from our neighbouring flats) but it's a nice, comforting thought anyway.
I must confess I'm not an avid baker - which is just as well otherwise I'd be the size of a house - but I did come up with a really great recipe for The Frugal Cook which I adapted from a splendid book called Best Kept Secrets of the WI: Cakes and Biscuits. It's not terribly thrifty (or healthy, let’s face it) but even frugal cooks deserve a treat. And it does involve economies. Leftover coffee. Cocoa instead of chocolate (for the cake at least) and buttermilk spread instead of butter. If you're planning to join the ranks of the New Bakers, give it a go.
Makes 12-16 squares or bars (so a good weekend bake for a crowd)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp hot strong black coffee
200g unrefined caster sugar
225g hard buttermilk spread (e.g. Willow) at room temperature
4 medium eggs at room temperature
225g self-raising flour sifted with 1 tsp baking powder
For the icing
90g milk chocolate (Belgian rather than Cadbury's - see tip below)
40g butter or buttermilk spread
2 tbsp strong black coffee or milk
125g icing sugar
You’ll also need a medium-sized shallow rectangular cake tin about 18 x 32 cm lined with baking parchment (if it's not non-stick)
Turn the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Sift the cocoa into a large bowl, pour over the hot coffee and stir. Add the caster sugar, stir then tip in the spread, eggs and half the self-raising flour and beat thoroughly together with a wooden spoon or an electric hand whisk. Fold in the remaining flour. Spoon the mixture into the tin and level the surface. Bake for about 35-40 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then carefully tip out on a wire rack to cool. To make the icing break up the chocolate and put it in a basin with the butter and coffee or milk. Place the bowl over a pan of hot water, taking care that it doesn’t touch. Once the ingredients have melted remove from the heat and beat in the sifted icing sugar. Return the cooled cake to the tin, spread the icing evenly over the surface and leave to set for a couple of hours. Cut the cake into 12-16 squares or bars - or smaller pieces if you prefer.
A thrifty tip: Buy your milk chocolate in the bakery section rather than from the confectionery shelves. It tends to be cheaper