Death by Chocolate Cake - Crown of Midnight (by Sarah J Maas) {book review}

“Is that … chocolate cake?”- “I thought you might need some.” - “Need, not want?”A ghost of a smile was on her lips, and he almost sagged in relief as he said, “For you, I’d say that chocolate cake is most definitely a need.”
- Crown of Midnight; Sarah J Maas 

The scene that the above quote comes from is when Dorian sees Celaene carrying a whole chocolate cake to her rooms. There are times in our lives when chocolate cake is much more a need than a want. After reading this in Crown of Midnight I couldn't get chocolate cake out of my head. I bought all the ingredients and was determined to make it...

... a whole week later. Having been out of the baking game for a while I had forgotten the time and mindset that is required for baking layered cakes. They aren't difficult but they do require a certain amount of patience as you have to wait for them to cool completely before icing and so on. I started my cake so late at night and was exhausted with the clean up that I wasn't exactly in the mood for a slice until the following day. And let me tell you that this cake was worth the effort and the wait. 

The recipes calls for: 
cake: 275g dark chocolate, 275g unsalted butter, 1 tbsp instant coffee, 250g plain flour, 40g cocoa powder, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp bicarb, 250g caster sugar, 250g light brown sugar, 5 eggs, 100ml buttermilk
Frosting: 250g unsalted butter, 500g icing sugar, 50g cocoa powder, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 5 tbsp of evaporated milk (give or take depending on constancy)
Decorations: chocolate chips or curls or whatever you want

{full recipe in *Jane's Patisserie cookbook by Jane Dunn available now}

There have been many dry and crumbly chocolate cakes in my past, but this one was neither of those things. It's probably one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever had or made! This recipe alone makes it worth picking up a copy of the cookbook! 

Crown of Midnight 
by Sarah J Maas 

mini review

It was never my intention to read a single Sarah J Maas book. Having seen them all over social media I never expected them to live up to the hype. So, after some persuading by my book buddy reader Charlee I picked up a box set of A Court of Thorns and Roses - after literally devouring them and Charlee gifting me a copy of House of Earth and Blood a Crescent City novel I have finally admitted that I am a fan. 

It was only time before I read the Throne of Glass series - it is her first series having written Throne of Glass as a teenager. There are some benefits from having read the above series first as in that it was easy to pick up these books and already understand some of the world and familiarity to how Sarah J Maas writes characters. Which I personally think is something she is particularly good at and why I come back to her books. 

Crown of Midnight is the second book in the series which picks up pretty much where the first one left off Celaena has just been bestowed with the title of King's Assassin and we see her take on this role struggling with playing the game by the kings rules. Given the task of killing a suspected leader of a rebel group working against the king Celaena takes her time trailing them and trying to figure out what they know because she suspects there is more that is going on. 

It's been a pleasure seeing the character growth for all the characters as they start to become more three dimensional. Celaena's love for chocolate cake is one I can get behind and the only reason this post has been written. It's also been great trying to pick up the threads of what might be in the following books. When you are reading a highly popular series that is also old it's hard not to see spoilers so out of my deductions from living on bookstagram I have made a few predictions but time will tell as I continue the series with Heir of Fire. 

It's not normal for me to write a book review and I don't think this can even be called one? 

Jane's Patisserie by Jane Dunn {Cookbook Review}

Once upon a time I collected cookbooks and baking books like they were going out of style. Then I moved and had to take a serious look at the over flowing shelves, there was a cull and a lot of them were re-homed to loving friends and family who take good care of them. To keep myself from being in that position again I stopped buying new cookbooks as I had enough with all the recipes I could ever want and I mean the internet, right? 

But I broke my many year cookbook buying ban for this one. Having been an avid fan and recipe tester (unofficially) of Jane's Patisserie blog there was nothing that was going to stop me from buying this book with 60 new and exclusive fan-requested recipes! 

It's got everything you could ever want bake - cheesecakes, cakes, cupcakes/muffins, cookies, breads/doughnuts, tray bakes, desserts, tea time treats, and a chapter on sweets! Whenever I review a cookbook I always list a few of the recipes I cannot wait to try so here are 10 recipes waiting to be made in my kitchen: 

No-Bake Speculoos Cheesecake
Baked Brownie Bottom Chocolate Cheesecake
Death by Chocolate Cake
White Chocolate & Pistachio Cupcakes
Banoffee Cupcakes
Chocolate Viennese Whirls
Chocolate Cherry Babka
Salted Caramel Pretzel Slice
Caramel Apple Crumble Pie
Irish Cream Liqueur Fudge

This book is tailored for the home baker at any level the instructions are easy to follow and the ingredients easy enough to find at any local supermarket and/or corner store. Having already attempted the Death by Chocolate Cake and having great success and a friend who make the Sticky Toffee Brownies also with great success and praise from those fortunate enough to try them I think it's safe to say that for me this book has found a permanent space on my shelf. 

And because the world loves videos - I made a quick tiktok flipping through the book if you want an insider view of it! Of course you can also visit Jane's Patisserie blog if you wanted to try out some of her other recipes! 

*I purchased this book (from The Works) all opinions are my own.

@lisa_unitedcakedom A look inside Jane's Patisserie cookbook by Jane Dunn *not an ad I purchased my copy from The Works UK #janespatisserie #blogger #cookbook #cookbooksarebookstoo #cookbookreview #bakingbookworm #bakingbook #CapCut ♬ Happy Day - Ardy'Dc

lemon polenta cake {inspired by We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman} (recipe)

Recently I started thinking about the days when I used to bake and blog a couple times a week, being a blogger and somewhat of an influencer before the word influencer was used to describe what I was doing for fun. I miss it, but it is work. Fun work, but work. 

Before the blog post there is the planning/inspiration, the shopping and cost of ingredients, then the baking and the clean up. After that you have the photo taking and editing and the writing... 

Once you get the blog post up it's the self promotion. Have you used the right hashtags? Making sure you post at the right times to try and get the most views. And now so much has changed. I have to make reels or tiktoks? Who reads blogs anymore? 

I loved it as a creative outlet when I was at home with the kids, but now a days life is different. Life is always changing. 

Netgalley gifted me an ecopy of *We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman - it's a devastatingly beautiful and sorrowful story about how one's life changes when your best friend is diagnosed with cancer. 

One of the things that Edi wants is a Sicilian lemon polenta pound cake that she came across once at a bakery and never saw again. So, there is a hunt for the recipe in the book. This is not the above, but it is a damn tasty polenta cake from the gorgeous Nigella. It can be found on her website as well as in her book Kitchen. 

lemon polenta cake: 

200g soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
100g fine polenta (or cornmeal)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs
zest of 2 unwaxed lemons (save juice for syrup)
juice of 2 lemons
125 grams icing sugar

Line the base of a 23cm / 9inch circle or square cake tin (grease sides with butter if needed)
Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/gas mark 4/ 350°F.
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and soft. 
Mix the dry ingredients together (almonds, polenta, baking powder) and then beat a third of it into the butter mixture, then add one egg and beat until combined, alternate again with another third of the dry ingredients, egg, and then the last of the dry mixture; mixing well between each addition. 
Lastly add the lemon zest and then scrap into your prepared tin, I used a spatula to smooth it into the corners. Pop it into the oven and bake for 40 minutes. 

I left mine in accidentally for a few extra minutes, but when it comes out it make still look a little wobbly, but if the cake tester comes out mostly clean you are good, it also will cave a little in the middle that is normal. Leave to cool in the tin, while making the lemon sugar syrup. 

Which one makes by boiling the lemon juice and icing sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Using the cake test or something similar using anything bigger will be destructive to the cake according to Nigella, pour the warm syrup slowly over the cake, I used a brush to spread it over the top to stop it just pooling in the middle. Leave to cool completely in the tin before taking out and cutting up into 12-16 squares/slices (depending on how you want to distribute it)! Enjoy!

> Will keep for 5-6 days and is suitable for freezing just make sure you wrap it up tight and eat within a month. 

"Everyone dies, and yet it's unendurable. There is so much love inside of us. How do we become worthy of it? And, then, where does it go? A worldwide crescendo of grief, sustained day after day, and only one tiny note of it is mine." - Catherine Newman 

* I really enjoyed this story, the writing style was different, but once adjusted to it was easy to follow. Not sure I particularly liked the characters, but that didn't stop me from relating to what they were going through and it gave me room to question how I would feel or respond in a similar situation. Also appreciated that it didn't cover up the real and horrible sides of watching someone you love die. Out now!

Coffee & Walnut Cake {inspired by the Brenda and Effie series by Paul Magrs}

It's the best when you read a great book and are inspired by what you find in the pages of that book. For me it's usually food related, but that's not always it. But it is for this post. 

Paul Magrs wrote a book called Never the Bride about an older woman who lives in a little English sea side town where weird things happen to her and her best friend. She's not all that she seems and I suspect neither is her friend. He then followed it up with Something Borrowed, it was in this book after Brenda and Effie (the two heroines I just mentioned) saved the day yet again and were celebrating in there favorite cafe, The Walrus and the Carpenter, with coffee and cake. Not just any cake an English classic more specifically this cake.

Coffee Walnut Cake: 

225g caster sugar
225g soft unsalted butter (plus some for greasing)
4 large eggs
50g walnut pieces, chopped
200g plain flour
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 - 2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan and line and grease two 20cm / 8inch cake tins.
Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one by one until just mixed. Mix the flour, espresso powder, baking powder, bicarb and walnuts into the batter and mix until just combined. Add the milk a little at a time until the batter is drop like constancy.

Divide the mixture between the tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, or until the sponge feels springy to the touch. Cool the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, before turning them out onto the rack and peeling off the baking parchment; once they are completely cool you can make the buttercream.

350g icing sugar
175g soft unsalted butter
2½ tsp instant espresso powder (dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water)
approx. 10 walnut halves (to decorate)

Place the butter into a mixing bowl and beat for a minute or two before shifting in the icing sugar and espresso mixture. Beat until smooth and lighter in color. 

to finish: Place one layer on your stand/plate and spread about half of the frosting on the first layer and then place the other layer on top and frost it before decorating the edges with the walnut halves. 

page from Something Borrowed by Paul Magrs

Up next in the Brenda and Effie series is Conjugal Rites and I can't wait to see what they get up to next!! 

Note: The recipe is loosely adapted from a Nigella recipe from her book Kitchen, also found on her website here

You Can't Fake Passion {black bottom cupcakes}

"You can't fake passion." -Barbara Corcoran

It was years ago now that I went on a training course for a job I no longer have. It was on this training course we were asked to describe something that we enjoyed doing. It was obvious that some of the people on that training course with me said what they said just to get the exercise out of the way. But those who really enjoyed the subject they were talking about ... well, you could hear it in their tone, see it in their facial expressions, their body language. Their passion shone through. 

The company we were all there for were hoping to show us that if we talked about them that way their customers would hear it and see it and then not only believe in us, but the company. Allowing us to essentially sell to people. I have no regrets in my life, but I wish I had paid more attention to my response, because I was one of those people who had the tone and the look. 

If you like me are trying to find their way to back to that thing that brings them passion maybe talk about it out loud to yourself and really listen to your response. Record it if it helps. 

It's always been easier to find mundane jobs to get me through life. The fear of not being good enough at something I feel passionate about has always been really scary and have always kept those things to the side never thinking it's something maybe I could do as a career. 

Maybe it's time to re-think that. 

Are you passionate about your career? or do you save your passion for your hobbies? 

Sometimes keeping your passion separate from what earns you your money is best because when what you are passionate about becomes work you can loose some of that passion. Everyone will balance it differently and everyone feels differently but at the end of the day it's what makes you happy. We all deserve to be happy. 

Cupcakes make me happy and I do have a passion for baking. I don't know that it's the thing that I would want to earn money doing, but in my free time nothing picks up my mood better then spending it in the kitchen whipping up a cake or cookies or brownies. These turned out so well and they are made with oil not butter and it is my personal opinion that chocolate cake is always better when made with oil. 

Recipe can be found in the hummingbird bakery cookbook ---- also can be found on my TikTok (yes I have TikTok :/ I don't know what has become of me. lol) This isn't the first time I have ever talked about them on my blog! First post mentioning Black Bottom Cupcakes can be found here if you are interested in seeing how my photography skills have improved.  

Also posting about everything and anything over on Instagram come chat!

Coconut & Lemon Bakewell (recipe review) Inspired by Soul of Cinder by Bree Barton

Soul of Cinder by Bree Barton is the third instalment of the trilogy that started with Heart of Thorns and followed by Tears of Frost. Soul of Cinder picks up right where Tears of Frost left off with Mia and Pilar on another journey, but not really sure of where they are going. What they do know is that after having just found each other the worst thing would be to lose the other one, but it's hard to support someone when you are still trying to figure out what it is you need or want. 

The whole series is a journey of these amazing characters over coming hardships and set backs only to finally grow into who they were always meant to be. People who can make real change in a really messed up world. I don't know what else to say without giving anything away that happens in the previous books! All I can say is that I highly recommend this series, it has some really good twists and although set in a fantasy setting is one of the most real series I have read in a while.*

On to the the Coconut and Lemon Bakewell in Soul of Cinder when Mia and Pilar arrive in this new land one of the first things they expreience is a lemon coconut.

Where the image of what this hybrid fruit would look like, in my head, is still inclusive it didn't take much of a stretch to know what it would taste like and that I would have immediately thought of all the things I could bake with it!!

I finally settled on a Coconut & Lemon Bakewell Tart! I do live in England and a Bakewell Tart is a classic so why not? I found this recipe in John Whaite Bakes by John Whaite winner of The Great British Bake Off season 3! For this recipe you will need time to make the pastry as it needs to rest before baking so if time is an issue you could make the pastry dough the night before. 

Short Crust Pastry: 

250g plain flour
125g salted butter, cubed
1 large egg
cold water
1 egg white, beaten (you need the yolk so keep it!)

- In a bowl rub the flour and butter together with your hands until it resembles bread crumbs. You want to do this quick as not to allow the heat from your hands melt the butter to much. Add the egg and 1 tsp of water and bring the pastry dough together. Add water sparingly if needed until the mixture comes together. Knead gently for just a moment before wrapping in baking paper and resting in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry, line your 10 inch/25cm loose bottomed tart tin with pastry pressing it into the grooves and trimming the edges off. Don't forget to prick the base with a fork and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. 

Make the filling(s)

frangipane filling: 

175g unsalted butter, room temp
175g golden caster sugar
4 large eggs
85g desiccated coconut 
90g ground almonds
1 tbsp plain flour
zest of 2 lemons

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix until just combined, then fold in the coconut, almonds, flour and zest. The mixture looks a bit funny, but trust me it's okay! Fill a piping bag with the mixture and put to the side. 

lemon curd filling:

150g lemon curd
1 egg yolk

Mix the lemon curd with the egg yolk and set aside. 

continue: Preheat the oven to 190C or 170C fan. Line the pastry with baking paper and fill with baking beads or rice or whatever it is you use and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Then remove from the oven and take away the baking beads and blind bake for 12 minutes. After that take the pastry out and brush over the egg white, it helps avoid a soggy bottom and pop into he oven for another minute! 

Let the pastry cool slightly before layering first the lemon curd mixture and then carefully pipe on the frangipane filling. I smoothed mine out before popping into the oven for 30-35 minutes. It should be golden brown and slightly wobbly when it comes out of the oven. Allow to cool completely before icing!

for the icing:

250g icing sugar
2 tbsp of water 
desiccated coconut and lemon zest to top

Mix the icing sugar and water together it should become a pourable but thick icing. If need be add a little more water but add it little by little so it doesn't become too runny. Top with coconut and lemon zest! 

Soul Cinder by Bree Barton is out now!!! I bought my own copy all opinions are my own. I made a recipe inspired by the first book in the series Heart of Thorns! That can be found here!! 

*Please note the series does delve into sexual assault and depression. 

John Whaite Bakes is an old book and I was sent it to review back in 2013 when it was published, but besides the book I did not receive any other compensation. It is a great book and have made several recipes from it! Full review of the book is here!! 

Peanut Butter Banana Cookies {recipe review}

It's officially summer, but my children are still in school for another week or so and it's all a go with plays and projects and school visits. Then they will be off and it will be the juggle of work and keeping them entertained. 

Although it sounds as if I am complaining I'm not. I enjoy my time with my children and can't wait to spend time with them! I recently made them these cookies and they have requested them again so I have it on the list to make them over the summer holidays. 

Recipe was adapted from Eric Lanlard's Afternoon Tea book - which weirdly I have never reviewed here on my blog. Eric Lanlard has several books and I own all of them because he is one of my absolute favorites and if you ever come across one of his books you should get it! 

These cookies were amazing. I changed a few things so the recipe below reflects how I made them! 

Peanut butter Banana Cookies 

125g mashed ripe banana (approx 2 small bananas or 1 large banana)
100g crunchy peanut butter
70g butter, melted
50g dark brown sugar
85g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
200g self-rising flour
2 tsp baking powder
30g dark chocolate chips 
20g peanut butter chips 
- 50g dark chocolate chips & 50g peanut butter chips

Gently beat the banana, peanut butter, and butter together until combined. Then mix in both sugars and the vanilla bean paste until just combined. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold into the peanut butter mixture. Then fold in the chocolate and peanut butter chips. Form a dough and cover in clingfilm and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour or over night. 

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas mark 4 - Line your baking sheets with baking paper. Using an ice cream scoop out the dough and place on the prepared baking sheets, leave space between the cookies. Bake for 12-15 minutes, I know my oven has a hot spot so about half way though I rotated my baking sheets and swamped one from the top shelf to the bottom shelf. 
(Makes about 9 cookies using the ice cream scoop, you can make them smaller the baking time is roughly the same but check on them at about 10 minutes.)
Leave the cookies to cool, while cooling gently melt the dark chocolate chips and peanut butter chips together, us using your preferred method. Some people put a bowl on to a swimming pan of water, some use a microwave, I just pop them into my heavy bottom pan and melt it on a low heat. Then place the melted chocolate into a piping bag or a sandwich bag snip the tip and drizzle across the cookies. 

Bananas go off so quickly this recipe is a great way to use them up and they taste amazing!! Did you know you can also freeze your ripe bananas? If you are using frozen bananas just let them defrost slightly and drain off any liquid before using them in the recipe. 

If you make them let me know via twitter or instagram - I love sharing everyone's photos!