I adore mint, which is good as it is busy taking over our garden. You wonder how it manages to get quite so far from the original plant. I am always looking for new ways to use it. Now is a good time to make the concentrated mint sauce ready for winter and if you feel like trying something different in the ice cream department then you could do a lot worse than try making the mint ice cream I used in my arctic roll. Then there is always the Shropshire mint cakes for a twist on the Eccles cake. You see, I adore mint, and mint and chocolate is one of my favourite combinations (oh, ok then, I am a sucker for most things when combined with chocolate).
I wanted to make a mint flavoured chocolate cake but I didn’t want to use peppermint oil to flavour them. So I thought about making a mint flavoured sugar syrup to add that minty flavour and I have to say it works really well. It doesn’t give the same flavour as peppermint oil or flavouring would, as it gives you a more earthy mint flavour, but it this that I rather like about it. It tastes like proper mint.
I found some little individual loaf tins when I was looking around the kitchen section of TK Maxx a while ago and have been waiting for an opportunity to use them. They are great and the resulting cake is a very generous size. This mixture makes 8 little loaves or 12 muffin sized cakes.
To make the sugar syrup:
100g caster sugar
50g chopped mint
Place the water and the sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Don’t stir but you can do the occasional swirl of the pan. Once the sugar has dissolved add the chopped mint and bring to the boil. Simmer for five minutes and then take off the heat and leave the syrup to cool. Sieve the syrup and discard the chopped mint.
For the cakes:
140g butter at room temperature
200g caster sugar
50 ml mint sugar syrup
1 tsp bicarb
Beat the softened butter and the caster sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the mint syrup and beat well. Sieve together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and the cocoa. Using the whisk on a low speed alternatively add a quarter of the flour and then the milk and continue until all is added and the mixture is just combined.
If you are using little loaf tins, grease them with softened butter and shake a little flour around the inside and place them on a baking tray. If you are using a muffin tin, line with paper cases. Fill the tins or cases to two-thirds full and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the centre of the baking oven of the Aga for 15-20 minutes. The top of each cake should be springy to a light touch. Lift the muffin cases onto a wire rack to cool. If using the little loaf tins, leave them to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.
To make the icing:
100g icing sugar
25ml mint syrup
Melt the chocolate with the butter and the mint syrup in a pan over a low heat. Be careful that the heat is low as you don’t want to burn the chocolate. Take off the heat once melted. Add the icing sugar and beat until combined. Spread onto the cakes. NB. This icing will be thicker than the one in the picture as I have trialled these cakes a couple of times and this is my preferred icing, but I neglected to take a photo before they were devoured (sorry).