Thursday, 4 July 2013

A cake to take...

to a dinner party.

Following an invite to a dinner party, I was issued the following brief when I asked if there was anything that I could take:
- Something with chocolate to please the children,
- Big enough to feed 9.

After being given the brief, I drafted in the help of my mum and used Lorraine Pascale's 'I can't believe you made that cake' as a tried and tested option.

I have posted the recipe for this before so I will just post a picture of the finished result.
Lorraine Pascale's 'I can't believe you made that cake'

It seemed to go down well although I did struggle to answer the question that I was posed regarding my cake.  I was asked how many fingers constitute the perfect portion. My response was that to experience the full array of colours, it is definitely 3, however, aesthetically, 5 might look more visually attractive. 

Any answers or suggestions would be much appreciated! 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Jo Wheatley's Chocolate Birthday Cake

View photo.JPG in slide show

Ever in pursuit of the perfect chocolate cake recipe, I used my trusty new favourite, Jo Wheatley's 'A Passion for Baking' cookery book to give her recipe a try. I was pleased with the results although I wish I hadn't used the over sized Bake-o-Glide because the cake ended up with frills! That was my fault though; a result of a lack of enthusiasm for wading through the black hole of a baking cupboard! 

This recipe is well worth a try if you want an easy chocolate cake recipe. I would rate the taste of this 8/10. Ease of baking 9/10. Another success thanks to Jo.  

Serves 8-10

225g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 bicarbonate of soda
30g cocoa
2 tbsp full-fat milk
100g good-quality dark chocolate, melted

200g dark chocolate
100 milk chocolate
250ml double cream

1 large packet of Maltesers

You will need 2 x 20cm sandwich tins, greased and the bases lined with buttered baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan oven/350oF/gas mark 4.

In a bowl of a free-standing mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until pale, light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs and vanilla extract. Add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa and milk, then mix until combined. Add the melted chocolate and mix again until smooth.

Divide equally between the prepared sandwich tins, spread level and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for about 22-25 minutes until golden and a skewer comes away clean when inserted into the middle of the cakes. Turn the cakes out of the tins onto a wire cooling rack and leave until cold.

To make the ganache, finely chop both the dark and milk chocolates and tip into a saucepan along with the double cream. Set the pan over a low heat to melt, stirring constantly until smooth. Pour the ganache into a shallow dish, cool and then chill to firm.

To assemble the cake, place one of the cakes on a cake or serving plate and spoon half of the ganache on the cake and spread. Then scatter with crushed Maltesers.

Cover the top of the second cake layer with ganache, spreading it smoothly with a palette knife. Sandwich the two cakes together and finish off with a good scattering of Maltesers. 

View photo.JPG in slide show

Thursday, 13 June 2013

One of my favourite days out with my mum...

My mum and I will confess to buying tickets to the Good Food Show in bulk. No longer do we pretend that we deliberate whether to go to the summer or winter show, we now just accept that both are regular fixtures in our diaries. 

I went to my first BBC Good food show with my mum in 2010 and I have been hooked ever since. We always make an early start, leaving our home in Cheshire at about 7:30am to arrive for when the doors open. Armed with a tea to take away (an absolute must for mum and I wherever we choose to shop), we then embark on our day of fun at the Food Show. Usually, after approximately one hour, we have eaten our own body weight in samples, tasters and purchases and have spent the equivalent of a small country's national debt. 

For those who have never been to the Food Show, there is a perfect mixture of food stalls, stalls selling equipment and demonstrations (many of which are free). 

For us, watching a celebrity chef in the Super Theatre is always something that we plan for the middle of the day to give our weary legs a rest after their marathon sprint around the show (from the girl who lives in heels and rarely considers practicalities, comfortable shoes on this day are a must!) Tickets for the Super Theatre are now included in the ticket price and there is always a fabulous selection of chefs to choose from. 

We are going to the Food Show on Sunday 16th June this year and I am beyond excited to be watching my new baking hero, Jo Wheatley, who is appearing alongside Brian Turner. Is it wrong that my shopping list for Sunday is already over 20 items long?...

Head over heels in love... a new favourite.

Unsurprisingly, my mum and I are huge fans of The Great British Bake Off. I say unsurprisingly because aside from writing a cookery blog, it seems that the majority of the country have been seduced by the irresistible charms of Mr Hollywood and the incontrovertible baking brilliance of Mary Berry.

During the 2011 series of 'The Great British Bake Off', Jo Wheatley's talent for baking was rightly recognised and the fact that her gorgeous, warm personality shone through made her a deserving winner in my opinion.  If I needed confirmation of her baking goddess status, purchasing her cookery book absolutely provided that.

Her first book, 'A Passion for Baking' is amazing. So far, I have tried the flapjacks, smartie cookies, cupcakes, chocolate birthday cake, chocolate brownies (a huge hit with my work colleagues) and banana loaf. The flapjacks, cupcakes and banana loaves have become firm favourites and I must have made each at least 3 or 4 times.

The smartie cookies were also delicious but these were made as a one off for my goddaughter who wanted a  chicken pox party and I deemed smartie cookies to be suitably chicken pox themed!

I would unreservedly encourage anybody wanting a good baking book to purchase Jo Wheatley's; it is absolutely fantastic.

View photo.JPG in slide show

The picture above features Jo's flapjacks, Lorraine Pascale's 'Let them eat cake, cake', Mary Berry's Victoria Sponge and a Masterchef cheesecake recipe - blueberry and rosemary cheesecake which sounds a little unusual but is absolutely delicious.

Recipes to follow...

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Another success courtesy of Lorraine Pascale

Following an enjoyable and relatively successful attempt at Lorraine Pascale's 'I can't believe you made that cake', my mum and I were keen to embark on the 'Let them eat cake, cake' challenge. We just needed an event to allow us this indulgence, so my MSc results landing through the door really couldn't have come at a better time.

I still wish we were better at decorating cakes but our family assured us that the taste was good. They were complimentary about the aesthetic appearance too but I am not convinced...

I would strongly encourage you to have a go at making it, however, a word of warning: if you plan to make a Malteaser cake, Malteasers are a fairly integral ingredient (thank goodness for late night openings at Sainsburys)


  • 150g • 5oz really soft butter,
  • plus a little extra for greasing
  • 250g • 9oz caster sugar
  • 150g • 5oz self-raising flour
  • 125ml • 4½ fl oz sour cream
  • 4 medium eggs (at room temperature)
  • 50g • 2oz cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ vanilla pod (or few drops of vanilla extract to taste)
  • 100g • 3½ oz dark chocolate (minimum 70 per cent cocoa solids)
  • 550g • 1¼ lb icing sugar
  • 250g • 9oz really soft butter
  • 2 tbsp milk (or water)
  • 4 x 135g packets of brown or white Maltesers

♥ Preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C), 350F, gas mark 4, with the middle shelf at the ready. Grease 2 x 20cm • 8 in loose-bottomed sandwich cake tins with a little butter, line the bottoms with discs of baking parchment and sit them on a large baking sheet.

♥ Put the butter, sugar, flour, sour cream, eggs, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a large bowl or in a freestanding electric mixer or a food processor. Split the vanilla pod open, scrape out the seeds and add them also (or the vanilla extract). Then mix or blend to give a smooth, soft mixture.

♥ Divide evenly between the cake tins, smooth the tops and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes.

♥ To check the cakes are baked, insert a skewer into the middle of each cake and if it comes out clean, then they are ready to come out. Remove them from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes before carefully removing and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack (about 25 minutes).

♥ When the cakes are almost cool, start making the buttercream. Break the chocolate into a medium bowl and melt it in the microwave in 30-second blasts, stirring inbetween. Otherwise, sit the bowl of chocolate on a medium pan of simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl, as this may make the chocolate grainy.

♥ Sift the icing sugar into the electric mixer or processor bowl (or large bowl if doing by hand). Add the butter and milk (or water) and beat until it is really light and fluffy. You will need to do this like mad if blending by hand. Then pour in the melted chocolate, stirring all the time.

♥ Sit one of the cakes on a serving plate or cake stand. I often put a little dollop of buttercream underneath the sponge so that the cake doesn’t move around. Then put about a third of the buttercream on and spread it around. Then sit the other sponge on top and spread the remaining buttercream all over so it is completely covered. It doesn’t need to be perfect. Doing this is a great excuse to get nice and messy.
♥ Once you have covered the cake suitably in chocolate, take the Maltesers and stick them all over the cake.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Honey-glazed Walnut Bread (a.k.a. the best toast ever!)

 My new love affair with Mary Berry......

Having discovered the delights of 'The Great British Bake Off', the only programme on the television which can successfully sustain my interest for a full hour (no magazines t flick through, no trips to the kettle, not even any talking), my new love affair with Mary Berry has begun.
I have had a craving to make some bread for a while and this recipe from Mary Berry's Baking Bible caught my eye.

100g walnut pieces
350g granary flour
350g strong white flour
7g sachet fast-acting yeast
2 level teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon black treacle
500ml warm milk
(1 part boiling, two parts cold)
2 tablespoons ‘good’ olive oil
100g sunflower seeds

To glaze
1 tablespoon beaten egg
1 tablespoon clear honey
1.       Grease 2 baking trays (or you can use Bake-o-Glide as I did instead). Briefly process the walnuts, or coarsely chop by hand, taking care to keep the pieces quite large. Set aside until ready to use.
2.       Combine the flours, yeast and salt together in a large bowl. Then add the treacle, milk and olive oil and mix to form a dough, either with your hands or an electric mixer. Add a little ore milk, if necessary, to make the dough slightly sticky. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Alternatively, use a mixer fitted with a dough hook for about five minutes. When ready, the dough should be smooth and leave the bowl and your hands clean.
3.       Reserve about two tablespoons of the sunflower seeds, then work the rest of the seeds and the chopped walnuts into the dough. Divide the dough in half, then shape each piece into a smooth round and set in the centre of the prepared baking trays. Enclose each tray inside a large plastic bag, sealing a little air inside so that the plastic is not in contact with the bread. Leave to rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size (this can take up to 1.5 hours).
4.       Pre-heat the oven to 200oc or gas mark 6. To glaze the loaves, mix together the egg and the honey and brush gently over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with the reserved sunflower seeds, then bake in a re-heated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the loaves are a good conker brown and sound hollow when tapped underneath. If making rolls, they will need less time in the oven. Leave to cool on a wire cooking rack.

Some top tips and findings!
  • I needed to use a lot more flour than it recommends in the recipe to flour the work surface.
  • Ease - 6.5/10
  • Taste of the finished product: 8/10
  • This bread makes the best toast ever 10/10

Friday, 19 August 2011

Airy-fairy cupcakes masterclass!

Whilst people assure me that my cupcakes taste good, I am constantly disappointed by my inability to make them look as good as I would like them to be. Having spent many hours browsing the internet looking for cupcake decorating classes, I came across the two hour course offered by Laura from Airy-Fairy cupcakes in Didsbury.

The course lasted for two hours and cost £30 which included free drinks and 6 cupcakes to take home.

For anybody wanting to perfect their decorating technique (or learn how to decorate), I would recommend this beginners' course. We were given a board and cakes to practise on and learnt how to pipe roses, the 'mr Whippy' and 'cottage pie' decorating styles. We were then given our cakes to take home and were able to decorate these however we wanted to.

See the pictures below of my efforts:

The rose effect.

'Mr Whippy'

All of the piping styles that we tried used a Wilton 1M tip (mine is in the post on the way and I cannot wait!)