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Chocolate caramel cake with chocolate ganache

April 10, 2012

It’s been a while…(I have that Staind song in my head from my somewhat grungier youth, hopefully you won’t know what I’m talking about). But following several weeks in another country, another several weeks with little sleep/proper meals/sanity/definitely no baking, a few cakes have been produced. And even something else pastry-based, stay tuned…

Also some education: I found out that I Appreciate Ganache. Not because of the taste (yuck too creamy), but the inner aesthete notes that it does look quite fancy as a decoration. One cannot wait to do something with white chocolate ganache; one reckons that it would be tasty AND pretty. Any good cake flavours to try with, suggestions welcome…

This recipe is adapted from bbcgoodfood. Their original cake does look fun, but I wanted to make something smaller, and with fewer layers. You need 3 sandwich tins (the baby ones, 7″ I believe).


  • 225g very soft butter or margarine
  • 225g brown sugar (or muscovado, I have yet to bother trying out if you can taste the difference)
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 150ml pot natural yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
For the filling and ganache:
  • half a tin of Carnation caramel (or if you’re intimidatingly domestic, make it from condensed milk)
  • 100g dark and 100g milk chocolate
  • 200ml double cream (save the rest of the pot if you buy 284 ml)

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 (/180 oC. Soon when I am USA-ensconced, that number will be in Farenheit. But since a) I don’t understand oF and b) I’m determined to stay English until I go, its centigrade all the way). How can you argue with oC when freezing is zero oC? Makes much more sense thatn 3o-something. Meh.

I digress. Line all the tins and grease well. Cream together the butter and sugars, then simply tip everything else in APART from the cocoa at once and mix quickly until smooth. Now you can either be super arty, or just a bit arty (I was the latter, but in retrospect, I would have been the former). For super artiness, split the cake mix into three. Add nothing to one, 1/2 tbsp cocoa to the other, and 1 1/2 to the third, and mix. Or the other option – remove just 1/3 mix into another bowl, and add all the cocoa to the remainder. Three or two-tone cake, you can choose. Pour the cake mixes into their pans, and bake for not very long, the sandwich tins cook mixtures quickly. Around 15-20 mins. When done, cool in the tins, and only try to remove when cold and shrunken a little (they don’t come out so easily).

Whilst cooling, make the ganache. Either do the fancy thing of melting the broken chocolate in a bain-marie, or just microwave (make sure you know how not to burn chocolate though). When molten, stir in the leftover cream. The mixture may cool and stiffen quite rapidly, so be careful. If by the time you come to ice, it’s too stiff, then microwave in short bursts till more liquid. To assemble, take the caramel and dilute with cream until it is an easy spreading consistency, and use to sandwich the 3 cake layers together. If you have any leftover and your ganache isn’t too runny, add some caramel to the ganache too (nom). Spread the ganache all over and use a palette knife to make professional swirls. Serve at room temperature, not cold: your ganache will thank you for it.

Oat and raisin GF soda bread

November 16, 2011

This isn’t pastry. Where’s the pastry? What? Oh wait, you’re right. I know. I keep making these grandiose statements about upcoming baking themes and then not sticking to them. But look! This bread fed me after a long autumn run and for the following day in lieu of any actual other foodstuffs! And it’s gluten free! (and even dairy-free if you wish). It sounds so much more wholesome to scoff on homemade bread all day versus homemade puff pastry, now doesn’t it?

I thieved this recipe from the extensive GuFfblog , and then altered it a lot. I wanted to add some more sweetness, which is achieved with raisins, honey, and the curious addition of a vanilla yoghurt. Sorry about the adulteration of your recipe madam GuFf. Please also come back to your blog, it misses you.

Makes a 6″ ish round loaf


  • 200ml  milk*
  • 100g vanilla yoghurt**
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cups gluten-free oats
  • 1 cups gluten-free flour blend***
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum***
  • 1 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 tbsp raisins
  • 1 tbsp honey

 * substitute for soya milk and ** soya yoghurt it you want to be dairy free also.

*** for non-gluten free, just swap for plain flour, and omit the xanthan gum. You may need to use less liquid when mixing.

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Dust a large baking sheet with gf flour. In a jug, add the lemon juice to the milk and let sit for 10 mins so the milk curdles. You can also buy buttermilk from the shops if it tickles your fancy or you have a lemon allergy or other hazardous disease. To make oat flour from the oats, blend the oats in a processor until fine and mainly in dust, with a few pieces still remaining here and there. Then add to a large bowl with the sieved GF flour, salt, bicarb, raisins and xanthan gum. Drizzle over the honey. Make a hole in the centre of the mix and pour in most of the milk. Use your hand to bring everything togehter; it will be messy and sticky. Keep adding the buttermilk until the dough is a solid mass which will still be pretty sticky/wet (it’s ok). Transfer to the baking sheet in the shape of a round loaf. Score with a sharp knife, scatter over some more oats, and pop in the oven for 50 mins or so. Test to see the bread is done by tapping the underside with your knuckles. It’ll sound hollow when it’s at the ready (eat-me stage).

Let it cool a little just so you don’t actually burn your tongue and the butter you spread on a slice doesn’t erm, clarify…

Chocolate vanilla battenburg cake

November 4, 2011

I confess I am more than a little bit intimidated by The Great British Bake Off (a recent baking competition shown on TV). Nevertheless, I have the next series’ application form saved on my desktop, if just for the fun of filling it in. CV-shmeevy, I say. It seems much more fun to spend time this weekend answering important points such as “Do you have a signature bake?” Or “Please give an example of the most difficult…tart…you have created”. You may be beginning to see why conquering pastry is higher up on my things to do list than usual.

Each episode of this show, in any case, involves a technical bake. This is a challenge each person has to undertake – tackling a recipe they have only just seen, with basically no instructions save the ingredients list. The first episode was cake and the first technical guessed it. Battenburg cake. Coffee and walnut in this case. You can see the actual recipe on

Of course, not being content just to follow the non-recipe, I also decided to change the flavours from coffee and walnut (itself a diversion from the orignal pink-and-white version) to chocolate/walnut and vanilla. I also made my own marzipan (use bought marzipan?? Oh my garden). I also decide to ignore the tin dimensions (20cm square) and use my 22cm square tin, so my cake was a bit erm flat. But don’t worry, follow the instructions here, and all shall be well. At least there ARE instructions this time…


  • 80 g SR flour (+ 10g more, you’ll see)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 10g cocoa
  • 100g sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 25 g chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
For the chocolate buttercream
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 40 g butter
  • milk, if needed
For the marzipan (or buy a pack ready-made, sigh)
  • 85g icing sugar , plus extra for dusting
  • 85 g castor sugar
  • 120g ground almonds
  • 1/2 egg plus 1/2 egg yolk
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence


Preheat the oven to 180 oc / gas mark 5. Grease a 20cm square cake tin. To line, instead of buying the silly expensive half-foil-half-baking paper they suggest, try greasing one side of baking paper wide enough for the base of the tin and the same length plus double the height (usually give youtself an extra 4-5 inches). Carefully stick a piece of tin foil to the greased paper and smooth. This has now given you reinforced baking paper! Now use this to line the tin, as shown in the picture above, with a partition in the centre of the tin to separate what will be the two different flavours of cake.

Ok next to make the batter, you will need several bowls. In the first, large, mixing bowl, cream together all the butter, sugar, essence, and then stir in the ground almonds. Sift over the 80g SR flour and baking powder, then on top add the beaten eggs. Mix quickly till smooth, then move half to a separate bowl. To this, sift over the cocoa and mix, then fold in the walnuts. To the other, sift over the extra 10g flour. Add a little milk to both or either bowl if the mixture feels too stiff (it should drop off the spoon with a sharp tap). Pour each mixture into a different section of the tin, and bake for around 20 mins or until the cakes are risen and spring back when pressed. Leave to cool a while in the tin, before turning onto a wire cooling rack.

While the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream by using an electric mixer to combine the cocoa, butter and icing sugar, using a little milk if the consistency is too thick. When the sponge is done, cut each colour in half, to make two rectangles. Trim them if needed to make sure all are the same size. Use the buttercream to now sandwich all four pieces together in a checkerboard pattern, spreading buttercream between each join. Trim again, and then spread more buttercream over the entire length and sides of the battenburg.

Finally, make the marzipan. Sift together the sugars and almonds, then beat the egg and stir in along with the essence. Bring the mixture together with your hands, then turn out onto a surface dusted with icing sugar, and knead until smooth. Roll out the marzipan until it is fairly thin, with dimensions that are the same length as your cake and wide enough to wrap round the entire battenburg (you can use a piece of string to estimate how long this is). When the correct size, wrap the cake in the marzipan, which should stick thanks to the buttercream you applied. If you were greedy and ate too much buttercream this may now be trickier. Gently press the join together and turn the cake over so that the seam is the underside of the cake. To finish, dust with icing sugar and top with minstrels or walnuts. Done!

Damson frangipane tart

October 18, 2011

We are well on our way to autumn, a season that I have decided shall mark the beginning of a new relationship. I have high hopes for this relationship. It will be a beautiful and fruitful union. It is a relationship…with pastry. For at the moment, I can deal with pastry; I can work with it, just about, and intrepidly. But I am no master. Moreover, I don’t just want to beat pastry into submission, I want us to be a team. Cook and dough, together as one. Clotherthanthis. I reckon this mastery will look more like a happy friendship and less like a domination. So I hope that over the autumn we will see lots more recipes with pastry in it. And thus commences the first: a damson and frangipane tart. Small windfall plums combined with frangipane, a sweet and slightly spongy french filling made with almonds, baked on a sweet shortcrust base. See the end of the ingredients for several other ideas you can substitute for the damsons, to make whatever tart takes your fancy.

I’m sure there’s a pun in there somewhere.


For the sweet pastry (taken from Leith’s baking bible):

  • 6 oz plain flour
  • 3.5 oz butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp ice water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg yolk

For the tart:

  • 3 oz butter or margarine
  • 3 oz golden caster sugar
  • 3 oz ground almonds (I used about 40g, it was fine!)
  • 1/2 tsp almond essence
  • 1 egg

  • 200-400g damsons * (I didn’t weigh mine, see alternatives)
  • 1-2 tbsp cognac, if desired
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar


If you don’t have any damsons, substitute plums, peaches, cherries or any other soft fruit that takes your fancy! Estimate about a punnet’s worth.You could also substitute thinly sliced apples, though the thickness will determine whether they soften enough during baking. Or alternatively, spread a generous layer of jam on the tart base instead of fresh fruit, and just spoon the frangipane on top –  hey presto, an easy bakewell tart.

So pastry lesson numbero uno: the trick here is to do as little work as possible, and keep everything SUPER cold. You need to cut in the fat into the flour with as little contact as possible. Pastry and hands are not friends; the more work you do to it, the stickier the dough becomes, and the tougher the finished product is when baked. As you add flour and liquid together, strands of gluten are formed (this is what makes eg bread stick together and gives it its texture). We add fats to pastry to slow down the gluten formation however, which in pastry sort of knots the dough together, making it tough. The more gluten the pastry develops, the tougher it becomes. And the more the dough is overworked, rolled out, played with, the more gluten develops. So slow hands are bad, mmkay?


Rich sweet shortcrust pastry: This recipe makes enough for the tart tin pictured above plus a little more. Sift the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Use two knives to cut the butter into the flour, until it is the size of small peas and coated in flour. Next, use just the tips of your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until you have fine breadcrumbs. My home ec teacher always told me a sigh of good technique is to have flour only on your fingers, not anywhere else on your hands when finished (eg palms). Now, whisk together the egg yolk and water in a mug. Next add to the pastry crumbs, and use a KNIFE to start to bring the dough together. Finally use your hands to bring the dough into a ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and need only 2-3 times to bring the dough together. Wrap in cling film and chill for an hour or two (the more the merrier, you could even do the day before). In the meantime preheat the oven to 200 oc / gas 6.

When ready, grease your pie tin. Take the cold dough and roll out onto a floured piece of cling film or baking paper. Make sure to flour the rolling pin. Be gentle but time efficient. Try not to break the dough – every time you reroll your pastry will become tougher. Roll out until a large circle about 3-4″ diameter larger than the tin. Use the paper/cling film to lift onto the pie case. Ease the pastry in gently until it fits the shape of the tin. Trim off the excess pastry, leaving enough to fold inwards to give a thicker crust (see picture 1 above). Roll the pin over the top to even out the top. Prick with a fork all over, line with baking paper (scrunched and opened out to make it change shape easier), and fill with baking beans. Bake for 15 mins, then take out, remove paper and beans, and pop back in the oven for another 10-15 mins until the pastry is golden. Voila!

Now for the rest of the tart. You can either do one of two things: cut up most of your fruit of choice finely to mix with sugar / alcohol to spread on the base of the tart, and save some for placing on the frangipane as decoration (picture 3 above)…or you can use some relevant jam on the bottom, and save the fruit just to place on top the tart, for example thinly sliced segments of peaches. If the former, de-stone your fruit and place in a bowl with the sugar, and alcohol (if using). I think Schnapps could work quite well with peaches; I went for brandy with the damsons. And more or less sugar to taste. Save some neatly-cut fruit to dot over the top. Spread the fruit-sugar mix (or jam if going for option 2) over the surface of the tart. Next mix together the butter and sugar till creamy, before adding in the egg yolk, almonds and essence. It’ll look a bit like cake mix (well, it sort of is). Spread this over the top of the fruit (picture 2 above) and even out. Finally, dot slices of fruit on top of the frangipane, pressing in slightly. The frangipane will rise a little around the fruit and will be a nice golden colour when done. When finished prepping, place the tart back in the oven for around 20-30 mins, until the frangipane looks done and the edges of the tart are golden.



Lemon chiffon layer cake

October 12, 2011

I had no idea what chiffon means, but I think it means light and fluffy. This cake is very light, very fluffy, and very lemony. Its a little bit challenging given that it’s a “whisking method” cake. These sorts of cakes are airy, given that they contain hardly any butter/oil – and instead rely on beaten egg whites to hold the “rise” in the bake. The key tricky bit therefore is to make sure that the mixture is properly combined (no streaks) when folding in the egg white mixture, yet not overmixed so that you lose all the air out of it. Be courageous though, young Jedis, the result is worth it. May the meringue force be with you.

Adapted from Sky high: I skipped making my own lemon curd (sorry, cheating I know) which also meant I adjusted the frosting recipe too. This cake is for 3 x 9 inch layers; it was too difficult to scale the recipe down, so I just made 2 layers and a few lemon chiffon cupcakes.


  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or other flavourless oil (not olive)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tbsp lemon zest (zest of 2 lemons, juice of one ish)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar (next to the baking powder in the supermarket)
  • 1 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup cake flour (1 cup cake flour = 7/8 plain, 1/8 corn flour)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • lemon curd, for filling and frosting


  • 4 tbsp lemon curd
  • 300 ml double cream
  • 4 tbsp castor sugar

So you need lots of big bowls for this recipe. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 180 oC. Line 2 (or 3) 9″ cake pans with wax paper but don’t grease them. Take the first big bowl and whisk together the egg yolks, oil, lemon juice and zest and water. In the second big bowl, whip the egg whites with cream of tartar until they begin to froth. Add in 1/2 cup of the sugar and beat until a soft meringue forms (don’t overbeat). In a third big bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and the rest of the sugar, and mix. Make a hole in the middle and pour in the egg yolk mixture, and mix to make a smooth paste. Now, take 1/4 of the egg whites and mix in. This loosens the paste, and makes folding the rest of the egg white easier. Finally, fold in the rest of the egg whites in 2-3 additions. Use a metal spoon and very gently create cutting motions to mix in the whites with minimum deflation. At the end you should have an even mixture which is hopefully still airy! Pour into the pans and bake for 16 mins (mine took about 25, but we know my oven is awful). The cakes should be springy and a toothpick inserted come out clean. If you take the cakes out too soon they will sink. Leave to cool on wire racks.

To fill, sandwich the layers together with lemon curd spread evenly over the surface. For the frosting, whip the cream with the sugar in a large, cool bowl. Don’t overwhip the cream, it needs to be a bit soft, and will stiffen when you add the lemon curd. Fold in the lemon curd and then frost the cake liberally on top and sides, using a palette knife to create a decorative pattern. Finally, garnish with a few sugar flours if you like, or use some extra frosting to pipe a pattern around your cake.

No birthday excuse? This recipe also makes quite good cupcakes. I make around 6 with the leftover mix instead of one layer. When cool, I scopped out the centre of each cupcake, filled with a dollop of lemon curd, replaced the ‘lid’ and frosted with the same cupcake. Lemon surprise ahoy!