April 21, 2014


Easter is synonymous with chocolate for me and I was looking for a recipe to make a gluten free chocolate cake for a bit of a do at a friend’s house.  Having bought a pack of Doves Farm gluten free self-raising flour I noticed a recipe for brownies on the back which looked very easy to make and too good to resist.

gluten free chocolate brownies3

Looking at recipes on the Doves Farm website, it’s almost as if they suggest you can use the gluten free flour in place of ordinary flour in anything.  So far I’ve only used the product a handful of times but it’s certainly always been a success. 

gluten free chocolate brownies2Anyway, these brownies were very easy to make and worked out really well.  There was a nice crust and a squidgy middle.  (The dents in the cake are where I pressed to see if it was done!)

The flavour was good and chocolatey and although the texture was slightly different from many other brownies, I think anyone would be hard pressed to identify that this was because of the GF flour. 

gluten free chocolate brownies

Brownies are often better the day after baking but I’m afraid I can’t vouch for this as they all disappeared on the day!


100g butter

150g gluten free dark chocolate

100g Doves Farm self-raising GF flour

200g sugar

3 eggs


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin.

Beat the eggs together in a large bowl.  Add the flour and sugar and mix well to combine.

Put the chocolate and butter into a small saucepan and heat gently until melted together, stirring well.

Add the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture and mix well.  Pour into the prepared tin.

Bake for 30-35 minutes until the skewer test is passed.  There should be a crusty top and a soft middle so be careful not to over bake.

Cool in the tin.

Cuts into 25 small or 16 regular brownies.

April 18, 2014

CHOCOLATE RUM CAKE (for serious chocoholics)

chocolate rum cake4

It was our local Clandestine Cake Club’s first birthday recently so I felt compelled to attend the meeting, even though I really haven’t got the time to bake!  (Any excuse!)

A quick shuffle of my last few unpacked cook books led me to a recipe in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.  Chocolate and booze go well together at any time but are especially good for a birthday!

chocolate rum cake2In the first chapter of her book Mary states that she rarely uses dark chocolate with a high cocoa solids content, believing it to be unnecessarily expensive and not always the best thing for baking.  Luckily I had two bars of Cadbury’s Bournville chocolate in the cupboard so with those in stock I had more or less everything I needed to make the cake.

Apart that is, from the apricot jam.  The recipe states that you should brush the cake with warm, sieved apricot jam before coating it with the chocolate icing.  As we are trying to run down our stocks of everything before we move house, the only thing I had in stock that might do was half a jar of morello cherry jam.  As cherries go really well with both rum and chocolate I decided to use that instead and I have to say, it was a really good choice.  The sweetness of the cherry jam contrasted will with the intensely chocolate flavour of the cake and icing.

chocolate rum cake3 

I decorated the cake with the chocolate icing as given in the recipe and also added some crystallised violets, a sprinkle of chocolate vermicelli and a single candle.

This is not a cake for the faint hearted.  There are after all two whole large bars of Bournville chocolate in the cake and even though they’re not the 70% cocoa solids content of some chocolate, it still adds up to a very strong dark chocolate flavour.  One to which the cherry jam adds a welcome contrast.

You can see the recipe here but in the Baking Bible Mary also incredibly adds yet another almost whole bar of chocolate by making a ganache to pipe decorative swirls on the cake !!  It was already more than chocolatey enough for me so this would have made it inedible for my taste !!  Needless to say, I’m glad I omitted that step in the recipe.

Tea Time Treats Lavender and Lovage

Adding the cherry jam was a lucky alteration to the original recipe so consequently I feel entitled to submit this post to this month’s Tea Time Treats Challenge, organised by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Jane of the Hedge Combers.  The theme this time is “jam” and you can see the details here.


For the cake

200g plain chocolate, 39% cocoa solids, such as Bournville

100g unsalted butter, diced

3 large eggs, separated

100g dark muscovado sugar

50ml dark rum

75g self raising flour

50g ground almonds

For the filling and icing

225g Bournville chocolate

100g unsalted butter, diced

2 tbslp morello cherry jam


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease and a 20cm round springform cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Set aside to cool.

Put the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk together until pale and creamy.

Add the cooled chocolate and rum and mix together until combined.  Sift in the flour and fold in, along with the ground almonds.

Whisk the egg whites separately until stiff and fold into the mixture.

Transfer the mixture to the tin and bake for about 45 minutes until done.

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes then turn out, remove the paper and cool on a rack.

To make the filling, melt the chocolate as above, then add the butter and mix well together.  Put the jam in a small saucepan and heat gently, then push through a sieve to remove any lumps of fruit.

When the cake is cool, slice it in half horizontally using a bread knife.  Spread two tablespoons of the chocolate icing on the bottom half and put the two halves back together.

Brush the sieved jam over the top and sides of the cake and allow to set.  Then gently spread the remaining icing over the whole cake.  Decorate with sprinkles, candles or your choice of decorations.

Cuts into 10-12 slices as it is very rich.

April 9, 2014


plum and apple dappy Two of my favourite baking challenges have joined forces this month.  Random Recipes by Dom of Bellau Kitchen, and Aphabakes, by Ros of The more than occasional baker and Caroline of Caroline Makes, have joined together to create an Alphabakes Random Recipe Challenge.

The idea is to choose a cook book at random and then randomly choose and cook a recipe in the A section of the index. 

Most of my cook books are now packed ready for moving house so my choice was limited to the remaining few in one bookcase.  Glancing along the shelf I saw this book by Laura Washburn:

plum and apple dappy2

Thinking that apples conveniently begin with the letter A, I took it off the shelf and discovered a post-it already attached to a page, one I had obviously bookmarked for baking some time ago.  So I decided to cook that.  I hope that’s random enough to comply with the rules of the challenge!

I deviated slightly from the recipe as I wanted to use up a few plums remaining from baking a crumble the previous weekend, but other than that I was reasonably true to the original.  I also conveniently had half a pack of ready made shortcrust pastry in the fridge left over from making a quiche.

 plum and apple dappy3 plum and apple dappy4

I had never heard of a “dappy” before I bought this book (one of my charity shop finds) and essentially it’s like a pastry roly-poly, filled with fruit instead of jam and sliced before baking.  The author describes it as a little known dish from the West Country. 

I now have several of Laura Washburn’s books, the first one I acquired being a Christmas present a few years ago called “the French country table”.  I have cooked quite a few recipes from all of them and they have always been a success.

As well as charity shops I find a good way of acquiring cook books for a very modest price is to use the “used and new” offer on Amazon.  I have collected some really good books for the cost of  only 1p each plus postage, which is usually £2.80.  One or two of the used books have been slightly grubby and very well used, but at that price, if it doesn’t inspire me, I am quite happy to take it back to the charity shops, which is where I imagine most of these 1p books come from in the first place.  Most of the used books have been in near perfect condition.

plum and apple dappy5

As shop bought plums can be a bit firm I usually cook them before putting them into a crumble or pie, so I cooked these along with the apples and also added a dash of cinnamon for extra flavour.   There was a bit too much fruit so rather than make the pastry too difficult to roll up by over filling it, I just tucked the extra in between the pastry rolls in the tin.

plum and apple dappy6

It was delicious!  A nice change from a pie or crumble and I will definitely be making it again.  I have to say that the shop bought ready made pastry was good too.  I’m using it at the moment to save time but I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again and again.


You can read all about this month’s “Random Recipes meets Alphabakes” challenge here and here.


250g ready made shortcrust pastry, approx half a pack

5 large plums, halved, stoned then cubed

2 medium eating apples, peeled, cored and cubed

2 tblsp golden caster sugar

½tsp ground cinnamon

1tblsp demerara sugar


Put the cubed fruit into a medium saucepan with a splash of water and heat gently for 10-15 minutes until the fruit is tender.  Stir in the caster sugar and cinnamon and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 200°fan / gas mk 7.  Line a 20cm square baking tin or dish with baking paper.

Roll out the pastry into an oblong approximately 20 x 30 cm.

Spread the cooked fruit over the pastry and roll up like you would a Swiss roll, from one long side.

Cut the roll into 7* even slices and lay one slice in the centre of the dish, cut side up.  Arrange the remaining slices around the centre one, not touching as the pastry will expand.  Sprinkle with the demerara sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through.

Serve with custard, cream, ice cream or crème fraîche.

Serves 4*.

*I followed the instructions and cut the roll into 7 slices but next time I will cut it into 8, to make portioning easier and fairer !!

March 19, 2014


pear and ginger upside down cake Right in the middle of packing I started having withdrawal symptoms.  My resistance failed me and I was overcome by the need to bake something.  I always knew it was too good to last!

I had been disappointed that my self-imposed abstinence from all things cake meant that I couldn’t take part in one of my favourite monthly baking challenges, Alphabakes.  I haven’t entered every month by any means, far from it, but I have done some of the tricky letters, such as Z and I.  This was going to be the final letter, U, and I already had a recipe earmarked for it.  An upside down cake.

Then we sold the house in record time and panic set in.  So much packing to do, so little time!  Baking would have to be put on the back burner for quite a while.

pear and ginger upside down cake2 pear and ginger upside down cake3

I was looking at some uneaten pears in the fruit bowl and the idea for a pear upside down cake came to me.  I had also unearthed a jar of ginger preserve during my clearing out of a kitchen cupboard.  Perfect for sandwiching the two cakes together!

pear and ginger upside down cake4

I used the recipe I intended to use in the first place, which is on the Good Food website and you can see it here.

I simply swapped the peaches for sliced pears and added a little ginger.

pear and ginger upside down cake5 The cake turned out spectacularly well, considering it’s such an easy recipe, essentially and all-in-one sponge cake with some fruit in the bottom of one tin.

The sponge was light and moist with just a hint of ginger, the pears beautifully caramelised and the ginger jam and cream set it off perfectly.  I would definitely make it again.

The fact that it was so quick to make, makes me feel a lot less guilty about taking the time to make it when I should be packing or sorting yet another drawer or cupboard!

alphabakes Alphabakes is a monthly baking challenge organised by Caroline of Caroline Makes and, this time, by Ros of The more than the occasional baker.  You can see the details here.


For the cake

200g softened butter, or spreadable butter

200g self raising flour

1tsp baking powder

1tsp ground ginger

200g golden caster sugar

4 eggs

2tblsp milk

For the topping

3 ripe pears

75g light soft brown sugar

For the filling

2tblsp ginger preserve

125ml double cream

1tblsp icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease two 20cm sandwich tins, line the bases with baking paper and grease again.

Sift the flour, baking powder and ginger into a large bowl.  Add all the other cake ingredients and whisk with an electric hand whisk (or use a food mixer) until fully combined and smooth.

Sprinkle the soft brown sugar evenly over the bottom of one of the tins.

Peel the pears, halve them, remove the cores (using a melon baller) and slice each half into three wedges.  Arrange the pear slices on top of the brown sugar.

Divide the cake mixture evenly between the two tins, being careful not to disturb the pear slices and remembering that the tin with the fruit on the bottom will inevitably look fuller.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are done.  The one with the pears on the bottom will take about five minutes longer than the other.

Allow to cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out carefully onto a wire rack.

Whisk the double cream with the icing sugar until spreadable.  When the cakes are cold, spread the preserve on the bare cake half.  (Warm it slightly in a small pan if necessary to make it runny enough to spread.)

Spread a thick layer of whipped cream on top, remembering to let the jam cool completely first.  Put the fruited cake on top of that.

Cuts into 6-8 slices.

March 14, 2014



I was horrified and angry to read that this cake glitter is not edible at all, but made from shredded plastic and powdered brass.


I got mine from a local specialist cake decorating shop where they stocked about twenty different colours.  It’s now in the dustbin.

I remember being sceptical when I first bought it but felt that it probably wouldn’t be on sale at all if it was harmful or not edible.  Not in this day and age.

I should know by now to trust my instincts.

March 10, 2014


birthday bundt This is the last cake I will be baking for a while.  The house is sold so all my baking stuff will be packed up ready to be stored or moved before long.

I was pleased to be  making this cake, a birthday cake for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday.  Her favourite cakes are lemon or fruit cake so I decided to go for a rather special lemon drizzle cake.

birthday bundt2

I used my new Bundt tin, the one that Nick gave me for Christmas, coated it well inside with cake release spray, and the cake slid out perfectly.  That was a relief!  After the previous disaster (here) I can safely say that the tin was not the culprit on that occasion.  I must remember not to put fudge into a Bundt cake again !!

birthday bundt3

I’m not into fancy icing so I decorated the cake with some pretty number candles and pink roses.  I used a small shot glass to act as a vase which I pushed into the hole in the middle of the cake.  I lengthened the stems of the candles by attaching them to wooden kebab sticks with sellotape so that they would stand up at the right height in the vase.

The recipe comes from the blog Delicious, Delicious, Delicious, which you can see here.  It worked perfectly, although I didn’t prick the cake to make holes for the drizzle to soak in as I didn’t want to spoil the lines of the cake.  I just kept pouring the syrup over, recollecting it as it ran off by putting the cake on a cooling rack over a dinner plate.  That resulted in a nice coating of sugar and some of it definitely soaked in through the crust.  To finish the cake I added a light sprinkling of edible glitter.

birthday bundt4

It looked very pretty in the centre of the table for my mother-in-law’s birthday tea.  The flavour was good and everybody enjoyed it.

So that’s it for a while.  I have no idea where my next post will come from, but I’ll be back as soon as we’re settled somewhere !!

Tea_Time_Treatrs_logoIn the meantime I am entering this cake into this month’s Teatime Treats, hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and this month by Jane of the Hedge Combers.  The theme for March is “Decorative Cakes” and you can see the details here.

March 6, 2014


Incredible as it seems, we appear to have sold the house only two days after it went on the market!

I was certainly hoping for a quick sale, to get it over with before I lost my nerve, but I did expect it to take a few months, not just a few days!

Of course it could all go horribly wrong if our buyer drops out for some reason so I'm not counting my chickens just yet.  However with all the sorting and packing to do there will not be too much time for baking in this house for a while so the blog may go quiet and not be updated quite so regularly until we’re more settled – and I can wrestle my baking tins back out of their packing cases !!

I shall be keeping up with my blog reading though – I have to have something to do at 5.30 in the morning when I’m wide awake and can’t seem to get back to sleep !!