April 21, 2017


fish and chips

I was recently asked to bake a birthday cake in the shape of a plate of fish and chips for someone whose favourite meal was…..fish and chips.

fish and chips2

Naturally I was pleased to be asked and began planning how I could do it.  As it happens I had a fish cake tin, bought from a French brocante a couple of years ago.  I used my easy lemon drizzle cake recipe and it turned out just right. 

Of course, the fish would have to be covered in batter to look authentic.  Getting the colour of the buttercream right proved to be tricky, especially here in France where baking supplies such as food colouring can be hard to find.  In the end I used a combination of apricot jam, prune jam and a tiny dash of gravy browning to get something approaching the right shade!

fish and chips3

I baked another batch of the lemon cake in a swiss roll tin and cut it into strips to resemble the chips.  For the peas I used marzipan coloured green with food colouring.  The vinegar was apple juice darkened with a little dark rum, the salt pot contained caster sugar and for ketchup I added a little pot of strawberry jam.

With the lights dimmed and the birthday candle lit, the birthday boy really did think for a moment that he was getting a plate of fish and chips.  He loved it, and I really enjoyed making it.

March 22, 2017



I made this cake for a boozy themed CCC event last year.  The basic ingredients for a margarita are lime juice and tequila so you get the gist of this cake.

I adapted a recipe for a lemon drizzle Bundt cake I’d used before and simply exchanged the lemon for lime and tequila.  It worked very well and turned out of the tin beautifully, giving lovely sharp lines.  This is such a good cake tin, the “heritage” design from Nordic Ware, a mixture of fun, frivolity and elegance all rolled into one.  The first time I set eyes on it, in the very blog that the lemon cake recipe comes from, I knew I had to have one.  It was a good investment, as a tin like this can turn an ordinary cake into a showstopper, with or without any kind of icing.  Just a sprinkling of icing sugar is really all that’s needed, if anything.


225g softened unsalted butter, or spreadable butter

400g caster sugar

1 tsp salt

4 large eggs

2 tsp baking powder

350g plain flour

175ml milk

3 tblsp tequila

zest of 2 limes

For the drizzle

juice of 2 limes

1 tbslp tequila

150g icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan.  Butter and flour a Bundt tin.

Beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time and beat well. 

Stir in the flour, salt and baking powder, alternating with the liquids, and mix until smooth.  Add the lime zest and combine thoroughly.

Spoon carefully into the tin, pushing the mixture into the nooks and crannies, and smooth the top.

Bake for about an hour, until done.  Cool in the tin for ten minutes before carefully turning out onto a wire rack.

To make the drizzle, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in the lime juice and tequila.  While the cake is still warm, pierce all over with a fine skewer and spoon the drizzle over so that it soaks in.

Serves 16 plus.

March 13, 2017



This is another cake in my search for the perfect apple cake.  It comes from a book by Paul Hollywood called “British Baking”

The instructions say to make the cake in a 20cm square tin but I wanted a round cake which raised an interesting question.  If the instructions are for a square tin, what size should you use if you change to a round tin, and vice versa?


There is a clue in Paul Hollywood’s recipe as he says to use a 20cm square or 22cm round tin.  I did a little research and found a simple rule that works best if you think of tin sizes in inches rather than centimetres.

If you imagine a square tin of say 9” and put a round 9” tin next to it you will see that the round tin could fit inside the square tin, leaving the corners empty.  In other words, the surface area and therefore the volume of a square tin is bigger than that of the same size round tin.  It’s obvious when you think about it.

So, in order to have a tin of about the same volume you have to go up a size in a round tin and vice versa.  For an 8” square tin use a 9” round tin.  For an 8” round tin use a 7” square tin.  And so on.


Back to the cake itself.  The rubbing in method was easy and quick to make but the final mixture was a bit stiff so I added a good splash of extra milk to make it workable and to get it into the tin. 

This was a good cake.  It was, if anything, not quite as moist as I would have liked.  I attribute this to the variety of apples.  They were some kind of dessert apple but I can’t now remember which exactly and in any case I find French apple varieties very confusing.  One day I will no doubt be more familiar with them but for now it’s pot luck when I buy them in the supermarket.

The original ingredients say two dessert apples and one Bramley, which would of course reduce to mush and therefore presumably make the cake more moist.  I used three of the same dessert apples as you never see Bramleys in French shops, and they remained very firm.  This was good in the sense that there were distinct apple slices in the cake but not so good for adding moisture, or so I guess.

Anyway, I think it’s my favourite apple cake so far.  Next time I would add a little apple compote to compensate for the lack of a mushy Bramley and I would bake it in a slightly smaller tin to make a deeper cake. 

We are inching closer to the perfect apple cake recipe I think!


200g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp ground cinnamon

100g cold unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

2 dessert apples

1 small Bramley or cooking apple

2 eggs

60ml milk

1 tblsp demerara sugar for sprinkling


Preheat the oven to 180° C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Butter and line a 20cm square or 22cm round tin.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and rub in the butter to fine breadcrumbs.

Peel and thinly slice the apples and add to the flour with the caster sugar, stir until combined.

Beat the eggs with the milk and add to the mixture, stir until combined.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin, sprinkle the demerara sugar over the top and bake for 40-50 minutes until done.  Cool slightly then turn out to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Cuts into 9 generous squares or slices.

February 15, 2017


dutch apple cake

In the beginning…….a cake was a cake and a pudding was a pudding.  Then……along comes the dessert cake. 

In my book, a cake is something you can pick up from the plate with your fingers and eat without having too much of it running down your chin.  You might want to use a cake fork in polite company but you wouldn’t expect to look like a bag lady after just a couple of mouthfuls.

A pudding is something you would eat with a fork or, better still, a spoon, especially if it’s accompanied by a good dollop of custard, cream or ice cream.

So where, may I ask, does the dessert cake fit in?

dutch apple cake2

This recipe comes from a book by Rachel Allen called “bake” and it’s described as a cake.  And very popular it is if you are to believe the words in the book.

I love Rachel Allen’s recipes.  They always work and I have never had a bad result with one.  But this is not a cake, it is most definitely a pudding.  Or, to be charitable, a dessert cake.

There was a clue in the recipe where it said to leave the cake to cool in the tin and serve in squares.  No mention was made of turning it out and serving it on a plate.  It was my idea to do that, thinking it was a cake because it was called a cake.

dutch apple cake3

The recipe states quite clearly that the apples will sink to the bottom and they did.  No problem with that except that that would make it impossible to eat the cake as if it was a cake.  A pudding it most definitely is.  The next time I make it – and there will be many, many next times as it was utterly delicious – I will make it in a pudding dish and serve it in slices, or even spoonfuls, straight from the dish and have done with it!

There was a nervous moment as I took it out of the oven and saw that for some reason the middle had developed an entirely different crust from the rest of it.  I presumed the middle was still completely uncooked but no, it was beautifully done.  Although it did sink in the middle.

dutch apple cake4

So, the next time I think I might make an apple crumble or Eve’s pudding, I will make one of these instead.  I won’t bother too much about how the apple slices are arranged on top because they sink to the bottom where you can’t see them.

My quest to find the perfect apple cake continues but as for a perfect apple pudding – this one would take some beating.


2 eggs

175g golden caster sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

75g butter

75ml milk

125g plain flour

½ tsp ground cinnamon

2¼ tsp baking powder

1 large cooking apple

1 tblsp golden caster sugar for sprinkling


Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Line a 20cm square (or 23cm round) cake tin with baking paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk until thick and mousse-like and ribbons of mixture form when dropped from the whisk.  This may take about 5 minutes.

Put the milk and butter into a small saucepan and heat gently until the butter is melted.  Pour in to the egg mixture and whisk in as you pour.

Sift in the flour, cinnamon and baking powder and fold in gently.  Pour into the prepared tin.

Peel and core the apple and slice thinly.  Arrange over the top of the mixture and sprinkle the extra caster sugar on top.

Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.

Bake for a further 20-25 minutes until golden brown and cooked.

Cool in the tin and serve in squares or spoonfuls with custard, cream or ice cream.

Cuts into 8-9 portions.

February 11, 2017


lemon biscuits

I rarely make biscuits of any kind but, with visitors expected, I decided to make some for a change.  Time was short and I thought they would be quicker and easier to do than rustling up a cake or buns of some kind, with fewer ingredients to weigh out and less baking time needed.

lemon biscuits4

I used Mary Berry’s recipe for Fork Biscuits, adding some lemon zest for flavour.  They were done in no time at all and turned out really well.

lemon biscuits2

They were crisp, crunchy, crumbly, light and buttery with a hint of lemon.  Hardly any effort at all to make and well worth it.  They were just the right size, easy to eat and kept well in a tin for a few days – until they were gone!  An excellent recipe that I will definitely be using again.


100g softened butter or Flora Buttery

50g caster sugar

150g self raising flour

grated zest of 1 lemon


Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Lightly butter two baking sheets.

Put the butter into a large bowl and beat until light and soft.  Beat in the caster sugar and lemon zest.  Next beat in the flour.

Using your hands, bring the mixture together into a ball and flatten it slightly.  Cut it into quarters then cut each quarter into four which will make 16 balls about the size of a large walnut.

Arrange the balls on the baking trays, 8 on each, spaced well apart.  Using a fork dipped into a jug of cold water, flatten each biscuit and leave the fork pattern in the top.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until light golden brown.  Lift carefully off the trays and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 16 biscuits.

February 7, 2017


Valentine surprise cake6

This cake was made by Nick for our Clandestine Cake Club meeting last February.  The theme was loosely based on St. Valentine’s Day and he simply Googled “Valentine cakes” and this came up first!

Valentine surprise cake4

Nick being Nick, he followed the recipe, line by line, to the letter and the end result was stunning.  He made an enviably beautiful and glossy ganache to cover it and decorated it with pink roses and little pink hearts that he chose himself.  Bless…….

Valentine surprise cake

Essentially the recipe makes two almond sponges, which have a lovely flavour and texture.  One is coloured and flavoured with cocoa powder, then cut into sections with a heart shaped cutter. 

You bury the heart shaped pieces in a log fashion inside the second cake before you bake that and therefore end up with a chocolate heart running through the length of the second cake.  Very effective and remarkably easy to do.

The only slightly disappointing thing was that the hidden heart was not very red in colour even though it contained a whole bottle of red food colouring .  Comments on the website indicated that other people had found this but it’s hardly surprising considering the cake contained so much dark brown cocoa powder to overcome.  The hidden heart in Nick’s cake had a slight hint of red, so that was fine.


You can see the original recipe here.  I am entering this post into this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge, from Choclette over at Tin and Thyme.  You can see the details here.

Valentine surprise cake5a


For each cake (we made the chocolate cake for the centre first and the second cake the next day.)

175g butter, softened.  (we used Flora Buttery)

175g golden caster sugar

3 large eggs

140g self raising flour

½ tsp baking powder

85g ground almonds

100ml milk

1½ tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate centre

3 tblsp cocoa powder

1 bottle red food colouring

For the icing

100ml double cream

200g dark chocolate, finely chopped

50g unsalted butter

roses, hearts or other decorations of your choice


Preheat the oven to 160°C / 140° fan / gas mk 3.  Butter a large 900g loaf tin and put a strip of baking paper along the bottom and up the sides.

For the chocolate cake, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder then fold into the mixture along with the ground almonds.  Mix together the milk, vanilla and food colouring and add to the mixture, mix in until evenly combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 60-70 minutes until the cake passes the skewer test.   Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

When the cake is cold, cut it into a heart shaped log by using a 5cm (approx) heart shaped cookie or pastry cutter.  To do this, measure the depth of your cutter and slice the cake into thick slices of this depth.  Lay the slices flat on a board and cut out a heart shape from each slice.  

The heart shaped slices will be laid end-to-end inside the second cake and inevitably there will be quite a lot of unused cake.  We used ours to make a chocolate trifle later but you can use your imagination – or just eat the pieces as they are.

Make a second batch of cake mixture exactly like the first except that there will be no cocoa powder or food colouring to include.

Pour two thirds of the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and then carefully lay the heart shaped pieces of chocolate cake, point downwards, side by side in the mixture so as to form a heart shaped log end to end along the length of the tin.  Carefully spoon the remaining mixture around and on top of the hearts and bake for about an hour until the cake is golden brown and passes the skewer test.  Cool as before, then turn out.

To make the icing, put all the ingredients together in a small saucepan and heat gently until combined.  Allow to cool then spread over the cake and add decorations of your choice.

Cuts into 12-16 slices.

February 1, 2017


spiced apple cake

I was given some French cooking apples one day last year.  In France many of our friends have apple trees growing in the gardens, fields or orchards that came with the lovely old stone houses, planted by previous generations many decades ago and often nobody has any idea what kind of apples they are, they just keep on producing every year. 

We were sad to lose our best apple tree after only one harvest.  It was in the exact place where our filter bed had to be, the only place it could be because of the lie of the land, when we had our new septic tank, and it had to be cut down.  We have two other trees, both of which were stunted and in poor shape because of where they had been planted and previously ignored but we have freed them from surrounding weed trees and hopefully lavished enough TLC on them to allow them to thrive and produce more fruit in time. 

spiced apple cake3

These were a green apple, variety unknown, too tart for an eating apple but firmer and sweeter than a Bramley.  They were all shapes and sizes, some a bit warty and discoloured, some already nibbled in places but I have learned that fruit donated by friends is a precious thing, given with love and also with relief that you can use them and help them out with their glut of fruit!

Bearing in mind my current quest to find the perfect apple cake recipe, I remembered having made this cake but not having posted about it yet.

spiced apple cake4

The recipe comes from one of the Hairy Bikers diet books.  It’s made with oil not butter and not a lot of sugar, producing a cake that is allegedly around only 200 calories a slice.  I was wanting to give a cake away (another way of passing on the apples) but to someone who doesn’t eat a great deal of cake, so instead of making it into one 23cm round cake I made two smaller ones by dividing the mixture between two loaf tins and adjusting the cooking time.  I chose this recipe not because it was low calorie but because it was the first one I found that used cooking apples.

spiced apple cake2

The house smelled glorious while the cakes were cooking and the cakes themselves were lovely.  They had a fairly loose and open texture, almost muffin-like.  They were full of apples and definitely not over sweet.  A very nice recipe that I shall use again and you can see the original here.


750g (approx) cooking apples

zest and juice of ½ lemon

250g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp mixed spice

2 large eggs

100g demerara sugar

200ml semi skimmed milk

100ml sunflower oil

2 tblsp demerara sugar for sprinkling


Peel the apples, cut in half and remove the core with a melon baller or metal spoon.  Cut into quarters then slice thinly, put into a bowl, sprinkle over the lemon juice and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 190° / 170° fan / gas mk 5.  Line a 23 cm springform cake tin with baking paper and brush with oil.  (Or use two 900g loaf tins, lined with a paper liner.)

Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a large bowl.  In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, milk and sugar.  Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir with the whisk to combine, making sure there are no lumps.

Tip the apples into the mixture and mix to combine evenly then pour into the tin (or divide equally between the two loaf tins).  Sprinkle the extra demerara sugar over the top.

Bake for about an hour until the cake is golden brown and passes the skewer test.  (The two loaf cakes will take 40-45 minutes but keep an eye on them after 30 minutes.)

Cool in the tins for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

The large cake cuts into 12-14 slices, each loaf into 8-10 slices.  Makes a very nice dessert if reheated and served warm with cream, custard or ice cream (if you don’t mind the extra calories).