Sunday, 26 October 2014

Madeira Cake

In the quest for the perfect cake for my friend’s son’s Mr Bump cake, this was my second attempt at Madeira cake (having made this lemon and raspberry Madeira cake and found it a little dry). The recipe is from Lindy’s Cakes and was recommended by several friends. 

Having made a 5 egg monster cake that took forever to bake, I adapted the recipe to a 4 egg recipe to bake in two 20cm sandwich tins, to try and bring the baking time down.

If you are a bit of a perfectionist like me, you can weigh the amount of cake mix that goes into each tin to ensure that both cakes are an even size and take the same amount of time to cook.

As recommended previously, in order to produce beautifully flat and evenly baked cakes, I use my magi-cake strips: these are an investment but they make a huge difference! You soak them in water and then wrap them around the cake tin: this adds an extra layer therefore prevents the edge of the cake from cooking more quickly and drying out. It also prevents the cake from doming and so ensures a nice even top to your cake.

These cakes turned out really well. I froze them so that they could be carved into Mr Bump’s hands and feet later in the week and they defrosted beautifully and kept really well – EHH was eating the off-cuts for over a week after they had been defrosted! I made them with the two teaspoons of vanilla extract and I think this added a nice depth of taste. The cakes were also firm but moist and held up well to being iced with a thick layer of fondant icing.

Overall, personally, I still much prefer a traditional light sponge cake to Madeira, but this recipe does work well and fulfils a purpose in circumstances where one needs a firmer and longer lasting cake.

Madeira cake

  1. 225g (8 oz) butter
  2. 225g (8 oz) caster sugar
  3. 225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
  4. 115g (4oz) plain flour
  5. 4 large eggs
  6. 1 tsp glycerine
  7. 2 tsp vanilla extract / zest of 3 lemons

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
  2. Grease and base-line 2 20cm sandwich cake tins with baking parchment.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light, fluffy and pale (about 5 minutes in a stand mixer).
  4. Sift the flours together in a separate bowl.
  5. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and then add, a bit at a time to the creamed mixture (beating for at least a minute between each addition). Add a spoonful of flour if the mixture starts to curdle.
  6. Beat in the glycerine and vanilla extract / lemon zest.
  7. Sift the flour into the creamed mixture and fold in carefully with a large metal spoon.
  8. Transfer to the lined tins and bake for approximately 1 hour. When the cakes are ready, they will be well risen, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean. Cover the top of the cakes with foil if they start to brown too much on top.
  9. Allow the cakes to cool then, leaving the lining paper on, wrap the cake in foil or place in an airtight container for at least 12 hours before cutting, to allow the cake to settle.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Blackberry and yoghurt mini loaf cakes

Blackberry and yoghurt mini loaf cake topped with lemon icing and a blackberry

I love blackberry-picking! We used to spend hours picking them as a family on the cliffs of Guernsey and then eating home-made blackberry and apple jam throughout the winter months.

This year’s blackberries seem to be particularly early – I picture blackberry picking as a September, even October activity, but the bushes were heavy with ripe and juicy berries when we went out last Sunday. In a short time, we filled our tub and managed to come home with 2.4kg of blackberries! Now what to do with them?!!

I froze a good pile of them (lay them out in a single layer on a baking tray and freeze them flat before then pouring the individually frozen berries into freezer bags) for future use. A scour of the internet then came up with this delicious sounding blackberry and yoghurt loaf cake on the Pudding Lane blog. I’m rather distrustful of loaf cakes – I haven’t had much luck with them in the past (they tend to end up burnt on the outside and sunken in the middle!) – and so I decided to make use of my favourite Lakeland mini loaf cake tin instead.

These cakes are quick and easy to make. The only slight change I made was dusting the blackberries with cornflour – this tends to prevent them from sinking.  The recipe is designed for a 1 kg loaf tin and so made slightly too much for my mini loaf tin: I popped the extra into 6 fairy cake cases and baked these at the same time as the loaf cakes.

I was really impressed with this recipe – it is very moist and the lemon and blackberry flavours come through strongly and work really well together! Will definitely be making these again!   

Blackberry and yoghurt mini loaf cakes

Blackberry and yoghurt mini loaf cakes on a wire cooling rack

  1. 2 eggs
  2. 225g yoghurt
  3. 225g caster sugar
  4. 150g ground almonds
  5. 100g self-raising flour
  6. 1 tsp baking powder
  7. 20g cornflour
  8. 1 lemon
  9. 150g blackberries
  10. 150g icing sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 170C.
  2. Spray a mini loaf cake with cake-release spray.
  3. Place sugar and eggs into a mixing bowl, then whisk for 4-5 minutes (less in a stand mixer) until the mixture is pale, airy and forms ribbons when you drag the whisk across the surface.
  4. Add the yoghurt, the zest of the lemon and a pinch of salt, and fold together to mix.
  5. Sieve in the almonds, flour and baking powder, and fold until the mixture is combined.
  6. Sprinkle the blackberries with cornflour and then add two thirds of them to the cake mix.
  7. Pour the cake mix into your prepared tin and sprinkle over the remaining blackberries (reserving 12 for decoration), pushing slightly into the top of the cakes.
  8. Place the cakes in the centre of the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the cakes are golden and springy.
  9. Cool the cakes in the tin for about 15 minutes and then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack.
  10. While it's cooling, mix the icing sugar with enough juice from the lemon to make a thick pouring consistency.
  11. Pour over the cake once cool and top with a blackberry.

To make one large loaf cake: place the mixture in a 1 kg loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Lemon and raspberry Madeira cake

Lemon and raspberry Madeira cake topped with lemon buttercream and raspberries

I’m not a huge fan of Madeira cake – I’ve always found it to be rather dry and bland. However, when my friend asked for help in making a fondant-covered Mr Bump cake for her son’s first birthday cake, I knew that it had to be Madeira cake. We needed to make the cake on the Thursday for the party on the Saturday, which meant that the cake needed to last well and the cake needed to be covered in a decent layer of fondant icing. Sponge is too light and can collapse under heavy icing, and Madeira cake tends to last better as well.

Having never made Madeira cake, I decided that I needed to test some recipes in advance. This first recipe is adapted from the BBC Good Food’s Madeira Loaf Cake. When I baked it, I increased the quantities to a 5 egg recipe, however this was huge! Therefore, I have reduced the quantities below to make a 4 egg recipe, which should fit perfectly in a deep 20cm cake tin. I have also added the glycerine to this recipe as it was something suggested in the second Madeira cake recipe that I tried and I think it does help to maintain moisture in the cake.

In order to get a beautifully flat and evenly baked cake, I use my magi-cake strips: these are an investment but they make a huge difference! You soak them in water and then wrap them around the cake tin: this adds an extra layer therefore prevents the edge of the cake from cooking more quickly and drying out. It also prevents the cake from doming and so ensures a nice even top to your cake.

Unfortunately, I underestimated the length of time needed to bake my cake and opened the oven too many times! This meant that the cake ended up sunken in the middle. I managed to hide this under a thick layer of buttercream – as you can see from the picture, you would never know!

To cut cakes in half, I would hugely recommend a cake-cutting wire: this is a lot easier than trying to use a knife!

Overall, I wasn’t sure about this cake – EHH and I both felt that it was still a little dry. However, EHH took it into work and they loved it! Several of his colleagues claimed that it was the best cake that I have ever made!

Lemon and raspberry Madeira cake

  1. 235g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  2. 235g golden caster sugar
  3. 4 large eggs
  4. Grated zest 2 lemons
  5. Few drops vanilla extract
  6. 1 tsp glycerine
  7. 265g self-raising flour
  8. 65g ground almonds

Buttercream icing:
  1. 110g butter, at room temperature
  2. 500g icing sugar, sifted
  3. 3 tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

To fill and decorate:
  1. 6 tablespoons raspberry jam
  2. Raspberries
  3. Mint leaves

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170C.
  2. Grease and base-line a 20cm deep round cake tin with baking parchment.
  3. Using an electric whisk or stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and creamy (about 5 minutes of beating).
  4. Beat the eggs together in a separate bowl.
  5. Beat the eggs into the butter/sugar mix, a little at a time, beating well between each addition.
  6. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla.
  7. Fold in the flour and almonds until you have a thick batter. The batter should be loose enough that it falls off a wooden spoon, if it’s too thick mix in a splash of milk.
  8. Tip the batter into the tin and smooth over the top.
  9. Bake for 75 – 100 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cover with foil after about 60 minutes to stop the top from burning.
  10. Remove from the oven then leave to cool for 15 mins then remove from the tin, peel away the paper and leave on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
  11. While the cake is cooling, beat the butter, juice and half of the icing sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth.
  12. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  13. Once the cake is completely cool, cut in half.
  14. Cover one half with raspberry jam.
  15. Cover with the other half and then top with buttercream.
  16. Decorate with the raspberries and mint leaves. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Mary Berry's Florentines

chocolate covered florentines on a plate
I first made these luxurious biscuits a couple of weeks ago. I had a bit of spare time on a wet Sunday afternoon and fancied baking something new. I had never made florentines and had always imagined them to be fairly tricky: I was surprised to find that they are actually fairly quick and easy to make. What is also fantastic about them is that the ingredients are fairly standard stock cupboard items - so easy to whizz up without having to go to the shop!

My recipe comes from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book – except I add a few extra glace cherries, or add stem ginger instead of the glace cherries – which produces delicious florentines!

Randomly, florentines were then the Technical Challenge this week on Great British Bake Off. It was quite handy to hear Mary Berry describe exactly what she was looking for: the thin lattice edges and the crisp crack when you bite into the biscuit.

The trickiest bit of making these florentines is getting the chocolate layer right – cooling the melted chocolate to an appropriate thickness that it can be spread onto the biscuits without dripping through the lattice, and also so that it is thick enough to hold the forked pattern. To make them extra pretty, you can melt some white chocolate and pipe it over the other (non-chocolate-covered) side of the biscuits. Like this, they make lovely presents.

You can vary the nuts / fruit to suit your tastes – as suggested, stem ginger makes a delicious addition. For Christmas, I think that dried cranberries would be lovely.


  1. 50g butter
  2. 50g Demerara sugar
  3. 50g golden syrup
  4. 50g plain flour
  5. 6 glace cherries  / 25g stem ginger – finely chopped
  6. 50g mixed candied peel, finely chopped
  7. 50g mixed nuts, finely chopped
  8. 200g plain chocolate, broken into pieces

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  2. Line 3 baking trays with baking parchment.
  3. Place the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a small pan and heat gently until the butter has melted.
  4. Mix the flour, peel, nuts and stem ginger / cherries in a bowl.
  5. Stir this mix into the saucepan of melted butter/sugar/syrup.
  6. Spoon teaspoons of the mix onto the prepared baking trays and spread out with the back of the teaspoon. Leave plenty of room for the florentines to spread further.
  7. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes until golden brown (turn the trays after 6 minutes if your oven bakes unevenly).
  8. Allow the florentines to cool and harden slightly before moving onto a cooling rack to fully cool.
  9. Melt about 150g chocolate in a glass bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water.
  10. Remove the chocolate from the heat and add the remaining chocolate.
  11. Stir to incorporate the additional chocolate so that it cools and thickens a little.
  12. Use a teaspoon to spoon the chocolate onto the flat side of each florentine and spread out with the back of the teaspoon.
  13. Use a fork to mark a zig-zag pattern into the chocolate.
  14. Leave to cool. 

Monday, 4 August 2014

Rhubarb and custard cupcakes

3 Rhubarb and custard flavoured cupcakes iced to look like tennis balls

Having recently moved my rhubarb into a new position, it has gone crazy! So, as the Wimbledon Ladies’ Final finished disappointing quickly, I had lots of time to try out lots of new recipes to use up my rhubarb!

Having decided to try out a rhubarb and lemon cake, I fancied making something with a Wimbledon theme and so decided on some tennis ball cupcakes. If I were making these for something special, I’d probably have made some more appropriate strawberry and cream flavoured cakes, or maybe even some Pimms flavoured cakes, but as they were just for fun, and I needed to make use of my rhubarb glut, I decided on rhubarb and custard flavoured cupcakes. These also gave me the opportunity to try out my new flavourings from Lakeland.

I followed my standard vanilla cupcake recipe, replacing the vanilla extract with 18 drops of the rhubarb flavouring and filling the cupcakes with rhubarb compote. I replaced the vanilla extract in the buttercream with 15 drops of custard flavouring. The rhubarb flavour did come through gently in the cakes but I think that it could have done with a bit more – I have suggested 20 drops in the recipe below. I’m not completely convinced by the custard flavour – I’m not sure that the custard taste really came through the buttercream – it didn’t taste particularly different to standard vanilla buttercream. I’ll have to try out the flavouring in something else to test this out.

Overall though, I did enjoy these cakes. I wasn’t sure that the grass nozzle (mine came in a set from Lakeland that is incredibly useful!) would give the right effect for the tennis balls, but it worked out pretty well. The cakes tasted good and the slightly sour rhubarb compote was balanced well by the sweet custard buttercream. Will definitely make these again.

Rhubarb and custard cupcakes

  1. 110g butter, at room temperature
  2. 225g golden castor sugar
  3. 2 large eggs
  4. 150g self-raising flour, sifted
  5. 125g plain flour, sifted
  6. 120ml semi-skimmed milk, at room temperature
  7. 20 drops rhubarb flavouring
  8. 300g rhubarb
  9. 1-2 tblsp soft brown sugar

  1. 110g butter, at room temperature and very soft
  2. 500g icing sugar, sifted
  3. 15 drops custard flavouring
  4. 60ml milk
  5. Green and yellow paste food colouring
  6. 100g icing sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 160C.
  2. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy this will take at least 5 minutes with an electric hand mixer – don’t rush this stage).
  4. Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl.
  5. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, a bit at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition. It should result in a lovely light mousse-like mixture.
  6. Combine the two flours in a separate bowl.
  7. Combine the milk and rhubarb flavouring in a jug.
  8. Add one third of the flours to the creamed mixture and stir gently to combine.
  9. Pour in one third of the milk mixture and stir gently.
  10. Continue to add flours and then milk mixture alternately, stirring gently after each addition, until all have been added.
  11. Spoon mixture into the cupcake cases, filling to about 2/3 full (or about 65g each).
  12. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until lightly golden brown. The cakes will spring back lightly when touched, if cooked.
  13. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes, before carefully placing on a wire rack to finish cooling.

While the cakes are in the oven:
  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, milk, vanilla extract and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
  2. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add the green and yellow food colouring until you reach the desired colour.
  4. Put buttercream into a piping bag with a large grass nozzle.
  5. Chop the rhubarb into approx. 2cm slices.
  6. Place in a small saucepan with a splash of water and 1 tblsp soft brown sugar.
  7. Heat gently until the rhubarb is soft.
  8. Strain off any juices through a sieve
  9. Mash the rhubarb gently and add extra soft brown sugar if needed. 

Once cakes are cooked and cooled:
  1. Use a tea spoon to cut a cone out from the centre of the cakes.
  2. Cut the top disk off each cone and retain.
  3. Fill the hole in each cake with a teaspoon of the prepared rhubarb and then replace a cake disk onto each cake to seal the hole.
  4. Pipe short grass-like spikes onto each cupcake until covered.
  5. Leave to firm.
  6. Mix the icing sugar with a small amount of water until it reaches a toothpaste-like consistency.
  7. Place this icing into a piping bag with a small round nozzle.
  8. Use a rounded knife to gently draw on the curves of the tennis ball onto each cupcake.
  9. Pipe over these curves with the white icing.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Tomato tart tatin

Tomato tart tatin

I don’t make many savoury bakes, but this tomato tart tatin is delicious! 

I made this tomato tart tatin for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I was surprised how well it turned out! I had friends and family visiting for the day and wanted to make something tasty to accompany the buffet lunch I was putting together. 

I used a mix of medium tomatoes and cherry tomatoes: de-seeding them all took quite a while – but trust me, the faff is worthwhile! I didn’t really know what I was looking for when cooking the tomatoes, but if you keep an eye on them, you can tell when the tomatoes have softened all the way through. You can chuck all the tomatoes in the pan at the same time, but you will need to take the smaller ones out much before the bigger ones. I expected there to be quite a bit of juice, but there wasn’t very much at all – not sure if this was due to the tomatoes I was using. However, I deglazed the pan with the sugar and vinegar and drizzled these juices over the tomatoes. 

Having watched people bake tart tatins on Great British Bake Off and MasterChef, I fully expected the turning out of the tart to be really difficult! I was very pleasantly surprised to find the tart came out easily and looked really quite pretty! 

Overall, I was really impressed with this tart. It was simple, but a little time-consuming to make, and the completed tart was really delicious – light, crisp pastry topped with sweet and slightly sour tomatoes! It was perfect for a light summer lunch, and would be great as a vegetarian offering at a barbeque, or for a summer picnic. A great idea to use up a glut of home-grown tomatoes!

Tomato tart tatin


  1. 25g butter
  2. Splash of good olive oil
  3. 800g medium and small mixed tomatoes, halved across the middle and seeds roughly scooped out
  4. 1 tbsp light soft brown sugar
  5. 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  6. 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves or oregano, plus extra to serve
  7. 375g block all-butter puff pastry
  8. Plain flour, for dusting


  1. Pre-heat oven to 200C. 
  2. Melt the butter with a splash of olive oil in your widest frying pan. 
  3. Add the tomatoes, skin-side down, in a single layer (you can do this in 2 batches if they won’t all fit) and cook over a low heat until they have softened and have released their juices. 
  4. Lift out with a slotted spoon and rearrange in a tart tin (roughly 23cm), skin-side down – cram them in as they will shrink a little and you don’t want any gaps. 
  5. Add the sugar and vinegar to the pan, and cook until the pan juices are reduced and syrupy. 
  6. Drizzle the juices over the tomatoes in the tin.
  7. Scatter with the oregano or thyme and season.
  8. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to a good 25-26cm round. Lay on top of the tomatoes, and tuck the edges down. Use a fork to prick holes all over the pastry – this will help the steam to escape.
  9. Sit the tart tin on a flat baking tray and bake for 30 mins or until the pastry is golden brown and crisp. 
  10. Let the tart sit for 10 mins, then run a knife round the edge to release the pastry. 
  11. Carefully flip the tart over onto a serving plate or board and scatter with more herbs to serve.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Carrot cupcakes with orange buttercream

11 carrot cupcakes topped with a swirl of orange buttercream

It’s been a busy couple of months with lots of friends and family visiting! I made these carrot cupcakes about a month ago, when some friends were visiting on their way down from Leeds to Cornwall. I fancied making these as I haven’t made them for ages – they are a fairly quick and easy cake to make but they taste delicious.

The recipe comes from my “go to” Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery book. I’ve made them before and they work brilliantly well with the orange cream cheese icing in the book, however, they then need to be kept in the fridge. As my friends were travelling onwards, I wanted to give them some for their holiday and so I stuck with a simple orange buttercream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

The recipe is simple and these are a very reliable bake. The mixture is a lot runnier than most cake mixtures, but don’t be alarmed by this. If you have time before you start baking, soak the raisins in a mixture of boiling water, orange juice and a bit of cinnamon and they will plump up beautifully.  The recipe calls for 130g raisins, but I usually chuck a few more in.

Carrot cupcakes with orange buttercream

    Carrot cupcake with a swirl of orange buttercream
  1. 225g carrots, peeled and trimmed
  2. 130g raisins
  3. 2 large eggs
  4. 130g caster sugar
  5. 120ml corn oil
  6. ½ tsp vanilla extract
  7. Grated zest of 1 orange
  8. 120g plain flour
  9. 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  10. Pinch of salt
  11. 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Orange buttercream
  1. 115g butter, at room temperature
  2. 500g icing sugar, sifted
  3. 4 tblsp freshly squeezed orange juice

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
  2. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  3. Finely grate the carrots and drain off any liquid.
  4. Combine the grated carrot with the raisins in a large bowl and set to one side.
  5. Using a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together for several minutes.
  6. Add the oil, vanilla and orange zest and beat well.
  7. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon together in another bowl.
  8. Gradually add these ingredients to the egg and sugar mixture, folding carefully after each addition.
  9. Pour this mixture into the bowl containing the carrots and raisins and mix with a wooden spoon until evenly distributed.
  10. Carefully spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases, filling them to about two-thirds full.
  11. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the cakes bounce back when touched.
  12. Remove from the oven and leave the cakes in the tin for about ten minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.
  13. To make the buttercream, beat the butter, juice and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
  14. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  15. Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag topped with a Wilton 1M piping nozzle.
  16. Once the cakes have cooled, pipe a swirl of buttercream onto the cakes and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.