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Poppies for Remembrance

16 Nov

Every year my school commemorates past conflicts on Remembrance Day by inviting “Old Boys” to join our pupils in a service of remembrance, after which they enjoy tea and cake – hosted by me. I confess this is one of my favourite events in the school calendar. It is so lovely chatting to the old chaps, and so delightful seeing them interact with our young boys and girls.

For this year’s tea I decided to make a large chocolate cake decorated as a wreath of poppies. It took much of the weekend before the big day to roll out the red sugar paste and cut the flowers, but ably assisted by my sister Jenny, we managed to create dozens of poppies – enough for one large cake as well as two dozen cup cakes.


To get the poppy shape I overlaid two four-petal flowers, then used a slice of licorice to make the black centre. A little green sugar paste was also rolled to make a few leaves – these were cut free-hand to give the cake a fairly “natural” appearance.

I iced the cake with a vanilla butter cream in rose-like swirls, then started to apply the poppies.


Here’s a close up of the poppies.



The finished cupcakes and the large chocolate wreath cake .



I was very happy with my finished cake…





…and so were our guests ūüôā




A Gluten-free Cake for my Cuz :-)

15 May

When my¬†lovely¬† cousin comes to visit my attention turns to flourless cakes as she is unable to eat gluten. Having previously made a gluten free lemon cake (using polenta) I was more than happy to find this recipe for an almond and orange cake. Citrus flavours are just so yum! This is not my own recipe – it comes from a rather wonderful book called “Polpo” which features recipes from Venice.



2 large oranges
100 g brown sugar
400 g caster sugar
6 medium free range eggs
250 g ground almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
zest and juice of one orange


Preheat the oven t 180 C and grease and line a large round springform tin.

  1. Plcae the two oranges, unpeeled, in a large pan of water and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for two hours then remove the oranges and leave to cool. Reserve the liquid. (I did this the evening before I made the cake)
  2. Place the brown sugar and 200 g of the caster sugar in a food processor and break in the eggs. Whizz until creamy and fluffy.
  3. Cut the cooled ranges into rough chunks, remove the pips but not the skin, then add them to the food processor and continue to whizz until smooth.
  4. Add the ground almonds and the baking powder and whizz to combine.
  5. Pour the smooth mixture into the prepared ti and bake for 1 – 11/2 hours until golden and risen, Test with a skewer in the centre of the cake to see if it is done.
  6. While the cake cools, mix the remaining 200 g of caster sugar with the juice and rind on the third orange and pour over the cake.

A delicious cake with coffee, enjoyed by one and all! Cin cin Cuz!


Pecan and Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies!

6 May



OH WOW! Talk about overkill. These awesomely gorgeous brownies are the cover stars on this month’s Sainsbury’s magazine and I couldn’t wait to have a go at making them. Unfortunately I didn’t have any white chocolate – a crucial ingredient! – so I¬†decided¬†to make up the weight with pecan nuts instead. This added a delicious crunch to these moistly decadent brownies. So here’s the original recipe with my variations alongside


100g very dark chocolate
100g soft butter
200g light muscovado sugar (I used 100g with another 100g dark brown sugar)
2 large eggs lightly beaten
100g plain flour
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped (I used 100g roughly chopped pecans)
150g raspberries

For the cheesecake mixture

1 large egg
200g cream cheese
50g granulated sugar (I used golden caster sugar – I just prefer it)
1 tablespoon plain flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line an 18cm square cake tin. (I used a smallish rectangular brownie tin)
  2. Melt the dark chocolate over barely simmering water or in the microwave and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer. Add the eggs a little at a time and continue mixing. Add the flour and the melted chocolate and beat gently to combine.
  4. Fold in the chopped white chocolate (or, if you;re me, the pecans!) and 125g of the raspberries.
  5. In a large bowl place all the cheesecake ingredients and whisk together.
  6. Now spoon out half of the brownie mixture into the prepared tin and spread it out evenly.
  7. Add half the cheesecake mixture to the brownie base in blobs. gently swirl together using a skewer.
  8. Spread over the remaining brownie mixture, then swirl in the rest of the cheesecake mixture.
  9. Bake the brownies for 50 minutes. Leave to cool in the tin before cutting into squares. Decorate with the remaining raspberries.


This recipe is from the May 2013 edition of the Sainsbury’s magazine and is not my original idea.




13 Apr

Mmmmm Biscotti. So divinely delicious and so simple to make. And guaranteed to win loads of praise from non-baking friends who won’t believe something this fabulous is so easy to rustle up. With a spare hour or two and some very basic store cupboard ingredients, you’ll be able to produce¬†Biscotti¬†as pretty as the sort they sell for a fortune in the shops.


First of all a little¬†history¬†lesson. These Italian biscuits take their name from “biscotto” which¬†literally¬†means to bake twice. Because that’s exactly what you do – you bake them twice. Dried out biscuits such as these were used by the Ancient Romans because they stayed crunchy and tasty for a long time, and can be enjoyed dunked in a little wine or coffee. If it was good enough for the Ancient Romans, well then it’s good enough for me.

My version is quite¬†chocolatey (of course) with the added crunch of walnuts and pecans. Actually you can use any nuts you like – pistachios are particularly good – but as I didn’t have enough of either I used a combination.

Preheat the oven to 160 C

Line two baking sheets with non-stick baking paper or silicone sheets


250 g plain flour
250 g caster sugar
half teaspoon baking powder
1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder
3 medium eggs, beaten
50 g plain chocolate chips
50 g mixed walnuts/pecans or almonds or pistachios


Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl.

20130412_160347Work through with your fingertips to break up lumps in the sugar.

Now pour in the beaten egg, a little at a time, and mix together until you have a really stiff dough.


Add the chocolate chips and the nuts and mix through thoroughly.


It will be quite stiff and dry and bitty – don’t worry, that’s fine.

Divide the dough into four and shape into sausage shapes on a floured surface.

Place these on the baking sheets.

Pop them in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes.


Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about fifteen minutes.


Now they are cool enough to handle. Using a sharp, serrated knife, carefully cut chunky slices on the diagonal.


Place these slices back on the baking trays and back into the oven for a further twenty minutes.

Half way through this second baking, turn the Biscotti over to help them dry out completely.

After the second¬†baking¬†leave the¬†Biscotti¬†to cool on a wire rack, and that’s it.


You can store them in an airtight tin for several weeks. Enjoy them with a glass of sweet wine, a nice espresso and sunshine:-)


1 Apr

If you want to impress your guests look no further than this¬†embarrassingly¬†easy Baklava recipe ūüėČ

It has the look and the flavour of the authentic stuff and I promise you it is really easy to make. Only you need to set aside some time, don’t rush it.

250 g filo pastry (find it in the chiller cabinets of larger supermarkets Рabout £1.50 for this quantity)
100 g shelled pistachio nuts
100 g walnuts
250 g butter (you may need more)
250 g caster sugar
cinnamon, rose water, vanilla pod Рall these are optional but can be used to add a lovely fragrance
juice of half a lemon


Place the¬†nuts¬†in a food¬†processor¬†and blitz until chopped. You don’t want them too finely¬†ground. Alternatilvely, place in a freezer bag and bash the daylights out of them with a rolling pin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHeat the oven to 180 C.

Place  the butter in a microwaveable dish and  microwave until melted.

Unroll the filo and cut the sheets in half. Brush a square oven proof dish or tin with butter and place one sheet of filo on the base, folding it to fit.


Brush this sheet with more melted butter.


Continue brushing and folding until half the pack of filo is used up.


Now sprinkle on the chopped nuts and spread across the filo in a flat, dense layer.


Continue as before with the filo and melted butter until you have used it all.



Take a very sharp knife and carefully score diamond shapes int the pastry  Do this by first scoring straight parallel lines, then diagonal lines.



Pop the baklava into the oven for 30 to 50 minutes depending on your oven. Keep an eye on it. It will puff up a little and turn golden. Remove from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, make the syrup.

Place the sugar in a saucepan with 250 ml tap water and the juice of half a lemon. Add a few drops of rose water or a sprinkle of cinnamon or a vanilla pod if you wish. Or all of these flavourings together Рwhy not? Bring to the boil and leave to bubble gently for about fifteen minutes until thickened and syrupy.



Pour the syrup over the Baklava and leave to set. Enjoy cut into tiny diamonds with a cup of strong coffee.








A challenge – Toblerone Cake!

1 Apr

The challenge was – Can you make a giant Toblerone cake? ¬†Challenge accepted ūüôā Here it is…


This is how I went about it.

Firstly I made a dense chocolate loaf cake.


75 g softened butter
175 g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
140 g self raising flour
85 g ground almonds
100 ml milk
4 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder
50 g chopped nougat
50 g slivered almonds
50 g dark chocolate chips


  1. Heat the oven to 180 C and grease and line a 900 g loaf tin (2 lb size)
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients except the almonds, nougat and choc chips.
  4. When nicely combined stir in the remaining ingredients.
  5. Scrape into the tin and bake until risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  6. Leave in the tin to cool completely on a wire rack.
  7. Wrap in cling film (around the tine as well) and pop into the freezer for about four hours. This makes the cake easier to cut to shape.


When the cake has firmed up remove from the tin and remove the paper. Slice the top flat and turn upside down. ¬†Now using a sharp, serrated knife,¬†carefully¬†carve down both of the long sides to create a Toblerone shape. Don’t go all the way to the bottom – it needs a “platform” to sit on.

Now cut straight down at 2 cm intervals to create the typical chunks of a Tolerone bar. Gently remove the bits you cut out – again don’t go all the way down. You don’t¬†want¬†to separate the pieces from the base. The bits you cut oout will be eaten quite quickly by ravenous on-lookers…

One you’re happy with the shape, melt a large slab of milk chocolate cake covering and pour it all over the top. Use a pastry brush to scrape up the puddles and keep topping it up until the cake is completely covered. Leave it to set.

20130329_162813Cut around the base to remove the cake from the chocolate puddle and give it a nice straight edge. Place on a serving platter.

You¬†could stop now or you could do what I did and go a bit mad. I copied the Toblerone logo onto some¬†light yellow¬†card to¬†make¬†a giant box and placed it so that the cake appeared to have come out of the box. ¬†It looked particularly cute when I placed a “real” Toblerone alongside ūüôā





24 Mar

This time the challenge came from my younger son, Peter, who dreamed up the idea of the  ultimate combination of all his favourite things in one cake. Bannoffee pie meets cheesecake meets Nutella. What could I do? Obviously it had to be attempted.




After three months of not baking or even eating anything cake-like I wasn’t even tempted to lick out the bowl or my fingers as I proceeded, so I’m pleased¬†with¬†myself¬†twice over. Firstly for accepting and¬†executing¬†the challenge, and secondly for having one small¬†slice¬†of the¬†finished¬†product¬†and not feeling inclined to pig¬†out¬†on any more.

To make this overindulgent concoction I started with a biscuit base, using about twenty amaretti biscuits, finely¬†crushed¬†and mixed with 50g melted butter. Spread this onto the base of a 23 cm round springform tin and bake for about ten minutes at 180 C to set and crisp up the base. Here’s a little tip – wet your hands under cold running water, shake off the excess then use your cool, damp hands to spread and flatten the biscuit crumbs. Much¬†easier¬†than the back of¬†a¬†spoon.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes while you prepare the cheesecake filling.

Place 500 g  of Philadelphia (or similar cream cheese) into a blender along with a big blob (about 100 g ) of Nutella, three eggs, 170 ml soured cream, 3 Tablespoons self-raising flour and 175 g golden aster sugar, and whizz until smoothly blended.


When the base is cool. slice 2 large bananas and place on top of the crumb base.



Then spread half a tin of caramel over the bananas. Keep the remaining half to use later.



Now pour on the smoothly delicious cheesecake mixture. it will be rather runny at this stage. Carefully place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Keep an eye on it. You want it too be set in the middle but not dried out.


Leave to cool on a wire rack.  Make sure it is completely cool (I left mine overnight) before decorating . Spread the remaining half tin of caramel on top of the cooled cake. Swirl in a bit of Nutella if you wish, or just finish with a big blob of the stuff. Slice another large banana, sprinkle it with lemon juice to preserve its colour, and use the slices to decorate the top of your cheesecake.

Probably best eaten on the day. I’m not sure how¬†well¬†this will keep – it will probably go a bit gooey. It’s rich and decadent and a little goes a long way, but my sons and their friends gave it the thumbs up, and that’s all that matters.



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