Sunday, 31 December 2017

Ninjabread Christmas Cake

Ninjabread Christmas Cake

So, a few months ago, I made two Christmas cakes (see the recipe for the cake here) - one 20cm, and one 15cm cake. For the 15cm cake, I halved the recipe, which results in a smaller but deeper cake. This was fed with brandy as with the 20cm cake. Around a week before Christmas, it was time to cover the cake. I then finished decorating the cake on Christmas Eve. Now I know I'm no expert when it comes to fondant work, so I decided to keep the design fairly simple. Firstly I covered the cakes with marzipan and white fondant. Then I added some royal icing decorations and gingerbread men. There's a more detailed recipe/guide below :)


2 Christmas cakes (one 20cm and one 15cm) - see linked recipe above

For the royal icing:

  • 225g (1 cup) icing sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp glycerine

For the gingerbread:

  • 95g (2/3 cup) butter or margarine
  • 75g (2/5 cup) dark soft brown sugar
  • 40g (1 & 1/2 tbsp) golden syrup
  • 225g (1 & 1/2 cups) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


  • 500g ready to roll marzipan
  • 500g ready to roll white fondant
  • 75g ready to roll purple fondant
  • 1-2tbsp sieved apricot jam
  • Icing sugar, for dusting
  • Concentrated green gel food colouring (mine was Leaf green from Wilton)


1. A week before Christmas, the cake needs to be covered with marzipan and fondant. Lightly dust a work surface with icing sugar and roll out 1/3 of the marzipan to a circle roughly 25cm in diameter - this should be enough to cover the top and sides of the 15cm cake. Try to get the marzipan 2-3mm thick. 

2. Brush the 15cm cake lightly with the sieved apricot jam. This acts as an adhesive to the cake, letting the marzipan stick. 

3. Transfer the marzipan onto the sponge, and gently smooth down the tops and sides of the cake - try to be as smooth as possible. However, the odd rip doesn't really matter as it will be covered with fondant. After smoothing down the sides (using your hands or you could use a fondant smoother), trim off the excess fondant from the base.

4. Roll out the remaining marzipan to a circle around 30cm in diameter. As with the 15cm cake, brush the 20cm cake with apricot jam and transfer the marzipan onto the cake. Gently smooth the top and sides. Try to get the top as level as possible (as this is where the 15cm cake will sit). 

5. Place some cling film on your surface (enough to fit a 25cm circle of fondant), then dust with more icing sugar, and then roll out 1/3 of the white fondant to a 25cm circle. Keep the fondant 3-4mm thickness to help prevent rips. 

6. Brush the surface of the 15cm cake with a little water, then carefully transfer the fondant to the cake. The easiest way to do this is pick up the clingfilm holding the fondant, and then flip this onto the cake. Whilst the clingfilm is stuck to the fondant, smooth your hands over the top and sides. Then remove the clingfilm - this helps me at least to get a smoother finish/the chance of ripping seems less.

7. Repeat for the 20cm cake with the remaining fondant. Roll 1/2 of the purple fondant out to a long rectangle (around 50cm in length and 2cm in width). Cut into a neat 1cm thick rectangle. Lightly brush the base of the 15cm cake with a little water, then transfer these ribbon across. Roll the remaining purple fondant to a long rectangle about 60cm in length and 1.5cm in width, and gain cut into a neat 1cm thick rectangle. Transfer to the base of the 20cm cake.

8. Stack the 15cm cake on top of the 20cm cake, then set aside for 3-4 days for the fondant to firm up.

9. A few days before/on Christmas Eve, begin the other decorations. To make the gingerbread, preheat your oven to 200c (180c fan)/400f/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of a baking tray with baking parchment.

10. Melt the butter, sugar, and golden syrup together in a saucepan, stirring regularly until the butter has melted. Set aside for a few minutes to cool.

11. In a mixing bowl, sieve together the plain flour, ground ginger, ground cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda. Make a well in the centre and pour in the melted butter/sugar/syrup. Beat until you have a warm dough.

12. Dust your surface with a little plain flour, and then roll the gingerbread out until it is about 3/4cm/1/2 inch thick. Use gingerbread men cookie cutters (I had some funny "ninjabread" ones I used) to neatly make the gingerbread men, Depending on the size of the cutters, you should get between 6 and 12 men with the dough. My cutters were about 6cm tall.

13. Bake the gingerbread men for around 8 minutes, until the biscuits have become slightly more golden. Set aside to cool.

14. To make the royal icing, tip the egg whites into a grease-free bowl and whisk briefly until they have become frothy. Add the icing sugar a tablespoon at a time, and whisk after each addition. If you have a stand mixer (with the whisk attachment), you can leave it running whilst you add the icing sugar.

15. Add the lemon juice and glycerine, then whisk until the mixture forms stiff, glossy, white peaks. 

16. Take 1/3 of the mixture and set aside in a bowl. Dip a cocktail stick in the green food colouring and use this to colour this royal icing. Beat well to evenly distribute the colour.

17. Place a "Grass piping nozzle" (Wilton nozzle 233) in a piping bag and fill the bag with the green royal icing. Snip the tip off the bag, then pipe vertically downwards on the 20cm cake top (around the 15cm cake). Stand your gingerbread men up in the "grass".

233 Piping nozzle
Grass piping nozzle/Wilton 233
18. Place a 1M piping nozzle (open star) into another piping bag and fill this with the white royal icing. Pipe swirls over the top of the 15cm cake. Leave to firm up.

1M piping nozzle
1M Open Star piping nozzle

19. Enjoy!

Ninjabread Christmas Cake

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Thursday, 28 December 2017

Mulled Wine Marshmallows

These marshmallows are my newest creation. Firstly, there's no alcohol in them - instead, I infused grape juice with all the spices in mulled wine, and used this in the marshmallow mix. The resulting marshmallows had a lovely tang of grape with undertones of cinnamon and cloves. Pretty delicious, even if I do say so myself. I gave them away as part of a Christmas hamper, and they'll keep for one to two weeks if kept in an airtight container.
As for all of my marshmallows, these are egg-free. I find powdered gelatine works far better to create the perfect marshmallow.

If you like these, try out my other marshmallow recipes:

Makes 24 large marshmallows


For the non-alcoholic mulled wine:

  • 250ml (1 cup) grape juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 slice of orange (peel and all)
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 star anise
For the marshmallows:
  • 2 x 12g sachets gelatine powder
  • 450g (3 cups) caster sugar
  • 150ml (2/3 cup) golden syrup
  • 150ml (2/3 cup) water
  • 50g (1/2 cup) icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • Purple concentrated gel food colouring (optional)


1. First, make the grape infusion. Pour the grape juice into a saucepan and add all of the spices. Bring to the boil, then gently simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the grape juice has reduced to 120ml (if it over reduces, don't worry. Simply top up with more grape juice).

2. Grease a 20cm square tray/tin (I find a silicon tray works best) lightly with a flavourless oil.

3. Pour the infused grape juice through a sieve into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with the sachets of powdered gelatine and stir briefly. Leave for 5-10 minutes for the gelatine to absorb the juice (it will become very thick).

4. Pour the golden syrup, caster sugar and water into a medium saucepan and slowly heat (keeping the heat low), stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved.

5. Turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a boil. Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 130C/ 266F. Remove from the heat for a few minutes (just until it has stopped boiling).

6. Start whisking the gelatine mixture in the mixing bowl (using an electric whisk or in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment). Slowly and carefully, pour the hot sugar syrup onto the gelatine mixture, whisking constantly. The mixture will steadily grow in volume and become paler in colour.

7. Once all of the sugar syrup has been added, keep whisking for 5 to 10 minutes, until the bowl just feels warm to the touch. I find that if using an electric whisk, I whisk until the marshmallow is so thick I can't whisk the mixture anymore even on the highest power setting. The marshmallow will be very thick and sticky.

If you want the marshmallows to be vibrant and purple, dip a cocktail stick in the purple gel food colouring and dip this in the marshmallows. Whisk in to combine. I didn't do this so my marshmallows are a very light purple. Up to you.

8. In a small bowl, sieve together the cornflour and icing sugar.  Sprinkle half of this on the base of the lined square tub.

9. Lightly oil a spatula and use this to transfer the marshmallow into the container. Leave to set at room temperature for at least 6 hours (you want it really firm before you slice it!) - ideally, leave it overnight.

10. Once set, sprinkle the remaining of the icing sugar/cornflour onto a chopping board, and tip the marshmallow out onto this board.

11. Dip a sharp knife in hot water, dry, then slice the marshmallow into 24 pieces. After each cut, repeat the dipping and drying - this will give the cleanest slices.

12. Turn the marshmallow squares in any spare icing sugar/cornflour, so that all sides are covered.

13. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Mince Pie Baklava

Merry Christmas everyone! Do you want a funky variation to the traditional mince pie? This year, I got experimental and tried baking a baklava with a mincemeat filling. The result was delicious - crisp layers of filo, with the honey stickiness of baklava and lovely almondy mincemeat layers. It was a bit hit, and much less fiddly than rolling out shortcrust pastry to the perfect thickness and worrying about soggy bottoms.

Mades one 20cm square baklava (cuts into 20-24 pieces)


  • 100g (7/8 cup) ground almonds
  • 100g (2/3 cup) mixed nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios - whatever your preference really), chopped roughly
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 (411g) jar of mincemeat
  • 1 pack (270g) of filo pastry, divided into two squares
  • 100g (7 tbsp) butter, melted
  • 150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 190ml (4/5 cup) water
  • 6 tbsp honey
  • 1 large piece of lemon peel


1. Preheat your oven to 180c (160c fan)/ 355f/ gas mark 4. Grease the base and sides of a 20cm square cake tin (I used a silicon-based one, but a standard cake tin should work fine, provided the sides are at least 5cm deep).

2. Make the mincemeat filling by tipping the mincemeat into a mixing bowl. Add the ground almonds, mixed nuts, orange zest and ground cinnamon and beat until the nuts are well distributed and you can no longer see any more ground almonds.

3. Place the first square of filo into the cake tin and brush over some of the melted butter (using a silicon/pastry brush). Cover with the next filo square, and brush butter on top of this layer. Repeat this layering until you have used half of the filo sheets (i.e. half of the pack of pastry).

4. Smooth over half of the mincemeat mixture as evenly as possible. Top with a filo square, brush with butter, then repeat this layering with 3 more sheets.

5. Add the rest of the mincemeat filling, and spread this over the pastry. Top with the next filo sheet, brush with butter and repeat this layering of filo sheets/butter until you have used up all of the pastry. Brush the top layer with butter.

6. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden and crisp.

7. Whilst baking, make the syrup by pouring the sugar and water into a saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Once dissolved add the honey and lemon peel, and bring the mixture to the boil.

8. Boil the mixture for 10-15 minutes until it has thickened and is syrupy. Remove the lemon peel.

9. As soon as you take the baklava out of the oven, pour over the syrup, making sure to cover all of the baklava. Leave to cool.

10. Slice and enjoy!

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Sunday, 17 December 2017

Murzynek (Polish Chocolate Cake)

murzynek - polish chocolate cake

Here's another Polish bake I tried out last week. I had baked this around 4 years ago for a Polish friend's birthday, but then had completely forgotten about it! This chocolate cake has a deep chocolatey taste, which isn't too bitter, and the glaze is simply some of the cake mixture (before you've added the eggs or flour). Sounds weird but it really tastes fabulous and stays moist for days after baking. Perfect with a cup of tea and alongside other Polish cakes (like my makowiec).

Makes 1 20cm cake (easily serves 10)


  • 250g softened butter (or margarine)
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder (the highest quality you can afford)
  • 1 tbsp hazelnut spread (I made my own by melting down some milk chocolate and adding roasted ground hazelnuts, but Nutella would be a much simpler option)
  • 300g (1 & 1/2 cups) caster sugar
  • 105ml (7 tbsp) water
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 190g (1 & 1/2 cups) self-raising flour


1. Preheat your oven to 180c (160c fan)/ 355f/gas mark 4. Grease the base of a 20cm circular cake tin and dust with flour.

2. Melt the butter, cocoa powder, hazelnut spread, sugar and water together in a large saucepan, stirring regularly until all of the butter has melted. The mixture should look like a glossy chocolate sauce.

3. Take 100ml (3/4 cup) of the mixture and set aside. That will be the glaze!

4. Pour the remaining mixture into a mixing bowl and set aside for 10 minutes to cool.

5. In a grease-free bowl, whisk the three egg whites with an electric hand whisk until stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted from the mixture.

6. Once the chocolate mixture is cool to the touch, add the egg yolks, and whisk in. Sift over one-third of the flour, and gently fold in. Once no more flour can be seen, add a third of the egg whites and fold this in. Repeat with the second third of the flour, and so on, until you have used up all of the egg white and flour.

7. Pour into the prepared tin, and bake for 40-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

8. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

9. Once cool, pour over the chocolate mixture reserved from earlier. If it has thickened too much, place in the microwave for a few seconds to loosen the mix, then pour over the cake.

10. Enjoy!

murzynek - polish chocolate cake

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Saturday, 16 December 2017

Makowiec (Polish Poppy Seed Cake)

Makowiec Poppy Seed Couronne

Makowiec Poppy Seed Couronne Slice

The Christmas bake-a-thon has begun and I've been fairly overwhelmed practising my bakes for both my boyfriend's and my families. This bake is for my boyfriend's family. I adore Polish baking, and I honestly think it's not appreciated well enough in the UK. This poppy seed cake is a delight - a sweet (but not overly sugary) bread (although it's called a cake, it is bread, odd but yummy) dough, filled with a sweetened poppy seed paste with walnuts, raisins, and homemade candied orange and lemon peel. It's served at Christmas, so it's a perfect bake for me to test my bread-making skills and bake something different for the holiday season.

Traditionally this is served as a log, with swirls of filling inside. This is delicious, however, I decided to take a step away from tradition and shaped my bread like a couronne, which is like a crown where the filling sort of spills out of the bread. I've seen it done before with apricot fillings and the like, so I figured, why not try it with this bread.

I think it turned out pretty well - the only step I now wish I'd taken would be to brush a little sieved apricot jam over the bread after it comes out of the oven - this would give the bread a lovely shine.

Makes 1 large couronne


For the bread:

  • 7g pack of dried fast-action yeast
  • 30g (2 tbsp) caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 160g (1 & 1/3 cups) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 tbsp vodka (I used a lovely Polish vodka called zoladkowa gorzka, but any should work fine)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract/paste
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 60ml milk (1/4 cup) (I used skimmed milk), lukewarm
  • 50g butter (1/4 cup) - melted then cooled until it is lukewarm

For the filling:

  • 160g (1 & 1/3 cups) poppy seeds
  • 60g (1/3 cup) light soft brown sugar
  • 75g (1/2 cup) raisins/sultanas
  • 50g (1/2 cup) chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsp honey/maple syrup
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp softened butter
  • 50g (1/2 cup) candied oranges/lemons (see below)
  • 2 egg whites

For the candied oranges and lemons:

  • 1 large orange
  • 1 lemon
  • 100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 100ml (2/5 cup) water
To finish:

  • 50g (3 tbsp) apricot jam, boiled, then sieved


1. Firstly, make the dough as it needs a long time to prove. Sift the plain flour into a large bowl. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl, and the yeast to the opposite side. Briefly, stir.

2. Make a well in the centre of the flour, and add the vodka, lukewarm milk, vanilla, and egg yolks. Bring the dough together. If it is very sticky add a little more flour. The dough should slightly stick to your hands but should be manageable.

3.  If you have a stand mixer at this stage, use the dough hook attachment to work the dough for 6 - 8 minutes, until it is smooth and bounces back when lightly pressed.
If you're working the dough by hand, knead the dough for 8-10 minutes.

4. Slowly pour over the lukewarm butter and knead until the butter has all been incorporated.

5. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly greased bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave for at least 4 hours, until it has doubled in size.

6. Meanwhile, prepare the candied oranges and lemons. Wash the orange and lemon under hot water (in case they have a wax covering), then slice as thinly as possible.

7. Place the orange and lemon slices in a saucepan and cover with the sugar and water. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 - 15 minutes, until the white pith is starting to turn translucent.

8. Remove the slices from the syrup and leave to dry on greaseproof paper.

9. To make the poppy seed filling, pour the poppy seeds into a large bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. Set aside until the water has completely cooled down.

10. Drain the poppy seeds well, then place in a blender (or use a pestle and mortar). Blitz/grind briefly to break down the seeds. Pour into a large bowl and add the brown sugar, raisins/sultanas, almond extract, honey/maple syrup, cinnamon and softened butter, and beat well.

11. Chop the candied orange and lemon slices finely, and add 50g to the poppy seed mix. Stir to incorporate.

12. Whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted from the bowl. Fold into the poppy seed mixture.

13. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn out onto lightly floured baking parchment. Roll the dough until it is a 35 x 25 cm rectangle. Turn the dough so that the long edge is facing you.

14. Spread over the poppy seed filling, as evenly as possible, leaving 1/2 cm border bare.

15. Roll the dough like a swiss roll (rolling up from the long edge), as tightly as possible.

16. Use a sharp knife to cut down the roll lengthways, leaving a cm or so uncut (imagine a pair of jeans). Twist these "legs" over each over, turning the dough to make a circular crown. Gently press the bottom and top of the dough together to seal.

17. Cover lightly with cling film, and leave for an hour to prove.

18. Preheat the oven to 190c (170c fan)/375f/gas mark 5.

19. Remove the clingfilm and place the baking parchment with the bread onto a baking tray. Cover loosely with another layer of baking parchment (the bread browns very very quickly before the dough is cooked if you don't do this). Bake for 20-25 minutes - until the top is brown and when you lightly press the centre of the couronne, it feels firm.

20. Take out of the oven, and brush over the apricot jam. Leave to cool.

21. Enjoy!

Makowiec Poppy Seed Couronne

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Sunday, 3 December 2017

Hummingbird Cake

Handpainted Hummingbird Cake

I made this cake for my mum's birthday, as she had requested a fruit-filled cake. A Hummingbird cake is, to my understanding, a banana and pineapple cake, with spices like cinnamon and allspice thrown in, and toasted nuts for extra jazz. I've been wanting to make it for a while, but haven't had the opportunity. Now was my chance. I baked her two layers of Hummingbird cake, frosted and filled the cake with a cinnamon buttercream and then covered the cake with fondant. I used the fondant as I wanted to try some "cake art" - using concentrated food colourings (mine are from Wilton), I painted a Hummingbird on top of the cake (as well as some flowers). I'm no artist, so I was so happy when my mum immediately knew what kind of bird I'd attempted (before I'd told her what the cake was).
The cake itself I am told was delicious (I'm allergic to bananas so couldn't give you my opinion!), and it looked and smelled amazing. The spicing gives it an extra dimension of flavour (as well as a slight Christmassy feel because of the cinnamon), and the cake easily serves 12.

Makes one 20cm cake (two layers)


For the cake:

  • 190g (1 & 1/2 cups) chopped walnuts
  • 370g (3 cups) self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed
  • one 200g can crushed pineapple
  • 3 eggs
  • 160ml (2/3 cup) vegetable oil
  • 1 & 3/4 cups (350g) soft light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the buttercream:

  • 200g (7/8 cup) softened butter
  • 400g (4 cups) icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

To finish:

  • 500g ready to roll fondant
  • Concentrated gel food colourings


1. Preheat your oven to 180c (160c fan)/355f/ gas mark 4. Grease the bases of two springform 20cm round cake tins and dust the bottoms and sides of the tin with a little flour.

2. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and pour over the chopped walnuts. Bake for around 5 minutes, until toasted (they'll smell strongly of toasted nuts when they're ready).

3. Pour the toasted walnuts, flour, cinnamon, mixed spice, brown sugar and salt into a bowl and stir briefly (making sure the break up the sugar if there are any lumps).

4. Make a well in the centre of the mixture and pour in the oil and eggs. Beat briefly until evenly distributed.

5. Add the mashed bananas and the pineapple and fold in until evenly distributed. Divide the mixture between the two cake tins.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until lightly springy to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the centre has no uncooked mixture on it (it may be a little wet due to the pineapple). Leave to cool in the cake tins for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

7. For the buttercream, beat the butter until is very soft and spreadable. Sift over half of the icing sugar and 1 tbsp of milk, and beat in. Once you can no longer see any icing sugar, add the other half the icing sugar, the cinnamon and ginger, and beat. If the mixture seems very stiff, add more milk, a teaspoon at a time. It is ready when it is easy to spread, but holds it's shape.

8. To assemble the cake, level both cakes by using a serrated knife to trim off any dome of the baked cake.  Place a tablespoon of buttercream on your serving dish/board.

9. Place your first sponge on the board/dish, pressing down lightly to stick the cake to the board. Top with a third of the buttercream and spread evenly over the top of the sponge.

10. Place the second sponge on top of the first, and press down lightly. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream. Use a palette knife to smooth the tops and sides (this will help when you put the fondant on the cake). Place the cake in the fridge for around 10 minutes.

11. Dust your work surface with icing sugar, and roll the fondant out until it is around 25cm in diameter (and a rough circle). I roll the fondant out on a silicon mat as I find the fondant is less prone to stick to it than my work surface.

12. When ready to cover the cake, take the cake out of the fridge. There are two ways to transfer the fondant. I transferred mine by rolling the fondant over a non-stick rolling pin and then gently moving the rolling pin over the cake (unrolling the fondant over the cake in the process). If you've used a mat, you could also simply flip the mat onto the cake, then unpeel the mat off to reveal the fondant.

13. Quickly but gently, ease the sides of the fondant down over the cake. If you come to a crease, unfold it and lightly press down. If you notice any air bubbles on top of the cake, use a pin to pop them. If you notice air bubbles on the side, gently smooth the fondant down, effectively pressing the air out of the bottom of the cake. You can then use fondant smoothers to smoothen out the sides and top of the cake.

14. Leave the cake to firm up for at least 1 hour. Paint your cake as desired - I used Wilton food colourings and sugarcraft paintbrushes, and just had a go. Have fun with it :)

15. Enjoy!

Handpainted Hummingbird Cake

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Wednesday, 22 November 2017

My Simple but Effective Christmas Cake

On the 26th November, it's Stir up Sunday - your "last" time to bake a Christmas cake or pudding and give it time to mature before Christmas. Although baking last minute works, the maturation does give extra satisfaction (and extra flavour hopefully!). This is the Christmas cake I've baked this year - obviously, it's not decorated yet as it'd be a bit early. However, I'm going to update the post after Christmas with those pictures.
In case any of you aren't aware, the traditional Christmas cake is a heavily fruit filled spiced sponge. It's made in advance and kept moist with brandy. I think there are a lot of lovers and haters of it in the UK, but this recipe tastes great honestly!! Things always taste better when you make them I think :) I've seen Christmas cakes covered with marzipan and fondant icing and eaten after the Christmas dinner, but I've also observed it being left without these coverings and served with cheese.
The recipe is very easy and versatile. The only step to remember is to soak your dried fruit in brandy (or another spirit of your choice if you dislike brandy - whisky or rum would both work well) overnight. This plumps the fruit up nicely to give a moist fruit-filled cake.

I baked this in a 20cm cake tin, but if you'd like a smaller but deeper cake, use a 15cm tin and bake for around 30-45 minutes longer.

Makes 1 20cm cake


  • 800g (4 & 1/2 cups) mixed dried fruit of your choosing (at least 500g should be raisins, sultanas or currants, ideally. I used around 200g of raisins, sultanas and currants, then added 100g dried cranberries, 50g dried figs and 50g mixed peel)
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) brandy
  • 125g (1/2 cup) softened butter or margarine, plus extra for greasing
  • 125g (5/8 cup) dark soft brown sugar
  • 130g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 50g (3/8 cup) ground almonds
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 50g (1/2 cup) flaked almonds
  • 50g (3 tbsp) finely chopped crystallized ginger

1. The day before you want to cook the cake, pour the mixed dried fruit, brandy and crystallized ginger into a large mixing bowl, and stir together briefly. Cover, and leave overnight.

2. Preheat your oven to 160c (140c fan)/320F/gas mark 3. Grease the base and sides of a 20cm circular cake tin with butter. Line the base and sides of the tin with greaseproof paper.

3. Cream the butter/margarine and brown sugar together until they are light and fluffy. In a separate bowl sift the plain flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, ground ginger and mixed spice.

4. Beat the eggs briefly, then add one egg at a time to the butter/sugar mixture, with a tablespoon of the flour. Beat well after each addition. 

5. Pour the remaining flour mixture, salt and ground almonds onto the cake mixture. Fold in until no more flour speckles can be seen. 

6. Add the soaked dried fruit, and flaked almonds onto the cake mixture, and fold in to evenly distribute the fruit.

7. Pour into the prepared tin and level. Bake for 60 minutes. At this point open the oven the door and cover the top of the cake with foil. 

8. Bake for another 30 minutes. At this point, open the oven door and gently press the top of the cake - if cooked it should have a slight spring back. The cake is also cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean (i.e. no cake mixture is on the skewer, it won't be completely dry because of the huge amount of fruit). If the cake isn't cooked yet, close the oven door and check every 10 minutes until fully cooked.

9. Take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Once completely cool, press skewer holes all over the surface of the cake and brush over a tablespoon of brandy. Wrap well in greaseproof paper and store in an airtight container.

10.  Every 2 weeks, brush two tablespoons of brandy over the cake.

About a week before Christmas, you'll want to ice the cake. I'll be writing a post about that nearer to the Christmas (as I haven't done this step yet with this cake!), but until then, follow this guide

11. Enjoy!

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Sunday, 12 November 2017

GBBO 2017 Week 10 - Chickpea Curry Bread rolls

The final of the Great British Bake Off was pretty amazing. For the signature challenge, the bakers had to make various bread rolls, some of which were shaped and others were filled. I was intrigued by kate's chickpea curry filled rolls, as I don't make savoury food often and although I have made bread a fair bit, it's not my speciality.

The bread rolls turned out pretty well, with a well flavoured and structured dough, and a nice mellow curry inside. It reminded my boyfriend of a pasty (but with bread instead of pastry). It'd be great to have on the go, as it's a whole meal in one :) I adapted the curry recipe slightly from Kate's, but was happy with the resulting flavour :).

Makes 4


For the flavoured dough:

  • 500g (4 cups) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 8g salt
  • 40ml (3 tbsp) olive oil or rapeseed oil, plus extra for working
  • About 320ml (1 & 1/3 cups) lukewarm water

For the filling:

  • Oil spray
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 tsp dark soft brown sugar
  • 100g (1 cup) desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 30g (2 tbsp) sultanas
  • 1 x 400g (2 cups) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 240ml (1 cup) coconut milk


1. Make the bread dough by pouring the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the curry powder and salt to the other side. Stir together briefly.

2.  Make a well in the centre of the mixture. Pour the oil into the well and start to work in the flour, using your hand. Gradually add enough lukewarm water to make a soft but not sticky dough.

3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly oiled worktop and knead thoroughly for 10 minutes until the dough is very smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl. Cover tightly with cling film then leave on the worktop to prove and rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.

4. Whilst the dough is proving, make the filling. Spray a few squirts of oil in a deep frying pan and add the chopped onion. Cook gently, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes until the onions are very soft and transparent. Stir in the garlic, turmeric, garam masala, cumin and curry powder and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the brown sugar, coconut, sultanas, chickpeas and coconut milk, then cook over a low heat (stirring frequently) for about 10 minutes until sticky, thick and fairly dry. Taste and add salt and more spices as needed. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and leave to cool.

5. Uncover the bowl of risen dough and punch it down with your knuckles to deflate it. Turn out the dough and divide it into 4 equal portions.

6. Take one portion of dough and flatten it to a thick 17cm disc. Spoon 75g of the cooled filling into a mound in the centre of the disc. Gather up the edges of the disc to cover the filling, and pinch them together like a purse. When thoroughly sealed, turn the dough over so the join is underneath. Gently shape into a neat, round bun with your hands, then flatten lightly. Transfer to the lined baking sheet.

7. Make the other 3 buns in the same way, setting them well apart on the baking sheet to allow for expansion. Cover the remaining filling and set aside. Cover lightly with cling film. Leave on the worktop to prove for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.

8. Towards the end of the rising time, heat the oven to 220°C (200°C fan)/425°F/Gas mark 7. Uncover the buns and bake in the heated oven for about 15 minutes. Rotate the trays, then bake for another 5 minutes until golden.

9. Transfer to a wire rack and cool slightly before serving. Gently reheat the remaining filling and serve in a heatproof bowl alongside the buns.

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GBBO 2017 Week 9 - Orange Custard Craquelin Choux Buns

This post is a few weeks late (sorry!) but on the Semi-final week of the Great British Bake Off, the bakers were challenged with baking two types of choux bun - one which was iced, and another which had a crackly coating on it known as a craquelin. I've made choux eclairs previously (see here), but have never had a go at this funky craquelin. Craquelin is a simple a frozen paste of butter, sugar and flour, which forms a crispy crackled crust on the buns, giving them an extra level of texture and flavour.

I decided to have a go at the craquelin buns Kate made, which were filled with an orange creme patissiere (very thick custard). The craquelin browns very quickly, much quicker than the choux pastry cooks. My craquelin was VERY brown when I took them out of the oven so my recommendation would be to keep a close eye on them after 20 minutes and take them out when they are a deep brown colour (but not black). The buns, however, ended up delicious (even with the crispy bits!), and the creme patissiere was very simple to make - I used duck eggs for extra richness, but you could use hen eggs instead :) The only other change I made was to add extra orange juice to the crème patissiere for an extra orange hit. YUM.

Makes 20


For the craquelin:
  • 60g (1/3 cup) light soft brown sugar
  • 60g (1/2 cup minus 1 tsp) plain flour
  • 55g (1/4 cup) salted butter, very soft

For the choux pastry:
  • 110g (1 cup) plain flour
  • 50g (1/4 cup minus 1 tsp) unsalted butter, diced
  • 100ml (2/5 cup) water
  • 100ml (2/5 cup) full-fat milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon caster sugar
  • 2 medium duck eggs (or 3 medium hen eggs), at room temperature, beaten

For the crème patissiere:
  • 425ml (1 & 4/5 cups) creamy or Jersey milk
  • Finely grated zest 2 large oranges
  • 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
  • 4 duck egg yolks (or 6 medium hen egg yolks), at room temperature
  • 60g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
  • 50g (1/2 cup minus 1 tbsp) cornflour
  • 50g (1/4 cup minus 1 tsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced
  • About 1 teaspoon orange blossom water, to taste OR about 1 tablespoon orange liqueur, to taste


1. First, make the craquelin. Beat the sugar, flour and soft butter together in a bowl to make a soft dough. Spread this out between two sheets of baking paper, to a thickness of about 2-3mm (about the width of a pound coin). Place on a flat shelf in the freezer while you make the choux pastry.

2. To make the choux pastry, preheat your oven to 230°C (210°C fan)/450°F/Gas mark 8. Sift the flour into a bowl and keep to hand. Place the butter, water, milk, salt and sugar into a saucepan and set over a low heat until the butter has completely melted. Once the butter has melted, turn up the heat so the mixture comes to boil then remove the pan from the heat and quickly add the sifted flour all in one go. Rapidly beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until it comes together to make a smooth, glossy dough.

3. Place the saucepan back over a low heat and beat for about a minute until the dough is very thick and forms a ball that leaves the sides of the pan clean.

4. Tip the dough into a heatproof bowl and leave until barely warm. Gradually beat in the eggs, beating well after each addition, to make a very smooth, glossy dough that holds a shape when the whisk is lifted.

5. Transfer the dough to a large piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle and pipe 4cm-wide mounds on the lined baking sheet, setting them well apart to allow for expansion. Dip a finger in some cold water and use this to flatten any peaks on the buns.

6. Remove the craquelin from the freezer, peel off the top sheet of paper and stamp out 3cm discs of dough using the cutter. Place a disc on top of each choux mound.

7. Put the baking sheet into the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 190°C (170°C fan)/375°F/Gas mark 5 and bake for about 20 minutes. Open the oven door and rotate the sheets. Bake for another 5-15 minutes, keeping a close eye for the craquelin not to burn. As soon as the buns are ready, transfer them to a wire rack and make a small hole in the side or base of each bun with the tip of a small knife or skewer. This releases the steam to dry out the buns.

8. Whilst the buns cool, make the crème patissiere. Pour the milk and orange zest into a medium-sized pan, add the grated orange zest and set over a low heat. Whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour in a heatproof bowl briefly until very smooth and light.

9. When the milk is steaming hot, pour slowly into the bowl, whisking constantly. When thoroughly combined, tip the mixture back into the pan and set over a medium heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and is very smooth.

10. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter followed by the orange juice and either the orange blossom water or liqueur to taste. Press clingfilm onto the surface to prevent a skin forming. Leave to cool then chill until ready to assemble.

11. To finish, whisk the crème patissiere to make is smooth and light. Transfer the crème patissiere to a large piping bag fitted with a 7mm plain nozzle and pipe the filling into each choux bun through the steam hole. Arrange on a serving plate and serve as soon as possible.

12. Enjoy!

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Saturday, 4 November 2017

Halloween Spooky Spider Chocolate Orange Cake

This Halloween cake was an incredibly fun bake. The sponge is one of my favourites, flavoured with chocolate and orange. The sponges have whole oranges in them so are packed full of flavour. In total there are three layers of sponge (two chocolate orange sponges, one pure orange sponge), sandwiched and covered with a chocolate orange ganache and fondant.
I then went a bit crazy with the decorations. I used Wilton black food colouring to paint silhouettes of trees and spooky houses, ghosts and bats around the sides of the cake. On top of the cake, I made a white fondant web and a big black fondant spider.
This was the most elaborate fondant cake, and I was pretty happy with the result. Not perfect by any means, but it was enjoyed :)


For the chocolate sponges:

  • 1 orange
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 25g good-quality cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 150g soft light brown sugar
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 225g margarine (or softened butter)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the orange sponge:

  • 1 orange
  • 140g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 110g margarine (or softened butter)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 50g dark chocolate chips

For the ganache:

  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 150g 70% dark chocolate
  • 150g double cream
  • 600ml orange juice (not from concentrate)

For the fondant decorations/to finish:

  • 500g dark purple fondant (I bought mine from Hobbycraft)
  • 100g black fondant
  • 50g white fondant
  • Black gel food colouring
  • Red gel food colouring


1. Preheat the oven to 180C(160C fan)/355F/gas 4. Grease two 20cm tins and dust with flour.

2. Place the 2 whole oranges in a small saucepan, cover with boiling water and simmer until soft, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. 

3. For the chocolate sponge, cut one of the oranges in half and remove any pips. Process the whole orange, including the skin, until smooth. 

4. Cream the margarine with the brown and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, flour, cocoa powder,  baking powder, spices and orange pulp and beat until smooth. 

5. Divide the mixture evenly between the two tins and bake for 25-30 minutes until springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of each sponge comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

6. Make the orange sponge by cutting the remaining orange in two and blending one half. Cream the margarine with the sugar until light and fluffy, then add the remaining ingredients. Beat until smooth.

7. Pour into one 20cm cake tin, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

8. Make the ganache by heating the orange juice in a saucepan until it has reduced to 100ml. This will take about 15 minutes.

9. Pour a few inches of water into a saucepan and place a glass bowl on top, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the surface of the water. Chop the chocolate roughly and pour into the bowl with the cream.

10. Heat the water in the pan, stirring the chocolate often. Once melted, take off the heat and set aside to cool slightly. Add the reduced orange juice and stir well. Leave to cool to room temperature then chill for at least one hour.

11. When ready to assemble, take the ganache out of the fridge to come to room temperature. Briefly, whisk (using an electric whisk if you have one). 

12. Level the tops of the cake. Place a small amount of ganache on a cake board/serving dish. Place the first chocolate sponge on the cake board. Add a third of the ganache to the top of the sponge, and level.

13. Add the orange sponge, and lightly press down onto the ganache. Add the second third of the ganache and top with the remaining chocolate sponge.

14. Use the remaining ganache to cover the top and sides of the cake. This acts as a crumb coat and tastes brill. Place in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to firm up.

15. Roll the purple fondant on a silicon mat (lightly dusted with icing sugar) until it is 2-3mm thick. Carefully transfer on to the cake and gently smooth over. Use fondant smoothers to make the fondant as smooth as possible.

16. To make the web, roll the white fondant out until it is around 3-4mm thick and 15cm wide. Carefully cut out the spider web design with a sharp knife and set aside to dry slightly.

17. Make the black spider by taking a large blob of the black fondant and rolling it into a ball. Stick a smaller sphere of black fondant to the body. Use a fork to ruffle the body up. Use the small ball fondant tool to hollow out some eyes. Place a small ball of white fondant in these hollowed out sections and paint with the red colouring.

18. Use the remaining black fondant to roll out eight legs, about 6cm in length and 1cm in width. Gently bend the legs and dry in this position (I used some bent corrugated card to achieve this). Stick the legs to the body with a little hot water.

19. To finish the cake, place the white web on the top of the cake and top with the spider. Paint trees and houses around the sides of the cake with the black food colouring.

20. Enjoy!

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Spooky Mummy Parkin

Every year Halloween seems to get bigger and bigger in the UK. This year I helped to host a cake sale at my work and decided to bake something fun. At this time of year, treacle is one of my favourite flavours, and so I decided to bake a Parkin with a twist. I layered two parkin sponges with a thin layer of orange buttercream, which cuts through the darkness of the treacle nicely. The mummy decoration is simpler than it looks, and it was really well received. This easily serves 12 people and is perfect on a cold autumnal night.

Serves 12 (at least)


For the Parkin:

  • 300g golden syrup
  • 150g treacle
  • 220g butter
  • 220g soft brown sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting the tins
  • 4 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 150g porridge oats 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp milk

For the buttercream:
  • 150g butter, softened
  • 300g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting the surfaces
  • 1-2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice

To finish:

  • 300g white ready to roll fondant
  • 50g black fondant
  • Purple food colouring


1. Preheat your oven to 140c (130c fan)/285f/gas mark 1. Grease two 20cm springform cake tins lightly and dust with plain flour.

2. Melt the golden syrup, treacle, butter and brown sugar together in a large saucepan, stirring regularly. Once the butter has fully melted, set aside to cool for a few minutes to cool slightly.

3. Sift the flour, ginger, cinnamon,  and mixed spice into a mixing bowl. Pour over the melted syrup/butter, and beat to combine. Add the eggs, milk and porridge oats, and beat briefly.

4. Evenly divide between the two cake tins. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the sides of the cake are coming away from the tin and the top feels firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

5. To make the buttercream, beat the butter until very soft and smooth. Sift over the icing sugar and add 1 tbsp of the orange juice. Beat until the icing sugar has been incorporated, adding more orange juice if it is difficult to stir.

6. To assemble the cake, place a tablespoon of buttercream on your serving tray/cake board. Place the first sponge on the board/tray on top of the buttercream, and press down lightly.

7. Spread half of the buttercream on top of the first sponge and level. Top with the remaining sponge. 

8. Use the remaining buttercream to cover the top and sides of the cake. This acts as a crumb coat, and tastes great! Place in the fridge to firm up for around 15 minutes.

9. Now for the fondant. I'm still a newbie to fondant work, but this is how I made this mummy face. Roll the black fondant out until it is 2-3mm thick. Cut out an oval about 10 x 6cm in size. 

10. Roll the white fondant out to a rough square about 20 x 20cm. Divide into 1-inch strips. 

11. Lay a piece of cling film on a chopping board/ flippaple surface. Place your black oval in the centre of the clingfilm. Start laying strips of the fondant around the black oval to look like bandages. Whenever one piece of fondant would lay over another (like a bandage would), slice one of the pieces of fondant. Place the first half on one side of the second piece. Use the other side of the sliced first piece on the other side of the second piece. This will give the impression that the bandages are running over each other, when in fact they're not! Keep going until you have a rough circle about 21cm. 

12. Colour a few tablespoons of the remaining white fondant purple. Roll out to about 1-2mm thickness and cut out eyes about 1 inch in diameter. Use offcuts of the black fondant to make the pupil and add a dot of white fondant to finish. Stick to the black fondant by dabbing a little water onto the black oval, then press the eyes lightly onto the fondant. 

13. Lightly roll the fondant to help adhere it together then top with clingfilm. Flip the fondant over and remove the base layer of clingfilm.

14. Remove the cake from the fridge. Dip a pastry brush in hot water and lightly dab over the cake, to help the fondant adhere.

15. Flip the fondant back onto the cake. Remove the top layer of clingfilm and fix if needed. I liked the look of some fondant bandages flowing over the cake, so I didn't trim it down.

16. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, 24 October 2017

GBBO 2017 Week 8 - Cumberland Rum Nicky

Cumberland Rum Nicky Slice with Rum Butter

Cumberland Rum Nicky with Rum Butter

This week on the Great British Bake Off was entitled "Forgotten Bakes", which basically meant dishes our Grandparents might remember. The signature challenge was to bake Clangers - suet pastry enclosing sweet AND savoury fillings. My boyfriend vetoed my making this - he said it was too weird...however I will probably go against this at some point for funsies.

The showstopper challenge used elaborate cake moulds to make Victorian centrepieces. As pretty as they were, I wasn't willing to spend up to £50 on a cake tin, so I gave this a miss.

However, the technical challenge was very intriguing. The Cumberland Rum Nicky is, as its name suggests, rum-flavoured. The filling is rum soaked dried fruits (including dates and crystallized ginger, both of which I love!), encased with sweet shortcrust pastry and a pastry lattice. For this lattice, I followed Steven's approach, which I'll do my best to describe! I found it a lot simpler than the classic basketweave approach.

For the pie dish, I used a ceramic pie dish, which was about 20cm across. 

I also made the rum butter traditionally served with this pie. If you love rum, you will love this (it reminds me of buttercream), but it is very alcoholic! If you're not a rum adorer, I'd recommend serving this with some pouring cream or ice cream, if warm. The pie is nevertheless delicious with no extra toppings. It reminded me of a mince pie, with the flavour (but NOT the alcoholic burn) of rum. The pastry held together really well, and it held a nice slice. I will definitely be making this again :) 

Makes one pie


For the filling:
  • 250g (1 &1/2 cups) dried dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 100g (3/5 cup) dried apricots, coarsely chopped
  • 50g (1/3 cup) crystallised ginger, finely chopped
  • 50ml (3 tbsp and 1 tsp) dark rum
  • 50g (1/4 cup - 1 tsp) soft dark brown sugar
  • 50g (1/4 cup) butter, cut into 2cm cubes

For the sweet shortcrust pastry:
  • 200g (1 & 3/5 cups) plain flour
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 100g (1/2 cup minus 2 tsp) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 2cm cubes
  • 1 egg (for the pastry dough) + 1 egg, beaten (to glaze)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp very cold water

For the rum butter:
  • 100g (1/2 cup minus 2 tsp) unsalted softened butter
  • 225g (1 cup plus 1 tsp) soft light brown sugar
  • 75ml (1/3 cup) dark rum

Alternatively, serve the pie with:
  • Custard
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Pouring cream


1. Prepare the filling. Pour the dried dates, apricots, finely chopped crystallized ginger, rum and sugar into a mixing bowl. Stir, then set aside whilst you prepare the pastry. 

2. To make the pastry, stir together the flour and icing sugar in a bowl. Add the diced butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3. Make a well in the centre of the flour, and add the egg, lemon juice and water. Use your hands to work the liquid into the flour, and gently knead the pastry into a ball. Wrap well in cling film and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, to rest the pastry. 

4. Preheat the oven to 180C (fan 160C)/355F/Gas mark 4. Divide the dough into 2 pieces roughly one third and two thirds. Place the one-third of pastry back in the fridge (covered in cling film). Lay out a piece of clingfilm on your surface and dust lightly with flour. Place the two-third piece of dough onto the clingfilm. Cover with another layer of clingfilm, and roll out to about 1/2cm thickness, or until it is big enough to cover the base and sides of a 20cm (or whichever size you're using) pie dish. 

5. Remove the top layer of clingfilm. Flip the pastry into the pie dish, and remove the bottom layer of clingfilm. Use a little excess pastry to gently tease the pastry down into the corners of the tin. Trim off any overhanging pastry. Place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.

6. Spread the filling in the pastry case and dot with butter. 

7. Roll out the remaining pastry until it is around 1/2cm thick, or is big enough to cover the top of the pie. Trim to an even square. To make the basketweave, mark along two opposite sides of the pastry every 2.5cm (1 inch). Hold a ruler between the first two markings, and cut lines 2.5cm (1 inch) long, leaving a 2.5cm (1 inch) gap between the cuts. 

8. Move onto the next two markings, and this time, leave a 1.25cm (1/2 inch) gap before the first cut. Slice lines 2.5cm (1 inch) long, leaving a 2.5cm (1 inch) gap between each cut (so that it is offset against the first row of cuts). For the third set of markings, mark as in step 7 (and so on, alternating the cuts). Once you reach the end, gently tease your hands under the pastry and stretch out the holes, creating the basketweave. 

9. Dampen the rim of the pastry in the tin with a little water, and then invert the lattice from the clingfilm onto the tart. Press the ends of the lattice strips to the pastry rim to secure (I'll admit, mine could have been a bit better at this stage!). I used a little excess pastry to twirl around the rim of the pie, but that isn't necessary. Brush with the beaten egg.

10. Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 160C (fan 140C)/320F/Gas mark 3 and bake for a further 20 minutes.

11.  For the rum butter, use an electric hand whisk to beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Slowly add the rum and beat for at least five minutes (it will still be a bit grainy!), until it is much lighter in colour. 

12. Serve the tart warm or cold, with a spoonful of butter/cream/ice cream.

Cumberland Rum Nicky Slice with Rum Butter

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Saturday, 21 October 2017

GBBO 2017 Week 4 - Stroopwafels

On Week 4 of GBBO, the bakers were challenged with baking stroopwafels - a kind of wafer filled with a deep caramel sauce (they sell them in Starbucks). I've wanted to make these for years, ever since my brother brought me some back from the Netherlands. I had to buy a waffle pan, which was why I didn't make these straight after the show. The one I bought, in case you are interested, is from Lakeland in the UK.

The Waffle maker
When I read Prue's recipe, I was a bit unhappy with her term "pancake syrup", as I had no idea what that was! Therefore I did some digging and read more about the traditional stroopwafel. Although the caramel is a secret recipe, they do say that black treacle is a prime ingredient. Therefore I used this in place of the syrup, and the result was heavenly. If you love parkin or treacle toffee, you will love this caramel.

However, if you want to be more like the Starbucks variety, use golden syrup in place of the treacle.
Unlike when the bakers made this caramel, my caramel didn't turn grainy, which I think was due to using treacle (and golden syrup should have a similar effect to the treacle as well).

These are beautiful, but you will get very warm making them, as you need to hold the lid down. You also need to work quickly when slicing and filling the biscuit/wafer, as it gets hard quickly. Don't worry if you get some leakage, it will still taste fabulous!

Makes 12


For the dough:
  • 300g (2 & 2/5 cup) plain flour
  • 65g (1/3 cup)unsalted butter
  • 5g (1 tsp) dried fast action yeast
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 65g (1/4 cup & 1 tbsp) caster sugar
  • 65ml (1/4 cup) warm water
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt
  • oil, for greasing (I used a spray bottle)

For the caramel:
  • 200g (3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) soft light brown sugar
  • 100g (2/5 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 tbsp black treacle or golden syrup
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract


1. Make the dough, by pouring the flour into a large bowl. Chop the butter into cubes and rub into the flour with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl, and the cinnamon, salt and sugar to the other side and briefly mix to distribute.

2. Add the egg and slowly pour in the warm water, and use your hands to bring the dough together (you may not need all of the water). Knead lightly for 1 -2 minutes, until it forms a ball.

3. Place the dough in a bowl, cover and and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes.

4. To make the caramel, melt the sugar and the butter together in a saucepan over a very low heat, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the cinnamon and treacle and continue to heat and stir until the caramel reduces and becomes sticky enough to be able to spread (don't touch it though as it will be incredibly hot!) Stir in the vanilla extract, then keep warm. If the caramel becomes too cold, simply heat gently to loosen it up and become spreadable again.

5. Weigh out 40g of the dough and roll into a ball. Repeat with the remaining dough (this will make 12 stroopwafels). each. Cover with a damp cloth to prevent them drying out.

6. Heat the wafer/waffle cone machine. Grease the top and bottom plate with a little oil (having oil in a spray bottle makes this very easy). Place one dough ball in the middle of the pan, then set a timer for around 80-90 seconds. Press down the top lid, and bake for 80-90 seconds. Remove from the machine. You want the stroopwafel to be a light golden all over. If it is too brown, for the next biscuit, cook it for 10 seconds less. If too light, cook for 10 seconds more (this is very dependent on your machine, so requires optimization).  

7. Carefully remove the biscuit from the machine (I found this easiest using a spatula). Place on a chopping board, and while the waffle is hot, place a 10cm metal cutter on the dough. Cut around the cutter (or if unlike me, you have a sharp cutter, press down on the cutter to get a very even 10cm circle). Slice horizontally in two and split apart.

8. Spoon over a generous tablespoon of the caramel on the bottom half of the stroopwafel, then top with the top half. Gently press down so that the caramel reaches the edges of the waffle. Place on a wire rack to cool and continue with the rest of the dough.

9. Once cool, Smakelijk!

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GBBO 2017 Week 6 - Blue Cheese, Squash and Spinach Pie

GBBO Blue Cheese, Squash and Spinach Pie

GBBO Blue Cheese, Squash and Spinach Pie Whole

My boyfriend was in charge of making this pie following pastry week on the GBBO. This is his post, so I hope you enjoy it :)

This is based off Sophies four seasons pies from GBBO 2017 but makes one large pie instead of 4 smaller ones. This pie is not quick as a few of the ingredients need to be made separately before being combined. If you are looking for a quick and easy recipe you might prefer this : Game Pie, or Pork Pies with Chicken & Apricot.


For the Pastry:
500g plain flour
quarter teaspoon of salt
250g unsalted butter
3 medium egg yolks
120ml cold water
1 medium egg for glazing

For the Filling:
1 medium butternut squash (approx 600-800g once peeled, de-seeded and cubed)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons honey
10g salted butter
175g creamy blue cheese (e.g. St Agur, Castello Danish blue)
250-300g baby spinach leaves
200g Buckwheat
2 table spoons crème fraiche
salt and pepper

Making the Pastry

1. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, cut the butter into cubes and add it to the bowl. Work the mixture with your hands until the big chunks of butter are gone and the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
2. Add the Egg yolks then trickle in the water whilst mixing. The dough should become soft but not sticky.
3. Flatten the dough into a fat circle, wrap in clingflim and put into the fridge for 15 minutes.
4. Remove the dough from the fridge, cut in half and return half to the fridge to make the top of the pie later.
5. Roll out the dough into a circular shape and place it into the pie dish. The dough should just come over the sides.
6. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (fan oven), whilst it is heating up cut a disc of grease proof paper and place it into the pie dish. Add some baking beans to keep the paper in place.
7. Once the oven has reached the correct temperature place the pie onto the middle shelf and leave to bake for 10 minutes.
8. Remove the dish from the oven. Remove the beans and paper. Brush the inside of the pastry with a beaten egg and return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
9. Take the pie out of the oven and set to one side to cool. (Leave the oven turned on for the next part)

Making the Filling

1. Place the Buckwheat in a  sieve and run under cold water until the water runs clear instead of white.
2. Put the Buckwheat into a pan of water and bring to the boil, let it simmer for 30 minutes (whilst you prepare the rest of the filling.)
3. Peel the Butternut squash and cut into small cubes. 
4. Place the cubes onto a baking tray and add the oil, cumin, rosemary and honey evenly across the tray.
5. The oven should still be turned on at 200 degrees. Place the tray of butternut squash inside for 20-25 minutes. The cubes should be mostly golden brown.
6. Remove the tray and empty into a colander to allow the liquid to drain away. Once drained move into a bowl. Turn the oven down to 160 degrees (fan oven)
7. Melt the butter into a pan and add the spinach. Stir gently until the spinach has wilted. 
8. Remove the spinach and put it into the colander to allow to drain. Once it has cooled squeeze out any excess water using your hands. The spinach will shrink a lot after doing so.
9. Crumble the blue cheese into the bowl with the butternut squash. Add the crème fraiche and then the spinach. Add the buckwheat and mix everything. Finally use some salt and pepper to taste. (If you have used a salty blue cheese you may only need to add pepper)
10. Place the mixture into the pie dish and spread it evenly.
11. Remove the remaining pastry from the fridge. Roll out into a very thin square and cut into ribbons
12. Use the Ribbons to create a pattern on top of the pie. A traditional ribbon weave will work or you can use your imagination.
13. Glaze the top of the pie using egg.
14. Bake the pie for about 25 minutes (until golden brown)

GBBO Blue Cheese, Squash and Spinach Pie

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Sunday, 15 October 2017

GBBO 2017 Week 7 - Pizza Margherita

GBBO Pizza

Week 7 on the 2017 series of GBBO was Italian-themed. I really enjoyed watching the bakers make Cannoli, which look as though they would taste amazing - deep fried pastry cylinders usually filled with a ricotta-based filling - the textures sound divine! This was the signature challenge, and as much as I wanted to try them this week I didn't have the specialist equipment - cannoli moulds or a pasta roller. Sadly, not having a pasta machine also meant that I couldn't immediately make the showstopper challenge - Sfogliatelle, which are beautiful layers of pastry layered to look like "lobster tails", filled with a sweet semolina filling. I've devoured these at Christmas markets before, and have tried to make them previously (without a pasta machine)...and they didn't turn out too well. I will be making these in the future - I just may need to put a pasta machine on my Christmas list :)

GBBO Cannoli
Sophie's Cannoli

GBBO Sfogliatelle
Steven's Sfogliatelle

So, this week I made the technical challenge, which was set by Prue and was the classic pizza Margherita. I had a few issues with her recipe (sorry Prue).

Firstly, she uses fresh yeast. As a non-professional baker, I find this really hard to get hold of (without having to persuade bakers at supermarkets to give me some...). She also used a pizza stone and a peel, neither of which I own. Therefore I adapted the recipe - using firstly Pauls' pizza dough recipe, and then I baked it in a way most people would be capable of - on a pizza tray on top of a preheated baking tray (see the recipe below).

I also added sliced meat to the pizza, as my boyfriend demanded. Leave this off to make a proper Margherita, but it did add a nice taste to the pizza.

The dough turned out wonderfully and was really easy to stretch out without using a rolling pin. The pizza itself tasted great too - it wasn't overly fatty or overladen with toppings. Simple but delicious.

Serves 2-4 (depending on whether you're having anything else with the meal)


For the dough:

  • 250g (2 tsp) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 5g (1 tsp) salt
  • 5g (1 tsp) fast-action dried yeast
  • 20ml (1 tbsp and 1 tsp) olive oil, plus extra for greasing your hands/work surface
  • 160ml (2/3 cup) water
  • Fine semolina, for dusting

For the tomato base:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 can (400g) peeled plum tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped as fine as possible
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • pinch of salt

For the topping:

  • 125g (around 1 cup) mozzarella
  • 50g sliced meat (optional)


1. Prepare the dough. Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl. Pour the olive oil and salt into the bowl. Lightly grease your hands, then bring the dough together.

2. Once it forms a rough ball, tip out onto a lightly greased surface and knead for 5-7 minutes. If it gets really sticky, add some more olive oil. Keep kneading until the dough looks smooth, and springs back when lightly pressed.

3. Place in a greased bowl. Cover the bowl with clingfilm then leave until it has at least doubled in size - this will take around an hour.

4. Meanwhile, make your tomato base. Pour the olive oil into a saucepan, and fry the garlic on a low heat until softened (but hasn't browned).

5. Tip in the peeled plum tomatoes, sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently, pressing the plum tomatoes against the pan to break them down. Leave to simmer for 5 minutes until the tomato juice has reduced by about half. Set aside to cool.

6. Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to 240c (220c fan)/464F/ gas mark 9. Turn a baking tray upside down, and place in your oven to heat up. Dust a 35cm (14 inch) pizza tray with semolina and flour.

7. Grease your work surface a little oil. Tip the dough onto the surface and press down to a rough circle. Pick the dough up, and start stretching the dough outwards - you can try spinning the dough at this stage (I didn't dare!).

8. Once the dough is slightly bigger than the size of the pizza tray, transfer to the tray. Curl the excess dough over to create a neat circular pizza (this also gives a nice crust to hold onto).

9. Spread over the tomato base. Slice the mozzarella into 6-8 slices and place well spaced apart onto the pizza. Place the meat slices as you like.

9. Bake the pizza by placing the pizza tray on the preheated baking tray, for 12-15 minutes, until the sides are well browned, and the mozzarella is becoming slightly brown.

10. Slice.

11. Buon appetito!

GBBO Pizza

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