Monday, 29 May 2017

The Best Sponge Recipe!

Duck egg sponge cake

This is my new favourite sponge recipe - the trick? Use duck eggs instead of hen eggs - they are much richer in flavour and wow, you'll be glad you tried them out :) Just be sure to weigh the eggs as they can vary massively in size (and don't seem to have as standard sizes as hen eggs).
If you can't find duck eggs, use hen eggs - the recipe will still work and taste nice (just not quite as heavenly).
I filled my sponges with raspberry jam and covered the cake with a vanilla buttercream. Then to have some fun, I gave painting a go and used concentrated gel food colourings to paint a duck on the top of the cake :D This is obviously optional but worked quite well (given my limited artistic talents).
The cake is delicious and will keep for 3-5 days in an airtight tin :)

Makes one 23cm cake


For the cake:

  • 250g butter, melted
  • 250g duck eggs (around 4) or equivalent weight of hen eggs
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the buttercream:

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbsp milk

To finish:

  • Raspberry jam (around 150g)
  • Food colourings of your choice
  • Paintbrushes


1. Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan)/ 355f/gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of two loose bottomed (or springform) 23cm round cake tins.

2. Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the sugar and keep whisking for 3-5 until the mixture is pale and has at least doubled in volume (you can use an electric whisk at this stage if you like).

3. Whilst whisking, pour in the melted butter and vanilla extract. Once all of the melted butter has been added, sift in the flour and baking powder.

4. Fold the flour into the batter with a large metal spoon, just until you can see no more pockets of flour. As soon as this happens, evenly distribute the cake batter between the two cake tins.

5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes are golden, they are starting to pull away from the sides of the tin, and a skewer entered into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

6. Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

7. To make the buttercream, beat the butter in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon until it is very soft (it will appear like a soft spread). Sift in half of the icing sugar and keep beating to incorporate the icing sugar.

8. Sift the other half of the icing sugar into the bowl, along with the vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of milk. Beat until all of the icing sugar has been incorporated. If the mixture appears to thick (it is very hard to beat), add a little more milk (a teaspoon at a time). If when you spoon some buttercream out of the bowl, it immediately falls off the spoon, the mixture is too slack - if this happens add a few tablespoons of icing sugar. You want a spoonful of buttercream to slowly fall off the spoon, and to be spreadable.

9. To assemble the cake, level the top of both cakes off with a serrated knife. Any leftover bits are chef's perks, or can be frozen to use another day for cake pops.

10. Spread the jam all over the top of one of the cake layers. Top with about 1/4 of the buttercream, being careful to spread the buttercream evenly over the cake layer.

11. Top with the other layer of cake. Use a palette knife to smooth a very thin layer of buttercream over the top and sides of the cake - this acts as a crumb coat and gives you a better finish.

12. Refrigerate the cake for 10-15 minutes, until the buttercream on the cake no longer sticks to your finger.

13. Take the cake out of the fridge and cover the top and sides with the remainder of the buttercream.

14. To paint the cake, simply use the food colouring gels as paint pots, and go for it :) The food colouring I use is Wilton branded (like these), and it worked really well :D You can use disposable gloves if you're worried about getting the food colouring on your hands, and I used Kitchencraft paintbrushes (like these), but I'm sure any clean artist paintbrushes would work just as well)

15. Enjoy!

Duck egg sponge cake

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Sunday, 14 May 2017

Medovik - Ukranian Layered Honey Cake

Medovik - Ukranian 8 Layered Honey Cake

Every year for Eurovision I like to bake something from the host country. Last year Sweden hosted, and I made Ostkaka and Kladdaka (see here for the recipes). This year, Ukraine were the hosts and when searching for something to bake, this layered honey cake came up time and again.

In truth there's no sponge in this cake. It's more like 8 layers of honey biscuit, sandwiched with creamy but light filling. It has to be left overnight after forming, which softens the biscuit to be like a beautifully soft sponge.

I was skeptical when I started baking this cake, assuming mine would end up looking a mess.

However, it was really straightforward, and only took 90 minutes to prepare, bake and assemble! We tried it the next day and wowzerz it's tasty :) It looks really impressive so I'd highly recommend anyone try out this recipe.

I topped the cake off with some almond brittle, which is entirely optional, but gives the cake a nice final touch :)

Makes one 23cm cake


For the cake:

  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 165g (3/4 cup) golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter 
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 660g (3 cups) plain flour

For the frosting:

  • 160ml (2/3 cup) double cream 
  • 600ml (2 & 1/2 cups) soured cream
  • 135g (1 & 1/3 cup) icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon

For the almond brittle:

  • 75g (1/2 cup) flaked almonds
  • 100g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp water


1. Preheat your oven to 180c (160c fan)/350f/gas mark 4. Grease two baking trays.

2. Heat the honey, sugar and butter together in a saucepan, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar has dissolved, take the saucepan off the heat and beat in the eggs.

3. Sift the bicarbonate of soda and plain flour into a large bowl. Pour the flour into the saucepan and beat with a wooden spoon until all of the flour has been incorporated. The dough should be firm enough to be able to form into a ball.

4. Place the dough on a floured surface and shape into a flat circle. Divide into 8 pieces (like a pizza).

5. Place a sheet of baking paper on your surface and lightly dust with flour. Add 1/8 of the dough to the paper, and roll out to 2-3mm thick. Use the base of a 23cm cake tin to cut the dough to the 23cm size. Keep the trimmings (they are used to cover the cake later).

6. Transfer the dough (stuck to the baking paper) to the greased oven tray and bake for 3-4 minutes, until browned. Once cooked, you can slide the baking paper +layer off the tray onto a wire rack, and bake the next layer (with a new sheet of baking paper).

7. Once all of the layers have cooked, roll out the trimmings to an even thickness, and bake for 4-5 minutes until browned. Set aside to cool, then blend to a fine crumb in a food processor.

8. Make the frosting by sifting the icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add the soured cream and cinnamon and beat until smooth.

9. Beat the double cream with a whisk until stiff peaks form. Fold this cream into the rest of the frosting. Refridgerate until ready to use.

10. To make the almond brittle, heat the granulated sugar and water together in a saucepan. DO NOT STIR IT, but you can swirl the pan from time to time. Keep an eye on it - after about 5 minutes it should turn a nice amber colour. Meanwhile, pour the flaked almonds evenly onto a sheet of baking paper (in a baking tray).

11. Once amber, pour the caramel over the almonds. Tilt the pan to evenly distribute the caramel. Leave to set for 10-15 minutes until cooled and firm. Break into shards.

12. To assemble the cake, place the first layer onto the serving plate. Place 4-5 tbsp of the frosting on the layer, and spread evenly over the cake. Top with the next layer of sponge.

13. Repeat with the remaining layers. Use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake - a large palette knife or dough scraper will give you the smoothest result, but a round knife will also work.

14. Pour the cake dough crumbs all over the cake. I don't know an easy way to do this - I just sprinkled it over the top of the cake (easy enough) then patted the crumbs onto the sides - a messy job but it worked.

15. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 10 hours.

16. Top with almond brittle shards, and enjoy!

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Sunday, 7 May 2017

Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Macaron "Eclairs"

Chocolate peanut butter salted caramel macaron eclairs

So I'm pretty addicted to GBBO: Creme de la Creme, and this week they made macarons (that weren't allowed to be circular). I love macarons (as does my boyfriend), so it seemed like an opportunity to make another kind. I've previously made festive spiced and chocolate & raspberry macarons, and used a very similar recipe. The only difference - duck eggs! As seen from my post last week, duck eggs are incredible for sponges and I wondered how they'd be for making meringues (which are needed to make the macarons).

The result? Perfection :) Lovely a crisp to bite through with a soft chewy centre. They're best the day after you've baked and filled the macarons as the shells soften slightly.

I added cocoa to the macarons to give it a cocoa flavour and filled the macarons with a peanut butter cream cheese frosting and a liquid salted caramel filling. If you want an extra chocolatey note, you could drizzle some dark chocolate over the top of the macarons :)

From start to finish these took me two hours - the only difficult part is patience when whisking the egg whites and sugar syrup - keep going until the meringue forms glossy peaks! Also be patient when waiting for the skin to form - if you don't the macarons will crack in the oven.

Makes around 24 macarons (I made mine around 3cm long rectangles, but you can do standard circles if you wish).


For the macarons:

  • 150g (1 & 1/4 cups) ground almonds
  • 10g (1 & 1/2 tbsp) cocoa powder (the best quality you can afford)
  • 175g (1 & 1/2 cups) icing sugar
  • 4 (125ml/1/2 cup) medium duck egg whites
  • 165g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 50ml (3 tbsp and 1 tsp) water
For the peanut butter filling:
  • 125g (1/2 cup) peanut butter (I used crunchy for extra texture)
  • 60g (1/2 cup & 2 tsp) icing sugar
  • 30g (2 tbsp) softened butter
  • 50g (3 tbsp) cream cheese (full fat)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tsp milk (optional)
For the liquid salted caramel:
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) double cream
  • 1 tsp softened butter
  • 75g (1/3 cup & 2 tsp) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used freshly ground Himalayan salt)

1. Place the ground almonds, cocoa and icing sugar in a food processor (or high power blender) and blitz for 2-3 second bursts, until the mixture is very fine and the cocoa is evenly distributed. Be careful not to blitz for too long as the almonds can turn to butter!

2. Sieve the almonds/cocoa/icing sugar into a large bowl. Add 2 of the egg whites, and beat until a smooth paste is formed.

3. Heat the granulated sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Then stop stirring and place a sugar thermometer in the pan. In a grease-free bowl, add the remaining two egg whites. Once the sugar/water has reached 112C, start whisking the egg whites (I tend to use a hand-held electric whisk, but a stand mixer would be even easier!).

4. Once the sugar/water syrup has reached 118C, the egg whites should be white and frothy (like shaving foam). Carefully pour the syrup onto the egg whites, whisking constantly. Be very careful not to touch the syrup as it is super hot! Keep whisking until the mixture is shiny and forms peaks when the whisk is lifted from the mixture (this should take between 5 and 7 minutes).

5. Use a metal spoon to fold a third of the egg white mixture into the almond/cocoa/sugar paste. Once incorporated, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

6. Fill a piping bag with the macaron mixture, and cut off 1cm from the end (or use a large round nozzle). Grease and line three baking trays with parchment paper and hold the piping bag vertically above where you want to pipe. Pipe 3cm lines of macarons, leaving at least 2cm between each macaron. 

7. Tap the tray on the surface a few times, then leave at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, until a "skin" has formed on the macarons - this means that when you gently touch the macaron, no mixture goes on your finger.

8. Preheat the oven to 170c (150c fan)/ 340F/ gas mark 3. Before you place the baking trays into the oven, tap the trays against the surface again. This gives the perfect "foot" of a macarons. Bake the macarons for 8-10 minutes - keep an eye on them after 8 minutes in case they are browning too much. Remove the macarons from the oven and transfer the macarons (with the baking paper still attached) to a wire rack to cool.

9. To make the peanut butter filling, sift the icing sugar into a mixing bowl. Add the peanut butter, softened butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract and beat until all of the sugar has been incorporated. If the mixture looks very stiff add a few teaspoons of milk. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large piping nozzle (a 1M large star nozzle would work well, or use a disposable piping bag and cut the end off about 1cm from the tip).

10. Make the liquid salted caramel. Pour the granulated sugar into a saucepan and place on a low heat. Keep an eye on the sugar, swirling the pan occasionally (but do not stir it!). After around 5 minutes, the sugar will be a light brown colour and be bubbling. 

11. Once brown take off the heat and add the butter. Whisk until melted, then pour in the cream. Whisk continuously. If the caramel becomes lumpy, place back on a low heat and whisk until the caramel has dissolved.

12. Pour the caramel sauce through a sieve into a bowl and allow to cool (for at least 10-15 minutes).

13. Once the macarons are cooled, start the assembly by flipping half over so that their bases point upwards.

14. Pipe a line of buttercream over each macaron that has been flipped.

15. Pour the caramel into another piping bag fitted with a small piping nozzle (a No.1 wilton tip/standard piping nozzle will work). Pipe a small amount of caramel over the "peanut buttercream". Top with a non-flipped macaron shell.

16. Pipe the remaining caramel sauce over the macarons.

17. Enjoy! (They are best eaten the next day so can be fully enjoyed then).

Chocolate peanut butter salted caramel macaron eclairs

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Monday, 1 May 2017

Gluten and Egg Free Lemon and Strawberry Syrup Cake

Gluten Egg Free Lemon Strawberry Cake with mini eggs

These past few weeks have flown by, and although I've been baking (mainly to de-stress), I haven't had time to post in what feels like ages.
Hopefully everything has settled down now, so I should be able to get back to my usual schedule :)

In my new job I have many new food intolerances to deal with. I hate baking when I know someone can't eat any for example if they are gluten-intolerant. It so happens that to keep my team fed, I need to bake things that contain no gluten nor egg yolks. I love a challenge and to make a cake without these ingredients was a challenge. Eventually I worked out this recipe - a lemon syrup cake with strawberry jam and lemon buttercream. Super yum.

If you wanted the cake to be dairy free, use a soy (or other alternative yoghurt), and a non-dairy butter (ideally the firm blocks, not spread). For the buttercream, you may find you need more or less icing sugar, as it completely depends on the butter you use. You want the buttercream to be firm enough to not fall off a wooden spoon, but spreadable (to enable it to be piped).

To make the horizontal lines around the cake, you can simply use a fork to gently move around the buttercream.

For the piping I used a closed tip large flower nozzle - see below:

The cake turned out really moist and soft, and was just as good (if not better) than lemon cakes I've made in the past that used normal flour and eggs!

Makes one 23cm cake


For the cake:
  • 300g margarine (dairy free if you want, I used Stork), plus extra for greasing the tins
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 200g natural yoghurt (or dairy free alternative)
  • 3 lemons
  • 300g gluten-free plain flour (I used Dove's but other brands should work)
  • 2 tbsp gluten free baking powder (I used Dove's)
  • 1/2 tsp xantham gum
  • 50g icing sugar

For the frosting:
  • 200g good quality strawberry jam

  • 200g softened butter (or dairy free alternative)
  • 400g icing sugar, sifted
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
  • yellow food colouring (I use a concentrated gel, where only a tiny amount is needed to colour the buttercream)

To finish:

  • Handful of mini eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 190c (170c fan)/375f/gas mark 5. Grease the base and sides of two 23cm cake tins, and sprinkle flour over. Tap the tin to evenly distribute the flour in the tin and tip out the excess.

2. Beat the margarine until very soft, and add the caster and brown sugar. Beat until all of the sugar has been incorporated - make sure there are no clumps of brown sugar. The mixture will look light and fluffy in a few minutes.

3. Zest and juice 2 of the lemons and add both the zest and the juice to the bowl, together with the vanilla extract, yoghurt, gluten free plain flour and gluten free baking powder. Beat briefly until the mixture is smooth.

4. Pour the mixture evenly between the two cake tins and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

5. Whilst the cake is baking, juice the remaining lemon and add to a saucepan with the 50g of icing sugar. Bring to the boil, and stir until all of the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has become clear.

6. Once the cake is out of the oven, prick the surface of each cake with a fork and use a pastry brush to evenly spread the lemon syrup over each cake. Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting (this takes at least 30 minutes).

7. Make the buttercream. Have your butter as soft as possible, and beat with a wooden spoon until it is spreadable. Add half of the icing sugar with 1 tbsp of lemon juice and beat - the mixture will be very stiff. Once smooth, add the remaining icing sugar and lemon juice and continue beating until all of the icing sugar has been incorporated and if you taste a little, you can't taste any grains of sugar (or lumps of butter). The mixture should hold when you spoon a tablespoon out, but it shouldn't require too much strength to beat. This is hard to describe but to test, place a small amount of the buttercream into a piping bag and try piping the buttercream back into the bowl. If this requires a lot of force the buttercream is too stiff and needs a little more lemon juice (or milk if you don't want it so strong). If the mixture doesn't hold its shape once piped, it's too thin - to fix this add more icing sugar (but be sure to taste it to make sure it doesn't become too sweet).

8. Once the cakes have cooled turn out of the tins. If they have a significant dome, slice the tops off so they can be stacked. Place the first cake on a cake board. Spread the jam over the cake evenly.

9. Top with a third of the buttercream - you can pipe this on or just spread with a palette knife to the sides of the cake.

10. Top with the other cake layer. Take a large spoonful of buttercream and place on top of the cake. Use a palette knife to smooth around the top and sides of the cake a very thin layer of buttercream. This acts as a crumb coat and will give the cake a more professional finish. Place in the fridge for 20 minutes.

11. Take a third of the remaining buttercream and colour it a light yellow. Spread the uncoloured remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. A long palette knife or a dough scraper works really well for this, but a flat knife will also work. Be patient and try to get an even layer on and around the whole cake. A good way to get a smooth edge is to place a large spoonful of buttercream on the side of the cake, then run a palette knife/dough scraper around the cake, essentially dragging the buttercream evenly across the cake. Any excess buttercream can then be used to patch up sections.

12. Drag a fork/line embosser around the sides of the cake to create the lines.

13. Place the large closed tip flower nozzle into a piping bag (I used a non-disposable one this time, but disposable bags also work very well). To pipe around the top of the cake, hold the bag vertically over the cake and press down to make a little domed peak. Then release a little pressure as you move the bag to create a little ribbon/leaf effect. Repeat around the cake.

14. To make the roses, again hold the piping nozzle vertically over where you want the centre of the rose to be. Start piping and then pipe in a swirl to the size of the rose. Repeat as desired.

15. Top with mini eggs, or cover the whole of the top of the cake with roses (you could do different colours of buttercream and make a bouquet of roses for example).

16. Enjoy!

Gluten Egg Free Lemon Strawberry Cake with mini eggs

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