Monday, 29 August 2016

Goodbye…for now definitely, possibly forever (ooh, that came out more dramatic than intended!)

I thought I should post to say goodbye to you all.  I haven’t posted anything now since June and suppose I’ve just fallen out of love with blogging.  The coming weekend would be my blog’s 9th birthday and it’s made me realise that I’ve been doing this for so long now that it’s started to feel like another job. 

I still love baking, and still bake most weekends, but it feels liberating not to have to scrabble around each week and find something different to bake, write it up, take photos, post it online etc.  It was starting to take up a big chunk of my limited free time, which is fine when you enjoy it, but not so much when you don’t.  And sometimes I just want to make the same cake three weekends in a row without worrying about not having anything to post!

It’s been a blast and I’ve loved all your comments and emails – thank you to everyone who’s stopped by whether leaving a comment or not.  The blog will stay up and available (I use it as my personal recipe book and would be lost without it!), and I’ll do my best to continue responding to any questions left in the comments section.

I don’t want to say that I’ll never be back – in a few months’ time I might desperately miss the blogosphere and return to it, but it doesn’t feel likely at the moment.

To paraphrase Douglas Adams’s dolphins when they leave Earth: so long, and thanks for all the cake!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Coconut brownies

I had virtually no time to bake this weekend but, nonetheless, wanted some home baking.  This is the perfect recipe to have up your sleeve – the work of minutes to get in the oven, very few ingredients, and utterly delicious. 

If I had to pick my favourite things to pair with chocolate coconut would be right at the top of the list, perhaps having to slug it out with pear for who actually had the top spot.  There is just something about coconut that brings out the best in chocolate and vice versa.  I love the damp grainy texture of baked desiccated coconut and that you can find bits of it in your teeth for a while after eating – it’s the ingredient that keeps on giving!

One thing I think it’s important to point out – this recipe didn’t behave like a normal brownie recipe; usually, when you’ve done the melting of the chocolate and butter you end up with quite a liquid mixture right until you add the flour, and even then it’s a runny mix.  This was thicker and only started to loosen when I added the eggs – here’s what it looked like after the initial melting stage (just so you don’t panic that it’s gone wrong if yours looks similar!):

Possibly the only difficult thing about baking brownies is judging when to remove them from the oven.  I work on the assumption that things firm up/set/dry out a little on cooling so try and take them out before they look ‘done’.  This goes against my prudent nature and I feel a bit of a risk-taking daredevil in removing something from the oven before it looks ready, but I force myself, and the momentary stress is worth it!  In my opinion a brownie is better a little underdone, than a little over.


100g cocoa powder
250g unsalted butter
500g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
100g self raising flour
100g desiccated coconut, plus 2 tablespoons extra to sprinkle on top


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper or non stick foil.

Place the cocoa powder, butter and sugar into a large pan (large enough to accommodate all the additional ingredients) and melt over a gentle heat, stirring all the time so nothing catches on the bottom of the pan.

When everything has combined remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10 minutes.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Fold in the flour and coconut.

Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle the extra coconut over the top.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the brownie is set but not firm.  Best to start checking after about 30 minutes as ovens vary.  If the top is getting too dark and crusty, cover loosely with foil and continue to bake.

Leave to cool in the tin and, when cool, cut into chunky sized squares.

Serve with a cup of tea, or warm and serve with ice cream for dessert.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 12 June 2016

Ginger and rum cake

I think I must be a contrarian baker.  Now that summer actually seems to have arrived, I know I should be thinking about strawberries, cream and other such light frippery….but what I really wanted this week was ginger cake.  And rum.  And dates.  And all things that make you think of colder weather (not that I even like colder weather).  As I said – contrarian.

This cake is always better the day after baking, and the day after that; it’s always the way with sticky spicy cakes – they need time to mellow and let their flavours mature.  I do have a penchant for rum and have a selection at home that would rival most cocktail bars; for this cake I chose a spiced rum as I thought the extra punch of flavour would work well.  Spiced rum always seems to have a vanilla note to it too and I never miss the opportunity to get a bit of vanilla into something.

You can taste each of the main flavours in the cake: ginger, dates and rum.  Putting the rum in the icing gives a raw hit – if you like your booze softer, and more baked, consider putting more in the cake and leaving it out of the icing.

Without checking through almost nine years of blogging, I don’t remember putting dates into a ginger cake before.  It was a good move – it turned a standard ginger cake into something more akin to a sticky toffee pudding.  You could leave the icing off this cake and serve it warm, as dessert, with custard or ice cream.  Personally, I am always partial to a white icing and a bit of the itchy teeth feel it can sometimes create.  Many older people I know have lost their taste for overly sweet things…I do sometimes wonder if it will ever happen to me.  I just can’t imagine being that person who winces when they eat something and say, ‘ooh, that’s a bit sweet for me’.  Does. Not.  Compute.


75g unsalted butter
100g dark muscovado sugar
125g black treacle
125g golden syrup
2 eggs
3 tablespoons rum – I used spiced rum
225g self raising flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
50g stem ginger, finely chopped
75g medjool dates – pitted and finely chopped
For the icing:
100g icing sugar
1-2 tablespoons spiced rum
1 tablespoon stem ginger syrup (from the jar of stem ginger)


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper.

Place the butter, sugar, treacle and golden syrup into a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat.

Leave to cool for at least 5 minutes before beating in the eggs and rum – if the mix is too hot the eggs will scramble and leave lumps in the cake.  Not nice.

Stir in the flour and ground ginger.

Stir in the chopped ginger and dates.

Pour into the prepared baking tin.

Bake for 50 minutes – 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes in the tin, before de-tinning and leaving to cool completely on a wire rack.

Now make the icing: mix the icing sugar with 1 tablepsoon each of rum and ginger syrup – add the extra spoonful of rum only if needed.  You’re aiming for a thick, glossy icing that has movement to it but isn’t so loose it will just run off the cake.

Spoon the icing over the cake and leave to set.

This cake gets better with age – it becomes stickier and more flavoursome.

Serve in generous slices with a cup of tea.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Bakewell thumbprint biscuits

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been blogging it’s that good recipes can turn up anywhere; a particularly good source being supermarket free magazines.  This one is from the Co-Op’s magazine and combines two of my favourite things – biscuits and bakewells.  Sadly, I no longer live near a Co-Op but my mother in law does, and diligently picks up the new magazine for me whenever it’s available – thanks Dot!

We all probably made thumbprint biscuits as children; they must be up there with fairy cakes and rock buns as the ideal ‘starter’ bake for children.  But what I liked about this recipe was that it reinvented the familiar biscuit and introduced almonds and white icing to create a bakewell hybrid.  It really is a winning combination.

The recipe makes a lot of biscuits.  A lot.  The recipe said it would make 40, and I got 26 (this isn’t bad for me – normally when a recipe says 40 I get about 12!). This is very handy as it is a strong individual who will stop at one!

The lemon zest in the biscuit and the lemon juice in the white icing is quite strong; if you want the almond and jam to be more dominant I would recommend maybe using the zest in the biscuit and making the icing up with water.


For the biscuits:
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
1 lemon’s zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
150g ground almonds
150g self raising flour
approx ½ a jar of raspberry jam

For the icing:
80g icing sugar
1 lemon’s juice
Handful of toasted flaked almonds


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/Gas mark 4.

Line two (or four if you have them, otherwise you can just rotate the baking trays and use them twice) baking sheets with baking paper or non stick foil.

Beat together the butter, sugar, zest and vanilla until light and whippy; you will notice the mix turning pale.

Add the egg and beat well.

Add the ground almonds and self raising flour and stir until just mixed.

Take a heaped teaspoon of the mix and roll into a ball.

Place on the baking sheet.

Repeat until the tray is full – they do spread while baking so aim for a maximum of 8 per baking sheet (depending on the size of your sheet.)

Push your thumb into each ball to form a well.

Spoon ½ teaspoon of jam into each well.

Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes until golden and nicely spread. I found mine needed longer – about 16-18 minutes, but it’s good to check after 10 minutes if only to rotate the trays for an even bake.

Repeat the process until all your biscuit dough is used up.

Leave to cool.

Now make the icing: mix together the icing sugar with just enough lemon juice (you won’t need it all) until you have a thick but runny icing.

Drizzle across the top of the cooled biscuits.

Scatter over the flaked almonds.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 29 May 2016

White chocolate cheesecake

There is something about a bank holiday weekend that just makes you feel like you have more time for everything, including baking.  I wanted to bake something that was rich and indulgent, and would also be a fancy treat across the whole three days.  I don’t usually make baked cheesecakes but the minute I laid eyes on this one, on the BBC Good Food website, I knew it had to be!

Just reading the ingredients list indicated that this was going to be rich, rich, rich!  I tried to balance it by serving with fresh raspberries. Any acidic fruit would work well such as rhubarb or citrus.

The texture of this cheesecake is beautiful – I often find that baked cheesecakes can be a bit dense and heavy, resulting in that squeaky tooth feeling.  This one is light and almost mousse-like, but unmistakably a cheesecake.  Surprisingly, it isn’t too sweet either.

It’s possibly the first time I’ve made a baked cheesecake where I avoided a split on the top as it cooled.  I think I’ve had this in the past because I’ve overbaked it and not trusted that it would firm up enough during cooling; this time I made a conscious effort to turn the oven off after an hour even though the cheesecake looked barely set.

This makes a big cheesecake but don’t worry if you don’t want it all at once.  Cut it into slices and freeze for future treats! Or eat it all up in a couple of days – I won’t judge you.


For the base:
200g digestive biscuits, or Hobnobs
85g unsalted butter

For the topping:
400g white chocolate
300ml double cream
400g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To serve: raspberries


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor and then add the butter (no need to melt if you’re using a food processor) and blitz again until combined.

Press into the base of a 23cm round springform tin.

Bake for 10 minutes, then leave to cool.

Reduce the oven to 140C/fan 120C/280F/gas mark 1.

Wrap the outside of the cake tin tightly in 2-3 layers of foil – this is to make it waterproof for its water bath later!

Now make the topping: Place the chocolate and the cream into a saucepan and melt together over a gentle heat.

Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat together the cream cheese, eggs and vanilla.

Add the cooled chocolate cream mix and beat until smooth.

Place the tin (wrapped in foil) in a deep roasting tin and pour the filling into it.

Pour boiling water, from the kettle, into the roasting tin so that it comes about halfway up the side of the cake tin.

Bake for 1 hour, then turn the oven off.

Leave the cheesecake to cool in the oven for 1 hour with the door closed, then for about another hour with the door slightly ajar. 

Remove the tin from the water bath and remove the foil.

Cover the top with clingfilm and refrigerate until about 10 minutes before you wish to serve it.

Serve either on its own, or with some fruit for a fancy dessert.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 22 May 2016

Cider cake

For Mr CC’s birthday we took a luxury train trip right the way across the country to Somerset; the carriages were all authentic Pullman carriages from the Art Deco era (the sort of train someone usually gets murdered on in an Agatha Christie tale…luckily our trip was less eventful!) – ours had been used by the Queen for a trip so we felt pretty pampered:

I think I mentioned a week or two back that, wherever we visit, I try to buy a fridge magnet and honey.  Honey didn’t seem right for Somerset so I flexed the rule to mean ‘local food produce’ and came back with a rather lovely little jug of cider.  If I’m being entirely honest it was the jug that swayed me more than the cider.

The cider is somewhere between the extremely fizzy ciders you find in supermarkets and the more traditional flat cider.  ‘Flat’ always sounds an unappealing description; it has a critical edge to it, but all I mean is it’s not fizzy.  While I’m always partial to a bit of fizz I must confess to rather liking the less carbonated varieties as I seem to taste the apple more somehow.  I also thought it would be nice for baking with, hence this week’s choice of cake.

The addition of the cinnamon is lovely because it emphasises the apple element and conjures up the flavours you expect from an apple pie.  The sponge is a light texture and makes the cake very eatable (I know – all cakes fall into this category, but there is just something about a soft, crumbly sponge!).  I added a sprinkling of sugar on the top for a bit of crunch.


150g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g light muscovado sugar, plus 2 tablespoons extra for the topping
3 eggs
340g plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
225ml cider


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and pale – it won’t go truly whippy, as it would with caster sugar, as the muscovado is grainier.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Weigh out the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon and mix together.

Fold in a third of the flour mix, followed by a third of the cider.

Repeat until all the ingredients are incorporated.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Sprinkle the additional sugar over the top.

Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for approximately 20 minutes, until you can safely handle to de-tin. 

Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

The cake will keep for several days in an airtight tin.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 8 May 2016

Date, honey and walnut cake

Whenever we go on a trip out there are usually two purchases I make: a fridge magnet, and a jar of local honey.  My latest honey acquisition came after a visit to an Essex Wildlife Trust centre at the wonderfully named FingringhoeWick.  It doesn’t sound like it should be a real place!

I’ve spent a lot of time recently sorting through my cookbook collection; it had got out of hand and so disorganised following our house move (over 18 months ago now – eek! No excuse anymore!) that I couldn’t find anything.  Now it’s all nicely arranged by type, so I had no trouble locating an old cookbook I have dedicated entirely to honey.

This simple cake stood out as the one to make; I’ve boosted the quantities a bit but the ratios remain the same.  With the weather predicted to be warm, I didn’t want anything too fiddly or involving buttercreams – and this cake couldn’t be easier or quicker to make.

Don’t be fooled by this cake’s plain Jane looks; it packs a glorious punch with comforting flavours and a soft texture punctuated by walnuts and chewy dates.  It’s a more old fashioned sort of crumbly sponge and the walnuts stop it getting too sweet, which you might think it would be given the inclusion of sugar, honey and dates. It really is worth making.  Keeps well too…which might not be an issue!


185g unsalted butter, at room temperature
115g castor sugar
75g runny honey
3 eggs
115g dates, chopped
115g walnuts, chopped
300g self raising flour


Preheat the oven to 180C/fan oven 160C/350F/gas mark 4.

Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Beat together the butter, sugar and honey until light, soft and whippy.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Mix in the dates, walnuts and flour and ensure everything is well combined.

Spoon into the prepared tin, level the surface and bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Start checking it after 40 minutes, as ovens vary.

Leave to cool in the tin until you can safely handle; de-tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 1 May 2016

Chocolate pecan tart

I suspect this may be the same as a Mississippi mud pie but haven’t called it that in case, like key lime pie, there’s a specific ingredient/aspect that defines it and I’m not aware of it!  These things can be a minefield so I thought I’d avoid causing any offence – in all honesty it was the inclusion of pecan nuts that made me just think, ‘hmm, best not go there!’

It’s a bank holiday weekend so that means the glorious euphoria that only an extra day off work can bring!  I wanted to make something that would last all weekend and provide dessert.  This met the brief and was also a tart that I knew we wouldn’t get bored of – seriously, how you could you ever tire of chocolate tart?

The tart souffled up whilst cooking and sank when cooling.  Don’t panic when this happens; although my outer ring of pecan nuts stood up like sentries and meant the edge couldn’t sink back down giving an ‘interesting’ final look!  Here it is souffled….

….and sunken:

I do admire the design of pecan nuts – they look like shrivelled brains.  Walnuts and pecans have it sewn up regarding ‘interesting looking nuts’.  Most nuts are a bit dull looking – smooth and pale, but these two have raised the bar and always make me pause to look whenever I bake with them.  The complexity in shape that nature can produce is fascinating.  I’ve re-read what I’ve just written and concede that some people may find it weird.  I can assure you that it’s when I say I’ve started talking to the nuts that you should worry (or when I claim that they answer back!)


For the tart base:
225g biscuits – I used hobnobs, but digestives or ginger biscuits would also work
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the filling:
170g plain chocolate
170g unsalted butter
4 eggs
170g dark muscovado sugar
150ml whipping cream
100g pecan nuts

To serve: whipped cream


Start by making the base: blitz the biscuits to crumbs in a food processor, then add the butter and blitz again until you have clumpy wet sand.  NB. If you use the food processor there is no need to melt the butter, unlike it you use the old ‘bash the biscuits with a rolling pin’ method!

Press the crumbs into a 20cm loose bottomed flan tin taking care to come right up the sides.

Place in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Preheat the oven to 190C/fan oven 170C/375F/gas mark 5.

Melt the chocolate and butter together over a gentle heat.

Leave to cool for about 10 minutes – if the mix is too hot the eggs will scramble when you add them causing a lumpy final texture.

Whisk in the eggs and sugar until smooth and well combined.

Whisk in the cream.

Pour into the chilled biscuit base and place the pecan nuts on top, arranged however you wish.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the chocolate filling looks set.

Leave to cool before de-tinning.  Don’t worry that your tart will settle as it cools – this is normal.

Serve in generous slices with cream.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Fruit tea loaf

This recipe came into being because I made a whim purchase.  Whilst visiting a Greek Cypriot supermarket on the quest for baklava (as instructed by Mr CC; if only all quests in life were this tasty!), I spotted a pouch of dried red and white mulberries.  I was starting from a position of ignorance: I didn’t know anyone other than silk worms ate mulberries, but, seeing as I didn’t see any silk worms doing their shopping I deduced that they must also be human food.

What caught my attention was their beautiful knobbly appearance.  I want to describe them as looking like a raisin that had suffered a severe allergic reaction to something but this wouldn’t convey how cute they are.  Texturally, they are similar to a dried fig i.e. they have a bit of grittiness about them.  They are also very dry, which was why I decided to use them in a tea loaf, where they’d have the opportunity to plump and rehydrate.

Having read up about mulberries they seem to be considered a superfood.  I always struggle with this term as – to me – most food is pretty darned super, but it is because they’re high in protein, iron and vitamins blah blah science etc.  They taste nice too – which is the most important thing; imagine a less sweet sultana.

Thickly buttered fruit loaf is one of life’s great joys.  I always say that you can toast the loaf and then butter it, but I never have any left to get to do that!


340g dried fruit – I used dried mulberries and sultanas
60g glace cherries – chopped
110g dark brown soft sugar
200ml cold tea – I used 2 teabags to boost the flavour
225g self raising flour
1 egg


The night before you wish to bake the cake: place the fruit, cherries and sugar in a bowl and mix with the tea.  Cover the bowl and leave - ideally overnight but longer won't hurt.

Day of baking: Preheat the oven to 190C/fan oven 170C/375F/gas mark 5.

Line a 900g loaf tin with baking paper.

Mix the flour and egg into the pre-soaked fruit mix – ensure it is well combined and no pockets of dry flour or egg remain.

Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.

Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.  If the cake is browning too quickly, don’t be afraid to cover it loosely with foil.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Serve in slices with butter thick enough to leave teeth marks when you bite into it!

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.


Sunday, 10 April 2016

Pecan cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

I haven’t yet baked a single cupcake during 2016 so thought it was about time I rectified this most heinous situation.  The pecan sponge is an adaptation of a recipe where it was intended as a 20cm cake served as dessert with toffee sauce.  Most sponges can be converted into cupcakes pretty simply by a reduction in baking time.

The original recipe used maple syrup instead of the golden syrup I used; I made this switch because Mr CC actively dislikes the smoky flavour of maple syrup.  He’s not known for being picky about food, there are probably less than a handful of no-go ingredients for him, so it would seem rude not to accommodate him.  I prefer golden syrup too!

Take time to blitz the pecans to a fine crumb but, at the same time, don’t blitz them for too long so they start to release their oils.  Once you hit the look of ground almonds, stop!  I kept mine perhaps a bit coarser than ground almonds:

Pecans have a robust flavour so I chose a cream cheese frosting as I thought it would hold its own against the nuts.  The tang of the cream cheese works well and I kept it simple with a dash of vanilla.

There are three distinct flavours to these cupcakes – cream cheese, syrup and pecans.  They all hit together but the pecan is the one you’re left with at the end.  They are sweet – as you’d expect with sugar, syrup and pecans (which I always think of as a sweet nut) - but it’s a flavoursome sweet rather than a sugary sweet; you aren’t left with itchy teeth!


For the sponge:
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g muscovado sugar
350g pecans – blitzed to fine crumbs in a food processor
3 eggs
100g golden syrup
150g self raising flour

For the frosting:
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300g icing sugar
180g cream cheese – I used Philadelphia
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To decorate: pecan halves


Preheat the oven to 170C/ fan 150C/340F/gas mark 3 ½.

Line two cupcake pans with paper cases – I got 20 generous sized sponges.

Beat together the butter and sugar until light and well combined – it will never go quite as fluffy with brown sugar as it would with caster.

Beat in the ground pecans.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Beat in the golden syrup.

Fold in the flour.

Spoon into the paper cases and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean.  Mine took 20 minutes.

De-tin and leave to cool on a wire rack lined with either kitchen or baking paper – the reason for this is that the nuts release oils during cooking and by standing it on something absorbent you will end up with nice dry paper cases by the time they’ve cooled.  (NB. Removing them from the tin ASAP stops them continuing to cook when out of the oven -this is what can cause the paper cases to gap and look ugly).

Now make the frosting: beat together the butter and icing sugar until well combined and smooth.

Beat in the cream cheese and vanilla.

If the frosting is very soft don’t be afraid to refrigerate it for 30 mins or so before using.

Pipe over the cupcakes, or spread with a knife if you prefer.

Decorate with pecan halves.

Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.