Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A Big Fat Chocolate Celebration Cake - Eid Mubarak!

One of my colleagues at work observed Ramadan last month, which is no mean feat given how greedy and opulent our company is when it comes to lunchtimes. Our office is based in the heart of Mayfair in London, so you can imagine the meals that get come into our kitchen daily - everything from Oysters to Sushi, Burgers to Chinese. Decadence, gluttony and not a packed lunch in sight.

I knew for somebody fasting that this would be a tough environment to be in, not to mention fasting during the hottest summer that we've had in London for 6 years. So, at the start of Ramadan, I asked my colleague what I could make him to help celebrate when Eid came around - this could be anything that he wanted - and his response was: Chocolate, Chocolate and more Chocolate! I like to keep my promises, so I set about making the most chocolatey cake that I could find, this Chocolate Fudge Cake by Nigella Lawson.

As my Mum always says, 'It's the thought that counts' and the cake decoration is a good example of this! I admit that it does leave a little to be desired, but I was going for 'Festive' in a hurry and I think the overall sentiment was achieved - I personally love my crazy cake!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Foodie Penpals!

The Lean Green Bean

It's been such a long while since I last blogged! Rather than bore you all with stories about why this is, I'm just going to ease myself back in gently to the blogosphere with a short and sweet post on Foodie Penpals.

When I was little, probably about 8 or 9 years old, I was obsessed with having Penpals. Way before the days of the internet, I joined a Penpal scheme where you filled in a little pamphlet with all of your details and you simply had to put a tick next to all of the countries where you would like to have a Penpal. It was super simple and cost something like 15 pence per Penpal - you could imagine how wild I went with this – and after a couple of weeks you would receive a list of names and addresses that matched your profile and voila, you had Penpals! The matches didn’t always work, but for quite a few years I wrote to people all over the globe, and each morning I would run down to the postman in my pyjamas to see if he had any mail for me. I know this makes me sound like a real geek, but us country kids didn’t have much else to do for fun in the early 1990’s!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Quick Fix Weekend Bread!

(Cheats) Honey & Oat Scone-style Loaf

Last Saturday I was the Accidental Domestic Goddess. I woke up early - that's the accidental part, I have noisy neighbours to thank for that - and was going about all of my boring weekend chores when I decided that it would be much more fun to get my bake on and fill the house with lovely bread-y aromas instead.

I have never made bread before asides from using pre-made mixes, and this recipe, whilst you could argue it's not really bread as such, was a great place to start as it is super easy to whip up in literally a matter of minutes. No endless kneading or waiting for dough to rise, this loaf is a quick fix bake using store cupboard ingredients, minimum input for a lovely weekend breakfast output.

The finished loaf is quite dense and almost like a wholemeal scone. It's best eaten on the day you make it (hence the serious lack of pictures), served warm from the oven and slathered with butter :)

Ingredients - Recipe taken from Red Online:

175g self-raising white flour
175g self-raising wholemeal flour
50g porridge oats
75g salted butter, diced
3 tbsp clear honey
1 egg
200ml semi-skimmed milk
2 tbsp seeds, such as sunflower seeds. I used a ground seed mix containing linseed and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.


1 - Add the white and brown flour into a mixing bowl with the butter and three quarters of the oats, then rub together until it resembles fine crumbs.

2 - Add the honey, then beat the egg and milk together and gradually mix in enough milk mixture to make a soft (but not sticky) dough. I added almost the full amount and it was a tad sticky, so do be careful. Reserve whatever is left for glazing the finished loaf.
3 - On a lightly-floured surface knead the dough gently until smooth. Roll into a round shape about 20cm in diameter. Cut into eight wedge shapes - I used a pizza cutter for this - then transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet, separating wedges slightly so that there is space for them to rise during baking.

4 - Brush the tops with the remaining milk mix, then sprinkle with the rest of the oats and seeds (if using). Bake in a preheated oven set to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 for 15-20 minutes, until golden and well risen. Ta-dah!

Friday, 18 January 2013

New Year, New Cake!

Brazil & Banana Bread - Bake a cake on a cosy day inside...

Hello to all of my lovely blogging friends and Happy New Year - if it's not already too late to say that! The fresh start has given me a new vigour for getting my blog back up and running again after a little sabbatical - I have of course been baking in the last few months but the general busyness of life and Christmas has prevented me from actually writing about anything!

It's a cold and chilly day here in London, we've been waiting for the 'Beast from the East' to hit us all week long and finally it arrived today – yay! Alas, very rarely do we actually get a snow day in the capital so I of course spent the day in the office whilst everyone else in the UK was making snow dogs and putting their pictures of hot chocolate onto Facebook.

I found the recipe for ‘Brazil & Banana Bread’ in my monthly magazine subscription to Good Food Magazine, which I am fantastic at reading cover to cover, but terrible at actually getting around to making any of the recipes featured. I always seem to be making banana cake, purely for the fact that we always seem to have an abundance of left over bananas - despite being covered in them myself, I can’t bear eating a banana when they get all freckly and start turning brown, so if they don’t end up in a cake then they invariably end up in the bin. I absolutely love coconut together with banana so it didn't take much convincing to give this recipe a try. 

Snow was predicted for last weekend, and when it didn't actually put in an appearance I decided to cheer myself up and kid myself that it was actually an extension of the Christmas holidays; I put my reindeer slippers back on, turned on the TV to watch Babe (The Sheep Pig) and dusted my mixer off to do some baking. 

This cake was absolutely de-lish, probably one of the nicest variations of a banana bread that I’ve made – a squidgy, moist cake with a buttery and crunchy, crumble style topping. I added a handful of chocolate chips into my cake and whilst it didn’t spoil it, it didn’t need it either as it was plenty sweet enough already – I would definitely leave it out in future. I also made the mistake of adding ‘Angel Flake’ coconut rather than desiccated coconut – Angel Flake Coconut is from the US I think and is a lot sweeter and more moist than what we have on offer here in the UK. Because of this my cake took longer to cook and I think I should have probably left it in the oven a little longer as it was just a teeny bit too squidgy…but it was still a lovely bake to eat with a big cup of tea on a cold Saturday afternoon, like tomorrow will undoubtedly be! X


100ml Sunflower oil
140g Caster sugar
140g Plain Flour
140g Brazil nuts
50g Desiccated coconut
1 tbsp Butter
2 Large very ripe bananas - black skins are ideal
1 Large egg
5 tbsp Milk
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Cinnamon


- Heat oven to 180c/160c fan/Gas Mark 4.

- Grease a 900g loaf tin, then line the base and ends with a long strip of baking parchment.

- Stir together 2 tbsp each of the sugar, flour, nuts and coconut. Add the butter and rub together to sticky crumbs and put to one side.

- Mash the bananas well and then stir in the sunflower oil, egg and milk. In a separate large bowl, mix half of the remaining sugar, and the remaining flour, nuts and coconut, and then add the baking powder and cinnamon.

- Whisk the egg white to stiff peaks, add the final bit of sugar and whisk again until stiff and shiny. Add the banana mixture into the dry ingredients and then gently fold in the egg white mixture.

- Gently scrape the mix into the tin and scatter the crumble  over the top. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out completely clean (not with some squidge like I did). If the cake starts to go too brown, cover with foil. Leave to cool completely in the tin before serving.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Cheerful Monday!

Pretty Flowers to brighten up a dreary Monday

The little flowers in this picture with blue centres were made by our instructor, I iced the cakes and made all the roses :)
Here in London the weather is soo miserable today, we are well into the autumnal season just without any of the lovely bits like crunchy leaves, autumnal colours,'s just grey, wet and almost dark at 3.30pm. Hopefully this short post will be a shot of colour to brighten up your rainy afternoons!
Last week I did a short class on how to make roses out of icing over at Fair Cake. It was a fantastic afternoon in a lovely, modern venue over in Greenwich. The class was fairly fast paced for a beginner sugarcrafter like me and you have to remember what you're taught as there aren't any hand outs at the end of the class. That said, the teaching was punchy and a great first lesson in how to make small and large roses both by hand and using rose cutters - I didn't leave as a rose making expert (as you can see!) but certainly left equipped with the confidence to practice what I'd learnt at home and build on my skills from there!
Fair Cake is a fab cake decorating & making school in Greenwich, London. The only bad point about the school is deciding which course to try out first!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

I LOVE HobNobs! <3

HobNob Tiffin 
(Adapted from Jo Wheatley's White Chocolate Tiffin recipe from 'A Passion for Baking')

In September I entered a monthly baking competition which is hosted by Jo Wheatley over on her blog, ‘Jo’s Blue Aga’. At the beginning of each month she posts a new challenge for her readers to make, which is always a recipe from her new book ‘A Passion for Baking’, which was released back in the summer.

Jo was the winner of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ 2011 and she was definitely my favourite contestant during last year’s show. She came across as being such a lovely and humble person and it was great to see her getting better and better as the series went on. That loveliness still continues, she must be as busy as ever but what I am always amazed by is that she takes time to reply to messages – if you follow her on Facebook, you’ll know that you can ask her a question about a recipe in her cookbook and you’ll always get an answer, how rare and nice is that?

I hadn’t entered any baking competitions before but I was spurred on to give this one a little go I really had nothing to lose: 1) So far, all the recipes that I’ve tried from ‘A Passion for Baking’ have worked first attempt and, 2) Jo’s Facebook page is always really positive and in past competitions I’d noticed that everyone is really supportive of each other and their entries.

Septembers challenge was to make Jo’s White Chocolate Tiffin recipe. Tons of people entered and there were so many lovely entries! I didn’t win but I was pleased at how pretty my entry was in the end and I had lots of likes, yay! I kept the decoration uber simple with milk chocolate feathering and a sprinkle of glitter, everything in my eyes is better with some sparkle!


Rather than post Jo’s recipe exactly from her book, I freestyled after entering the competition and I made my own little milk chocolate version. It’s nothing revolutionary and it’s really just the original recipe with a few amendments, but my recipe contains *HobNobs*. I’m not sure if HobNobs are a biscuit brand that is known worldwide, but they are basically a small biscuit made from oats which are either covered in chocolate, or not.  I really LOVE Hob Nobs. This stems from childhood - as a kid I think I could have featured on ‘Secret Eaters’, the show for people who say that they don’t eat much, but when secretly filmed actually consume about 3000 calories over their RDA.

I wasn't the ‘fat kid’ in the class, but I definitely went through various phases of food addiction – Walkers cheese & onion crisps, chicken and mushroom pies (you think I’m lying), with chocolate HobNobs featuring heavily for a time. Luckily I managed to kick the pie habit but the pull of HobNobs is still too strong for my sweet tooth to resist, so much so that I generally never buy them because I couldn’t be trusted with a packet in the house. As a special treat I let them back into my life just as a one off for this recipe!


My HobNob Tiffin actually ended up tasting a bit like Cadbury’s Brunch Bars which are sold here in the UK, with more of a flapjacky, chewy bar consistency than regular tiffin or refrigerator cake. They really were lovely and actually overall tasted quite different to their white chocolate relative – much more buttery and squidgy. The only thing that I would change going forward would be to lessen the amount of milk chocolate on the top, it was just too much. I used two 230g bars of dairy milk and the layer of chocolate on top was a bit thick for my taste. Next time I would personally start with one 230gram bar and have a bar in reserve to add some more if needed.. this is all subjective depending on how much of a chocoholic you are! 


250g Plain HobNobs, or a similar oaty style biscuit
60g Desicated coconut
60 g Glace cherries, washed, dried and chopped finely
A handful of sultanas or raisins, chopped finely
130g Unsalted butter
2 tbsp Golden syrup
2 tbsp Malted drink powder
1 tbsp Caster sugar
230g-460g Milk Chocolate (depending on how thick you'd like your topping to be). Generally cheaper brands of chocolate melt better! 


- Lightly grease and base line a 30x23cm tin – work with what you’ve got if yours isn’t exactly this size

- Place the HobNobs into a large mixing bowl, and bash them up until they resemble small flakes/crumbs. Add the coconut, cherries and sultanas to the mix.

- In a pan, melt the butter, golden syrup, malted drink powder and sugar – over a low heat, stir until combined.

- Add the butter mixture to the biscuit mixture, making sure the biscuit mix is completely covered. Spoon this mixture into the prepared tin and smooth it out so that you have an even layer on the bottom of the tin – I press mine in with a fork so that it’s quite compacted. Cover with Clingfilm and leave to set in the fridge until firm and completely cool.

- Once your base is ready (this will take a couple of hours chilling out in the fridge) melt your chocolate either in short bursts in the microwave, or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Spoon the chocolate over the biscuit base and return to the fridge until set! 

My top tips for this recipe are:

1 – Be careful when chilling the tiffin in the fridge - make sure you always cover it with clingfilm, or once cut store in an airtight tub. If you don’t the biscuits will pick up the taste of other things in the fridge, no-one wants a fridge cake that actually tastes of fridge! It doesn’t matter how clean your fridge is, strong flavours like onion/garlic will permeate into the biscuit:-/

2 – Don’t try and cut the tiffin straight from the fridge, give it a while to warm up a little and use a warmed knife (run it under the hot tap). If you don’t it will shatter, look at my pictures for evidence.

3 – If you don’t like one of the ingredients don’t despair, just swap them with the same amount of another dried fruit that you like better, or just leave it out.


You can find Jo’s blog here: 

Her cookbook is sold exclusively at Sainsbury's:


Monday, 10 September 2012

Rule #1 Of Blogging – Don’t Eat The Cake Before Photographing It!

Curly Whirly Chocolate Cake – Konditor and Cook

A long long time ago whilst I was studying at university I used to work for a chi-chi-ra-ra coffee shop in south London, called Blue Mountain Café. It was a lovely, rustic, cool looking place that by day was a haven for yummy mummies with hydraulic buggies, arty freelancers and c-list celebs from The Bill and Corrie. Whilst the food there was completely fine (lots of posh fry-ups) what they were best known for was being a coffee and cake meet up spot. Blue Mountain didn’t make their own cakes however; a few were bought from local bakers, with the majority being supplied by a fantastic bakery based in central London called ‘Konditor and Cook’  (

In all honestly it is of no coincidence that during this time, I was probably at my most ‘curvaceous’, the perks of working in a café serving delicious cakes you might say. I ate a lot of K&C cakes and you can trust me when I tell you that I know how most of their cakes should look and taste! Even after leaving Blue Mountain I bought many cakes from them for special occasions as they taste fantastic (soo many to try) and look amazing with lovely writing, decoration, glitter – whatever you want on your cake they can do, and at pretty short notice too.

With this in mind I was recently asked to make a birthday cake for a friend – it didn't have to be anything overtly decorated or flashy, just a delicious cake that we could put some candles in and use to sing happy birthday to the birthday boy. Immediately I thought of the easy option of buying a lovely ready-made cake as I still get nervous when making cakes for others, I’m definitely still in the stage where everything is a bit trial and error. I’m working towards ‘my little black dress’ of cakes, the ones that you can go to time and time again knowing they will always work but I haven’t had as much practice with larger celebration cakes and I was anxious to make something edible and presentable.

I remembered how pretty the cakes at Konditor and Cook are and so did a Google search to see if I could perhaps use an image of one of their birthday cakes as inspiration for this bake. Luckily for me I came up with so much more – an actual recipe for their famous chocolate ‘Curly Whirly’ cake with cream cheese and vanilla bean icing, which is perfect for a birthday - flashy enough for a party yet easy enough to whip up in a few hours. The risk that you always take with new recipes is that you have no idea if they’ll work, I find that this is especially the case with internet recipes. However, I had high hopes for this recipe as a) I knew only too well how it should taste and b) the recipe was posted in a blog for The Guardian by the owner of Konditor and Cook, so I crossed my fingers and went for it!

The recipe was perfect and tastes exactly the same as the product that you can buy in their stores, the only problem that I had was this: I made the cake in a hurry, it was presented to the birthday boy and was whisked off by an all too efficient waiter who chopped the cake into a million pieces before I could take a single picture. Major cake blogging fail! So you’ll just have to trust me on how pretty it really was, I *promise* the recipe works and that it didn't resemble a pancake.

Rather than repost the entire recipe I’ll let you check it out for yourselves here, with pictures of how the cake should look:

Here are my top tips:

  • The cake is a dense, fudgy and rich chocolate cake, it isn’t light and fluffy like a sponge. It will be a bit squidgy and moist.
  • Do use 17 cm sandwich tins, I know that this is a bit smaller than normal but the cakes don’t rise a huge amount and so you really do need a tin with a smaller circumference to add more height. I used 19 cm tins and this meant that the final product was a bit flatter than I would have liked.
  • Foil lined tins sound strange but do go with it, and *do* leave them to cool completely in their tins. The cakes are quite fragile and they really will crack if you take them out sooner.
  • When the cakes are cool, spread one layer of icing on and then pop the cake in the fridge to set. Once cooled spread on another layer of icing and decorate as you wish!
For more Konditor & Cook inspiration, check out their Flickr photostream here:

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