Saturday, 5 April 2014

Shenanigans and Chocolate Man Bites

My apologies again. I have been baking (and eating) lovely things, but keep forgetting to write about them. There has been a significant birthday in the mix too which has kept me busy. I am now in a new decade - the celebrations were suitably fantastic, and I am most definitely enjoying my new number.

There has also been a fair amount of shenanigans from the amazing sons you will be pleased to hear. Most Some of these I simply cannot tell you about. Maybe one day I will write a book about them all. If truth be told, I may have to write several books. Most recently the boys' treat boxes have very suddenly been emptied. It wasn't me, regardless of what the mince pie maker might tell you. They have obviously stepped up their game and found my hiding place. And managed to secret the treats away without my noticing until now. Previously they have always been caught in the act for example by dropping the box on the way upstairs. Funny, very funny. There is a new hiding place now so we will see how long it takes for them to find it. In the meantime I thought it pertinent to use up the huge number of chocolate bars we had - hidden away in a treat box they know nothing about! You have to be one step ahead at all times and play it like a game. So much fun!

So, in trying to use up an unreasonable number of chocolate bars I created what has now been called 'Chocolate Man Bites' by captain cakeman - a friend who cheekily likes to ask for and eat my cakes. I threw these together mainly for amazing son number 2 to take on his church sleepover last night but unwittingly told the cocktail queen (who lives with captain cakeman) about them, who decided they needed to be sampled. I think I will be needing to replace my secret chocolate bar stash to make these again some time.

They are more than simple to make, but should come with a warning. The recipe sort of goes like this:

Melt about 500g milk chocolate over a low heat with 100g unsalted butter. Stir into this lots of chopped up chocolate bars - I used about 3 Mars Bars, 3 Twixes, 3 Crunchies and a big bag of Maltesers. Flatten into a deep tray that you have lined with cling film. Then melt about 200g milk chocolate (I used 100g milk chocolate and 100g Lindor balls) and pour over the top. Put into the fridge to set, then cut into small squares. I got about 25 pieces from mine. No photos, but captain cakeman did send me the shopping list he has just written and which made me chuckle:

Friday, 17 January 2014


I have been rootling. I'm sure that is a real verb. Regardless, it is a word that is applicable throughout  our house where opening cupboards and drawers is never straightforward. I try and be organised but tidiness is not high on my list of priorities skill set. Please note, however, that the filing for all of of 2013 is now done, only 10 days into 2014. Exemplary I agree, until I tell you that I also had to do all of the filing for 2012 at the same time. Ooops.

My rootling was very productive. You see, I had the munchies following a run. I really fancied burnt toast and marmalade again, but there was not enough bread in the house to indulge this whim today. So I rootled. And I discovered another Christmas present from the mince pie maker. Charcoal Crunch Crackers. Apparently they are very good with cheese. I love cheese, but my immediate thought was that they would be a good substitute for my burnt toast seeing as they really do contain charcoal. And they were - topped with cream cheese and boozy, thick cut marmalade. It was an inspired combination that I may well have to repeat right now after another run.

So very, very delicious!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Just Me….

We all have our our idiosyncrasies. I've just happily indulged one of my foodie quirks. Burnt toast and marmalade. It has to be burnt toast for me to have marmalade. And it has to be chunky cut marmalade for me to have burnt toast. The mince pie maker gave us some pretty fantastic marmalade for Christmas which I fully intend to enjoy on many more pieces of charred bread…. It's an award winner - Gold at the 2013 World's Original Marmalade Awards don't you know.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


It seems that 7 or so months has passed by with no updates from me. It isn't that there has been no baking taking place (can you imagine?!) or even a lack of shenanigans (sigh, truth be told I daren't write about the more recent ones). Simply, I have been busy with family, friends as well as cake and boy antics. So, a few memorable highlights from the latter half of 2013 before 2014 starts to run away from me.

I finally organised to have the garden landscaped at the start of the summer. It has been totally transformed and we have loved using it. Cocktails, BBQs, fire pits, family, friends and the Wimbledon final have all been a delight. I think we made more use of the garden in a couple of months than in the previous 9 years of living here!

More plants next year, but such a difference!

I was whisked away to Chatsworth House by 2 lovelies - the mince pie maker and the true gentleman (first mention here, and a total sweetheart!) for a wonderful evening of pink champagne, the most fabulous picnic and an outdoor production of Pride and Prejudice. It was magical and very special and I felt very spoilt!

Pink bubbles!

We had a wonderful family holiday in the South of France in early August too. We ate a lot, did very little and thoroughly enjoyed the local Blanquette de Limoux - a sparkling wine that predates Champagne and was simply delicious! We were joined for some of the time by the cocktail queen (welcome too - another first mention) a truly lovely friend whom we have had the pleasure of getting to know over the last couple of years.

Am I wearing my bikini top upside down or not in this picture?

The mince pie maker turned 30 in the summer and I was privileged to make the cake for his celebrations at Hambleton Hall. A dark chocolate and cointreau Hermes inspired cake that thankfully was a success. Unlike the macarons I attempted to make to accompany it - after 3 attempts I had to concede defeat.

Shocking photo, but you get the idea….

We celebrated the gorgeous husband's 40th birthday in November. Yes. Really. Forty. There were several nights out, a surprise party at home and a weekend in the Cotswolds with some very special people. And another huge cake. Plus we still have New York to look forward to in April 2014. Which is near when I turn 40 30. Ssshhh please.

Biggest ever - 4 layers of indulgence!

There has also been lots of training and running - I have a new running buddy which is a real treat. Not the mince pie maker. We ran together once and I thought I was going to throw up, pass out cry. There have been some tough times along the way both for us and those we love, but this has been a year of knowing the importance of family and friends and loving them as best we can. Now looking forward to all the opportunities that 2014 brings. And more cake.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Fat Bottomed Cheesecake

If truth be told I am not a big cheesecake fan. I think years of moussey, fluffy, soggy based concoctions at school are probably to blame. And can someone explain to me why the topping was always an odd green colour? My Mother-In-Law has worked tirelessly at trying to cure me of my cheesecake aversion. Her baked cheesecakes make a regular appearance at the banquets feasts meals when we visit. Usually alongside at least one other pudding. I have grown to truly like her cheesecake, and because I enjoy a challenge I have learnt to bake them too. Always baked. Always. Surely there is no other way? Though I was intrigued to recently read this recipe by Nigel Slater, my food hero. This cheesecake doesn't even get a whiff of baking. Dare I try it? I might have to simply because Nigel doesn't usually get it wrong. In the meantime, this is my basic cheesecake recipe:

What You Need:

For the base:

  • 90g digestive biscuits
  • 90g ginger nuts
  • 60g grape nuts (or just add 30g more ginger nuts and 30g more digestives)
  • 100g butter
  • A pinch of salt

For the cheesecake layer:

  • 600g full-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 250g mascarpone cheese
  • 4 tbsp cornflour
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs

For the soured cream topping:

  • 450ml soured cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

What You Do:

Make the base:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Crumb the biscuits in a food processor or by whacking them savagely with a rolling pin in a bag
  3. Mix with the grape nuts (if using). 
  4. Melt the butter, then add the biscuit crumbs and a pinch of salt and mix well.
  5. Firmly spread the crumbs over the base of a tall 20cm cake tin (spring form is best).
  6. Put this into the oven for 20 minutes while you make the cheesecake topping.

Make the cheesecake layer:

  1. Put the cheese into a large bowl and stir with a whisk to get rid of any lumps.
  2. Mix in the mascarpone cheese, cornflour, sugar and vanilla extract.
  3. Beat the eggs together, and then gradually add them to the mixture beating until the mixture is just smooth.
  4. Take the tin out of the oven and turn the oven down to 110C , you might like to keep the door open for a couple of minutes to help it to cool down more quickly.
  5. Pour the mixture onto the base, and gently shake it to level it. 
  6. Put it back into the oven on a baking tray and bake for about 80- 90 minutes, until it is set, but still slightly wobbly in the middle.
  7. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to cool for about 20 minutes, but turn the oven up to 180C.

Make the soured cream topping:

  1. While the cheesecake is cooling, stir together the soured cream, caster sugar and vanilla extract.
  2. Pour the soured cream topping over the cheesecake and bake it again for 10 minutes at this higher temperature.
  3. Then turn the oven off and open the door slightly to allow the cheesecake to cool completely inside before taking it out, removing from the tin and refrigerating.

All that is left after lunch.....

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Ginger Cake

I have a thing for stem ginger (with Greek yoghurt please), root ginger (in my green monster smoothie thank you), and ginger in general. Apparently it is very good for you. In which case, this cake is the healthiest thing I have ever made, and I really should a) make it more often and b) have a third second slice right now. It is based on Dan Lepard's Ginger and Honey Cake, but:
  1. I didn't have quite enough honey in the cupboard so used 200g honey, 50g golden syrup and 50g black treacle.
  2. I couldn't bring myself to chop up 400g of stem ginger (about 3 of those little jars!), so only used one which gave me 150g of gingery nuggets which I actually felt was more than enough.
  3. I forgot to add the grated stem ginger, but the cake was still delicious though I probably would try to be less forgetful next time.
This was a definite success - gingery, moist and obviously so, so good for you. My Mother-In-Law's ginger soup is the stuff of legends when anyone is feeling unwell in our family. I might have to add this cake to the 'feel better soon' list of things to cook.

Could there be a healthier cake?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Who Knew?

I have just made a cake full of glace cherries. And they have NOT sunk! Apparently, if you rinse the sticky little things, dry and lightly dust them in flour before stirring them into the mix they don't plummet to the bottom of the cake during cooking. The cake I have just made is this cherry and almond loaf by Nigella. It is simple and delicious, but it did need a lot longer in the oven (about 80 minutes in total) before it was ready. This meant covering the top with foil to stop it from browning too much after roughly 50 minutes. Just so you know.

Shockingly bad photo, but don't those cherries look good!