Category Archives: cake

Car Birthday Cake

When you will go and make an outlandish, rainbow-coloured UN-birthday cake for your own party, it seems only polite to oblige when your beloved asks for something equally as ridiculous and time consuming for their birthday.

My brief was simple: a red car cake. With jam.

I scoured the internet for car cake tins (thought I could cut a corner – ho ho – here) but was thoroughly unimpressed at the 20-odd-quid price tag. They would also mean no jam, unless I were to start slicing it up which would sort of defeat the point of buying a cake mould. With a bit of inventiveness surely I could do it with what I had in already?

Using a remote-controlled car as a template and two slightly differently sized loaf tins I set to work. I used the same recipe as the UN-birthday cake, but only used 1/2 the sponge batter and 3/4 of the icing.

I poured 2/3 of the sponge batter into the larger loaf tin, and 1/3 into the smaller one. (Pictured below is the ‘squodging‘ stage where I pressed the larger cake down when it was nearly cooked so it would be flatter to work with).

While I waited for my sponge to cool, I assembled my icing accessories (lights, number plates, wheels, wing mirrors, car badge), cake board with finishing line, chequered flags (made from cocktail sticks), trophy and candles (for the exhaust pipe).

I sandwiched the sponges with jam (only the top sponge needed a little cutting with a very sharp knife).

Then smothered the whole thing in a LOT of red icing, and started to add the pre-coloured roll-out icing accessories.

And TLM had three slices of it for birthday breakfast.

Rainbow UN-birthday Cake

My heart skipped a beat when Heston Blumenthal, experimental chef extraordinaire, brought out a completely edible insect-filled garden and vibrating absinthe jelly at his Alice in Wonderland themed feast. My own Mad Hatter Tea Party had been planned for some time and now the bar had been raised and I had to do something special. My head was filled with images of psychedelic, towering, toppling cakes exploding with colour… but it had to be achievable. And it had to give up a special secret at the last minute.

So I made a cake, smothered it in pink icing and stuck cards all around the base. And I kept the surprise all to myself. So as the cake was brought out to me and people sang me a happy UN-birthday, I was sniggering inside knowing I had my Heston Blumenthal moment to come. With great mischievousness, I cut the tall cake open to reveal…

Rainbow Birthday Cake


Rainbow UN-birthday Cake | a zillion calories per serving | Serves 20-25


It was incredible to see the astounded faces of my guests. I can now completely understand the feeling Heston gets when he makes someone fill with childish smiles over the food they’re about to eat.

It was completely worth the effort, especially as it was straight-forward to make, and I recommend it to anyone. It was just a Victoria sponge, a WHOLE jar of jam to stick it all together and a slathering of butter icing to hold it all together and make ‘operation: wonderment’ complete.

Admittedly, there was some special food-paste dye (which can be bought online and is worth the investment as it is vivid and doesn’t alter the texture of the cake mixture) but there was a lot of washing up… Luckily my mock-turtle kitchen assistant took care of that 🙂



Ingredients – for the cake

For the cake

  • 450 g self raising flour
  • 450 g unsalted butter or margarine
  • 450 g caster sugar
  • 8 eggs
  • food dye

For the layering & icing

  • 1 jar of raspberry jam for sandwiching the layers together
  • 250 g unsalted butter
  • 500 g icing sugar
  • dash hot water
  • food dye

[Lots of people have asked me where to get the food dye from. I got mine from a local kitchen shop at a hefty £2.50 per tub, but you can get all the colours you need for a rainbow cake in this Set of 8 Wilton Food Colours.]


How to Make the Rainbow Cake

  1. Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and white.
  2. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl.
  3. Alternate adding the beaten eggs and the flour in to the butter and sugar mixture.
  4. Mix until combined, but not totally smooth.
  5. Separate between six large bowls, add the relevant food dye and mix/beat until smooth (if you beat till smooth first and then added the food dye and beat again you’d probably get rid of all the air).
  6. Pour into sandwich tins (I think mine are 23cm).
  7. Cook the sponges, two at a time, in the middle of an oven preheated to 190 Celsius. Cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on the amount of mixture (you’re bound to have somehow misjudged the batter for one of the layers).

Leave the layers to go absolutely cool before sandwiching together with LOTS of jam. Don’t worry if it’s a big mess, it will be fine once covered in icing.

To make the icing, beat the butter and sugar together, adding a little water if needed and the food dye of whatever colour you like. Ice the cake from the bottom up using a knife. Don’t get too neat.

Decorate the outside however you like and then wait out the moment of the big reveal!

p.s. A special mention should be made of my mother who, though she can’t cook, is an outstanding seamstress (a skill that sadly eludes me) and made me a fantastic costume:

rainbow-unbirthday-party

Also thanks to dad who scared the rain away by spending hours putting up tarpaulin, and a big hello to people visiting because I outed my blogging habit after a little too much sparkling wine (and absinthe?!) drunk from teacups!

Malta-eser Cake

Every year I watch Eurovision and every year I flounce out of the room at around midnight, fed up having wasted three hours of my life watching it.

This year we’re going to friends’ for dinner and to watch the show, hopefully in better humour. I will be taking a Malta-eser cake (geddit, geddit?) in honour of the country that always gives us some points. [[it’s the Chocolate Malteser Cake from Nigella Lawson’s Feast book]]. I’ve been wanting to make it for some time and had a practise during the week and it was so good – I’ll definitely be making it again! I promise to make it for my dad who is such a fan of Maltesers (Whoppers, apparently in the US) and will find this not at all too chocolatey!

Festive Fanices

I got the recipe a few months ago, and have made them every couple of weeks since – for my work colleagues, for his work colleagues, for our parties, to take to parties – and they are by far my most successful offering. Having cooked them about 6 or 7 times means that I’ve finally got the recipe and method to work perfectly. Everyone comments on how lovely they taste and, after much tweaking, they now look the part too! The cakes themselves are cooked in the teeniest of petit four cases so noone can get away with the old ‘you’re going to make me fat!’ quip. If you eat 10, it’s not my fault. They are quick to make, but do require a piping bag but I think that’s a price I’m willing to pay. This recipe makes about 30ish.

Ingredients
for the cakes
  • 55g butter
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 55g self raising flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp milk
for the icing
  • 100g plain chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • a couple tbsp icing sugar 
How to make it
After much experimentation, this is the best method. Preheat the oven to 190 celcius.
Start by making the icing so that it has plenty of time to cool. Microwave the chocolate and cream together on a low heat for a couple of minutes. It’s best to have it under-melted and leave it to melt a little than to have it zapped to death. Leave to one side to cool.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Beat in the egg, then fold in the sifter flour and cocoa. Stir in the milk. This should be quite a sloppy batter.
Lay out your mini petit four cases on a baking tray (you don’t need anything fancy) so they’re easy to handle. I used a silicone tray first time. Not recommended!
Spoon the batter into a piping bag with a medium sized nozzle (it can be plain or fluted, it doesn’t matter)  and pipe a little mixture into the cases – they should be about half full. Cook the cakes in the top of the oven for 10 – 14 minutes. No longer. After cooking, put them on a rack to stop them cooking any further. The secret about these delicious cakes is that the sponge is not dry at all. Leave the cakes to cool.
Using a whisk, beat together the cold chocolate and cream mixture for a good 5-8 minutes until it starts to thicken. As it starts to thicken, add the icing sugar as needed until the mixture becomes very stiff. The reason I add icing sugar and make the icing very stiff is that I’ve made it slippery before and it fell from a glorious glossy pile on the mini-cake to a flat ganache. It was most disheartening.
Once the cakes have cooled (it won’t take long but they must be cool otherwise the icing will simply slip off – voice of experience here!) you can pipe the icing on top.
Now I’ve used mini-smarties, fancy dragees and even crunchie nuggets to go on the top of these, but a raspberry is the perfect topping. It cuts through the rich cake and really is the best topping (even if out of season at Christmas…)

Christmas Fruit and Carrot Cake

This cake needs some tinkering still, but was deliciously Christmassy with some mulled cider.

Due to my poor maths skills, I miscalculated the amount of fruit I’d need for my Christmas cake and pudding by around 250 g (I don’t know quite how). My Christmas fruit was a mixture of glace cherries, candied peel, dried cranberries, currants, raisins and sultanas steeped in cherry brandy, Cointreau and Amaretto.

I’d been hankering after a carrot cake for a while, so I thought I’d combine the two ideas and cook a fruity carrot cake. Unfortunately, the only recipe I liked the look of was in American cups and had some spices I didn’t have in (ground cloves, nutmeg) so I altered, substituted and below is my metric rendering of the cake:

Ingredients

  • 175g brown sugar
  • 85g butter
  • 200 ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 225g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 140g carrots
  • 250g steeped Christmas fruit

How to Make it

Cream the butter and sugar together (the better you do this, the better a cake seems to come out)
, then add the milk and eggs alternately with the flour and dry ingredients. Then add the carrots and Christmas fruit, pour into a 8 or 9 inch tin (I had a 9 inch which is why it’s a bit flat!) and bake for 45 mins to an hour.

For the icing – I used 100g cream cheese and 100g butter and just added icing sugar until it looked like the icing I’ve seen before on carrot cakes. Not precise, I know, but it worked OK.

When I make this cake again I’ll likely cut the quantity of milk. I thought it looked a rather wet batter and after an hour of cooking, the cake still came out a little damp for my liking.


Rhubarb and Orange Sponge

I promised to make TLM a cake for graduation. He grew up in Yorkshire and munched rhubarb straight from the garden, sometimes dipped in sugar. When he saw the rhubarb in the greengrocer’s he knew he wanted some sort of rhubarb cake…

I’ve been wedded to my Marguerite Pattern sponge recipe for many years, as it provides a very light but modest Victoria sponge. I was tempted to switch to Nigella Lawson’s skyscraping Victoria Sponge as it claimed to work well with sugary, orangey rhubarb. I needed no more convincing. I cooked down 400g of rhubarb, chopped into pieces roughly an inch long, with 100g of sugar (I baulked at the amount, but apparently it was necessary) and the juice of a very big orange. The rhubarb was strained, the syrup cooked down further and then all set aside to cool.

Ingredients – makes two 21cm sandwich tins

  • 225 g unsalted butter, very soft
  • 200 g self raising flour
  • 25 g corn flour
  • 225 g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs

I added a tablespoon of Cointreau so the orangey zing would go through the sponge too.

How to Make it

Cream the butter and sugar (this is why it helps for the butter to be very soft) and then add the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of the flour and corn flour mixture between each. Divide the mix into the two tins and bake for 25 minutes at 185 Celsius, or until the cakes begin to come away from the edges. and a cake tester comes out clean. (I found this to be slightly too long, and would change it back to 200 degrees for 20 minutes myself)

Assemble the sponge and rhubarb when everything is suitably cooled. The recipe called from cream in the middle, but we dolloped it (with some of the reduced rhubarb syrup) on the side.

TLM was given a bran spanking new Canon 400D digital SLR camera (phwoar!) as a graduation gift, so I have purloined it already and am trying to get to grips with it. These are my first pictures, taken on the first day with it. Hmmmm, still lots to learn (especially keeping it straight, as the other camera projects little lines on the LCD screen)

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake

One of the main reasons I like food blogging is the potential to experiment and still feel that something productive came out of something that didn’t go perfectly. This entry to A Slice of Cherry Pie’s In The Bag event (this month’s ingredients: strawberries and white chocolate) was one of those imperfect, but valuable cooking experiences.

I knew I wanted to cook a cheesecake, but I wanted to not follow a recipe strictly as it seems all the cheesecake recipes I try to follow don’t work. This is probably due to differing oven temperatures, but many times I’ve found the cooking times specified to be either far too short or far too long, with me having to slice a burnt top off. So today I wanted to try one that has been much hyped, Nigella’s London Cheesecake, but I wanted to do it a bit differently. You can find the original recipe here.

I started my departure from the recipe by doubling the amount of biscuit and butter required in order to make a cheesecake with a base and walls. (Probably more accurately termed sides, but I think they look like a rather craggy fortress myself) Although working against gravity to create the walls, they didn’t cave in and it was all A-OK.

I then made up a strawberry syrup from a punnet of berries, some caster sugar and a touch of water. I boiled it up, then down, then mushed it and spread all over the biscuit base and let the whole lot cool. So far, so good.

The white chocolate was simply melted and stirred in with the cream cheese of the original recipe, and I adjusted the cooking times up a little to make up for the 200g of white chocolate I’d added but cooked it in a vat of water just as with the original. Well, I evidently didn’t adjust enough because it was still wibbling at me after a good hour. I can’t quite tell with cheesecake how much it’ll firm with cooling (once I had a rather amazing disaster where I undercooked a cheesecake and took it out of its tin without letting it cool. Result: cheesecake avalanche, followed by a number of spoons scooping and eating from the table and a mortified me!) so I bunged it in for another half hour. I eyed it suspiciously once more, removed it from the water, let it cool.

As it was cooling, I fanned some strawberries for the top (apparently very retro, but novel for me).

Unfortunately the slice of cake itself was not pretty enough for a full-frontal (boo hoo) as the strawberry layer, though tasty, looked a little tired (well it must have been after all that time sat under the cheesecake filling). The walls went down very well with TLM, but I think next time they could be thinner, and hopefully with today’s knowledge I will be able to judge them better. Something inside me felt the strawberry syrup needed whizzing for a more event texture, and maybe even something to made it redder – more appealing I suppose? However, it tasted fine so maybe I should keep it organic.
I will want to add more vanilla next time (pod maybe?) because that would really bring out the white chocolate softness. It had flecks from the vanilla sugar and flavour from the vanilla extract but I think a pod is the way forwards for this one.

A very interesting challenge. Cheesecake, not yet mastered. I predict with us moving (again) and me having a new kitchen and cooker the battle will continue…
(any tips – welcome!!)

Black Forest Gateau

I promised to make The Little Medic a cake for finishing his finals and his request was not much of a surprise. His favourite cake I make is marzipan fruit cake (the marzipan is mixed in and turns into chewy nuggets), but anything with cherries is his second choice. As a result, I have a cupboard full of morello cherry jam, natural glace cherries, maraschino cherries, bottled morello cherries, tinned black cherries…

This time, he pointed out a cake from a book I’ve not trusted for some time. I looked at the recipe and the quantities for the sponge seemed complete nonsense. By the time I read the final instruction to cut the sponge in half to make a sandwich I had lost all faith. However, he argued that maybe a gateau was different to a sponge cake (I was unconvinced) led me to follow the recipe. As I predicted – and maybe as a result of my prediction – the ‘sponge’ was flat and RUBBERY?!! I threw a small wobbler in the kitchen, stomped around saying I should have trusted myself and defiantly lobbed the sponge into the bin (it made a retaliatory thud at the bottom). I flung the un-trustworthy recipe book on the floor, and turned to my fail-proof Marguerite Pattern sponge cake recipe.

My mum never let me try the mixture because she has a ‘thing’ about raw eggs, but now I’m a grown up I can tell you that licking that spoon was heaven

Ingredients – Chocolate Sponge

  • 75 g self-raising flour (I use supreme sponge because I see no reason why not)
  • 25 g cocoa powder
  • 100 g butter
  • 100 g sugar
  • 2 eggs

How to Make it

Preheat the oven to 190 Celsius, and get someone with patience to line two 6-7 inch (15-18 cm) sandwich tins. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add an egg, mix. Add half the flour and cocoa powder, mix. Add the remaining egg, mix. Add the remaining flour and cocoa powder, mix. Split the mixture between the two sandwich tins. Cook just above the centre of the oven for about 15-20 minutes. I usually swap them round half way through. To tell if it’s cooked you can initially use the finger-impression method (i.e. if it leaves an indentation it’s not cooked yet) and back it up with the skewer method (i.e. if you test it in the centre with skewer and gooey bits stick to it, it’s not done). When cooked, let the cakes cool in a rack for 2 or 3 minutes, then turn them out carefully. If you leave them in their tins they will overcook and dry out.

I actually made the cherry filling before the sponge to let it all cool down.

Ingredient – Cherry layer

  • 450 g fresh cherries, then stoned (I looked like a murderer after stoning these and my fingers are still dyed now)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 100 ml of water, cherry brandy or … fruit cider (which I used and it worked well)

How to Make it

Put the cherries, sugar and liquid in a pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the cherries. Add the syrup back and cook for a minute or two longer to thicken, as you want the syrup to soak slightly into the sponge and not make it soggy.

After adding the cherries, I whipped the cream for the centre. I took on board what Nigel Slater had to say on “A Taste of My Life” that cream should not be overwhipped, and should look like an unmade bed. This proved very sound advice.

I didn’t bother to cream or decorate the top because it would be eaten in a few sittings and some fresh cream each time drizzled would spruce it up, rather than have it going claggy on top. TLM said it was delicious (and he says it tastes even better today – funny how that’s the case with a lot of cakes) and tucked in to a very messy, but very decadent, slice:

Chocolate Splurge Cake

As requested, here is the recipe for this hurts-your-teeth sugary chocolate cake that featured on The Little Medic’s blog. It is better known as Nigella’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake from ‘Feast’ (copied below)

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE

200g (8 oz) plain flour
200g (8 tbsp) caster sugar
5ml (1 tsp) baking powder
2.5ml (½ tsp) bicarbonate of soda
40g (1½ oz) best-quality cocoa
175g (6 oz) soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
10ml (2 tsp) real vanilla extract
150ml (¼ pint) sour cream

FOR THE ICING

85ml (3 oz) unsalted butter
175g (6 oz) best-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g (10 oz) icing sugar
15ml (1 tbsp) golden syrup
125ml (4fl oz) sour cream
5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

Take everything out of the fridge so all the ingredients can come to room temperature. Heat oven to 180°C and line and butter two 20cm sandwich tins. Mix the flour, sugar and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.

Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to help you scrape and spread, into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester, or a thin skewer, comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25. Also it might make sense to switch the two cakes around in the oven halfway through cooking time. Remove the cakes, in their tins, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their tins. Don’t worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the icing later.

Do not even contemplate icing the cake until the sponges are cold. To make this icing, melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Go slowly either way: you don’t want any burning or seizing. While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl. Add the golden syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla, and then, when all this is combined, whisk in the sieved icing sugar.

Choose your cake stand or plate and cut out four strips of baking parchment to form a square outline on it (this stops the icing running onto the plate). Then sit one of the cakes, uppermost (i.e. slightly domed) side down. Spoon about a third of the icing onto the centre of the cake half and spread with a knife or spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, normal way up, pressing gently to sandwich the two together. Spoon another third of the icing onto the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way (though you can go for a smooth finish if you prefer, and have the patience). Spread the sides of the cake with the remaining icing and leave a few minutes till set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.

Banana Loaf Cake


I have been left with a HUGE bunch of over-ripe bananas on my hands. Why? Well, as you may or may not know, my fiance The Little Medic (TLM), is in his last year at medical school and is in the throes of revising for finals. Part of that revision is practising his skills, so we went and bought a whole heap of bananas for him to practise his suturing on. After dissecting one, it became apparent that banana skin is nothing like human skin and evidently useless to practise on. With neither of us overly keen on bananas, they were left in the fruit bowl.

I’ve never made a banana loaf before, something about the thought of it never appealed to me, but after seeing the banana goodies made by Astra Libris over at Food for Laughter I thought it would be the best way to put them to use. I used Nigella Lawson’s “Banana Bread” as a starting point, but didn’t have many of the right ingredients or right sized loaf tins, so I just muddled along. I didn’t have any greaseproof paper, but thankfully buttering and flouring the tins worked perfectly. I also forgot to look at the clock when I put it in – but I’m more of an instinctive than timer cook so it was OK – you can see the skewer holes in the picture below. The following recipe used up 3 large bananas (woop) and produced two of these loaves:

Ingredients

  • 200 g raisins
  • 175 g plain flour (I used self raising by mistake!)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 125 g margarine
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 g of overripe bananas (weight after skins removed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to make it

Preheat the oven to 170 C. Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a bowl. In a bigger bowl, pour in the butter (melted) and the sugar and beat them together. Add the eggs and the vanilla essence, then the mashed up bananas. Stir in the flour mixture. Pour into the tin/s (makes one big tin or two smaller tins worth – fill 2/3 full, no more because it puffs up a treat). Bake for 1 – 1/2 hours – it is ready when a skewer comes out clean.

It tastes really good, I had 2 slices for breakfast and another slice at lunchtime – eep. I imagine it could be really nice to fiddle around with – walnuts, honey, cinnamon…mmm.

p.s. wow what a difference taking pictures in the natural morning light makes! Alas, not all cooking is conducive to taking photos at the right time!