30 Mar 2008


I know that Easter is now in the distant past but I haven't been at home much recently, and therefore, this posting is a 'little late'.
Julia, over at the delicious A Slice of Cherry Pie is hosting her Easter Cake Bake, Round 2! challenge.
I entered the Easter Cake Bake last year, and there were lots of really good entries. I'm really looking forward to this year's roundup.
My choice of cake was based purely on design, also the cake had a favourite of mine on the ingredients list, Amaretto liqueur.
The cake benefits from being left for a couple of days to 'mature' before it's decorated with marzipan.
A taster of recipes from this book are Burnt-Sugar Cake, Choco-malt Cake (I think we all know this one - it's decorated with Maltezers), Red Velvet Cake, Caramel Pecan Loaf and Gooey Chocolate Cake. This is a book to suit every occasion and now I've made a wonderful cake from it, I'm sure I will turn to it again.
The author Valerie Barrett is a food writer and stylist. She has worked for Good Housekeeping Magazine, BBC Good Food and Delicious, as well as writing her own books.

CAKES GALORE - by Valerie Barrett

ISBN 9781846011108 - Page 96

Makes: 12-14 slices

You will need: a deep 18cm round cake tin, greased and lined.

500g luxury mixed dried fruit, 2 tablespoons Amaretto, 175g softened unsalted butter, 175g soft light brown sugar, 3 beaten eggs, finely grated zest of ½ lemon, 200g self-raising flour, 2 teaspoons ground mixed spice, 50g ground almonds, 500g ready-made natural almond paste or marzipan, 225g ready-made yellow almond paste or marzipan, 1-2 tablespoons warmed apricot jam,, coloured ribbon and small chocolate or sugar-coated eggs to decorate.

1. Put the mixed fruit in a bowl and sprinkle over the Amaretto. Leave to soak for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl. Beat in the eggs and lemon zest. Fold in the flour, mixed spice and ground almonds, then add the dried fruit mixture and mix well. Set aside.
3. Roll out half of the natural almond paste or marzipan on a sheet of non-stick baking paper to form an 18cm circle. Spoon half of the cake mixture into the base of the prepared tin, spreading it evenly. Place the almond paste circle on top. Spoon over the remaining cake mixture, then level the surface. Bake in the oven for 2-2½ hours, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
4. Roll out the remaining natural almond paste and all but 50g of the yellow paste to form two 18cm circles and place the yellow one on top of the natural one. Shape 8 balls from the remaining yellow paste.
5. Lightly brush the top of the cake with warm jam, leaving a small circle in the centre uncoated. Place the almond circle, yellow-side up, on top of the cake and trim the edges. Using a glass, lightly mark a circle in the centre of the cake. Using a sharp knife, cut through both almond-paste layers up to the edges of the circle to make 8 segments. Lift up the pointed end of each segment and peel it back to reveal the natural almond paste underside. Press it gently into the edge of the cake. Place a yellow almond paste ball on top.
6. Tie a ribbon around the cake and fill the centre with sugar-coated chocolate eggs.

N.B. After the cake came out of the oven I brushed the top with more Amaretto to soften the top. I then wrapped the tin which is still housing the cake in a large sheet of foil and enclosed this at the top to form a parcel. The steam then softens the top of the cake. The next day when the cake is cold turn out of the tin leave for a couple of days in an airtight tin, then decorate.
For the decoration: I dealt with the cutting of the marzipan on a board and then placed it carefully on top of the cake, this was to prevent any crumbs on top of the cake getting onto the marzipan.

23 Mar 2008


These little beauties remind me of McVities ginger cake, except the gooey stuff is at the bottom of the cake and not on top! McVities ginger cake is one of the few cakes that I will happily buy, it never lets you down.

The ginger squares are packed full of flavour and are totally addictive. You don't have to leave this cake to mature, thank goodness, and it has a wonderful soft texture. I love crystallized ginger and this is used in the cake batter as well on top of the icing for decoration.

The lemon icing tastes delicious and partners the ground ginger and cinnamon in the sponge cake.

If you own a coffee shop then I would definitely try this one out, its really easy to make and sure to be a winner.

This book is brimming with beautiful traybakes such as Plum Frangipane Slices, Chocolate, Pear and Macadamia Nut Brownies and Chewy Whisky, Date and Pistachio Bars. If you love baking, this would be a wonderful addition to the bookshelf.

The author is Liz Franklin who writes for magazines such as BBC Good Food Magazine, Olive and Food & Travel.


ISBN 1840914157 - Page 77

Makes 15 - this recipe can easily be halved.

You will need: a buttered and parchment paper lined deep roasting tin or a cake tin measuring 20 x 30cm/8 x 12 inches.

If you halve the recipe ingredients you will need a 18 x 18cm/7 x 7 inch cake tin.
320g plain flour, 2 tablespoons bicarbonate of soda, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 180g butter, 100ml milk, 250ml soured cream, 2 eggs, 400g muscovado sugar, 6 pieces crystallized ginger (roughly chopped), 100g sultanas.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.
2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large bowl.
3. Place the butter and milk in a saucepan and heat gently until the butter has melted. Pour into the flour mixture and stir well until thoroughly combined. Add the soured cream and eggs, and then stir in the sugar, ginger and sultanas. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50 minutes or so, until firm but springy.
4. Leave to cool in the tin, then turn out. Cut into squares.

For the Icing:

300g icing sugar, zest and juice 1-2 lemons, 15 pieces crystallized ginger (to decorate).

To make the icing: mix the icing sugar, lemon zest and enough lemon juice to give a thick pouring consistency and carefully ice the cakes. Decorate each one with a piece of crystallized ginger. Store in an airtight container.

14 Mar 2008


Jamie has come up with a great idea for a Easter hot cross bun pudding. We have just had the pleasure of eating this for our pud and it was great.
This recipe is part of Sainsbury's 'Try something new today' and uses Taste the difference hot cross buns and Taste the difference vanilla custard.

I have adapted the recipe using products I have tried before and enjoyed.

Serves: 4 people
4 hot cross buns from Marks and Spencer, halved and spread with Tiptree medium cut orange marmalade. Layer in an ovenproof dish and pour in fresh custard from Marks and Spencer to come half way up the buns. pop into a preheated oven 180°C for 20-25 minutes. Spread more marmalade onto the hot buns. Fabulous.

Sainsbury's Recipe.
Serves: 4 people.
4 Taste the difference hot cross buns, halved and spread with marmalade. Layer in an ovenproof dish and almost cover with Taste the difference vanilla custard. Allow the custard to soak into the buns for about 15 minutes. Then pop into a preheated oven Gas 4 for 15 minutes. Finish by placing under a hot grill for 5 minutes until golden brown.

Marks and Spencer products were used because I found the Sainsbury's Taste the difference hot cross buns disappointing, their ordinary hot cross buns are much better. Unfortunately, The Taste the difference vanilla custard has a very strange taste, I think it would be far better to buy fresh custard and flavour it with vanilla extract.

Last year I made Vanilla Scented Hot Cross Bun Pudding which was very good too!