Wednesday, 24 April 2013


I’m reviving another old recipe, this time one I’d never heard of, found in my mum’s recipe scrapbook from school. The distinguishing feature of these cakes was the fact that they’re served upside down to expose an almond you lay at the bottom of each. The distinguishing flavour was ginger. Since the method stated ‘use the melting method’ I thought I’d boost the flavour by doing a pretty on trend thing; browning the butter. It turns out then that my modernised coburg cakes are soft ginger sponges, with a subtle nuttiness, from both the brown sugar and burst of almond in each.

55g butter
140g flour
85g sugar
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ heaped tsp ground ginger
2 tsp golden syrup
1 egg
75ml milk
6 blanched almonds

Makes 6

Preheat oven to fan 160/180c/4. Grease a 6 holed muffin tin.

Gently heat the butter in a pan for a few minutes until it bubbles and begins to take on a nutty aroma. Take off the heat when you notice the butter is a light brown when stirred. It will cook for a little longer off the heat anyway. Set to one side.

Mix together all the dry ingredients. Add the golden syrup to the pan of butter and mix in. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix to a thick batter. Beat in the egg, and then loosen with the milk. The batter will be thick but should eventually fall off the spoon. Place an almond at the bottom of each muffin hole. Spoon over the batter and level out as much as you can. Bake in for 20 minutes, moving from the top of the oven to the bottom half way through cooking. Once baked, turn out of the tin to expose the almond and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

My almonds got a little engulfed in the mixture which made them a nice surprise and burst of extra flavour when you bit into one, but for decorative reasons they got lost. Next time I’d probably cover the whole base of the each hole in them to make them more of a feature.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013


My local bakery Sheltons does the best vanilla slices. They filled so high with custard filling, higher than I’ve seen before, which messily seeps out every time you take a bite. Vanilla slices like this had always been a bit of mystery to me. How do you get the perfectly smooth blocks of filling met with the pastry, without it splodging out when sliced? When I’ve seen them being made on tele, exactly this happened, and recipes I’ve found were always filled disappointingly thin. My solution then was to remove the slice part and make my version, which are more like vanilla sandwiches. By making the custard separate and setting them in little ramekins, which are then used to cut around pastry, all you have to do is turn them out. They’re generously filled, smooth all the way round and have all the flavour and charm of the ones from Shetlons.

For the vanilla custard filling
1 sheet of leaf gelatine, soaked in water
400ml milk
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
 2 tbsp caster sugar
40g corn flour

For the rough puff pastry
200g flour
Pinch salt
200g fridge cold butter
About 100ml cold water

5tbsp icing sugar, mixed with 1 tbsp water.

Makes 4

Have 4 equal sized ramekins on hand for when the custard is made.
Put all the ingredients, except from the gelatine, in a pan and bring to a gentle simmer, whisking throughout. Turn up the heat and boil until the custard thickens, still whisking vigorously so lumps don’t form. Once the custard has thickened keep it boiling, whilst still whisking for about a minute, until it starts to come away from the sides of the pan. Take off the heat and mix in the soaked gelatine leaf. Pour equally into the ramekins and place in the fridge to cool and set.

While the custard sets, make the pastry. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl. Quickly grate in the butter, dipping the block into the flour to coat and stop it sticking to the grater. With a cold knife, mix the strips of butter into the flour then slowly add the water until a rough dough forms. You may need a little more, or a little less. Lay out a long piece of cling film and tip the dough onto it. Wrap the cling film around the dough, pressing together and flattening out slightly to form a rectangle. Cool in the fridge for half an hour.

Once cooled, leave the dough to warm for about 5 minutes then roll out on the cling-film (good, mess reducing tip), lengthways until tripled in size. You’ll need flour on hand because the exposed butter in the pastry tends to stick. Imagine the dough in thirds and fold the first one over the middle, and the remaining one over this. Do a quarter turn so that the layers are facing you (these are called book ends and you should always roll from these) then roll out in one, long ways direction until tripled in length again. Fold as before, wrap in the cling film then leave to cool once more for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven 200fan/200c/7.
Line a baking tray and roll out the pastry until about the thickness of a one pound coin. Take a ramekin with the custard in, place on the pastry and cut around the base. If you have pastry cutters around the same size, these would work too. Either way you want the same size lids and bases as the custard filling. Repeat until you have 8 pastry circles. Transfer each onto the baking tray, dust with icing sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Freeze any spare pastry off-cuts for another time. 

Prepare the icing ready for assembling.  To assemble the vanilla’s, take one cooled circle, press down a little and spoon on a small amount of icing to help the custard stick. Turn out the custard from the ramekin straight on to the base. You may need to tease around the edges with a knife first. Take another circle, for the lid and spoon a little icing sugar on again. Gently press this on top of the custard filling to make the vanilla sandwich. Spread over a thick layer of icing on the lid to finish.


Friday, 12 April 2013


When I was reading one of my grandma’s old notebooks I found a few recipes for something called ‘crunch’ and wondered what it was. When I read down the ingredient list I realised it was basically flapjack. When I created this flapjack recipe, however, I thought the title ‘crunch’ would best apply. A mixture of chopped nuts, oats, raisins, peanut butter and dark chocolate this treat is certainly crunchy, with moments of goo and chew. Substitute the golden syrup for honey, or omit it completely and you have a treat which isn’t too bad for you. Well, its gluten and dairy free anyway.

200g oatmeal
50 dark chocolate, chopped plus about 4 squares for melting
50 mixed nuts and raisins, chopped (my mixture contained peanuts, almonds, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts)
4 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
3 tbsp golden syrup

Preheat oven at fan 180°/200c/6.
Line and grease a 20x20cm brownie tin and begin the flapjack by mashing together peanut butter and golden syrup before mixing it into the oatmeal. Combine until the mixture starts to clump together then stir in the nut, raisins and chocolate. Note that this crunch isn’t as soft as a normal flapjack, so the mixture won’t really be wet at all.

Cover with tin foil, or a piece of greaseproof to stop the raisins catching and bake for 15 minutes. Leave to cool then melt the few pieces of dark chocolate and drizzle randomly over the top with a spoon

For another flapjack recipe look here here.

Monday, 1 April 2013


My grandma always used to make this cake and send it us and I never knew what made it so different. Turns out that its proper easy and the caraway seeds do all the work with their fragrant sweetness. There was no actual written recipe so I made my own, adding wholemeal flour to add depth and grain which the caraway seeds can really stand up to. I made a small one for my grandma too and she said ‘it was beautiful’- so that’s the highest praise indeed.
On another note, this recipe comes with my first ever video. It’s not the best quality/editing, and my accent boasts Northern flatness (even though I was trying to pronounce things properly) but check it out here to see this cake being made in motion.

200g butter
200g sugar
3 eggs
100g self raising flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
3 tbsp caraway seeds

Preheat oven to fan180/200c/6 and line a small loaf tin with baking parchment.

Begin by creaming together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy then beat in the eggs one by one. Fold in the flours and baking powder until you have a thick batter, then add the vanilla extract and milk to thin it. Add the fragrant caraways seeds and mix in well to disperse them evenly throughout the batter. This is where the cake comes to life.

Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes, lowering the cake from the middle to the bottom of the oven half way through. The cake should be risen, golden brown and survive the trusty skewer test when baked. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing and cooling completely on a wire rack.